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Riverside Junction

Chapter Text

Riverside Junction

 

“The ultimate goal of farming is not the growing of crops,

but the cultivation and perfection of human beings.”

Masanobu Fukuoka


Chapter 1

 

Jim Kirk came in from the bitter cold of an early morning Iowa January into the warmth of the farm house. The animals had been fed and watered and were sheltered snug and warm in the barn. He stood on the floor mat, brushed off the snow, and shed his outer garments; the heavy plaid wool coat which was tightly woven and very warm, his wool hat, and his heavy mittens. He toed off his water proof boots and walked on his socked feet to the warmth of the Franklin stove in the corner of the kitchen. He checked the wood that was stockpiled next to it and was relieved to see that he still had plenty. However, next trip out to the barn he'd make sure to bring in a bit more. It wouldn't do to run out of firewood in this weather. He set the five eggs that he'd collected carefully on the table. At this time of the year even inside the warm barn, the chickens didn’t lay much, and Jim collected very few eggs each day.

He looked down at the recumbent form of his dog on the rag rug by the potbellied stove. “Cupcake, do you need to go out yet?” The enormous yellow dog looked at at him, and yawned showing his sharp canines. However, the dog's big, sharp teeth were deceptive since Cupcake completely lived up to his name; a sweeter animal would be hard to find. Jim had had several serious talks with Cupcake about his responsibilities as a guard dog around the farm, how it was his doggy duty to protect Jim and the animals around the place. Sadly, Cupcake completely ignored all of Jim’s injunctions, proceeded to never meet a stranger, and just continued to love everyone he met. “You know you have to go out sooner than later, you lazy dog, and it's only going to get colder, so you might as well do it now.”

Cupcake lifted his head, sighed gustily in disgust, and reluctantly got to his feet. Jim laughed. “Saw the wisdom of my words, did you?” Cupcake shook his massive, bony head, and walked slowly to the door. “Just scratch on the door or bark when you're ready to come in, okay? Don't stay out too long, it's really cold out and I’m going to start dinner,” Jim told him affectionately, opening the door. He said that to the big dog every time he went out, fearful that he would stay out too long in the bitter cold.

It was the third day of the snow storm and Jim hoped it was the last; it was piling up in drifts everywhere. Jim looked around, noticed the gloom in the kitchen and lit the hurricane lamps. Electricity had come to Iowa City and to Riverside, but not yet to the outlying farms. It wouldn't be long now, Jim thought with satisfaction. He had a generator in the barn, but he tried to save his fuel when he could. The soft yellow light of the lamps added a warmth to the small kitchen and living room, making it feel cozy. Jim also had good sweet water from the well to drink and cook with, as well as extra water from the new water pipes he'd put in for irrigation and sewage. Through the years, the original two room farmhouse had been lovingly maintained, upgraded and added to, as need for additional rooms arose. Last Fall, Jim had a new toilet and shower installed, along with the water pipes. His mom would be pleased about that. No more using the chamber pots or running to the outhouse in inclement weather.

Jim looked around his beloved home. The living area was not big, but it was neat, clean and comfortable. It was a combination living and dining room with the kitchen at one end, separated from the main area by a scrubbed wooden table with 6 chairs. There were comfortable upholstered chairs in the living room and a large sofa. There were also small end tables by each chair and on both sides of the sofa for the large oil lamps that cast good light, since Jim was prone to sit and read where and when the mood struck. There was a fireplace with a mantel that held the stiff, formal photographs of his mother, Sam, his dead father and his grandparents, as well as a tall glass vase which stood empty now, but which in the spring would hold wildflowers that bloomed all around the farm. Jim preferred to use the big squatty Franklin stove in the kitchen during the dead of winter. It generated a lot more heat than the fireplace, which he only used in spring and fall when it was not so cold. There were shelves on either side of the fireplace that held all of Jim’s large collection of books and magazines, Two large window, curtained now against cold drafts, faced the front of the house. There was another window over the sink in the kitchen that faced the kitchen garden, lying fallow now like Jim’s fields. The rest of the farm house rooms, two bedrooms, a bathroom, and a large storage room, were accessed through the hallway off the main room.

