“Pa, Pa!” I cried as I jumped off Blue Boy and ran into the house. “Pa, where are you?”
But he wasn’t in the house. “Pa, Pa!” I yelled. I ran to the barn, but he wasn’t there.
But suddenly, I heard him behind me. “Where’s the fire, Mark?” I jumped ten feet! Then I whirled around. Pa was standing in the doorway with his hands on his hips, giving me an annoyed look.
But I ignored it as I ran up to him. I grabbed him by the arms and tried to slow down my breathing. Pa’s face was filled with concern and I swallowed hard. “I…saw…him!” I gasped.
“Who?” Pa asked me as he knelt in front of me, looking straight into my eyes. “What’s wrong, Mark?”
I shook my head and waved my hands from side to side. “Nothing,” I said. Then I swallowed. “It’s Spike. I saw him.”
“Who’s Spike?” Pa asked.
“That big deer, Pa! Remember me telling you that I’ve been seeing him on the range? Well, I saw him on my way home from school. Get your rifle. Come on!” I grabbed Pa by the hand and started dragging him toward the house.
Pa laughed, but obliged me. I hopped on Blue Boy. “Come on, Pa!” I said.
“Mark, Razor’s not even saddled!” I rolled my eyes and sighed heavily, trying to wait patiently, but not quite succeeding!
I sure was happy when Pa came out riding his blackie. I started racing through the range with Pa quickly following behind me. When I got to the place where I had seen Spike, I got off my horse and tied him to a tree. “Shhhh,” I put a finger to my lips as Pa came up behind me. I looked around but didn’t see him.
“Walk soft,” Pa whispered as we started across a field. Pa put his finger to his lips to hush me, but he didn’t have to tell me to be quiet! We snuck behind a rock to get out of sight as I looked around for him.
Suddenly, Pa spotted him. He was certainly a beauty! I could just taste that deer meet now! Pa cocked his rifle. “Easy Pa, you don’t want to miss,” I warned him. But as he lifted the rifle up to aim at the target, Spike ran off.
I sure was happy that Pa wasn’t going to give up yet! We ran to follow him as he ran deeper into the woods. But we suddenly came upon a sign that said “Stay off this property or get shot! Abel McDonald.” Pa said this was government land, so we just kept going.
But then we came face to face with a man and a boy. The man was holding a shotgun, and he had it aimed right at my pa! He told my Pa to get off his property or he would pull both the triggers at the same time!
Of course I’m the sensible one and was willing to do just as the man said. I told Pa we should go.
But, you know my pa – he doesn’t give anything up without a fight! Pa argued with him that it was government land. But then Mr. McDonald announced that he had bought it, so then Pa introduced us. At that point, I’m not sure what I thought about this man. He was real mean and talked really hateful-like to my Pa! Some of the things he said were really mean, and it didn’t take much for me to realize that he didn’t want anyone to bother him.
But then I saw his son. His name was Carey. Carey was just as happy to see me as I was to see him, and I smiled at him. I sure was happy to meet a nice boy like him. And he was our new neighbor. Boy, I didn’t really have any neighbor boys, so it would be nice to have someone to ride with to school on those dreadful mornings.
As Pa and I walked off, I couldn’t help but be a little surprised that Pa allowed someone to talk to him like that. Pa simply stated, “Well, I was on his property, so I supposed he had the right to talk to me any way he wanted!
When we got home, Pa sent me to do my chores. As I was doing them, I got to thinking that Mr. McDonald was mean. I couldn’t help wondering how he acted toward his son. He seemed to keep a pretty tight rein on people, and I doubted he would allow his son to stray too far away from him. It would be tough to make friends with him, but I would do it somehow!
I came inside and took a big sniff. “You’re making beef stew!” I declared.
Pa nodded. “And it’s almost done. Get washed up.”
“Oh, well…I’m not that dirty. I went over and quickly ran some water over my hands. Pa came up behind me and placed a hand on each side of the sink, blocking me from moving. Then he bent way over where his face was only an inch from my ear. “You best use soap on those hands.”
