It was mid-summer and seventeen-year old Jalen Brooks was wrestling with a stubborn steer that had wandered into the creek and was now stuck fast in its muddy bottom. He had been working for Dallas Kincaid now for about four months. He had been learning to read and write and was making good progress despite his struggles and own stubbornness because his boss wouldn’t put up with any of it. He’d learned his lesson about not doing his assignments once Dallas had put him over his lap and heated his bottom just as he said he would when they had first talked about this arrangement approximately three months ago after his first major lapse in judgment which had ended up with him being involved in a Saloon brawl
Jalen was brought out of his musings by the steer he was trying to free bawling. The teen grabbed the animal by its horns and tried to pull as hard as he could to free it. He cussed, “Come on you damned son of a bitch…move!” The youngster tugged harder and when his feet slipped out from under him and he landed on his backside in the muck shouted, “You fucking bastard! Now look and see what the hell you made me do!”
Dallas Kincaid had ridden out to the pasture to check on his young cowhand’s progress with removing the steers that had been spotted stuck in the creek by his Forman Jake Burns. He didn’t like the string of swear words he heard floating on the air as he approached the spot where Jalen was working. He didn’t approve of vulgar language and didn’t use it himself except rarely and only then in extreme circumstances. Most times if he did indulge himself in using those sort of words it was generally when he was by himself and then only under his breath, or softly so they wouldn’t reach the ears of others. On the rare occasion a swear word was uttered by the owner of the ranch and heard by others, those who heard it knew the man was bothered to the extreme by whatever it was that had caused those expressions to fly out of his mouth.
The hands knew about their boss’s aversion to the use of vulgar language and curbed their tendency to swear when he was around, but when he wasn’t there; they felt free enough to allow the words to fly. In this instance Dallas surmised his young cowhand had heard them both from the men he worked with as well as from others in his travels and during his checkered past. He was going to work on helping him to stop that behavior.
Dallas shook his head as he came upon the scene with the steer still in the creek and the boy sittin in it cussing a blue streak. He hid a smile. Dallas wanted Jalen to grow up to be a respected citizen because he’d go much further in life then one of the raggedy cowhands which people tolerated, but viewed as coarse, uneducated and not well respected, although as long as they behaved themselves while in town were tolerated by the citizenry. Dallas wanted more for this youngster. He could see the boy had potential and he wanted to help him realize that.
The sight of the young man reminded Dallas of himself and it brought him back to a time when he had been on this ranch as a youngster and the Smoking K had been owned by his Uncle Justin Dawson Kincaid, who had never married. Dallas had inherited the ranch about four years ago when his uncle and his foreman were killed by a landslide while riding back from a cattle sale. It had been a tragic event for him and Dallas missed his Uncle Justin terribly. . His uncle had been the man who had helped him to understand his sexuality and how to live the life of a rancher.
Dallas thought back to the summer he was fourteen. He had been here at the ranch for a few weeks. He had come as he always did every summer since he was five years old and the school year finished. He was growing each year and his uncle had been giving him more and more responsibilities. His father had told him it was good for him to be out of the town for the summers and on his uncle’s ranch he’d learn how to work hard and be in the fresh air and remain healthy. He’d be able to exercise and learn about God’s good earth and creatures. Uncle Justin was his father’s younger and only other sibling. Dallas remembered his father telling him his grandfather, Marshall Kincaid, had been a wandering soul from very young, traveling from town to town when he was older, uprooting his family all the time.
Dallas recalled that his father Jonathan Layton Kincaid received his calling to the ministry in his late teens at one of the tent Bible revivals he had attended with his family. Dallas had always thought it odd that although his grandfather was a wandering man he was a believer as well and attended all manner of churches and revivals in his travels. Once his father had finished school he went to a seminary to study and got his degree in divinity and had preached the word until the day he died, along with his mother about six months ago when they both succumbed to typhoid fever. He had always felt closer to his uncle than his father, but he missed his parents as well. Dallas thought back to how he had hated writing Bible verses as punishment for his misdeeds. It usually had been coupled with a sore bottom as his father hadn’t believed in sparing the rod.
