A New Day
by Deanne Bertram
This story is a continuation and a conclusion to my story
‘Before Your Time’. I realized that so much was left unfinished.
I recommend reading my previous story to understand the events that lead up
to the beginning of…
Lucas and Mark reined in
Razor and Blue Boy as they rode up to the church. Most all of the
town’s folks were sure to attend; this was the first Sunday that Reverend
McCafferty would lead church services. As more of the folks realized
that Lucas and Mark had arrived; they stopped and waited for them to
dismount. Everyone knew that Mark had gone missing and ended up being
a captive of the Cordova Gang and how he protected little Sarah McCafferty,
but Mark had told no one other than Reverend McCafferty all the details.
Many people, who Lucas and
Mark considered friends, were standing outside the church; all waited to
tell Mark how good it was to have him home and ask how he was doing.
All the women folk wanted to hug him and kiss him on the cheek.
A little embarrassed, Mark
extended his hand and replied each time, “I’m okay. Thank you for
asking.” Finally, he looked to his Pa, his eyes pleading, “Can’t we go
Lucas put a hand on his boy’s
shoulder and pushed him into church. Micah motioned for Lucas and Mark
to proceed to the front pew, Mrs. McCafferty had requested that the McCains
sit with her and her children.
With the congregation seated,
Reverend McCafferty stepped to the pulpit. A few people settled more
comfortably in their seats and a few coughs were heard from the back of the
“Good morning good people of
North Fork. I’m Reverend Mark McCafferty. I’d like to introduce
my wife Maggie, our son Jake, and our daughter Sarah. And thank you for
inviting us to North Fork.
“Today’s sermon won’t come
directly from the bible. I’ve come to realize that sometimes, a sermon
can come from life’s experiences. After all, isn’t the bible about the
life experiences of Jesus and His Disciples?
“I think that you folks have
a right to know about us. My family…we set out to North Fork, to bring
the Word of God to a town that didn’t have a Minister. We left
Cincinnati knowing we would be strangers in the place we hoped to eventually
call our home.
“Our travels here were fairly
uneventful, until the night we arrived…my wife and I were struggling to get
our team through the raging waters of a flash flood. We foolishly
didn’t understand the dangers that could be present with what we thought as
a harmless thunderstorm. But, from the dark of the land, a lightning
bolt illuminated the landscape. And that’s when two strangers came into our
vision. Without hesitation, they acted. They knew right away
what to do. Without our askance, they chose to help save my small
family. The taller of the two strangers rescued my wife and myself,
when he was able to rope our mule. However, as the waters pressed against
our wagon, our two children were thrown out the back and into the waters.
It was later that we realized the smaller stranger rode his horse into the
waters and rescued my son. Yet… the waters still had my daughter.
The same small strangers didn’t hesitate once he realized he had my boy
safe. He continued to act, and jumped from his horse into the waters,
waters that very well could have taken his own life, in an attempt to save
the life of another.
“The smaller of the two
strangers was swept away as the tall stranger watched in horror. As
you have undoubtedly heard, he did rescue the child and while they were out
there alone, he took her under his wings to protect her. But to
continued today’s lesson…
“We hadn’t even arrived,
properly, into North Fork, when a stranger opened his home to us.
Yet, while he was opening his home to us, his own heart was breaking.
That’s when we found out the other stranger was but a child himself.
“Yes, I’m talking about Lucas
and Mark McCain.” Reverend McCafferty tried to get his thoughts
organized before he continued. “I guess everyone can tell who was the
‘taller’ of the two strangers.” There were a few hearty laughs from
“This sermon could be about how a young boy was forced to
become a man before he should have. The child,” turning his eyes to
Mark, “yes Mark, you are a child, and to your father, you’ll always be
Mark felt very uncomfortable
and looked at his Pa. Lucas nodded at him.
“Since his return, I’ve had a
number of occasions to speak with Mark. He is a child on the verge of
becoming a young man; and like most young men, he is struggling with this
new aspect of his life. During our discussions, he’s told me what he
feels comfortable in talking about. I’ve tried to help him understand
his feelings, his confusion, his doubts, his uncertainties.” There
were murmurs among the members of the congregation and everyone turned their
eyes to Mark. Everyone wondering, what had the boy endured?
