Being a boy who grew up in the late 1800’s, I dreamed about cowboys, Indians, outlaws, buffalo hunting, and shoot outs. That made me a pretty normal boy. But I also imagined what things were like when my Pa was a little boy. There were still plenty of buffalos to hunt, and Indians were still scalped!
Today as my pa and I were riding side-by-side to town, we suddenly came up on two Indians on horseback. It was easy to tell that the one Indian had his hands in handcuffs and had done something wrong. Pa jumped to the conclusion that the other Indian was about to solve the problem “real-Indian style.” Naturally, I got overly excited! I knew Pa was talking about scalping. “Gosh, can I watch?” I asked Pa in an excited voice.
Now, don’t get me wrong. I didn’t necessarily want to see the man suffer and die, but there was something fascinating about a scalping. I had read about it in books and heard stories about scalping, so I just wanted to see what it was like. Unfortunately, my Pa didn’t see the humor in my statement and immediately got onto me. He told me that our government was trying to civilize the Indians, and maybe they should include me.
Pa rode up to stop it and told the Indian that he couldn’t solve the problem Indian-style. He had to bring the Indian into the law and let the marshal solve it. Well, I found out something amazing then! Do you know that Indian was a Marshall? I was so amazed. I actually though it was kind of neat that this Indian was a Marshal. He even had the badge to prove who he was. He said he learned to speak proper English and a lot about our government at Harvard College.
As we watched him ride away, I stated, “An Indian Marshal! What’s this world coming to?”
When we got into town, we found that the Indian Marshal was in the saloon. Pa was afraid this would lead to trouble. “Maybe we should have warned him to stay out of town, Pa,” I stated. Pa thought he had had enough sense to stay out.
I listened to Pa and Micah discuss the Indian’s being there for a minute, then Pa gave me my nickel for candy and told me I had a half hour to get back. I ran off toward the General Store.
While there, I talked with Miss Hattie for awhile. She wanted to know how school was, if I was getting enough sweets at home, and if I was still washing behind my ears. I assured her my Pa was taking really good care of me! “He makes real good apple pie too!” I stated proudly.
I picked out the candy and realized my thirty minutes were up, so I headed toward the saloon. Pa was standing outside watching Mr. Buckhart ride away. “Hey Pa, where’s that Injun Marshal going?” I called. He hadn’t told me I couldn’t talk about it, so I didn’t know any difference. I figured everyone knew already anyway.
But Pa immediately hushed me. To late though. I immediately realized what I had done and did the only thing a ten-year old could do. I tried to joke my way out of it. I stated he wasn’t really Indian – that he was really white. But the man had heard me. I felt real bad for what I did.
Suddenly, the man named Tub grabbed me and lifted me up on the porch. It scared me! Pa immediately ordered him to take his hand off of me. I know how protective my father is of me, and waited for him to punch him. He didn’t though. At least not until Tub accused me of lying. He picked me up again, which scared me even more.
I was scared – I had just asked an innocent question and didn’t mean to get anyone in this much trouble! Pa told Tub that I never lied – which was the truth!
“They all lie!” Tub stated. Pa punched him hard.
I was still confused trying to figure out what I should have done differently. The truth is, though, that I didn’t know exactly what I had done wrong in the first place! “What did I do, Pa?” I asked, really wanting to understand.
But Pa told me not to worry about it as he put a protective arm around my shoulders and led me to the horses.
What came next was horrifying! I couldn’t believe what I was seeing – and I didn’t know exactly what to think of it. As we were getting ready to leave, all the men in the saloon had found out that Buckhart was an Indian Marshal. The next thing I knew, they were coming out with trays of glasses and sat them in the middle of the street. They began shooting them. The men looked angry – like a murderer had just been in their presence and was threatening to kill their children.
It scared me something awful! I looked to Pa to see what was going on, but he just wanted out of there.
I sat quietly on my horse as we rode home. Pa looked at me with a concerned expression a few times, but I couldn’t say anything. I didn’t understand what had just happened. We rode into the yard, and I absentmindedly threw my horses reins over the hitching post. Pa touched my shoulder, but I hardly felt it as I headed for the barn.