“Yes sir,” I answered as I picked up the bar of soap.
Pa didn’t move as he watched me wash. “And then use some on that face of yours.”
I didn’t like washing, and I turned my head to look at him. Yep, he was serious! “Ah, shucks Pa!” I said as I splashed water on my face.
Pa went back to his cooking. As I dried my face, I asked why Mr. McDonald was the way he was. He told me he figured something had happened to him. I really wanted to get to know his son better, and sure did hope that the opportunity arose. Surely he would be starting school soon.
The next day when I got to school, I looked around for Carey, but he was no where. As Miss Adams got us all seated, I raised my hand and asked her about him. “McDonald?” She put a finger to her chin and thought. “No, I didn’t even know there were any new kids in town.”
“Oh,” I sad a bit sadly.
When I got home that afternoon, I told Pa he wasn’t in school. Then I suggested that he ride over and tell Carey’s Pa about the school. I had to stay home and do my homework!
I was really concentrating on my English grammar and didn’t even hear Pa ride back into the yard. I looked up when he came inside. “So?” I asked. But I could tell from the expression on Pa’s face that the talk didn’t go well.
Pa just shook his head. “That is one angry man! Something’s gotten him all riled up.” I saw the muscles in Pa’s jaw clinching, and I knew Pa was upset too. He went over to work on getting supper started. As he got a pan out to boil beans in, he muttered, “I went over there and was as sweet as pie. I even brought him a whole bag of seed, but all he did was talk hatefully to me.”
I just stared at Pa as he worked through his anger. I’m not sure if he even knew I was in the room. “He’s sure bitter about something…I wouldn’t mind it so much if I knew it wasn’t effecting his son, but it is!” Pa was silent for a few moments while he started slicing up the pork steaks he had brought in earlier. Then as I heard the thump of the sharp knife hit the counter, Pa stated, “He won’t even let his own son go to school. Says they want to be left alone, but I doubt that’s what his son wants!”
Suddenly, Pa stopped and stuck his finger in his mouth. “Ouch,” he mumbled. Then he looked at me. “I…uh…guess I got a little angry!” He declared. I tried not to smile. This was really a serious situation, but the look on Pa’s face as he sucked on his finger was just too much!
A soft laughter started down deep within me and worked it’s way up my throat. I coughed to keep it from escaping, but I suddenly burst out laughing. Pa saw my laughter and was annoyed at first. But then my laughter finally got the best of him and he began laughing. Before I knew it, we were both laughing so hard that we couldn’t hardly stand it!
Later as we were eating and were sobered up, I asked Pa what he was going to do about the McDonald’s “Leave ‘em alone for now,” Pa answered. “We’ll just give them space.”
A few days passed. Though we traveled to town, work, school, and church, we didn’t see hide nor hair of the McDonald family. Then one Saturday, I got to really talk to Carey. I was planning on going swimming with some of my friends that morning, but Pa told me there was a calf that got loose from it’s mother and I had to go find it. I groaned just a little, but knew my ranching responsibilities were important. It took almost all morning for me to finally find it, and when I did, it was, of course, on the McDonald land!
While I was trying to chase that calf back to it’s mother, Carey came riding up. We smiled at each other, happy to see each other. I was expecting, though, to see his angry father ride up behind him and tell me to get off his property. But when I didn’t see him, I asked Carey where he was. Boy, I sure was surprised to hear that his Pa let him out of his sight, as mean as he was!
I really wanted to get to know Carey better. I had finished my job of finding the calf, and I knew Pa would completely understand about me talking to Carey. So I sat down in the grass and invited Carey to do the same. As be began talking, I discovered some disturbing things. Carey’s mother had been sick for a long time and eventually died in an epidemic. But unlike my Pa, Carey’s Pa never got over her death. He blamed the doctors for not being able to take care of his ma. He blamed people for taking their land and everything he had worked for.
