As Gabe entered the Diamond Dust he grinned at the young man behind the bar and
the Sheriff standing nearby. "Brett, looks like you've
been doin' a good job
holdin' down the fort while I was gone." Gabe
"Thank you Mr. Gabe. It wasn't too busy. I did sell a beer
though." He said with
a grin and a glance at Jalen.
"Looks like you cleaned the glasses and took good care of the bar
The young outlaw nodded. "Yes Sir."
Gabe opened his purse
and handed Brett the promised silver dollar and a quarter.
"I'm givin' you an
extra quarter for cleanin' up because that wasn't part of the
deal and you
did it on your own without me askin' so I think you should be
The younger man's face split into a huge grin. "Thank you
Sir…Thank you very
much!" he said with delight evident on his young
Gabe then turned to Daniel and Cole. "Brett Montgomery, I'd like
you to meet my
brother Daniel Fairmont and his young partner Cole
Brett smiled and shook hands with each man and said, "It's a
pleasure to meet
Jalen stepped up and shook Daniel's hand and
said, "It's good to see you too
Dan." Then he did the same to
Dan said, "It's good to see you too Sheriff."
Cole also gave
Jalen his greetings.
Dan said, "I hear you got your own place now
Jalen grinned, "Yes I do have to keep an eye on this one here
and what better
way then to have my own place?" He put an arm around his
Brett smiled up into Jalen's green eyes with
his blue ones.
Daniel watched the older and younger man and
smiled to himself. If he didn't
know better the Sheriff and his young
probationer were as close as he and Cole.
Daniel and Cole and wondered why he hadn't seen how close the two
before. He watched the looks they exchanged and the subtle cues Dan gave
as to what was expected of his behavior.
Cole paid attention
to Daniel and behaved the way he was expected to. He knew
full well now of ignoring his cues. He watched the Sheriff and
the young man
at his side and smiled. Brett looked like someone he could have
with. He looked to be about his own age and that should make
interesting. The young man seemed friendly enough and perhaps they
up a friendship. That would be nice since he had no friends near
his own age.
Brett watched Daniel and Cole. He thought Cole
might be close to his own age.
Maybe they could have some fun together. He
hadn't had anyone of his own age
around since leaving home and on the trail
with the wagon train.
Jalen called to Bret, "Come on Brett,
let's get our wagon and get Daniel and
Cole's luggage for them and bring it
over to the saloon."
Brett nodded. "Yes Sir." He responded and went with
The Sheriff and the young outlaw got their
wagon and brought Dan and Cole's
luggage over to the saloon. After they had
eaten supper they returned and spent
some time visiting with Daniel, Gabe and
The evening promised to be interesting. The four men sat at a table
sang and drank beer and enjoyed their company while Gabe ran the
saloon. At the
night's end they grinned at each other and Daniel said, "I'm
glad we had this
chance to get to know each other a bit better Sheriff. The
company tonight was
very enjoyable." Daniel said with a smile.
returned the grin. "Likewise. Brett and I had a good time."
at the other two men. "Yes, I did. Jalen and me do this once in a
together and it's always fun." He told the other men.
"Daniel and I don't do this kind of thing often enough and I have
to admit I
had fun and wasn't bored at all, all night."
Daniel chuckled at Cole and
placed an arm around the younger man's shoulders and
squeezed. "Well I think
it's time for us to find our beds."
Jalen nodded. "Yes, us too. We'll
need to get together again very soon. As the
Christmas holiday grows closer
if you're of a mind to stay through the holiday
perhaps we can go Christmas
tree hunting together." Jalen suggested.
Daniel grinned. "Now that sounds
like fun. I haven't done somethin' like that in
years and old Gabe here could
use a nice tree to spruce up this place." Dan said
with a wink at his younger
Gabe, knowing his brother was teasing him just grinned and shook
"Well, I'll let you know when we decide to go." Jalen told
"All right. It sounds like it will be a good time." Dan
The two younger men looked at each other as the
older men talked about an outing
Brett said, "Sounds like
fun. I haven't done that since I was a kid."
Cole chuckled. "Neither have
I, but Dan would say I was still a kid."
