I can’t help but to laugh and shake my head now as I remember those two. Speed and Swifty. And my Pa did such an excellent job telling you that story that I couldn’t do a better job myself, so I’m not even going to attempt to retell it…really. We’ve seen those two often throughout the years, and let me tell you – they never changed! Even after Swifty became an adult he was just a chip off the old block! In fact, he grew up to be the owner of a rather large chain of lightning rod stores – honest injun!
I laugh now as I remember the look on Pa’s face when he saw that strange man lifting the boards off that water. I also laugh remember the look on Speed’s face when my Pa shot his rifle up in the air. I suppose I had a pretty surprised look on my face as well though. I remember coming home from school one day and Pa telling me sternly that there was a water hole covered with planks and I wasn’t even allowed to go near it. Of course I would know what the covered water hole meant, but Pa was always sheltering me just a little to much for my comfort.
I was a little surprised when this man started yelling at my Pa the minute we got up to him. People usually don’t yell at my Pa – especially those who have heard of him! Trust me, I know from personal experience what happens when one yells at my Pa – and the results are not pretty!
Anyways, Pa sent me to find Speed’s horse. I found that horse easy enough once I caught up to him. My Pa sure did spook him! I brought him back just as this wagon was coming up. It had a boy – maybe a couple years older then me on it. He was dressed up just like his Pa. I slowly walked the horse behind the wagon and stared at the sign before getting back on my horse to go home. As Pa and I rode, I looked behind me to see what the wagon said. Suddenly, my horse whinnied.
“Mark!” Pa suddenly called out impatiently.
I turned around to look at him. He had an annoyed look on his face. “Pay attention to where that horse is going, son.”
“Pa, what’s that say on the side of the wagon?” I asked as I turned my head toward it again.
“Mark,” Pa warned. I turned around and looked at him again. “I think he’s a salesman.”
“What’s he selling?” I asked excitedly.
“Well, I’m not sure but I’m sure we’ll find out.”
When we got into the yard I jumped off my horse and stood waiting for the wagon. As it rode up, I saw the sign. He sold lightning rods. “Lightning rods?” I asked Pa. “What’s that?”
Pa shrugged. “I’m sure we’ll soon find out, son.” He handed me the reins to his horse. “Go tend to the horses, son.”
I started slowly walking towards the barn as I stared at the wagon. The boy jumped off the wagon and shook my hand. “Swifty’s the name, selling’s my game! What would you like today, son?”
“Don’t call me son,” I stated. “My name’s Mark.”
“Okay, sonny. What would you like?” he asked.
“Well, I-“ I started.
“Mark, get those horses to the barn!” Pa called out. “Then get started on your chores.”
“Yes sir,” I said quickly as I started walking toward the barn. Pa’s voice had held a slight warning in it.
Swifty folded his arms and started at me through narrow slits of his eyes. “My Pa don’t make me do such things!” He stated. “Boy, stick with me and,” He slapped an arm around my shoulders. “I’ll teach you everything you need to know about selling and trading.”
I stopped suddenly and turned to him. “No thanks!” I declared.
After I got the horses settled in the barn I filled the bowl with chicken feed and began feeding them. Swifty was walking beside me telling me all about being on the road all the time. I wanted to ignore him, but that was hard to do! “Don’t ya go to school?” I asked.
“School?” Swifty shook his head. “Well, no, son. School’s not for me – why, I learn more traveling around the country with my Pop! Why, everything I need to know, my Pop teaches me!”
I stopped as I spread some more feed out. He bumped into me. I suddenly turned. “Look, why don’t you go gather the eggs for me?”
Swifty screwed up his face. “Gather eggs?” he asked. “What are you talking about, kid?”
“It’s Mark!” I declared, rolling my eyes. “Eggs are those things you eat for breakfast that chickens lay.”
Swifty suddenly rolled his eyes at me. “I know what eggs are, but why should I gather them?”
“Because,” I started a little too loudly. I closed my eyes and took a deep breath. Smiling through clinched teeth, I said very quietly, “Because, you are getting on my nerves!”
I turned to make sure Pa wasn’t standing behind me with a dirty look on his face. Then I turned back to Swifty and asked him again to gather the eggs. He turned and looked at the chicken coop. “In there?” he pointed.
I nodded. “In there.”
“How do you-“ he asked.
“You just walk in there and stick your hand in the nest. If there’s a chicken on it, just stick your hand under her. She’ll move.”
Swifty stared at the chicken coop. “Uh…” He turned back around and stared at me. “I think…Oh my, I best go see if my Pa needs me!”
I stared at his retreating figure and shook my head. I couldn’t believe it!
I was in the barn putting down fresh hay when Pa came out. He had a slab of pork in his hand. “Son, when you’re done with your chores, come in and help me with supper, huh?”