Dallas remembered fondly that his Uncle Justin had been much more tolerant of little boys. He’d swat Dallas from time to time if he got too far out of line, but had never really spanked him. He had thought Uncle Justin would that day his uncle had caught him with his newly hired ranch hand Drake Hansen. He was instead a bit surprised by his uncle’s protectiveness of him. Instead of a spanking Justin Kincaid had cuddled him, reassured him and then gave him a good firm talking to, concerning boundaries, saying no when those boundaries were crossed and touching, what was appropriate and inappropriate and information he had needed about sex, girls, boys and men.
Dallas recalled that Drake had been about ten years older than him. He hadn’t understood why he had a fluttery feeling whenever the man came near. He was tall, well built from his work, had hazel eyes that could change colors with his mood and whenever he was near and especially when he had touched him in a certain way, it made him all filled with goose bumps. No girl had ever made him feel that way and up until then, no boy either. He remembered having wondered at his response to the older man and his curiosity as to what else he might feel. He found himself shivering a little at the memory of that particular day.
Drake Hansen had worked his magic on Dallas slowly wooing him. He had seen the youngster’s responses to his advances and thrilled at what he could have from the teen. He approached Dallas and caressed him, lightly at first, then more boldly. He had made sure Justin Kincaid wasn’t around when he did these things though. He didn’t think the boss would like him making advances toward his nephew, even though the boy seemed more than willing as he hadn’t ever told him no.
Justin Kincaid had gone to the barn to retrieve a hammer and screwdriver he needed from the tack room in order to make a repair to the kitchen pump in the house. He heard low voices and moans and quirked an eyebrow. He stayed out of sight hidden by the shadows as he peeked into a stall where the sounds were emanating. What he saw and heard made his blood boil. He wasn’t a man unused to such things, he himself engaged in such activities with his ranch foreman with whom he had a consensual relationship, but this was his innocent nephew who was still a boy with little to no understanding of what was happening. He watched and listened a few moments more and when Drake released his nephew’s organ from his jeans stepped out of his hiding place and growled, “Just what the hell is goin’ on here? What do you think you’re doing’ Drake Hansen?” Justin’s Brown eyes darkened and narrowed dangerously.
Both the younger man and the teen jumped apart at the unexpected intrusion. Dallas quickly stuffed his engorged organ that was quickly deflating into his jeans buttoning them up. Drake stammered, “Umm…n-nothin’ boss.”
Justin arched an eyebrow. “Don’t lie to me Hansen…pack up your things. You’re fired. Come and collect what’s owed you. I want you off my ranch within two hours or I won’t be responsible for what happens to you…get goin’!” Justin roared.
Drake Hansen quickly ran off toward the bunk house to pack up.
Justin, watching the man go turned to his nephew. “You young man…get up to the house and wait for me in my study. We have a lot to talk about.” He said quietly, but in a dangerous low voice Dallas had never heard his uncle use toward him before.
The teen could tell his uncle was angry and was holding in his temper. His own father would address him in a similar manner when he was extremely displeased with Dallas’s behavior.
The youngster hurried past his uncle, but not without a hard swat to his backside which caused Dallas to yelp, rub and then run off to the house.
