The new trails into the new property were even more fun than the rather tame ones on our home property. These new trails were partly wooded and skirted a rather shallow pond that used to be the fire pond for the property. Until after the World Wars, if you lived out of town and were not on the town's hydrant system, in order to have insurance on your property you had to have a source of water for the fire department to use. It made it a lot cheaper to insure your home.
We let the boys wander a bit, with David and Jeff's supervision, and Riley and I rode over to the smallish ranch house that the caretaker had lived in. The original farmhouse had significant damage done to it several decades ago by a lightning strike and had been torn down and this small home had been built to replace it.
While we walked around it, after tethering our horses to the light pole near the end of the driveway, we discussed what we would do with it. We realized it wasn't as small as we had first thought, and the home wasn't in bad shape. We decided that for now, I'd spend some time here after everyone had gone to school and make sure the inside was acceptable, and go through the appliances and make sure they were in working order and that the fridge was empty.
The home had three bedrooms and two baths, a large eat-in kitchen, and a fireplace in the living room. By looking in the windows we could see hardwood floors throughout and what looked like smooth plaster walls in all the rooms. We didn't see any debris left behind, all the rooms we could see into looked clean and neat.
The exterior was shingled and except for them needing another coat of weatherproofing, they appeared to be in good condition all around the home. The obvious was true, we'd have to get the contractor out to do some needed maintenance, but not before I had a chance to thoroughly go through the interior and make sure there hadn't been a roof leak or worse. I resolved to go through the house as soon as possible; after all, it was an asset to the property we now owned. It was worth preserving.
We casually talked about renting it out, which led to who we might approach to rent it, but we thought we just might hold onto it for a while and make sure it was all in good order before speculating about who we might get to live in it. I wish I had thought to bring the keys with us when we set out for our ride, but I hadn't thought about stopping at the house when we had set off. We did walk over to check an outbuilding which turned out to be a woodshed and a storage building or shed for the home property. It was a nice home in a semi-wooded area of the property.
We finished with our outdoor inspection, remounted our horses and caught up with the boys. They were on one of the new trails and they had stopped for a juice box snack, so it wasn't hard to locate them, we just followed the noise from eleven boys and two "adult" teens. The trails David and Jeff had laid out were wonderful and we let them know how pleased we were with them.
Once everyone had had a break, we all remounted and rode around to another trail and it was while we were on this other new trail that Jeff said that he thought people would pay money to ride trails as good as ours were. Riley looked at me when he heard this, a smile forming on his handsome face and he agreed with Jeff, saying that he bet that in this town more than half the people rode, but not all of them had such nice trails to ride.
During this ride, the trail left the wooded area for a while and meandered around the pond and there, on the other side of the pond, was the other barn, the one we hadn't wanted on our own property. This was a shed style horse barn that was really made of a post and beam type of construction but was a lot more modern looking than the barn we had decided to move. The roof was sound, but the contractor had told us that it needed a lot of work as it hadn't been utilized for twenty years and because of the wide-open central section, with the horse stalls off to each side; it just wasn't practical for use these days. Riley and I rode over to it and we could see that for our climate it just wasn't practical, it must have been used as a shelter for cows or sheep in bad weather, but there were twenty stalls under a solid roof, the central "corridor" would have to be enclosed at each end to make it more weather-proof if animals were to be housed in this barn.
It certainly gave us a lot to think about as we all rode back to our "new" barn and we all pitched in to get the horses and ponies groomed and bedded in for the night. We then helped David and Jeff finish the night chores, so they would be able to join us for dinner.
We barbecued that night and we had some company, Yvonne and HEM joined us, as all their guests from the weekend were now on their way to their own homes. They proclaimed their opening weekend a success as all the parents who had stayed to get their students settled at the nearby University had booked for Parents Weekend, held over Columbus Day weekend. They had started getting bookings from the website, mostly for the fall "Leaf Peeping" season which lasted usually until mid-November. They were happy they had had the chance to do this trial run and were pleased that everything had worked out well. Yvonne had said that their staff had performed very well, and they now had leads from them for additional help they could hire on a part-time basis for when they got really busy.
