The Rifleman
"Mark's Memories"
You've heard Lucas' story, now hear Mark's Story
written by Michelle Palmer

The Queue Episode 110
Mark’s story

Pa had just threatened me bodily harm again if I didn’t get scooting out the door. It was Monday morning and I, of course, was in no mood to sit in a schoolroom all day! I asked Pa how many more years I had to put up with this school bit, and he simply answered the same way he always did, “You can stop going when you receive a piece of paper that tells me you have learned all there is to learn at that school.” I asked him how long that would be, and he told me as long as it took me to learn. He said he was done with school when he was fourteen. He was so smart that his teacher gave him a certificate early. I knew I wasn’t as smart as all that.

I knew I was about to be late for school, so I started to hurry Blue Boy along. He whinnied, and refused to go any faster. Suddenly, he stopped all together. “Come on,” I said impatiently as I kicked my heels in his flank, but he just cried. I jumped down and grabbed his bridle. I gave him a good pat. “What’s wrong, boy?” Then I looked down. His foreleg was swollen and he could hardly stand on it. “What happened, boy?”

I bent down and rubbed it. His foreleg was indeed swollen. “Alright, come on, boy. I’ll walk to back home.” Luckily, we hadn’t gone too far. It took only about thirty minutes of slow walking to get home.

Pa was outside chopping wood when he saw us walking back. He started walking out towards us. He met us after we made our way over the bridge. “Mark-“ Pa stopped when he saw my worried expression. “What’s wrong, son?”

“It’s Blue Boy, Pa.” Blue Boy was more then a horse to me – he was a pet and a friend. If anything were to happen to him I’d be awfully upset! “I…I hope it’s not too bad.” I bent down and rubbed his leg.

Pa bent down and felt Blue Boy’s leg. Blue Boy neighed and tried to back away from Pa when he touched it. “That’s a good boy,” Pa soothed him. His voice seemed to calm Blue Boy down enough to let Pa look at it. I don’t know what it was with Pa and horses – they always seemed to be calmed by his sweet, gentle voice. Pa rubbed it and examined it. Then he slowly stood. ”It does seem to be really sore, Mark.”

Tears popped into my eyes then. I shook my head from side to side. “He can’t be lame!” I put an arm around his neck and hugged him. “He just can’t be!”

Pa put a hand on my shoulder. “Take it easy, son. He’s just hurt it somehow. Maybe when he was grazing out in the pastor yesterday.” Pa scratched his chin as he thought. “I’ll take him in the barn and rub some limonite on him. We’ll keep him in his stall for a few days.”

“I’ll take him, Pa,” I said as I started to lead Blue Boy toward the barn.

“No, son. I want you to get to school. Go on inside and get me some paper and a pencil. I’ll write a note to your teacher.”

I looked towards Blue Boy. “Pa, he needs me. You don’t understand – he’s my friend.” I patted Blue Boy again.

Pa put both hands on my shoulders and turned me around. “He’s your horse, son. I understand you’re attached to him but…” Pa sighed. “Listen son, I need you to ride in and get the doc. I’d like him to take a look at Blue Boy’s leg anyhow.”

I turned and looked at Blue Boy. “Pa, can I come back with the doc?” I raised my eyebrows and gave him a pleading look.

Pa looked toward Blue Boy then back at me. He scratched his nose. “Mark, I-“ He stopped and looked at me again. He sighed and shook his head. “Alright, Mark.” I turned and hugged Blue Boy’s neck. “On one condition.”

I’d do anything to stay with my horse when he was sick. “Yes sir?”

“I want you to stop by the school and get your assignments from Mr. Griswald.” Pa walked Blue Boy into the barn. “Go get that paper.”

“Oh Pa, thank you!” I hugged him. “Thank you so much!” I hurried into the house and got the paper for him. When I returned, Pa had another one of the horses all saddled for me. “Take your time, son.”

I tried, but I was so worried at Blue Boy. As soon as I rode into town, I hurried to Dr. Burrage’s office. We had a town vet but he had moved away after the hoof and mouth infection. I hurried inside. “Dr. Burrage, you gotta come-“ I stopped. “Oh, hi Mr. Nelson.”

Dr. Burrage turned from where he was working. “Something wrong, son?”

“It’s Blue Boy. He’s…he’s hurt!” I cried. “You gotta come!”

