Mr. Griswald turned and looked at the writing on
the board. “Oh, dear me! I DID make a mistake. Thank you, Mark, for
pointing it out.” At first, I was relieved. He had simply forgotten that
today was the beginning of our Thanksgiving Holiday! Mr. Griswald turned
and erased something. I groaned even louder when I saw what was now written
on the board. “I meant for you to work through pages 26 to pages 33 in your
arithmetic books…not page 32!”
I cringed when I felt about six pairs of eyes
turn and glare at me. Slowly, I lowered myself in the seat and knew that
had Mr. Griswald not been in the room, wads of paper and books would have
been thrown in my general direction. I cleared my throat and continued
writing. “And in the Spirit of Thursday being Thanksgiving, I will let you
out…” Mr. Griswald paused as he opened his pocket watch and checked the
time. “…exactly two minutes early!”
“Whoopie…” I grumbled as I rolled my eyes.
“Mark McCain, would you like to share your
enthusiasm with the rest of the class?” Mr. Griswald asked as he took a step
I immediately straightened up in the chair and
swallowed hard. “Uh…no sir, Mr. Griswald!”
“Very well, class. When you have your assignment
copied down, you may go.” I groaned again as I quickly scribbled down the
rest of my assignment. Then I closed my writing tablet, gathered up my
books, and hurried out the door. I certainly didn’t get very far to where
Blue Boy was tied before I found my ‘friends,’ Freddie Toomey, Billy Davis,
and Steve and Kevin Connors coming toward me. They all had mean-looking
expression on their faces.
“Oh now, give me a break!” I rolled my eyes.
“It was just one page. Besides that, all I did was groan!”
“Yes!” Billy nodded his head. “And YOU know,
Mark McCain, that it was your groaning that got us ALL an extra page of math
“Oh yeah?” I dropped my books to the ground and
planted my fists on my hips. “And WHO is the one who got us the essay?
Hmmmmmm?????” I turned and looked at Freddie.
Freddie laughed as he held up his hand. “Okay,
so it was my loud ‘ow’ that got the essay, but WHO made me yell?”
“Yeah!” Jeff Connors practically shouted. “Who
DID make him yell?”
“Yeah? Well, I suppose Freddie told you why I
kicked him in the shin in the first place!”
The boys all turned back toward Freddie. Freddie
held is hands up to his sides and shrugged in innocence. “What? Just
because I took the pencil from his hand? Who was it that stepped on my
pencil ON PURPOSE just before school started?”
Jeff, Kevin, and Billy all folded their arms and
turned back to look at me. “Well, I…I…I…” I swallowed, because the truth
was as far as those boys were concerned, the essay was ultimately my fault.
I was suddenly very, very upset with Freddie. Someone needed to teach him a
lesson, and it had been a whole two weeks since the last time I had
attempted that task. So, without thinking I put up my fists and declared,
“If you want to fight, I’ll…”
But I didn’t get a chance to get the rest of my
sentence out, because Freddie dropped his books and gave me a hard push. I
jumped up off the ground. “Why you…” I hurried forward and gave him a hard
push right back. Freddie toppled to the ground. I jumped on top of him.
The boys started yelling. They all seemed to take Freddie’s side on that
one and that made me even madder! Freddie and I started rolling around in
the dirt. I pinned him to the ground and was pinning his hands behind his
back when the boys suddenly grew quiet.
That’s when I noticed something else. Two big
booted feet were standing right beside me. I hesitated lifting my head,
afraid of what I would find. Keeping Freddie pinned to the ground, I slowly
lifted my head. My eyes moved up the legs, then to the very familiar belt
buckle, and finally to the shirt. I knew who it was before my eyes even
made it to the folded arms across the middle of the chest. I felt my mouth
go dry as I let go of Freddie’s arms. When my eyes focused on the angry
face, I swallowed hard. “Hi, Pa.”
“Mark Warren McCain!” Pa bent down and grabbed
me hard by the arm. I let out a little cry as he pulled me to my feet.
“What the devil are you doing?”
“Well…” I swallowed again. “You said never to
walk away from a fight, sir…”
“Just who started this fight?” Pa asked. He
lifted an eyebrow when I didn’t immediately answer. I thought back and
remembered Freddie pushing me, but I also remembered that I had threatened
it first. Pa wouldn’t much appreciate knowing that fact. “I’m waiting!”
Pa’s voice was booming and very firm.
“Well…” I swallowed as I looked toward the boys.
They slowly backed up. It seems that when my Pa was in one of his moods,
people didn’t tend to want to hang around to see the results. “Well,” I
tried again. “You see…”
“You know you started it, Mark McCain!” Freddie
“Mark!” I moved my eyes away from Pa’s. That’s
when I realized that this time, I was in DOUBLE TROUBLE, because right
beside Pa stood Miss Milly Scott. The expression on her face told me that
she was about to give me what for too. I closed my eyes and groaned again.
“Mark McCain! You apologize to Freddie right now!”
“Oh but, Miss Milly…” I started.
Pa grabbed my ear and gave it a tug. “Mark
McCain, don’t you talk back to Milly! You do as she tells you, boy!”
I groaned again. After swallowing past the lump
in my throat, I mumbled out an apology. “Mark McCain!” Milly’s eyes
flashed as she crossed her arms and gave me one of those looks that told me
she would deal with me later.
I rolled my eyes…I didn’t mean to, but I was just
wondering why it was that parents didn’t get ALL the details before they
started pointing fingers. I mean after all, if Pa was being accused of
murder after shooting some man, wouldn’t he expect his accusers to get all
the details? Then I cringed again, because the truth was…if Pa knew I had
broken Freddie’s pencil on purpose, I probably would have gotten more than a
tug on the ear. “I’m sorry, Freddie,” I answered loud enough to satisfy
Freddie dusted himself off, picked up his books,
and hurried off. “But Pa,” I said quickly before he interrupted me again.
“Why didn’t you let me tell the whole story? I could have a good reason for
what I did!”
Pa lifted that eyebrow…you know, the one he
always raised when he was about to question someone? “Let’s suppose I asked
for EVERY detail…Would you be off the hook?”
I put my hands on my hips. “Well…seeing as how
you’re the Pa and I’m the kid, I reckon not.” Pa hiked up that eyebrow even
higher, waiting for an explanation. “Well…it seems that’s how it always
seems to work out anyhow.”
Pa turned and looked at Milly who let him know
that she wasn’t amused in the least. “It’s just not fair, Pa! Mr. Griswald
gave a whole lot of homework, knowing that this was Thanksgiving Holiday!
Then when someone groaned in class, he gave the WHOLE class another page of
“Who would have the nerve to groan in Mr.
Griswald’s classroom?” Pa asked then.
“Uh…that’s not important,” I quickly answered.