Jim still had a few chores to do; mend Keenser’s bridle, write to his mom who lived in Boston, to his brother Sam and his young family in Providence, and make the list of grocery staples and other things he needed to buy in Riverside. The town was four miles away, but Jim, on Keenser and with Cupcake trotting beside him, went at least once or twice a week. He badly needed to buy a couple of new flannel shirts at the general store; his were getting pretty threadbare and he needed the added warmth of flannel under his coat. He saw that he still needed to wash the dishes from lunch which he'd forgotten to do, and, he reminded himself, he had to check the amount of oil he had left for his lamps and his supply of candles. He needed a constant supply because darkness came pretty early this time of the year. He went about doing his tasks humming contently to himself. He thought of turning on his battery operated radio, but he was enjoying the peace and quiet as he did his chores. Jim prided himself on keeping his little farm house clean and orderly. As his mom said, just because he lived beyond the town boundaries didn't mean he couldn't live like the civilized, cultured person that she had raised him to be.

After his father's death, his mother had done her best to raise her boys as good men, as the gentlemen that their father had been. At home, the well read, educated and liberal minded Winona, made it her mission to supplement Jim and Sam’s rudimentary Boston public school education, so her boys were well and widely read. Their dinner table discussions had been lively and far reaching touching on many subjects; politics, ethics, poetry, love, agriculture, religion, philosophy, and literature.

Winona had been widowed very soon after Jim was born, and when her unmarried sister agreed to take care of the boys during the day, she had found good work through the years as a secretary for various prestigious law firms in Boston. She was highly skilled as a secretary, totally discreet, and she also specialized in doing research for the attorneys. For this she was paid extra and very well. To save money, Sam had lived at home while attending college, and was now a successful attorney with his own young family, but Jim early on, had told his mother he wanted to farm like his grandfather Kirk. She had wholeheartedly agreed and been pleased with his decision.

Jim's mother knew he was very happy living on the farm that had been in the Kirk family for almost a century, and which Jim's grandfather had left to him along with his lifesavings. Knowing how hard it was for Jim to get away, Winona came to visit Jim once a year. She would come by train from Boston to Iowa City where Jim would go in the buggy to pick her up. There might be a few automobiles in big cities like Boston, but most of rural Iowa, got around by buggy.  It was a long trip for her to make, but she did it every year, (always laden with boxes filled with things she knew Jim would like) and he loved her for it.

Although it was hard for Jim to get away from the farm, he tried to make the trip to Boston when he could to see his mother and Sam and his family who would join the two of them in his mother's Boston house. Jim would leave his hired hand to take care of the animals while he was gone and he went by train, taking Cupcake with him. The big dog loved to travel, and Jim paid a regular ticket price for him and took him out every time the train stopped, so there would be no question about Cupcake’s right to be sitting at Jim’s feet for the long journey.

Every month Winona sent Jim a box filled with home made cookies, jellies, candy, newspapers, political pamphlets, magazines and books of all kinds. Jim read everything she sent him. He considered himself a well rounded, educated man, certainly more educated and well read than the majority of Riverside residents. Her letters were always filled with affection for her youngest child, as well as replete with pithy commentaries about daily life in Boston, her lawyer bosses (all discreetly nameless) the politics of the area, and family news. The only things she and Sam always worried about, was that Jim was alone too much, or that if he had an accident, no one would be around to help him. For that reason, during the Spring, Summer and Fall, Jim hired someone to help him when he had to work the fields with the tractor. Same thing in late summer and early fall for the harvesting of his crops. His hired hand came to Enterprise Farm every morning from Riverside and left at the end of the day.