I climbed up into the hayloft, opened the upper window, and sat there with my feet dangling over the side. I saw Pa walking to the barn. He looked at me, but didn’t say a word as he walked inside. I heard him climbing the ladder. At the top, he said, “Mind if I join you?”
I shook my head, but didn’t say a thing. Pa sat down beside me and looked at me for a few moments, not saying a word. “God made the Indians, didn’t He Pa?” I finally asked.
Pa gently put an arm around me. “Son, God made everything.”
“Well,” I licked my lips. “Aren’t Indians human like us?”
“Yes Mark, they are.”
“The way Mr. Gorman and those other men acted back there in town...Well, they..” my voice drifted off. I couldn’t put my thoughts into words.
“Mark,” Pa sighed deeply. “I wish I had all the answers to your questions. But the truth is, I don’t. I don’t know why they are treated differently.”
“Well, I mean…they’re wrong in how they treated Mr. Buckhart, aren’t they?”
Pa nodded. “He seems to be a good man, Mark. He deserves to be respected like any other lawman. His being Indian should have nothing to do with it.”
“But it does,” I sighed. “Pa, why were they shooting up those whisky glasses like that?”
“Because Buckhart drank out of one of them. They probably didn’t know which one, so they got rid of them all.”
“They hate Indians that much?” I asked.
Pa and I just sat there in silence a few more minutes. His arm was around me and I stared out over the distance. I was trying so hard to make sense of what I observed, but the truth was, I couldn’t. There was nothing within me to make me see why Buckhart should be treated the way he was. Pa finally looked at me. “Son,” he said softly. “Thinking about it what make it make more sense. The truth is that people treat those who are different as less then us.”
I shook my head. “That’s not right, Pa!”
Pa stood up and held out his hand for me. “Come on,” he smiled. “Let’s go fix supper together.”
I nodded, knowing that I was to think on other things now.
The next morning, Pa rode with me into town. When we got outside the meeting hall, Pa stopped. “You go on to school now, boy. And make sure we meet me right here after school.”
“Where are you going?” I asked.
“Nevermind, son. I just got some things to do. Go on, boy.”
I rode to school, tied Blue Boy to the hitching post, and climbed the stairs to go inside. I went to sit down in my seat. “My pa said if that injun shows his face round here again, he’s gonna be run out of town!” Eddie was stating.
I turned around and glared at him. All the kids were laughing. I turned back and slumped in my seat. “Why aren’t you laughing, McCain?” Eddie asked.
“Because I don’t think it’s funny,” I answered. I stayed facing the front, hoping Miss Adams would come in soon.
“You an Injun lover?” he asked me. I remained silent. Eddie got up and came to stand in front of me. “I asked you a question McCain!”
I turned toward him. My eyes narrowed and my fists clinched. “Children!” Miss Adams exclaimed from the back of the room. She slowly walked in and glared at everyone. “Take your seats this instant!”
I breathed a sigh of relief. But at lunch, Eddie came up to me and confronted me. “Are you taking that Buckhart’s side?”
I turned around and glared at him. “He’s a man! Just like my pa!” I answered.
“He’s not a man. He’s an Indian,” Eddie declared. He took my sandwich and started eating it. Eddie was a lot bigger then me, so I knew I couldn’t fight him. I looked around and saw I wasn’t going to get any support either. So I just walked away.
As soon as school was out, I headed for town to wait for Pa where he told me to. But I stopped dead in my tracks when I watched Buckhart climb off his horse and go into the saloon. Immediately, every man ran out and went into the courthouse to meet. I walked in there and listened to the angry men yelling. Apparently, the marshal had come back to get Slade, because the Indian claimed he was the one who set the fire. They were trying to decide what to do about Buckhart. I could tell the crowd was getting mad. They were intending on chasing him out of town.