The look on Pa’s face told me he KNEW the answer to that! “All the boys are
mad now! And they even accused ME of being the reason we had to write an
essay! It just ain’t fair!”
“Now Mark…” Pa crossed his arms and raised both
of his eyebrows. “You are old enough, and smart enough, to know that life
“Fair!” I finished for him. Suddenly, I got
myself an idea, you might say. “Say Pa, I remember you saying just
yesterday that those steers in the far pasture are about ready for Market.
Do you suppose that this week we could…”
“Oh, and weren’t you saying something about
building your own icehouse? Why I could help you then you could just tell
“Mark…” Pa motioned in the dirt at my books. I
immediately started picking them up. “Uh…Milly’s coming to our house for
supper tonight. I need to get home and uh…take care of some things so I was
I laughed as I looked at Milly. “He means he
needs to do some cleaning so you don’t think we are absolute…”
“Mark McCain, you are treading on really thin
ice, boy!” Pa suddenly declared. I clamped my mouth shut at that point. He
cleared his throat. “I would like you to hitch up Milly’s horse and buggy
and escort her out to the ranch.” Pa looked up at the sky. “It looks like
snow, son, so you best hurry.” Pa turned back to Milly. “Milly, I’ll get
all the supplies you’ll need and take them with me.”
Milly nodded as Pa took her arm and they turned
to leave the school yard. I started toward Blue Boy. “Oh boy…that will
give Milly a whole hour to lecture me on the way a young man should behave
and turning the other cheek…all that mother stuff…” I shook my head. “Then
tonight, Pa will probably tell me what my punishment is for starting that
fight!” I untied my horse and mounted him. Then when I turned, I saw Pa
and Mr. Griswald talking. “Boy oh boy!” I mumbled as I hurried into town to
jaw with Micah for a few minutes before having to go hitch up the buggy.
“Micah?” I looked up from the pile of wanted
posters I was sorting for him. “Why are parents so…so…so…”
Micah paused in writing his report and looked up
at me. “So what, Mark?”
Micah chuckled as he went back to his report.
“What did you do this time?”
“Well…” I stood up and walked over to his desk.
“What makes you think it’s something I did?” I put my hands on my hips and
cocked my head to one side. “You’re like my grandpa…you should be on my
“Well, tell me what the problem is and then maybe
I can chose a side.” Micah chuckled as he sat back in his chair and looked
“Well…” I sat down next to him. “Freddie and I
got into a fight. Pa came down pretty hard on me.” Micah grinned. He knew
Freddie and I were always fighting over something or other. “Well, I
mentioned to him that he told me never to walk away from a fight and he…”
Micah busted into laughter then. I slowly stood
up and put my hands on my hips. “What’s so funny?”
“You…” Micah pointed at me. “Got into ANOTHER
fight with Freddie and you expect your Pa to buy that ‘never walk away from
a fight’ line?” Micah shook his head. “Had it been somebody else, your Pa
would have bought it, but NOT with Freddie Toomey!”
I shook my head. “And it didn’t help that Milly
was with him either.”
“Oh ho!” Micah laughed even harder. “I’m
beginning to see the picture.” Micah stood up and slapped a hand on my
shoulder. “Mark…just WHO did start this fight?”
“Well…” I cringed as I thought on it for a
minute. “It just depends on how you look at it…” I turned to look out the
window. Pa was hurrying from town. “Oh no! I better get to the livery.
If I’m late getting Milly to the ranch, it’ll be a trip to the barn for
sure!” With that, I hurried from Micah’s office and ran to the livery
Soon, I was pulling up just outside the General
Store. Milly closed and locked the door, then she accepted my offer of help
into the wagon. “You should learn to ride a horse,” I mentioned as I
started the buggy in motion. “You know, horseback ridin’s not half-bad.
I’m sure Pa would get you a side-saddle for Christmas and…” But then I
stopped as I looked sideways at her. “Of course…you seem more like the type
who would prefer to ride like a man…”
As it turned out, Milly didn’t give me too much
of a lecture on the way home. She did tell me that I needed to learn to get
along with Freddie. She reminded me that nothing was solved fighting, and I
declined to mention all the times Freddie and I had fought without being
caught that…okay…somehow our Pa’s always found out when Freddie and I
fought, but still…I’m sure if I really thought about it, I could find one
for instance when our fighting solved something!
“Now Mark, the next time Freddie does something
that makes you mad, you just walk away. Then I’m sure the next time you see
each other you would have forgotten all about the reason you were
fighting.” I pulled up just outside the house. “Shouldn’t groan out in
“Yes ma’am.” The door opened and Pa appeared
with a really big smile as he hurried forward to help Milly down from the
buggy. Milly accepted his hand and I grinned when I saw that her hand
lingered in his as they started into the house.
Pa suddenly stopped and turned around, but his
hand still held tight to Milly’s. “Something wrong?” Pa asked the question,
but from the tone of his voice, I was thinking he really didn’t expect me to
say there was something wrong. It was more like he was telling me to stop
grinning and get the buggy to the barn.
“No sir,” I answered as I clucked to the horse
and hurried to the barn.
By the time I got inside from feeding Blue Boy
and the buggy horse, Milly had supper started. I grinned as I sniffed the
air, pleasantly pleased that Milly was fixing her chicken and dumplings. I
love Milly’s dumplings. “Is there any apple…” I started.
Milly turned and held up the apple pie. I smiled
as I took a few steps forward and took a great big sniff. “Your father’s
out checking the cattle,” Milly announced. “Perhaps you should go on and
bring in some more firewood. There’s not much left in the wood box.
I remembered then that Pa has specifically
reminded me yesterday that the wood was getting a bit low on the woodpile
outside the door and I was to bring more in from the woodshed. My eyes grew
wide. I knew that if Pa saw how low the wood pile was, he’d skin me alive!
Pa was just telling me yesterday he didn’t understand kids my age…we were so
responsible one minute, then the next we acted like our head took lose and
we lost all our senses.
I quickly filled up the wood box, but then Pa
came in and reminded me that the trash was getting a little full and needed
burning. I looked toward the woodshed, then back at Pa. Then I nodded my
head and went to burn the trash.
You know, the age of twelve could be really hard
for a boy. It seemed I always had some sort of chore that needed done, then
I had homework. It sure was hard scheduling those sort of things around my
friends and fishing! Oh, fishing is what I had chosen to do instead of
putting more wood on the wood pile the day before. And I reckon that…
As I was coming back from burning the trash, a
cold wind blew right through me. I looked up at the sky to see what the
trouble was, and my eyes grew wide at the sight of it. Big, dark clouds
were quickly approaching. Pa had taught me all about nature, and from the
look of those clouds, and the fact that animals were running for shelter I
knew what was happening! I heard Blue Boy whinny from inside the barn as
well. “Pa! Pa!” I called as I hurried toward the house. Pa hadn’t heard
me call, and when I walked inside, I saw him and Milly in an embrace in the
kitchen. At least, I think it was an embrace. He was standing behind her
with his arms around her, and his lips were pretty close to her ear.
