Pa and I do lots of things together. We were more then father and son. We were like best friends! But, he was still my father. Once, Pa told me that it was hard being a best friend and a father at the same time sometimes – especially when a punishment needed handed out. One of the things we did as friends was ride our horses together. I loved riding side by side – Pa’s big horse, Razor and my Chestnut mare, Blue Boy.
Sometimes, we would even race them. And when we raced them, I could hear my Pa’s laughing all the way to the end, and I would join in. In the end, it really didn’t matter who won, as long as we were together having fun – that’s what mattered most!
That’s what we were doing the day we found a very good friend of mine. I won the race that day, and I was gloating about it. At first, I felt that Pa had let me win, but after him explaining that that could hurt me, I knew I won by myself. Pa tried to sternly reprimand me for being happy about winning, but I could tell he knew it was all in fun.
As we started to turn around and go home, I saw a young man stumbling along the road. He acted like he was hurt. Pa helped him up onto his horse and walked the horse the rest of the way home. By the time we got home, I knew his name: Donnel Mahoney. Pa helped him inside and doctored his scratches. I just stared at him excitedly as he took a big drink of water. I could tell he wasn’t from around here, and that in itself excited me.
We sat at the table, and I rested my chin in my hand as I stared. This made Don nervous and he gave me a smile. “Sorry for staring,” I suddenly said as I flashed a look at Pa. He had a frown on his face. “Where you from?”
“New York,” Don answered me.
That impressed me! I started to ask him something else, but pa suddenly interrupted me. “Donnel, what happened to you out there?”
“Oh, that?” Don rolled his eyes. “Well, I was tired of walking and the stagecoach was coming down that road. So I hid in some bushes until it passed and then jumped on the back of it. Well, a little ways down the road, one of the drivers pushed me off!”
I leaned forward excitedly. “You mean you jumped on it when it was racing down the road?” My eyes grew big. “Wow!”
“Mark!” Pa said sharply. I turned and stared at him. Pa’s face softened. “Don’t you have some chores to do before supper?”
I sighed. “Yes sir, but I could do them afterwards if-“ Pa’s face hardened a bit then. I stood up and went to the door. “You can come keep me company,” I said to Don.
“You don’t need company to do your chores, Mark. Get going.” Pa seemed upset about something, but I wasn’t quite sure what that something was. I went outside to do my chores.
When I came back in from my chores, Don wasn’t at the table. I looked around. “Where’d he go?”
Pa put the supper on the table. “I gave him some broth to eat. He wasn’t feeling to well after his fall, so I sent him to bed.”
I looked toward the bedroom. “You mean, he’s sleeping here tonight?”
Pa nodded. “I’ll make a cot in here for you.”
“But Pa, I want to-“ I started to tell him I wanted to sleep in the bedroom where Don was. I was hoping if we both woke up early enough in the morning, I could ask him some questions.
“Eat your supper, son.” Pa ordered.
The next morning, Don came out of the bedroom all dressed. I went to do my morning chores, but when I came back in Pa was just starting breakfast, so I sat down to talk to Don. He gave me his hat to try on and taught me how a New Yorker would wear it. Then he taught me how to strut around. I was enjoying this, and thought I must look like a real city slicker, but when I asked Pa how I looked, he angrily replied, “Silly.”
I must say that I was awfully impressed with Don’s tellings of New York. It sounded like a big city with lots of people living there. I tried to picture it, but couldn’t! “But what you really want to see, kid, is the bowery! They got things there. There’s always something happening! There’s people and there’s lights. There’s Tony Pastors.”
I wasn’t sure what Tony Pastors were, but he said it was the biggest music hall in the whole world! Then he showed me some of his treasures from New York. First he pulled out a big gun. That was a little scary for me, but I was still kind of impressed with it! Then he pulled out a knife and said he almost killed a man with it. I thought that was a little strange. But then he pulled out a pair of dice, which he told me always rolled a 7. I tried it a couple times and was really impressed! Last, he pulled out a girl’s garter. When he told me he took one off a woman himself, my Pa yelled at him.
