tagGay MaleSecret Canyon

Secret Canyon

byyukonnights©

FORWARD: This is a tale of love in the mid 1800's American West. This is a slow build love story between men that unfolds over about a year. There are no graphic or superfluous sex scenes in it...only passion, intimacy and truth, to the best of my abilities. It is a tale of love that is not often talked about, for now...as then...there were those who would kill at the mention of such love. But no force can stop Love. Hate may bruise it and deny it by force, but it will never kill it. This is a tale of a common reality...the love of one man towards another that is as old as the history of mankind itself. I was raised in the West and grew up with the parodies and stereotypes portrayed as the way things were in the old west. But these were, for the most part, fairy tales made up in Hollywood and reflect little, if any, fact in a number of ways. More specifically, in the twentieth century same gender love has tried to be erased from reality in our history books...our stories...our movies. There are those scholars who have tried to salvage the true history. For those who may be interested, I would recommend, as a start, the Wikipedia article; "LGBT History". I add this humble fictional story as my gift to the truth.

A WORD ABOUT CHRISTMAS: The celebration of Christmas as we now know it has a long and interesting history. In the earliest years of settlement in what we now call the United Staes, the celebration was a crime, especially in the northeastern parts of the country. But over time, the ancient traditions found there way once again into society. During the period of time this story takes place, the customs were becoming more common, and Christmas was declared a federal holiday on June 26, 1870...about ten years after the events portrayed in this story. To keep this tale believable, I've tried to portray how simple folks might have observed this celebration.

NOTE: All characters are fictional and all are over the age of consent and at least 20 years old. Endearments such as "lad" do not imply a character under that age, but are used to reflect the language of the period. All rights reserved by the author, Yukonnights and submitted solely to Literotica.com for publication.

TRIGGER WARNING: There is a brief mention of a past assault. This is included to underscore the past experiences of one of the main characters in a sensitive and caring conversation. It is in no way portrayed in erotic terms, but instead is included to show how emotionally painful such assault is.

*****

Tags: romance, western, gay romance, love story, winter, christmas

*****

And the smell of smoke blew in on the north wind ...

Josiah sighed, as he leaned back against the fence. Things sure seemed to be getting worse up in the border country up in the Kansas Territory. Too damn close to Josiah's thinking.

"So you're say'n that this Kansas-Nebraska Act the government passed has caused both sides to send hoards of pilgrims up there to stake their claim," Josiah asked still somewhat confused about why this was causing all the fighting.

"Yep, that's what Oscar Wheeler told me the other day when he was down here buying some horses," Travis, the livery owner, replied.

"Travis, call me slow, but why would that cause all the ruckus," Josiah asked, still confused.

"Well, it seems the sides is flocking in there from north and south to try and swing the votes in their favor. They're gonna hold a vote sometime soon where the locals can decide if they want Kansas Territory to be free or slave. I guess it's getting pretty tense and some elbows have been a jab'n," Travis explained.

"Well, I'll be damed...I never thought of that," Josiah replied. After some thoughtful consideration, he began to see how this could turn out to be a lot worse than he thought. The country was already the stomping grounds of outlaws, and these new folks coming in didn't sound like real homesteaders. Yep, now the situation was becoming more clear. To boot, he never had felt good about slavery, but now it was all anyone wanted to talk about.

"Travis, that's not good news, is it?"

"I don't think it is Josie...I'm afeared it spells trouble," Travis answered solemnly using his pet name for the younger man that had grown up to be a solid man and like a second son.

"Dammit, as if things ain't hard enough! Now we got outlaws and raiders and politicians...and who knows what else coming out here...maybe it's time to think about leaving this place," Josiah said more to himself than to Travis.

"Well, if I was a younger man, I might just join you laddie," Travis told him. Then he recalled some news he had heard last week and added, "A guy come through here last week looking for horses to buy. Seems there's been another gold find up in the mountains in western Kansas Territory and folks is stomped'n in there pretty hard again. I don't know nothing about gold mining though, so I best stay put," Travis said sort of musing the idea around in his head.

