Nude Ranch (mm mc)

Copyright © 2007

Brian/Buford- Mitch Morris
Amos- Matt Dallas

The Dean's secretary waved Brian on through the reception lobby without a second thought. She'd known the honor student well enough from his many visits to the main office to receive his scholarships or awards for academic achievement, for his advisor assignment for his independent studies, or to pitch his latest extracurricular activity or student group. At only age 20, Brian had already made quite a name for himself at the university, at least among the faculty and administration. Paying a visit to the Dean was nothing unusual for the star pupil. But it would be today.

Brian gave a couple quick raps on the Dean's office door and poked his head in. "Sir? Can I come in?"

The college Dean, a rotund man with a hawkish nose and a nest of silver-gray hair atop his egg-like head looked up from a mound of papers he'd been sorting through. "Brian! Yes, yes, of course," he said, waving the lanky young man in. "I summoned you, remember? Besides, even if I hadn't, if anyone has earned rights to barge in unannounced, it'd be you."

"Thank you, sir," Brain smiled, coming in and taking a seat in the chair opposite the man in charge of the university's student body. Or at least he tried to, finding the chair already occupied by a cumbersome stack of files and printouts. "Um, what should I do with—?"

"Oh, heavens above. Are those still there?" the Dean asked, a bit annoyed at his own forgetfulness. "Just put those anywhere."

Brian picked up the hefty pile of papers, uncertain of where to go with it, having so few options in the cluttered office. "Ah—?"

"Over there, by that stack of books," the Dean gestured. But as Brian approached and found insufficient room for the paperwork there, he turned again to the Dean with questioning eyes. "No good, huh? Try the chair, then." Brian looked back where he'd come from, puzzled. "No, no, not the one you're supposed to go in, that other one, over yonder. By the window."

Brian looked over at the unruly mass of magazines, binders, slide carousels, and various brochures at which the Dean pointed and the student furrowed his brow. "There's a chair under there?"

"So rumor has it."

Brian tapped the top of the mass of reference materials lightly and a large portion of it slid off to one side, cascading down upon and into the equally overflowing waste bin, a cardboard sorting box, and a plastic milk crate that had seen better days. Brian looked at the dean, who simply shrugged.

"I'll set them on the floor," Brian offered.

"Fine, fine."

Brian took his seat across from the Dean and sat there quietly, waiting for the older man to finish shuffling aside the papers before him, trying to make some sense of the permanent imbroglio that was his desk. Finally Brian had exhausted the ways in which he could fiddle with his fingers and asked outright. "Well, sir? What did you want to see me about?"

The Dean picked up a sheet of paper and looked at it with a concerned expression, as if it not only did not belong on his desk, but not even on this planet. He set it aside, very carefully. "Brian, I'm sure you're well aware that before long you'll be called upon to prepare your Sociology study."

"Oh, yes, sir," Brian said, suddenly excited and quite eager. "But, I haven't really got the materials collected for that yet. In fact, I wasn't going to really get into that until next week sometime, maybe even the week following." Brian thought a moment, concerned that he might somehow be disappointing the Dean. "Did you need me to run and get the materials I have thus far? Because I can be back here pretty quick..." Brian began to stand up.

The Dean waved him back down. "Sit, sit. You fought hard enough to find a seat in this office, don't be in such a hurry to relinquish it. No, I don't need to see what you have so far. I have no doubt that whatever you've started, it's already quite complete." The Dean looked through another sheaf of papers, frowned, opened a drawer to his right and stuffed the papers inside, closing the drawer quickly, lest the cursed things escape.

"I wouldn't say what I have is complete," Brian answered. "Far from it, since I've been concentrating on that Visual Communications project—"

The Dean cut him off. "Brian, could you tell me about the last party you attended on campus?"

Brian was befuddled. He watched as the Dean sorted out a series of colored papers, some pink, some green. He cast a worried glance at the odd paper he'd set aside earlier. He set a dicitonary on top of it, more to hide it from his view than keep it from blowing away. The Dean looked up at Brian. "Well?"

Brian fidgeted. "Sir, I haven't been to any parties in...well, ever."

"I know," said the Dean. "You don't go to the campus parties, you don't go to the dances, you never attend the theatrical productions (which are excellent, by the way), you don't go to any clubs." He looked at Brian squarely. "In fact, for someone who's preparing what I'm sure will be an impressive study in Sociology, you seem to be sadly lacking in any social skills."

Brian sat up a little straighter, squaring his shoulders. "With respect, sir, I don't think that's true. I've helped organize a lot of social and special interest groups around the college."

The Dean nodded. "Yes, the tutorial groups, audio-visual clubs, pre-test study groups, and most notably your work in the Gay-Straight student alliance."

Brian nodded back, pleased that his extracurricular activities were not going unnoticed. "Thank you, sir."

"All of which you arranged quite skillfully, got up and running, then promptly disappeared from. You have the most impressive resume for creating thriving student groups which you never attend."

"I don't do well with crowds, sir," Brian said, suddenly fascinated with something on the floor.

"You don't even go to academic gatherings and events, Brian."

Brian looked up quickly. "That's not true, sir! I attended the Recognition Ceremony for Vice Chancellor Tolliver."

"Where you were the only attendee under the age of 40." Brian couldn't argue that point. The Dean exhaled heavily. "Brian, I can't deny that as a scholar, you're exceptional. But you can't live your life in the library. It's not normal for someone your age to be a social recluse. You need to get out and mix with others of your age in a capacity outside that of a tutor or organizer." The Dean opened a drawer to his left, began searching for something. "To that effect..."

Brian began to get nervous. He could not remember the last time he felt nervous while in this office. "Sir..?"

"I'm pulling rank and making a radical change to your Sociology study. Rather than simply preparing a nice paper...or film presentation, or laser light show, or whatever you're planning on cooking up..."

Brian swallowed hard. "Sir, I think I know what you're thinking..."

"I'm going to suggest, make that insist, that you take time to engage in a social experiment yourself for a few weeks and then return here and give an oral presentation about it."

"I'm not sure that's a very good idea for me," Brian said, sinking in his seat. "I mean, not a very good match. The whole social interaction thing."

"And that would be the point," the Dean smiled. "I've selected a place for just that reason. Where you've got a lot of time outdoors, where there will be plenty of other young men your age, wide open spaces, no library to sequester yourself in, no books to hide behind. Ah, there's the damn thing." The Dean pulled out the paper he'd been looking for, handed it to Brian. The student took it as if it were a petri dish filled with Anthrax.

The paper was a handout flyer calling for young men between the ages of 20-24 to come to a secluded dude ranch where a social experiment was being conducted to teach city university students how to live as real cowboys, taught an overseen by experienced ranchers and cowpokes. Brian, while hardly unattractive, was of slender build and modest demeanor. The only thing about him that stood out in any way was his red hair. His image did not bring to mind the word "cowboy".

"You've got to be kidding me, right?" Brian said.

"Not in the slightest. Already sent them all the information on you they needed, grade point average, test scores, all the way down to your student I.D. photo—"

"Why would they need that?" Brian asked, curious.

"I imagine so they would recognize you upon arrival, to familiarize their staff with names and faces so they could hit the ground running, that sort of thing." The Dean was already rummaging through the lower cupboard doors of one of the cabinets behind his desk, searching for something else.

"B-but," Brian stammered, "I have other classes, other projects to consider."

"I already cleared it with your other professors," the Dean said.

"Even Mrs. Worthington? I have that extra credit poster to make—!"

"Even Mrs. Worthington. I think she said something akin to how relieved she was to hear you'd be getting outdoors so you wouldn't look so pasty." He winked.

"I have that work study job in the publications department."

"Which will be here when you get back."

"Someone's gonna have to feed my goldfish," Brian mumbled.

"I'll see to it myself," the Dean grinned. "And your excuses are getting exceedingly feeble the more you go on." The Dean pulled a large, square cardboard box out of the third cabinet cupboard and plopped it on the desk before Brian. "Ah. This is it. I got it special for the occasion."

Brian stared at the box as if it might contain a bomb. "I don't do well outside of my comfort zone," he whined.

"That's the idea. Get out there. Live a little. Have fun. Maybe you'll finally meet a boyfriend or something." And then he added, as if it were an afterthought, "Oh, and I mentioned it to the folks in charge of this year's Pembrose Award and they thought it would be just a marvelous idea."

Brian felt his heart sink. The Pembrose Award was a destitute scholar's best friend. It was an annual monetary prize awarded to the most deserving and accomplished student with the most threadbare bank account. It would cover not only the cost of tuition, but also books, supplies, and housing. This was not something Brian could possibly pass up.

The Dean nodded toward the box on the desk before them. "Aren't you going to open it?"

"Yes, sir." Brian lifted the lid from the box and gazed inside. He breathed out heavily, almost ready to ask if this was a joke, but knowing it was not. It was a large white cowboy hat. The sight of it made the whole affair all too real.

The Dean looked almost giddy as he plucked the gleaming hat from its box and placed it upon Brian's head, where it could not have looked more out of place.

"Would you believe me if I told you I was allergic to tumbleweed?"

The Dean shook his head. "Yippee-ki-yay, Brian. And happy trails."

Brian stood up and, feet dragging, shuffled towards the door, his new cowboy hat still atop his head. As he reached the exit, the Dean called after him. "Oh, and Brian?" The honor student turned to find the Dean holding aloft the paper he'd hidden beneath the dictionary. "Do you have any idea what this is?"

Without answering, Brian slouched on out the door, head hanging like a man condemned to death rather than a sunny ranch getaway.

On the long bus ride out to the ranch, Brian began to feel a little bit better, but he attributed that only to his refusal to wear the hat. In fact, he deliberately left it beside the goldfish bowl as a last show of defiance to the Dean. Although Brian had brought along a carryon bag filled with plenty of reading material, he spent most of the time with his head resting against the window, dreading his destination and all that awaited him there. He tried to imagine himself in full cowboy getup, with the vest, the jeans, the chaps, dusty cowboy boots, spurs on his heels (did they still wear spurs?) and of course the hat. They were bound to have plenty of cowboy hats there. Brian knew he'd get stuck wearing one, probably as soon as he got off the bus.

As the scenery beyond the window changed from city to highway, Brian noted the landscape that stretched alongside the road shifting with each mile to a more bucolic setting, and eventually to one with an inordinate amount of sand, gravel, and even cactus plants. In his imagination, Brian superimposed himself onto the landscape, decked out in his unfamiliar—and humiliating—cowboy ensemble. He soon saw himself falling off of a horse, then to be dragged along by the stirrup. He imagined himself tangling himself in an impossibly long lasso while trying to learn rope tricks. He saw himself tripping in his unaccustomed boots and falling headlong into a campfire, spraying the other, more capable, cowboys with an upended pan of baked beans. He knew he would be a terrible cowboy. He imagined himself line dancing at a local honky tonk, only to lose step, tumble sideways, and knock over the more coordinated cowboys like ten pins. He could see the rough, muscled, and unshaven ranch hands finally scooping him up in frustration, taking him off to some distant stable, there to pants him and brand his ass cheek with a giant "L," marking him as a loser.

Brian sighed, pining for his precious university library, with its safe stacks of books and reassuring card catalogs. He drifted off to sleep, his head filled with nightmarish visions of him being herded into a corral along with all the other plaid-trousered, horn-rimmed spectacled, and pocket-protector wearing outcasts nerds, there to be kept safe from harming themselves or marring the cool auras of the real hunky cowboys.

Brian was jarred awake as the bus came to a halt, jerking slightly. "We're here, son. Time to disembark." It was the bus driver who'd spoken. He leaned out from behind the wheel at the head of the bus, calling down to Brian in his seat halfway down the aisle. The final hiss of the bus's gears sounded beneath them like a harsh wake-up alarm. Brian blinked his eyes and looked around, noting that he was the only one left aboard. As the door up front was still closed, Brian realized that all the other passengers, what few there were on this route, had all gotten off at previous stops. He was truly on his own.

Brian stretched a bit and sat back, not exactly anxious to get up and go. The bus driver said again, "Last stop, son. It's time to go." Brian nodded, then collected his duffle, which was all he had with him. He'd been told to pack light, especially in regard to clothes, as his attire would be provided. He was quite certain this meant that upon arrival he'd be done up like a hayseed. Or a redneck. Or whatever derogatory term was appropriate. As he moved toward the door, the driver smiled at him.

"Haven't been out this way in a bit. Didn't know anyone still used this ranch. You here to play cowboy, maybe? Have yourself some fun?"

"That remains to be seen," Brian mumbled.

"Well, be sure to wear a hat. Sun can be pretty brutal out here."

Brian waved a quick goodbye, adding, "Okay, thanks," but was still grateful he'd left his big white cowboy hat at home. As soon as he'd disembarked, Brian was struck—quite literally—by the intensity of the heavy, dry heat. The bus had been air-conditioned, but outside it was easily 90-some degrees. The sun was bright, but Brian didn't really feel as if it were beating down on him. Instead, the air itself seemed to press against him, hot and arid, with occasional gusts of wind that were just as hot as the air, providing no relief, but instead actually making it harder to breathe. Brian squinted against the dust as the Bus drove away, sand whipping in his face and against his bare arms, flying under the short sleeves of his plaid shirt and crawling against his chest and neck. He looked up at the large wooden sign that was perched atop two massive timbers, welcoming all comers to the Rod & Double Circle Ranch. Brian spat dust out of his mouth, and saw it clinging to his clothes and getting under his fingernails even without him moving. He coughed a bit in attempt to clear his throat, having little success.

"Yeah," he moaned to himself, "fun."

Brian stood around in the hot wind for several minutes, getting coated with the grit of sand and trying to breathe through his nose without sucking up the equivalent of a beach dune. He was beginning to think he'd been abandoned here, by the old sign, and would eventually be pounded by the coarse, hot wind until he dropped, he parched bones to be found many months later when he failed to show up for next term's student-teacher meeting. Brian contemplated making his way down the long stretch of road that began at the base of the signposts and led off into the distance when a speck appeared on the horizon.

As the speck approached, Brian could see it was an old flatbed truck. A cloud of darkened dust kicked up behind it as it grew larger upon approach. For some reason, the entire length of road was covered in a thick layer of black dirt, almost as if there had once been a plan to pave it, but the endeavor had been abandoned. As a result, by the time the beat up truck reached the sign where the baking Brian stood, its sides were coated with a fine layer of black dust. The driver's side door sprung open with a harsh creak and a handsome, muscular man jumped out. He was at least 6'2," with bushy brown bangs visible beneath his gray cowboy hat. He wore tight jeans, held in place by a large-buckled belt and pulled tight over scuffed cowboy boots. He wore no shirt to speak of, rather the sleeveless tatters of an old red plaid flannel that flapped about him in the hot wind more than it covered his torso. He greeted Brain with an easy smile.

"You're Mitchell, right?"

"Brian Mitchell, yeah," Brian answered. He wasn't used to being addressed by his last name. It brought to mind images of gym class and school bullies.

"Sorry to keep you waitin', pardner. Time got away from me and I had to get dressed to meet'cha."

Brian eyed the man's outfit. "I see you really got yourself duded up."

The man smiled broadly. "Round here, this is about as fancy as it gets, Mitch. Here, lemme get that for you." He picked up Brian's bag and slung it over his shoulder. The action looked natural and even chivalrous for him. He strode over to the pickup truck and Brian followed.

"Could you maybe not call me by my last name?" Brian asked. "I just prefer that you call me Brian."

The man smiled again. "You don't much want to be here, do ya?" Brian looked away. "Well, that's okay. Give it a chance, and you'll warm up to the place. Lotsa real friendly folks here. Specially the other cowboys your age."

"I'm not much of a cowboy," Brian mumbled.

"Not yet," his greeter offered. "Oh, and I wouldn't sweat the name thing. Not much of us use last names 'round here. You'll be on a first-name basis with everybody right quick."

Brian only nodded, trying to shield his eyes from the sandy wind with his hand.

"Sorry about the wind out this end. Don't know why, but it's pretty nasty out here. It gets a lot nicer closer in to the ranch, where there's more trees, and a lake, fields and all that good stuff."


The cowboy opened the passenger side of the truck to reveal a pile of equipment, including an old saddle, a length of thick frayed rope, some rusted tractor parts and an old truck wheel. "Oh. Um," the cowpoke muttered. "Gosh, I'm real sorry 'bout that, Mitch—er, Brian. Didn't even think. I'm so used to running errands solo, I just..." He blushed, a sheepish grin on his face.

