I stood beside Pa as he finished paying for the supplies at the store. Pa was so distracted talking to Micah that I was already on my third or forth piece of candy. Being a boy, I always like candy, and would probably eat it for supper if Pa would allow it. But Pa finally did catch on and told me that we should get going before I ate myself sick!
Miss Hattie stated that she sold a lot of caster oil now that she had candy to give away for free. Caster oil…that reminded me of a few weeks ago when I went to my friends house. Well, the story I’m about to tell you is so emotional that I have to tell you this one story before I get started!
You see, it was a Saturday afternoon and Jeff had come over to see if I could come to his house for the afternoon. Pa nodded his approval, telling me to be good, then we raced off. Well, his ma had baked a couple apple pies that morning, then went to town with his pa to get their weekly errands done. So we had the house all to ourselves that afternoon. “You like apple pie?” Jeff asked me. I nodded. Jeff grabbed a couple forks and sat the pie in the middle of the table. “Well, let’s see who can eat the most.”
“Are you sure it’s okay?” I asked. My pa never let me eat a whole pie. But Jeff assured me it would be okay, and I wasn’t one to argue about that!
So for the next hour, we sat at the table eating. I think I probably ate ¾ of the pie because Jeff did more talking then eating. When we were finally done, I sat back and groaned. My stomach felt pretty full, especially since I had just finished eating lunch at home before coming over. I suddenly announced that I needed to go home on account that my stomach really hurt!
I slowly walked home. Pa was out in the yard oiling the wagon wheels. When he saw me, he asked why I was home so early. “Just am,” I answered as I slowly walked into the house.
Pa came inside, buttoning up his shirt. I sat at the table as my stomach began hurting much worse. “Mark?” Pa asked as he folded his arms and looked at me.
I looked at him. “My stomach just hurts a little,” I answered quietly.
“You were fine when you left. What did you do over there?” Pa asked as he came to sit down beside me.
I sighed. “Well, his ma made a couple apple pies this morning.” I looked up at Pa. He said nothing, but just raised his eyebrows at me. “His folks were gone to town, so we decided to eat a pie.”
“A pie?” Pa lifted an eyebrow at me. I nodded. “A whole pie?”
“I ate most of it because Jeff was busy talking,” I stated.
Pa suddenly stood up and went to the cupboard. I watched as he took down the bottle of caster oil and dipped some on a large spoon. “Here,” he said.
I shook my head and held up a hand. “I don’t need that,” I stated.
Pa came forward and held it in front of my mouth. I shook my head. “Now, Mark,” Pa said.
I opened my mouth and he stuck the spoon in. I swallowed it as I made a disgusting look on my face. “Pa, it wasn’t that bad!” I insisted.
“Maybe you’ll think next time before you selfishly eat a pie that someone else spent hours peeling apples to bake.” Pa stated as he put the caster oil back in the cupboard. “Now, I want you to walk back over there and apologize to his mother for what you did.”
“But Pa, I don’t feel well!” I argued.
“Then when you get back home, you can go to bed.” Pa said this as he looked at me sternly, and I knew I was to do exactly as he told me in that order.
I smiled now as I remembered that experience. I think the worst part of my punishment was actually going back to that house and facing Jeff’s mother. She was mad, and she told me that she had spent hours peeling those apples for the pie. They were having company that night, and the pie was for them. I gave her the bag of apples Pa had sent, and I apologized again. I think I would have rather swallowed more of the caster oil then face her!
As I stood in the General Store now, the mention of caster oil made me stop and think. But Miss Hattie started to offer me another piece, which I was about to accept. But Pa stopped me. He didn’t want me sick anymore then I wanted to be sick.
As we started to walk out, some men came inside and stopped us. They had guns. Pa protectively backed up, shielding me behind him. I wasn’t sure what was going on at first, and I stood silently as my pa tried to get to the bottom of things. This guy, Jake Pardee, was really mean! Another guy came from the back of the store with Micah. I watched in horror as Jake Pardee hit him over the head. I looked to Pa to see what he would do.
I was horrified as I stood there silently. As Jake ordered us out, Pa pushed me forward, wanting to get me out of there as quickly as possible. But Jake stopped us at the door and looked right at my Pa. He talked real mean to my Pa as I just silently stood and listened. He called my Pa names, but Pa just let it roll right off. Then he told us what he was doing. He was going to hold Miss Hattie and Micah until he got what he wanted: food, bullets, and whatever else they wanted.