Mark fidgeted with his hat
and squirmed in his seat. Lucas put a comforting arm around his boy.
And, young Sarah took Mark’s hand in hers.
“In time, I hope he will be
able to tell his Pa, in detail, what he has told me as well as what he has
not felt comfortable in retelling. But, for now, the most important
thing is for a Father to show compassion and be there to support His son.
And, when the time comes, listen. But then, I don’t have to tell that
“This sermon is about a loss
of faith. Not Mark’s, not Lucas’, though by every right, either one of
them could be forgiven for wavering.
“No, this is about me.
See, I left Cincinnati because I heard that there was a shortage of
ministers out west. I believed so much in God, that I packed up my
family in order to share His Word with others who were not as fortunate to
have regular church services.
“Yet, at my first trial out
here in this huge country, my faith wavered. I lost my way. Yes, at
times, I witnessed Lucas questioning God, but he never blamed God. I
can’t believe, now, how quickly I was to blame God. I turned my back
on Him. I hated Him.”
Many in the congregation were
shocked to hear those words. Revered McCafferty let the congregation
quiet themselves before he continued to bear his sole.
“You see, while I’m not ready
to tell you Mark’s story, I am ready to stand before you and tell you mine.
“You might ask, ‘How can he
stand in front of us and say he hated God?’ You have every right to ask that
question. I need you to know that I am only human. I have
faults. I want you to understand that I’m not perfect and I am
fallible. And maybe in knowing my weaknesses, you’ll see that I’ll
never ‘judge’ anyone, but work with you through your troubles.
“I also need you to
understand how my faith started to be restored. It was by the
innocence of a child, my own. I had been reunited with my Sarah.
Lucas had found Mark, but had not yet been really reunite; when Lucas got to
Mark he was unconscious after being thrown from a horse. As the
soldier’s led the small procession and returned to the town with Lucas and
Mark, I still was blaming God. I was mad He had let this happen.
That he had allowed those outlaws to take my Sarah away from me. Yet…
as Lucas and the soldier’s carried Mark into the doctor’s office, my child
asked if we could pray for Mark.”
Taking a moment to shake his
head and lower his eyes, Reverend McCafferty vividly remembered the scene.
“She’d been separated from
her family for over a week and I could feel her trembling in my arms because
of her experiences, yet she showed compassion to, to someone who only a week
earlier was a stranger. My faith in myself crumbled even further.
“Later, I overheard Mark and
Lucas talk. I heard Mark tell his Pa how he was so scared and felt so
alone. How he prayed his father would find him. He had prayed to
God for the strength to help him keep Sarah safe. To keep My Sarah
“After our return to North
Fork, I talked with a boy to help him through his anguish, yet while I
thought I was helping him, it was he who was helping me. Restoring my
faith in myself, in people; and most of all in God.
“With all they were going
through, these three stood firm in their faith; believing without wavering…
In witnessing these three, they reminded me that God can only guide us.
It’s what we choose to do with that guidance in our lives that makes the
difference. If one keeps their hearts open…”
Ashamed of his own guilt, but
feeling a heavy weight lifted, the Reverend wiped the unshed tears from his
“God’s guidance can take many
forms, even the form of a child.” Again looking to Mark, “Mark, I look
forward to our conversations in the future.
“The lesson from this sermon
is that not all lessons are to be learned from the bible and not all lessons
are to be taught by an adult to a child. Sometimes, adults need to
listen to the children. Children can be great teachers.
“I stand before you to ask
your forgiveness. I’ve talked with Our Heavenly Father and I believe
He has listened as I’ve asked for and feel blessed with His forgiveness.
If you choose to accept me as your new preacher, my family and I would be
blessed to call North Fork our home.”
With that, Reverend
McCafferty left the pulpit. As he stepped to the front row, he reached
out for his wife’s hand and looked to Lucas and Mark, and motioned for them
to accompany them out to the front of the church. Mark felt a tug on
his hand and realized Sarah still had a hold of his hand. He reached
down, picked Sarah up in his arms and set her on his hip. Lucas looked
down at his boy, concerned how Mark was handling what had been revealed,
concerned until he saw Mark’s smile. Then, Lucas picked Jake up in his
arms and followed the McCafferty family outside.