What bothered me so much is that Carey seemed really lonely – like he had no one in the world to talk to. I could see that he was carrying a burden on his shoulders, and I worried about him. How was he going to survive if he got sick? How would he grow up to be a good, hard worker if he didn’t have the proper education. Now, I was never one who enjoyed those doctor visits Pa made me go to, especially when a shot was involved! And I was never one who enjoyed school. But I suddenly found myself very blessed to have a father who loved me and cared enough for me to make sure I got those needs fulfilled!
Suddenly, Carey’s father showed up. He was mad that I was talking to his son. I was only a ten year old boy! What could I do to Carey that would harm him? How could he force a boy to be totally shut off from the world? He ordered me off his land, and I wasn’t going to argue! I told him I just had to get my calf.
But he told me there was no brand on it. He wouldn’t even let me explain that my Pa was going to brand him in a few days! Mr. McDonald screamed at me to get off his land. I turned and almost tried to get the calf again, but I knew that pa would want me to tell him and let him handle it.
I jumped on my horse and raced back to the ranch as fast as I could. On the way back, I was trying to figure out the best way to tell Pa that Mr. McDonald had our calf. Pa had a temper, and I didn’t want to see him blow it and get shot. So as I rode into the yard, I calmly climbed off the horse and walked to the barn where he was working. “Find the calf?” Pa asked without turning to me.
I swallowed. “Ye-yes sir,” I answered slowly.
Pa turned and narrowed his eyes at me. “What’s wrong?”
“Well, nothing…exactly…” I started. Pa continued to look at me. “I found the calf on Mr. McDonald’s land and…well,”
Pa cocked his head to one side. “Did you see him?”
“Yes sir,” I answered.
“Does he have my calf, son?” Pa asked.
I nodded slowly. Pa went to saddle his horse. “Pa, I-“
“Wait for me out by your horse, son. I’ll be there in a minute.”
I slowly walked outside and waited. Pa was soon out there putting on the finishing touches. I asked him what he was going to do, but I don’t think Pa was even sure yet. As we got ready to leave, I thought hard on our conversation. “Pa, there’s something you should know about Mr. McDonald,” I stated.
Pa never was one to like to listen to gossip, and I guess that’s what he thought this was. He told me he knew he had his calf and that’s all he needed to know. But I felt I had to tell him. He said I could tell him on the way, but I had trouble keeping up with him. As we stopped just before we got to Mr. McDonald, I could tell Pa was still very angry. I could also tell that if he went down there at this moment, there would be two angry men. So, in the gentlest voice I could muster, I tried to calm my Pa’s anger. “Remember when you told me once, Pa that after…well after Ma passed on that you kinda felt like the whole world was against ya, and it took a heap of doing to bring you around?”
My words did what I had hoped. In my own way, I had told Pa what the core of Mr. McDonald’s problem was and what needed done to help him. Pa smiled at me that smile that said he was proud for my pointing out such a grown up thought. Then he patted me and said, “The good book says we can’t stop doing either, doesn’t it? And I reckon I haven’t even started.”
Pa was a lot nicer because of my words, I know. He talked to Mr. McDonald in a sweet voice and explained that he was going to brand the calf in a few days. Then he offered to lend him our best seed bull. Mr. McDonald was surprised at first, but then he became angry at Pa. Pa was able to control his temper, but when I heard Mr. McDonald state that he was going to put a fence around his land and was using barbed wire, I knew Pa would blow his top! And boy, did he ever!
My Pa hated barbed wire! In fact, he hated it so much that he called it devil wire, because that’s how he saw it. He told me that it was sharp and could hurt people and animals. In fact, he was so angry that he left the calf! When we were half way home, he told me to go back and get it. I stared at him, shocked that he would want me to go back into that situation. “He won’t hurt you son. But I’m afraid that if I go back, I might hurt him!”
After hearing that, I was happy to go back. When I got back, Mr. McDonald only turned and stared at me. I simply climbed off my horse, grabbed the rope still around his neck, and rode off for home.