Pa immediately bolted straight up and turned
around. Milly’s face got really red and she quickly bent over to look in
the oven. “Pa, come outside!” I ordered as I hurried over and grabbed his
“What’s the trouble, Mark?”
But Pa’s eyes widened when he looked in the
window. Already, bits of snow were blowing around in the harsh wind that
had just come in. “Oh no…” Pa breathed suddenly.
“Pa, is it what I think it is?” I asked as Pa
stood in the doorway, his hair blowing every which way as he looked outside.
“Lucas, what is it?” Milly hollered over the
noisy wind. She hurried up to us and shielded her face as she stood beside
Pa in the doorway.
“It’s a blizzard,” Pa answered. He looked over a
Milly, then back at me. “A bad one from the looks of it.”
Already, it was almost pitch black outside. I
remembered that I had forgotten to get wood to go near the house. I turned
and looked at the filled wood box, but knew that in a storm like that the
wood would only last until tomorrow. The horses would need fed, and the
cattle out on the range…
Milly was thinking the same thought, because she
immediately asked about the cattle. Pa turned and looked at me. I’d been
through this before and knew that we would for sure lose some of our
cattle. Some would find shelter under the trees, but if the blizzard lasted
too long they’d freeze to death. “Well, if the blizzard isn’t too bad, I
can at least drop some feed out for them but…” Pa shook his head. “From the
looks of it, Milly…”
I turned and saw the worry working into Milly’s
face as she chewed on her lip. “How long will it last, Lucas?”
Pa hesitated in answering. He put an arm around
her shoulders and closed the door behind us. “Well “Milly, I don’t know.
It could last for hours or…”
“Days?” Milly lifted her eyebrows as dread
crawled over her face. “Lucas…”
“Come on,” Pa smiled. “I believe that supper’s
almost ready, huh?”
Thankfully, I had secured the barn before coming
in here, but I’m sure Pa would have to eventually break the truth to Milly.
I was almost positive that he would try to go take care of the animals in
the barn. The chickens would fare okay in the coop, but Pa would feel
better if they were in the barn as well. We both knew our animal’s survival
depended on how cold things got on how well our animals fared.
Milly sat the last of the food on the table. Pa
grabbed the Bible and turned to a passage he always liked to read when he
was feeling danger. Afterwards, he took Milly’s hand in one hand and mine
in the other and bowed his head. Humbly, he asked God to keep us and the
animals stay safe, then he asked that God give him guidance and wisdom
through the storm. After he said Amen, we started eating.
There was a strange silence around the table, but
the house shook with the harsh wind. I could feel the wind coming through
the cracks in the wall. Milly looked from me to Pa several times before
finally returning to her eating. I knew Pa was a bit disappointed. This
was supposed to be a pleasant night – one that would end with me going to
bed a bit early so he and Milly could “enjoy adult conversation,” as Pa put
After Milly served the pie, Pa cleared his throat
and spoke. “This is sure good pie, Milly.” Pa gave me a light kick under
the table. “Ain’t it, Mark?”
“Yes. It sure is good pie!” I declared.
“And uh…I’m sure Mark will be glad to help you
with the dishes.” Again, Pa kicked me lightly under the table. “Won’t you,
“Uh…ye…” I stopped. “But I have to help you out
in the…” Suddenly, I felt a sharp kick. “Ouch!”
Milly slowly lifted her head and looked at Pa.
Then she shifted her eyes toward the window. Her eyes grew concerned as she
looked back at Pa. “Lucas, you aren’t thinking of…”
Pa shot me a look. I decided I didn’t want the
last of my pie. Immediately, I stood up and started gathering up the
dishes. Pa leaned in toward Milly and took her hands in his. They were so
close that their noses could almost touch! I strained my ears so I could
hear what was being said, but Pa’s eyes shifted toward me and spoke a very
clear warning. Quickly, I hurried into the kitchen. I heard Pa speak
softly to Milly.
“Lucas McCain, don’t you even think of…” Milly
started. Pa again spoke softly. I’m guessing he was trying to calm her by
talking that way. Milly eyebrows wrinkled then. “But Lucas…the storm is…”
They both turned their heads to look at me. I
hurried back toward the sink and poured water in a pan to boil. Pa stood up
and grabbed a rope. “I’ll leave the rifle in here with you, son. You know
what to do.” Pa sat the rope down and started buttoning up his coat.
Milly hurried over to Pa then. “Now Lucas
McCain, I don’t want you going out there!”
“This is a ranch, Milly,” Pa declared. “I have
to go make sure the horses have plenty of feed and will be warm enough. I
need to put blankets on them.”
Milly turned and looked toward me. “What does
Mark need the rifle for?”
Pa paused in buttoning his coat. Slowly, he
walked up to Milly and put his hands on her shoulders so he could look her
squarely in the face. “Honey…I don’t want you to worry. Now, I’ve walked
to that barn enough to know my way. I’ll tie that rope from the house to the
barn so we can use it as a guide the rest of the time. Mark knows that if
I’m not back after a certain amount of time, he’s to fire that rifle until I
I watched Milly shiver. Pa pressed his lips to
her forehead before he turned back around and continued buttoning his coat.
“How long?” Milly asked.
Pa picked up the rope. “I’ll come back in a half
hour. If I need more time, I’ll have to go back out there.” Pa put his
hand on the door. “Don’t worry, Milly. Back in Oklahoma we got some bad
storms.” I turned to look at Pa, warning him not to say too much. Pa had
told me once about getting lost on the way to the barn and how my Ma fretted
and worried for hours over it. I worried too. I didn’t like him going to
the barn by himself but he didn’t let me go with him when the storm was too
bad. Pa said one life in danger was enough.
“Lucas, take the lantern!” Milly suddenly said as
she turned to grab the lantern hanging on a hook.
Pa reached up and put a hand over hers. He shook
his head. “The storm’s too bad, Milly. A lantern….” Pa sighed again.
“…won’t do any good.”
Milly slowly turned and looked at me. Worry was
on every inch of her face. “Are you sure you have to?”
Pa nodded. He kissed her on her forehead again
and rubbed his fingertips along her cheek. Then he put on his gloves.
“Don’t worry, honey. I’ll be back very soon.”
Milly shivered as she closed the door behind Pa.
She turned and looked at me. In my eyes, she saw that I was scared and I
immediately turned back to the sink to hide my fear. “Well…” She tried to
smile. “Let’s get these dishes done, huh?”
Milly washed and I dried. I hated to do it, but
I had to point out several dishes that were still dirty. Milly finally
smiled as she once again looked out into the darkness. “I guess I just…have
trouble concentrating.” Milly stared out the window. “How long’s it been?”
