Authors note: My first work in a few years, spurred on by ‘social distancing’ and boredom. Curious to see what you think. As usual, if you have any issues with same sex relationships, this is not the story for you.
Cam sat on the bank of the river, wiggling his toes in the lush green grass. The Irish countryside was even more gorgeous then he had ever expected.
When his father announced that he had been offered a chance to be a guest lecturer at a small college in Dublin, Cam was excited by the opportunity to spend six months in Ireland. Growing up in a small New England college town wasn’t exactly the most stimulating experience.
It was the end of his junior year of High School. Actually, he could have graduated already if he had wanted to. He had all the credits he needed and then some, but he didn’t see the need to rush into college.
Much to his father’s chagrin, Cam could have easily skipped the whole college experience. He had found his calling at the age of fourteen when he had bought his first camera. He spent all his time running around town taking pictures of everything he could and then using various programs on his computer to manipulate and enhance the images.
Eventually, he became interested in photographing people and convinced a number of his classmates to pose. The really good looking ones usually thought they were too popular to waste their time helping him. So he would convince them that money could be made as a model and they should let him help them with their portfolios.Cam would do a session with them and help them set up a page on a local modeling website.
He found working with models to be more of a hassle than it was worth. He had to have a signed release for every model and people had far too many opinions about what was ‘best’. He, the photographer’ was the artist and he would make all the decisions about the composition of the photographs.
Instead, he turned his focus to landscape and architecture. He still carried around a stack of model release forms in case someone made their way into his shots, but he did not go out of his way to work with live models.
The editor of the local paper was a friend of his father’s and he used a couple of pictures he had taken of some building in a Sunday feature article about a fundraiser the local historical society was doing. The owner of a gallery in Soho who happened to be visiting some friends that weekend saw the pictures and called the paper to get the name of the photographer. He was floored to find out that Cam was all of fifteen years old. But all the same he asked to meet with him and see his portfolio.
After seeing a collection of Cam’s work, the gallery owner offered to sell Cam’s work in his gallery.
Now at seventeen, Cam was one of the most popular photographers in the gallery. His dad was the only one who knew how successful he had become and how much money he had managed to bank in the last three years. The only reason he knew, is that since Cam was a minor, he had to sign off on all the contracts and agreements with the gallery.
There were a few high end clients of the gallery who had hired him for private commissions, usually estate photos or landscapes. He had no desire to shoot in a studio setting and had turned down several requests to do formal portraits.
Cam’s goal after college was to travel the world with his camera. He would just as soon skip college, but since his dad was a tenured professor that was not an option.
He had decided that he would be an English major so that someday he could publish books of his work and write the text himself. He also felt that if he had to go to college, he might as well enjoy what he had to study and in addition to photography he loved to read.
It had been just Cam and his father for as long as he could remember. His mother had passed away when he was just five, his grandparents, on both sides, had passed before he was born and both his parents had been only children.
He always flew solo. He had a few acquaintances in school, but never any close friends. Apparently, academia runs in the blood because he never had to study or spend too much time on his classes and he was always at the top of his class in school.
So when his father came home one night in late February to tell him about the opportunity he had been offered, Cam was ready to pack and leave then. He didn’t have any friends to worry about leaving behind and he was so far ahead in his school work that he would be fine.
The job wouldn’t start until the first of May. Cam would miss the last month and a half of school, but would still be at the top of his class heading into his senior year. Cam being the Valedictorian was very important to his father, but not so much for himself. They would return to the states in early December and Cam would graduate with his class.
They had been in Ireland for a couple of weeks. The university had supplied them with a small cottage just off campus. Since he was free from school Cam decided to use his time exploring the Irish countryside. His dad knew he was mature enough to handle traveling on his own, he only asked that Cam check in with him every few day if he was away overnight.
He started off just taking a few day trips through the local villages. His father had been given use of a small car, but since they lived close to campus he was letting Cam use it to get around. He toured the local towns and countryside taking as many pictures as his discs could hold. Every few days, he would take a day off and spend it locked in his room with his laptop. Cam would cull the pictures down and work on enhancing them.
The ones he thought were sellable, he would forward to the gallery owner, Samuel. Before he sent them out, he would watermark them. It wasn’t that Cam didn’t trust Samuel, quite the contrary; he felt he owed Samuel a great deal in making his work marketable and encouraging him, but the pictures were his work and he always wanted to protect himself.
Usually, Cam would send Samuel the prints, but there was no way for him to bring his printer to Ireland.
One of the first purchases Cam made when he started selling his photographs was a state of the art digital printer. It set him back quite a bit, but the quality of the prints was amazing and he could get more for them in the gallery.
Samuel and Cam had agreed that Cam would send him a steady stream of files and Samuel would pick the ones he wanted to display.
Cam had found a company in the US where he could send the files and they would create the prints and matte them as well. They would then send the prints Federal Express to the gallery where Samuel would handle the framing.
Samuel was over the moon for the new shots. He had always admired Cam’s eye and the unique way he captured his subjects. He had a few editors from small publishers who had mentioned maybe publishing a book of Cam’s work. He thought the time in Ireland would produce enough material for Cam’s first book.
The shots Cam would send to Samuel were fairly generic, but showed Cam’s taste and eye very well. He tried hard to keep the more special shots for himself to include in the book.
