I was riding home from school one day when I saw David. He didn’t go to school, so I didn’t see him very often. I smiled at him, hopped off my horse, and ran up to him. “Hi, Dave!” I called.
David kept walking. I called his name again and he suddenly stopped. But he didn’t turn around. “Hey, didn’t you hear me calling you?” I asked suddenly as I grabbed his arm.
“Ow!” he cried out, jerking his arm away. Suddenly, I looked at his face and saw a big, black bruise.
“What happened to you?” I asked.
“Nothing,” he answered.
“David, I-“ I touched his back and he suddenly winced. “What is it? Did somebody beat you up?”
“No!” David suddenly turned around and stared at me. “No! I was just bad and my Pa whipped me, that’s all!”
“You’re Pa did this?” I asked. “He beat you like this?”
“He didn’t beat me!” David stated. “I was just…” He stopped and ran home.
I mounted my horse and slowly rode toward our ranch. But I didn’t go home. I went down to the pond, tied Blue Boy to a tree near by, and walked to sit on the bank. I sat down and stared out over the water as I thought on what David had just told me.
Suddenly, I began to wonder if I was the only one who never got hit? Was it normal to be whipped when you were bad? I just sat there and thought about how sad David looked.
“Well, there you are!” I suddenly heard from behind me. I didn’t turn around but just continued staring out over the water. Pa walked up to me and knelt down beside me. “I was worried.”
I bit my lip to keep it from trembling. The expression on David’s face was haunting – I could hardly stand it! “What’s wrong, son?”
“Nothing,” I whispered.
Pa squeezed my shoulder and sat down beside me. His hand stayed on my shoulder as he spoke. “Mark?” His voice was clear – he was telling me to turn toward him. I did so. “You know I have a rule that you always speak out what you’re feeling.” I nodded. “So?”
I swallowed. “Pa, did you get lickings when you were a boy?”
“I did,” Pa answered as he stared at me. “I’ve told you that before.”
I sighed. “Yes. I guess you did.” I suddenly lifted my head and looked into his eyes. “Well, why don’t you ever give me lickings?”
Pa sighed. I saw confusion on his face as he thought on that. “Well, honestly I’ve always found more effective ways to punish you like extra chores, sending you to bed early, and taking privileges away. I guess I’ve just never seen cause for it.” Pa suddenly put a hand on both of my shoulders. “I used to give you hard pats on the backside when you were little – that’s the way to communicate with a really young one, but as for licking…”
“So, you’d never…hit me?” I asked.
“Son, I can’t tell you that someday you won’t do something that would require a trip to the barn. You know I’ve threatened it a few times in the past.” I nodded, remembering a very recent threat. “But I’ve never had to follow through with it. That’s not to say that someday that event won’t occur. You understand what I mean?”
“Yeah.” I sighed.
“Now, what’s this all about?” Pa asked.
“David Chase. I saw him today and-he was a little sore and said that his Pa licked him,” I said.
Pa nodded. “Well, maybe it was deserving.”
“Pa, he had a bruise on his face and his arm and back were sore. Is that…a lickin’?”
I suddenly saw Pa’s jaws clinch. He stared at me for only a second. “No,” he answered. “When my father licked me, it was with a strap on the backside of my britches – nowhere else.”
“Then what he did was wrong?” I asked.
Pa stood up suddenly and reached out his hand for mine. “Listen son, I think you oughta leave this alone for now until I find our more about it.” I stood up and he put his arm around my shoulders as we walked toward my horse. Pa untied Blue Boy from the tree and held the rein as we started back toward the ranch. “I’m saying that if a man is beating a child by punching him and beating him on the back, it’s wrong. But I’m not going to judge his Pa – not until I figure out what’s going on.”
When we got back to the ranch, Pa told me he had gone hunting and wanted to take the birds into town to show Micah. He left after supper, leaving me to take care of the evening chores.