I looked at the clock and told her it had only
been about fifteen minutes. Milly wiped her hands on the dishtowel and
slowly walked over to the door. “Mark…if he never made it to the barn…”
Milly picked up Pa’s rifle and ran her hand along the stock. “If you start
firing after thirty minutes and he never made it to the barn…”
I understood Milly’s worry. Pa told me that
women naturally worry. If truth be known, though, Pa was a worrywart as
well. He told me it was on account of my Ma, but from what I’ve heard, Pa
was a worrier way before my Ma died. I grabbed my coat off the hook and
buttoned it up. “What do you think you’re doing?”
I smiled at Milly. “Don’t worry. Pa would skin
me if I disobeyed him. I’m just going to give the rope a pull. If he made
it to the barn, it’ll be tied. If he didn’t…” I opened the door and
disappeared onto the porch. I gave the rope a firm pull and smiled in
relief when it didn’t give way. I turned and hurried back inside and smiled
at Milly. “He made it to the barn.”
It wasn’t five minutes later that the door
opened. Pa hurried inside. “What’s wrong, son?” Pa asked.
The reason for his concern was that if anything
was wrong, I was to give a hard tug on the rope. I had done that to calm
Milly, and hadn’t even thought on the fact that Pa would come rushing
inside. “I’m sorry, Pa. Milly was worried.”
“You…” Pa’s face screwed up in a really ugly,
annoyed expression. “You called me in here because…because Milly was
“No sir,” I answered quickly. “I…I just went out
to make sure the rope was tied so Milly wouldn’t worry! I didn’t even think
about…” I hung my head. “I’m sorry.”
Pa looked from Milly to me, and then back at
Milly. He sighed. “It’s alright, son. I have to go back out there
though. The horses need covered. It’s getting pretty cold out there. And
I’m going to try and take care of the chickens.” Pa put a hand on Milly’s
shoulder. “Have hot coffee ready in an hour.”
“An hour?” Milly’s voice sounded panicked.
“Lucas, you can’t!”
“I’ll hurry, honey.” Pa didn’t say another
word. He disappeared back into the darkness.
Milly turned and looked at the clock on the
table. It read about 7:13. Milly went and stared out into the darkness.
I must admit that I was a bit scared myself.
This blizzard was awfully bad. I hadn’t seen a blizzard quite this bad
before. The minutes slowly ticked by. I tried to keep Milly’s mind
occupied, but it was hard when I was so worried myself.
I looked at the clock again and it read 7:50.
Milly paced the floor, declaring that she would give Pa just another ten
minutes. I knew that if Pa wasn’t back by 8:00 on the dot, she’d order me
to tug on the rope, or shoot the rifle…or both.
The minutes continued to tick by. Milly put a
hand to her mouth as she continued to stare out the window. The next time
we looked at the clock, it ready 7:58. “Two more minutes.” Milly kept her
eyes on the clock. The wind blew so hard that the door creaked, and she
kept hoping it was Pa. Finally, the clock showed 8:00. “That’s it!” Milly
hurried to the door and yanked it open. “Go yank on the rope!” She yelled
through the wind.
I hurried outside, not bothering to put my coat
on. Then I gave the rope a hard yank. I yanked three times. Milly closed
the door when I came back in. I hurried to the fireplace and held my hands
over the fire. I had been out there for less than a minute, and already my
hands were freezing! The minutes ticked by, but Pa never came. Milly
watched the clock and the door at the same time. “Come on, Lucas…come on…”
But Pa never came. Finally, Milly hurried to the door and grabbed the
rifle. “Mark, shoot it!”
I put my coat and gloves on then went outside.
Holding the rifle up in the air, I fired several shots. The snow was so
thick and the wind was blowing so hard that I could only see a few feet in
front of my face. But finally, after firing about twenty shots from the
rifle, Pa’s shadow appeared. I threw the rifle down and turned toward the
door. “MILLY!” I screamed. Milly hurried out onto the porch. I reached
out and grabbed Pa’s arm. Milly grabbed his other and lifted him up onto
“Get him inside by the fire!” Milly screamed over
the wind. We dragged him inside. Pa was shaking and stiff. His teeth
chattered. “You okay, Pa?” I asked as we dragged him over by the fire.
Milly quickly pulled out a chair and we eased him down onto it.
“Mark, go get some cold water!” Milly ordered as
she bent down in front of Pa and started taking off his boots. “Hurry,
Mark!” Milly had tears on her cheeks. “Oh Lucas…you shouldn’t have gone
Pa shook as he bit into one of his gloved hands
and worked on removing the glove. “I…I…I…had to…” Pa stuttered. “I…had
to…ch…ch…check th…th…the animals!”
I hurried over with the pan of water. “Mark,
take off his coat and his gloves.” Milly went to work on his second boot.
Then she started rubbing his bare foot. “We’ve got to warm you up. Oh, but
you have such a chill!”
I saw the extreme concern in Milly’s eyes. Her
face held a deep concern. I wondered how close Pa was to frost bite, and
didn’t like the look of his feet at all. Milly continued to rub. I watched
Pa cringe as she stuck his foot down into the water. “Bring me the medicine
box,” Milly ordered then. I hurried to the cabinet and grabbed the box.
Milly rummaged through it and told me to bring a cup of hot water. I
watched as she poured something into it and stirred. “Here…” She handed me
the cup. “Make him drink this.”
I held the cup up to his lips while Milly kept
sticking Pa’s feet into the cold water. After I got half of it down, Pa
held up a shaky hand and shook his head. “Go get some blankets and towels,
Mark!” Milly’s voice shook as he hurried into the bedroom to retrieve the
requested articles. When I returned, she was helping Pa take off his wet
“Miss Milly!” I gasped as my eyes opened wide.
“Nevermind, Mark!” Milly pulled his jeans off.
“Let’s get him wrapped in this blanket. Milly took his feet out of the
water and lovingly dried them off. I sighed in relief when I saw the color
returning to them. Milly began sobbing as she held the feet on her lap. It
was then that I realized the toll the entire ordeal had taken on her.
I walked up beside her and smoothed her hair like
Pa would do. Pa lifted his head, his teeth still chattering, and stuttered
for a cup of coffee. Milly didn’t say a word the whole time Pa sipped his
coffee. Finally, Pa reached his hand out to Milly. Milly lifted her head
and looked up at Pa as she continued to sob. “Lucas McCain…you…you…”
Pa lifted his head toward me. “Mark…you best go
on into the bedroom and get ready for bed,” Pa said sternly. I could tell
from the expression on his face that I should do that. I had a feeling a
fight was brewing between Milly and Pa and he didn’t want me to be a
witness. I nodded my head and went to the bedroom.
Now remember, I’m a twelve year old boy and I’m
rather curious. So, I left the door open just a wee crack. Since Milly was
so upset and Pa was still recovering from his near-death experience, they
didn’t notice. “Milly…” I heard Pa sigh.
