Like I’ve already said, I think I’d rather be with my Pa more then anything else in this world! I don’t ever enjoy much being away from him. So one morning, when my Pa announced to me that he would be gone for a whole week and I would have to stay with Miss Hattie for a week, I put on my most charming face and began my begging.
“Pa, I want to come with you more then anything else in this world!” I pleaded.
“Mark, you have school!” He reminded me as we sat at the kitchen table.
I looked down at my math book that sat open on the table. Then I remembered the spelling test from earlier that day. I held it up to him. “Look, Pa! I only missed one on my spelling test this week. I made an ‘A’! And I’ve turned in all my homework all week. I didn’t get kept after any this week, or even get in trouble…” My voice lowered as I remembered. “Except for when I poked Jeff and made him cry out in class, but that was only because he was saying something mean about the girl in front of us and I only got hollered at a little for that.” Pa raised an eyebrow at me.
I stood up and came to stand beside him. As I got more excited, my body leaned in to him closer and closer. “I can bring my books with me, and I promise I won’t complain one second about doing lessons every single day – even on Saturday and Sunday. I could go ask Miss Adams for assignments this minute! And Pa, I could help you with the selling. Why, you always said you had better luck when I was there with ya. I just gotta go with ya! I just gotta!”
I stopped and watched my Pa’s face. I relaxed when a slow, easy smile spread across my father’s face. He was soon grinning from ear to ear. The cuteness worked! Pa put an arm around my shoulders and patted me. “I never could resist your charm, Mark.” He answered.
“Does that mean I can go?” I asked, practically jumping up and down.
“That means you can go. I’d rather have you with me anyhow.” I grabbed Pa’s hand in both of mine and squeezed it really tight. “Oh, thank you, Pa! Thank you!” I practically shouted. Then I started to run out the door.
“Mark,” my Pa’s voice suddenly stopped me. I turned to look at him. “Where are you going?”
“To get my assignments from Miss Adams,” I stated.
Pa grinned again. “If you don’t mind, I’ll get your lessons from Miss Adams. In the morning before we leave. For now, I want you to finish that math lesson you promised me you would do tonight.”
The next morning, Pa went to talk to Miss Hattie and Miss Adams while I worked on getting my things together. I had hoped we would be driving the cattle all the way to Fort Summer, but Pa said he had hired a couple cowboys to do that, and we’d be going there on the stage. I started to complain, but then Pa gave me the look and reminded me of my promise not to complain, I changed my mind. “I think riding on a stage coach will be just fine!” I stated.
I won’t talk about the stage coach ride on the way there much. It was uncomfortable sitting in that thing for so many hours and getting just a few breaks every now and then. But I was happy to be going to visit someplace new with my Pa. And though I did find myself complaining a few times, Pa just grinned at me and said he knew it was a rough trip for anybody, especially a ten year old who liked nothing better then to be able to move around a lot!
And I did keep up with my lessons. There were a couple days that I was more interested in talking to Pa about how the auction was going for our herd, and the shooting matches I heard about. At one point, when Pa was trying to teach me the history lesson about the French and Indian War, my mind wondered off about how to ask Pa about entering the shooting match that was going on the next day. Suddenly, I interrupted my Pa’s speech and said, “You know, I heard you can make $150 easy if you win that match tomorrow. That would just add to the money we’re getting for our herd. I know you could win it, Pa.”
“We aren’t talking about that, Mark. We’re doing your history lesson.” I heard a sound of irritation in my Pa’s voice and looked at him. “Did you happen to hear a word I just said?”
He could tell by the blank look on my face that I hadn’t been listening. Pa handed me the book. “Okay, I want you to read your lesson on the French and Indian War. Then I’ll quiz you on what you learned.” Pa shook a finger at me. “You just remember your promise about not giving me any trouble and happily doing your lessons while we were on this trip.”
I did as told and the next day would be our last day before traveling home. Pa was wrapping up his cattle selling that morning and left me at the hotel to do my lessons. He promised me that if I finished my lessons in time, he would go to the shooting match that afternoon and I wouldn’t have to do anymore lessons until we got home. That sounded like a pretty good deal to me.
Pa sure did show them in the matches too! Boy, was I proud! We walked away with that $150.00!
As much as I enjoyed seeing a new place, I was happy when Pa announced the next morning that we were all set to go home. Except I was not looking forward to sitting in that stage all those hours! As I looked out the window, I saw the stage going across what looked to be like an endless desert. I questioned Pa how much longer we had at one point, and was disappointed when he announced it would be another 10 or 12 hours. It had already been a long trip, and had already seemed that long to me.
I complained, telling Pa I was getting tired of sitting and it made me itchy. Pa got a little grin on his face and stated that maybe he should have left me at home. I quit complaining then. “Well gee Pa, I don’t itch that much!” I suddenly stated, trying to gain back his good graces so I’d have it to use for the next time he had a trip to take.