Josiah, on the other hand, found this new information far more interesting than Travis. He knew horses, he knew how to breed, raise and train both horses and mules. He didn't know anything about mining, but common sense told him horses and mules would be in demand...hadn't that guy come all the way down here looking for horses to buy?

"You say he was hunt'n for horses to buy," Josiah asked.

"Yep, told him it was a bad time of year to be looking. I knew you didn't have any to let go of, and I don't know of any around here," Travis told him.

Josiah sighed and got that far away look. As Travis watched he could see the direction of the young man's thoughts. "You figure that might be the way out of this coming mess," he asked.

"I don't know, but it has me thinking," Josiah replied.

"Well, if you think it through and it seems to work, let me know and I'll help out anyway I can," Travis told him.

Josiah let out another long sigh and looked at the aging man he had know his entire life. His family had been almost like his own after the sickness took both Ma and his Papa...and James, Travis' only son, had been like a brother. It was things like this that made it hard to decide on leaving...but there seemed to be something calling him. It wasn't just the fighting up north, it was something different that he couldn't quite get a grip on deep down inside...but it was calling.

Josiah roused himself from his musings and said, "Well, I best get home and tend to the stock. Let me know if you hear anymore about the troubles up north," he said as he mounted and settled in to leave.

"I'll do that son...I'll keep my ears open for any news up that way or out in the Colorado country too," Travis told him and watched as his almost second son rode toward home.

*****

And the wind blew as the flames grew higher...

The days ticked away and there was more and more news of the growing conflict up north. The winter came and went, and in the late spring of 1856 news came round that the anti-slavery town of Lawrence, Kansas was burned by boarder ruffians. When Josiah heard the latest developments, it pushed him off the fence of indecision and onto the path of his new life.

It wasn't just the building violence that was urging him on, there was some nebulous nagging and unsettled feeling in his soul that made him feel like just riding out with nothing but his kit and supplies. But he was too level headed for that. He was also too level headed to keep thinking about James...and yet he did think about him a lot.

As he and James grew into young men, their friendship grew closer and closer. They were the same age, except Josiah was eight months older. They spent their early twenties working harder than anyone else just to get the job done so they could go hunting and exploring, as young men are wont to do. It was on those Fall nights, when the summer's chores had been tended to and they were free to go into the woods to hunt and fish...and just be free...that's when they were the happiest. The country thereabouts was rough and hilly, covered in thick oak forests and secret places. The little canyons were sanctuaries with each one having it's own special name the two had given it. There were endless meandering streams and hiding places to discover and explore. Limestone caves were abundant and many clearly had been used by the first people who had lived here. But it was the game they often sought, the white-tailed deer and rabbits...and the fish in streams so clear it was like looking through glass. It was in those places during the cool nights under the stars and whatever flimsy shelter they had managed to put together that they grew closer...or if they were lucky, it was in one of the ancient caves with a snug cheerful fire that the two young men explored a new hunger. It was only out there in their secret places that they could snuggled under the shared blankets for warmth and talk the night away...and it was there that desire had been born. Yes, it was a desire that some looked down on, but who can forbid the fire of young men? So they did what young men had always done since time immemorial, they explored their lusts and tasted their passion on each other's lips...and bodies. It was an innocent and pure love they discovered...but they already knew, it was also a love best kept between them. But in the forests, they were free and they indulged and relished in these moments of freedom...and it was this too, that now clouded Josiah's thoughts.

He knew that the love he and James shared could not be consummated and honored here. He didn't think in terms of maybe over there it'll be different. No, he was too level headed to think that. But he did know that to stay here and be tempted by James his whole life...and to tempt James with his own love, would be untenable. To do otherwise might cause a bunch of gossip that could hurt Travis and Mary...and James too. He knew of a couple of bachelor marriages, as they were called. But the men lived farther out, and didn't get involved with the local folks much. For him and James to go that route, would seem unfair and disrespectful to the only people he loved and could call family, even if they approved of the love he and James shared!