He came back later then I had expected, and I was awake. When I heard him coming, I jumped into bed, seeing as how it was almost 9:30. He opened the door to check on me. “Pa?”
“You still awake?” Pa asked.
“I guess I can worry too,” I answered.
Pa came to sit down on the side of my bed. “We ran into a little problem at the store.”
“The store?” I suddenly wondered what had happened.
“Heller Chase, David’s sister, was caught breaking in.” Pa answered me.
“Why?” I asked.
Pa sighed. “She said she was only after a hair ribbon.” I heard something else in Pa’s voice, though. I heard worry.
“What else?” I asked.
I heard Pa smile. “You best get to sleep, son.”
“But Pa, I-“ I started.
“Listen, son. There are times when I can’t tell you everything I know. Let’s just say I’m looking into what you told me earlier.” Pa raised his eyebrows at me. “Okay?”
I laid down as Pa tucked me in. He stood at the door and watched me for just a minute. I turned toward him. “What?”
Pa shook his head. “Nothing, son. I’m just…so lucky to have a son like you.” He patted the door frame. “Goodnight, Mark.”
I woke up the next morning to the smell of flapjacks. My Pa was a wonderful cook, and I always smiled when people asked me which of us was better. I knew my cooking wasn’t up to par, but Pa didn’t mind doing most of the cooking. I quickly dressed and went out to sit at the table. “Morning, son,” Pa smiled cheerfully.
I smiled as I started to grab a flapjack off the plate. Pa gently smacked my hand and I pulled it back. He shook the spatula at me. “Let that be a warning to ya', boy!”
“Oh, but Pa I’m so hungry!” I groaned.
Pa laughed. “Go gather the eggs and milk the cow. The syrup will be done by then.” I went to the door, but then turned and looked at the plate of flapjacks. “Go on, son.” Pa ordered.
I did as told, and was soon getting my fill of flapjacks. When breakfast was over, I hurried through the dishes and ran out to the barn to get started on my chores. Pa had mentioned he was going into town today and I wanted to go with him. I loved going to town and getting candy.
I quickly began working on the hay. I hadn’t been working very long when Pa suddenly came out.
“Morning son. You’re going after that hay like you heard the trout are running and…uh…maybe you’d like the afternoon off!” Pa stated.
Actually, fishing hadn’t even crossed my mind! Today I wanted nothing more then to go to town. “You guessed wrong,” I answered. “I knew you were going into town today, so I thought I’d finish my chores and maybe keep you company!”
“Oh,” Pa smiled. “Can I guess again?”
I decided to play dumb. “I told ya'. I thought maybe you’d want me to keep you company!”
“Mm hm,” Pa mumbled. “It doesn’t have anything to do with maybe…uh…Hattie’s got some of those licorice sticks in, huh?” Pa smiled as he continued working.
“Well,” I started, still playing the innocent act. But boy, did my Pa ever know me too well! “I thought we’d stop by there just in case.”
Then I got to thinking about what Pa told me happened last night. “Well, imagine Heller Chase breaking into Hattie’s store! I just can’t believe it! She always seemed to be so nice! Sometimes when her brother Dave and I used to go fishing, she’d sit next to me and I’d talk with her. Never thought she’d break into a store!” She did most of the talking. Unlike David, she always tried to act cheerful and hide the pain I’m sure she and her brother felt. I don’t know why, but I just had this feeling that they had things tough.
“Well, I can’t blame you for what you’re thinking Mark,” Pa stated. “But in my mind, what Heller Chase did last night doesn’t make her a criminal. She was only after a hair ribbon.” Pa suddenly turned toward me. "You know son, sometimes people are pushed into doin' things they wouldn't ordinarily do by circumstances beyond their control and by certain other people." Pa suddenly wanted to know what I knew about David’s home life. I had already told Pa what I knew last night. David didn’t talk much about it.