As a kid, Jim had come to the farm every summer to help his grandfather Tiberius and he'd loved it from the start. He had never been interested in big city life like his brother, Sam. His big brother had been supportive of Jim’s lifestyle choice, happy to know that the farm would continue to stay in the Kirk family. Sometimes though, it did get a little lonely especially in the winter, but Jim wouldn't trade his life for anything.

Jim sighed as he looked at his food stores. When the storm passed, he would have to go hunting or go down to the English River to catch some fish; his dried meat and fish were dwindling fast. With the bitterly cold weather, Jim was hungrier than usual and so was Cupcake. The cold weather just made his work more difficult and the human body naturally burned more calories. He puttered around doing the last of his small chores until he heard Cupcake bark. Jim stopped his dishwashing to listen. It was not Cupcake’s needing to come in bark. The big dog sounded agitated, almost frantic. Jim dried his hands, put on his boots, coat, and gloves and grabbed his rifle, hoping it wasn't a starving wolf or coyote trying to lget to the animals in the barn. He opened the door stepping out on to the small porch. He peered through the swirling blinding snow.

“Cupcake!” He called sharply. “Cupcake come!” He could hear the dog’s frantic barking, but couldn't quite make out what he was barking at. Jim cocked his rifle and stepped off the porch. “Cupcake, what's out there?” The big dog came by his side and whimpered. “What is it, boy?” Jim put his hand on the dog’s head, and walked out a little further from the porch. The swirling snow cleared for an instant and he saw a horse standing still with a man bent double over the saddle.

“Jesus!” Jim whispered. He ran toward the horse and caught him by the bridle, Cupcake barking excitedly the whole time. The man bent over on the saddle was barely astride the horse and there was snow covering his whole body. Jim grasped the bridle tightly and led the frightened animal closer to the porch. “Cupcake quiet!,” he ordered the agitated dog. He pulled the reins away from the man’s unresisting hands and tied the horse to the porch post. He ran in and grabbed his thick saddle blanket to put over the poor, cold, animal while he took care of the unconscious man. Jim reached up and gingerly pulled him off the horse, not knowing if he was injured or not.

“Ooof! Whoever you are, you're damned heavy!” He hefted the unconscious man over his shoulders in a fireman’s carry into the house, Cupcake following, close at his heels. Jim laid him on the bed in the second bedroom, since it was used exclusively by his mother when she visited and it stood empty the rest of the time. He brushed the snow off from the man’s coat, and felt his limbs and chest. Nothing seemed to be broken and he was still breathing. With difficulty, Jim pulled off the man's freezing, wet coat, his gloves, hat, and boots; he went to the blanket chest and piled on every blanket he had on top of him. “I'll be right back,” he told the unconscious man.

“Watch him, Cupcake.” The big dog came to sit next to the man, his doggy gaze steadfast on his face.

Jim bundled up again against the freezing cold, untied the horse and led the frightened, animal to the barn. “Shhh, you’re fine, now. You'll soon be warm. You saved his life, you know, finding us here.” He led the roan mare into the empty stall next to his own horse, Keenser, took off the saddle, the saddle bag, bridle, and the wooden case strapped to the back of the animal. He left the saddle blanket on her for extra warmth. Jim gave the mare fresh food and water and patted the velvety nose. “I'll take good care of your owner, don't you worry. You did your part getting him here; now you rest and get warm.”

He closed the barn door tightly and hurried back to the house carrying the saddle bag over his shoulder and the wooden case under one arm. The snow was falling harder, swirling fast and brilliantly white, diminishing the little visibility there had been earlier to almost nothing. Jim could hardly see the porch now. He opened the door and stepped into the cozy, warm, room and sighed with relief. He pulled off his coat, hat and gloves, going immediately to the bedroom to check on the man on the bed. He was already looking better. As Jim looked at him, his eyes fluttered and Jim knew he was beginning to wake up.