“Now, Lucas McCain, don’t you sit there and tell
me those animals out in the barn were worth risking your life for!” Milly
shouted. Even with the door closed and myself tucked in my bed, I would
have heard every word SHE had to say! “You could have been killed!”
Milly’s voice got even louder. “And don’t you
‘darling’ me Lucas McCain! I’m so mad at you that I…” She suddenly
stopped. Her voice quieted a bit. “What were you thinking going into that
“I…didn’t realize it was THAT bad. It must have
gotten worse when…” Pa stopped. I think he was trying to stand up. “Now
Milly, I’m sorry I worried you.” He groaned then.
“No, don’t get up!” Milly’s voice held concern.
Then in a very stern voice – one that I don’t reckon Pa should ignore – she
said, “Lucas, you aren’t going back out there! Not as long as that storm’s
raging like that! We’ll just have to get by with what we have!”
“Lucas! I’ll tie you to that chair if I have to,
but you are NOT going back out there!”
I put a hand to my mouth to stifle my laughter.
There weren’t too many people who could tell Lucas McCain what to do, but I
would rather go up against a bunch of wolves then disobey Milly when she
used that tone of voice. Pa reckoned the same thing because then I heard
him say, “Yes ma’am.”
There was silence. I opened the door another
crack to see what was going on. Milly was bent down beside Pa’s chair. Pa
had his hands on her cheeks and was kissing her. My eyes widened at the
shock of it and I fell forward, coming down with a loud crash. That broke
the kiss and Pa and Milly’s head turned to stare at me. “Alright, that’s
IT!” Pa stood up and winced as his feet still gave him pan. “Mark Warren
McCain, how many times have I told you not to eaves drop?”
“I…” I quickly stood up and swallowed hard. “I’m
sorry, P…Pa!” Pa hurried toward me and dragged me into the bedroom. When I
was standing in front of my bed, he allowed a hard smack to come down on my
back side. “See that bed? You best be in that bed and asleep within five
minutes…” Pa turned me to face him. “OR ELSE!”
“Y…y…yes sir!” But then I started feeling guilty
about something. Pa turned to go back out into the main room when I stopped
him. “Pa?” Pa turned. “Uh…I think I should tell you something…”
“What is it son?” Pa’s voice softened when he saw
the concern on my own face.
I looked toward the door. “Pa, I’m sorry but…” I
spoke low so Milly couldn’t hear me. “I…forgot to pile more wood outside
the house yesterday.” Pa groaned and said something under his breath I
didn’t quite catch. “Pa, I’m sorry! There’s not much wood left beside the
I heard the disappointment in Pa’s voice. As I
lay in bed, I could hear Pa and Milly talking in low voices. Pa must have
been close to the bedroom, because I heard him say, “You know…you’re stuck
here with us until the storm passes. I’ll hang a blanket in the room and
you can take the bed.”
“Oh no!” Milly argued as Pa opened the bedroom
door. I immediately turned on my side and closed my eyes. I didn’t want Pa
to think I was still awake. “Lucas, really…I can sleep on a cot.”
“Absolutely not, Milly.” I kept my eyes closed
while Pa came in and got a cot from under the bed. Then the door closed. I
was still awake about an hour later when the door opened and closed. I
wasn’t sure who had won the argument, and I didn’t dare look. I heard the
rustling of clothing, then there was silence.
When I woke up the next morning, the wind was
still howling. The bedroom had turned mighty cold as well. I shivered as I
pulled the blankets up around me. Voices filtered in from the cracked door,
as did the smell of breakfast cooking. I groaned as I got up and dressed,
then I hurried into the front room to the fire. “It sure is cold!” I
declared as I warmed my hands over the fire. “Pa, you going to go out to
the barn this morning?” I couldn’t keep the grin from my face as I turned
back to look into the fire.
“Now, don’t get smart with me, boy!” Pa glared
at me. I didn’t have to look to know that – I could feel his glare!
“Besides, I gave them enough feed last night to tide them over for a day or
Milly turned from the stove and announced that
breakfast was almost ready. After Pa blessed the food and we started
eating, I looked from Pa to Milly. “Uh…where’d you two sleep last night?”
Pa gave me a firm kick under the table. I could
tell right off that by the time this blizzard was over, I’d have no shins
left. “Milly slept in the bed and I slept out here on the cot,” Pa answered
“Oh.” I took another bite. “Well…I guess we
could pop some popcorn and uh…tell scary stories over…”
Pa lifted an eyebrow and looked at Milly. “I
have some chores to do in here, son. And I believe Milly has plans for
“Oh?’ I looked toward Milly. “What am I doing
Milly smiled. “I think you have plenty of
homework to keep you busy, Mark.”
“Home…” I sat down my fork and leaned forward.
“HOMEWORK???” Pa cleared his throat. “Miss Milly, there’s a blizzard
Milly shrugged a shoulder and looked at Pa.
“What does a blizzard have to do with homework?”
“Well…it’s almost Thanksgiving!” I declared
then. “I mean…”
“Mark…” Pa sighed. “Don’t be rude. You’re doing
I sighed and rolled my eyes. “Of all the people
to get snowed in with…I had to get snowed in with a school teacher!”
“Mark McCain…” Pa warned.
I stood and started gathering the dishes. “I
As soon as I got the dishes washed, Milly pointed
to the table and ordered me to sit down. She then questioned me on the
homework I had. I told her I had arithmetic and an essay. I also had lots
of history reading to do on account that I didn’t do it last week, but I
left that last part out. Milly told me to get started on my arithmetic. I
groaned, stating that was my worst subject. She smiled as she started
wiping down the counters. “I know.”
As the wind howled outside, I opened my math book
and took out the ledger to see what my assignment was. Pa sat down at the
desk and started taking out papers. He said this would be a good day to go
through all his papers and do some figuring and sorting. I put a hand to my
forehead as I tried to read the scribbles on my tablet, but it was no use.
I had scratched the assignment down in such a hurry.
“What’s wrong, son?” Pa asked when he saw the
expression on my face.
“Well…” I swallowed hard. “I just can’t…quite
make out what my assignment is.”
Milly came to stand behind me. She looked down
at the tablet, then bent way over as she tried to read it. “Mark McCain!”
“What now?” Pa asked as he stood and hurried over
to the table. He picked up the tablet and squinted as he tried to read.
“Well…the first number is 26…I think…” I groaned. “But I can’t make out the
Milly and Pa studied it as I sat there. “Is it a
“I don’t think so, Milly,” Pa answered. “That
would be an awful lot of pages.
“Maybe it’s a 35,” I said then. “Oh…but I think
he said 33…Yeah! He said 33!”