Justin took several deep breaths. He realized he had to calm down before dealing with his nephew and sort-out is own thoughts. He began to clean and organize the tack room thinking while he worked. He realized the situation wasn’t his nephew’s fault. He remembered as a younger man when he and his now foreman Nicholas Robinson had first began to experiment together and found that they had something between them neither had realized and both had learned about as their relationship grew. Even the spanking…Nick had needed that from time to time and it had been a bit of a surprise to them both, but Justin had found he could give that to his partner when needed. Whatever they had together they found it worked for them. It had been a slow growing process between them full of both rocky and smooth places. They now had been together twelve years. At thirty-four years old Justin had lived a life style with a man that was never talked about and kept very secret. He hadn’t known anyone else besides him and Nick that lived the way they did, so kept their relationship very quiet, showing the rest of the world two men who were good friends and who had a good working relationship based on mutual respect, while in private they exchanged kisses that were sweet and hot, engaged in sexual practices that were frowned upon and enforced discipline when necessary. No one would ever suspect that either of them was anything but upstanding citizens of the community. Not even his preacher brother knew of his relationship with Nick. Occasionally his brother would confront him about getting married and having a family, but he’d just maintain marriage and children just weren’t for him. He suspected it was one of the reasons why his brother sent his nephew to stay with him every summer, to get him used to the idea of having a child around. He enjoyed his nephew and loved the boy to death. It was why he was so shocked by what he had just come upon. He would never want anyone to harm his nephew. He felt angry at himself for not recognizing that Hansen even had that kind of tendency, the one he and his foreman Nick had…if he had noticed he’d have talked to the man and warned him to keep his tendencies to himself and to not let them be known in any way, but it was too late now. He had dismissed Hansen and had done it out of anger. He would have to talk to Nick about things. He hadn’t known anyone else like them and perhaps that may be why he hadn’t recognized the tendency in the man. It was kind of an odd thing to realize there were actually other men out there who might want, or share the tendency to like other men instead of women. He felt rather naive that he hadn’t thought of it before and angry with himself for not having done so…and guilty because now his teenage nephew had been accosted by someone sexually. He felt it was his own fault for not knowing and protecting his young nephew from such things.
Justin sighed and finished his task, still not quite sure how he was going to handle things with his nephew. The boy was the innocent one in all this. He decided he’d have to talk to Dallas and help him understand what had happened and to be the one to advise the young teen. It would be a delicate task, but his responsibility. He headed for the house to pay off Drake Hansen and see him on his way and then speak to his nephew.
Once Justin arrived in the study he found Dallas curled up on the sofa and looking scared and confused. He sat down next to him and took the youngster into his arms, cuddled the boy, consoled him and talked firmly and frankly with him about what had occurred, expressed his own feelings about it and listened to his nephew’s concerns and confusion. Justin reassured him that there wasn’t a thing wrong with him and these things were natural to some men and boys.
Dallas smiled to himself remembering just how worried and scared he had been about what his uncle would say or do when he came to him. He was confused by everything and was surprised by his uncle’s understanding and how he had clarified things for him. He also recalled how relieved he was when he found out Uncle Justin wasn’t really angry with him, but with the hand he had dismissed from his employ. He was also relieved to understand there wasn’t anything wrong with him and that there were others who had feelings like him as well, although he had wondered at the time how his Uncle knew that. Dallas remembered how he had been very uncomfortable talking about such things at first, but as the summer wore on he grew to understand better and to trust in his uncle and his acceptance of his feelings. He dared not reveal them to his preacher father as he knew he would be judged and condemned for them.
Dallas grinned as when he had grown older and had talked more about his sexual concerns he learned that his own uncle had experienced the same feelings and realized that it wasn’t something widely talked about, but kept to oneself. He still struggled even today however with the conflict of his feelings and his Biblical upbringing. He was happy that he had come upon a young man like himself and perhaps one he too could teach and help through this confusing thing.
Jalen hadn’t notice his boss approaching. He was just mad, wet and dirty and frustrated that the steer he was trying to help wasn’t helping at all. “Come on you cussed beast! Move your fuckin’ ass!” He pulled again on the horns.
Dallas rode up quietly and then called to Jalen, “Enough of that Kid…get up out of the creek now and leave that steer where he is.”
The teen looked up startled at having heard the quiet, firm voice of his employer. “Yes Sir Mr. Kincaid.” Jalen replied. He crawled up out of the creek. He blushed a little embarrassed at his boss finding him not doing the task he was assigned to do. “I’m sorry Mr. Kincaid…the steer is just too damned stubborn. He won’t move!” The youngster said frustrated.
Dallas arched an eyebrow at the explicative used by the youngster and nodded. “I can see that.” He said dryly. “Cussin’ at him isn’t goin’ to help much either…you need to learn to work smart Kid, Some men work hard and some work smart. Let me show you how to work smart.”