"You didn't notice it on the way out?" Brian asked. Then, realizing that his escort was not trying to be difficult, that it was surely an honest mistake, Brian suggested, "Maybe if we throw all this stuff in the back, then."

But the cowboy pointed at the pile of oversized clutter in the truck cab and Brian realized what he was indicating. Whatever passenger seat was once there had long since been torn out. Brian sighed. The cowboy tossed Brian's duffle on the floor of the cab.

"Plenty of room in back."

Reluctantly, Brian clambered into the back of the truck. "Just hang in there, little buddy," the cowboy said. "I'll double-time it and git you there before you know it."

Seated on the filthy flatbed, only wooden planks on either side of him, the back door open, Brian shared his ride with a constant cloud of black dirt, bits of gravel and loose stones flying up around him. He imagined that this must be what it would be like to travel by coal bin. Third class. He considered mumbling a snide remark about warming up to the place already, but feared swallowing more filth if he opened his mouth, so he just thought it.

Roughly a half hour later, they arrived. Brian sat there in the flatbed, dazed and filthy, waiting for the word that it was okay to disembark. The smiling cowboy came around the truck and held up Brian's duffle. "All set, pard. Come on down."

Shaken by the rumble of the truck ride, Brian stumbled off the truck bed and nearly fell flat on his behind. The cowboy helped him up. Brian was covered in a layer of black dirt, which had not only powdered his clothing but also embedded itself into his skin and hair. He looked like a refugee. He felt worse.

The cowboy patted him roughly on the back and said, "Follow me."

They had pulled up to a circular dirt drive (though no longer of the black dirt variety) before a very nice wooden lodge which served as the welcoming station. Brian noticed that his cowboy friend was right in that the searing wind back at the main sign was no longer evident here. What was, consisted of some very nice evergreens surrounding the lodge area, grassy areas beyond that, and the distant sound of a small lake. And, if Brian strained a bit, the laughter and voices of the other guests. The cowboy strode onto the wooden porch and opened the screen door for the redheaded guest.

"C'mon, we'll get you settled in."

Brian trudged inside, where another roughneck man, though somewhat better attired than the truck driver, was waiting behind the counter. He took one look at the pair of them and snickered. It was not the best greeting Brian could have hoped for, but the one he had expected. That it, until the man spoke. "Nice to see your truck is still up and running, Clem." Brian considered the name. Clem. It figured.

The man at the counter regarded the filthy young scholar and welcomed him warmly. "Come on in, son. You no doubt are one of our last vacationers. You must be Buford."

Brian blanched at the name, and sputtered, "No, I must not be. My name is Brian. It's Brian M—" and that was as far as he got before the man read from a guest register before him.

"Brian Morris Mitchell. That right?"

Brian nodded. "Then why did you call me—?"

"Round here at the ol' Rod & Double-Circle Ranch, everybody gets their very own cowboy name. That's how you'll be known around the ranch for your whole stay. Your dean was good enough to send your student I.D. photo on ahead so the staff could familiarize themselves with who's comin'. You should find folks callin' you by name—your cowboy name—right outta the gate."

Brian sort of shrugged. "And I'm... Buford?"

"Welcome to the Rod & Double-Circle Ranch, Buford!"

Suddenly the name Clem wasn't sounding half bad. The man at the counter made a scribble in his register, probably noting that Brian, or rather Buford, had arrived. Then he looked up. "What say we get you cleaned up before sending you on to meet with the rest of the guests, Byoof? We got some real fine showers just down that hall there. get you scrubbed up, get that dirt from the road off'a ya. Even give ya some sunscreen, keep you from getting burned up by our country sunshine. Sound good?"

"The shower does, yeah," Brian admitted.

Clem stepped up and handed over Brian's bag. "Why don't you take care of Buford's stachel, and I'll lead him to the showers. I can use a quick wash-up myself." Clem wasn't nearly as dirty as Brian, but he had gotten his share of dirt from the road on him as well.

The welcome man took the bag. "Sounds fine." To Brian, he said, "Buford, we'll have your cowboy hat and bandana already waitin' for ya by the time you get dried off."

Brian nodded, and said, "Thanks. But if it's all the same to you, could you just call me Brian? I don't feel really comfortable with being called—"

"Sooner you get to answering to it, the sooner you'll get the feel for it, Byoof."

Brian only offered a weak smile. Clem took him by the shoulder and led him down the paneled hallway adorned with framed photos of ranch hands and cowpokes, engaged in everything from roping steer to sitting around a campfire at sunset. Every 20 feet or so, there'd be an animal head mounted upon the wall, a bear or ram or some such. Brian imagined he could hear the heads whispering to each other in cartoon voices, mocking him. "Buford... ha!"


The showers were actually quite nice. They had a rustic look to them, with wooden-appearing walls and a hardwood floor peppered with drains and such, but the plumbing, ventilation, and tiny locker area were first rate.

Brian only flinched a little, or thought he had, when the burly cowboy Clem came into the communal showers right after him. "Ain't gonna bite," he assured the smaller Brian. "Just wanna get myself dusted off." Brian nodded, but was quick to turn his back to the larger man two shower heads down. The student was not so much alarmed by Clem's presence, or his muscular frame, or his deeply tanned skin, or his large strong-looking hands and feet, as he was by the sensation that his tiny body was about to get much larger just below his navel if he continued staring at the manly cowboy.

Brian felt a light tap on his shoulder. "Hey, kid."

"I wasn't looking! I didn't see anything!"

Clem laughed. "Boy, you gotta loosen up, son. If anyone needed a vacation..." He handed a large plastic bottle to Brian. "I was hoggin' all the shampoo. Wanted to give ya some."

Brian smiled, hopelessly embarrassed. "Oh. Right, sure. Thanks!" Shaking a bit, he dabbed a dollop of shampoo into his hand. Clem took the bottle back.

"No, no. Ya got this big a bottle, ya gotta use it." The larger man squeezed the bottle hard and it spat a gigantic glop of its viscous contents into his palm. "Ya wanna lather yerself up real good. Get all that dirt on outta there. No need to end up leavin' traces of it inside your hat." Clem spread the shampoo heavily into Brian's hair, his powerful fingers kneading the small scholar's scalp, creating mountains of foam.

Brian felt a bit weak in the knees at the cowboy's firm, yet strangely tender, touch. "That...that feels good," he muttered.

"Here, you keep that up," Clem said, moving Brian's hands to the top of his head and working them around in a circular motion to keep him shampooing. "I'll git'cher back."

Brian's eyes, which he hadn't realized had closed as Clem washed his hair, popped open. "My back? Wha...Woo!"

Brian felt the bar of soap glide up and down his back and Clem washed his back. "That roadway dirt gets everywhere," he observed. "There's even a bit of it, hell. You'll never get it if'n you can't see it." With that, Clem began vigorously washing Brian's butt. Brian inhaled sharply, suddenly very glad that Clem was facing his back, and not his very stiff, very attentive front. Eventually, Clem came back around and looked Brian in the eye, extended his hand with the soap. "I imagine you can get the rest." Brian nodded dumbly, his hands still up in his hair, as if they had been frozen there. Clem looked at him, realized that Brian was not going to move any time soon. He also noticed that Brian was stiff as a steel pipe. Slowly, Clem took one of Brian's hands from his head, brought it down before him, and set the soap in his palm, closing Brian's fingers around it. "Off ya go, then."

Clem returned to his own shower head, and Brian looked down at the soap in his hand, finally registering that it was there. He then looked just beyond his hand and saw his throbbing erection. He closed his eyes tight and silently prayed that the shower drain beneath him would open up like a giant sinkhole and swallow him up. It didn't.

They finished their showers in silence and when Clem shut off his water, Brian stood there in silence, his back to the larger man, too embarrassed to turn and face him. Finally, Brian shut off the water at his shower, which had long since turned cold. As embarrassed as he was, he had to admit that he did feel much better for the shower. Gingerly, the slender lad made his way out of the showers and noticed that something was missing.

"Um, towels?" he asked.

"How's that, little buddy?" Clem answered.

"I—I don't see any towels."

"Not to worry, Buford," Clem smiled. Brian was trying not to stare at the cowboy's naked, water-speckled body, but it wasn't easy. Clem sauntered over to the far side of the area beyond the showers and stood before what looked like a standard hand dryer, only larger. The big man thumped its silver button with his palm and a rush of warm air washed over him. "Air dryers, pard! Get in front of one."

Brian did so, and he too felt a rush of soothing air drying him off quickly. The feeling was nice, and he actually found himself giggling softly as he turned around in the stream of air, adjusting the dryer's nozzle to have the air reach up and down his body. Soon the sound of Clem's dryer cut out and the large man said to Brian, raising his voice to be heard over the whirr of the machine, "I gotta git! There's stuff I have to tend to! I'll make sure your clothes are laid out for you! Hat and bandana'll be on the bench by yer locker!" Brian nodded. Clem left the room but came back quickly carrying a white bottle of what looked like suntan oil.

"Almost forgot! Sunscreen! Be sure to get'cher face, neck, and shoulders real good! Greenhorns get burned too quick first day out!"

Again, Brian nodded and waited for the big cowboy to leave before venturing back to his locker. True to his word, Clem had left a tan cowboy hat for Brian on the bench before his locker, a red bandana draped neatly beside it. Brian picked up the bottle of sunscreen (marked SPF 50) and slathered it on generously. This was one thing he was not going to skimp on. The few times he'd gone to the beach in past years, he'd walked away in agony, looking like lobster. Not this time.

After he'd coated himself thoroughly in the sun-protecting goop, Brian stood before his locker wondering what ridiculous outfit awaited him inside. Checkered shirt? A leather vest? Chaps? Huge cowboy boots? A six-gun belt and play sheriff's badge that read "Buckaroo" on it? Brian took a deep breath and then opened his locker.

It was empty.

Brian blinked. He must have opened the wrong locker. He checked the locker to the right. It was empty, too. So was the one to the left. Brian felt panic begin to rise in his chest. Surely they had not forgotten to leave him his stupid cowboy costume after all they fuss they'd made about making sure he was dressed properly. Brian dashed around the tiny locker room and checked all the lockers (there were only six) and found each one vacant. He checked around to turn up his own plaid shirt, Dockers, and penny loafers. They may have been filthy, but at least they would serve to give him something to cover himself. Nada. He was stuck in the locker room, clean and dry, but bare-assed with nothing but a cowboy hat and a bandana to speak of. Brian looked at the bandana. Picking it up and snapping it open like a tablecloth, Brian tried to tie it aroud his waist like a loincloth. Nothing doing. He could never get it around his waist, regardless how skinny he was. Oh, God. Now what was he going to do? He felt his heart pounding in his chest. How would he get help without going out and exposing himself?

Brian called out without leaving the room. "H-hello? Is there anybody around? Clem? Y-you kind of forgot my clothes! Any-anyb-b-ody? Help!"

Brian scampered over to the door through which he had entered the showers. It was locked. He then raced over to the only other door in the room, on the opposite side. Gingerly, he began to open it, in attempt to peek out and call for help, or gather the attention of some staff member or passerby while hiding behind the door. No sooner had Brian opened the door (unlocked—thank God!) just a crack, than he heard the clamor of multiple voices talking, laughing, chattering. The door clearly opened up right onto a crowd of ranch-going cowboys. Brian was not prepared to expose himself to a large audience. He slammed the door closed with a frightened, "Ulp!"

Brian could barely make out a few confused remarks from the other side of the door. "What was that?" "Somebody in there?" "Should we look inside?" He stood there, back flat against the door, hands wide at his sides, palms against the wood, shaking his head furiously. He muttered to himself anxiously, "Don'tcomein... don'tcomein... don'tcomein..."

Then there was a knock at the other door. "Say, what's the holdup in there? Buford, you ready to go yet, or what, pardner?"

It wasn't Clem's voice, but clearly, it was someone who knew what was going on around here. Brian said a silent prayer of thanks and ran to the door. He called through it, "Yeah, I'm here! But I don't have my cowboy suit—it wasn't left for me! There's nothing here for me!"

The voice came back, sounding a bit irked. "No one left you your hat and bandana?"

Brian wondered what that had to do with anything. "Well, yeah! I have those! But I just—you know, that's all I've got!"

The voice said, not unkindly, "And you'd like a hand gettin' dressed, is that it?"

Brian felt some relief wash over him. "Would you mind?"

"No prob." There was a tug on the door handle, which did not give.

"It's locked!" Brian cried, unnecessarily.

"Yeah, happens sometimes if'n it ain't locked open," the voice said. There was a jangle of keys and the click of the lock. Brian sighed happily.

"I can't thank you enough, sir. I was sure I'd have to wander out in the open just as I—"

The door opened and the man walked in. He was big an muscular, not unlike Clem, with a touch more hair on his chest, a real cowboy. He wore a beaten tan cowboy hat atop his head, a loose-hanging red bandana around his neck, and dark brown leather vest and matching, scuffed boots. And nothing else. Brian took one look at the cowboy's sizeable manhood hanging between his muscled legs and, slack-jawed, made a gurgling sound. Then, without a second's thought, Brian stumbled backward to the bench before his open, empty locker and grabbed his cowboy hat, which he promptly slapped over his crotch, covering himself.

"So, you need a hand gettin' dressed there, Buford?" the mostly-naked cowboy asked with a smile.

Brian was close to hyperventilating. "Uh, um...don't let me keep you from it."

The cowboy gave a short, warm, laugh. "Naw, I'm fine as is. Name's Earl. That your bandana?" He nodded to the square of colored cloth draped over the bench. Brian nodded fearfully. Earl picked up the bandana and delicately wrapped it around Brian's neck. "Lots of city slickers like yourself can't get the hang of this first time out. Let me know if it's too tight, now, Buford."

Brian stood there, frozen, overwhelmed, hat held tight to his crotch, getting hard against his will and despite his growing anxiety. What the hell was happening here??

"That too tight?" Earl asked. Brian shook his head, his lips drawn in and held tightly closed by his clenched teeth. Earl stood back and admired his handiwork. "Not too bad, if'n I do say so myself," he grinned. "You all set?"

Brian looked at him, incredulous. "Uh, um, duh-don't...don't I get any...anything else?"

Earl pointed to the hat Brian held tight over his nether parts. "What d'ya call that?"

Brian felt himself blushing. "Whuh...what...what I mean is... wuh-well... um, that is... duh-don't... don't I g-get any... well, you know...pants?"

Earl laughed again, shaking his head. He took Brian by the shoulders and turned him around to face the door leading to the outside world. Then he started to push, Brian's much smaller feet offering him no purchase against the smooth floor, and he found himself rushing forward toward the door, the rest of the ranch beyond it, and everyone outside.

"N-no! You-you can't be serious! You c-can't do this to me! Please, I mean it! This will—this will—this will KILL me! Please don't make me go outside like this! EARL!!"

"Buford, dude, what is your problem??" Earl said, looking utterly puzzled.

Brian spun around and faced Earl, or more accurately, faced his chest, since that's about where his eye level was. "Earl, ya gotta listen to me, please. This may be some kind of joke to you, this may be real funny. Ha-ha. Maybe you do this to all the newbies, all the...what do cowboys call them, again? The new guys, with no experience..."

"Greenhorns," Earl said, his mouth twisted to one side.

"Yeah, greenhorns! Maybe this is what you do to us greenhorns. 'Cause that's what I am—I totally admit it! Is that was this is? Like, a hazing, for greenhorns, like me? So all the cowboys can get a good laugh at us ignorant city folk? Is this like a test?"

Earl just shook his head, turning his charge back around. Brian rambled on. "Because believe it or not, I'm really good at tests! Granted, I'm better at written than the oral, but still, if you want to maybe start out with multiple choice and then advance from there—!"

"Oh, fer cryin' out loud." Earl had Brian up to the door, which he was now reaching to open.

"Please! I'll do anything, Earl! Make me square-dance, milk the cows! But don't do this to me! You can't just shove me out in the open with all these—!!"

Earl flung the door wide open and everyone beyond it could see Brian plainly. And Brian could see them. There were at least a dozen ranch-goers in plain sight. All of them of Brian's age, clearly strapping young college men, all of whom sauntered about enjoying the hot day and each other's company. All of them wore their own cowboy hats and most of them also bore bandanas around their necks.

And nothing else.