“Is it bad or can it wait until I get Mr. Nelson stitched up?”

“Oh, I guess it can-“ I stopped when the door opened.

Micah hurried up to me. “Mark, you came flying in here like the devil was after ya, son. Something wrong with your Pa?”

“No,” I answered. “It’s Blue Boy.” I shook my head. “I started for school this morning and he went lame. I’m afraid.” I suddenly grabbed Micah by the arm as the worst thoughts went through me. “Micah, what if he’s lame for good? Will Pa shoot him?”

“Mark,” Dr. Burrage interrupted my thoughts. “Don’t think that way. Blue Boy probably just twisted it in a gopher hole or something. There’s no cause for alarm.”

I hurried over to Dr. Burrage. “Could it-“ I stopped and took a breath. “Could it cause him to be lame for good, doc?”

“There’s always that possibility,” Doc answered as he continued stitching Mr. Nelson’s head.

“Does that mean he’d have to be shot?” I asked then.

Doc shook his head. “Mark, I can’t answer that. I’m trying to work here!”

Micah grabbed my arm and pulled me outside. “Now, you get on to school and I’ll-“

“No, Micah. Pa said I don’t have to go to school. I just have to go get my assignments, then I can go back home and care for Blue Boy.”

“Alright.” Micah sighed. “You go on over and do what your Pa told you to then get back home. I’ll see that Doc gets out there.”

“Tell him to hurry, Micah!”

By the time I got my assignments and got back to the ranch, Pa had Blue Boy’s leg all wrapped up. I hurried over to him. My heart broke at seeing the bandage around his leg. “Oh, Blue Boy,” I cried.

I bent down and felt his leg. It felt like it was on fire. Blue Boy was neighing like it hurt him. “Don’t worry, boy. I’ll take care of you.”

“There’s nothing more we can do right now, son.” Pa walked up to me and put his arm around my shoulder. He patted Blue Boy’s back. I’ve put limonite on it and wrapped it. When doc gets here, he’ll be able to tell us if anything else needs done. It’s not that bad. I think he’ll be as good as new in a few days.”

Pa pulled me out of the stall. “I know.” I shook my head. “I don’t know why I get so anxious when he’s not a hundred percent.”

Pa laughed. “It’s because he’s your best friend, son. He was a gift from your Uncle Chuck – and it came at a very important time in your life when you were learning all about death.”

I remembered. After my horse, Duster, went lame and had to be shot, my heart was broken. I had held a lot of hard feelings against my Pa who had the task of killing him. But then Chuck took me to his place. He died a few days later, but left Blue Boy to me on his death bed. “Is it okay, Pa?” I sighed. “I mean for a man to love an animal this much?”

Pa pulled me back against him as he stood behind me. He slid his arms around my neck. “I want you to love animals, son. There’s nothing wrong with having an animal for a friend. You just have to be willing to let go of that animal when his time comes. I think you’re old enough to understand that now.” Pa put his chin on top of my head. “He’s very special to you, and I’m happy.”

I turned my head around to look up into his face. “That why you let me stay home from school today?”

Pa nodded. “That and your face was so pitiful that I couldn’t help myself!”

“Really? Hm…I’ll keep that in mind.” Pa and I looked at each other then laughed.

Pa pulled me out of the barn. I turned and watched Blue Boy for a few moments. “Come on, son,” Pa pulled me out and closed the door. “You have school work to do. I have wood to chop and I can’t chop it if I know you’re in the barn worrying.”

I obeyed him. I went inside and started reading my McGuffy’s reader. There was a whole list of questions I had to answer from the story. Mr. Griswald had quickly jotted them down for me. I had just started my reading when I heard Dr. Burrage arrive. I quickly raced out into the barn where he was unwrapping Blue Boy’s leg. I stood quietly as Pa stood behind me with his hands on my shoulders. My heart began beating faster as he studied his leg.

“You say it happened this morning, Mark?” Doc Burrage asked.

“Well, I-“ I shrugged.

Pa quickly explained that we had him out in the pastor yesterday and may have hurt it then. He hadn’t noticed anything when he put him up last night. Doc Burrage walked over and patted my shoulder. “Well, don’t worry, son. It’s not too bad.” He looked at Pa. “Just keep his leg wrapped up for a couple days and keep putting the limonite on it. It’ll heal up okay.”