Pa simmered down as the week went on, but when he came home from town the next Friday, he told me he heard that Mr. McDonald had made a large purchase of barbed wire at the hardware store earlier that day. I could tell he was fuming.
The next morning, Pa brought the horses out of the barn and told me we were riding over to check out to see what Mr. McDonald was actually up to. I asked him why I had to go. “Because I’ll be nicer if you’re with me,” Pa answered.
When we got over there, we found that Mr. McDonald was doing what he promised – stringing barbed wire around his property. As our pas talked, I saw Carey and we smiled and waved at each other. I guess Carey’s waving at me irked his pa, because he told Carey to move by the wagon.
That’s when it happened. Pa tried to warn him, but it was too late. Carey’s horse stumbled over the spool of barbed wire, and they both fell down. Carey landed right in the barbed wire. I saw it coming and closed my eyes. I couldn’t watch it happen. But my wishing for it not to happen didn’t stop it. I hesitated, hanging back from the others as they ran over to check on my friend.
Suddenly, I walked up beside Pa, and Pa immediately put his arm around my shoulders. I stared in disbelief at the tragic thing that had just happened. Pa wasn’t too worried. He said that with proper medical care, he’d be okay.
Proper medical care. Those words haunted me. I had to tell Pa what Carey had told me the other day. I told Pa that Mr. McDonald wouldn’t let Carey see a doctor.
We raced back to the ranch. Pa told me to stay there. I wanted to go with him, but he told me I had to stay at the ranch. He wasn’t sure what sort of state Mr. McDonald would be in.
I waited and waited. It was dark by the time Pa got back, and I had supper fixed. Pa and Dr. Burrage sat down to eat. Everyone was quiet. I took a drink of my milk, then slowly sat it down. “I…I’m sorry I burned the meat, Pa.” I said.
Pa nodded. “And I’m sorry I scorched the peas. I guess I shouldn’t try to cook.”
After supper, Pa and Dr. Burrage started talking. I finally had to ask the question. “Is Carey going to be okay?”
Pa just looked at me blankly. “Doc, will you try again?”
That’s when I knew the truth. Doc Burrage hadn’t even been able to get into the house! He and Pa had been shot at, and he didn’t rightly care for that.
I watched in silence as Dr. Burrage left. Pa sat in silence, and I knew something had to be done! Why were we just sitting here when my friend was laying in bed dying. Pa and Dr. Burrage both thought that he could be saved! We couldn’t just sit here and let him die!
When I told Pa that, he suddenly looked at me. “He’s not gonna die, son,” Pa announced with a renewed determination. “Go get some blankets.”
I could tell he had a plan, and I didn’t stop to ask questions. I ran outside and saw that Pa was hitching up the buckboard. “Spread those blankets out in the back, son, so he can have a comfortable place to rest.” I did as he told me. Pa grabbed his rifle then said, “Okay, let’s go!”
On the way over, I became nervous about what we going to do. “Pa, he has a shotgun.” Pa only nodded. I looked at him. “Pa, I want you to help him, but-“
Pa suddenly turned to me on the seat, driving the horses quickly to the McDonald house. “Mark, you have to trust me. I’m not putting anyone’s life in danger.”
He told me to hold the reins, then I was to drive up to the house when he told me. I sat quietly in the wagon as I watched him sneak up onto the porch. When he gave me the signal, I drove the wagon right up in front of the door. I saw him come out of the house. Then there was a fight. It broke my heart to see such a situation that Pa had to knock a man out in order to take care of his own son!
I stared as I saw Mr. McDonald lying motionless on the ground, but then Pa ordered me to get the blankets ready. Pa carried Carey out to the wagon so lovingly. I physically hurt when I saw all the bloody bandages on him. I sat with him as Pa drove softly to town. A tear sprang to my eye as I listened to Carey’s moans. I smoothed his hair back. “You’ll be okay. My pa has you now. You’ll be okay.”