Brett grinned in return. "Jalen
would say the same about me. In fact he calls me
kid sometimes. I resented it
at first, but now I rather like it."
Cole smiled. "I know what you mean.
Dan's been real good to me and I'd do
anythin' for him."
"Yeah and Jalen's been real good to me too. Maybe we can do
nice for them for Christmas." Brett suggested.
Cole got a big grin.
"Yeah…that would be lots of fun. We'll need to try to get
together and talk
about what we can do."
Brett returned the grin. "Yeah…I'll let you know
when I can get away."
Cole grinned back. "I'll be sure to try to get away
from Dan too and we can go
off together and have fun doin' somethin' nice for
Jalen smiled at Dan, seeing the two younger men
talking and smiling. "I hope
they're not concocting some sort of
Dan said, "Cole knows better." He didn't go any further with
Jalen nodded. "Yes, Brett knows better too. He's well aware
of the consequences
of breaking the rules and his probation. That young man
doesn't want to go to
Dan nodded. "I'm sure he
Jalen shook hands with Daniel and smiled as the men said their
and went off with their young
Gabe smiled to himself as he wiped down the
bar, put the chairs up on the tables
and mopped the floor. He prided himself
on a clean establishment. He knew most
saloons were dirty places, but he
couldn't abide filth being in his own
establishment. He wanted it to be a
pleasant place for all who visited. After
all he didn't name it Diamond Dust
for nothing. He still wanted it to shine like
a diamond and he knew it would
always draw the better sort of clientele as well
if it were clean. As he
closed up for the night, he thought about how his
brother and his young
partner had gotten along so well with the Sheriff and his
It made him smile. Perhaps when he presented Dan with the
idea of taking over
the saddlery here in town he'd take him up on it and stay
put for once. He
worried about his brother while he was traveling from place to
place. He knew
Dan was his older brother, but he loved him and they only had
each other now
with their parents both deceased. They were family and should
Daniel had been the wandering type from the time he had left
school. He had
always returned home, but Mama and Papa had worried about him the
he was gone. Gabe had stayed to take care of them, but once they had
sold the farm and moved here to Diamond Springs and opened up the
Dust. He enjoyed the work and he made a good business, even with
After his parent's death, he had been able to track Daniel down.
When he found
he had taken on a young partner to travel with him as he made
and sold his
leather goods, it made him feel a bit better that Dan wasn't
alone anymore, but Gabe still longed for Dan to stay put for
a while. To put
down roots somewhere and no longer wander the country. He
knew Daniel had a
regular clientele too, but he found himself still being
concerned with his
brother doing all that traveling. He heard stories of
train wrecks and robberies
and such. It frightened him and he didn't want to
Daniel smiled at Cole as they readied for bed.
"I never knew the Sheriff could
be such good company and I rather like his
young probationer. Apparently Jalen
wants to groom him to be a
Cole smiled. "I like them both too. The last time we were here
seemed a bit standoffish."
Dan nodded. "Yes, he did,
pretty much kept to himself. He seems a lot more
relaxed and even happy with
his young man to look after."
Cole looked at Daniel. "Do you think they
have a similar sort of relationship
like we do?"
"Hard to say. He does have to keep a sharp eye on him because
probation officer, I suppose in some ways the relationship might be
but I'm not entirely sure." He pulled Cole to him and kissed him and
him tight. "I happen to think what we have together is
Cole grinned, returning the kiss in kind. "Me too
except for the other part."
Daniel grinned, "You mean the part where I
take you over my lap and heat your
Cole colored a bit.
"Well, it works for us and that's all that's important. We won't
what others do or don't do."
Cole nodded and snuggled into
the older man's strong arms.
Daniel held Cole for a long time, then
finally broke the embrace and said, "It's
been a long day. I need some
Cole smiled. "I know a way to help you sleep real well." He
Dan laughed softly. "Come on my wild one." He began to undress
Jalen watched Brett as they rode along toward their
home. He knew Brett had been
able to relax and have fun with Cole and
"I like them." Brett said aloud. Dan isn't stuffy at
Jalen grinned. "They are very nice men and rather fun to be with."
Brett looked at Jalen. "Did you really mean it when you
said we'd hunt for the
perfect Christmas tree?"