It was these thoughts that weighed the heaviest on his shoulders. He was now nearing thirty years, and if he was going to go, he best get about it, he finally decided. It was too late to start out this year and he needed to build up some stock to take with him, enough to sell and get started again at least. "So, next spring," he said quietly to the woods he loved and knew he would miss.

Jasper, his gelding, looked at him and snickered. "Yes, you're going too," he said with a chuckle and the dark clouds began to break leaving hope to strengthen him and urge him forward.

*****

And all that had been, seemed destined to burn and scatter in those winds...

The rest of the summer and the winter/spring of 1856/1857 sped by like a runaway wagon pulled by wild horse. Josiah had never worked so hard. He had scouted far and wide for suitable stock. He had the breeding stock himself, but wanted a decent bunch to sell to bring in enough cash to keep things going until he could get established. It was a risky undertaking. If all the cards didn't fall just right, he could be wiped out and busted in one year! Travis and James pitched in, and without their help he would have never made it.

His leaving was hard on James. But they had talked and talked and finally James too realized that what they had could not be held, at least not without a risk of bringing pain to those they loved. The tears and kisses they shared didn't make it easier...but at least they had held each other close a few more times.

It was wise old Travis who finally said, "Josie, I don't see how you're figuring to get all this kit over to the gold fields."

"I know," Travis replied with one side of his mouth scrunched up in a confused smirk. "I figure I'll need to hire at least one hand to help out."

"Well, I always had a hanker'n to see those mountains and I ain't get'n no younger. What you say me and James tag along for the ride?"

"What about your own place and the livery," Josiah replied in surprise.

"Oh, I got that figured out too, so don't worry 'bout that," Travis told him.

Knowing Travis as he did, Josiah knew it wouldn't do any good to try and get any more information out of him. Travis was good as pure gold, but he was also a private sort who minded his own business and expected other's to do the same.

"I don't know what to say Travis...I dumb-foundered."

"Well son, all you need to say is yes, or no," Travis replied with that mischievous twinkle in his eyes.

Josiah walked over to Travis and embraced him tightly. As the hug continued Travis patted his back and pulled back to look at his son, "It'll be all right son. I think you're doing the right thing. I'd love for James to be going with you for good, cause I think we're heading into some hard times around here. But he's all the kin we got here and we ain't getting any younger. I know you two got a special bond, but I also know you'll be fine once you get out there and get your feet under you...here, give me a hug like you mean it boy." he said and pulled Josiah even closer.

Josiah would never ask, and would never know if he really heard the old man stifle a sob or if it was himself he had heard. But one thing he did know, he was drained of every ounce of strength and Travis had rescued him one more time! Who could hope for a better father...a more loving family...may God bless them all, he whispered as the moment passed.

*****

The wind blew and raged until nothing stood that once had been...

It was early spring of 1857 when Josiah said goodbye to everything, and everyone he had ever known. Yes, he would have Travis and James for a short time longer, and he was thankful for that time they would share...just as much as he was for their sacrifice in helping him get across over 700 miles of unknown territory. Josiah had estimated at least a month and maybe more, depending on how things went. Then, Travis and James would be looking at another three weeks at the least in getting back.

The three men had spent a lot of time considering the options on just which trail might be best. The shortest way would be to just head northwest, out of northern Arkansas. But that would put them going smack dab through the middle of all that mess up in that part of the Kansas Territory! They hadn't heard of much conflict out in the western parts of Kansas Territory, which is where they were actually headed. Right up there where the big mountains started! The odds of getting killed and robbed seemed much greater than not regardless of which route they took, they were just three guns and all those horses to tempt trouble from both white and red men of bad character! It was Travis who suggested the southern route along the old California Trail. The trail had been used for years and from all they had heard, it was pretty tame. Thus, they settled on a more southern route through Oklahoma country along the California Trail that followed the Canadian River, then head north into the western Kansas Territory and follow the foothills up to the gold mines. But, all in all, a tough trip no matter which poison they chose.