We went out of the store and walked silently to the wagon. I turned around and looked back at the store. We couldn’t just leave them in there! Miss Hattie and Micah were there! Pa grabbed my by the arm and motioned for me to come on. As he sat our supplies in the wagon, I asked him what he was going to do. I was so worried. “It’s what North Fork’s going to do, son,” Pa answered.
I watched him pick up his rifle and we are started for the Court House. I stayed close beside my Pa. I was so worried as I continued looking back behind me, wondering what they were doing to my two friends. Pa put a protective arm around me and led me into the courthouse. Everyone was so solemn as the news spread around about what happened. Pa led me to a front seat and sat me down. Then Mr. Hamilton stood up.
I listened as Pa explained the situation to the group. Then he sat down and grabbed my hand to keep me calm. They had to decide on an acting Marshal while Micah was held hostage, and everyone wanted my pa. I was proud, but scared for him at the same time.
I only half listened as Pa stood up to address the group. He said there was nothing we could do until they left. Some of the people didn’t like that, but I knew my Pa was right. There wasn’t much that could be done until Micah and Miss Hattie were released. I hung my head, wishing there was something we could do.
I became even more afraid as Mr. Sweeny told us about Jake’s holding up a saloon he worked in. I felt chills as I realized just how dangerous these three men were. I looked at Pa, wondering what he was going to do, but just tried to calm everyone and ask everyone not to bother the outlaws.
I sat and watched everyone leave. Then I stood. “What about Miss Hattie and Micah, Pa?” I asked. “You can’t just leave them in there!”
Pa sighed and didn’t answer me. He started walking out of the courthouse. “Pa,” I started.
“Mark, you heard what I said in there. There’s nothing we can do at the moment.” He put a hand on my shoulder. “Let’s go get something to eat.”
I stopped as he kept walking. When he realized I was no longer beside him, he turned around and came back to me. Then he kneeled in front of me. “What is it, Mark?”
“I’m not hungry. I can’t eat while they’re in there with those outlaws!”
“Well, you’re gonna try anyhow, son,” Pa answered.
We sat in the restaurant. When the food came, Pa took my hand and bowed his head. He prayed for God’s protection on Miss Hattie and Micah, as well as on the whole town. He asked God to help me understand that we were doing all we could. Then we began eating.
By the time we got back outside, it was getting dark. No one had gone home yet, but were just pacing around – up and down the street. I sat in the wagon where Pa stood and looked at my hands. Then Pa suddenly announced that he was taking me to the hotel. I didn’t want to go. I wanted to stay with him. “I won’t be much use to you there, pa!” I declared.
But Pa didn’t even listen. He told me I was going to be anyhow. I think he just wanted me out of the way so he didn’t have to worry about me! He got a room and led me up the stairs. When we were in the room, Pa told me to take my clothes off and get in bed. “Can I just sit in here?” I asked.
Pa raised his eyebrows at me and I immediately started taking my clothes off. When I was in bed, Pa sat down on the side and smiled at me. “You know, if you go to sleep, it’ll probably all be over when you wake up.”
I didn’t say anything. He knew I wouldn’t be able to go to sleep – not while those outlaws were still in town. Pa patted my shoulder then left the room. I laid there for awhile as the piano down the street continued singing that song about Jake Pardee and the bad things he had done.
I couldn’t stand it anymore! I got up and looked out the window. I saw my Pa sitting in the wagon as he watched the General Store. I wanted to be down there with him, but I knew up here was as good as I was going to get. As I watched out the window, I saw Pa turn around and look at me. The first time, I thought I’d get yelled at, but when he just smiled at me, I knew he understood.
I watched Pa leave at one point, but he came back. I continued to watch him, not being able to lay back down in the bed. Suddenly, he was there on the porch – Jake Pardee – and he was calling my Pa. My heart jumped as I watched Pa slowly walk toward him. Then I shook with fear as I listened to him tell my Pa he wanted to go up against him.
After Jake went back inside, Pa turned around and looked up at my window. He saw me standing there, and he knew from the fearful expression on my face that I had heard every word. But he didn’t come to me and tell me he wasn’t going to do it. He walked to the courthouse, where they once again had another meeting.
I paced the floor, so afraid at what was going to happen. I knew my Pa wouldn’t duel him. He couldn’t! As I paced the floor, the door opened and Pa stood in the doorway. He had a hard look on his face, like he had something to tell me. But I wouldn’t let him. “So, how many are going to stand with you?” I quickly asked.
Pa just stood there, not saying a word. “Pa, you can’t! No!” I cried as I ran to him and grabbed his arms. “You can’t, Pa!”