The tablet plopped down in front of me. “No,”
Milly declared. “I think you should go to at least page 36…just to make
“Thirty…” I slowly lifted my head to look at
her. “But that’s…”
“Ten pages.” Milly nodded. She slowly sat down
beside me. From the way her eyes leveled, I could tell I was in for a
lecture. “Mark…let’s suppose that you were copying a recipe and…”
“Milly…” Pa sat down on the other side of me.
“He’s a boy.”
“Oh right.” Milly put a hand to her mouth and
thought. “Okay…let’s suppose you just measured your acreage for new
fencing. Now, let’s suppose that you come to the store and have to guess
how much fencing wire you need. Do you need enough for forty acres…or
fifty? That’s a big difference.” Milly tapped the tablet. “This,
Mark…this is NOT good writing.” She stood up. “Let that be a lesson to
I lifted my head and looked at Pa. “Why’d you
have to court a teacher?”
Pa lifted his eyebrows then stood and went back
to his work.
I was happy when Milly announced that it was
lunch time, but as soon as lunch was done she made me go back to doing
homework. That afternoon, she announced I could stop with my math until the
next day. I was happy to announce that I only had one page of math left,
then I could go to work on the dreadful essay that I was sure she would love
to help me on! Milly assured me she would grade…er…check my math that
evening. I groaned at that knowing she would probably find several problems
that were answered incorrectly.
I could smell fresh bread baking. It smelled a
lot better than that bread Pa would make. And I also enjoyed the smell of
chocolate cake tonight. While supper was cooking, Pa and Milly sat at the
table and the three of us talked. Pa told her all about Thanksgiving back
in Enid when he was a kid. I laughed at some of the things he told us, and
was surprised to find out that Abraham Lincoln was the one to declare
Thanksgiving as a national holiday and one to be observed everywhere at the
“Boy…” I shook my head as I listened to Pa talk.
“Abraham Lincoln died before I was born, but I sure would like to have met
him!” I raised my eyebrows at Pa. “Did you ever meet him?”
Pa smiled as he sat back in his chair and crossed
his arms. “As a matter of fact, Mark, I DID meet him once.”
My eyes grew wide, and I heard Milly gasp as she
sat beside me. “You did?!” I was suddenly very excited! “When? How? Did
you talk to him? Did he know you? Was it when he was President? What was
it like? Did you get to shake his hand?” My questions just kept coming. I
was talking so fast that Pa could hardly understand me.
“Whoa there, partner!” Pa held up his hands and
chuckled. “Not so fast!”
I sat back in my chair and turned my head quickly
to Milly. “Oh but, you have to tell me!”
“I will, I will…You just hold on to your
horses!” Pa chuckled again as he cleared his throat. “I was in the war.
It was about a year after Gettysburg…well, maybe not that long. It seems
like it was a year though…Anyhow, our infantry was invited to attend his
Gettysburg address. I still remember the sights, the sounds, and the
feelings. My heart was pumping so fast and I was so excited…I cannot begin
to tell you the excitement I felt when I saw that hat of his in the crowd.
Then he stood and walked over to me. He spoke to me, but I don’t remember
now quite what he said. Then he shook my hand.”
“Golly!” I felt my heart swell with pride to
realize that my father had shook hands with the President of the United
States. “Golly,” I said again.
Pa had moved on from there. His eyes seemed to
take on a different emotion as he spoke the next words. “I remember when he
died. I had just left Enid and was on my way down to Texas when I heard
someone behind me announce that Abraham Lincoln was dead. I….” Pa let out a
loud, long sigh. “Oh, I could hardly believe it…The greatest President the
United States had ever known was gunned down…shot in the back…”
After all these years, the event still had a bad
effect on Pa. I needed to bring him back to happiness. I reckon that’s why
I asked the next question.
“So Pa…were you around when the pilgrims and
Indians met?” I asked suddenly.
I got the reaction I expected. Pa made sure to
tell me that when he was in school, his teacher told them about the long ago
voyage of the pilgrims.
Pa looked up at Milly at one point. “I’m sorry
you’re stuck here. I know that…it makes things a bit…awkward.”
I watched Milly’s face get red. “I can only
imagine the gossip that will be in town,” she stated.
“Let them talk,” Pa said then. “It’ll give them
something more interesting to talk about.” I was sitting between them and
started squirming a bit when Pa dragged his hand across the table and took
Milly’s. “Uh…I suddenly remembered I have something to do in the bedroom.”
Then I got up and practically flew to the bedroom. A couple minutes later,
I opened the door and saw Pa sitting right beside Milly. His arm was around
her shoulders and he was leaning right close to her ear. Milly giggled.
I closed the door, then made a lot of noise
before opening the door. There was plenty of space between them when I
walked out. That, I was happy about! Milly got up and went to finish
After supper, Pa decided that since there wasn’t
much to do, he’d play a game of checkers before I went to bed. I looked
toward the clock and wondered how I could make a checker game last three
hours. Pa shook his head. “Don’t even think about it, son.” The game was
over in thirty minutes. “Well…since it’s so dark and there’s really not
that much to do, you should turn in.”
I looked from Pa to Milly, then asked, “You going
to bed too, Pa?”
Pa smiled. “I think Milly and I will have some
adult conversation. Good night, son.”
“Yeah,” I grumbled.
As I lay in bed, though, Milly’s voice suddenly
sounded through the closed door. “No you won’t, Lucas McCain!” Pa said
something in his quiet, calming voice that I couldn’t hear, then Milly’s
voice sounded loud and clear. “How can you even think of that after what
happened last time?”
“I’m just going to the barn!” Pa declared. I
knew that the shed was just off of the barn, and if he figured it just right
he could probably get to the shed where the wood was, but I wondered how he
would get the wood from the shed to the house. “The animals need food and I
need to check on the horses!”
I jumped out of bed and hurried to the door.
Pa and Milly turned around. Milly had her arms
folded and looked pretty upset. “What?” Pa asked a bit rudely.
“Since it was my fault, I think I should…”
Pa waved his hands in front of his face. That’s
when I realized he hadn’t told Milly about needing wood. I clamped a hand
over my mouth. Milly unfolded her hands and straightened up. “What was his
Pa rolled his eyes and threw up his hands. “You
might as well tell her now, Mark.”
“Well…I sort of forgot to get wood from the
woodshed the other night. We don’t have any left outside the house.”
“I see.” Milly turned and glared at Pa. “You
were just going to the barn, huh?”
I cringed at the look in her eyes. Pa looked as
if he was cringing too. “Goodnight, Mark!” Milly said as she looked at me.
“But the wood…” I started.
“Goodnight.” The way Milly took a step toward me
and lifted those eyebrows told me that I would survive the storm IF I went
Things were quiet after that. I heard some
noises like the door opening and closing as I drifted off to sleep.