Brian's eyes bulged, as he completed his plea, "—all these buck naked young cowboys."

Brian stared, unbelieving. But it was true. The Rod & Double-Circle Ranch was populated by young 20-something studs of various builds and heights, all of whom wore not a stitch of clothing beyond their cowboy hats and bandanas. Although a few of them wore thin square dance ties 'round their necks instead, complete with handsome tie clasps. All the naked young men walked about as if it were the most natural thing in the world to be as naked as a jaybird. They chatted and laughed together, walking to and from whatever activities the ranch offered them, some of them arm in arm. Others lazed under a tree, enjoying the shade from its thick canopy of leaves. A few other clustered around an old-time wagon, one naked cowboy seated atop it, holding court with three other nude college cowpokes as he spun some tale or other. A few of the disrobed cattlemen noticed Brian's arrival and offered a few "Hey"s and "Howdy"s. A few others waved before going back to their business. Brian swallowed hard.

"This...this is a...nudist ranch?" This was way more than Brian thought he could handle. Cattle rustling and line dancing was one thing, but this? Brian watched in awe as the smooth naked cowboys moved about, enjoying themselves while they, in the coarse fraternity vernacular, had their asses out and dicks hanging.

Earl put a warm hand on Brian's bare shoulder. "Things bein' what they are, I'd say you're dressed jest fine."

Brian whirled to face him. "So! This is indeed a nudist colony. Er, wait! Naturist! I know you guys prefer to be called naturists! Sorry, no offense intended, er, pardner. Um, it's just that...I-I don't recall anyone mentioning to me before that this place would be, optional, is all."

Earl raised an eyebrow. "Nothing optional. Just no clothes, period."

"Yeah, and that's fascinating, really it is. I mean, if that's how you want to live, anyway. Say, what, um, what is the philosophy behind this particular naturist ranch?"

"That ya don't wear no clothes, pretty much."

Brian grew more frantic as his prattle picked up speed. "Right! Got that! But there's, like, a great many interpretations to the naturists code, I'm led to understand. Is this one part of the Sunbather's Association, or another group? I think I read something about them in school."

Earl nodded. "Uh-huh?"

"Yeah, like, for instance, the religious sect the Doukhobors, um, they migrated from Russia to Western Canada. Now, they practiced occasional nudity, such as while working in the farm fields," Brian eyed the multiple naked college cowboys behind him for a moment. "But, uh, something tells me we won't be doing a lot of field work here."

Earl sighed. "Not really, no."

Brian tried to push his way back through the door, but Earl was blocking his path, arms crossed and inching forward. "You know," Brian babbled on, "the-the Greeks were big into nudity and such. In fact, if you d-didn't know, the wuh-word " gymnasium" comes from the Greek word " gymnos," meaning, um, m-meaning "nude," because athletics in Greece were routinely practiced n-naked by its participants." Earl just stared at him. "Uh, not, not to be confused with the term " Gymnophobia," which as you may know is an irrational fear or anxiety about being seen naked, or about seeing others naked." Brian's eye became a bit wild. "Which, I assure you, I so am NOT! Really, this is cool. It's great! Super, even! Super-naked-cool, yeah!"

Brian leaned forward and whispered to Earl, "I'm just a little unversed in all this, so maybe I should do a little more research on this practice before I venture out into the open. Wouldn't want to insult anyone, you know?" He offered a weak smile. "You wouldn't happen to have a library here, would you?"

Earl snickered, turned the panic-stricken Brian around, and planted a boot firmly on his ass. Pushing him forward, he said, "Have fun, kid."

The next thing he knew, Brian was stumbling forward, hat falling from his hands, his feet tripping off the wooden porch on which they stood, sunlight beaming down on his naked body now that he was clear of the shady overhang above.

Mind racing, Brian snatched up his hat, used it to cover himself, and ran back to the door, yanking furiously at the handle. It was already locked. Delicately, Brian rapped on the door. "Pleasepleasepleaseplease open up. Let me back in, please, Earl. I really didn't sign on for this, I'm serious."

No answer.

Brian rested his forehead against the door and tried not to have a nervous breakdown. He was so going to kill the dean.

"You don't need an introduction to tell that you're new here."

Brian whirled around to see who'd spoken. He was so startled by the address that he nearly forgot to keep his hat over his crotch. Nearly. The cowboy standing before him looked young, freshman age most likely, certainly not more than a university sophomore. His manner was casual, as he stood leaning against one of the awning posts, arms folded easily over his chest, legs crossed lazily at the ankles. His hair was jet black, and appeared a bit ruffled, what bits protruded from beneath his black Stetson. His eyes sparkled a light color (maybe blue, maybe green, Brian couldn't tell) and his smile was lopsided and utterly sincere. Besides the Stetson, the college cowboy wore only a slender bolo tie around his neck, fastened by a silver clasp bearing a Texas star. His smooth body was slender and taut, and he looked as relaxed and at ease about being naked as he was with greeting the new arrival.

"H-hi," Brian said.

"It takes some getting used to, I can tell you," the young cowboy grinned. "Look around," and he nodded to some of the other naked ranch visitors close by. "Even though they're all interacting and pretty much enjoying themselves now, you can still see a bit of tension in how they move, how they talk. They're trying not to think about the fact that they're all starkers." He looked back to Brian, his grin not fading. "The heat helps. Can't imagine how hard this would be if it were chilly out."

"You seem to be doing okay," Brian observed.

"I don't embarrass easily."

The two stared at each other. Brian nervous and twitching, the other smiling warmly. The boy in the black Stetson leaned forward slightly. "This is the part where we introduce ourselves. You can go ahead."

Brian just stared. He tried a meager smile, but it looked more like a grimace. Shuffling his bare feet closer to the other college boy an inch at a time, Brian got himself near enough to extend one hand, the other still clasped tightly to his hat, still held over his crotch. The other boy took his hand in a firm grip, Brian shook it nervously. The other boy grinned, but Brian didn't seem to get what he wanted.

"You got a name, cowboy?" the Stetson lad prompted.

"Oh! Oh, yeah. Right. I'm Bria—"

The Stetson lad gently slapped his hand over Brian's mouth. He shook his head. Then he said, "Cowboy name."

Brian mumbled from behind the other's fingers, "Mhuh?"

"Use your cowboy name," he reiterated. "It makes it easier. You know, to be out here naked and everything. It's almost like it's not you who's letting it all hang out, like you're playing a role or something. It helps. So use your cowboy name."

At first Brian thought the concept ludicrous. But the young man in the Stetson with the easy smile and the dazzling eyes spoke with a deep, resonant voice that seemed older than his years and made the idea seem quite reasonable. Brian nodded. The other boy let go.

"Buford," Brian introduced himself. "My name's...Buford."

The other shook his hand firmly. "Amos. Pleased to meet'cha, Buford."

And the two of them laughed. Brian was still hopelessly embarrassed, hovering near humiliation, his face was flushed red, but he felt better. Somehow, this new friend made him feel better.

"So, ya want me to show you around, Buford?"

"Not really, no."

Amos took his new pal by the shoulder and led him off the porch. "C'mon, you gotta start moving around and socializing sometime. Besides, it's part of the deal. Those who arrive first show the newcomers around."

"I-I'll have to g-greet people, too?" Buford asked nervously.

"Well, you're pretty much out of the woods in that department. There can't be more than one or two folks left to arrive." Buford watched with great trepidation as other cowboys walked past them, smiling, nodding. They were all so cute, so friendly. So naked. Buford had never felt so exposed. Amos didn't seem to mind it at all.

"So... Buford, huh?"

"Yeah. I've been christened Buford."

"You're lucky they didn't stick you with something like "Red" or "Freckles" or something really hokey like, I dunno, "Rusty".," Amos smiled.

"Wh-why do you say that?"

Amos inclined his head toward one of the polished windows they were passing. It was a building that had been remodeled to look like an old Western general store. Buford caught his reflection and ran up to the glass. He almost didn't recognize himself. "What the hell—?" Buford's hair was no longer just red. It was so red, it was almost orange. And the freckles on his face, across his nose, and upon his shoulders now stood out as if he'd been done up with stage makeup.

"I'm lucky they didn't name me Howdy Doody!" Buford exclaimed. "What the hell happened to me?"

Amos shrugged. "It's when you get cleaned up coming in. The shampoo, the soap, the sun block." He grabbed the locks of his own hair beneath his Stetson. "My hair used to just be dark brown. I'm a raven-hair now." He stuck out a leg. "And after using that soap, I could kiss most all of my body hair goodbye. Or hadn't you noticed that your pubes are thinner now?"

Buford looked down at the hat over his pubic region and just looked back at Amos. "I'll take your word for it."

"And the sun block not only protects your skin form the sun," Amos went on, "and trust me you won't get much more exposure to the sun than in a setting like this—but it clears up your complexion and, ah...," he searched for the right word, found it, "enhances your attributes." Buford recalled Clem's directions back in the locker room. Be sure to get'cher face, neck, and shoulders real good.

"I look like a Norman Rockwell character," Buford bemoaned.

"You do look like a country boy," Amos agreed. He steered his new friend away from the window. "But at least you're not named Howdy Doody or anything."

"Well, I have got the neckerchief," Buford lamented. They continued walking.

"I have no clue why they renamed me Amos," his companion smiled, changing the subject.

"Why? What was your name before?" Buford asked.

He grinned. " Dallas."

And again, they laughed. This time, Buford thought it felt more natural. Amos reached over and gingerly took Buford's hat from him. Buford let him. Amos set the tan hat upon Buford's head, adjusting it there until he felt it looked right. Then he patted Buford on the shoulder. "Welcome to the Rod & Double-Circle Ranch, Buford."

Buford breathed a bit easier. With friends like this, he might just survive this bizarre experience yet. "Thank-you, Amos." Then he added, with a smirk, "Much obliged."


The tour did not take long. Mostly the ranch was set up to mimic an old West setting, with facades and structures laden with props to that end. The real fun of the ranch came with the activities that peppered the day, designed to help visitors reenact the cowboy days of yore. That and being able to run around naked all day without consequence. But in between the planned events, there was plenty of time to relax, enjoy the scenery—in all its many forms—and get to know one another, as Amos and Buford were doing now.

"Still cannot believe my dean would send me into a setup like this!" Buford went on, his hands still frequently hovering over his crotch to cover himself, particularly when others passed by.

"You don't say." Amos rolled his eyes, knowing that Buford would say, and had done so incessantly for the better part of the last hour.

A light came on behind Buford's eyes. "He must not have known! That must be it! He's always doing too many things at once, he's easily frazzled. You should see his office!"

"I can believe it."

"It's the only answer that makes sense," Buford beamed. "He couldn't have known that this was a big...I dunno, a nude ranch!"

"Nice pun."

"Huh? Oh yeah, right. But if he knew about this, I'm certain he'd never have involved me in it. I mean, if he knew about this aspect of it. If he knew, he'd pull me out of here in a minute. I just need to inform him, is all."

Amos perked up. "Have you got a cell phone?"

Buford looked at him askance. "What? Well, of course!"

"You should call him right now!"

"Good idea! I'll—" Buford patted his hips, looking for the cell phone that was always on him, finding no cell phone, no pocket he kept it in, no pants that held the pockets. Amos laughed. "Very funny." Buford cupped his hands over himself again. "But I had no idea I'd be at a place like this."

Amos took both Buford's hands in his. "But you're here now! And this place is great. Why don't you just let yourself enjoy it??"

Buford sighed. "Man, this is all just so much for me to digest. Why don't they start us out with little segments of nudity, like fifteen minutes a day, and make it voluntary—" A pair of cowboys passed by, nodding and smiling, one of whom touched the brim of his hat as he passed, fully exposed.


Buford jerked his hands in Amos's hold, trying to get free to cover himself. "No way. Stop hiding yourself, Buford. You're here, you're naked as can be, and you can have fun if you let yourself. Just do it, okay?"

Buford leaned close. "You have no idea how hard this is for me. I've always suspected that I had some kind of social anxiety disorder when it comes to my peers, but this is beyond anything I could have antici—"

"Stop thinking so damn much."

"That's not easy for me. I'm always thinking, always studying. I tend to notice everything around—is that music?"

Buford paused and listened. Sure enough, Country/Western music was trailing all through the air of the ranch. Buford had never much cared for country music, but this seemed almost soothing to him.

"Yeah, Mr. I-Notice-Everything," Amos smirked. It's only been playing constantly since you showed up. Since all day, every day. There are speakers set up throughout the entire camp. It helps add to the atmosphere." Amos rocked Buford's hands back and forth in time to the music. He sang along, very off-key, "Stand by your ma-ann..."

Buford had to smile. When he allowed Amos's kindness and the atmosphere of the odd place to get to him, he realized he really didn't feel quite as anxious. As soon as the Tammy Wynette song was over, another began, this time a contemporary male artist Buford did not recognize, who sang in an upbeat rhythm about riding his truck fast on a Saturday night. Buford could not believe he hadn't noticed the music playing before.

Energized by the new tempo of the music, Amos grasped Buford firmly by one wrist and yanked him in a new direction. "Enough with the tour. Time for you to familiarize yourself with the best part of the ranch."

"Okay." Buford let himself be tugged along by the free-spirited young cowboy, who dragged the nervous student off to a thick grove of trees, and behind some tall bushes. Buford felt the coolness of the shade and marveled at the sound of the many branches of leaves blowing gently in the warm wind. He was about to ask his new companion if they were going to lounge in the grass and catch a quick catnap when he looked at his newfound friend. Amos was down on his knees before him.

"Uh, Amos? What-what are you doing?"

Without another word of preamble, Amos was holding onto Buford's buttocks and was caressing them eagerly. Buford's heart began to pound.

"A-Amos? Whuh-what? Hey!"

Amos had pulled Buford close and was kissing his abdomen passionately. His tongue traced Buford's navel and he began to circle his attentions ever lower, to Buford's penis.

"Ay-ay-Amos! Suh-someone will see us! St-stop it!"

"No one will care," Amos muttered absently, his full attention focused on what he was doing. Before Buford could speak again, Amos's lithe fingers were pumping the redhead's cock, bringing it to full erection, his tender lips sucking on the newcomer's smooth balls.

It was all Buford could do to keep breathing, his inhalations reduced to sharp inward gasps. His mind was screaming for him to push away, to yell at Amos to stop, that this was too much, too soon, too fast. Everything that Buford knew about courting, about dating, was diametrically opposed to this kind of rash behavior. His inner voice grew ever louder, crying out that he didn't even truly know Amos, that they'd only just met, they hadn't even dated. He didn't know Amos's background, where he came from, who he was. Buford's hands flew to Amos's shoulders and took purchase there, ready to push him away.

But a softer, more reasonable, and not at all panicked voice came echoing from within Buford's mind. Let him go. Let him do this. God, it feels soooo good, cowboy. Yippee-ki-yay, pardner. It does feel really good, doesn't it? Amos's soft lips wrapped around Buford's hard member.

Aloud, in a whisper, Buford gasped out, "Ohh, yeahhh..."

Hungrily, skillfully, Amos serviced Buford's cock. His mouth ran up and down Buford's shaft, his tongue doing things that the redheaded scholar had never dreamed. Buford was holding on even tighter to Amos's shoulders, but now it was to keep from falling over, collapsing from being overcome by the incredible sensations of pleasure he was feeling.

"You like that?" Amos asked unnecessarily, speaking around Buford's engorged cock before going back to sucking away.

"Ohhhhh man...oohhhh yessss," Buford sighed, his head flopping backwards, his eyes staring up vacantly at the ocean of green leaves flowing adrift on the invisible breeze.

Buford had never felt like this before. So exposed, so helpless, so very intoxicated by everything. His every fiber was afire with the sensations sparked by Amos's dexterous tongue. Soon the view of the moving leaves was gone, as Buford squinted his eyes tight and felt himself rising to orgasm. He tried to let go of Amos's shoulders but it was as if his fingers were soldered there, unable to come free. Buford gasped loudly, his mouth wide open, the hot wind filling his mouth, drying his tongue even as Amos's grew increasingly wet and slick. The most Buford could muster was to pat Amos's shoulders with his fingertips, his palms still stuck fast to the other college boy's skin.

"Ay-ahuh—Amos—" Buford gasped, "puh-p-please—I'm gonna cum—!"

Amos only grasped Buford's behind tighter, pulling the greenhorn's pelvis closer to his mouth, his pulsing member very much trapped by the kneeling cowboy's loving mouth.