“Well David and his sister don’t have it too easy at home, Mark. Their step father is a pretty hard man to live with!” I’d seen him coming out of the Last Chance in town, so I knew what Pa was saying.
I went back to my chore, but then I got to thinking. Pa always talked to me. No matter if the problem would end in punishment, he always talked things out. And his instance on always talking problems out was one thing I really liked about him. Last night was a good example – I hadn’t much cared about talking, but because he loved me and was concerned about me, he made me talk. Though I may be upset about talking at the time, later on I’m always glad we did. And the talking led to hugs and pats on the back a lot of times – something that made me feel really good all over!. "You know pa, I'm kinda lucky,” I suddenly stated after thinking on all this.
Pa turned back toward me. “How do you mean?”
“Well, I know Dave can't talk to his Pa like I can to you. It kinda helps a fella when he can talk things out. Instead of havin' to keep them to yourself.” I didn’t feel like I could express what I was feeling. “You know what I mean."
"I know what you mean.” Pa picked up his saddle and headed out the door. “Well come on sprout, I thought you were going to keep me company." I was happy, but didn’t want to leave my chore undone. “Come on,” Pa said again. I wrapped my arm around his waste as we walked out of the barn together.
Pa started to saddle his horse. But then he turned to me and smiled. “I think we’ll take the wagon today.” That meant he was planning on lots of supplies – which meant a long trip into town!
As soon as the wagon started down the road, Pa started talking. “So, how was school this week?”
“Fine,” I answered.
“Just fine?” Pa asked.
“Well,” I sighed. “I have a math test and a science test next week. And I guess I have to recite the Presidents in order on Tuesday.”
Pa smiled down at me. “And um…how ready are you for these things?” he asked.
I sighed. “Not very, I’m afraid.” Pa raised his eyebrows. “Well, you know how I feel about math. Science is okay – we’ve been talking about the different classes of animals, and I think I have them figured out. But the Presidents –“
Pa put his arm around me. “Well, we’ll work on it together.”
I knew we would! Pa always tried to stay in touch with everything I did. He told me that he wasn’t trying to run my life, but a good parent always knows what’s going on in their child’s life. He told me that a father is responsible for every aspect of his children’s life, which, unfortunately, included getting a good education in my head. He always did take his responsibilities seriously.
When we got into town, we saw David and Heller. David’s bruise seemed to be hardly noticeable today. I wondered if I had just imagined the whole thing the day before. Heller wanted to buy a ribbon since she had never even had one. I just couldn’t imagine a girl never having a ribbon. I suddenly felt so very fortunate to have my father.
Pa was going to buy her one. I immediately went inside to look at the candy. I guess Pa was right – that’s what I really wanted to come into town for – to treat my sweet tooth! Miss Hattie was busy helping Heller, though, so I went over to look at a saddle. It was the saddle I had asked Hattie to order for me from the cataloge and I was sure hoping it would be here soon! This one she had was just for display, she said.
But then I started watching David. I stared in horror as he pulled a gun out of the apple barrel. I looked towards Pa, wondering if I should tell him. But then their Pa walked in and started yelling. Why, he even started yelling at my Pa! He screamed at him all the way down the street.
As I sat there on the wagon, I got to thinking about David and Heller. She’d never had a hair ribbon, and from what I had seen in the store, I doubted they ever got candy or any other thing of pleasure. I thought about the yelling he had done. Never had my Pa said such things to me or treated me so disrespectfully. I couldn’t even begin to realize what they had gone through.
We stopped in front of the Feed and Grain store. Pa looked at me and could tell I was really bothered about something. He put his arm around me. “What is it?”
I knew now would be the perfect opportunity to tell him about the gun, but something…I don’t know what…held me back. I looked at him. “You think it’s like that all the time?”
Pa nodded. “I’m afraid so, son.”
“You think that he ever buys them candy or a soda or-“ I suddenly stopped and looked down at the floorboard. “Pa?”