The boys all filled them in on our trail riding adventure that day and you could see that Yvonne and HEM wished they could have been with us. As they all left, shortly after dinner, they again thanked us for keeping their boys for the weekend and expressed their desire to ride again with us soon.
Our children all had to return to school the next day and the Morris boys were to start at the same schools and Riley was off to begin another school year at the high school. Everyone had something to do, David and Jeff were starting their next year of training and classes and Ted and Ryan were back to work at the eye care specialists. That left me to either start a new book or go explore the ranch house next door at the new property.
I gathered up a notepad, pen and a flashlight, remembering to bring a folding step stool with me as I drove to the ranch house over the path created when they moved the barn. It was only a few minutes later and I was unlocking the door and bringing in the step stool and my other things to begin my non-professional inspection. I liked the look of the place on the inside; I thought the dark shingles on the outside made it look smaller than it really was. The rooms were just as clean as they had appeared from outside when we had peeked in the windows. There was no evidence of water damage from a roof leak and the appliances all worked. The fridge was a newer two-door model with a large freezer compartment under. It was totally clean as if someone had cleaned it out very well when they moved out.
I used the step stool to peek in the attic hatch and didn't see any signs of water staining on any of the beams or roof trusses and I closed it all back up before tackling the basement. The basement door was off the kitchen and I used the flashlight to get down the staircase to the basement floor. I really didn't know what to expect, but it certainly wasn't what was in front of my flashlight as I passed it around in front of me. The basement was a huge open space with a laundry hookup at one end and next to those was a hot water tank and a relatively new gas furnace, only about two years old by the looks of it and the attached tags gave proof to that idea. The basement was as spotless as the rest of the house had been, and it smelled dry down there. There was no evidence of moisture seepage down there and I did take the time to examine all the walls and floor areas.
When Riley returned home after his school was out, the boys were down at the stable, getting ready for a ride, so he changed into jeans and his boots, so we could ride with them. While we rode, keeping one eye on the boys, I told him about the interior of the ranch house and even he was impressed by its good condition. We didn't need it for a guest house, we already had one now the young married couples were in their own houses, in fact, Mark and Paul were coming to visit soon and we had just had the interior of it freshened up with new paint here and there, something we would do at the ranch house soon.
We rode with the boys until it was time for me to start dinner and so we left them with David and Jeff, they'd come right up to the house to get cleaned up for dinner and David and Jeff were going to a study group tonight, so they wouldn't be joining us.
The boys were all excited when they came in after helping to groom their ponies and Carter and Evan were telling us how Darryl and Allen were chasing a black and white cat around the pond on the other property when David yelled at them to stop! "STOP RIGHT THERE!!"David had yelled to them and both youngsters had halted their ponies right where they stood and sure enough, the "cat" had also stopped about 30 feet in front of the boys and lifted its tail. Carter and Evan had yelled to the two boys to turn around and get back to them quickly. As the youngsters turned the "cat" let loose with a stream of skunk juice which just missed the rumps of the fast ponies the boys were riding. Of course, the smell alone was enough to set them all on a course for home, the younger boys so relieved to not have that spray on them. David had told them the only way to diminish the odor was to bathe in tomato juice, and neither Darryl nor Allen liked tomato juice. But when they got home they did ask if they could get a cat or a dog, that's why they were chasing the "cat", they loved their ponies but they couldn't come in the house and they didn't "fetch" or run around the yard and play with them, or cuddle up on the couch in the family room and watch TV with them. I told them we'd look into it.
The very next day Riley called me at his lunchtime to ask me to meet him during his study hour at 2 PM at the school. Almost all teachers at the high school had at least one study hall period a day, or at least every other day and Riley had the most popular one already at the school. He had started it during the last semester last spring. He turned his study hall into a peer tutoring group, filling in with algebra and higher math help himself. In one of his study halls was a young woman, a senior, who was obviously pregnant, and he had found out today that her parents were pushing to have her move out of their home. Her due date was January, so she was now at five months and was just about beside herself with worry. She had been a rather pudgy girl and last year, about this time, she had begun a diet and exercise program and really became quite a well fit young lady. That had attracted a lot of attention from the boys in her class, and others, and by the time school was out for the summer she was already pregnant. It wasn't planned; she blamed it on a broken condom. Riley had spent the whole study hour with her in the back of the room, listening to her story and trying to comfort her as much as he could as one of her teachers.