He went to the stove to check the coffee pot. Some hot coffee would warm him up faster and help him regain alertness. He took a couple of the quilts off him, pulled up a chair and sat down to wait, looking with interest at the unconscious man on his mother’s bed. He looked tall, as tall as Jim probably. He had a strong, well defined face, a firm chin, high cheek bones, a full plush bottom lip, thick eyelashes, and dark thick hair,; it was a beguiling face, even beautiful, in a manly way, Jim thought, as he sat patiently. His patience was soon rewarded. The man’s eyes fluttered once more and opened. Jim was startled at the beautiful swirl of colors in those eyes, brown, green, grey, amber. He felt a sudden jolt in his stomach as the confused eyes met his own.

“Where am I? What happened?” The man’s voice was soft, deep, with a southern lilt to it.

Jim gave him a reassuring smile. “You’re in my farm house. I'm James Kirk, my dog found you on your horse, unconscious from the cold.”

Alarm flashed in the beautiful hazel eyes. “My horse….”

Jim put a soothing hand on the man’s chest. “She's fine, don't worry. She's in the warm barn right next to my own horse.” Jim patted him gently, feeling a strange reluctance to remove his hand from the broad chest.

The man relaxed, reassured. “My case?”

Jim pointed to the table. “Right over there, safe and sound. Your saddle bag too.”

The man sighed softly, his hazel eyes intent on Jim’s face. “Thanks, James.”

“Jim. I'm called Jim. You?”

“Leonard McCoy. Dr. Leonard McCoy.”

“A sawbones, huh?” Jim grinned. “Well, Sawbones, you were very lucky, Cupcake here found you.”

The man’s lips twitched in amusement as he glanced at the huge dog. “Cupcake?”

“Yeah, 'cause he's a very sweet boy, right, Cupcake?” Jim patted the massive head affectionately. “So, how about a cup of hot coffee to finish warming you up? Want to sit up to drink it?”

McCoy nodded. Jim pulled a couple of more quilts off him and leaned over to help McCoy sit up. He could feel the strong bicep and shoulder muscles flex as Jim helped him sit. “Easy now.” He stepped back. “Alright?”

McCoy nodded again. “I'm okay, thanks, Jim.”

Jim went to the stove and poured a cup of strong, black, coffee. “Here you go,” he said handing McCoy the cup. McCoy’s hand came up to the cup, but it was shaking badly. Jim covered his hand with his own warm one, and held it steady so the doctor could sip. McCoy closed his eyes in bliss as the hot drink went down. “S’ good,” he murmured. Jim let him take a few more sips then put the cup down.

“Your hands are still freezing,” he said. “Let me warm them up. You, as a doctor, should know that frost bitten fingers are nothing to fool around with.“ He took one hand in his own calloused ones and rubbed it briskly. McCoy, Jim noted absently, intent on his task, had beautiful hands, a wide palm with long, slender fingers, soft and without callouses like Jim’s. For a brief moment he wondered what those hands would feel like on his body and he felt a faint flush suffuse his face. What the hell! Where had that thought come from?

When both of Bones’ hands had stopped trembling, Jim stopped the massage. The doctor flexed his fingers. “Thanks, Jim. They feel fine now.” He looked around. “I have to use your facilities,” he said.

“Sure. It's right down the hall to the right. Do you need help?”’

A faint flush came over the high cheek bones. “If you could help me up, I think I can manage it.”

“Sure.”

McCoy brought his legs over and put his feet down firmly on the floor sitting still for a moment. Jim held out his hands and McCoy leveraged himself up, putting his hands on Jim’s shoulders. He stood still testing his balance, meeting Jim’s blue eyes. Again, Jim felt that jolt in his stomach as he met those unusual hazel eyes. McCoy took one step and then another. Jim stood firm, close to him just in case. McCoy nodded to himself. “I'm alright, Jim. I feel okay.” He walked slowly away from Jim, who watched him closely. His steps were firm and he didn't waver. Jim saw that he'd been right; McCoy was tall, built solid, his shoulders broad, his arms muscular, his chest wide, tapering to a trim waist, slim hips, his legs straight and strong. Again Jim felt that strange pull of physical attraction as he watched McCoy.