I turned and looked outside the barn. The wagon was still there. “Well, shouldn’t I say goodbye to our guests first?” I asked hopefully.
Pa raised his eyebrows at me. “No son. They are our guests. They’re staying for supper.”
I suddenly stared at Pa and got an annoyed expression on my face. “You mean…you invited them to stay for supper?” I suddenly asked. “Pa, how could-“
Pa suddenly put his free hand on his hip and stared me into silence. “Mark, you know better then that! It would be impolite not to invite them to stay for supper when it’s so near the hour!”
“You asked them to stay?” I cocked my head to one side.
“Well, in a way,” Pa answered.
“What’s that mean?” I asked.
“It means, young man, that you better hurry with your chores and get yourself in that house to help me!” Pa walked to the door. Then he turned back around and pointed a finger at me. “It also means that these are our guests and you better treat them with respect!”
I shook my head when he said that. “Mark?”
“Yes sir,” I said reluctantly. I knew it was going to be hard.
“Good.” I watched Pa walk back into the house.
When I came in I saw Pa bent over Mr. Sullivan as he sewed up his pants. My mouth popped open as I stared at the scene. Pa suddenly looked up at me and shook his head, warning me against saying one word. He cleared his throat as he went back to sewing. “Start shucking the corn, son. Then snap some green beans.” I just stood and stared. “Now Mark,” Pa said.
Silently, I hurried to the kitchen and started my kitchen chores. After supper, Pa suggested that Swifty and I do the dishes together. I stared at Swifty and told him he could wash. Pa suddenly cleared his throat and narrowed his eyes at me. “I mean…you can wash if you want to.”
“Alright, kid!” He stated. I sure wished he would stop calling me kid!
So, when my Pa told you about us doing dishes together and me getting irate with him, maybe now you have a bit more understanding as to why I suddenly wanted to punch him in the nose! And let me tell you, as I started out for the barn, I was really looking forward to doing it! I wasn’t sure how I’d explain the bloody nose to my Pa, but I didn’t care at the moment!
So as I was walking out the door, I just told Pa I had a job to finish in the barn – and that was the truth! I DID have a job to finish in the barn – a punch in the nose. I also knew that Pa wouldn’t approve of the job I had to finish.
Sadly, though, Swifty was a chip off the ol’ block and was able to talk his way out of that punch! He thought he was getting a great deal with the Indian heads and cat gold I was giving him, and I just didn’t have the heart to tell him that stuff was useless! Especially since I was getting so much stuff from him!
When I walked back inside, I saw Pa getting the cots out. I immediately knew what that meant. “Oh, Pa!” I groaned.
Pa turned from the cot and raised his eyebrows at me. “Pa, you…” I walked over to him. “You didn’t have to invite them to spend the night!” I groaned.
Pa stood straight up in front of me and placed his hands on his hips. The look on his face made me just a bit fearful. “I know, I know…” I said with a shake of my head. “We couldn’t just dump them out in the street in the middle of the night, right? Will they be leaving in the morning after breakfast?”
Pa’s stance or stare didn’t change. I finally lowered my head and turned away. “You just get that other cot up, boy.”
You also know that as we were making the cots, Speed was trying to con my Pa into selling him mineral rights to our land. I shook my head as they went into the bedroom. “Boy oh boy,” I mumbled.
Pa couldn’t help but smile at me. “Yeah.”
“I sure am glad you aren’t buying anything from him! Why, they are nothing but swindlers!”
“They are our guests, and you will watch how you talk about them!” Pa declared. Then he cleared his throat as he sat down on his cot. “Besides, I did buy something from him.”
I looked up at him. “You did?”
Pa nodded. “I gave him two dollars down for a lightning rod.”
“You-“ I suddenly walked over to Pa’s cot and stared at him. “You mean you actually-“ I pointed at him.
“Well, I like him in spite of himself, Mark.” Pa took his clothes off and got under the covers. “You best get to bed.”
“What about my nightshirt?” I asked.
Pa sat up. “It’s warm enough that you can go with out it.”
“I sure do hope he didn’t help himself to it!” I grumbled.
Pa got his Bible and started reading it under the lantern. “Go to bed, son.”
“I just have to go out back.” I said as I started for the door.
“Again?” Pa asked. “You’ve already been out back twice tonight!”
“Well, I…I drank a lot of water!” I declared.
“Or maybe you are putting off going to sleep. Be back and under those covers in two minutes!”
You know the rest of the story about that night! But I must tell you that I was awful curious as Pa sat there laughing about something. I was so curious and I finally asked, “Pa, are you going to just lay there and cackle all night or are you going to let me in on your little secret?”
“Mark,” Pa got back up on his elbow. “Why do you think Swifty traded that stuff with you?”
“Well,” I shrugged. “He must think those things were worth something.”
“Mark, Mr. Speed Sullivan thinks we have a gold mine.”
“Well, we do!” I declared.