Jalen grinned. "Yes,
since when have you known me to say somethin' I didn't
grinned. "Never. You say what you mean and mean what you say."
nodded. "That's right."
"It will be fun to go with Dan and Cole. Maybe
Cole and I can gather some holly
and make a couple of wreaths if we can find
enough greenery." He commented.
The sheriff looked at his outlaw. "Do you
know how to do that?"
Brett grinned "Uh huh Papa and I used to do it for
Mama and we'd always go out
and find some mistletoe too. It was fun to watch
Mama or Papa maneuver the other
under the mistletoe to steal a kiss." Brett
Jalen was brought back to another place and another
time by his young outlaw's
words. Christmases he and Dallas had spent
together…him and Dallas inventing any
excuse to be under the mistletoe that
had been hung inside the house to steal a
kiss. Jalen remembered the large,
full beautiful Christmas tree he and Dallas
went out together to choose, chop
down and bring to the house. How on Christmas
Eve they'd have all the hands
come in and help decorate it and then lighting the
candles, having hot
chocolate and cookies and the singing of Christmas carols.
Dallas would then
read the Christmas story from the Bible and afterward everyone
would go to
bed. Then he and Dallas would put all the presents under the tree
for all the men and for each other. They hung stockings for everyone on
mantel over the great fireplace and after chores on Christmas morning
all come in and take down their stockings and then open presents.
cook a huge breakfast and they'd all eat in the living room,
picking up plates
of food in the kitchen. Later that afternoon they'd have a
Christmas feast with
wild turkey and venison. Those days were some of the
happiest days in his life.
Giving himself a mental
shake, he came back to the present smiling, "I'm glad
your parents were a
lovin' couple. He told his young outlaw.
Brett had been
watching Jalen and he could tell he was going back in time. He
had that sort
of far away look in his green eyes when he did that. Once Brett
had asked him
about it when he saw it as he noticed Jalen did that at times when
upset with him and Jalen had told his young outlaw it was when he
thinking of things Dallas had taught him. He nodded a bit wistfully in
to the Sheriff's comment. "Me too…I really miss them
Jalen glanced over at Brett. "I can see you do and I'm sorry
I can't make that
up to you." He said sincerely.
Brett smiled at the
Sheriff. "It's okay. You don't have to. Things are good just
the way they
are. You're sort of like Papa a bit and I like that." He told
Jalen smiled with pride. "I'm glad. That's quite an honor
to be compared to
Brett smiled. "Well you deserve it. Especially
when you take me to task." The
younger man blushed.
smiled. "Well, it seems that part of things works well for us."
nodded. "It does, although I don't quite understand why."
The older man
smiled. "I'm not sure I understand it either. All I know is that
it works for
us and that's all that's important."
The younger man nodded and Jalen
reached out his arms to hug his probationer and
his young outlaw came to him
and snuggled into the hug.
The two men rode up into their
yard and after untacking their mounts and
settleing the barn animals went to
the house and crawled into the bed they
shared with each other when they were
alone and were glad that it was built as
strongly as it was to accommodate
their youthful bedtime activity.
Jalen walked over to the livery
and called, "Jack?"
Jack Hillyard, the owner of the Diamond Springs
livery popped his head out of
his office at the familiar call. "In here
Sheriff! What can I do for you?"
Jalen went inside the livery and saw
Jack in his office. "I need a sledge or
sleigh. I want to hunt down a couple
of Christmas trees." He said with a grin.
Jack chuckled. "Well with the
recent snow tracking one shouldn't be too hard."
Sheriff grinned back. "You're right. It should be an easy hunt, but with
young inexperienced tree hunter…in fact I'll have three inexperienced
hunters with me…it might just slow me down."
Jack quirked an
Jalen grinned. "Yes, I'm not only taking Brett with me,
but Gabe's brother
Daniel and his business partner."
"Well Daniel seems a nice enough fella and his young sidekick seems
to be a
good kid. Just watch that the two young scalawags don't get
The Sheriff laughed. "I'll be sure to keep a sharp eye
on them Jack."
The livery owner smiled. "I'll find something for you. You
might need to invest
in a sledge, sleigh or both."