One of the students Cam had met at the university had told him about a small village about fifty kilometers from Dublin. She said that it was very quaint and that the river that ran to the east of the village would be an amazing setting for pictures. She also told him about a small inn that he could stay at.
Cam had taken a bus from Dublin to the village yesterday. He didn’t want to strand his father without a car and enjoyed walking around the Irish countryside.
He checked in at the inn and spent the afternoon touring the small village. He took many pictures of the buildings and landscapes.
He had awoken early this morning and decided to walk to the river and take some more pictures. He left the inn just after dawn. When he reached the river there was a fine mist rising from it. It was eerie and beautiful at the same time. He walked down the bank of the river taking pictures of the mist, the river, the trees and the surroundings.
He stopped at one point to slip his sneakers and socks off so that he could step into the water to get some pictures of the opposite bank. He rolled up the legs of his jeans and waded into the water to get some shots he wanted.
He had walked about a mile and a half down the river before he turned and started to walk back. He walked slowly, the sun was now completely up and the day was warming. He found a grassy spot along the bank and decided to rest for a bit. The river was rather narrow at this spot and he thought that after he rested he would cross and explore the meadow on the other side.
He sat down on the embankment and stretched his legs out. The cool lush grass tickled his feet as he stretched.
He fished a granola bar and water bottle out of his backpack and had a snack while he rested.
Cam lay back on the cool grass and closed his eyes. He enjoyed the cool breeze blowing through the meadow and soon fell asleep.
He was awoken by a nudge to his side. He slowly opened his eyes and found himself looking at the most beautiful black and white horse. The horse was not the tallest that Cam had ever seen but he was thickly muscled and heavily built. The horse had a full mane that hung almost to his knee. He had an equally luxurious tail that brushed the ground. His feet were the size of platters and they were covered in black and white fur that ran from his knees. The horse must have belonged to someone as he had a leather halter on his head.
Cam had seen pictures of these horses, but he had never been this close to one.
“Hey, where did you come from?” Cam said to the horse as he slowly sat up. The horse looked at him briefly and then went back to grazing on the grass.
Cam slowly rose to his feet and grabbed his camera. He moved carefully trying not to startle the horse. He took a few steps back and started snapping pictures. He walked around the horse getting as many shots as he could from every angle.
He quickly filled the disk in his camera. He stopped taking pictures and knelt down to by his backpack. He rummaged around for a new disk. He popped out the old disk and put it into the small zipped bag he kept the full ones in and slipped the new disk in. He stood up and was about to start taking new pictures when he saw movement out of the corner of his eye.
He looked to the meadow and saw a small boy of about ten or eleven racing towards them. The boy had strawberry blond hair that flew in the wind, when he was closer to Cam; he noticed the boy’s huge green eyes and bright red cheeks. He was probably about five feet tall or so and solidly built.
“Aragon!!” The boy yelled as he ran up to the horse. “Bloody horse!! Where the bloody hell haf ya been?”
Cam couldn’t help but laugh as the boy yelled at the horse. The boy hadn’t even noticed Cam who was still taking pictures as fast as he could.
The horse didn’t even look up, just kept munching away on the grass. The boy had a leather lead looped around his neck; he pulled it loose and snapped it onto the horse’s halter.
“C’mon, you foolish brute.” The boy said as he pulled on the lead.
Cam laughed out loud at the horse continued to ignore the boy.
The boy turned and looked at Cam, his face was bright red with rage. “And what the bloody hell are you laughin’ at?!?”
The more the little boy raged at him the harder it was for Cam to stop laughing. The little boy stomped towards him.
“Stop your fuckin’ laughin’!!” The boy yelled.
“Finnegan O’Leary!!” Came a booming voice from behind them.
The boy stopped short and turned a new shade of crimson.
“Now you’ve done it.” The boy whispered to Cam.
Cam stopped laughing and turned in the direction the voice had come from. Walking down the hill towards them was another boy; this one was about Cam’s age. As he got closer and Cam could see his features, his heart stopped.
He was a larger copy of the boy in front of him with the same wavy strawberry blonde hair that hung to just above his shoulders and emerald green eyes that sparkled in the sun. He was about six feet tall. He had broad shoulders and what appeared to be a well-muscled chest, long and lean. He was wearing a white sleeveless shirt and jeans. To Cam, the boy was the most beautiful sight he had ever seen.
“Finn, what are you doin’ cursin’ at this man?”
“T’wasn’t me fault, Rory.” The boy whined. “He was laughin’ at me!”
Rory looked at Finn very seriously. “You need to apologize for speakin’ to him like that.”
Finn turned an even brighter shade of red. “I’m sorry, Sir.”
Cam looked at the chastised boy. “It’s ok, Finn, is it?” Finn nodded. “I’m sorry I was laughing at you. I’m not used to seeing someone your size wrestling with a horse that big.”
“You should na be lettin’ the little monster off.” Rory said. “His mouth be gettin’ him into too much trouble lately. And I hope the horse wasn’t bothering you.”
Cam shook his head. “No, not at all. I’ve been walking along the river since dawn and just stopped to rest. I must have fallen asleep and woke up to find your horse nudging me off his grazing area.”