Buford's hips began to thrust and, try as he might, there was just no way that he could withhold his climax. Buford burst forth what felt to him like a river of semen, his eyes beginning to water, the trickle of sweat rolling down his back. Amos held him tightly, and before Buford could gasp out an apology for the release of his sizeable load inside the raven-haired cowboy's mouth, Buford could hear the soft, but eager gulping sound that indicated but one thing. Amos was swallowing. And from the way his soft fingers were massaging Buford's ass, it seemed clear that he was hardly doing so under duress.

Finally, both cowboys were spent, and Amos pulled away, having sucked his new friend dry, and flopped over backwards into the thick grass that carpeted the area. Buford stood there, shaken, overwhelmed, and then trembling, collapsed to his knees, and then fell over onto his back as well.

The two young cowboys lay there in the grass, basking in the afterglow, and Amos laughed to himself quietly, his voice an orchestra of delight. As the rush faded from Buford, he began to feel a pang of guilt rising up inside him, his conscience chastising him for giving in to carnal desires and behaving like a hedonist. No sooner did he feel that he was about to cry than a wave of peaceful bliss settled upon him. It was okay. He was okay. This was okay. Buford lay there, realizing how good he felt and how much he had deserved a break like this. Maybe the dean had known it was nudist ranch. And just maybe the dean knew more about what the shy and reclusive Brian needed than the honor student did himself. He needed some time away, to be a little bit of a hedonist. To be a cowboy. To be Buford.

Buford found himself humming along to the country music and then paused. Without rising from the grass, he asked, "Amos? They have music piped into the woods and bushes, too?"

"Yep. There are speakers in the trees."


"And out by the barns. And on posts by the riding range. And on stumps in the meadows."

Buford found himself laughing at the lunacy of it all. "Hey, Amos?"

"Yeah, buddy?"


Amos propped himself up on his elbows and smiled that winning lopsided smile. "Oh, you ain't seen nothin' yet."

With that, Amos sprang up and took Buford by the shoulders. "Hey! What are you doi—woooop!" Buford found himself flipped around, lying on his tummy in the soft grass. Amos was kissing his back, working his way down his smooth spine, tongue flicking its way out as it reached the crack in Buford's ass. And then went further down. Buford's body clenched, his eyes bulging wide again. His fingers dug into the grass, his eyes closed and his heart ready to surrender to the feeling as Amos's tongue probed inside him affectionately. The voice of reason inside Buford's mind hollered prudish taunts and warnings, but the softer, gentler voice urged Buford to give in to it. Humming along with the country music he formerly disliked but of which he was now growing increasingly fond, Buford followed the prodding of the latter voice, much to his enjoyment.

The afternoon sun streamed down in between the canopy of leaves above, casting spots of warmth on Mitch's bare skin, contrasting the areas where perspiration cooled upon his exposed flesh. Mitch was breathing hard, but the rhythm of his gasps was slowing, his entire body growing more relaxed as he basked in the afterglow of his encounter with his newfound friend. As Mitch lay there in the soft grass, Amos sprawled beside him, he was struck by how at peace, how happy he felt. Mitch had just lost his virginity, and it had certainly not happened in any way, shape, or setting, that he had ever imagined. And he felt surprisingly okay with that. Sure, Mitch had had boyfriends in the past, but no relationship that had ever escalated beyond making out and fooling around. There was one boy, in high school, whom he was naked in bed with, but was too nervous to do anything except cuddle, much to his embarrassment and his friend's frustration.

But here, in this secluded place and under these bizarre circumstances, it had happened. Mitch was not overcome with feelings of regret or concern, as he would have imagined. He just wanted to do it again. As soon as possible. Maybe there was something to this whole naturalist lifestyle after all.

Amos reached over and stroked Buford's hair, catching the new boy's attention. Buford looked over at his new pal to find him smiling a beautiful smile. "So, anyway," the raven-haired lad said, "I'm Amos. Nice to meet'cha."

The two boys laughed hysterically, rolling against one another in the lush grass. Buford lost himself to the fresh intoxication and rolled atop Amos, straddling him at the waist. Amos's hands lightly held Buford's slender sides, enjoying their smoothness. "And how do you do, pardner?" Amos asked.

Buford leaned forward and almost rubbed noses with the other cowboy. "You tell me." Buford looked down at Amos's exposed crotch and wondered what it would be like to take it in his mouth, right here, right now. These kind of thoughts had never come to Buford before (not when he was Mitch, anyway), but he found them both compelling and welcome.

Buford began to slide back a bit, positioning himself to go down on his new ranch mate, when the sound of a bell pierced the air.

Both young cowboys stopped what they were doing immediately. The bell sounded close by, even though it wasn't. Its chime had been projected through the hidden speakers, temporarily interrupting the country music Buford had all but forgotten was even there.

"Wh-what's that mean?" Buford asked, feeling his nervousness return.

Amos sat up. "Time for a new activity." He smacked Buford lightly on the arm, getting easily to his feet. "C'mon, let's go." He was still mostly erect, but didn't seem to care one way or the other.

"What kind of new activity?" Buford asked, fearing the worst and quite certain that even with his newfound friskiness he wasn't prepared to receive formal training in lovemaking in a group setting.

"To help make you a better cowboy, Byoof," Amos smiled. "Get a move on."

Buford clambered to his feet, his erection fading fast, but feeling the growing need to cover himself with his hands nevertheless. The two nude cowboys scampered on to whatever new adventure awaited them, although as Buford picked up on the noise of chatter and movement ahead, indicating a number of other young cowpokes heading to the same place, he found himself trying to cover himself again. Amos saw Buford lingering, as well as his hands beginning to cover himself as his pace slackened, and he reached out and grabbed hold of his new friend's hand, yanking him forward.

"Come on, man. You don't want to miss it."

Buford stepped a bit more lively, asking, "Miss what?"

Amos just grinned that beautiful grin. "Whatever's next."

Soon the duo had joined the rush of other college men, equally naked, equally topped with cowboy hats, equally happy, judging by their expressions. No one seemed to mind that they were galloping along with dick hanging. No one except Buford, anyway. Amos pulled his pal up beside him, so that they were running side by side rather than with the greenhorn trailing his new pardner. The chiming bell urged them on. For some reason, its call was hard to resist.

Buford was amazed not just by the casual air with which the other cowboys accepted their and everyone else's exposure, but by how many other friends were running along hand-in-hand, just as he and Amos were. Were they all gay? How could that be? What were the odds that everyone at this vacation getaway all had the same orientation? But Buford saw that, as one boy playfully snapped his teeth at his companion before nuzzling his neck, and as another pair shared a frisky game of keep-away as they began to fondle one another's members, it grew increasingly apparent to Buford that those who weren't gay were at the very least questioning. Buford was questioning too, but not about his sexuality. His self-conscious feelings returning, Buford let go of Amos's hand, although he still kept pace beside him. Buford smiled at his raven-haired friend, and the smile he got in return made him grow hard once more. He'd never felt this...this gay. As intoxicating, as freeing, as it was, it was also unnerving. Buford stared at the ground as they ran, trying not to think of sex, of how attractive everyone was, especially Amos, how he wanted to tackle the young cowboy and do him right there on the sandy ground.

"Hey, is it just me, or have you noticed how soft the ground is around here?" Buford asked. "I mean, I though most ranches were all, like gravel and brambles and thistles and sand burs. But it's like this place was cultivated to be easy on bare feet. Soft grass, sandy pathways, planked walks over any rough spots. Is that normal for a ranch?"

Amos plucked his hat from his head and whacked Buford in the shoulder with it. "You think too much."

Buford watched his pal place his hat smoothly back upon his head, noticing how natural the gesture looked for him, how adorable he looked in the cowboy hat. Despite the scenery, Buford did not forget his question. "Yeah, I've been told that," he mumbled.

But his question would have to wait, along with the others fast forming in his mind. He, Amos, and rest of their group had gathered at a fenced-in portion of the ranch where a burly cowhand, awaited them. He had been ringing the bell which had summoned them. As he saw the eager cowboys cluster in around him, he lowered the bell from where he held it near a small microphone, which carried its chimes over the ranch's speaker system. In short order, as the chimes faded, the ongoing country music rose in volume again, just enough to add the proper atmosphere to their new activity, whatever it was to be.

The cowhand who had summoned the boys was older than their college age. He looked to be roughly in his mid-thirties, with rugged looks and a few day's stubble on his chin. He wore a bit more clothes than the younger cowboys-in-training, though not much. He had on a brown cowboy hat, a bit more worn than anyone else's, with matching short work gloves on his hands, and a wide belt with a garish buckle which supported chaps around his legs which came to rest upon dusty boots. His physique was muscular and taut, and told of many hours of hard work outdoors. His long penis hanging between his legs told of many other things to the increasingly horny boys gathered round. The cowhand was aware of this, as he waved his hands up by his face to get everyone's attention.

"Eyes up here, boys," he said in a thick drawl, a thumb jerking toward his eyes. A few of the boys laughed, knowing he'd caught them looking. "My name's Bronson, as I realize most of you cowboys already know," he began. "But I kin see we've got at least one new greenhorn among us," and he nodded to Buford, who smiled back uncomfortably, "so I'm tellin' ya who I am anyways. Time fer some more fun."

Bronson held up a long, tightly braided rope he had looped into his gloved hand. "It's time you cowboys learned a few rope tricks. Take a gander." And with that, Bronson began twirling the rope before him, which everyone could see was now tied as a lasso, and spun the rope in a series of hypnotic circles before him, around his back, over his head, and even in a vertical pattern wide enough to step through twice, back and forth.

The naked cowboys applauded at the fancy rope work, one even put his fingers into his mouth and whistled. Bronson gathered up his own rope and began distributing a collection of other, smaller lassos to the rest of the group. He split the undressed ranchers into pairs and had them work together. Before long, with Bronson's attentive instruction to each couple, the boys were expertly twirling their own ropes in admirable Western fashion, laughing and smiling as they got the hang of it.

Buford was having some trouble. Amos was trying to help him out a bit. "I can't seem to get this," Buford said, his frustration building.

"You're trying too hard," Amos grinned. "Here, like this." He gently placed his hands atop Buford's and guided him through the easy hand motions of twirling the lasso. Buford got a little bit better with the extra help. Bronson nodded their way, flicking the brim of his hat in recognition of their teamwork.

"Everyone else seems to have it down already," Buford grumbled of himself. "It's like their pre-programmed for it or something."

"You're doing fine," Amos assured him.

There was increased laughter from off to their right, and the duo looked to see a bushy-blond cowboy entertaining his fellows by hanging his looped lasso upon his very erect penis as if it were a coat peg. He strode around with exaggerated bow legs, acting as if having a steel-hard member that could support several feet of rope was the most natural thing in the world. The others roared in amusement.

"Looks like Lantry has found his calling as a rope rack," Amos remarked.

"Lantry?" Buford said. "His name is Lantry?"

"The fellows laughing with him are Tucker, Shane, and Marshall."

Bronson stepped up just as the laughter was getting a bit too raucous. "Okay there, cowpoke, that's enough goofing around. Time to try the advanced roping lessons." And he plucked the looped rope from Lantry's dick and tossed the bundle to Shane.

"Advanced??" Buford said, alarmed. "I haven't even go this part down yet!" Amos whispered shushes into his friend's ear.

"Now Lantry," Bronson said, "you got yerself some pretty strong legs there, right boy?"

The cute blond looked down at his legs that spoke of many hours at play on the football field or track course. He nodded. "Yup. Yessir."

"Then why don't you show us how good you can run?" And Bronson began to whirl his lasso in the air above him. There was a purpose to his arm's swing, and severity to the spin that indicated that this was not going to be some simple trick. He was going to rope Lantry, just as if he were a runaway steer.

"Oh, shit-fire!" Lantry blurted, and turned to run off at full speed. Everyone but Buford laughed heartily.

"Did he just say 'shit-fire'?"

Lantry made it not more than fifty feet before Bronson's lasso encircled the young cowboy's midsection, pinning his arms to his sides. With one deft jerk of his wrist, Bronson lifted the fleeing Lantry off his feet and yanked him backward to land quite solidly upon his bare ass in the soft sand. It looked to Buford as if it might be painful—that perhaps Lantry could even be hurt—but the boy was laughing, even as he rolled in the sand. Before Lantry could even right himself, Bronson was upon him.

"This here's the fun part of rope-learnin'," Bronson explained, as his booted foot pushed against Lantry's chest, forcing his back and shoulder blades down to the ground. "The hog-tying of willful young'uns trying to take it on the lam."

With deft hands, Bronson pulled Lantry's hands together before him and speedily bound him together at the wrists. Lantry cried out, but only in between bursts of laughter.

"No! Come ON! Bronson! Man!"

In short order, moving so quickly that the other boys didn't even see it, Bronson had grabbed Lantry's legs and was already tying his ankles together. With a few more quick knots, Lantry's ankles and wrists were tied together in front of him, and the poor lad flopped over onto his side, helplessly bound, his hat rolling away in the sand.

"And thet's how you do it!" Bronson proclaimed. Everyone applauded loudly in admiration, except for Buford, who only clapped to be polite. The idea of ensnaring and binding another boy was too him an uneasy concept at best, and totally unnerving to behold.

"The rest of you, let's move on from jest twirling them lassos," Bronson said. "And let's put 'em to use. You got partners, all'a you. Whoever's got the rope in his hand already—well, you don't need another demonstration, do ya?"

And just like that, college cowboys were roping one another left and right. Some made good their first escape attempts, a couple even dodged the second, but before long, every other boy was bound and on the ground, getting wrapped in his work. Bronson had even called Shane over to show him how he'd bound his partner Lantry. before Buford could process the lunacy that was unfolding around him, he felt a rope slap around his chest, then pulling his arms tight to him as it grew taut.

"You make it too easy," Amos said. Before Buford even had a chance to feel the full flush of panic at being tied up, Amos pulled the rope back off of him. Then Amos's sandy bare foot planted on Buford's ass. "Come on, at least make a run for it."

Buford whirled around to face his newfound friend. "Amos, I'm not so sure about this. I don't really feel comfortable with being tied up."

Amos smiled. "Too bad." He then snapped the length of rope in his hand, which cracked the air. It wasn't as loud as a whip, but the point was made. Buford turned tail and ran, but he didn't get far. Before he knew what was happening, Buford's legs had stopped working as he wanted them to, and he was face-down in the dirt. As Buford tried to collect himself both physically and mentally, he realized that Amos's rope toss had gone right over his body and grew taut as it fell around Buford's legs. Buford struggled to get the rope off of his spindly legs, but Amos was already there, grabbing up his pal's arms.

"This doesn't make sense!" Buford yelled. "Why are we even doing this? Cowboys rope cattle, not each other!"

"We don't have any cows here," Amos stated, matter-of-factly. "So we hafta make do." Buford's wrists were bound incredibly tight already.

"Who teaches college kids to tie each other up?!" he cried.

"While you're complaining," Amos smiled, "I'm paying attention and getting good at this." And so he was. In record time, Amos had poor greenhorn Buford bound hand and foot, as helpless as possible, and twice as scared. Amos gave his rope a good hard tug and Buford fell backward into the dirt. Amos threw his arms into the air in a sign of victory, calling out, "And the all-time record for the cute cowboy hogtie goes to Amos!"

Buford wasn't sure if he was more furious or frightened, when he looked up at the glorious boy who towered over him. "Did you just call me cute?"

Amos was behind Buford in a second, bracing his shoulders and lifting him slightly up out of the dirt. "Man, you have no idea."

"Lookin' good! Lookin' GOOD!" Bronson hollered to everyone. "Good job, cowboys! Yer a bunch'a fast learners." Buford looked around and indeed it was true, they had all picked up their cowboys wrangling very fast. Incredibly fast. All the cowboys present either lay on the ground hog tied as they been shown, or stood beside their helpless companions with a connecting length of rope in hand. Even Shane and Lantry had switched places, and now the bushy blond cowboy had his partner tied up good and tight.

"I suppose you all know what to do now, don'tcha?" Bronson said.

Buford was the only one who spoke. "No, what?"

Everyone else did what came naturally. Or as close to natural as this strange place inspired. All the cowboy couples, those tied up and those still turned loose, began playing with one another as Bronson excused himself and departed the area. Free hands stroked bound limbs, exploring lips kissed shoulders and chests with no means of avoidance. Most boys simply sat astride their hogtied fellows and began to stroke, tease, and even suck their exposed members. Buford couldn't believe it.