At 22, Jim’s sexual experiences had been limited to girls about his own age in Riverside, exchanging a few hot kisses, and indulging in some heavy petting with a couple of them. With the type of girls he knew, it had always stopped at that. When he felt the need there was always his good right hand. There were other women to be had in Riverside, but when he was old enough, his mother’s and Sam’s straightforward, pull no punches, sexual talks about syphilis, gonorrhea and other venereal diseases, their warnings about the horrendous consequences of these diseases, pretty much decided Jim, to a resounding hell no about prostitutes in Riverside or anywhere else! It might be the 1920’s but Jim knew there was no real cure for any venereal disease. Truth be told, he very much enjoyed the kisses and gropings he'd indulged in with the different Riverside girls, but he’d never felt or even imagined physical attraction for a man before. However, occasionally through the years, he’d heard and read about such things; how a man could have sex with another man or how some women fell in love with another woman. It had puzzled Jim slightly, but it had certainly not repelled him.

When he was much younger, Jim had no one to ask other than his mother or Sam about some of the things he'd read in some of the newspapers and magazines the boys brought to school, or that he heard, mostly in whispers in the school yard. His mother and Sam had always answered every question with straightforward honesty. Jim had found out from his school friends that this was not the norm with his friends' parents. To his consternation, and his mother's ire, he also discovered that the other boys he'd talk to, those who had fathers, would tell him things that were either plain wrong, or full of misinformation. From then on, he made sure to ask either Sam or his mother when he had questions about girls, sex, his maturing body, or anything else that puzzled him.  

Now as an adult and living alone on the farm, he'd never had reason to change this habit, so it was still to Sam and Winona that he confided in after reading articles in a newspaper that puzzled him, such as the miscegenation and anti-homosexual laws. He'd write down his questions and thoughts in the frequent letters that went back and forth. Winona was widely read and, had, as an adjunct to some law cases she'd researched, read authors like Kant, Adler and Freud, Her answer had been both clear and compassionate. Love between human beings, she'd told him, comes in many forms, but it should always be consensual, and when it was so, treasured and cherished. She explained how there were people who had to hide their attraction and love for each other because society, as she'd found out from several law cases she'd already researched, not only disapproved, but had also passed laws against such a thing. She told Jim, that she felt this was wrong. In her opinion, she wrote, any adult, no matter their race or gender, should be free to love the person they chose to love. Jim had agreed with her; he was innocent in many ways, but he was not ignorant. He was a farmer after all; the many different manifestations of animal or human nature were as natural to him as breathing.

Still feeling the warmth of those hands on his shoulder, Jim shook his head. He'd think about all this later. Maybe he really was one of those people who were attracted to both men and women. Right now it was time to start supper. He'd cook the eggs and mix in some beef jerky to make it more substantial. He also had beans and bread. That would do with hot tea laced with lots sugar.

McCoy came back. He had washed his face and hand combed his hair. He looked around with appreciation. “This a real nice place you have here, Jim”

Jim glanced back at him from the stove. “Thanks, Bones. It was my grandfather’s and his father’s before him. Been in the family a long time.”

“Your daddy didn't want to farm?”

A shadow flashed across Jim’s face. “My dad died when I was just a few hours old, an accident, so he never had a chance to find out. I started helping granddad when I was just a kid, and I always loved it here. My brother Sam is an attorney, so he wasn't interested in the farm. Granddad left the farm to me, and I've been here about four years now.”

“Oh. I'm real sorry about your dad, Jim. It must have been very hard on your mom raising two boys alone.”