Rory walked over to the horse and patted his side. “Bloody foolish horse.” He laughed. “He’s the only one that wanders off all the time.”
Rory took the lead from Finn’s hand and pulled on it until the horse’s head was raised.
“Ok, you foolish thing, the ladies be waitin’ on ya. Go on with Finn now.” He said calmly as he handed the lead back to Finn who lead the horse off.
“So, do you live around here?” Cam asked.
Rory turned back to him as if he had forgotten the other boy was there. “Aye, we have a small piece of land over the hill there.” He pointed to the east.
“I have a strange request…” Cam stuttered. “I was taking pictures of your horse, I’m a photographer, and your brother came charging in. I’m sure he is probably in some of them and on the off chance that I want to use any of them I need a model’s release signed by a parent or guardian.”
Rory looked at Cam like he was completely lost.
“I’m sorry.” Cam chuckled. “Sometimes, when I’m at work, I get carried away.” He offered his hand to the larger boy. “First things first, my name’s Cameron Sharp, everyone just calls me Cam.”
Rory took Cam’s hand in his. “Rory O’Leary. Pleased to meet you, Cameron.”
“You as well.” Cam grinned. “So as I was saying, I’m a photographer. Usually, I just take landscapes and scenery pictures. That’s why I’m here, my father is a visiting professor in Dublin and one of the students told me about this village and I came to take some photos. I was taking some pictures of your horse, when Finn came running up. I’m sure he’s in quite a few of them and the only way I can use those pictures is to have a model’s release on file.”
“And what do you mean by ‘use’.”
“Oh, I mean, publish, post, present, show, basically any type of public use.” Cam answered. “He would get credit and if I sold or used the pictures he would get compensated as well.”
“You mean you would pay the little heathen to show his picture.”
Cam laughed and nodded. “That’s what I mean.”
“I’m not sure that’s a good idea, that might go to his head and it’s already a might thick as it is.”
“Well, most of my stuff hangs in a gallery and gets bought by collectors or printed in magazines.” Cam said. “My friend who owns the gallery is after me to do a book, but I can’t seem to decide on a subject for the book.”
“Can I see some of these pictures?” Rory asked.
“Sure, I can show your parents as well since they would have to sign off on the release.”
“Me Ma and Me Da passed on last winter, ‘tis only me and Rory. I’m his guardian.”
“I’m sorry.” Cam said solemly. “How old are you?”
“I just turned eighteen a month ago.” Rory answered. “The bit of land we’re on was left to us by our parents, me Uncle is next door, he was our guardian until I came of age and now I take care of Finn and myself.”
“What do you do for work?”
Rory grinned. “You saw him.”
“Aye. We breed, raise, train and sell them.” Rory answered. “Aragon is our best stud. He’s gotta bit of a wandering eye, but the ladies will keep him busy for the next few weeks.”
“You mean you have more of those horses?” Cam asked excitedly.
Rory laughed. “Aye, about fifty head.”
“Can I see them?”
“If I can see your pictures, you can see me horses.” Rory grinned.
“Deal.” Cam smiled back. “I just have to run back to the Inn to grab my laptop.”
“I should go check on Finn and Aragon as well.” Rory said. “Why don’t I meet you back here around one? Then I can show the way to the farm.”
Cam nodded frantically. “Sure, sounds good.”
“I will meet you here then.” Rory said as he headed back towards the hills.
“I’ll be here.”
Cam started to walk back and realized he was still barefooted. He blushed and turned back. Luckliy, Rory was halfway to the hills. He quickly pulled his socks and sneakers on and grabbed his backpack.
He walked quickly back to the village. Once he arrived at the Inn, he practically ran to his second floor room. He pulled out some clean clothes and stripped down. He ran down to the bathroom, which luckily was empty and took a quick shower. He dried off quickly and scurried back to his room to get dressed.
He pulled on a clean pair of jeans and a blue t-shirt which he hoped would bring out the blue in his eyes.
He stopped. He looked at himself in the mirror. “What the hell am I doing?” He muttered to himself. This wasn’t a date. A nice local boy had offered to show him his farm nothing more and he was acting like a giddy school girl. No one had ever made him act like this before.
He finished getting dressed. He pulled a black hoodie on over his t-shirt and ran a brush through his unruly black hair. His father was always after him to get a haircut, but he liked it long, as he thought it make him look more like an artist.
He grabbed his backpack and made sure he had plenty of fresh discs and batteries as well as all of his lenses and equipment. He also checked his laptop bag. It was charged and he had two extra batteries.
He looked at his watch. He still had plenty of time before he was supposed to meet Rory.
He could start his walk over and take more pictures along the way. That would beat sitting around here waiting.
He forced himself to walk slowly through the village and back along the river. He stopped occasionally to snap a few shots. Normally, the architecture and the atmosphere of this village and its surroundings would have had him shooting non-stop, but the only image that filled his thoughts today was of a tall, handsome Irish lad.
When he arrived at their rendezvous spot he was still about a half an hour early. He sat down on the grass and let his thoughts drift.
This was the first time he had felt this way about another person. There had never been a question about whether or not he was gay. It was a non-issue to him and his father. He had never even ‘come out’. Why come out, if you were never in in the first place?