I looked out the window and saw Pa outside. I gasped, knowing I was supposed to be there. When Pa saw me come out, he got an angry look on his face. “Where have you been, boy? I told you to be waiting right here for me!” Pa scolded me.
I apologized and told him they were having a big meeting in the courthouse about Sam Buckhart. I was surprised when Pa stated we were going home and let the Indian do his own worrying. That didn’t sound anything like my pa! I warned him that they were going to give him plenty to worry about!
Just then we saw the mean leave the courthouse and gather on the street. The head of the mob was Mr. Gorman. Pa still insisted on leaving, but we quickly discovered that the situation was serious. They declared Sam Buckhart to no longer be the law. I watched Pa closely, anxious to see what he was going to do. He stood there quietly with his rifle in hand and watched. Micah came out to side with Buckhart, but they wouldn’t even let him have a say.
I looked to Pa again to see what he would do. I was afraid for everyone. It looked like they were going to kill Buckhart.
But suddenly, Pa jumped up on the wagon. I stared, horrified, as Pa got an ugly, mean look on his face and appeared to side with the town. I was confused as to what he was doing and why he was doing it! I couldn’t believe this. I thought my Pa had gone loco or something!
But suddenly, I figured out what he was doing. My Pa, the hero, took the meanness right out of the crowd. I loved watching my Pa! He was really angry – yelling at the crowd and mean. I smiled proudly as the men started leaving. My Pa took all the fight out of them and Buckhart and his men were left alone!
But the best was yet to come! As Buckhart started to leave with Slade, he declared that Mr. Gorman was in on the crime as well. I couldn’t keep the smirk off my face as he pleaded for Buckhart not to touch him.
I just stared for a minute after they left. Finally, I folded my arms and cocked my head to one side. Pa came up to me and asked me what I was thinking about. “I’m just thinking about how dumb he looks acting like he’s going to get some disease or something by being touched by an Indian.” I looked at Pa and smiled. “Heck, I’d rather be touched by Buckhart then by a snake like Mr. Gorman!”
“Mark!” Pa shot his head around and stared at me, shocked that I’d say such a thing. I tried to frown, but didn’t quite succeed. I couldn’t help to see a small smile play at the corners of my Pa’s face as he turned away though.
A few days later, I was washing up the supper dishes when Sam Buckhart came by. He had safely delivered his prisoners and had come back to thank Pa for all he had done. I sat down at the table and listened to him tell stories about when he was in college. I found myself completely caught up in his words as I leaned forward. ‘Mr. Buckhart, can I ask you a question?” I asked.
He smiled at me. “As long as you call me Sam or Buckhart. Don’t mister me!”
I smiled. “Do you still do Apache stuff?”
He laughed. “I still worship the Apache god. I still believe in many Apache ways. But I also understand white man’s ways and know their ways are good and believe in them.” I smiled. “I have something for you.”
I watched Buckhart leave. When he returned, he held out a peace pipe. “This is to remember me by. It serves as a peace treaty between you and me.”
I watched him leave, knowing we’d see him again. After walking back in, I began filling the pipe up. I wanted to smoke it and see what it was like. I put it to my lips after lighting the match and reached out to light it. But my arm was too short. I turned and looked at my pa, who was holding his own match away from his cigar, waiting to see what I would do.
I saw it written all over his face. He didn’t want me to smoke it. But he was leaving the decision up to me.
I blew the match out, changing my mind. I knew there would be plenty of time for me to do stuff like that when I was older and didn’t have my father’s watchful eyes looking at me, making sure I did the right thing.
I walked up to Pa to see what he was reading. It was a book about Harvard College. He asked me if I wanted to go there someday. I wasn’t sure if I wanted to go to college at all. But if I did go, I knew that if it was good enough for Buckhart, it was good enough for me.
Pa looked at me and smiled. I knew he was proud of me.
*A special thanks goes out to Michelle Palmer for her insight on how Mark had seen these episodes.
The Boarding House
Mark's Memories ― Table of Contents
You've heard Lucas' story, now hear Mark's Story
The Deadeyed Kid
around The McCain Ranch