He told me that he wanted me to get to know her and maybe, just maybe, we could let her use the house on the other property, the ranch house, give her a roof over her head as she decided what to do with the baby and the rest of her life. She had expressed a desire to go on to college, but having a baby would put an end to that wish. Her doctor had already told her there would be complications should she carry the baby to full term, but she was adamant about not having an abortion, as her parents wished, it went against everything she had been taught and believed in, at home and in church. There wasn't any one guy she could positively say was the baby's father, she had been playing the field, and the condom accident had happened at least twice that she knew about, with two different guys, neither of which she would consider marrying nor admitting was the father of her child.
She was a pretty young lady, and I met her in the empty room next to Riley's while he conducted the class Janet was supposed to be in. I listened to her sad story, aching to help her in some way, but she was determined to carry this baby, this little unborn baby girl she was carrying. She assured me that she had looked at the situation from all sides and she was determined that even though the birthing of the baby might harm her in some way, even cause her death, she was hell-bent on completing the pregnancy. I told her that I had some thoughts on the matter, and asked when her parents had said they wanted her out of their home. She tearfully told me that they had asked her to be out of their home by the end of the weekend, and it was already Wednesday, but I told her that I thought I'd have some arrangements made well before then. I gave her my cell number and asked her to call me in the morning or at the latest during her lunch hour. I told her to ask Riley if she needed to use a phone privately, he'd also help in any way he could.
After saying goodbye to Riley, out in the deserted hall, I drove straight to The Morris Inn. Riley and I had heard Yvonne bemoan the fact she hadn't a daughter to spoil, although she certainly doted on all five boys. Both she and HEM were having their lunch and dragged me in to share it with them. While we ate and caught up, I broached the subject of Janet and the predicament she now found herself in. When I told them that she was expecting a girl Yvonne was just about weeping, and HEM had scooted closer to her to enfold her in his arms.
I explained that there were going to be physical complications with Janet's pregnancy and that her parents wanted her out of their house by the end of the weekend. The doctor she was currently seeing had given her a 30% chance of surviving the delivery. Janet could go into cardiac arrest or bleed out, there was no way of telling, but that was only one doctor's opinion. Janet had expressed to both Riley and me that she was determined to deliver the baby and one way or the other, the infant would be put up for adoption. Janet wasn't concerned for herself, just the baby; it was her whole focus at this time.
HEM spoke up first, our lunch all but forgotten and asked if I thought Janet would be happy with them here at the Inn, and I told them if I thought differently, Riley and I would be moving her into the house on our new property, or even in with us, but we knew Yvonne had a special place in her heart for a girl to spoil, and we thought that Janet could fill that role for now.
Yvonne asked when they could meet her (Janet) and I suggested they first meet with their local lawyer. It might be a legal matter because Janet was only 17, not yet the age of consent here, but they might have to have her file for emancipation first, before allowing her into their home, but then they were an Inn, maybe legally they could "rent" her a room until her emancipation could be arranged. HEM thanked me for thinking about that and he went right to their home office to make a call to their lawyer. Yvonne wanted to hear all about Janet so I spent a good forty-five minutes filling her in on all I had gleaned from my meeting with her and what I had learned from Riley and she was ready to go right now and give a piece of her mind to Janet's so-called parents, but I urged her to wait until she and HEM had a chance to talk to their lawyer.
Before I left for home HEM had returned and he had talked their lawyer into coming to see them at home that night. I knew then that they would do everything possible to be able to care for Janet and her baby, for as long as was needed.