At that Dallas took his lariat, still mounted on his horse, floated the loop over the steer’s horns, tugging the rope tight as it settled over them and then fastening the rope to the pommel of his saddle, and gave his horse Hornet the command to back up.
The horse began to back slowly and steadily. The steer eventually began to move forward with the gentle but firm pressure on his horns and finally with sucking sounds clambered up onto the bank of the creek.
Jalen stood and watched the older man rope the steer’s horns and then back his horse up until the stubborn animal was forced to move forward and then clamber out of the creek onto its bank. He shook his head feeling stupid. “I didn’t think of that Mr. Kincaid.”
Dallas smiled at Jalen. “I know Kid, ranchers much more experienced don’t think of it either. It’s much easier to use the force of a horse to help than brute force. You would have never moved that steer out of there the way you were goin’ about it. You aren’t built up enough and don’t have the strength yet of a full grown man to do that.” Dallas told the boy.
Jalen scowled at first, but then realized what his boss was saying was true. “Can I try?” Jalen asked, indicating a few more steers similarly stuck.
Dallas nodded. “Of course you can.”
Jalen smiled and mounting his horse took his rope and spun it, settling the loop over the horns of another steer. He had Jasper back up and eventually the steer also made it onto the creek bed and wandered over with the other one to graze. He turned to Dallas and grinned. “That was so much easier Mr. Kincaid, Thank you for showin’ me.”
The older man grinned. “You’re welcome.” He helped Jalen get the remaining steers onto dry ground and then said, “We’re finished here…let’s go back to the house. I’d like to talk to you about somethin’.”
Jalen eyed his boss for a moment, but then nodded and looping his rope and hanging it on its place on his saddle rode alongside him back toward the house.
The young cowhand had become accustomed to Dallas coming to find him and then when the task he was doing was completed, riding back to the house with him for a talk either about the work he had done or the finished assignments he had left for him to correct and go over.
Dallas glanced at the teen and relaxed as they rode together. When they had untacked the animals and cared for them Dallas led the way back to the house, going into the study. Jalen seated himself on the sofa where they usually sat to talk about things and Dallas went over to the desk and picked up the finished assignments and brought them over to the sofa and sat down beside the boy.
“You’re doin’ much better.” Dallas praised with a smile. “Your handwritin’ is getting’ much easier to read and your arithmetic problems are mostly correct. You only missed two this time.” Dallas told him.
Jalen smiled at the praise and nodded. “Even I can read my own writing’ now. I only missed two?” He asked.
Dallas nodded. “Yes, these two multiplication problems.” The man went over them with his young cowhand.
Jalen watched and listened with more attention than he ever had before. He had grown closer to Dallas. He liked the man more and more as time went by and was very comfortable with him that was except when he found himself over his lap. That was always the last place he wanted to be. He didn’t mind afterward being cuddled and hugged and held close. He liked the scent of the man, the soap of his clothes, the smell of sweat, horses and cows…and something that was uniquely Dallas. Many times the youngster had wondered if this was what it felt like to have a father or uncle. His boss had told him about Justin Kincaid and how he had inherited the Smoking K from him after he died.
Once Dallas had finished going over Jalen’s assignments he gave the teen a direct look. “I want to talk to you about the language you were using out at the creek today.”
Jalen blushed. “Umm…you weren’t meant to hear that boss…we all know how you feel about usin’ those kind of words, but you weren’t anywhere in sight.” The youngster pouted.
The older man shook his head. “It doesn’t matter if I’m in sight or not. You never know how close I might be and hear you.” He told the boy. “I don’t want you usin’ that kind of language at all Jalen Christopher Brooks and I’m giving you fair warning…if I hear it again, it won’t matter where or how many or few swear words come out of that mouth of yours I’ll wash it out with soap.” Dallas told the youngster.
Jalen’s green eyes widened. “Soap?” He squeaked.
The rancher nodded. “Yes…soap and if that doesn’t seem to work I know another tried and true method to help curb it…a hot bottom.” He told him sternly. “You are a young man and I want you to be respected. People who use that sort of coarse language aren’t looked upon with favor and you have so much more potential in your life. This is an area I intend to help you with. I won’t have such filthy words coming out of your mouth.”