When we got to town, Pa gently lifted Carey up and carried him into the doctor’s office. He gently laid him down and I stared from the doorway as he and Doc Burrage began unwrapping the bandages. Just the sight of the cuts made me cringe. Pa suddenly looked up. I guess the look on my face was pretty bad, because Pa rushed over to me and laid a hand on my shoulder. “Mark, wait outside.”
I shook my head slowly. “No,” I swallowed hard as I continued watching. “No, I want to stay.”
“Mark, go wait outside.” Pa’s voice was still soft, but firmer. I knew I couldn’t stay, so I walked outside. I did nothing but pace up and down the sidewalks as I waited for the door to open. I prayed silently and constantly, asking God to spare my friend, praying blood poisoning hadn’t already sat in.
The door opened and I rushed up. I grabbed Pa’s arms and looked into his eyes. “Is he-“ I couldn’t get the rest of the sentence out as my voice broke.
“The doc said you can go in now.” I rushed inside and sat down by my friend.
“You’ll be okay, Carey.” I took his hand. “You have the two best doctors in the world working on ya!” I just sat there with him, not saying a word.
Pa was talking to Doc Burrage. Then suddenly, we heard Mr. McDonald hollering outside. I didn’t want Pa to go, but I knew he had to save Carey’s life. As Pa went outside, I got on my knees by Carey’s bed and began praying hard. My prayer was never ceasing as I prayed for God to bring Mr. McDonald understanding, prayed for protection on my father’s life, and prayed for Carey’s healing. I shed tears as I prayed.
Suddenly, I heard Carey mumble. I opened my eyes and looked up. He was awake! We were greeting each other again. I smiled, knowing he would be okay. Then I silently shot up an “Amen.”
Mr. McDonald came into the room then. I quickly stood up and moved out of his way. Father and son were reunited, and I suddenly saw that Mr. McDonald really did love his son. I no longer felt he was full of hate, and I knew it was because my Pa had given him the medicine he needed.
Pa tapped me on the shoulder and motioned for me to get up so we could leave. I stood up, but my legs were wobbly. It was then that I realized the pressure I had been under the last couple of hours. Tears sprang to my eyes as I realized the truth. Carey was going to be okay. And now, thanks to my Pa, so was his father. I stood for another moment and watched the two, not sure who had received the most healing tonight.
Pa put an arm gently under my elbow to help me up into the wagon. I sat down and put my head in my hands. Pa sat beside me on the wagon and rubbed my back as I silently allowed the tears to fall. “I…I’m sorry,” I suddenly mumbled.
“Don’t ever be sorry for the tears, son. Tears mean you care.” Pa continued to rub my back. “You want to talk about it?”
I shook my head. “I just want to go home,” I answered. Pa put his arm around me as I laid my head against him and closed my eyes.
The next thing I remember is waking up. Pa was lightly tapping me on the shoulder and I suddenly opened my eyes. I was in bed. “Better?” Pa asked me with a gentle smile.
I sat up and stretched. “Have you heard anything?”
Pa nodded. “Mr. McDonald stopped here on his way to his house to get Carey some clean clothes. He said he’s a lot better this morning. He’s going to be just fine.”
“Hm,” I smiled allowed. I stared off into the distance as I thought about them. All this time, Mr. McDonald had loved his son, but he was sick.
“A penny for your thoughts,” Pa suddenly said.
I snapped my eyes and looked at him. “Pa, who do you suppose got the most healing last night? Carey or his Pa?”
Pa allowed a slow easy smile to slowly climb across his face. He put a hand to my neck. “I think we both know the answer to that. You know, son. You are becoming more like a young man everyday!”
“Oh, Pa!” I suddenly declared as I got up and got ready for the day.
*A special thanks goes out to Michelle Palmer for her insight on how Mark had seen these episodes.
Mark's Memories ― Table of Contents
You've heard Lucas' story, now hear Mark's Story
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