“Yeah, it was. But in spite of her sorrow, she's been an amazing mom to both of us. Also, we had family in Boston to help us out right after dad died. Her sister still lives there. Sam is married with two little boys, he lives in Providence. Sit down, Bones, supper’s ready.”

“Bones?” McCoy smiled and his dimples peeked out. Jim groaned, silently. Those dimples were killers!

“Yeah,” Jim’s eyes twinkled at him. “You don't seem like the Leonard type, so Bones it is.”

McCoy shrugged. “It’s okay with me, after what you did for me, you can call me anything you want.”

Jim looked at him a little anxiously. “I won't call you Bones if you don't want me to.”

“Nah, I kind of like it, actually,” McCoy assured him, smiling.

Jim dished up and they sat down to eat. “So where are you from, Bones?”’

“I'm from Georgia.” He swallowed. “This is real good, Jim.”

“Thanks. I'm a pretty good cook,” Jim admitted, “have to be, really. You're a long way from Georgia,” he added.

McCoy sighed. “Yeah. Well, I saw the tail end of the Great War, not any fighting, but I served at Walter Reed in Washington as a surgeon. Was there three long years, seeing enough pain, suffering, and sorrow to last me a lifetime. Marietta, Georgia was my home town. My parents both died there; there was nothing and no one left in Marietta to keep me there so I sold the house and furniture. I’d had more than enough of trying to put back together wounded, battered, and traumatized soldiers, so I left Walter Reed. I took some time off to recharge, then I heard from a colleague that Riverside needed a doctor. It sounded like something I'd like; a fresh start, a general practice, with me doing a bit of every kind of doctoring. I like general practice a lot, so I took the train to Cedar Rapids, thought I'd see more of the area and bought myself a good horse, a saddle bag, and a saddle. I figured I'd need the horse if I decided to set up a practice as a doctor in Riverside and I could always buy a buggy later on if I needed to.”

Leonard put down his fork and sat back a little in his chair. “Then the blizzard caught me without any warning on my way here. I thought I'd make it to Iowa city or Riverside and I almost did. It got colder and colder. I went to sleep without realizing it. As a doctor I sure know better than that, but it never gets this cold in Georgia, nor in Washington, not like this anyway, so I had no experience with this kind of weather. Probably not the best idea to come here in the dead of winter.”

“You almost made it to Riverside, just three more miles west of me. You were very lucky you didn't freeze to death, Bones,” Jim said.

“I was,” agreed McCoy. “Very lucky. Thanks to Cupcake here.” He petted the big dog’s head.

“Well, you're very welcome to stay here as long as you like, until you find out if you want to set up your practice in Riverside. I'd enjoy the company. There's no hotel in Riverside, only a boarding house, and it's not a very nice place.”

Leonard smiled, flashing those dimples again. Jim swallowed hard. God, maybe inviting Bones to stay wasn't such a good idea.

“Thanks, Jim. I not only owe you my life, but now you're also offering me a place to stay. Any thanks I can give you is totally inadequate.” He looked intently at Jim. “I insist that I pay my way for stayin’ here, eating your food and having a roof over my head. I'll also help out with whatever needs doin’ around here,” McCoy added, in his soft drawl.

Jim flushed. “That's not necessary, Bones. As I said, I'd enjoy the company.”

“I insist, otherwise I won't stay,” McCoy told him very firmly.

“Alright,” Jim said, looking at the handsome, implacable face. He looked dubiously at MCCoy. “I don't even know what amount to ask for? Especially since you're helping me out.”

“How about what the boarding house charges?”

Jim looked so scandalized that McCoy burst out laughing. “Okay, you decide them.”

“I'll think about it,” Jim said. “But… I warn you, it will be nominal, Bones.”

“And I warn you, Jim, I’ll fight you on that one.” They grinned at each other in perfect understanding, an easy comfort already between them. Jim felt the warmth in his chest chasing away the bitter cold of the blizzard raging outside as if it had never been.