"What the hell is everyone doing??" he gasped.

Amos leaned in close to his ear and answered softly, "Well, considering our recent encounter in the bushes, I'd think you already know most of it." He titled his head to the side, gazing across the enclosure. " I'm not entirely sure what Garrett and Forrest are doing. Damn, that rustler's got a long tongue."

"That's not what I mean!" Buford snarled, pulling against his bonds to no effect. " know...doing what we know..."

"Sucking each other off? Rimming? Look, Hank's rimming."

"Getting it on!" Buford offered, the least descriptive explanation he could arrive at the moment. "Doing that in secret is one thing—!"

"It's hardly a secret," Amos retorted. "Everyone does it. Everyone knows."

"Doing it out of sight then! That's one thing. But this—out in the open—in front of everybody—" Buford nudged his way toward Amos. "Untie me. Now."

"We're just breaking down our inhibitions, Buford. It's actually really healthy."

"Please just let me go. I can't do this anymore."

"We all have things about ourselves it's best to face rather than let fester inside where they can hurt us later," Amos suggested in a very reasonable voice.

"What, so I have a fear of public bondage orgies, and that's a bad thing?? Do I really need to face that? I say let it fester a while longer!"

"There are other fears and insecurities we could address here," Amos went on. His hands slid gently up and down Buford's sides, his fingertips playing lightly against his friend's bare skin. He could feel Buford shiver slightly under his soft touch. "You have anything else you're trying to avoid here?"

Buford felt his skin tingle, over his shoulders and all along his back, as Amos kept stroking his sides, then his legs, his inner thigh, oh so very tenderly. "N-no," Buford insisted, with an unsteady voice, "just the whole tied-up Western orgy boys are my major con-concern for now, thanks for asking..."

Amos's deft fingers were now making their way around the base of Buford's dick, toying with it, touching it very lightly, not quite bringing it to erection. "You sure about that?"

"I-I-I-I-I th-think so...uhuuhhhh..." Buford's eyes fluttered, then closed. He was beginning to lose himself to Amos's touch, something he both did and did NOT want to do.

"I get the distinct impression there's something else you're very afraid of, cowboy," Amos whispered in Buford's ear.

Buford swallowed, then, "Whuh-what would that be?"

Amos's hands paused at Buford's sides. "Are you ticklish?"

Buford's eyes snapped open. "Oh, no!"

"Oh yeah, pardner!" Amos said. "Yee-haw!" Amos began to mercilessly tickle Buford's sides and chest, his fingers dancing wildly around the back of his legs and rear. Buford bucked and cringed helplessly, caught in great spasms of laughter, unable to control himself.


For the next several minutes, Amos did the opposite. Buford, as it turns out, was extremely ticklish, and being naked, there was nowhere Amos's fingers couldn't reach. The bound cowboy laughed till tears streamed out of the corners of his eyes, and almost didn't notice when Amos started grasping at his cock. Even as Buford rolled on the ground, tugging uselessly at his ropes, laughing himself silly, Amos brought his pal to erection, to excitement, then to climax. Before Buford knew what was happening, he had shot all over himself, painting his chest and abs with streaks of his own boy juice.

As Buford lay back, spent, still laughing (though a bit less abandon), Amos easily and carefully undid his friend's ropes. Others around the pen were also untying their pals and exchanging roles of cowboy cattle and captor, but Buford had lost interest in them. Before Amos untied Buford's feet, he used two fingers to scoop up the long trail of semen that stretched over the new boy's torso. Amos then brought his sticky fingers to Buford's lips, offering the ejaculation to his pal. And much to Buford's own amazement, he found himself licking those fingers clean, if not eagerly, then at least happily.

With a few skilled flicks of his wrist, Amos had Buford's feet free, and then he tossed the rope to Buford, the gesture a playful challenge. Still lying on the ground, Buford grabbed up his hat, placing it back upon his head with purpose. he then grabbed the lasso and locked eyes with the standing Amos. "You better run," Buford warned. And Amos did. Buford was on his feet and twirling the lasso with more ability than he though he had. As Amos found the rope around him, and himself brought to the ground, both he and Buford were laughing. In the background, the constant stream of music egged them on with choruses about rawhide, urging the young cowboys to head 'em up and move 'em out.


In between their planned activities, Buford found it easier to walk hand-in-hand with Amos, if only for the fact that everyone else was doing at least that, or more. Amos strolled along beside his new pal, apparently oblivious to the fact that the other naked ranch-goers had no trouble fondling one another, nibbling necks or ears, or caressing each other as they walked along. Buford was well aware, however.

"Man, nobody has the slightest trouble showing signs of affection around here, do they?"

Amos grinned, swinging his hand back and forth with a bit more enthusiasm, taking Buford's hand with him. "Yeah, it's cool, isn't it?"

"I don't have a big problem with public displays of affection," Buford said. "At the university, I have no problem with couples of any orientation holding hands or even sharing kisses in the halls, but's all a bit much, isn't it? Granted, no one at college ran round naked."

"But isn't it great to be able to just totally be yourself, to explore that, to really enjoy it?" Amos asked. "Without having to worry about hiding how you feel, without having to pretend to be something you're not for the benefit of strangers?"

Buford adjusted his hat, musing, "Yeah...stripped naked, dressed in Western hats and bandanas, given cowboy names, all so we don't have to pretend to be something we're not." Buford noticed then that he was adjusting his hat with both hands. He looked at Amos, who was smiling more broadly. "Dude, you have you're hand on my ass."

"Yeah, it's great, isn't it?"

Buford had to admit, if only to himself, that yeah, maybe it was.


The last activity of the day was learning to ride horseback. Many of the cowboys had already been through a lesson or two, but this was entirely new to Buford. Amos remained at his side as Bronson talked him through how to use to the reins, how to signal to his steed which way to turn, when to move forward, when to stop. Buford actually took to the reigns far more easily than he ever would have guessed. the thing that threw him was that all the boys were being taught to ride bareback. No saddles in sight.

"I'm afraid I'm gonna fall off," Buford confided to Amos, who stood beside the horse his friend was astride.

"You're not gonna fall off," Amos assured him. "Just do like Bronson told us. And if you think maybe you're tilting this way or that, you can always brace yourself using your horse riding kickstand."

"My what?" Buford asked. "What kickstand?"

Amos grabbed Buford's penis. "This little guy." One quick stroke and Buford was fully erect (where was he getting the energy?). "Whoa! Not so little anymore!" Amos laughed.

"Amos! Don't do that!"

"Sorry. Did I hurt you?"

"No! Er,'s just a little...distracting."

"I can imagine it would be. You're damn near as big as ol' Bronco here. Let's ride."

And so they did. Buford took to horse riding with such ease that you'd never know that all he had ridden in the past was a library study carrel. Before long, he was not only rid of his fears of remaining upright, but was even riding tall as his horse hopped over small hurdles and planks. By the end of the lesson, many of the boys, Buford and Amos included, were riding two at a time, spooned tightly together as their steeds trotted along. Lantry and Shane, who had been there perhaps the longest, sat atop their horse facing one another, Lantry's astride backwards and Shane holding the reigns on either side of his cowboy companion. Both were very obviously erect, the sight of which was doing very little to ease Buford's own stiff member. As they all rode about, much to Bronson's pleased encouragement, the nearby speakers spat out the tinny echo of a song about a backwoods girl who cared not where her truck-driving boyfriend took her, as long as the radio blasted good and loud.


By day's end, everyone was pretty filthy. But unlike the gritty, unwelcome grime of the long road into the ranch, this was more like the playful dirt that coated any kid happy to be free for the summer. Playground dirt, grass from the ball field, spat up gravel from a daring bicycle race. Each naked cowboy wore his dusty and smeared skin stains as a sign of how much fun they'd had that day. Even Buford had to laugh at his condition.

The troupe of college cowpokes were led to an outdoor shower area, where simple garden hoses were strung in trees above a series of planked walks. With a pull of a string, each boy underneath the hose of his choice could douse himself with a cool, cleansing gush of water that fell as soft as summer rain. Most boys paired up, leaving most of the shower heads free. The term shower head was something of a misnomer, as all they consisted of were garden hoses with attached spray nozzles set to gentle shower. But they worked well enough.

Amos stood with Buford and as he helped his newfound pal clean up, making use of the community jug of liquid soap that was passed along, their eyes met. Buford stood frozen, gazing into the beautiful eyes of the boy who had befriended him so readily. Amos had been soaping Buford's shoulders, but he stopped then, lather sudsing up over his hands, excess bubbles and foam dropping lightly to the planks below.

"I guess come tomorrow," Buford said, "if another, greenhorn shows up, you'll be off to train him, or, uh, give him the tour, huh?" Amos grinned awkwardly, but said nothing. "But then, since I'm the greenhorn, I guess that means I have to do it, right?"

Amos ran his hands through Buford's sopping wet hair, lightly brushing a strand off his forehead and away from his eyes. "Naw. We can let someone else do it."

Buford continued to stare at Amos's eyes, his soft face, his kind smile, a while longer. Then he slowly turned around and let his beautiful new friend get his back.


Dinner took place in the mess hall, or main barracks, or whatever the proper cowboy term for it was. The entire group sat on benches on either side of a single long table that stretched most of the length of the wooden hall. Bronson sat at one end of the long table, and Clem, who had turned up suddenly just as half-dressed as Bronson, took his seat at the opposite end of the table. Two other strapping adult cowboys helped serve the meal, each of whom wore only their own hats and cowboys boots, but were slightly less exposed for the large aprons they wore over their fronts, which did nothing to hide their naked asses when they turned around. One of the servers was Earl, whom Buford remembered from the locker room earlier. The other was a more slender man with a longer face, and dark stringy hair that was worn a bit too long in back for Buford's tastes. He had about two days beard growth on his chin, and his eyes strayed to the handsome young cowboys he was serving more than to where he was setting the trays of food. Something about him gave Buford the creeps. "That's Virgil," Amos told him. "He gives everybody the creeps. But he's nice enough, though."

Buford soon forgot about creepy cowboy waiters when their meal was placed before them. The food, or "grub," as it was called was excellent. It was nothing fancy, meat (roast beef, chicken), potatoes and gravy, baked beans, green beans, and corn. And to drink it was either water or milk. They really pushed the milk. Except for one kid who they let guzzle just water. By the jug. Buford felt that in many ways it was a lot like a church potluck. Except for everyone in attendance being buck naked.

During the meal, Amos, who'd taken his seat beside Buford, kept reaching over and resting his hand on Buford's inner thigh. It was distracting as hell, but Buford never did tell him to knock it off. He wasn't entirely sure why.

Dinner conversation was unlike anything Buford had ever experienced. Not even at the various summer camps he'd gone to as a boy. Most of the cowboys who'd been there the longest shared stories of the different ways and locations they'd screwed around, gotten jiggy in the swimmin' hole or on shooting range or wherever—sometimes even using multiple partners. It was doubly odd as the music being piped in to the mess hall had shifted to the softer strains of female country stars, singing of how they'd always love their man, or of unfaithful lovers who talk in their sleep.Dinner music, Buford surmised.

"This is just a little bizarre," Buford said to Amos, his mouth still partly full of potatoes.

"You said it," Amos agreed. "Can't believe I forgot all about the swimmin' hole. Gotta take you there tomorrow."

Buford was going to reiterate what he really meant, but elected not to. The corn was too darn good. He spooned more into his mouth rather than chitchat.


The cowboys closed their day out on the grasses around a couple campfires. The stars stretched wide above them, the nude cowboys huddled close together and leaned in toward the dancing flames for warmth as the cool evening nipped at their bare skin. It was quiet. This was the first time all day that the constant stream of recorded country music had been stilled. Either they were too far away from any of the ranch's speakers, or they had simply been shut off for the night.

There were two ranch hands present, as with at dinner in the mess hall. But here, rather than have one at each end of the a long table, there was one at each campfire. Clem sat with the cowboys around the fire some twenty feet away, Bronson stayed with the group where Buford and Amos were. As Amos put his arm around Buford, the newcomer realized how still everything was without the soundtrack, without the chatter they'd shared at their evening meal. it was almost eerie.

"Anyone have a good ghost story?" Buford suggested. "Ghost riders in the sky, maybe?" A couple of the other cowboys laughed at that.

"Naw, we cowboys don't tell ghost stories come nighttime," Bronson said. "We sing songs." He reached behind himself and produced a guitar. Even as he strummed its strings, getting the tune he wanted, Buford could swear he heard harmonica music rising from some indeterminate point to accompany the naked cowboy guitarist. Then Buford glanced over at the other campfire and saw Clem's silhouette against the flames, his arms up to his mouth, his fingers moving skillfully around his chin. No doubt their group was getting the benefit of his musical expertise.

Bronson began to strum the guitar, and for some reason, the college cowboys gathered 'round all paid attention. Things had been rather quiet anyway, but suddenly all eyes were on the camp leader. "Now, you all just feel free to join in if'n you know this one," he suggested.

As Bronson began to play, something happened to Buford. The rest of the world outside their intimate campfire seemed to fall away. Even the nearby harmonica music of Clem's neighboring campfire faded quickly away and was soon unheard. And Buford could see by the entranced faces of every other boy around the circle that he was not alone in his rapt attention of their camp leader's simple strumming. And Bronson began to sing.

My love is a rider, wild horses he breaks,
But he promised to quit it all just for my sake;
He sold off his saddle, his spurs, and his rope,
And there'll be no more riding, and that's what I hope.

 "Join in now, fellas," he prompted, and before he had a chance to say that he didn't know the tune, Buford found himself joining in, along with every other nude cowboy present.

The first time I saw him was early last spring,
A-riding a bronco, a high-headed thing;
He laughed and he talked as they danced to and fro
He promised he'd not ride no other bronco.

Buford could not explain it, but the lyrics came as naturally to him as breathing. He didn't know how he knew this old Western song, nor how he was certain that its title was "The Bucking Bronco". Had it been playing amongst the ongoing loop of recorded music that had been piped throughout the ranch all day, and he'd unconsciously picked up in it? Had he heard it as a child, perhaps sung it in grade school music class, and merely forgotten it until now? Both explanations seemed far-fetched, and the more he sang along, the less Buford found that he cared. He looked out at the circle of handsome young cowboys, their smiling faces and naked bodies lit a warm orange by the glow of the campfire light, and everyone was joining in with the tune, following Bronson's lead. Buford and all the rest of them sang all sixteen verses flawlessly. And it felt great.

"Not bad, fellas," Bronson said after the song. "You done good." Everyone exchanged proud grins after that, feeling a sense of joy and accomplishment at having not only rendered that archaic ditty so well, but having pleased their camp leader in the process. Amos looked over to Buford, and the two of them felt an overwhelming sense of pleasure at having sung together, at having this moment to share.

"Let's go on and try another, fellas," Bronson suggested. And they did. The sang Back In The Saddle Again, Bury Me Not On the Lone Prairie, and Clementine. Everyone knew all the words, all the melodies. By the second song, Buford and Amos were no longer looking to Bronson for his lead, nor looking at any of the other cowboys. They were looking only at each other. Amos rested his hand upon Buford's bare leg, and Buford rested his own hand atop Amos's, lest he remove it unbidden. They sang Cowboys Dream together.

Last night as I lay on the prairie and looked at the stars in the sky,
I wondered if ever a cowboy could drift to that sweet by and by.
The road to that bright happy region is a dim narrow trail so they say,
While the broad one that leads to perdition
Is posted and blazed all the way.

And when they reached the chorus of "Roll on, roll on, roll on little dogies roll on," Buford felt a spark of something he could not define pass between he and Amos. He could see in his friend's eyes that Amos could feel it, too. They sang the last verse with their minds and mouths on automatic.

They say He will never forget you, that He knows every action and look.
Play it safe you had better get branded, your name in the great tally book.

It was hardly a tearful ballad, but for some reason, Amos's eyes began to well up, and he had to pause to wipe his eyes with the back of his hand. Amos looked at Buford, and Buford looked back at Amos. The energy, the chemistry between them was undeniable. They began to move slowly toward one another, their lips poised to meet, and neither college cowboy wanted anything more than to lose himself to the other's embrace.

"Well, I expect it's time all we ranch folk done call it a night! What say?"