As the members of the
congregation filed out of the Church, everyone stopped and shook the
reverend’s hand, hugged his wife, and welcomed them to North Fork.
People also shook the hands of Lucas and
Mark, where in the past they might have ruffled Mark’s hair or just nodded
to him in acknowledgement. Some of the schools girls blushed and
giggled as they walked past Mark. The older boys from school punched
him in the arm. The town had a new respect for Mark. Yes, in the
past, he had been that mischievous boy, but people were realizing he was
growing up, growing up in front of their eyes.
Lucas invited the McCafferty
family to join him and Mark for lunch over at the Mallory House hotel.
Mark put Sarah up on Blue Boy as Lucas put Jake on Razor. The McCains
and the McCaffertys walked over to the hotel.
As they sat down at the
table, the reverend turned to Mark and apologized if he had made Mark
uncomfortable with his words. “I needed the congregation to know how
humbled I was and was sincere when I asked for their forgiveness.”
“I understand, but gee, did
you have to lay it on so thick?” Mark said while grimacing about what was
going to happen when school restarted in a few weeks. He hoped
everyone would just forget about it.
Mark and Maggie McCafferty
and their family were settling into the parsonage and getting to know the
people of North Fork. They had truly become part of the community, not
just a preacher’s family. It seemed everyday, a different family was
inviting them over to dinner. No one asked any questions about the
first Sermon, conversations drifted to many different topics; the weather,
ranching, babies being born, and questions about back East. How North
Fork compared to some of the bigger cities. Excitement as the railroad
was heading out West.
The McCafferty children were
spending a lot of time out at the McCain ranch before school started.
Mark was teaching them how to ride and teaching them about ranching.
They loved it. Lucas noticed that Mark seemed to walk a little taller
‘Was he walking taller or had
he just grown that much?’ Lucas asked of himself.
Mark never lost his patience
with these children. There was more laughter around the McCain Ranch,
laughter of multiple children, not just one.
As he sat on the front porch
of their home, smoking a thin cigar, and listening as the sounds of night
replace the quieted sounds of day, Lucas was pleased to know how well the
three children were getting along, yet, he longed… What if Margaret
hadn’t miscarried their second child… What if Margaret hadn’t died…, What
‘That’s the problem with
“What ifs” you can get lost with them,’ Lucas thought to himself.
The new school year had been
in session for a few months. As promised, Mark picked up Sarah and Jake and
walked with them to school each day, many days leading them as they sat in
the saddle on Blue Boy. Mr. Griswold had returned to North Fork after
a summer visit to his own family back east. One day, shortly after
Halloween, he was grading papers over lunch when he came to Mark McCain’s
assignment. It just now dawned on him that there had been a remarkable
improvement in Mark’s grades this school year. He sat back and tried
to reflect on just when the change had occurred.
It was a few days later when
Mr. Griswold decided to go outside and observe the children during recess.
As he walked around, he noticed how the two McCafferty children had taken to
Mark. They seemed to idolize him. He couldn’t fault them; he had
heard that Mark had saved both of their lives. And Mark seemed
genuinely attached to them, he didn’t act irritated at having youngsters tag
along behind him all the time. At lunch, the boys were playing
stickball, however Mr. Griswold didn’t see Mark in the group. This
gave him cause for concern. Mr. Griswold then noticed the older
schoolgirls standing under the tree, giggling and pointing to the side of
the schoolhouse. As Mr. Griswold walked to the side of the building,
he paused as he saw Mark had all the young children sitting around him.
They were focusing intently on what Mark was telling them. He continued to
watch for a few minutes without interrupting.
Mr. Griswold was curious.
In school year’s past, Mark would spend time with the boys his age, playing
games and making plans to torment the girls. Finally, he couldn’t
squelch his curiosity and approached Mark from behind, he realized Mark was
reading to Sarah and Jake, and the others. None of the children
looked away from Mark, their full attention was wrapped up in what he was
reading. As Mr. Griswold’s shadow fell over Mark, he quickly stood up
and accidentally dropped the book. Mr. Griswold bent down and
picked up the book.
“Mark, as I’ve said before, each book has a soul.”
