There was a gentle wind blowing off the lake. From where he stood in the
ranger’s station, Tom Walker could see the tips of a thousand Douglas firs
bending with the breeze. The treetops rolled like a dark green ocean.
Tom poured himself a cup of coffee and picked up his binoculars.
Taking a sip, he put the high-powered lenses to his eyes and scanned
the woods. Mid-morning is a good time of the day for a forest ranger.
There’s nothing much to do, the coffee is fresh and the world looks perfect.
His gaze meandered past the trees, over the bluffs and across the lake.
He focused in on a small trail of smoke coming from the southwest corner
of the woods. It seemed odd because Tom didn’t know of any campers out
that way. Deciding to investigate, Tom threw on his jacket and headed
for the door. But before he could leave, he was met in the hallway by
Julie Bramble who had just walked in. Julie was a counselor at Running Bear
Summer Camp a few miles away. In their three year association, Tom had
become more than friends with Julie. She was a buxom, twenty-five year old
with short auburn hair and a winning smile. She wasn’t smiling right
“I want to talk to you!” she stated, planting herself between the ranger
and the door.”
“You mean you want to talk AT me, don’t you?”
“I’m serious!” Julie said. “There’s a rumor going around about you and that
horse rancher from the valley!”
“Really? Where did you hear this rumor?” Tom asked.
“At the Flat Branch Bar. I heard folks talking about you and that Davis
woman just last night.”
“First of all, her name is Braire- Letitia Braire. And what were you
doing at the Flat Branch? You don’t drink!”
“If you must know, I was looking for you.” Julie said. “I went by your
cabin last night and you weren’t there, so I figured you must have gone
into town. Look, don’t try to change the subject! People are talking about
you and that woman and it just doesn’t look very… professional!”
“Well, what are they saying?” he asked.
“What do you THINK they’re saying?!”
“I don’t know. She’s a fine looking woman. She is unattached and I’ve been
over to her place a few times. Maybe people think we’re seeing each other.”
“No, they think you’re BANGING each other! Some say they know it for
“Who says they know it for a fact?”
“Debbie Morrow! Julie shot back. “She’s heard all about it!”
“Oh, come on! She’s a waitress in a bar! She’s bound to hear all kinds
of wild stories!”
“Debbie heard this story from Miss Braire herself! She told Debbie that
you two had a little meeting in the woods and that afterward she couldn’t
ride her horse for days!”
Tom thought about it a moment, then burst into laughter.
“It’s not funny!” Julie shouted.
“It is if you know the whole story!”
“So is it true?” she demanded.
“Not really. I mean, I didn’t give it too her THAT hard!”
Julie brought her hand across Tom’s face so fast that he almost bit
“You bastard!” she hissed as she turned to leave. Tom snapped out of
his momentary daze and grabbed Julie by the arm.
“Hey, wait a minute!”
“Get away!” Julie said, trying to slap him again.
But this time Tom grabbed her other arm before she could strike. He held
Julie’s arms at her sides as he calmly spoke.
“Hold on now. I think you misunderstood.” he said, guiding Julie to
a nearby chair and sitting her down. “I did run into Letitia in the woods
the other day and we did have a little meeting, but believe me, it was
anything but friendly! See, I found her riding her horse near the east side
of the lake which is way off the horse trail. I drove up and told her
that it wasn’t a safe place for riding and offered to escort her back to
the trail. She argued for a while then gave me the old one-fingered salute
and rode off. So I got back in my truck and followed her until I had her
cornered near the foothills. I was so angry by then that I was thinking
about hauling her into the sheriff’s office, but then I had a better idea.
I remembered that trusty oak paddle of mine in the glove box, so I decided
to give her a taste of the tear-jerker.”
“You didn’t!” Julie gasped.
“I did! And you should have seen the look on her face when I came out
of the truck with that paddle in my hand!”
“Did she make a run for it?”
“She didn’t have time! I dragged her down off that horse and over to a
fallen tree before she could blink. Then I hauled her over my lap and
started whacking her fanny. Boy, did she start yelling! Worse than you do!”
“I don’t blame her!” Julie said, remembering her last encounter with that
particular paddle. “You spank hard with that thing!”
“She deserved every swat she got! Anyway, I paddled her for a good minute
or two and when I stood her up she was bawling and rubbing her bottom like
“I bet you liked that!”
“Well, she did look awful cute. Not as cute as you, of course.”
Tom lifted Julie’s chin with his right hand. He leaned in and their lips
met in a soft kiss. All the tension in Julie’s body fell to the floor.
“So all you did was spank her?” she whispered as she wrapped her arms
around Tom’s shoulders.
“Yeah.” he whispered back. “Then I told her that next time I caught her,
I’d use my belt. After she stopped crying, she apologized, got on her horse
and rode away. So she couldn’t have been THAT sore! She must have been
exaggerating when she told the story to Debbie.”
“Not only that,” Julie added. “but the way Debbie told me the story,
it sounded like something completely different happened out in those woods.”
“There you go, that’s how rumors get started. Somebody exaggerates, then
someone else puts their spin on the story and the next thing you know
there’s a big scandal! I think I’ll drop by the Flat Branch this weekend.
Let’s see if Debbie can talk her way out of her own trip to the woodshed!”
They both laughed as they shared a tight embrace. Tom picked Julie up in
his arms and sat her down on the edge of the desk. She wrapped her legs
around Tom’s waist as they kissed once again.