I wasn’t really sure what the problem was, but I knew my pa didn’t much care for him. Pa didn’t like the hat being on my head either. He took it off and slammed it on the table. I knew Pa was mad, but I wasn’t exactly sure why.
Don told us that he heard a man talking about going west, so that’s where he was going. I could tell Pa wanted to get him on his way real fast, but I didn’t want him to go. I was enjoying all his talks about New York and all the fun he seemed to have there. I told Don we would be going to town in a few days, and he could go with us then, but Pa stated he could go today. I really, really didn’t want him to go! He was my friend, and I wanted to spend some time with him, but Pa insisted that he get a ride into town on the freight wagon.
I asked Don some questions while we ate breakfast. When I asked him where he got the gun, Pa said, “Nevermind, Mark!” That meant I wasn’t to ask him questions like that anymore. And I think that Don took that message to mean he wasn’t to answer my question. So, I never did figure out where the gun came from.
After the dishes were done, the three of us went to wait for the freight wagon to come through. Pa insisted on waiting, and I could tell it was because he wanted to make sure Don got on that wagon. As I watched him leave, I told Pa he didn’t like Don. But Pa denied it. I knew the truth though. I wasn’t sure why, he seemed like a really nice guy. I think Pa was sore with him because he tried to steal a ride on the stagecoach!
I told Pa that Don liked him. That didn’t seem to make him happy either. He sternly reminded me that I was going to go check cattle. I left.
I chased cattle for a few hours. It was nearing lunch time when I suddenly saw a runaway horse and wagon go off the road and over the side. The wagon crashed, and a driver flew out. I looked closely to see who it was. It was Don! I raced forward to see what was going on. I was relieved to see him moving around as I raced down to him. But then he fell over. “Don!” I cried.
I jumped off my horse and raced over to him. Don told me that he had seen Jackson, the freight wagon driver, kill Cramer, his partner because he was going to turn him into the marshal for steeling money. “You’ve gotta help me!” He begged. I knew he was in trouble, and I had to do whatever I could to help my friend, so I lifted him up by the arm as I took a branch and started wiping away all the traces of us ever being there.
Now like I said, Pa and I do a lot of things together. He teaches me everything he knows. And one thing my Pa knows how to do is track people. Not only did he teach me how to track, but he also taught me how to throw someone off my trail if I’m ever in trouble and have to get away. I knew that the right thing to do would be to turn Don into the Marshal, but I was afraid that he would be falsely accused. He was my friend and I had to do whatever I could to help him!
I took him to a cave at the end of River’s canyon where Pa and I camped sometimes when we were out hunting together. But it was a lot of work getting him there. At one point, I had him take his shoes off so the imprints wouldn’t show up. Then I made some false trails by walking on the grass, then jumping backwards. Then I even had him walk backwards to make it look like we were coming down instead of going up. My pa would be proud of me if he were here!
That was one thing I didn’t think about though. I didn’t know it at the time, but Pa was part of the posse, and he and Micah were right on my tail. You see, one thing I didn’t think about is that Pa taught me, and he knew the tricks and what to look for.
We finally got to the cave and I told Don to go inside and wait there until I came for him. I promised him I’d bring him back something to eat. “How long do I have to stay here?” he asked.
“Until I can figure out what to do,” I answered. He didn’t want to stay in that cave overnight, and I promised him I’d try to come up with a solution so he wouldn’t have to do that.
As I started back for home, I came down the hill and around a bluff. Suddenly, I heard, “Mark!”
I froze in my tracks as my pa stared at me with a stern look on his face. “Where is he?”
“He?” I asked as I looked around. I decided to play stupid and see if that got me off the hook for now. “I don’t know.”
But my Pa could always see through me when I didn’t tell the truth. “You know who I mean. Where is he?”
I knew that my pa was one of the most honest men who ever lived. I also knew that my pa didn’t like Don in the first place, which is why I decided not to go to him with this problem. I didn’t feel like I could turn Don over – even to my father. “You looking for him, pa?” I asked. I wanted to find out exactly what was going on.
“A whole posse’s looking for him!” Pa declared. “He killed Mr. Cramer!”