Remembering their first encounter with ‘juju beans’ in a book. “No
sense letting this one get dirty.” Then he looked at the title My
First Alphabet. This is not the Mark McCain I remember, Mr. Griswold
thought to himself.
“I’m sorry, Mr. Griswold, I
didn’t’ hear you come up behind me,” Mark tried to explain.
“That’s okay Mark.
Guess I shouldn’t have startled you.” He handed the book back to Mark,
turned and walked back to ring the school bell.
School continued for the day
and was later dismissed, but still, Mr. Griswold couldn’t place his finger
on exactly what was occurring, but knew he had a few questions to ask.
“Mr. McCain,” said Griswold
as all the children rose to leave.
“Yes sir?” answered Mark.
“Would you stay after for a
Mark motioned for Sarah and
Jake to go outside and told them to wait for him. Then he walked to
the front of the classroom, unsure what he had done wrong. He hadn’t
remembered doing anything to get himself into trouble, except dropping the
“Mark, I just wanted to talk
to you about happened over lunch today. It surprised me at first.
You sure are a different Mark McCain than the one who left this schoolroom
before summer. You’ve done some growing up. “
Mark was unsure what to say.
Uncomfortable with the thought this discussion was going to lead to the
events of the summer and he wasn’t ready to talk to anyone else, especially
since he hadn’t come to terms to talk to his Pa about it.
Mr. Griswold continued, “Rest
assured Mark, I’m not going to pry into this summer. Since I saw you
at lunch, I started thinking. I realized recently that your schoolwork
has improved as is reflected by your test scores. I’ve also been
pleased with how the younger children have recently shown an improvement in
their own grades and now I see that it wasn’t all because of my tutelage.
What I am going to ask, if you’d be interested, I think you’d be an
excellent teacher’s assistant, to help out with the younger children.
They seem to take direction from you a little easier than me.”
“Mr. Griswold, I’m not ready
yet. I’m still a kid.”
“Mark, I seem to remember the
Reverend McCafferty saying that children can be great teachers. All
you have to do is to continue what you did at lunch today. I’ve
witnessed sparkles in their eyes when they answer my questions correctly.
They are excited. They don’t see you as a school teacher because
you’re closer to their age. They kind of take to you as their big
brother. You make learning fun.
“I think I need to talk to my
Pa.” Marked looked down at the floor, unsure what to do.
Realizing there was an
internal struggle that Mark was experiencing; Mr. Griswold thought how to
bring Mark back into the present; it appeared Mark was going to bolt like a
startled jack rabbit. “Mark, this improvement in your studies, I think it
has something to do with your friendship with Percy Bullock. Am I
“Yes sir.” Mark’s eyes
started to shine again. “His home is full of books, thick books.
Wonderful literature as his Pa says. Percy’s father has been reading
from them to Percy and me. I remember the first time I took Percy home
and saw all those books. I told Mr. Bullock ‘You must think we’re
pretty ignorant around here’.”
Mr. Griswold replied, “Mark,
I’ve always thought of you as a bright boy, if you’d just apply yourself to
your studies. I’m glad you’ve proven me correct. I also think that
with your improved attitude towards school, you’re smart enough to take on
some advance studies. I’d be willing to work with you over recess on
your new studies and you can work with the younger children over lunch on
their spellers and readers.”
“I don’t know.” Mark
still didn’t feel he wanted to take on any grown up responsibilities.
“Mark,” came his Pa’s voice
from the back of the room. Lucas had arrived just as school was being
dismissed and after not seeing Mark come out, he walked into the classroom
to overhear the entire conversation. “I think this is a decision you
need to make for yourself. But if you’re looking for my permission,
you have it. Mr. Griswold, it pleases me to hear your words to my b…,
my son. I’ve always taken pride in seeing that he received a
Mr. Griswold spoke to Mark,
“Take your time. You don’t have to give me an answer right away.
I’ll see you in the morning.” And all three left the classroom.
Lucas and Mark rode back to
the ranch, side by side, after dropping Sarah and Jake off at the parsonage.
After dinner and the dishes
were washed and put away, Mark sat down opposite his father and started to
read part of his homework assignment for the night. Lucas was reading
his bible and every now and then, when Mark looked at his Pa, he could tell
his attention was wandering. Mark was concerned, when his Pa usually
read the bible, his eyes never strayed from the words printed on the pages.