As it turned out, they made pretty good time once the stock got used to the new routine. It was a mild spring and the winter rains had encouraged plenty of forage for the animals. They settled into their trail routine after a week or so...the last man on night watch woke the others up an hour before the sun, they'd warm up some grub from the night before and a strong pot of coffee, break camp and be on the move about the time the sun started giving a little light to the new day.

It went on like that day after day. All the humans they ran into didn't seem too interested in them or their goods, and by the time they had made it through Oklahoma the routine was so normal it went as steady as a watch. Josiah was relieved to see that Travis, instead of becoming fatigued as Josie had worried, had became more alive than he had been in years. This took some of the guilt Josiah had felt about the old man feeling obligated to help him, and turned it around into just being thankful the man he loved like a father could live one more adventure. If everyone made it through this alive, that's all Josiah wanted. He was more alert and vigilant than he had ever been in his life, but it was looking like maybe someone was watching over them...and for that he was forever thankful.

As is so often the case, the best laid plans don't work out just like you'd figured. In this case, it took longer than they had hoped. It's always the little things, you don't count on...a mare stuck in the mud and an hour working to get her free...a busted cinch thrown in for good measure and another hour to mend it. Just the little everyday aggravations that you can't figure on ahead of time. But, so long as nobody got hurt, it would all work out in the end.

And as it turned out, they didn't hear much about the growing troubles up north, and that made them all satisfied with their decisions and their luck. The one thing that did hurt Josiah was to be so close to James every day and night but be unable to lay with him of an evening and talk like they used to do in the woods...yes, that kind of talk you can only have with someone you love and trust with your whole being. The furtive glances tried to take the place of words, and maybe a stolen touch the place of a caress, but oh how far they fell in the attempt to replace the warm love they both hungered for and needed!

*****

And as the rage of the storm has it's day, so too the gentle breeze returns to play...

The path along the relatively easy California Trail became somewhat more difficult when they made the cut and turned north. They figured they were in the land that had been taken by Texas from Mexico which stretched west to the Rio Grande river. it was dryer and the terrain was getting rougher. The trail was there alright, but it wasn't as easy as what they had covered so far. Since the gold had been found these past ten years or so, it was better than it had been when the old timers first came out here to explore and trap though, by a long shot. Those early days seemed like a dream of some forgotten paradise that had nary a trail nor track except by the people who had lived here since the creation. It was pleasant to dream of those days gone by as the trio plodded along...and wonder what it all must of been like back then. But truth was, they needed the trail...even if it was rough. And as they drew closer and closer to the mountains, the sheer ruggedness of just the foothills awed them all.

"I wonder how them old time trappers ever made it out there with barely noth'n but what they could pack," Travis asked to no one in particular.

James piped in saying, "I've been wondering how a man can ride a horse up there," then turning to kid Josiah added with a laugh, "You sure you heard it right about them need'n horses over here?"

"I ain't sure of anything no more," Josiah retorted...but there was some truth to those words.

Travis chimed in and hollered from the other side of the horses, "Well, one thing I'm sure of is we're get'n close boys!"

Yes, they were close now. A couple days more might even bring them into the first settlements. They planned to rest up and talk around enough to get the lay of the land, gold camps and whatnot. Yep, quite an adventure was coming to a close.

Three days later the trio came across the first group of other men that had come here for gold. They had traveled up from south Texas and were camped along the banks of a river they said was called the Purgatoire. They were friendly folk and invited them all to join them, so they made an early stop for a change, finally feeling like they really made it. There were offers made for some of the livestock, but Josiah said he couldn't sell as they were all for a new venture in the gold camps.

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