Those words shocked me. I knew then that Pa had been talking to Mr. Jackson. Without even thinking, I answered, “He didn’t! He told me all about it, pa! He didn’t!” Desperation was in my voice. I had to protect my friend – even if it meant going against my own pa.
“And you believe him?” Pa accused me.
I knew that he wanted me to respect him and that I was supposed to understand that he knew better, being an adult. But in this case, my pa was wrong and I had to stay loyal to my friend. “Yeah. Mr. Jackson did it!” I said these words to Pa.
“Jackson?” I held my breath, hoping Pa would believe me. I saw him thinking on this. “Well then, he shouldn’t of run away, son. Anytime a man runs, it looks like he’s scared of something,”
That was just it! Pa had to see the truth. I told Pa that Jackson was trying to kill him. I was hoping that Pa would join me in hiding Don until we could come up with a plan, though I hadn’t really thought threw what that play was. “Then let him tell me himself. Where is he?”
I knew Pa wasn’t requesting the information, but demanding it. Defiling my father was something hard for me to do and something I didn’t often do. I thought hard and long before I did so, asking “What are you doing to do to him?”
“Bring him in. If he’s innocent, Micah will see he gets a fair trial,” Pa answered.
I couldn’t let that happen! I didn’t want to see my friend in jail, accused of something he didn’t do. So standing there, I did something that was really hard for me to do. It was hard for me to even get the words out, and I couldn’t look at him when I said the words. No matter what my punishment was, I was willing to take it for my friend. “I’m not going to tell you,” I bravely answered.
That made Pa angry. “Mark!” he yelled.
Immediately, I jumped to my own defense by using his own words as a defense. “You said it once yourself, pa. There’s nothing better than a friend! Once you’re a man’s friend, stick by him! No matter what, stick by him! Well, Don’s my friend just like that pa.” I still saw the disappointment in his eyes, but I had to stay loyal to my friend. “So, I’m not going to tell you.” I braced for his words and for any punishment that was to follow.
But Pa simply answered, “All right, son. Then you tell me for his sake.”
That got my attention. I didn’t understand how telling him would help Don. It seemed he was being accused of murder, even by my own father! “For his sake?” I asked, wondering how pa would explain this.
“You did a good job of covering his trail, son. I’m proud. You learned what I taught you well,” Pa stated. That made me happy to know that I had done a good job. I knew it would make him proud! But Pa wasn’t finished. He shook his finger at me, a gesture he used when he was impatient and getting fed up with me. “But remember Mark, I taught you! I can find the trail to him. You know that. And there’s others looking for him. If they get there before I do, there’s liable to be no trial,” Pa warned me.
I listened to his words carefully. I knew that if Mr. Jackson found him first, he’d kill Don. I also knew that if someone had to find him, I’d rather it be my Pa. So for those reasons, I decided to confess everything to him. “All right, pa. He’s at that cave at the end of River’s Canyon. The one that we always use for camp when we go hunting,” I confessed.
We started to hurry up the hill, but I stopped him. I needed to make sure he wasn’t still angry with me and that I had done the right thing in hiding him and telling Pa. I asked him. He smiled at me and patted my shoulder. “You did right,” he answered. That made me feel a lot of relief.
Pa climbed up the rocks. Then he turned to help me. As he reached out for my hand to help me up, our eyes locked. In that moment, I knew that he believed in me and all was okay once again.
We were almost to the cave when we suddenly heard gunshots. Fear gripped my heart as Pa cocked his rifle, ready to fire at Mr. Jackson who was shooting into the cave. I wanted to run forward and check on Don, but my father had to take care of business first. He ordered Mr. Jackson to get away from there. I couldn’t help but be a bit afraid as I stared into the cold eyes of a cold-blooded murderer.
Mr. Jackson tried to argue his way out of it, but stating that pa couldn’t believe me since I was a kid. But I knew my pa believed me. His eyes told me that just moments before. Even though Mr. Jackson tried to kill my friend, I didn’t want him to die. But when he tried to take a shot at my pa, that’s just what happened. Sadness came over me as I saw him laying there dead, and if I dwelled on it, it could have caused a lot of sorrow in my heart. But I didn’t have time. I had to check on my friend.