It was silly for him to think about Rory that way. Rory was all boy, muscular, athletic, strong, gorgeous, while Cam wasn’t. He knew he wasn’t a troll. Several girls at school at pursued him over the years. He was thin, but not skinny. He used to run, so he had some muscles, but he was not athletic by any stretch. His black hair was thick and long and often unruly.
His crystal blue eyes and clear pale complexion were his most attractive features. Of course, both were muddied by the thick wire rimmed glasses he wore. He had tried contacts in the past, but they bothered his eyes something fierce, so he had stuck with the glasses.
He was brought out of his reverie by the ringing of his cell phone.
“Everything alright? You sound distracted.”
“Everything’s cool. You know how I get when I’m snapping pics.”
“Uh huh. Any idea when you’ll be back?”
“Not really sure, there’s lots to explore up here and I met a family that’s showing me around as well.”
“Ok, just keep in touch and stay out of trouble.”
Cam disconnected the phone and put it back in his pocket.
He lay back on the grass and watched the clouds float across the blue sky. He reached over and grabbed his camera and started snapping pictures of the clouds as they went by.
“And people be payin’ ye to take pictures of the sky?”
Cam almost dropped his camera and bolted upright.
Rory was grinning down at him from atop a large black and white horse.
“Sorry, I dinna mean to startle ye.” He laughed as he slid off the horse’s back.
“That’s ok.” Cam replied. “And yes, so people pay me quite a bit for pictures of the sky.” He said with a smirk.
Rory laughed heartily at Cam’s reply.
“Are ye ready to go then, Cameron, me friend?”
Cam then noticed a second horse beside Rory’s.
“Wait. You want me to ride?”
“I don’t be seein’ anything else around here.”
“But, umm, I’ve, uhh, never ridden a horse before.”
“I thought as much.” Rory grinned. “That’s why I brought sweet Ivy here.” He petted the second horse. “She’s as gentle as can be, she be used to new riders and she’ll take good care of ye.”
Cam stepped cautiously towards the mare who was a bit smaller than the horse that Rory had been riding. He gently stroked her nose. Ivy nipped playfully at his fingers.
“She likes you.” Rory laughed. “Of course, she likes everyone. She thinks of us all as her foals.”
Ivy playfully shook her head at Cam causing him to step back and bump into the other horse, who nipped at him.
“Oww!” Cam cried as he grabbed his shoulder where the horse had bit him.
“Oi, ye beast!! Mind ye manners!!” Rory shouted at the horse. “I apologize, Cam. This one is just starting his training and he’s still feeling a bit full o’ hisself.”
“It’s ok, I think he just surprised me more than anything.”
“Good lad.” Rory grinned at him. “Let’s get along, shall we.”
“Where’s the saddle?”
Rory laughed. “Don’t often use one.”
Cam shook his head. He had never ridden, but he had friends that did and he knew that saddles and bits and bridles where generally used. These horses had none of those things, only halters with pieces of ropes tied to them.
“They don’t have bits either?”
Rory shook his head. “Don’t need them.” He said sternly. “Bits is for people, not horses. Most people think they need a bit to control the horse and that is simply not the case. A horse that is trained properly will yield to pressure. Bits in the wrong hands can cause the horse pain and that’s not needed.”
“We’re gonna go slow, right?” Cam asked nervously.
Rory grinned. “Trust me, me friend. I’ll not let anything happen to you.” He led Cam over to Ivy’s side. “Here put your hands on her back, here and here.” He took Cam’s hands in his and placed them on Ivy’s back. Cam thought he would pass out at the closeness of the strong boy. “Bend yer leg and I’ll give ye a leg up.”
Cam did as he was told and Rory hoisted him up onto Ivy’s back. Cam landed gently on the big mare’s back and settled himself in.
He watched in awe as Rory leapt onto his colt’s back and dug his heels into the horse’s side. The colt reared and spun and then took off at a fast trot.
Cam broke out in a cold sweat thinking that Ivy would follow suit.
Sensing her rider’s hesitation, Ivy followed at a brisk walk.
Cam clutched a handful of mane and the rope reins that Rory had handed him. He gave the mare her head figuring she knew the way better than he.
Several times, Rory would bring his colt to a stop and wait for Cam and Ivy to catch up.
The colt would dance in place as if unable to simply stand still. Cam was fascinated by the animal and it’s energy and impressed by Rory’s patience and gentle way with the horse.
Rory waited for him at the top of the hill. When they stopped, Cam’s breath caught in his throat. He was looking down on the most beautiful valley he had ever seen.
“Welcome to me home.” Rory said warmly.
Cam stared down into the valley. It was lush and green. He could easily see how Ireland earned its nickname as the ‘Emerald Isle’. It was amazing.
“Beautiful, isn’t it?”
Rory chuckled. “I’m glad you approve, me friend.”
Cam turned and grinned. “Approve?! Are you kidding? This is heaven!”
“Well, come then, and I’ll show you me and Finn’s little corner of Heaven then.” Rory called as he started his colt down a gravel path on the side of the hill.
Cam gripped Ivy’s mane tight as they started their decent. The hill was steep and the path narrow, but the horse, in spite of her size, was nimble and sure footed. Cam finally just closed his eyes and trusted in the mare to get them safely down the hill.
When they finally stopped, Cam heard a laugh.