Jalen nodded. "Yes,
I'll think about it."
Jack went into the back lot to see what he had that
would be suitable for
Jalen's needs. He saw a midsized sledge that probably
would carry two good sized
Christmas trees easily. He went back into the
livery. "I think I have something
that will do, come with me and see what you
The Sheriff went with the livery owner and smiled when he saw the
Jack pointed to. "You should be able to haul that with only one
horse if the
snow isn't too deep, use both if you're not sure."
nodded. "I will. I've used one of these before. It's been some time,
yes, it will do nicely. He glanced over at a small sleigh and asked,
wanted that little sleigh over there? I'd like to rent it for the
perhaps. I know it will be some time if I order one of my own. I'd
like it in
time for Christmas."
Jack glanced over at Jalen and then
nodded. "No one's spoken up for it and first
come first served. I'll work out
a rental agreement for the winter and let you
know what it would
The Sheriff smiled. It would be nice for just Brett and him to use
to go on a
sleigh ride just for fun. There were some nice areas around
Diamond Springs and
it would be a fun way to show his young outlaw the
He glanced over at Jack. "I'll be back for the sledge and when I
sledge back I'll pick up the sleigh."
Jack smiled. "Okay,
that sounds just fine."
The next day Brett's blue eyes sparkled
as he and Jalen rode into town leading
their draft horses Oak and Ash. There
had been more snow overnight and Brett was
very excited about being able to
go into the woods with Jalen, Daniel and Cole
to hunt down the Christmas
trees. It was also going to be fun finding the
greenery needed to fashion the
wreathes and to find the mistletoe.
Brett glanced over at the excited
young man and grinned. "I'm glad you're havin'
back. "Me too."
The sheriff hitched up the horses and Jack
had told him he'd keep their mounts
and then when he came to pick up the
sleigh he could hook one of the draft
horses to it and they could tie the
others behind and ride home.
Brett had been excited at the prospect of a
Jalen grinned and said, "Well we'll take the sledge for now and
then come back
for our mounts and the sleigh."
Jack grinned. "All
The Sheriff hitched up Oak and Ash to the sledge and with Brett
by his side
pulled up to the Diamond Dust where Daniel and Cole were waiting.
younger men crawled in the back and Daniel joined Jalen on the seat
sledge. The Sheriff got the team going and headed to a spot outside of
where they might find just what they were looking for. Jalen had stopped
café before picking up the other men and picked up a picnic lunch for
the basket sat in the sledge with the younger
Cole tried to peek into the picnic basket as they
glided over the snow. "Wonder
what's in here?" He asked, looking at
"Food, of course." The young outlaw said smugly.
young man rolled his eyes. "I know that…what kind of food?"
his head. "I'm not sure, but it'll be good whatever it is. Jalen
selects things we both like."
Cole nodded. "I'm
Daniel grinned at the Sheriff. "Sounds like our young
ones are into the picnic
Jalen grinned and called back, "You
two stay out of the food. We'll have it soon
Two heads popped
up. One dark with curls and the other with reddish tints
Daniel chuckled. "Yes, we knew you were into the
Jalen said, "I have a couple of jugs of hot chocolate up here
Brett grinned at Cole. "Mmm…"
The Sheriff chuckled hearing
his young outlaw's reaction. "I thought it would be
a nice treat and a change
Brett grinned. "Yes, it sounds
The Sheriff guided the sledge toward a large stand of
trees, Pine, Blue Spruce
and Fir. "I think we might find something nice
Dan nodded. "It looks promisin'."
Jalen smiled at the other
Brett smiled at Cole as he saw them heading toward a
mixed stand of evergreen
Cole grinned as well. "We might even
find some mistletoe in there." He said
quietly to Brett.
"We sure might." He said quietly back.