Running forward, I called for Don. Joy replaced my sorrow when I saw him come out unharmed. He started to thank my pa, but pa knew who the real hero was in this story – me! I was sure proud I had made the right decisions in hiding him!
When we got home that evening, it was pretty late. I had to track down my horse, whom I had left untied. Then pa and I had to ride with Donnel into town to make sure we got the whole story right. Pa treated us to a special meal in town, which I was always happy about – especially the apple pie!
When we got home, Pa made a cot for Don out in the barn. He told Don he could stay awhile, but that he would earn his room and board just like anyone else who stayed with us. I sure was happy Don was going to stay for a few days, and I was hoping he would decide to live here. As pa and I walked back inside, he said he wanted to talk to me before I went to bed. He put his hand around my neck as he led me over to his leather chair and sat down. “Am I in trouble?” I asked, afraid that he was going to dish out some punishment for what I did earlier.
Pa gave me a small smile as he patted the arm of the chair next to him for me to sit down. “No, son. You aren’t in trouble. I think we need to get a couple things straight though.”
I nodded as I sat down. “Mark, I want you to understand that I didn’t dislike Donnel. I know you took it that way this morning, and I should have made myself clearer. I didn’t like some of the things he told you, the way he lived.”
I nodded. “I know you’re talking about the things he showed me.”
“Not just that, son.” Pa answered. “You are at a very impressionable age, and as a father, I just want to protect you from that stuff. I’m sorry I didn’t explain that to you this morning. If I had, perhaps this could have been avoided.”
“What?” I asked.
“You feeling that you couldn’t come to me with this problem. Mark, I don’t ever what you to think you have to hide anything from me! No matter what the problem is, I want you to feel that you can trust me.”
I lowered my head, knowing in that moment that I hadn’t done right. Pa saw this and lifted my head back up to look into his eyes. “You did the right thing today, son, by hiding him. Though you didn’t know it at the time, there were men who were looking for him who would have shot first and asked questions later.” I smiled. “But Mark, at the time you were doing it, you were intending on hiding him from me. And that’s where you were wrong.”
I nodded. “I was just afraid for Don, Pa. I thought-“
Pa shook his head. “Promise me you will always come to me, no matter what.”
We sat there silently for several moments as we looked into each other’s eyes. “You aren’t mad at me?”
“Mad?” Pa suddenly asked. “No son, I’m not mad!”
“Then…I’m not in trouble?”
Pa shook his head. We looked into each other’s eyes for a few more moments. Then I threw my arms around Pa. “I promise!” I answered.
He sent me to bed after that. The next evening, Don and I sat around the table talking. Don started telling me more stories about New York as Pa sat at his desk, trying to ignore the talk. I knew he didn’t like cities. “But what you really need to see, Mark, is the lights. There ain’t never no night in the bowery. There’s always something doing. There’s always some excitement. You notice that gink? That gink Greely who said “Go West?” He stayed in New York!” Don was saying.
But Pa had been listening to his every word. “On the bowery?” I suddenly heard him say.
Don suddenly stated there was nothing wrong with the bowery. “I guess your right, Donnel. Here there’s nothing but space and air. No big building, no Tony Pastors to go to at night. Just a camp fire to sit around and spin tall tales. In New York you don’t have to hunt and fish for dinner, you just go out and buy anything you want at a store. Yeah, I guess you’d be a fool not to go back!” Pa said. I could tell he was leading up to something, but I wasn’t sure what that was yet.
That’s when my pa stated, “Well then, I guess I’ll tell Oat Jackford you don’t want to go to work for him.”
That got our attention fast! My pa really did want Don to say. I thanked him for doing that for my friend. I wanted him to stay more then anything at the moment, so I started to beg him. My pa was having fun with this. He stopped me and told me that Don had made up his mind.
Boy, was I happy when Don finally agreed to stay! “If you want to know the truth about it, the Bowery stinks!" Don declared.
Pa and I laughed.
*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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