Wednesday morning the wind was STILL blowing
fierce. Pa looked quite worried about the cattle. Milly was again preparing
breakfast. I looked toward the wood box and noticed that it was
overflowing. “Well…” I said as I sat down at the table. “Looks like Pa
made it to the barn.”
Pa smiled into his coffee cup. “Well...not
quite, son…But WE got the wood.”
Milly turned form the stove. “Never mind, Mark.
Set the table.”
It would be years later before I actually learned
how that wood got into the house.
After breakfast, Milly sat me down at the table
again to do homework. I had a lot of math problems to do over again, and
Milly did help me with the essay that afternoon. It didn’t take much for Pa
and Milly to figure out that I had been the reason the essay assignment had
That afternoon, we discussed plans for
Thanksgiving. Milly had planned on coming to the ranch with Micah and
fixing Thanksgiving dinner the next day, but now she figured the three of us
would be snowed in. Pa mentioned that it looked as if the storm was
slacking. “Is that a good sign?” Milly asked anxiously.
Pa smiled as he nudged her chin. “It could be
just a lull, Milly.” I could see the worry in Pa’s eyes. I knew he was
concerned about the cattle and how they were holding out. In other storms,
we’d lost a few head, but it hadn’t been anything like this. Pa hoped that
the storm would let up a bit more so he could go out and check, but he knew
even that would be almost an impossibility. With the winds and all,
snowdrifts had built up. He hoped the cows would somehow be able to
“It just so happens,” Pa finally said as he gave
me a wink. “That Mark caught a wild turkey last week and put it in with the
chickens.” I groaned, figuring the chickens had all perished by this
point. “The turkey,” Pa said then, “is in the barn in a cage. I gave him
plenty of feed to fatten him up. Early in the morning, I’ll go get him and
you can cook him.”
Milly gasped as she bolted from her chair and
hurried into the kitchen. She started rummaging through the cupboards and
writing things down. “What are you doing, Milly?” Pa asked as we both stood
and watched her continue on her search.
“I’m looking to see if you have everything I need
to make stuffing!” Milly declared. We looked at each other with raised
eyebrows. Pa shrugged his shoulders, then we turned and watched her again.
She turned toward us with a big smile on her face. “I do! I have everything
Turkey and dressing…” I licked my lips. “I can
Milly wasn’t done. “What about sweet potatoes?”
Pa smiled as he went to lift a rug back. “Come
into my parlor, said the spider to the fly.” I chuckled as Pa lifted the
floor up and lit another lantern. I started to follow them down, but Pa
told me he and Milly would be right back up.
“Oh Lucas!” I heard Milly exclaim. “Sweet
potatoes and green beans…is that a pumpkin? Why, we can have pumpkin pie
too! Oh Lucas, we’re going to have a real Thanksgiving dinner with all the
fixings! Oh Lucas!”
Suddenly, it got really quiet down there. I
lowered my head and listened, but no sounds could be heard. “Pa?”
“Mm?” I heard his muffled voice.
“Are you okay, Pa?”
“Yes!” Milly answered.
“Pa?” Pa and Milly appeared on the steps. Pa
had a bunch of sweet potatoes in his arms. They made two more trips up and
down the stairs. Then Pa closed the cellar door and put the rug back over
That evening, Milly made a bit pot of vegetable
soup. She said it was stew without the meat. It was mighty tasty anyhow.
After supper, Pa again suggested we turn in early since there wasn’t much to
do. Milly was practically glowing with excitement. I questioned Pa about
it, and he said that Milly was happy she would be able to fix a full
I smiled, happy Pa and Milly seemed happier then
said goodnight and went to bed.
Something woke me. I’m not sure what it was,
because when I woke up there was only silence. I sat up in bed and opened
the curtain a bit, but Milly seemed to still be asleep. Quietly, I made my
way into the front room. Pa was standing at the window looking out. “Pa?”
“Mark, what are you doing up?” Pa whispered as he
pressed a finger to his lips.
“I’m not sure. Something woke me up.” Just
then, I realized that something was missing. “Pa…the wind…”
Pa held out his arm to me. I walked to stand
beside him. “Silence, son…The silence woke you up.” I smiled as I looked
up at him. “The storm’s over.”
I looked outside to see the moon shining. “It’s
amazing,” I finally managed to say.
“What is, son?” Pa asked.
“Nature. How can it be calm and sunshiny one
moment, then windy and stormy the next…then just as quickly, the clouds go
“It’s God’s way, son. It’s God’s way.” Pa
looked toward the bedroom. “How would you like to help me with the chores?”
“Yes sir!” I declared as I hurried back to the
bedroom to dress.
As we were getting our coats on, Milly made her
way from the bedroom. She had a blanket wrapped around her and yawned.
Pa walked up to her and pressed a kiss to her
forehead. “The storm’s over, Honey.” He turned and looked at me. “You’ll
have two hungry men when we get back from the barn. What do you say about
fixing us an early breakfast?”
Milly smiled. “I would love that very much!”
Pa and I walked out to the barn. Pa held on to
me as I stumbled through the three feet of snow. When we got into the barn,
I was happy to see that the horses had fared well. I hurried up to Blue
Boy, who immediately started nudging my coat for sugar cubes. I turned and
looked at Pa. “Go ahead!” Pa said as he nodded his head. “You’ll just
sneak them to him anyhow!”
I laughed as I fed Blue Boy his treat. Then I
went to work on filling the feed troughs and raking up the straw. We had
several other chores to do. Pa left the barn and returned a few minutes
later to report that the pigs actually survived the storm. Some of the
chickens hadn’t been so lucky, but they were easily replaceable. Then I saw
Pa look out toward the range. “What do you think, Pa?”
“Well son…I think that after breakfast, you and I
should go check on our stock.”
“Both of us?”
Pa nodded. “It’ll take a little sweet talking to
convince Milly to let us go. After breakfast, what do you say about coming
on out here and doing a few more chores while I work on that.” I grinned.
“And wipe that grin off your face!” Pa demanded.
Milly soon came out onto the porch and announced
in a happy voice that breakfast was on the table. We sat down at the
table. Pa opened the Bible and read a Psalm of thanks, then he took our
hands and led a prayer to thank God for his protection. When he said Amen,
we lifted our head and smiled at each other. Then we ate the hearty
Pa soon joined me in the barn. “She finally let
you go, huh?” Pa nodded but didn’t say anything. “What’d you do? Propose
Pa’s head shot around. He pointed a finger at
me. “Now, don’t you get so smart!” he warned me. “I reckon I have my
ways.” I lifted my eyebrows. Pa turned back to me again. “You’ll
“…when I’m older!” I rolled my eyes. “Grown
Pa laughed as he gave me a smack on the back
side. “Let’s go, boy.”