“Not fools gold, son! Real genuine gold!” Pa exclaimed.
“Oh,” I thought on that. I suddenly sat straight up in bed. “Ohhhhhh!” I turned and smiled at Pa. “So, he wants to buy the mineral rights so that-“ I gasped. “Pa, he said oil! He lied!”
Pa shook his head. “He sure did! And tomorrow he’s gonna learn what happens when he lies to me.”
“Well, I could have told him that!” I mumbled sarcastically.”
“Uh huh,” Pa nodded his head in agreement. “You can also tell him what happens to boys when they are caught awake way past their bedtime.”
I suddenly laid down in bed. “Night, Pa.”
Well, let me tell you about the next morning now.
The house was nice and quiet. I was sound asleep and having a fantastic dream! The dream was Sullivan-less. So you know my dream was good. But suddenly, a door slammed and the whole house shook. “Good morning, you wonderful McCains!” I heard Mr. Sullivan yelling as he clapped his hands together and began shaking me.
I groaned as I opened an eye. Pa was sitting up in bed rubbing his own and yawning. “Well, come on you sleepy heads! You know what they say!”
Mr. Sullivan bounced – and I mean bounced – out of the house. “What time is it?” I groaned into my pillow.
“It’s 5:30,” Pa’s muffled voice answered.
“What do they say?” I asked, still into my pillow.
Pa groaned. “I have no idea.”
Then we both groaned as we heard the front door slam again. “They say ‘Early to bed and early to rise makes a man healthy, wealthy, and wise! After all, you are farmers, and farmers get up early!”
Mr. Sullivan ran back into the bedroom, slamming it yet again. “Farmers?” I asked as I weakly lifted my head from the pillow.
“Farmers,” Pa stated as He again sat up in bed.
Pa and I looked at each other and smiled. “Farmers!” We both declared at the same time. I wanted to tell good ol’ Mr. Sullivan a thing or two, but I don’t think my Pa would have appreciated my words too much. I wanted to tell him that we don’t get up at 5:30 unless there’s branding or planting to do. I wanted to tell him that we would be more chipper this morning if we had gotten to bed at a decent hour last night. And I wanted to tell him to stop slamming those doors!
I was just waking up enough to throw my feet off the side of the cot. Pa was slipping into his boots and buttoning his shirt already. “Well, we best to our chores,” Pa stated.
“Yeah,” I groaned as I put my head in my hands again.
“Come on,” Pa patted me.
I yawned as I milked the cow and gathered the eggs. When I came back inside, Swifty was sitting at the table looking through my school papers I had brought home to show Pa last week. I rushed over and snatched them away from him. “Don’t look at those! They’re personal!” I exclaimed.
Swifty just smiled at me and clicked his toungue. “Well, well, well…you’re father must be proud! I saw that B on your spelling test and D on your math test…Shame on you! Don’t you know you have to learn to count money?”
I shook my finger at him and told him to mind his own business. He folded his arms and cocked his head to one side. “Okay, kid.” He smiled. “What’s for breakfast?”
I put my papers back on Pa’s desk for him to look at. Then I hurried back over to the table. “Why you-“ I started. But Pa walked in then and I quickly moved away.
“Well,” Pa said as he went to the kitchen and began rolling up his sleeves. “Good morning, Swifty.”
“Good morning, sir.” Swifty stood up. “May I assist you with breakfast this morning?”
I turned around and glared at him, making sure my back was to Pa so he couldn’t see me. “Uh, that’s alright, Swifty. Why don’t you just sit there and relax?”
“Yes, I need it after all the chores I’ve done this morning,” Swifty stated as he propped himself back in the chair at the table.
“What chores?” I suddenly asked. I heard Pa clear his throat. “I think the table needs set.” I just looked at Swifty with my eyebrows raised.
“Oh, yes. I love to set the table!” He proclaimed.
I didn’t think we would ever get through breakfast, but it finally came…and went. Boy, was I ever happy!
But, that happiness was short lived as Pa sent me along with Mr. Sullivan to show him the land that he had mineral rights to. Before I knew it I was tied to a tree. Now, you heard Pa tell this story, but let me just comment here that I DID warn them about my Pa…twice. Anybody who know my Pa knows that you don’t mess with his son and get off scott free!
And it was true this time! Pa threatened them great bodily harm if they didn’t leave me alone. He finally shot one of the crazy brothers because they wouldn’t listen. I think maybe Mr. Sullivan learned a lesson from all this too…I said I think he did!
Well, that’s about all my story. I will admit that I was happy to see them go! That Swifty sure did get on my nerves! After they left, I told Pa how much he had irked me, and Pa told me that it wasn’t nearly as much as Mr. Sullivan irked him. “But I though you liked him,” I stated.
“I do, but he still irked me something fierce!” Pa stated.
I wondered if we’d ever see them again…
*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