“Really?” I asked. “So I’ll be able to ride him and stuff again?”

Doc Burrage laughed. “I’ll wager, Mark, that by Thursday, Blue Boy will be going back to school with you!”

“Oh really?” I smiled as I looked up at Pa. “Then that means I’ll be able to finally go back to school by Thursday.”

Pa shook his head. “No sir. That means you can go back to school tomorrow!” Pa declared.

“Oh, but my poor horse…” I tired to give Pa that really sad look again.

Pa shook his head. “Son, don’t ever be an actor! You’re terrible at it!” He smacked me on the backside and pointed toward the house. I laughed and raced back inside to work on my lessons.

It wasn’t until that afternoon – passed the time for school to be out – that I was allowed back into the barn. You see, there’s one downside to staying at home and working on my lessons. My Pa is much harder on me then my teacher. He quizzes me on everything I should know. If I don’t know it as well as he thinks I should, I have to re-do my lesson! Pa said it makes me that much more careful the second time around.

Blue Boy’s leg was still swollen. I bit my lip and shook my head as I watched Pa doctor his leg and wrap it up for the third time that day. I asked Pa if it hurt him. “Maybe a little, son, but sometimes we have to get worse in order to get better.” It didn’t really make much sense to me, but I knew my Pa knew everything about…well…about everything!

True to his word, the next morning Pa saddled up a blackie and sent me on my way to school. Riding this horse wasn’t as much fun as riding my friend, but I knew he was getting better. Pa said the swelling seemed to already be better. In the evenings, I could go out to the barn and spend a few minutes with Blue Boy, but only AFTER my chores and homework was done. I gladly took the barn chores from Pa, and he just shook his head knowing I had other motives.

Wednesday evening, Pa announced that Blue Boy’s leg was no longer lame and he’d be able to take my weight and go into town. I wasn’t sure it was okay, but Pa said Blue Boy needed the exercise. He had walked Blue Boy around plenty while I was at school that day and he didn’t seem to have any trouble. “I just don’t want you running him, son. Just take it slow and easy. He knows what he can do.”

I was really excited the next morning. I gave Blue Boy a good grooming before I saddled him. Pa warned me I needed to get an early start so Blue Boy would have plenty of time to move at a slower pace. I smiled and patted Blue Boy. “Hear that, boy? You get to come with me today!”

Blue Boy did need to take it easy. I told him to take his time – we had all the time in the world as far as I was concerned. As we rode into the schoolyard, the kids were headed inside. I tied my horse up real good and started inside. Mr. Griswald met me. “Well, you sure do look happy today.” He looked around the corner and saw my horse. “Blue Boy’s all better, huh?”

“He sure is, Mr. Griswald,” I smiled proudly.

Mr. Griswald laughed as he led me inside and closed the door.

At lunch, I hurried outside to check on Blue Boy. His leg was still looking good. I patted his head. “Good boy,” I smiled.

Lucille walked up to me and saw me loving on my horse. I didn’t care – either she’d like me for who I am or not at all. “How’s Blue Boy?” she asked as she handed me an apple to eat.

I thanked her – both for the apple and for caring about my horse. “Leg’s all better,” I declared proudly.

“I’m glad. I said a prayer for him last night, Mark.”

I lifted my head and stared at her. “You did?”

She twirled a lock of hair around her finger as she took a bite of her apple. Remembering a promise I made to myself, I suddenly turned away from her. I kneeled down beside Blue Boy and pretended to be intent on examining his healing leg.

“Well, bye Mark,” she said as she walked away.

I didn’t turn around to see her go. “I’d rather go fishing!” I told myself.

After school was over, I examined Blue Boy’s leg again. His leg still seemed fine. “Good boy,” I said. I looked around, almost expecting Pa to be watching me as I snuck him a sugar cube. Pa frowned on it, but I figured after the week he had, he deserved it.

Pa had told me before leaving the house this morning that I was to meet him in town. The doc was going to take a look at Blue Boy just to give him a clean bill of health. Then we would eat dinner at the hotel just to celebrate. But trouble was about to get in my way – big trouble! I was just on the outskirts of town when Noah came up beside me. “Horse all better, Mark?”

“You don’t look sick to me,” I declared with a shake of my head. “It’s awful chancey riding in here right after school’s out. Supposing Mr. Griswald was to come through here?”