Riley reported that the Morris' met with Janet the next afternoon and their lawyer was with them. It had been decided that they would hire Janet as help in the Inn and sometime in the early part of the week an emergency hearing would be held to help Janet obtain a legal separation from her parents. They were prepared to hire an off-duty policeman to assist in Janet's removal of her personal belongings from her family's home and by noon Saturday she would have her own bedroom in the family quarters at the Inn and be all moved in. Saturday afternoon she had an appointment with a specialist at the big medical center in Springfield for a second opinion on her medical condition concerning her pregnancy.
Over the weekend the boys, well, Carter and Evan, heard from the triplets, Nick, Bruce, and Scott, that they had a new big sister and that she was going to have a baby sister for them soon. Carter and Evan told us the whole family liked Janet and were helping her get settled in. We had a visit with HEM and Yvonne Sunday afternoon while Janet was resting so they had walked over with the boys who were going riding with our whole crew, David and Jeff, Ted and Ryan included. HEM told us that although Janet and the baby were healthy, now, Janet had a heart problem that couldn't be corrected, especially now that she was pregnant. Yvonne and HEM would be named as the guardians of the baby before it was even born, and they were trying to have her undergo a cesarean to deliver the baby close to its due date. The specialist thought it might just save Janet's life, although there were no guarantees either way.
Our contractor was delighted to get to bid on enclosing the open central portion of the shed barn, and supplying lockable doors on both ends of the central portion, as well as the open garage type space on the left side A new concrete floor and some weather proofing would add to the costs but he knew what we wanted and even with a solar-powered heating system and running water added we still thought his bid was not only reasonable but a bid we could live with, so to speak. The days' worth of work he estimated for work on the house itself was included in his bid, so we gave the go-ahead for him to begin the repairs and modifications to both buildings.
A new water repellent darker stain was applied to the shingles on the house and the shrubs were trimmed, it looked like a new house when the work was all done. The shed barn took a bit longer, the front and back barn doors had to be custom built and installed while a crew framed out for a garage door to be fitted in the opening on the left side of the structure. Meanwhile, a solar crew worked to install roof panels and the heating system David and Jeff had recommended. They actually got to work alongside the contractor's crew and they got class credit for their work. Once the foam insulation was sprayed in all the cavities a crew came in and installed the rock sheets in place (the type of water repellent cement board used behind shower walls and bathtubs). The heater would keep the freezing temperatures outside during the winter, making this barn habitable in the winter should the need arise to house animals there.
By the time the holidays came around we were thinking of going away to Florida again and as the weather got progressively colder, we told Bob and Leo to expect us for the ten days after Christmas this year. When we told the Morris's what we had planned they told us that it was too close to Janet's due date for her to be traveling and that they would stay home with her, but if we would fly the boys down, they would let us all stay at their house down there, and they would keep us all informed about what was going on with Janet, who by Thanksgiving was quite large and attending classes online. Her emancipation went smoothly and obviously wasn't contested by her parents. They wanted nothing more to do with her, or their grandchild when it was born. Janet was terribly hurt to hear them say this out in the open at the hearing, but she was so grateful for HEM, Yvonne and the boys for taking her in, she said that it felt like she had a whole new family, one that was based on love.
The more we thought about it the more we felt rotten for running out on Janet and the Morris' at this critical time, so we told all the boys that we'd decided to use their Spring vacation to take them all down to Key West and as a bonus we'd even ask Max and Bill to go with us. We explained this all to the older ones as best we could, that Janet might just not survive the birth of her daughter, and we felt we should all be here in town to help HEM and Yvonne through that and to help care for the new baby girl. Nick, Bruce, and Scott almost looked relieved and said they too wanted to stay and show their support for what Janet was going through and Carter and Evan agreed. So, I called around and let others know our changed plans and we all anxiously awaited Christmas and Janet's delivery soon after.
Our Christmas was a joyous one. We had Ben and Beth and of course Bill and Max over for Christmas dinner and after dinner, we all walked down to the Morris Inn to visit and walk off some of the pounds we had just eaten. They had really gone all out with the decorations this year and a very pregnant Janet was so appreciative. She told me she was so happy Riley had brought me in to talk with her. She said I gave her the confidence to take the steps to follow through on getting emancipated from her parents and that Riley and I helped get her connected with the Morris family and she couldn't be happier about that, that whatever her own personal outcome from her pregnancy, she was assured her daughter would be raised in a loving family. We only spent about three hours there before we walked back in a very light snowfall, the perfect ending to a happy day.