‘Unless he was trying to come
up with some way to set me back on the right path after getting into more
mischief than I should,” Mark thought to himself.
“Pa, you seem preoccupied
this evening. Have I done something wrong?”
“No, Mark, you’ve not done
anything wrong. I am proud of you, proud that you’re my son.”
Lucas’ thoughts seemed to
“Pa?” inquired Mark.
“I know you might think that
what I’m about to say, might seem a little too adult for you, but I want you
to understand. It’s just that, I’ve seen how you’ve taken to the
McCafferty children. And to hear the laughter from the three of you around
the house, well, it’s something that I never thought I’d hear within these
walls. I’m sorry that your Ma passed and you were left an only child.
Maybe I should have tried to find a woman to marry and become a Ma for
you. Then hearing Mr. Griswold’s words today…. As for your
education…..” Lucas faltered. He knew he didn’t want to push Mark into
doing something that Mark thought was a ‘grown up thing’. Especially
since Mark still hadn’t come to terms to tell him about events of the
summer, but this was an opportunity that Mark couldn’t pass up; an
opportunity to better himself.
“Pa, it wasn’t your fault my
Ma died. And you’ve been many things to me. You’ve had to be
both my Pa and my Ma. I consider you my best friend, my teacher, and
my confidant…” Mark hesitated, he realized now might be the right time
to talk to his Pa about the ordeal. Lucas spent the next several hours
listening to his son. Even though it had happened several months
before, every detail was still brilliant in Mark’s memory. But Lucas
noticed that Mark was calm in his retelling, that the words Mark was saying
showed a maturity in his son. He wanted to stop his son and tell him
to forget about all the bad memories. Hearing Mark talk of his ordeal
did cause him an emotional pain, and that’s why Mark had hesitated to talk.
‘That boy of mine sure wants
to protect me,’ Lucas thought, but he knew his son needed to talk and he
listened more intently; knowing this might be the final step towards Mark
finally putting the matter in the past. Lucas now had a better
understanding of just how much growing up Mark had done when he was missing.
And why he asked to be “my little boy” again that Sunday and why he was now
hesitant to accept Mr. Griswold’s offer now.
Morning came and Lucas found
that Mark was already up, dressed for school, and re-checking a few math
problems before breakfast.
“Son, never seen you so eager
to do your studies.”
“Pa, after our talk last night, I realized that I can’t
stop myself from growing up. Some days I feel I want to grow up to
make sure you’re proud of me and that you can trust me to do things around
the ranch. Other days I want to be your little boy again.” Mark
paused as he looked his Pa in the eye. “I will grow up, that’s what life is
all about. The lessons learned. You’ve spent my whole life
teaching me right from wrong. Impressing on me the importance of a
good education. Mr. Bullock opened my eyes to literature and the more
I listened to him read, the more I understood what you’ve been teaching me
“The words written in all
those books, the history, the creativity…. Someone took the time to
put it all in writing. As I drifted off to sleep last night I realized
my eyes have been opened to a whole new world. I want to be a part of
the future. I can’t do that if I insist on staying a child.
“Yesterday, when Mr. Griswold
asked me to help him with the younger children…” Mark paused.
“Just how did you become the
pied piper of North Fork?,” his Pa asked, not knowing if he really wanted to
know the answer, but he couldn’t help ask the question.
“At first it started just
with Sarah and Jake, they were having trouble making new friends with some
of the others and were unsure of themselves, so I just started making their
lessons into games with them. Next thing I knew, I had a few more
youngsters, and then I had all the youngsters surrounding me. The
eagerness in their eyes…, Pa its….” Mark stopped to think about what to say
“Pa, I saw the look in Mr.
Griswold’s eyes when he asked me to be his assistant and it reminded me of
you, when I’ve done things to make you proud of me. I think, maybe, I
can handle growing up a little bit more today. That is, if you’re
ready to let me grow up a little too. I want to accept Mr. Griswold’s
invitation for advanced studies and I want to help him out with the younger
children. Maybe they won’t try to get out of their studies quite as
much as I did.”
Yes, a new day had dawned in the life of Mark McCain.
New adventures and new struggles yet to be experienced awaited him.