“Ye can open yer eyes now, Cameron.” Rory laughed.
Cam peered out one eye and saw that they were on level ground. He shrugged at Rory.
“Ivy knew her way, so I decided to just let her go.” Cam said.
“Aye, a fine decision too.” Rory agreed. “She’ll always take care of ye.”
“So how much further?” Cam asked.
“Not too far now.” Rory replied. “Why, are ye gettin’ sore?”
“A little.” Cam grimaced.
“It’ll be worse when we stop.” Rory said.
“Great.” Cam muttered.
“How do you be getting’ around to take all these pictures then?”
“I drive mostly, sometimes walk a bit.”
“In these parts, you’ll be walking a lot.” Rory declared. “Or riding a horse. Not too many cars amongst the people here. At least, not new or speedy ones.”
“Don’t have much use for ‘em.” Rory replied. “A horse and cart was good for me grandparents and it’s good for me and mine. We have an old truck for going into the village for supplies, but more often than not, we simply hitch a team up to the wagon and drive them in.”
“So you like to stick with tradition?”
“Aye, tradition. “
“I like that.” Trusting the mare knew where she was going and finding his balance, Cam took out his camera and began to snap pictures of the valley and the trail that they were following. While he usually avoided pictures of people, he couldn’t help but take multiple pictures of Rory.
“Here we are.” Rory finally announced as both horses came to a stop.
Cam took it all in. The view was breathtaking. The farm was tucked into a small corner of the valley. A small farm house sat in one corner of the plot of land it was simple, but nicely kept. There was a large barn next to it and several fenced in paddocks and fields around. There were horses in all the fields and paddocks. Most of the horses were the same painted ones that Cam and Rory were riding, but a few were solid black or grey. To Cam it was a beautiful sight.
“Wow.” Cam exhaled as he slid from Ivy’s back. “You and Finn take care of all of this by yourselves?”
Rory flipped his leg over the colts back and slid off. “Aye, but it’s not all that hard. We’ve both been doing it since we was born. Me cousins Ryan and Michael help out if we need a few extra pairs of hands. We have plenty of land and grass, so the horses are fed. I handle most of the training and Finn is good at working with the little ones.”
“Still, it seems like a lot for just two people.” Cam said, as he took it all in. “You said your Uncle was nearby, where’s his place?”
“Most of this section of the valley belongs to him.” Rory answered. “But his house and farm are about five kilometers or so down the way.”
“That’s a bit of a distance.”
“Aye, but it gives me and Finn our privacy. Let’s take care of these two and have a bit of lunch and then you can show me your pictures.”
“Sure.” Cam agreed as he took Ivy’s lead and followed Rory and the colt towards the barn.
Rory showed Cam how to brush the horses down and make sure they were cool and fed and watered. He then led Cam across the yard and into the house.
The house was small, but very cozy. They entered into a small kitchen. Finn was seated at the table finishing his lunch. He looked up as they walked up.
“Oi! What’s he doin’ here?” He said with a scowl.
“Finnegan!! Ye be keepin’ a civil tongue in yer head!!” Rory reprimanded his brother. “This is Cameron, and he is our guest, ye be showin’ him some respect.”
Cam smiled at the boy and offered his hand. “What say we start over Finn? I’m Cameron, but my friends call me Cam. I’m really sorry we got off to a bad start. Rory was nice enough to ask me back here to show me your farm and your horses, it really is amazing. I’d like it if we were friends and you and Rory would show me everything so I could get some really good pictures.”
Finn eyed Cam suspiciously. He took Cam’s hand and shook it and nodded.
Rory invited Cam to sit down. Finn had made sandwiches and Rory offered one to Cam and then took one for himself.
“So how did you get down here?” Finn asked.
“I took the colt and Cam rode Ivy.”
“You rode me Ivy?” Finn asked Cam.
“Is she yours? Rory didn’t tell me that, he only told me that she would take good care of a novice like me and she did. I actually had my eyes shut all the way down the hill into the valley cuz I just trusted that she would get us down here safe. She’s a great horse.”
Finn smiled for the first time since Cam had met him. A bright smile that lit up his whole face. “That she is.” He nodded. “She was my first. Me Da give her to me when I was but three. I learnt to ride on her and she’s been mine ever since. There’s not a mean bone in her body. Unlike that colt of Rory’s.”
Rory laughed. “He’s not mean.” He protested. “He’s just a baby; he needs to learn some manners.”
“I’ve never seen a bloody beast as ill-tempered as that one.” Finn said. “I still don’t think he’s Aragon’s. I think that blasted stallion a Uncle’s got to the Empress.”
Rory nodded. “Could be. The way Aragon wanders off, The Lion could have gotten to the Empress.”
Cam shook his head. “’The Lion’…’The Empress’…I’m confused.”
Rory and Finn both laughed.
“The Empress is one of our prized mares.” Rory explained. “We have several that we breed every year. We usually breed her to Aragon, he’s very even tempered and his issue are well sought after for their strength and temperament. My Uncle has a stallion that is a bit on the mean side he calls The Lion. He tends to wander just like Aragon and there is a chance that he got in with the Empress and is the colt’s sire.”
“I thought you said your Uncle’s place was miles away.”