“Who cares!” Noah reached out and pulled Blue Boy’s reins. “Hey, you wanta race?”

I stopped. “This is the first day he’s ridden since his leg healed. I-“ But he insisted that we race. I shook my head no, reminding him that Blue Boy’s foreleg had been sore all week. If I raced him after all the problems Blue Boy had just had earlier this week, he’d be lame! I’d never forgive myself!

Noah started arguing with me, saying I was just making excuses. But his insults were suddenly interrupted by a sound of bells ringing. I figured it was a peddler wagon or something, but when I turned around, I realized it wasn’t.

Noah and I hurried up to get a closer look. Unfortunately, the Chinese man driving the wagon was too close to the hitching post. Some of his pans hanging on the side fell off, spooking Noah’s horse. The horse reared and Noah hit the ground.

The Chinese man came over and helped him up, apologizing. I looked him up and down. I had never seen a real live Chinese man! I couldn’t help but think about how funny he looked – a man with a pigtail! Noah’s Pa was mad – apparently he didn’t like Chinese very much. He started threatening to hurt the man and I tried to push on Mr. Fergus to keep him from hurting the nice man.

He shoved me back. Suddenly, I heard my Pa’s angry voice. He must have seen Mr. Fergus shove me. My Pa never did stand for that! Pa chased Mr. Fergus off. I watched him go, shaking my head. Then I turned my attention back on this man and his son. I stared at the little boy. He had a pigtail too, and was a miniature of his father! “Mark!”

I turned my head to look at Pa. “Huh?” Pa raised his eyebrows at me. “I mean…” I swallowed. “Yes sir?”

“I said let’s help Mr. Wang get this mess cleaned up.” I nodded as I helped, but I couldn’t help but stare. “Keep your mind on your work, Mark.”

My Pa, being neighborly, made Mr. Wang feel really welcome. Mr. Wang was traveling through and wanted to camp down by the spring. He was in the laundry business – something we seemed to lack more then have around here. When Mr. Wang mentioned wanting to do our laundry, I suddenly smiled – that would be less work for me! But my smile disappeared when Pa said no. I sure was glad Mr. Wang insisted and my Pa finally gave in! I told him that we’d been boiling our clothes so long, I’d forgotten what starch felt like!

This man was so nice! I mean, I watched Mr. Fergus – the town bully – threaten Mr. Wang and all he did was smile! I couldn’t believe how polite he was being! My Pa said that most Chinese people are polite because they’re raised that way. I guess I’m pretty polite too, but I’m afraid that if I was faced up against a boy like Noah (a younger replica of Mr. Fergus), my reaction wouldn’t be kindness – I’d sock him a time or too….actually, I have!

I couldn’t keep my mouth shut – you know me…I always speak on my mind. As Pa bent over with his arm around my shoulders, I commented that they looked funny with their braded hair and such. Pa just gave me that look – you know the one when he disapproves of what I’m thinking and saying? “Now Mark,” he said quite sternly. “Next time you’re near a mirror, take a good look at yourself. Then you figure what you’d look like if you lived in China.”

I didn’t say anything, but then I didn’t figure I had to. Pa suggested we go get some lunch. “What about Blue Boy?” I asked.

“Oh, run him down to the Doc’s, son. Just tie him up outside his office. Doc will come look at him when he has the chance.”

I did as Pa suggested, then ran inside. I sat down and started looking at the menu. “Mark, when are you ever going to learn?” He reached over and plucked my hat off. I apologized as I looked at the menu. “We’re having the stew,” Pa stated firmly.

“Why do you even take a menu?” Pa smiled. I studied the table. “Pa?” Pa looked up at me with raised eyebrows. “Why is Noah so mean?”

Pa sighed. “Well son, I supposed that’s what he knows. He takes after his father.”

“Oh. Kinda like I’m so sweet and kind and generous and-“ Pa cleared his throat and raised his eyebrow. “Well, why is his Pa the way he is?”

“I don’t know the answer to that, son,” Pa answered with a heavy sigh. “He’s so rough. Perhaps that’s the only way he knows to get attention.”

As we were getting our food, Micah came in and started complaining about Mr. Fergus. Then he asked me if Noah was in school today. I didn’t want to get Noah into trouble, so I answered honestly. Micah decided he’d have a talk with his Pa.