Bronson's abrupt announcement shattered the mood. Buford and Amos found themselves snapped out of the intense moment they'd been sharing, and turned back suddenly to look at their ranch ranger, who was already beginning to scoop sand onto the fire to extinguish it. All around the campfire, the other cowboys were starting to rise to their bare feet unsteadily, some stretching and shrugging, as if having been roused from a comfortable nap. Buford glanced over to the other campfire and saw that Clem's group was similarly afflicted, their own exit equally sluggish.

Buford started to get up, too, but almost fell backwards, as one will when trying to rise after being deeply asleep. But is that something one experiences after having sat around a campfire singing old songs? Buford felt himself being caught by a pair of tender hands.

"Careful," said Amos. "The heat from the fire can make you groggy. But it does get you ready for bed." Buford simply nodded sheepishly. He was feeling very tired.

"This was good," Amos said. "Us singing together, spending some quiet time." Then he amended, "I mean, all of us. As campers. Spending time like this. It felt good." Buford could only nod dumbly. Indeed, he did feel very, very good.

Buford was fading fast went he entered the bunkhouse along with the rest of the boys. It was an elongated wooden lodge with a simple row of cushioned wooden cots secured to the floor, stretching twelve to a row, one on each side of the hall. The bedding was a simple affair, each bed boasting a thick, heavy wooden headboard which framed a single overstuffed feather pillow, a single white sheet, and an olive drab wool blanket. Each wooden bunk had a small plate at the foot of each bed indicating where each respective cowboy was to sleep. At this point, Buford was so tired and felt so warm and contented that he would've been happy to collapse anywhere on the floor.

Amos shuffled all the way to the end of the right-hand row and pointed to the empty bed second to the end. "You're here," he said, apparently to no one.

Buford made his way down the rows, glancing eagerly for his name tag on one of the bunks, finding only the names of the other cowboys. Lantry. Shane. Colton. Emmett. Dawson. Hoss. Cooper. Buford began to groan, wanting only to fall into bed and sleep like a rock. Amos stood before the bunk at the end of the row and grunted. "Uh! Byoof!"

Buford shambled over to him to see that the bun bore his name. Buford. "Thisiss yourss," he slurred, falling then into the bed beside it, the farthest one on the end, marked Amos. Lying in bed, fading fast, Amos lay face-down atop his blanket, and mumbled out the side of his mouth, "Glad you getta bunk nex'a mine, buddy. S'eeptight."

Buford found himself saying, "Youtooo," as he fell backwards into the soft and surprisingly comfortable cot. Buford knew he was seconds away from deep sleep, and could already hear his newfound cowboy buddy begin to softly saw logs with his gentle snore. As the cobwebs spun around Buford's head, he could almost swear that he saw, from the corner of his eye, Amos rise slightly, almost robotically, and roll over onto his back. As soon as he was there, his snoring began anew, his breathing deep and rhythmic.

Buford was beginning to wonder if he'd even have the strength to pull his blankets over his naked body, when it seemed as if his head sank deeper into his fluffy pillow. It felt so good that being covered for the night no longer seemed to matter. In fact, his entire body felt as good as his supported head.

Buford felt his bare feet begin to relax, to loose all tension, then his legs, then his buttocks and crotch, then his midsection, then blackness, then peace.

The following morning was heralded by the clanging sound of some sadistic bastard whanging away on a metal triangle. Clem's voice echoed from somewhere beyond the community bunkhouse. "Up and at 'em fellers! Breakfast will be up in fifteen minutes! Rouse yerselves!"

Groans and complaints filtered around the bunkhouse as the many cowboys tried in vain to pull themselves from their beds.

"What the hell do we need to get up so early for when we're on vacation?" Lantry bemoaned.

"Yeah, it's not like we have to make time to get dressed 'r anything," Cooper added, his comment getting a few chuckles and "hell yeah"s from some of the other bushed cowpokes.

One toffee-haired lad, Gilroy, reached up to his bedpost, snatched up his cowboy hat that ha been perched there, plopped it atop his head and fell face-first back into his bunk. "There. M'ready. Wake me in fifteen minnits." he was instantly snoring again.

Every one of the young cowboys seemed to be something less than a morning person. Buford, who ordinarily enjoyed an early rise and a chance to hit the books or the study halls when they were truly silent, found himself challenged to pull himself from his bunk. He looked over to Amos, who seemed similarly afflicted, but with a bit more practice in pulling himself together.

"God, I ache," Buford said.

"Yeah, we all do," Amos grimaced. "It's natural."

Buford put his feet gingerly on the floor and felt a dull pain in his knees. His lower back issued a small but sharp spark of discomfort as well, and he could swear that even the palms of his hands felt raw. "This is normal?" Buford complained.

"Look around," Amos said, by way of explanation. And sure enough, all around the bunkhouse, the formerly frisky ranch goers creaked and staggered their naked bodies along at a snail's pace.

"Man, I'm sore."

"My ass is killing me."

"My mouth is so fucking dry."

"Anyone else's elbows hurt?"

"Feels like my dick's gonna fall off. Ow."

Buford turned back to Amos, who had managed to sit up in bed, though he looked the worse for the attempt. "And this is normal??" Buford demanded.

"Dude," Amos said, which sounded more like a country moniker than like a beach boy's affectation coming from the raven-haired cowboy, "what were we doing all day yesterday? What does everyone at this ranch do all day? Riding horses, riding each other. Is it any wonder we feel sore first thing in the morning?"

Buford paused and realized that his aches and pains did indeed bear the unshakable resemblance to a bit too much sexual adventure. Whish is just what he'd had. He sighed, and confessed aloud, "You got a point there." Then he pondered, "How the hell do you get over it? The serving Motrin omelettes in there or something? How do you get back to normal."

The blond Lantry passed Buford by, his hat atop his head as he already readjusted his bandana 'round his neck. "You do it again," he grinned, and slapped Buford playfully on the ass.

"Hey!" Buford yelled. Lantry seemed unaffected by the outcry.

Amos was rubbing the back of neck and reaching for his black Stetson. "He is right about that, you know."

"Slapping my ass like that??" Buford said.

"No, the best way to work out the kinks." And he flashed that wonderful smile. "We do it again."

Garrett, the cowboy with the trim brush cut, standing beside his bunk directly across from them, was already back in his tan cowboy hat and fastening his bolo tie around his neck. "And again," he smirked. "And again."

Buford let out a defeated sigh. "At least let me eat first."

Amos strolled past him, his stiff morning wood saluting the new day. "No hurry." And as Amos passed his pal, he too smacked him on the ass. Harder than Lantry had, but somehow Buford didn't mind it as much.


The young cowboys seemed to have forgotten their overnight aches and pains as their breakfast feast was laid out before them in the mess. Buford was expecting a few stacks of pancakes, or perhaps some oatmeal, but what greeted him and his fellow nude ranchers was a hefty amount of bacon, sausages, ham steaks, biscuits and gravy, toast and marmalade, scrambled eggs, a bevy of fruit juices, and plenty of hot coffee.

"Damn, they don't want us to go hungry at all, do they?" Buford observed.

Amos, along with the others in attendance, was too busy filling his plate and subsequently his face to think much about it. "I love breakfast," he said, making short work of some sausage patties. Buford agreed that the meal was not only bountiful, but extremely tasty. But not so tasty as to usher away all the questions that had building up for him since yesterday.

"There's still one thing I wonder about," Buford began.

"Oh, there's apple juice and grape juice besides the orange," Amos interjected.

"Not about the juices," Buford frowned. "Though the grape does look good. Pass that over here." As Buford poured, he couldn't help but dwell on how happy he felt, just being here, just being a cowboy, just being totally naked. He blinked, shook his head a moment. No, he was thinking about something important a minute ago. What was it? Oh, yeah...

"Amos," Buford began again, "what exactly do the people who run this ranch get out of this?"

"How do you mean?"

"Well, this is hardly an inexpensive operation, even considering that there's no expense for authentic western clothing. But the ranch, the distant locale, the facilities, the ranch teachers and overseers, this incredible, over-the-top meal menu. It's all gotta cost a pretty penny."

"Yeah, so?"

"Well, what do they get in return? My Dean never mentioned how much it cost to send me here? Do you know how expensive enrollment is?"

Amos shook his head. "You gonna eat that sausage?"

"Yes, hands off. There's a full plate not six inches away, you pig."

Amos giggled as he speared another two sausages from the nearby serving tray with his fork. Buford shook his head, a smart remark about Amos's breakfast appetite matching his sexual one when he forced his mind back on track. "Wait, let's not lose sight of this."

"Sight of what?" Amos asked. he'd already lost track.

Buford barreled on ahead anyway. "Here we are, nearly two dozen college boys—it is two dozen of us, right?"

"Twenty-two, actually," Amos corrected. "I hear two of them are running late or something. More juice?"

Buford trapped the side of his already empty glass with his fork. "Hit it. So, we've got twenty-two college-age cowboys running around naked, having sex like rabbits in heat, singing songs and playing games. To what end?"

"To what end?" Amos repeated. "Does anyone really talk like that?" Buford just frowned at him. It was clear he needed an answer.

"Okay, what did you Dean say when he shipped you off here?" Amos asked.

"That I needed to socialize more. I don't think he meant sans wardrobe though—"

"Your Dean know you're gay?"

"Well, yeah, everyone does, but—"

"Ever been laid before?"

Buford flinched a it at that, suddenly feeling a need to poke around at everything on his plate. He mumbled something under his breath.

"How was that?" Amos asked. "Didn't quite catch that."

Buford repeated himself. "Yes. Well, no, I never gotten, or been with...once, I guess. Almost."

"Okay, me neither," Amos said back. "So we've got this incredible ranch where all us guys—obviously all gay, or at least bi-curious—presumably all wall flowers and homebodies like us get to let it all hang out—"

"Literally," Buford interrupted.

"Yup, literally, and finally come into our own—"

"We come into anybody who'll sit still for five minutes."

Amos went on as if he hadn't been interrupted that time, "We can come into our own, not in some random setting, but in a safe, controlled environment where we can pretend and role-play and get our courage up. Then take it back out into the real world. I don't know about you, but I was too bashful to even offer anybody the correct time before I came here."

Buford liked that explanation, as unlikely as it felt to him. "But why cowboys? Why a distant ranch? Why—"

"Cowboys are traditional American heroes who've grown a pair and don't shy away from a challenge. And a distant ranch does a pretty good job of keep us all from getting arrested for indecent exposure. I mean, talk about obvious."

"So why have us be naked at all? What adults encourage anybody, of age or otherwise, to have sex like this?"

"Man, you really do think too damn much. I like it here. It feels good. Everything we do feels good. Just enjoy it, why don't you? You want your toast?"

Buford was still trying to absorb Amos's advice. Did he think too much? Was he afflicted with some aversion to letting himself have fun? He shoved his toast tot he far side of his plate. "No, you can have it."

The crispy buttered bread was in Amos's hand and in his mouth in a second. "I love this song," Amos said. Buford had not even noticed until then that the recorded country music that created such a rustic atmosphere to the Rod & Double-Circle Ranch was once again coming through the hall speakers, and most likely throughout the entire camp.

The morning's music echoing through the mess hall carried the strains of a twangy full-grown country boy who yearned to live life to its fullest, shine like the sunrise, fly like a bird, roll like a stone, etc. The upbeat tune did as much if not more than the plentiful food to perk up a lot of the young cowboys who only a half hour ago were complaining of their aches and pains like little old men. Buford decided to let his questions drop for the moment, as he tapped his foot under the table in time to the music. Man, these eggs really were good.

The morning's events were sufficiently fun-filled that Buford hadn't the time to dwell on any of his prior concerns. He, Amos, and most of the other boys headed up to a swimmin' hole (no "g") where they took skinny dipping to a whole new level, leaving their hats and bandanas on the shore are they leapt from the shore or swung from a long rope to the center of the deep pond. Buford only fretted swimming so soon after eating momentarily before being caught up in the addictive horseplay. It was less than two minutes of leaping and splashing before the soaked cowboys were having sex underwater, blowing one another on the shore amidst the tall grass, or humping atop an old log half-submerged on the far side of the pond. Amos had Buford lying down in the shallows, his eager member sliding in and out of Buford's crack, teasing him while delaying entry, driving the redheaded scholar crazy with anticipation.

Half of the cowboys were missing in action, and after an hour of watery frolic, Buford found out where they'd been.

"Okay, let's switch off, fellers," Clem called, and the boys who'd been in the swimming hole came up onto the sun-parched dry land, their places in the water taken by other half of the group. Then Buford, Amos, and company made their way to another area not far away, a beautiful stream alive with fish. Cowboys hats and bandanas back in place, the naked college boys slipped on unlined rubber hip waders and waded into the flowing stream waters to try their hands at casting for a potential lunch.

Buford and his pals had about as much luck landing a fish as the previous group had—which is to say not at all—but there was something wonderfully fun about sloshing around in the stream waters in the big hip boots, everything else on the cowboys' bodies hanging out in the open.

A few jokes passed between the boys about the potential dangers of snagging one's penis on the flying lures and fish hooks, but that peril was avoided, as most of the fisherman quickly forgot their intended prey and turned instead upon each other. The waders meant to keep water out quickly filled up with the froth and bubbles of the stream as fishing cowboys knelt before one another in service, or sat right down in the stream, the waters running into the tall hip boots and weighing their occupants down as they fondled each other's biological rods rather than their lures and reels.

It was an hour or so before lunch when all of the cowboys were gathered by Clem and brought to Bronson on the shooting range. Bottles, cans, and old jars were lined up along a series of upturned hay bales, and each pair of boys was entrusted with an old-time Western six-shooter.

"We've seen how you boys can rope, now let's see if you can shoot like real cowboys," Bronson said.

"Good God," Buford whispered to Amos, "he's not going to make us shoot each other, is he?"

In fact, Bronson talked the boys through a very careful study of how to properly handle their firearms, how to load them, and how to properly aim and fire. "Now nobody stand anywhere but behind your partner when he's shootin'," Bronson warned. "We don't want nobody distracted or gettin' shot at." Buford eyes Bronson's considerable member swinging in front of him like an elephants' trunk and tried his best not to be distracted, though he was at this point oblivious of where anyone else was standing.

Amos didn't do half bad. He winged the hay bale at first, then came close to one of the bottles, shot another one. "Hey, this is more fun that you might guess," he said, handing the gun to Buford. Buford took it gingerly.

"It's heavier than I thought it'd be."

"Cowboys aren't wussies," Bronson said, as he past behind the duo. "Even us gay ones. Don't let the weight throw you. Just hold it with both hands like I told'ja. You'll do fine."

Buford's hands shook a bit as he lifted the six-shooter. He said over his shoulder to Amos, standing behind him, I've never even held a gun before. Mom wouldn't even let us play with cap guns, on principle."

"You want me to help steady your arm?" Amos offered, his tender fingers creeping down Buford's arm, making go instantly hard.

"Th-that's a whole other distraction," Buford said. "Let me try it on my own first."

Amos stepped back. "Suit yourself."

Buford took a deep breath and felt a certain clarity wash over him. He aimed his revolver at the targets far ahead of him and pulled the trigger. A bottle shattered. Buford fired again. A can spun wildly away, a trail of smoke twirling off its fractured side. He fired again. A mayonnaise jay burst into a million pieces. Again. Another longneck bottle went kerplooey. Once more. Then another can spun backward, dented by the impact.

Buford staggered back, uncertain of what had just happened. Smoke billowed out of the barrel of the revolver he held in his hand, sweat beaded on his forehead beneath the wide brim of his cowboy hat.

"Holy shit!" Amos exclaimed. "I thought you said you never fired a gun before!"

"I—I haven't," Buford gasped.

"That was incredible!"

Bronson walked up to Buford and placed an admiring hand upon his shoulder as he took the revolver with the other. "Looks like the kid's a natural," Clem grinned.

"I-I don't understand it," Buford said. He really had never even touched a gun before, much less fired one. He had no explanation for his unerring aim and deadeye skill.

Bronson walked over to Clem, who had been collecting the guns from the other young cowboys. "Looks like l'il Buford's a quick study," Bronson said.

Clem smirked. "Vaughn said he would be. Guess he can pick 'em, alright."

Before Buford could add the identity of this mysterious Vaughn to his ever-growing list of questions, Clem hollered to everyone present. "That's all for our organized activities for this mornin'! You got yourselves a little while afore lunch break. I suggest you have fun with it! Off ya go now!"