We were woken the next morning by the house phone ringing at 5 AM. I answered, and it was Scott on the phone, asking if it was possible for either Riley or me to come to their house, his parents had taken Janet to the hospital, and it didn't look good. I told him to tell his brothers I'd be right over. Riley, of course, was awake by now and offered to go, but I was more awake and half-dressed, so I kissed him and told him to say a prayer for Janet and her baby and then I left to be at the Inn for the boys in the Morris family.
We received a call from HEM at 8:30 AM. The medical team had decided to perform a cesarean, as Janet was losing a lot of blood and strength and they had delivered her daughter, but Janet hadn't survived the procedure, nor would she have survived a normal birth at the point they had acted. Janet had pleaded with them to save her baby and begged Yvonne and HEM to raise her in her stead. Of course, this had all been worked out legally beforehand, but at that moment the care of her baby was all Janet could think of. HEM and Yvonne were allowed to stay with Janet throughout and were with her as the baby was placed in her arms, crying and wriggling, as Janet's life ebbed and then ended.
At her funeral the next week there was standing room only in the viewing parlor and it seemed that the entire high school student body came out to mourn one of their own. During the viewing hours, there was a commotion at one point at the parlor's front door, but the principal and two officers took care of turning away Janet's former parents. We, Riley and I, had taken turns going over to help out at the Inn and we did get to spend a lot of time with the infant Janet as her features took on their intended shape, but there was no mistaking she would have the cutest dimples and a cleft in her chin.
Riley and I often gave HEM and Yvonne a break at the funeral parlor and we were standing by the coffin when a somber group of students from the senior class paid their respects. The girls were all weepy and the three boys had tear-filled eyes as they took turns and knelt to say a prayer for Janet and at one point two of the boys knelt next to each other and I could sense they were more than friends just by their body language. What struck me, even more, was one of the boys had the same dimples and chin cleft that baby Janet had. I whispered to Riley to look good at the boy and he nodded, signifying he had noticed as well. While the students were commiserating with Riley and me, Yvonne came over and asked to be introduced, she gave me that look, the kind that Riley and I shared when we agreed on something, and I realized that she too had noticed the young man's features and recognized them from the little face she had been staring at for a week now. HEM was a tad slower, but even before introductions were over, he was by our sides and introduced to the four cousins that had caught our attention.
Riley had all four in his senior class and we all thanked them for coming to the wake and explained that a special mass was being said for Janet following the Saturday morning service this coming weekend, about 10 AM and her ashes would be placed in the memorial wall after the mass. They thanked us for the information and told us they would be there. Riley privately told the two boys, Dylan and Joe, that he would like them to come to brunch after the ashes had been put in the alcove and the bronze plaque had been secured in front to seal it. Dylan was the dimpled one, and Joe was obviously smitten with him, as Dylan was with Joe, but we, Riley and I as well as Yvonne and HEM had decided that the boy should at least be told he was the likely father of Young Janet.
There would be no demands made of him, and he was not listed as the father on her birth certificate, in fact, sole and permanent custody was the Morris', legally, but they were not opposed to having Dylan be involved, like the involvement an uncle would have, so he could be a part of his child's life, if he wanted.
The internment of Janet's ashes was accomplished with a lot of tears for the life taken much too soon. Once the final prayers were said the small crowd disbursed and we asked Dylan and his cousin Joe to follow us and we drove in our separate cars to the Inn, where the staff had pastries and coffee waiting and the tearful boys ran up to their friend's rooms in the family quarters, the boys all together, trying to make sense of the loss of Janet. Baby Janet was still with the wet nurse in the nursery, but we took turns going up to hold her if only for a few moments. When Yvonne came back down, she had the baby with her and that was our signal to cull out Dylan and Joe from the group and we showed them to the study/home office where we sat and told the boys we had something to show them. As the two teens sat next to each other Riley, as one of their teachers, began by telling the lads we thought they were in love, not just cousins or friends, that they were like Mike and him, a committed gay couple. HEM jumped in here and told them that he thought three of his boys were gay, but Yvonne thought only two of them were definitely, so this wasn't an attempt to out them, we just wanted to lay everything out for them, and it would help if we knew they were gay.