“’Tis, but we have miles and miles of field which the horses graze and breed in and they run up against me uncle’s fields, so it wouldn’t not be outside the realm of possibility for the Lion to have gotten into the field, especially as Aragon so often gets out.”
“So basically, you could have a few offspring from your uncle’s stallion and he could have a few from yours.”
Rory laughed and nodded. “Aye.”
“So Finn, how old are you?” Cam asked.
“Twelve. I’ll be thirteen in the fall.”
“Do you go to school around here?”
Finn shook his head. “Me Da was teaching me, but since he past, Rory’s been doing it. Too much to do here to worry about making it to school every day, ‘sides I’m gonna be workin’ here all me life so that’s all I need to know.”
The talked more as they ate.
“So how’s about showing us some of your photos then, Cameron?” Rory asked when they had finished eating.
“Sure.” Cam said. He walked over to where he had left his laptop bag.
Cam brought his laptop over to the table and powered it up. He could tell by their fascination that the brothers hadn’t had too much interaction with computers. He pulled up a slideshow of pictures he had taken during the last major snow storm at home.
Over the next hour, he had shown his new friends almost all of the pictures he had on his laptop and the portable hard drive he had with him.
“You really are quite good, Cameron.” Rory said as Cam collected his gear and put it away.
“Thanks. My dream is travel the world just taking pictures, maybe publish a couple of books.”
“Aye, you should do well at that.”
“You don’t take many pictures of people.” Finn said bluntly.
Cam grinned and nodded. “No. When I first started, I used to con my classmates into letting me use them as models. I’d help them set up websites and portfolios so they could try to get modeling jobs, which rarely happened. But, I didn’t enjoy it as much as landscapes and architecture. There’s something about history and life that grabs me more than just a static model. Like this morning, I started shooting pictures of your horse and then you came storming in and I kept shooting. I haven’t looked at the pictures yet, but I’ll bet there are some good ones.”
“Because your mood was all over your face, you were very animated and you didn’t know I was shooting so it was all real, you weren’t posing. Spontaneity is the best.”
“Can I see those pictures?”
“Like I said, I haven’t even gone through them yet. Usually what I do is shoot a couple hundred and out of those I’ll delete between half and three quarters then I’ll go through what I kept and pick out the very best ones and I’ll use a couple computer programs to enhance them, bring out the colors or smooth out any blemishes and make them perfect. But once I’ve done that, sure, I can show you.”
“What are ye grinning at?” Finn asked his face turning red.
“Finnegan…” Rory warned.
Cam laughed. “It’s ok, Rory. Sorry, Finn. I was just thinking how expressive your face is. I noticed it this morning when I was taking pictures, but when you smiled just now, I saw it again.”
“Are ye hittin’ on me, Cameron?” Finn asked mischievously.
“No.” Cam chuckled. “You are a very handsome young man, but you’re definitely too young for me.”
A furtive glance went between the brothers and a sly grin appeared on Finn’s lips. Rory’s eyes flashed a warning at his brother.
“What I meant to say is that you have a face that would photograph very well.” Cam explained. “When you smile it lights up your whole face, just like when you were angry and frustrated this morning.” Cam looked at his watch. “Oh, hell, it’s getting late and I still want a chance to look around and get some pictures and see the horses.”
“Why don’t ye spend the night?” Finn said.
“Oh, I don’t want to impose.”
“Seein’ as how ye’ve won over the monster here, I don’t think it would be an imposition.” Rory said. “If I bring you back now, it would be close to dark by the time I get back and as much as I trust Ivy, I’m not sure I trust the colt that much yet.”
“I didn’t bring any extra clothes.” Cam argued.
“I’m sure we can dig up something for you to wear.” Rory countered.
Cam eyed the big Irish lad. “Rory, you’ve got about four inches and twenty pounds of muscle, at least, on me, so unless Finn has some extra big clothes.”
Rory roared with laughter. “You’ll be fine for one night, me friend. Tomorrow, we’ll ride back to the village and collect your belongings and you can spend a few days here with us and see what life on the farm is really like.”
Cam grinned. “Really?”
“Awesome. I’d like that.”
“Then, it’s done.” Rory said. “Now, little brother, let’s give our friend a quick tour and get the afternoon chores done.”
Finn jumped up from the table. “C’mon, then. I’ll give you the grand tour.” He said with a smirk.
Cam stood up and Finn looked down at his sneakers.
Finn shook his head. “Oi, you need a pair of wellies.”
Cam followed Finn into the mudroom. There was a row of boots by the door. Finn grabbed a muddy pair and placed them off to the side. He looked at Cam’s feet and then looked through the boots that were there. He grabbed an old pair of green ones and handed them to Cam.
“These were my Da’s.” He said. “They should fit you. It gets mucky out there; you’ll ruin your shoes if you wear them.”
“Thanks.” Cam said, as he pulled off his sneakers and pulled on the rubber boots. “Hey, Finn, what was that business between you and Rory before?”
“When you asked if I was hitting on you?”
Finn looked up and grinned. “Oh, no, me friend, I get enough grief on me own, I’ll not be buying more trouble.” He laughed. “You can ask Rory yourself.”
“Ask Rory what?” Rory asked as he came out of the house.
“Nothing important.” Cam answered quickly.