Jalen brought the sledge to a halt
and climbed down. Daniel followed him and the
two younger men were at their
side in short order. The Sheriff smiled. "Well I
think this is a good place
for us to hunt for a couple of Christmas trees." He
pulled out four strips of
red cloth. "We can each hunt down a tree. Mark it with
this red strip by
tying it on the tree. We'll then go back and look at each one
which ones are what we are lookin' for. Remember, they're goin'
inside and so
shouldn't be too much taller than me or Daniel." He grinned at the
who was almost as tall as Jalen who topped out at six foot
Brett looked at Cole and the two young men grinned at
each other. "All right, us
younger men against you older men and we'll see
who gets the best tree!" Cole
cried with a grin that made his hazel eyes
Daniel chuckled at his young partner's exuberance and turned to
Jalen. "You on
The other man grinned. "Sounds like a good
The two young men went in one direction and the two older
ones the other, each
team bent on finding the best Christmas
As the men approached the stand of trees the pungent
scent of Pine, Fir, Cedar
and Blue Spruce mingled with the scent of newly
fallen snow and the sent of the
ground under the snow. Small birds flit from
branch to branch at times
dislodging some of the snow on the branches where
they lit. The sky was the
light shade of blue in winter and puffy white
clouds dotted the horizon. Sun
filtered down through the trees sending shafts
of light that alternately lit up
the men and cast them into shadow as they
walked around the trees.
Brett took a deep breath and grinned at Cole.
"This is my favorite time of year.
It's so beautiful."
the smile. "It's become a nice time now that I'm with Daniel. Mama
make it as nice as possible, but Dan's made it special." He told
Brett looked at Cole. "How?"
Cole said, "No matter where we
are when it gets close to Christmas we always
come here to spend it with
Brett nodded. "He's a real nice man."
Cole grinned. "Yeah,
that he is, guess `cause him and Dan are brothers. I'm glad
they care a lot
about each other and Gabe likes me and accepts me as a little
Brett smiled. "I'm glad. It's good to have someone who's like
around this time of year." He stopped and examined a
straight Pine tree that was
pretty full and about a foot or so taller than
the Sheriff. "I think this one's
the one I'm gonna choose." He told Cole with
Cole examined the tree critically and nodded. "It's a nice
Brett tied the red strip to it and he and Cole continued along
looking at tree
Jalen grinned at Dan as they
walked in the stand of trees. "There are so many to
choose from. I thought
tree hunting would be easier than this." He teased.
Dan chuckled. "Oh
no…it's a lot harder than that Sheriff. See you're used to
trackin' down bad
guys, not trees that don't leave a trail to follow."
Jalen laughed. "That
is so true."
The Sheriff and Dan continued to tromp through the woods
hunting the perfect
Cole went through the woods
with Brett and when they came upon a beautiful Cedar
tree Cole said, "Look at
this Brett, I think I'll choose this one."
The young outlaw grinned.
"Yeah, this one's a beauty too and Cedar smells so
"Uh huh get rid of that smoky smell in the Diamond Dust."
"Uh huh…it does smell good enough to chase that smoky
Cole tied the red cloth around it and said, "we better
head back toward the
sledge and see how the old men are doin'." He said with
The other young man grinned back. "Yep."
The two younger
men walked back toward the sledge.
Dan spotted a nice Fir
tree. "Jalen…what do you think about this one?"
The Sheriff stepped up to
it and grinned. "I like it. It's tall enough and has
symmetry." Dan nodded.
"Yes, and it's straight which is a plus." He grinned.
Jalen grinned in
return. "Yes, that's always a plus."
Dan tied the red cloth around the
tree to mark it.
Not too much further Jalen saw a nice Blue Spruce and
marked it as well. "We
better get back and see what our two youngsters are up
to. Knowin' them, they're
probably itchin' to get into that picnic
Dan grinned. "I don't blame them. Huntin' Christmas trees down
is hungry work."
He winked at the Sheriff and he laughed.
men headed for the sledge as well.
Brett grinned as he saw
Jalen coming back from the stand of trees with Daniel.
"Here come the old
men." He teased.
Jalen came up to him and hugging him asked, "Who you
callin' old kid?"
Brett looked up into the green eyes and grinned
Jalen pretended to be mad, growling deep in his
throat and tossing Brett over
his shoulder and smacking the seat of his
jeans. Not enough to count as a real
spanking, but enough for his young
outlaw to feel it.
Brett squeaked in surprise and then laughed and begged
to be let go, apologizing
in between his breaths of laughter.