As my Pa dozed off, the man across from us, Johnny Cotton, started talking about how much he liked my Pa’s rifle. I was always proud to talk about my Pa and his rifle, so I wasted no time in telling him that my Pa made it himself. But I didn’t think it was any of his concern as to why my Pa had it, and I told him as much. “My Pa’s the best shot in the whole world!” I bragged proudly.
I thought Pa had been sleeping, but he wasn’t. He got on to me for my bragging. “Mark, I told you not to brag so much on that,” he reminded me. He had told me that my bragging could cause trouble when people wanted to prove me wrong.
Mr. Cotton told me he saw my Pa in the shooting matches, but I hadn’t seen him in the finals like my Pa. But he said he would have won if he had entered. Again, I told him there was nobody better then my Pa.
Just then, we discovered that Mr. Cotton was an outlaw handcuffed to a Marshal. Later while he thought my Pa was sleeping, he tried to grab his rifle again. I sat quietly this time and listened to him and my Pa talk about his rifle some more.
I sure was happy when it was time for us to stop! I happily climbed out of that stage and Pa let me eat an apple. While we sat down to eat, Pa announced we only had about 4 or 5 hours left. I was very happy we would be home soon! I was looking forward to stretching my legs for longer then just a few minutes.
Pa told me to fill up our canteens. They were up on top of the coach, so as I climbed up there, I was suddenly grabbed from behind and a hand roughly covered my mouth to keep me from hollering. I was scared, I had no idea who had suddenly grabbed me or why! But it didn’t take me or anyone else long to suddenly figure out what was wrong. Because as that man held me tight, another man shot the marshal. They were there to free Johnny Cotton and steal the valuables.
The man released me as soon as the marshal was shot and I hurried over to stand beside my Pa. I stood and watched as Mr. Cotton came up to pa and just took his money. I was surprised my Pa didn’t even fight them. This man took all the money we had earned. Then he grabbed my Pa’s rifle. I was so surprised that Pa just let him take his rifle without even fighting back! In fact, I was so surprised that I couldn’t keep quiet about it. I started to tell Pa that he couldn’t just let him take his rifle, but he told me to hush in a sharp voice.
I couldn’t do anything but stand beside my Pa as we watched them take everything. Why, he even grabbed the rest of the bullets out of my Pa’s shirt pocket before he left!
I suddenly felt really guilty! I knew why Pa hadn’t put up a fight. I knew that if I hadn’t been there, he would have tried to fight those men. “You were worried about me, weren’t you Pa?” I asked. “If I hadn’t been along, you would’ve done something.” In that instant moment, I was sorry I’d ever begged my Pa to let me come along. Pa tried to make me feel better about the whole thing by trying to convince me that it didn’t matter rather I was there or not, it would have turned out the same; but I didn’t really believe him. I knew my Pa too well! And I knew he was trying to make me feel better.
But the worst worry of all was still to come, because after loading the wounded Sheriff onto the stagecoach, my Pa announced he wasn’t coming with us – he was planning on going after those men. When we got to Ten Mile Station, he wanted me to go to Mrs. Peterson’s. This scared me an awful lot, because my Pa didn’t have a gun; and like the stagecoach driver said, he didn’t even have a horse. But Pa stated he had to go anyhow. I had to beg my Pa not to go – I was awful scared for him. “Pa.” Pa bent down to be eye level with me as he put his hands on my sides. “But you haven’t even got your rifle! Do ya hafta?” I asked in a fearful voice.
“I have to, son. He took all the money we got. Now you wait at Mrs. Peterson’s for me. I’ll be along in a day or two.” He said this softly and with a calming voice, but the look in his eye told me there would be no changing his mind, and that I had to try and understand.
His soothing voice wasn’t enough to take the fear from my heart. I threw my arms around him and hugged him. I wanted to stay right there in his arms. As long as I was there, he wasn’t in danger. But he didn’t allow the embrace to last too long. He knew the longer he left me there, the harder it would be for the both of us. That’s why he suddenly lifted me into the stagecoach and said goodbye with a pat on my hand. As the stage drove away, I stuck my head out the window and stared at him, watching as he got smaller and smaller and smaller. A tear trickled down my cheek when he was completely gone. I closed my eyes and prayed that God would keep him safe.
Suddenly, I heard the man groan. I grabbed a kerchief and held it to the wound that was bleeding badly. “Does it hurt real bad?” I asked softly as I held pressure to it, trying to stop the bleeding.
The Marshal groaned. “It don’t hurt as bad as other shots I’ve had, but I’m awful dizzy,” he answered me.