None of the cowboys needed any further prodding. They all peeled off in various directions, most of them in pairs, leaving only Amos tugging at Buford's arm trying to get him to leave behind his mental ponderings along with the shooting range.


Most of the boys split off to their various favorite rendevous points. Behind the old wagons, beneath the willows, nearby the riding trails. Amos just pulled Buford along, not really bent on any particular destination, but quite certain his raging hard-on would lead them someplace special. As Amos's eyes scanned the ranch for a vacant spot prime for a quick screw, Buford did his best to keep his mind off his own engorged erection by taking note of the ranch workers busy around the area. For some reason, Buford felt he shuld know who was who.

Bronson, of course, they'd left behind back at the shooting range. Clem was gathering up fishing equipment that went pretty much unused back at the stream. A couple other men were moving around near the mess hall, no doubt getting ready for lunch service. One was the man Buford recognized from his arrival here, as the one working the welcome desk who first informed Buford about his cowboy name. He was now as pantsless as the rest of them, wearing only cowboy hat and vest as he carried what looked like bulk boxes of food around the back of the mess. Buford recalled overhearing at last night's dinner that his name was Gunther.

Buford noticed another, larger man, helping around the kitchen door of the mess as well, and recognized him as the muscular cowhand that had pushed Buford out onto the grounds and into this adventure. His dress habits remained the same from when he'd encountered him in th elocker room.

"Say, that's that Earl guy, isnt it?" he asked.

Amos glanced back only for a second. "Yeah, I think that's his name. Why?"

"No reason." Buford still spotted no one who might be the aforementioned Vaughn. But as Amos stepped up his pace (he had spotted a place that was not already occupied by some of the other horny cowboys), a worker whom Buford had not seen before caught his eye. He was over by the cattle barn—or stables, or whatever th eproper term was—an area that most of the young cowboys shyed away from, for whatever reason. The worker was not much older than the naked cowboys. Perhaps in his mid-twenties, tops. And he was just plain gorgeous. Blond hair that hung in straight bangs almost to his eyes, boyish face, taut muscular build, and golden tanned skin. His muscle definition was accented admirably as his hefted various equipment—harnesses, branding irons, large buckets—around the side of the stables. And there was something else about this worker that took Buford by surprise. He was wearing pants. If you could call them that. They were worn, ripped blue jeans, very faded from wear, with shredded pant cuffs that hovered and flapped aove his knees. On the working boy's feet was a pair of equally well-worn rubber knee boots, possibly green, possibly gray. Buford imagined that if the guy had to slog through cattle stables, he wouldn't want to go barefoot.

Buford nudged Amos, who was zeroing in on a good-sized shrubbery that would provide effective cover for a romantic interlude behind it. "Amos, who is that?"

"Aw, will you stop looking around at stuff that doesn't help us get off—" then he stopped. "Oh, yeah. Him. That's Jesse. He's, like, the ranch gofer or stable boy or whatever. He's incredibly hot. We can think about him while we do it, if you want."

"He's the only one here wearing pants."

"I know, it's a crime, isn't it? He'd look pretty damn good naked. Maybe even better if he left the stable boots on. That'd be hot."

"So we have cattle here, as well as the horses?" Buford asked.

"No, just the horses, far as I know."

Buford scrunched his brow. "So they keep horses in that stable sometimes, then?"

Amos shook his head. "No, I think they pretty much keep them just in the barn on the other side of the ranch."

"So no manure in that barn, then," Buford mused. "So what does hot Jesse need those big rubber boots for?"

Amos laughed. "Probably to give us something to stare at to get us hot and bothered! Come on already!" Amos yanked his cowboy companion behind the shrubs.

"Yeah, but—WHULPP!"

In another few moments, Buford had forgotten why he was so concerned about Jesse's boots, the stables, or anything else. For a moment, anyway.


The two young cowboys slowly gathered their breath after an exhaustive session of 69ing behind the shrubs. Buford was sitting up, gasping for breath, feeling the heady rush of their exchange, and Amos was already on his feet, charged and ready to go. He readjusted his black Stetson atop his head, gazing out over the top of the greenery behind which they'd done the deed.

"Did you hear the dinner bell? Did we miss lunch?"

"Well, it may not be that big a deal, us having just taken in all that protein...," Buford offered.

Amos grabbed his buckaroo buddy by the hand and pulled him to his feet. "C'mon! Let's head on over to the mess. If we did miss the start of lunch, we may still be on time to get some chow."

If Buford and Amos were running late, they were not alone. The other cowboys were equally distracted with one another and their own salacious activities. Three boys sat upon the old wagon sucking and licking, two more entertained themselves while leaning against one of the posts of the storefront porch awning. Other cowboys peppered the landscape under the trees and against the old shed halfway between there and the mess hall. Buford smiled, having almost gotten used to this sight of naked college cowboys showing their affections for one another, or at least their lust. But then something else caught this eye.

It was Virgil, the creepy guy from the mess hall. He stood there in all his glory, or absence of same, with his stringy, greasy hair dangling from his beat-up cowboy hat, with only an unbuttoned sleeveless plaid shirt on his back, and old hiking boots on his feet, heavy wool socked rolled down into tight cuffs atop them. He was ogling all the handsome young lads as they went about their daily frolicking, and he was clearly pleased with what he saw. In fact, he was beating off to it. As he stood in the middle of the main road.

"Sweet Jesus," Buford gasped. For the first time since the day before, he felt an overwhelming urge to cover himself with his cowboy hat. He did so.

Amos came up behind his pal and rested a hand on his shoulder. "Byoof, you know that's just Virgil. We already decided he was creepy."

Buford looked at his friend as if he were insane. "Are you nuts? He's whacking off to the sight of us!"

"Can you blame him?" Amos asked, and began to nibble Buford's neck.

"Yeah, I can!" Buford snapped. "That is beyond creepy, that's just gross. That guy, ten, fifteen years our senior, jacking off to us as we walk around—"

"Jacking each other off," Amos pointed out. "Or more than that."

"Still!" Buford persisted. "Us all doing each other is one thing, but to have this weirdo spying on us while we do it...hell, doesn't that seem sick to you?"

"He's harmless. And he's never approached any of us," Amos shrugged, continuing to nibble his friend's neck from behind. "You get used to him."

But Buford didn't want to. The disturbing sight of the homely older man watching the various college boys as one would online porn left him unnerved, and merely underlined how bizarre and unnatural this entire setup was. And perhaps that was it. The entire ranch setup could well be nothing more than a very expensive, elaborate way for those who ran it to get off, watching its participants while under the guise of helping them overcome their shyness. And this sleazy Virgil fellow was simply the least discreet about it.

Buford was about to push away from his newfound cowboy friend and lover (or fuck buddy, more accurately) and ask to be escorted off the ranch, have his clothes returned, and go back to school. Until the dinner bell split the air.

"Lunch!" Amos said, suddenly excited.

The ranch suddenly came alive as the remaining twenty cowboys appeared from all areas. Cowboy lads leapt out from behind sheds, from under tress and bushes, from underneath the old wagon. As they scampered toward the mess hall, they brushed one another off, quickly wiping dust away from knees, leaves off backs, and other substances off chins, lips, and other regions. The stampede of naked cowboys ran right past Virgil, none of whom seemed to care a whit about the dirty-minded cowboy who never stopped stroking himself as the happy young men ran past, their members bouncing freely before them.

Amos tugged at Buford's arm and shoulders. "Come on, buddy! We gonna let everyone else eat all the grub?"

Buford followed the rest of the stampede, but took care to keep his hat over his privates until he'd made it indoors.


Lunch was wonderful and filling, as with all the meals at the Rod & Double-Circle. It was apparent that those in charge definitely wanted their cowboys to keep their strength up.

After the midday meal, the cowboys were rounded up out front of the mess and greeted by both Bronson and Clem. Virgil was nowhere in sight, for which Buford was eternally grateful.

"Today's a special day," Bronson announced, "in that we get to do something that we ain't had a chance to do yet, not even with those of you who've been here with us at the ranch the longest. We're all of us heading up to the cattle stables fer a special treat!"

One of the cowboys spoke up. It was Gilroy. "When I first got here, I wanted to explore them stables, and I was told to stay clear away." Buford was astonished at Gilroy's bad grammar and thickening accent. Had he spoken that way earlier?

Clem stepped in. "Thet was just 'cause we hadn't gotten everything all ready for you today. So let's head on over there now before you barrage us with any more questions—" he stressed this last part, as he saw several other cowboys move to speak. "—and we'll fill you in as we go."

The cowboys all nodded, seeming to accept his explanation, and followed the two ranch leaders happily. Buford went along with the crowd, but could not quell a growing sense of unease building up inside him.

"Whatever it is we're doing, at least we'll probably see Jesse there," Amos whispered to Buford. "And up close, yet." The idea of seeing the hunky stable boy in close proximity was immensely appealing to Buford, and it helped to calm his fears a bit, but only slightly.

Once in the stables, Buford was amazed at how clean they were. There were at least two dozen slender stalls throughout, lit by sparkling clean windowed skylights set into the slanted roof above. There was a single cement strip down the center of the stable, with wooden decks on the stall floors, straddled by dark brown dirt that had been raked to almost perfect smoothness. Each stall had a series of metal railings on either side, standing perhaps five and a half feet tall. The silverish metal of the stall railings shone with fresh polish. Hanging neatly upon pegs along the walls were the lassos they'd used in their roping lessons, all looped into near perfect circles. Whatever they were paying this Jesse fellow, it wasn't enough.

"Everybody grab a stall," Clem said.

Without further prompting, every boy dashed with great anticipation into one of the stalls. Buford alone hesitated, not liking at all the idea of college boys lining themselves up like prize cattle. What was this for? The metaphor alone kept his bare feet frozen to the cement walkway beneath him. But Amos shook him out of his hesitation.

"Come ON, Byoof! The others are gonna take all the best ones! Let's GO!"

The best cattle stalls? Was there such a thing? But before he could question this lunacy further, Buford found himself pulled right along his raven-haired pal into one of the stalls. All the cowboys were giddy with excitement, as if they all knew something important was about to happen. Several of the cowboys hung onto the metal railings and rocked back and forth. A couple others hopped on top of their railings and kicked their feet our in front of them. Buford gripped his own stall's railing, but more out of deep apprehension than eager anticipation.

"Okay, all'a you cowpokes settle down," Bronson said. He waved down the boys sitting atop their railings, making them stand upon the ground again. "Today's the day you fellers get to learn all about the importance of branding." Clem brought out a large metal cauldron (a forge?) by one end with the handsome Jesse carrying it the by the other end. The stable hand was indeed even cuter up close.

Bronson continued to narrate as Clem and Jesse set the forge/cauldron down on the concrete. About half a dozen metal irons protruded from the large pot. "For years and years, ranchers have branded their livestock to show ownership, but also to show pride in the careful breeding of specific ranchs' property." Buford felt his heart begin to race. "And us here at the Rod & Double-Circle Ranch, we're all mighty proud of you fine young cowboys, and how much you've come into your own after leaving your lives as shy city folk." Buford didn't like the sound of that. He was supposed to be there on vacation. He had no inention of leaving his life behind. Buford watched as moved the six branding irons around the small forge, as if stoking a fire within. Buford could feel no heat rising from the pot, but could see a harsh red glow emanating from its bowels. Jesse rapidly backed away, moving toward the back of the stable. Before Buford could give voice to his growing concern, another young cowboy beat him to it.

"Hey, whoa there, pard!" It was Lantry calling out. "You aren't actually gonna brand us, are you??"

"In a manner of speaking," Bronson said, extending his hand to Clem, who handed him a branding iron, its end glowing bright red, "Yeah, we are."

An uproar rose among the college cowboys. This was not something they were going to suffer gladly, or without protest. This display of defiance lifted Buford's spirits slightly. If the other college boys could see how ludicrous this was, maybe they weren't beyond reason, beyond stopping this. Bronson held up a hand to calm the group, to little effect. Clem was laughing to himself.

Bronson twirled the branding iron in his hand, making streaking circles of glowing red in the air. "Who wants to be first?"

Wyatt, easily the smallest of the cowboys, hopped over his stall's railing and cowered in the slender space between the stalls. Bronson held the iron out towards him. "How about you?" Wyatt backed further into the corner, shaking his head vigorously. Bronson continued to move forward, and before Buford could cry out for someone to stop him, he rested the glowing end of the brand upon poor Wyatt's chest. Wyatt's eyes were squinted tightly closed, and he let out a sudden shout of alarm at the impact. All the other cowboys cried out with him, some of whom started quickly down the center aisle to stop the proceedings. Clem lifted up two more glowing brands to fend off the newcomers.

Wyatt opened his eyes gingerly. "Hey...," he said, looking down at the glowing brand that rested against his bare chest. He tapped the brand gingerly with his index finger. Then he grasped it firmly with both hands. "Why isn't it hot?"

Indeed, there was no steam, no hideous sizzling sound, no smoke, no terrible smell of smoldering flesh. Wyatt pushed back the brim of his hat with two fingers and looked out at his fellow nude cowboys.

"Guys, it's cold."

Bronson took a step back and held up the glowing brand for everyone to see. It was still very red, very bright, but that was all. Bronson then twirled the brand around so it was facing himself, and he planted the red glowing end right upon his own forehead. Most of the boys cried out in shock. Then Bronson pulled the brand away to reveal that he was as unscathed as small Wyatt. Bronson then held the branding iron aloft for all to see and fingered the handle. The red tip extinguished. It didn't fade slowly, it didn't go out. It clicked off instantly. The brand's end was suddenly as black as the rest of it.

"It's a light," Bronson explained. "Like a flashlight. Or a Halloween toy space sword." Bronson gestured to Clem, who then did the same with his own brands. With the flick of a concealed switch in its handle, the red glowing tip shut off. All tension left the room instantly. Clem and Bronson walked up and down the stalls, showing the cowboys the branding irons up close and letting each young man feel them. They were most assuredly only prop lights.

"Branding is not just something ranchers do with cattle," Bronson explained. "It's also something shared with private, exclusive organizations and groups to signify its small membership, its unity."

Marshall, perhaps the tallest cowboy, called out, "Like a fraternity!" It was obvious that he was a frat boy himself.

"Or a secret society!" Rowdy chimed in. He too belonged to the Greek society, or he did, before he came here to be a cowboy.

Clem nodded, and the boys all exchanged looks of excitement. They were going to show that they were their own secret society? Their very own Western brotherhood? Cool.

Bronson said, "By receiving this symbolic brand, we'd like you to officially call yourselves cowboys of the Rod & Double-Circle Ranch. You belong here, you belong together." Bronson flicked his faux brand on again. "Who's in?" A cheer of solidarity rose up amongst the naked cowboys, who only moments ago were ready to head for the hills rather than let their ranch leaders near them.

"Now all you do," Clem instructed, "is each of you turn around in your stalls, and slip your hands through those little leather straps you'll find there." Everyone did so immediately, without hesitation. Everyone but Buford, who still felt fear rising wihtin him. "We'll come along and give you your "brand" ," Clem went on, making quotation marks with his fingers, "and welcome you as a true cowboy of the Rod & Double-Circle."

Bronson and Clem made their way to the far end of the stable to begin their work. Buford was still hesitant, but felt an indescribably compulsion to comply. He moved slowly toward the leather straps that hung on either side of the stall, fastened just above the metal stall railings. Buford slipped his hands through the straps, his wrists coming to rest in the loops. He knew that he need only take a step backwards to free himself, but something about having his hands thrust through those straps made him feel secured. Trapped. He turned to Amos in the stall beside him, who was all grins.

"This is bizarre," Buford said.

"Are you kidding?" Amos beamed. "This is awesome! We're gonna be part of a cowboy brotherhood!"

Before Buford could point out how stupid that sounded, Bronson called from the far end of the stable. "We'll start on this end, me on this side, Clem on the other, and we'll make our way to the other end, giving you each your brand. Yippee-ky-yay."

With the utterance of that word, Buford felt his entire world change.

Buford felt his entire body go limp. He remained standing, or more accurately, slumped over, in his stall, and it felt as if he were being supported solely by the two leather straps in which he'd placed his wrists.