Pa looked at me and smiled gently. He put his hand on my cheek. “I love you,” I said. “Thank you for being you.”
Pa smiled. “Now, let’s get these chores done!”
When we did got back to the General Store, I didn’t even go over to the candy. I suddenly felt guilty for all the little things Pa allowed me to have. Even the saddle at the moment sounded like a pleasure I shouldn’t engage in. I walked back to the back of the store with Pa as he looked at the canned goods. “I can handle this, son. Why don’t you pick out your candy?”
“No, I’ll help you,” I said with a sigh.
Pa suddenly put his arm around me and led me over to the candy. He bent down to speak softly in my ear. “Mark, I give you candy because I love you and it’s one of those pleasures that every young boy enjoys. Don’t take that away from me, huh?”
I looked up at him, smiling. “I just feel so sorry for David,” I mumbled. “And his sister. They don’t get candy, and I can’t help but to feel guilty for getting candy.”
Pa motioned for Hattie to come over. He handed her a nickel and told her to give me a whole bag of licorice. He handed the bag to me with a loving grin. I smiled into his eyes. “Thanks, Pa.” He nodded and winked at me. “Not just for this, but for everything!”
As soon as we got home I began working on finishing my Saturday chores. But I was suddenly overcome with guilt. Something was still bothering me and I knew I had to tell Pa. But when he asked me what was bothering me, I just couldn’t tell him at first. He knew I was no longer upset about the Chase kids and their relationship, because Pa had helped me through that, but he thought maybe I was upset because he didn’t answer their Pa’s talk earlier.
Suddenly, I told Pa that I had seen David pull a gun out of the apple barrel. Pa was confused. “A gun in the apple barrel?” I was suddenly excited, worried about what it all meant.
Pa left. He was gone for a long time. I sat at the table working on my animal classification for awhile. Suddenly, I heard the door open. Pa looked so tired, and it wasn’t just physically. He immediately hurried over to me and gave me a hard hug. He took my face in his hands and stared into my eyes. “Mark,” he started. “Son, I…I love you. Don’t ever, ever forget that.”
I was suddenly frightened. “Pa, what’s wrong?” I asked. “What happened?”
“The kids were planning on killing their step-father.” Pa hugged me again. Then he ran his hand up and down my back a few times as he continued staring at me. “I was able to talk them out of it. He’s in jail now.”
“So, he was beating them?” I asked as I hung my head.
“Yes,” Pa answered. Pa swallowed. I saw tears in his eyes. “Son, I will never lay a hand on you in anger. Never!” Then he got a stern look on his face. “You should have told me about the gun right away. You shouldn’t have kept it from me.”
I lowered my head. “I know.”
“You were wrong,” Pa stated.
“I know. You’re gonna punish me.” Pa nodded. I suddenly knew I would be put on extra chore duty for awhile. But for once, I didn’t mind the punishment. I threw my arms around my wonderful father and laughed. I suppose my reaction to being punished did seem a bit strange. Pa stared at me and I held up my hands. “I really am sorry, but I suddenly realize just how much you love me, Pa.”
Pa suddenly folded his arms. “What is tonight?”
“Saturday night,” I answered.
“And what is tomorrow?”
“Sunday.” Pa raised his eyebrows and started for the side door. “A bath? After all I’ve been through?” I groaned. Pa turned and pointed a finger at me. “I mean, a bath! Yeah!” Then I ran to start drawing water from the well.
Sid Gilman played Ben Tooker. He was the man in the beginning of the episode who told Micah and Lucas that somebody had broke into Hattie's store and that they had him trapped on the inside.
Sid Gillman is a member of the College Football Hall of Fame and the Pro Football Hall of Fame. 'Sid' Gillman — Football Coach
This is part of an article from Look Magazine June 21, 1960
"The Star Stands In" Chuck Connors ― Stands in for Peter Whitney
*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
around The McCain Ranch