Jalen asked, “Umm…can I have a warnin’ first, then the consequence?”
Dallas thought about it and then nodded. “For the first week we enforce this, there will be a warning first, I’ll say ‘language’ and you know I heard a bad word. If it happens a second time…even if it’s a different swear word it’s the soap.”
Jalen nodded. “Yes Sir Mr. Kincaid.”
Dallas gave him a hug. “Are you agreeable to this Jalen?”
The youngster thought about what his mentor had said and realized he was trying to help him curb bad tendencies and he trusted Dallas to guide and direct him as how to become a real man and nodded. “Yes Sir…I agree.”
Dallas hugged Jalen once more and said, “That’s it Kid…I’m proud of you for lettin’ me help you with this.”
Jalen beamed at the older man’s praise. “Thank you Sir.”
“You’re welcome Kid.” The rancher responded with a smile.
The youngster smiled back.
They agreed as to when this new rule would begin and the first few days of the first week Dallas had warned Jalen about the cuss words and the boy had responded well, not repeating the explicative or any other one the rest of that day.
As the days mounted and then the weeks Jalen felt good about being able to curb his swearing. Dallas hadn’t reminded him after the first week and the young cowhand knew there would be no more warnings after that, just the consequence.
One day, after a hard day’s work Jalen just finished putting up his horse. The other cowhands were all joking around and one of them nudged him and he stepped into a fresh pile of manure his horse had just let drop. “Oh shit!” He swore.
The other hands laughed and said, “Yeah kid…that’s exactly what that is horseshit.”
The younger cowhand took a handful of straw from the floor of the stall and tried to wipe the muck off his boot. “If you hadn’t nudged me Sellers I wouldn’t have stepped in the horseshit.” He groused.
Sellers laughed and clapped Jalen on the shoulder. “It ain’t like none of us ain’t done that before boy. It’s a hazard when you get around horses.”
The other men laughed as well.
Dallas had been heading to the barn to give the men instructions for the next morning when he heard his youngest cowhand let go with a couple of swear words and then heard the other men joking about it with him. He stood in the doorway waiting for them to notice him.
One of the cowhands was teasing Jalen when the youngster looked up toward the door and saw his boss standing there not looking so very happy.
Sellers glanced around to see what the boy was looking at and seeing their boss grew quiet. “Hi Boss.” He said.
Dallas said, “Hello boys…I came to give you instructions for tomorrow…I’m not so very happy about the words I just heard floatin’ around here.” He stated firmly.
Sellers said, “Sorry Boss…we were only horsin’ around with the kid. We didn’t mean no harm.”
Dallas nodded. “I know you boys didn’t. You know how I feel about swearin’.” He told them.
The men had the grace to look abashed and Dallas went on. “I want the cattle moved to the North pasture in the mornin’ so we can make repairs to the fencing in the South Pasture.”
“Yes Boss.” Jake Burns, the foreman replied.
Dallas nodded. “All right boys…go ahead and head for the bunk house. Clean up. Supper will be in about a half hour.” He told them.
“Yes Boss.” Jake Burns said and the men trooped out of the barn.
Jalen went to leave as well and Dallas stopped him with a hand on his shoulder. “We have your swearin’ to address before supper Kid.” He told the youngster.
The young cowhand squirmed. “Please Mr. Kincaid…it was a slip up. I didn’t mean to swear…Sellers nudged me and put me off balance and I stepped unexpectedly in a pile of very fresh manure…I didn’t mean to swear, honest…it just came out.”
Dallas said, “I understand that and it means you’re not thinkin’ about what comes out of your mouth. We’ll take care of that in the house.”
Jalen begged. “Please…I didn’t mean it and I’ve been doin’ so good.”
Dallas said, “Yes you’ve been doin’ very good Kid, but we have an agreement and I mean to honor that agreement.”
The young cowhand huffed, turned on his heel and stomped past Dallas toward the house.