Finn grinned. “Well then, let’s get to it.” He said as he led Cam out of the house and into the yard.
Cam followed Finn across the yard to the large barn. The younger boy’s energy was infectious. It was obvious that Finn loved the farm and the outdoors.
Cam checked his camera to make sure he had an empty disc loaded. Even though the discs could hold thousands of pictures he filled them quickly.
He started shooting as soon as they stepped into the yard. It was like walking into another world. Even growing up in a small New England town that dated back to Colonial times didn’t prepare him for this.
“Oi!!” Finn hollered. “Over here!!”
Cam laughed and chased after the boy who was waving from the doorway of the barn.
It was a large cavernous structure with many stalls lining the sides. There were a few horses in the stalls but most were empty.
“Where are all the horses?” Cam asked.
“Out in the fields.” Finn replied. “We don’t keep too many in here this time of year. Mostly if we’re training or working them or if they are sick. In the back of the barn there are some stalls we use for the mares who might be expecting a difficult birth. Most of ‘em are used to giving birth in the fields.”
Cam was shooting pictures of the barn. He was pointing towards the ceiling trying to get some shots of the beams and the structure. He stepped back and felt something tug at his hoodie.
“Hey!!” He exclaimed when he almost dropped his camera.
He turned and was face to face with a coal black horse.
Finn chuckled and walked over and petted the horse. “Aye, this is The Prince.”
“Aye, he be a pure bred Friesian colt.” Finn explained. “Me Da bought a stallion and a mare a few years back and wanted to breed them. The mare died giving birth to this one, so Rory and I named him ‘The Prince’. He’s almost three, so we’re just starting his training. He’s a better temper than that other colt, he’s much more playful.” He scratched the colt’s chin. “Isn’t that right, me son?”
“So why did your father breed a horse so different from what you usually raise?” Cam asked.
Finn shrugged. “Something different, I guess.”
“He wanted something unique.” Rory said from the back of the barn. He walked towards Cam and Finn. “Da had always wanted to try his hand at breeding a line that was a bit different something special. This was a first step for him. The Prince was to be the foundation of that line. Da’s goal was to cross him with a mare and create a new line.”
“What breed of mare?”
Rory laughed. “I don’t know that Da ever even knew that. He was a bit of a dreamer. It comes from being the baby of the family.” He said as he ruffled Finn’s hair.
Finn shot his brother a withering look. “Tomorrow, after you get back from the village, you can watch me work with him, Cameron.” Finn said. “He’s the first horse I’ve trained on me own.”
“Really? I’m impressed; he’s a pretty big boy.”
“Most of the horses we have here are pretty big as far as weight, but not too tall.” Rory explained. “Our cobs are a small draft horse they can do heavy work like pulling carriages as well as riding, some folks will even use them for eventing. We also have some that are called Drum horses; they are just like the Cobs only larger. You’ll see the difference. These horses were bred by our people for years, but weren’t recognized as a breed until just recently. Now people come from all over the world to see them and buy them to breed their own lines, that’s made ours all the more valuable.”
“I think in America they call them Gypsy horses or Gypsy Vanners.” Cam said thinking back to some of the research he had done on Ireland.
“Aye.” Rory nodded. “Since the breed was developed by our people who were Travelers which most refer to as Gypsies. If’n you want to make friends around here, you won’t be usin’ that word.”
“It’s getting late.” Rory said. “Finn, you start on the chores and I’ll go see to supper.”
“What can I do?” Cam asked.
“You can help Finn with feedin’ if ye’d like.”
Finn smiled, welcoming the help.
“Ok, then, c’mon.” Finn said walking to the back of the barn.
Cam was impressed at the strength and stamina of the younger boy. They worked at feeding the horses and other animals for almost two hours. He was barely able to stand when they walked towards the house while Finn was still a bundle of energy.
“Oi! Don’t be tellin’ me yer tired already.” Finn teased.
“Tired? I’m exhausted. That’s the most I’ve done in ages.”
“We’ll have ta get ye in shape boy, if yer gonna be stayin’ here.”
Cam put his arm around Finn’s shoulder and leaned on the smaller boy. “Be nice to your elders.” He said.
Finn laughed and wrapped an arm around Cam’s waist. Cam was surprised by how strong the boy was. He felt as if Finn was almost carrying him across the barnyard.
“Boy, you must eat your Wheaties.”
“What in the hell are Wheaties?”
Cam laughed. “Never mind, I’ll explain it later.”
They walked into the house and Cam followed Finn’s lead in pulling off his boots and leaving them in the entryway. They entered the kitchen where Rory had set the table and was laying out a simple meal of stew and bread.
While it wasn’t an elaborate meal, after the work he had done, it was a banquet to Cam.
They ate and talked.
When they finished Cam looked at his watch. “It’s only 5:30?!”
Rory smiled. “Aye, We’ll be up before the sun to start the day.”
“Do you guys turn in this early?”
“No. Usually by seven or so, as we are usually up around four and we work pretty hard. I’m thinking after the bit a work you did this afternoon, ye’ll be wanting some sleep too.”
“I imagine I will.” Cam agreed. “Probably be the earliest I’ve gone to bed since I was a little kid.”
“Around here, the sun dictates what we do.”
“You don’t have a television or anything?”
“Sure we do, we just don’t use it much.”