To start out, we had to use our snow shoes and
walk through the deep snow. Pa cringed when he found cattle that didn’t
make it. When we had walked quite a ways, Pa decided that we had fared
better than he thought we would. He decided that the drifts weren’t too
bad. We wouldn’t be able to carry hay by wagon, so Pa and I worked all
morning at carrying piles of hay out onto the range. The cattle made their
way through the snow to the hay. Pa said some of the weaker one’s wouldn’t
be able to make the treck, and he fretted about them, but until some of the
snow melted, we wouldn’t be able to do anything about it. I knew he
worried, but he said being a rancher is a lot like being a farmer.
Sometimes your crops fail.
Milly worried as we tiredly ate our lunch. We
could smell the turkey cooking in the oven. Milly was tired herself from
cooking all morning and begged Pa that we should stay in this afternoon, but
Pa just smiled and turned to look at me. I told him I’d meet him at the
barn. About fifteen minutes later, he made his way to the barn and said,
For the next four hours, we again worked at
dropping hay for the cattle. It was a tiring job. The sun was shining, but
it was too cold for the snow to do much melting. Pa said we’d be out here
again tomorrow bringing them hay.
As we made our way back down to the house, we saw
a sleigh pull into the yard. We hurried forward and rejoiced when Micah
stopped and jumped from the sleigh. “I was sent here to see if Milly Scott
is being held captive,” Micah grumbled.
Pa folded his arm. “Thanks for the concern,
Micah. But we know the truth.” Pa winked down at me. “You just came here
because you didn’t want to be left out on Thanksgiving dinner.”
“Well, I must admit that I didn’t look too
forward to eating an old piece of bread and butter for Thanksgiving
Dinner.” Micah raised an eyebrow. “What were you thinking, keeping a
pretty, unmarried lady at your ranch all these days?”
“I wasn’t given much choice in the matter,
“Well, if you ask me, I certainly wouldn’t have
chosen it!’ I declared.
Micah raised an eyebrow. “Oh, he likes Milly
alright, Micah. But uh…” Pa chuckled. “I think it’s her teaching
experience that he has a little problem with. You see, she made him do
homework for two days straight.”
“Oh.” Micah lifted his eyebrows at me. “Well,
you should have stayed in town, Mark . We could have gone over all the
Pa chuckled as my eyes grew big at that
prospect. “I think Milly should have supper about ready.” As he opened the
door, Milly turned from the stove. She smiled when she saw Micah. “Look
what the cat dragged in!” Pa declared.
“And that’s not all.” Micah left the house and
soon returned with a box. “I talked to Mrs. Hanavan at the boarding house
in town. She gave me a few things you may need.”
Milly opened the box and laughed, then she
disappeared into the bedroom. It took a long time for her to leave the
bedroom. When she came out, she fluffed out her dress and smoothed her
hair. Pa let out a loud whistle and I just stared. “Oh Milly…”
Pa took a step toward her and touched her face.
“You look ravishing,” he mumbled loud enough for me to hear. Then he turned
and looked at me and Micah. We both turned our backs so they could have a
bit of privacy.
“Mark…uh…” Micah nudged me. “I think you and I
are going to be left to fend for ourselves!”
“Oh no you aren’t!” Milly wiped her eyes as she
hurried back to the kitchen. I turned to see Pa staring in her direction.
“Well, don’t just stand there, Lucas! Help me!”
Micah and I sat down at the table as Pa carried
the turkey over to the table. Pa cleared his throat as he stood up. “Uh…my
family always had a tradition.” He looked at us as he smiled. “As you
know…I have three brothers and two sisters, and Margaret had several
siblings as well. Every Thanksgiving, we’d get together and announce any
news worthy items for the year. Then we’d join hands and sing a song
before the man of the house would say a prayer over the food.” Pa smiled.
“Well…I want to continue that tradition…”
I couldn’t help seeing the tears that glistened
Pa’s eyes as he remembered back to those Thanksgivings with Ma. I imagine
it’s still very painful for him even today. “I…I’m blessed. When God took
my wife…Mark’s mother…I didn’t think I’d ever have such happiness again,
but…” He squeezed Milly’s hand. “For the last three days, I’ve had Milly
here to share my home with and it’s been wonderful. She’s taken care of
Mark and me as if we were her own family.” Pa turned to Micah. “And God’s
given me a good friend.” Pa turned to me. “…and a wonderful, though
Pa looked toward Milly who swallowed before she
spoke. “When I first came to North Fork and met this…” Milly smiled as she
looked at Pa. “This big ol’ brute who’s rough around the edges, I never
imagined that I’d someday be sharing his home and taking care of him and his
son like I did these last three days. Nature forced us together and…” Milly
smiled. “I think we are closer because of it. Thank you, Lucas.”
Micah cleared his throat then. “Well…I’m a tough
ol’ man and don’t want to cry, but you two certainly are making that hard.”
We all laughed. “I…just want to say that I am happy I have you three in my
life.” Micah stopped. I was surprised to see a tear in his eye. “Okay,
I smiled as everyone looked at me. “I wonder
what Ma would say were she here today? I don’t remember Thanksgivings at
home too well, but I know Ma was a wonderful cook. I’m sure she always had
a big, festive dinner ready for us every Thanksgiving.” Pa nodded his
head. “And I’m sure she had something really nice to say about every single
one of her family members.” I saw Pa’s eyes moisten. “Ma would be so proud
of you, Pa. You’ve taken such good care of me and you’ve…you bought this
ranch and built it up from nothing. You take such good care of man and
animal and…from what you’ve told me, Ma loved animals.”
I saw a tear slide down Pa’s cheek. “I can only
imagine the smile Ma would have on her cheek as she looked at me and Pa..and
all her family and…” I paused and turned to pick up her journal I had read
so many times. I thumbed through it until I found the right passage. After
clearing my throat, I read:
“Thanksgiving this year was just as special as
all the Thanksgivings before. This year I carry a special little bundle in
my arms. I was so proud to show our boy off to all our family gathered
around. Lucas loves this boy with a special kind of love that doesn’t come
around too often. The bond those two share is indescribable.
Tonight, as I looked around at my family I
knew that though this has been a hard year for Lucas and me…and now little
Mark…our love carried us through every trial just like it has every other
year. Oh, I’m so proud of the strength Luke has! And I’m so proud of the
family I have. God has richly blessed us.
I don’t know how many more Thanksgivings I
have, but I pray that Thanksgiving will always be a day of thankfulness for
my family…a day my family can gather around the table and be thankful for
each other. I pray that if I’m not there in five…ten years, that my husband
and son will have a bond that sustains them and carries them through the
storms they may face.
I’ll forever treasure these things in my
I lifted my head to Pa. “Thank you, Pa. Thank
you for loving me…for giving me a home. Thank you for…for sharing your life
Pa was at my side in another moment. We were
hugging and crying while Milly and Micah looked on. “I love you, son.”
“I love you, Pa.” I smiled as I looked up into
his face. “A boy couldn’t ask for a better…father.”