The ranch owner landed a hard swat to the boy’s backside. “Lose the attitude Jalen or we’ll be havin’ a discussion of an entirely different nature.” He warned.
The youngster dropped his bad attitude immediately, knowing by now very well how that would be handled. “Yes Sir.” He said quietly and went to the house to wash up for supper.
Once in the house Jalen went to the wash basin and soaping up washed his face, hands and arms well. He was drying off when his boss came in and went to the wash basin. He also washed up good and then took a clean cloth and soaped it up good. He went up to Jalen holding it. “Open your mouth Kid.” He said quietly.
The youngster’s green eyes widened. “Please…can’t you give me another chance?” He begged.
The older man shook his head. “No, we agreed that if this happened this would be the consequence, now open up.” The ranch owner said firmly with a stern look.
Jalen reluctantly opened his mouth and Dallas took the cloth and rubbed the soapy foam inside, making sure to scrub the youngster’s teeth and tongue well.
Dallas cringed inside as he performed this action remembering the times his own father had done this to him and once his mother and even Uncle Justin. He knew from personal experience just how vile this consequence was. He made certain not to make his young cowhand gag as he washed, knowing just how awful it would be to end up vomiting.
Jalen’s eyes began to tear and he couldn’t move his head the way his boss had it gripped in his large strong hand. He thought a couple of times he was going to be sic as he felt the soapy cloth scrubbing his teeth and tongue. The soap tasted very nasty and he couldn’t even talk to beg. All he could do was endure the awfulness. He told himself he wasn’t ever going to utter another bad word again.
When Dallas was finished with the soaping he left the sudsy cloth in Jalen’s mouth and said, “Close your mouth and keep that cloth in there until I tell you can take it out.” He said, not unkindly.
When the scrubbing finally stopped Jalen thought to himself, ‘Thank God’, but his green eyes widened when he was told to keep that nasty tasting soapy cloth in there and to close his mouth over it. He thought he was going to be sick. His eyes watered and he sniffed and eventually his own tears mingled with the ones from the acrid soap.
The older man watched the time and felt bad at the boy’s miserable countenance, watching as the tears streaked down the handsome young face. Once five minutes had passed, and eternity for both of them, this being the first time Dallas had ever done such a thing to someone else. He almost felt ill himself, but knew he had to stand strong for his young cowhand.
When the time was up he said quietly, “You can take it out now and you may spit.”
Jalen was never as glad as when his boss told him he could take that nasty cloth out of his mouth and could spit and spit he did. His eyes continued to water and he gagged a bit and felt a large warn hand on his shoulder and a soft rough voice saying, “That’s it Kid, you’re goin’ to be all right.”
Dallas watched as the Kid spit and gagged a bit. He put his hand on his shoulder and spoke softly and encouragingly. When the boy had spit as much out as he was able Dallas handed him a glass of water he had poured before he had started the mouth washing. It was enough to wash most of the suds and soap out of the mouth, but not quite enough to get the taste out. “Here, rinse and spit now.” He told the youngster.
Jalen took the glass of water gratefully and rinsed and spit and rinsed and spit again until the water was all gone. “Mr. Kincaid…I need more water. There’s still an awful taste in my mouth.”
Dallas said, “That’s all the water you’re going to get for now Kid. The taste will remind you that if you don’t want that mouth washed out again anytime soon that you’ll think about what comes out of it.”
The young cowhand hung his head. “Yes Sir.” He said miserably.
Dallas squeezed his shoulder. “Help me set the table and we’ll get the meal ready. After supper we can read together if you like.”
Jalen smiled. He loved to hear Dallas read to him. He loved the rough soft sound of his boss’s voice. “Yes Sir Mr. Kincaid…I’d like that very much.”
Dallas smiled. “All right…then let’s get supper taken care of and we can settle down for the night.”
Jalen nodded and smiled, despite the tears that still lingered in his green eyes.
With supper finished and the dishes all washed, dried and put away Dallas settled down in on the settee by the fire and invited Jalen to sit close to him so he could read along and snuggled up together he read out of The Last of the Mohicans by James Fennimore Cooper until the hour grew late and it was time for them to retire.