“So what do you do in the evenings?”
“Finn works on his schooling. I help if he needs it. I work on the books, read a bit, check on the animals.”
“I feel like I’ve stepped back in time.” Cam said.
"Is that a bad thing?” Rory asked.
“No, not at all. It’s just so different. Everything here is beautiful. The farm, the animals, the buildings and the land, it’s all amazing and the way you guys live. It’s so simple…that almost seems like the wrong word.” Cam thought a moment. “At home, everyone is in a hurry. Our lives are dictated by electronics and computers. As much as I love my photography, even my camera relies on a computer. Everything here is just stripped down. You guys work hard. When I say things are simple, I don’t mean easy, I mean stripped down all the extraneous stuff is gone all the BS. I’ve only been here a day and I already think I’m starting to fall in love with it.”
“I’ll bet ye’ll be missin’ yer conveniences soon enough.” Finn laughed.
Cam laughed and nodded. “I’m sure I will.” He said. “But honestly, there is something about this life that appeals to me. I can see why you guys love it and stay here.”
“Well, we stay here because it’s our home.” Rory said. “Finn, you need to be gettin‘ to yer books.”
“Alright, ye tyrant.” Finn laughed as he got up from the table.
Rory began clearing the table and Cam helped. After they had finished washing the dishes and putting everything away, Rory showed Cam to the small bedroom that he would be using.
“We share the bathroom down the hall.” Rory explained. “Finn and I are used to bustin’ in on each other, so if’n yer a shy one; make sure ye lock the door.”
“Ok.” Cam grinned. “Is it alright if I take a walk around?”
“Sure. We don’t lock the doors or anything, me uncle and his family are the only ones around.” Rory replied. “Just be careful, ye don’t get lost.”
“I’ll make sure I keep sight of the house. I just want to get some sunset pictures.”
“Have fun then, I’m gonna work on the books for a bit. If ye need anything, me room’s across the hall and Finn’s is next door.”
Cam moved his belongings into the bedroom. He grabbed his camera and went back through the kitchen to the entryway. He pulled on the boots Finn had lent him and went out into the barnyard.
It was still light out as it was just six o’clock. Cam walked around taking more shots of the barn and the house. He climbed one of the fences and walked into the field. He pulled out his iPhone and turned on the compass. He made sure he was heading west so that he could get some sunset pictures.
He walked for a few minutes stopping occasionally to snap a picture of a tree or the horizon.
There was a small herd of horses in the field. He counted four of them moving towards him. He recognized the one in front as Ivy, the mare he had ridden down from the river. She had a unique white mark on her forehead.
“Hey, girl.” He said quietly as she came up to him. He gently stroked her neck and rubbed under her mane.
The other horses became curious and came up to him as well.
“Hey, guys.” He laughed as they started to nudge him for attention. When the others were too close, Ivy turned and whinnied at them. Cam knew her intent was apparent, she was telling them that Cam was ‘her’ person. “So am I yours girl?”
Ivy bobbed her head up and down as if nodding.
Cam laughed. “Well, I’m not sure Finn will agree with that, but thanks.” He said as kissed the horse on her nose.
The sun was starting to set, so he moved to a position where he could get the best shot of the horizon and the sunset and spent the next half an hour shooting a constant stream of photos of the sunset. He knew he had probably shot over a thousand pictures, but the more raw material he had to work with the better chance he had to make the best final product.
When he had finished it was darker than he had thought it would be. He turned around and could just make out a light in one of the windows of the house. He walked towards in the direction of the light.
He laughed to himself when he realized that Ivy was walking by his side as if to ensure he made it home safely.
He reached out and rested his hand on the mare’s back. “Making sure I get back in one piece, Ivy?”
He heard the horse neigh in the darkness.
“Well, thank you.” He laughed.
He could just make out the fence in front of him. He turned to give Ivy one last pat and kiss on the nose and then climbed the fence and crossed the yard back to the house.
He stopped in the entryway to pull off his boots and quietly entered the kitchen.
Someone had kindly left a light on for him in the kitchen, but it was silent in the house.
He walked through the kitchen, turning off the light and went down the hall to his bedroom. The same someone had turned a light on in the bedroom for him as well.
He closed the bedroom door and started to strip.
He remembered he had no extra clothes tonight, but figured he’d be ok sleeping in his boxer briefs for the night.
It was a bit chilly in the room, but there were several comforters on the bed and it looked nice and warm.
As he was pulling off his jeans and socks, he realized he should run down to the bathroom and wash his hands. He had been petting Ivy and the other horses and they were quite grubby.
Figuring Rory and Finn were long since asleep, he slipped down the hall to the bathroom.
He opened the door and almost passed out at the sight.
Rory stood there with his back to his drying himself off from a shower. Drops of water slid down the tight muscles of his back. Cam’s eyes went to the tight white mounds of Rory’s buttocks.
Rory turned and Cam inhaled deeply. Rory’s chest was more than he had dreamed. His pecs were big, round and smooth topped with two quarter sized nipples, a tight trail of reddish hair ran through his six pack, down beneath his navel and ended in an unruly bush that topped a large uncut penis that Cam could not stop staring at.
Rory laughed. “In or out, me friend, the draft’s gonna freeze me bits.”