Buford's mind hovered at some strange level between sleeping and waking. He felt thoroughly relaxed, his muscles devoid of all tension, his thoughts subdued, if not at peace. Something within Buford, perhaps that part of him that was still fiercely trying to remain Brian, fought against what he was feeling. But that part was small, feeble, and faltering. Buford (that's who he really was) was very aware of his bare feet, of how his soles rested upon the smooth wooden planks of his stall. Yes, it was his stall now. Not just someplace he'd been made to stand for the moment. He felt the muscles of his ankles, of his calves, grow gelatinous and soft, free of tension of any kind.

The sensation crept rapidly upward, removing all stress from his knees, from his thighs, leaving his lean legs feeling so soft and malleable that it was a wonder they could keep him standing upright. There was no time to dwell on such concepts, though, as Buford felt the wonderful, terrible, sensation climb up in his ass, relaxing and dulling his muscles there as if his already limber body were being mollified by invisible hands engaged in an unrelenting, irresistible massage.

Yet as Buford's body grew increasingly limp, his muscles weaker, his penis actually grew harder, and as his abdominal muscles felt flaccid, his dick went rock hard. Buford hardly registered this as the soft, attentive, invisible fingers which kneaded his skin, muscles, and his will into something docile and insipid soon took his entire chest and shoulders. Buford felt his body sway, his midsection sag, and his wrists tug slightly against the reigns which held him.

Certain he was about to tumble forward, Buford gave himself over to the intoxicating feeling of weakness as both his arms were overcome, and the strength they once held was sapped from shoulders to fingertips, leaving them limp and helpless. Some invisible force seemed to be bracing poor Buford, holding him up by bracing the underside of his worthless arms, keeping him aloft. He was quite certain he was well beyond standing up on his own power.

And as Buford stood there, or slumped there, in his stall, he tried to look to see what was happening in the stall beside him. Dear God, it took such effort. Turning his head even a fraction of an inch was like trying to budge a boulder with his bare hands, like trying to sprint in quicksand. He realized then that all he was doing was trying to peer out of the corner of his eye—moving his head was now beyond his capability. But even that took incredible effort.

As the irresistible feeling of relaxation, or entrapment, of helplessness, surged its way upward and claimed Buford's neck (it felt so soft, so weak now—could it still support his head? Even his cowboy hat felt so very, terribly heavy...) he was able to glimpse Amos in the stall beside him. Sweet, beautiful Amos in his big black hat. Amos's eyelids were fluttering, his friendly smile replaced with a slack jaw that dribbled a tiny droplet of saliva out one corner. From his slackened mouth came a strange gurgling utterance that was not quite a wheeze, not entirely a snore. Fight it, Amos, Buford begged silently. Please, my friend, resist this, whatever it is. If anyone can do it, you can. I need you to save me. Rescue me, my big strong naked gay cowboy.

But Amos was not as strong as Buford imagined. With a final flutter of his eyelids, Amos took a sharp inhalation of breath and his slack jaw spread into a helpess grin of stupidity and languor. His head slumped forward between his shoulders and he was gone. There'd be no rescue for Buford. From Amos, or from anyone.

The creeping sensation of forced peace swept up and enveloped Buford's head. His thoughts were now wrapped completely in a cocoon of old, brittle cellophane, cobwebs, and crepe paper. No thoughts would be going out of his brilliant young mind. Only new commands would be allowed in. Buford only dimly felt his head drop like a stone, his chin slap against his chest. There were voices, somewhere, in a far off land perhaps, but they were of no consequence to him. Distant voices from miles off meant nothing and were easily ignored.

Behind Buford, a stocky man with a large face, fully dressed in Western wear stood and looked at him. Buford could see him, yet registered nothing at all.

"How goes it?" the full-faced man asked. His complexion was ruddy, his eyes cold.

"Everything's going just great," Bronson said. "Branding time. So far they're responding beautifully."

"What about this one?" The man jabbed a finger against Buford's soft butt cheek, but the entranced young would-be cowboy didn't feel it. "The new kid?"

"You were right about him. Great subject. He was nervous as hell when he got here."

"Yeah, thought that was gonna fuck us up somethin' fierce," Clem chimed in.

"But it hasn't," Bronson assured the other man quickly. "He's just as responsive as the rest of 'em. hell, I'd say more so."

Buford saw the clothed man lean forward, looking as if he were somehow hovering upside-down in Buford's field of vision. Buford was oblivious to the fact that it was his own head that hung in an inverted position. "You sure? His eyes are open."

Bronson looked. "But glazed. He's out, alright. Good idea with the campfire songs last night. Really helped solidify the programming."

"Of course it was a good idea," the man barked. He paused, jabbing another unfelt finger at Buford's rear, which he then slapped. No response. "And you're sure he's out of it?"

"Yessir," Bronson said. From a great many miles away, Buford though perhaps someone was thinking about touching his arm. Or not. He couldn't be sure, and thinking was so difficult now.

The clothed man with the ruddy face watched as Buford's right arm swung like a pendulum at his side, like the limp body of a dead cat, like a wet rag. "Yes, alright. He's out good enough." Bronson replaced Buford's arm back in the sling from where he'd taken it. A second wave of relaxation and weariness swept over Buford. He was quite certain that his feet were sinking into the planks of the floor, like it was soft clay at the bottom of a creek bed. Shortly after that, he didn't feel his legs at all.

"But we promised two dozen and we're still only at twenty-two," Clem said, sounding greatly concerned. "We do not wanna piss these people off. We hafta get another pair of—"

"You let me worry about that!" the man nearly shouted. "Get back to the other end of the stable and get your branding iron ready for Hershall's signal. Move it!" The ruddy-faced man then turned around, a new anger rising in his throat. "And as for you—!" There was a scuffle of rubber soles on concrete, and the hunky booted stable boy was hauled up by Bronson to stand before the cruel man.

"I'm sorry, Mr. Vaughn, I really am," came the pleading voice. Jesse's voice was small, soft, and kind. And extremely frightened. "But I can't do this. I can't just go along as these guys get trussed up and then marked, one by one as—"

"You'll do as I say!" the man snapped. "You'll do as you're told!" Then his angry shout became a low rumble. "Or would you like to try to run away again?"

Jesse's pleading voice became a desperate whimper. "No, please, sir. I'll be good. I promise." But the man's eyes grew harder. "No, no, no, don't do it. I'm begging you, I'll be good. Nnooo..."

"Go on, make a run for it, Jesse," the man demanded.

", please..."


The horrified stable boy turned tail and made a break for it. He only made it about six feet before he stopped in his tracks, frozen in mid-stride, his body appearing for all the world like a character on a film strip broken on its projector. The angry man spoke a description of all that the frightened Jesse now felt.

"You cannot move forward, Jesse. You cannot run anymore. Your body has been stopped, like an ant caught in molasses, like a fly in amber." Unseen by anyone, a single tear rolled down Jesse's face.

"But you try to move forward," the man chided. "You try with all the strength you have, to move ahead, to make your escape." He paused then, a wicked smile in his voice. "But you can't."

And indeed Jesse couldn't. He stood with one foot raised high in a full run, hovering above the floor as stiffly as if it were rested upon the rung of a ladder. His other foot was only partly touching the ground. His toes and the balls of his feet were pressed against the concrete floor, the heel of his boot was lifted up, trying in vain to push him off into his next footstep, to continue a halted run, to offer the next stride that would never come.

"You push with all your might, little Jesse," the man taunted. "but the more you push, and the more you try to escape, the weaker you feel. With every effort to push on, the more your muscles relax, the more your body's strength collapses." Jesse was stuck, and he knew it. He held a posture that any accomplished gymnast would envy, his entire body balanced upon one foot while in a forward-leaning position. But he hated it, feared it. He wanted to keep running, to finally get away, but he knew he'd never be allowed to.

"Now you feel the unseen force of resistance give slightly," the man said then. Jesse's face was placid, a frozen mask that held his last expression of hopelessness. And although he could not cry out, whimper, or even furrow his brow, more tears flowed freely from his eyes, leaving streaks down his cheek, tiny spatters upon the floor below.

"Slowly, ever so slowly, your race for freedom continues," Jesse was told. "Your considerable speed slowed to the merest fraction of your best time. But you press on, because you have to. Because I tell you to." And Jesse did begin to move. Very slowly, almost imperceptibly at first, his run resumed. His uplifted boot started to fall, his body lurched forward, but at a snail's pace. Jesse now appeared like the character of a film strip being shown in slow motion. Or stop-motion.

"You cannot escape, Jesse. You can't run away. You know this." Jesse's boot came to rest upon the concrete, painfully slowly. His shoulders rocked slowly forward, moving like an ox pushing a mill without the benefit of the rest of its team. "The cement upon which you step has reverted to its original state," Jesse was told. "It is wet, liquid, and thick. It traps your boot even as you step upon it. With each step, you sink. As with every surface those boots of yours touch when you seek to run."

Jesse's right side sank forward, his body limp and useless. In reality, his boot was planted firmly upon the floor, but the rest of his body indicated that he had stepped into some kind of thick muck, had submerged to his knee, and was sinking fast.

"Dirt roads turn to mud, grass transforms into marsh, rock becomes quicksand," the man said. His voice was strong and resonant, his words inescapable. "You try to take another step forward, hoping the momentum will free you, but it doesn't." Jesse's slow-motion stride continued, but now his left foot, which rested firmly upon the unyielding floor made his body slump downward to match his previous attempt. "You're submerging into the sluggish morass that is your life," the man told him. "You continue to try, but you continue to fail. The greater the effort, the greater your weakness."

Jesse's legs, now pumping so slow and sluggishly that it was almost embarrassing, still flailed like someone who realized that he'd stepped into a bog without the benefit of any handholds. "You keep pressing forward," the man continued, "but now the air before you has taken on a strange tangibility. It presents a force you cannot pass, like a giant bubble. Invisible, pliable, yet impassable. You clutch at it, but it has nothing for you to grasp. Still you sink. Deeper and deeper. Down, down, down, farther and farther."

Jesse's arms were held out before him, pushing against nothing, but facing incredible resistance. The resistance of his own mind. As Jesse pressed with all his fading might against the unrelenting empty air, his legs pumped in slow motion, convinced that he was now up to his chest in all-consuming sludge.

The man took a large knife from a holster strapped to his boot and approached Jesse, clutching his pants by their waist. With two quick slices, the man cut Jesse's worn jeans from waist to pant cuff, down either side. Then with a sharp yank, the man pulled the shredded trousers off of Jesse, leaving him bare-assed and exposed, still trying to pry himself up from the wet cement that, in his mind, now rose up to his chin, to fend off the evil bubble that stopped him.

"Down you go, Jesse," the man pressed. "You descend as you repeatedly have, into the peaty swamp you will always find beneath the heels of your fleeing boots. Sleep, Jesse, and know that you will not escape, that you cannot escape. I own you, boy. You are my property."

Jesse came to rest upon the concrete floor in a sprawled position. His breathing was deep but distressed, his sleeping face stained with tears. He lay on his stomach, clad only in his rubber knee boots, which he was convinced had the power to transform the earth beneath him, which he knew without a doubt could never be removed by his own hands.

The man turned to face Bronson. "I've had enough shit with this kid already. From now on he stays under 24/7. No more offering him even the slightest hint of freedom and coherent thought on his own. You got that?"

Bronson nodded. "Then do we reprogram him now? Or would you prefer we wait until after the rest of the kids have been—"

"Do it now," Vaughn insisted. "And make sure you brand him along with the others. But leave the boots on him. In fact, it may be better to just reprogram him along the same lines as all these little college shits."

Bronson swallowed, considering his next words carefully, then said, "Mr. Vaughn, sir, we can probably keep him under, but I don't know that I'd advise a full reprogramming. After all this time, continuing to manipulate his mind might damage it."

"As if I care about that."

"With respect, sir, he may not be of much use to us if he's...well, addled."

"Then we ship him off with this batch if we have to."

"Sir, with all the past conditioning Jesse's already undergone, I'm not all that sure a new program will stick, especially one so distinct from all the rest."

"Find a method."

Realizing that the man was not about to relent, Bronson added, "You realize of course that this will leave us without someone to fill the...rather specific...role...that Jesse had been doing."

"So I'll find us another one!" the man yelled, clearly indicating that his patience was at an end. "Now we have another twink cowboy. One with rubber knee boots. That leaves us only one more to meet our quota. Problem half-solved." He turned to leave. Over his shoulder he shouted, "And fix it with some story or other so that the rest of these clueless yahoos accept him being around." He waved one arm over his head to indicate the many entranced young cowboys filling the room.

"Yes, sir," Bronson answered respectfully. "I'll get it done."

And Mr. Vaughn departed the stable, stepping over the prostrate body of poor young Jesse with no more deference than one would give to stepping over a pile of horse droppings.


As far as Buford knew, one moment he was there inside the large stable, along with all the other ranch-goers, in the stall beside his new best pal, his cowboy lover, his fuck buddy. The next he was standing with his ass strutting out toward the open end of the stall, his wrists in slings, his entire body as insubstantial as pudding. He was scared. It was an odd sensation, to be frightened while his entire body felt so unbelievably relaxed, but there it was. Dimly, he was aware of the two ranch leaders Bronson and Clem, making their way down the stalls, leaving the ranch's brand on each young cowboy, moving inexorably closer to Buford and his partner Amos.

There was a sound Buford kept hearing. It came from far off, then drew closer each time he heard it. It was a happy sound, a sound of someone in the throes of pure ecstasy. Buford wanted to hear more of that sound. Eventually he heard what could have been soft mumbling, but he wasn't sure. Knowing that it didn't directly concern him, he let the sound hover somewhere out there in the distance, indistinct and easy to dismiss. The distant mumbling was followed by the unmistakable sound of his pal Amos in the midst of something wonderful. Amos was experiencing sudden, intense joy. Was his pal screwing around with somebody else? Amos's cries soon faded. Then Buford heard another sound. His name being spoken.


Buford's perceptions focused into crystal clarity, his wits seemed sharper than ever—which was odd, given that his body had never felt so relaxed, his physical being so at peace.

"Look down to your left, Buford."

Buford did as he was instructed and there he saw the glowing end of the branding iron. It's red burning pattern the design of the Rod & Double-Circle Ranch.

"You are going to be branded with the mark of this ranch. This community. It is a mark of ownership and you are eager to receive it. Do you understand?"

Buford nodded his head sluggishly, a smile spreading across his face. "Yeessth. Eeeager."

"When this brand is pressed upon your ass, you will feel fully part of this group of young cowboys. You will know without question where you should be and to whom you belong. Do you understand, Buford?"

Buford nodded again. He was so excited. He was going to be branded. Why didn't the guy just hurry up and do it already??

"As I touch the brand to you, you will say your name aloud and swear that you are a good gay cowboy. Do you understand?"

Buford nodded again, a bit faster. He was so relaxed, he felt so good. He wanted to be branded so very badly. There was a gap of time then. Was it a few seconds? Was it a few hours? Buford was uncertain. He only knew that he was desperate to feel the heat of the burning iron against his bare ass. Then, at last, he felt it.

There was no heat, no painful sensation, no burning skin and flesh. But Buford was convinced that some mystical fire had singed his ass cheek. The branding iron pressed firmly against Buford's ass, and Buford was sure that the air split with sound of his own body sizzling beneath the blazing glow. Buford let out a tremendous cry of pleasure, a gasping wail of sheer delight, the same thrilling outburst he'd heard from his best cowboy buddy Amos. The power of the brand seeped inside Buford, going well past the skin, into his blood, into his very being. Buford had never felt anything as good as this. He was a naked cowboy, he was property, he was a member of the Rod & Double-Circle Ranch. And he was having the orgasm of his life.

Thick ropes of semen shot from his erect member and spattered the floor of his stall, and Buford's back bucked like a wild rodeo bull's. He came at least three times, and dribbled more juice with the fourth thrust. Buford's body collapsed in exhaustion and gratification. He wasn't certain if he was still standing or if he'd fallen to the floor of the stall. He didn't care. He felt too good to care, one way or the other.

Buford's head slumped forward, and his eyes flickered closed, he saw the smooth unmarred form of his own butt behind him. In his imagination, Buford saw the blackened mark of the brand smoldering upon his ass cheek, there to sizzle and pop, then slowly vanish beneath the skin, leaving the surface as unscathed as before, but the interior forever changed.

" Buford," he half-whispered, half-gasped. "An...I'm a...good gay cowboyyy..."

The next thing he knew was blackness.

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