I continued holding my kerchief to his wound as I softly talked to him. I started telling him all about my Pa – where we lived at before, things we’ve done together, places we’ve gone, and how I was able to talk him into letting me come on this trip. As I talked, I saw a calming come over the Marshal, and I knew that it was helping him. But honestly, I wasn’t sure who my talking helped more – me or him. Suddenly, he spoke in a clearer voice then he’d been able to speak since being shot. “Well, I’m sure glad your Pa let you come, son. Having you here has helped make this a lot more pleasant!”
“Really,” I asked as I smiled at him.
Just then the stagecoach stopped. The driver opened the door and I jumped out as another man climbed in to help him get the wounded man out. I started to follow them to the doctor, but Mr. Mason stopped me. “We need to get you to Mrs. Peterson’s so I can get going,” he said.
“No,” the wounded Marshal suddenly stated. “I need him here with me. You tell her he’ll be along in a while.”
Mr. Mason started to argue, but the Marshal insisted. I sat in the doctor’s office and waited for him to tell me how the Marshal was doing. But I found out later he wasn’t a real doctor, just the best they had. He got the bullet out of the Marshal, though and told me I could talk to him for a few minutes before he passed out.
I walked in there. The Marshal reached for my hand and smiled. “You are a special boy. I wonder if your Pa knows how lucky he is to have a boy like you.”
I sat down on the side of the bed as he held my hand tightly. “I know how lucky I am to have him.” Then I lowered my head. “And I’d be lying to say I ain’t mighty worried that he won’t come back.”
The Marshal smiled at me. “He’ll come back, son. He’ll come back.” That’s when he went to sleep. So I quietly left there and made my way to Mrs. Peterson’s.
Waiting for my Pa’s return was really hard. That night, I was restless and couldn’t sleep as I waited. So I got up and sat at the window, just watching for him. Every time someone rode by, I hoped it was my Pa. At one point, Mrs. Peterson came in to check on me and found me sitting by the window. She made me go back to bed, promising me Pa would be alright. But to be honest, no one could tell me for sure he would be.
The next day, I tried to play with her grandchildren who lived with her. But my heart wasn’t in it. I went over to check on the Marshal and he was sitting up in bed eating some soup. His face didn’t look as white, and he smiled when I came in. I sat with him for a long time as he told me about how he got his Marshalling job and about his wife and kids. I told him I was sure happy he didn’t die, because it would be awful for a child to have to grow up without their Pa.
“It’s hard without your Ma, isn’t it?” the Marshal asked.
I nodded my head, but stated that my Pa did his best to give me enough love to make up for it, and he was doing a pretty good job at it too. I also told him about Miss Hattie who made sure to give me that soft touch that she thought only a woman could give. Then I lowered my head and sighed. “Son, I wish I could be out there helping your Pa. After all, this isn’t his problem – it’s mine.”
I knew that, but I told him my Pa always made sure justice came about. I visited for quite awhile before one of Mrs. Peterson’s grandchildren came in and announced that supper was almost ready. “Well, I’m not too hungry.”
“She said you were to come anyhow,” he stated.
I turned and looked at the Marshal. I wanted to stay and talk to him. I felt some sort of connection to my Pa when I was with him. But the Marshal only patted my hand and winked. “We’ll both be fine,” he assured me. It was then that I knew he understood me perfectly and knew I had needed him there. “I’m pretty tired anyhow, boy. Maybe your Pa will be back tomorrow.”
I had another sleepless night. Every hour that passed put more concern in my heart. The next day, Mrs. Peterson insisted that I do some washing. And while I was doing this, I heard a horse quickly approaching. I didn’t even need to look out the window this time. My heart told me everything I needed to know. I quickly grabbed my shirt and raced out the bedroom door. But Mrs. Peterson stopped me and helped me quickly button up my shirt and tuck it in. Then I raced out the door. There he was! Right in front of me!
I ran up to the horse as fast as I could. A great bit smile suddenly appeared on my Pa’s face as he stopped and lifted me up onto his lap with one strong hand. I threw my arms around him and savored being in his arms once again. Pa kissed my cheek as he held me tight. Then he pushed me away so he could get a good look at my face. As I looked into his eyes, I saw so much love there. He didn’t even have to say the words – they were written all over his face.
“How are you, Pa?” I asked, overjoyed to see him again, and happy to see him safe.
“I’m just fine, son!” He declared with a smile that said it all. Then he pulled me close to him again to hug me once more.
As we started riding, I turned to look ahead in the saddle, but I couldn’t help turning my head to look into his eyes once more.
Of all the places in the world, the safest and happiest place to be was right here in my Pa’s arms!
*A special thanks goes out to Michelle Palmer for her insight on how Mark had seen these episodes.
The Young Englishman
Mark's Memories ― Table of Contents
You've heard Lucas' story, now hear Mark's Story
The Apprentice Sheriff
around The McCain Ranch