The two were a bit scared, not knowing why these 4 adults were confronting them so frankly, but they too had the ability most couples did and they nodded in silent agreement and Dylan spoke up and said that they were gay, they had been a couple ever since middle school, and Janet had been a real friend to them and last May she had offered to let them each have sex with her so they would know for sure if they were gay or what. Joe had gone first and then Dylan, but Dylan's condom had broken while inside her and neither one knew until after. The boys said it was an awkward, but enlightening experience for all three of them, but it just affirmed Dylan and Joe's commitment to each other. They planned to go to community college and get their associates degrees and then one would go to work and the other would go on to a four-year college, and get a teaching degree and then would pay for the other to get theirs. They had it all figured out. They each had received a small scholarship to attend the junior college across the river in Holyoke and they each had part-time jobs lined up for the summer. Their parents had asked them to move out of their houses when they graduated after they being told they were a couple and had stopped supporting them as far as college went. Yvonne then told the boys that she was not going to be confrontational about what we had to say to them, but we did feel that they should know that Janet had asked HEM and her to raise her daughter, but in all good consciousness they couldn't not tell them that one or both of the boys could very well be the father of the baby. They were not looking for support or money in any way, but they thought the boys would like to be Uncles to the baby girl. Yvonne then turned the baby facing them and it was Joe who first said anything, Dylan was just sitting there weeping. Joe exclaimed that she looked just like Dylan, but then she had the fair hair and skin tone that he himself had, as opposed to Dylan's dark hair and warmer skin tone.
It was the dimples and chin cleft that sealed it for them, as it had for us. The two each held baby Janet and made the cooing noises expected, but she had instinctively held a finger of each as they held her in their arms in their own turn, and Yvonne told them that they would be welcome in their home whenever they wanted to visit or spend time with the baby. Both boys were completely enchanted by the infant, just as all four of us adults had been. The boys arranged to stop by and visit her the next day and we rejoined the group still out in the common area.
That night in bed, our post-coital conversation began with Riley asking me if I had had any further thoughts about what to do about the ranch house on the new property. I told him that there was something niggling at the back of my mind, but it was pretty out there, and he encouraged me to say out loud what was on my mind. So I told him that I was thinking that now with the improved barn/stable on the property and with the house fixed up maybe we could entice a young couple that had horse experience to open a small trail riding or horse boarding business on the property, maybe a couple like Dylan and Joe who had no place to move after they graduated, and they did each have riding experience and the trails alone on the property were great and that would certainly attract some riders.
They could run it on weekends and holidays to begin with because we wouldn't want to interfere with their school work, since I thought they should both start off at the junior college together, maybe taking business courses, and then they could be responsible for the field rentals and our own stable maintenance when David and Jeff started their own business after they did their apprenticeship after they graduated, and maybe we should get the younger guys on board now and train with Jeff and David before the Summer. All Riley said was. "Good, we're on the same page, that's exactly what I was thinking." Who says that great minds don't think alike?
Riley, of course, spoke with the high school boys after their class the following Monday and he invited them to the house for dinner on the next evening, Tuesday, he reported he hadn't told them about our ideas, he first wanted to see how our boys got along with them, then after dinner we could broach our ideas and see how receptive they were.
It couldn't have worked out better if we had planned it, which of course we had. Dylan and Joe arrived just after Riley had and they joined us for a ride before I got too involved with dinner prep. The boys were thrilled to have two older guys hanging with them and led the way to the trails on the other property. Joe and Dylan proved to be quite good horsemen, and at the end of our ride they pitched right in and helped the younger boys groom their ponies. Riley nudged me and whispered that tests number 1 and 2 had been passed; let's see if the others get good marks also.
I love to hear from my readers and what they think of my stories Art West