Pa grabbed a hold of my hands and led me over to the bed. He gently sat me down. “I wish you hadn’t heard what you heard, son.” Pa stated. “I can’t do anything about this.”
"They are your friends and they don't care what happens to you?" I cried. This was so unfair! I can’t believe they were making my father go at it alone.
He was pacing the floor, trying to find the right words to tell me. “They’re just being realistic, son,” Pa stated.
Realistic? The reality was that Pa might get killed. I told him that. He knew I didn’t want him to do it because I was afraid for him. "What about Hattie and Micah?" I loved Micah and Hattie. But the truth was hard to accept – someone had to go against Jake Pardee, and my Pa was the best one. But from what the song said, and from what I heard tonight…
“I know,” I suddenly stated. “But still, there must be some other way!” Pa was all I had in the world, and I didn’t want to loose him!” Pa told me there was no other way. The only reason Jake was sticking around was because of Pa and his gun. He wanted to prove that he was better then my pa, and if Pa didn’t show up to duel him, Micah and Hattie would die.
I hated this! The worst part was that I knew he was right – there was no other way around it. Suddenly, Pa looked right at me and sternly stated, “Mark, you know I don’t want you to watch.” I did know that. I didn’t want to watch it either – I couldn’t!
I was okay with accepting all this, because I could still tell myself that pa was confident that he would win. As long as I knew that Pa believed that, I would be fine. But Pa’s next words shattered my hope. “If anything happens, son, you can always trust John Hamilton. He’s a good friend.”
This was too much for me. I threw my arms around him and cried. I clung to him for a long time, but Pa finally pushed me away. “I have to go.”
I shook my head as tears streamed down my face. “Please come back, Pa!” I begged as I sniffed. Pa had walked to the door. But he suddenly turned and came back to me. He bent in front of me. Then he took his kerchief from his pocket and wiped my tears. He looked straight into my eyes and smiled. “I’ll be back, son. I promise.” Then he got up and walked out.
I just stood at the window and stared. When it was time, I watched as my pa made his way over to the General Store. My mind was in constant prayer, begging God to protect my father. “Please, please, please,” I kept saying over and over in my head. Jake came out to stand on the street. I watched as the two got ready. Then I covered my eyes, not wanting to watch. But the shots never came.
I quickly opened my eye and saw Jake fall to the ground. I was shocked! He was…crying? This was the tough outlaw killer that had me fearing for my pa’s life? I watched as someone shot him dead. Then I heard another gunshot from inside the General Store. That’s it! I quickly got my pants on and ran back to the window. Pa had the rifle trained on someone in the store and was talking. I couldn’t hear what was going on, but I ran down the stairs.
Eddie tried to grab me as I ran out, but no one would stop me! No one would keep me from going to my father. I ran across the street as fast as I could. “Pa!” I shouted as I ran in. I saw him there by Micah and I ran over, throwing my arms around him. I silently thanked God he was alive. Then I bent backwards while Pa’s arms were still securely around me and smiled at Micah, happy he was alive. I hugged pa again.
I watched as Miss Hattie sat down and began crying. I hurried over to her and hugged her. “What can I do to help?” I asked.
Hattie shook her head. “Nothing. I just want to go home,” she answered weakly.
I turned to Pa. Miss Hattie just lived down the road. I asked him if I could walk her home. He nodded at me. Miss Hattie was shaking as we walked, but I stayed beside her. “You’re father is a brave man, Mark,” she finally said as we walked into her yard.
I stopped by the porch. “Yes ma’am,” I answered. Then I looked towards her house. “Would you like me to stay?”
She smiled. “No thank you, Mark. I want to be alone.”
I nodded, understanding what she needed. Then I quickly left her to care for herself. I walked back to town and saw Pa leading the third gunman to the jail. He was crying and I sort of felt sorry for him. I turned and looked at the General Store. Dr. Burrage was helping Micah out and leading him to his office. Some men were carrying the bodies to the undertakers. I went to the jail.
We were there for thirty minutes when Micah walked in. He thanked us for everything. By this point, it was getting light outside. We were both tired. Pa looked toward the hotel. “Let’s go, son.” We went back into the hotel room and I started to put my shirt on. But as I turned, I saw Pa taking his off. Then he got in bed. “Come on, son.”
I took my pants off and crawled in beside him. “Let’s sleep all day!” Pa said. “I’m exhausted.” He wrapped his arms around me and pulled me up against him as he fell asleep. I sighed contentedly as I felt his protective arms around me. Then I closed my eyes and went to sleep.
*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
The Wrong Man
around The McCain Ranch