We didn’t even hardly get a chance to eat when gunshots sounded outside. It was Mr. Fergus throwing his weight around again. Pa and Micah both told Mr. Fergus what they thought of his actions. He and his friend just laughed. Their laughs made me fee sad for them.

Doc Burrage walked down the street as we were starting back into the restaurant. “He’s fine, Mark. Just take it easy on him for a few days.” Doc rubbed the back of his neck. “He may experience some swelling tonight so go ahead and keep an eye on it. Give him some more limonite if it swells up. He just needs to work the soreness and stiffness out. He’ll be fine.” Doc looked around. “What’s…uh…been going on out here?”

Pa started to speak, but I quickly spoke up. “It’s that mean ole drunk! He-“

“Mark!” Pa snapped at me suddenly. “Go on back inside.” Micah took my arm and led me back in.

Later, as Pa and I were riding home – slowly so as not to injure Blue Boy – we ran into Mr. Wang and Lee. They had decided to move on, but Pa finally convinced them that they had to stay. I helped Pa’s insistence by stating I’d be by first thing in the morning to pick up Wang Chi for school and deliver some shirts to wash. After we parted company, we rode silently for a spell. “Mark, what am I going to do with you?”

“What?” I asked innocently.

“You are being so very polite back there. I’m wondering, though. Could it be because you…don’t want to wash those shirts?”

“Oh, Pa!” I acted appalled at what he was thinking. “You know me better then that! I’m a neighborly man just like you!”

Pa just shook his head. We rode in silence as I again went deep in thought. When I got home, I jumped off Blue Boy and felt his leg. It still felt fine. I unsaddled him and bedded him down for the night. Looking toward the door to make sure Pa wasn’t watching, I snuck him a couple more sugar cubes. Then I filled his trough up with fresh water and hay. I grabbed my books and sat down on a stool. It was dark, but I turned the wick up as I studied. “Mark, why are you in here?”

“I’m keeping my eye on Blue Boy, Pa. Just until it’s time for bed.”

Pa came inside and looked at his ankle. “It’s just a little swollen, son. There’s nothing to worry about.”

“I know.” I looked over at Blue Boy and shook my head. “You suppose Noah has anything he loves like this?”

Pa came over to me and sat down on the floor. He wrapped his arms around his legs and shook his head. “I don’t know, son. Doesn’t seem Noah has much love in his life.” I thought silently on that. “I remember when I was…oh…eleven or twelve years old, Mark. Your mother had this pony that she adored more then anything. She was a year younger then me, so she was only about ten or eleven, I’d say. Anyway, one day the pony had a bad fall. Her father had to shoot that animal. She was so upset! She cried until I thought her heart was going to break. I knew then that she was a very special lady, and that someday she would be a wonderful mother.”

Pa lifted a hand toward me and laid it on my cheek. “You’re just like her Mark. You have a passion to love in your heart. Man or beast, you love them. I’ll always be here to pick up the pieces when something you love goes away.” Pa looked over toward the horse. “That’s not just a horse, son. It’s a lifeline. I think that when he’s sick, it worries you so much because…well…because of what he represents – your first loss of a pet, your first experience with helping someone die. So when the horse is hurting, you hurt.” Pa smiled at me. “Mark, I don’t’ want it any other way.”

I couldn’t believe it! The thoughts I was having – the questions – were being answered by Pa right now. Somehow he knew what was really bothering me. I hung my head. “Today Noah asked me to race Blue Boy. He knew Blue Boy’d been hurt all week. Why would he-“

“Why do you think?” Pa asked as he just stared into my eyes.

“Well…” I thought about it. “I guess it’s because I have something that he wants?” Pa nodded. “How can I help him see he can have it?”

“Well son,” Pa sighed. “He has to find it on his own. He’s so hard that…” Pa’s voice drifted off. He looked up and me and gave me a sad smile.

Suddenly Blue Boy neighed. I looked over at him and smiled. “I guess my worrying over Blue Boy is sort of like you worrying over me when I get sick. You lost Ma to sickness, so you worry a lot when I get a sniffle or hurt.” Pa nodded. “I’d rather feel worry then not worry at all, Pa.”

Pa stood up. He walked over to the lantern and raised the window on it. “Let’s go inside where you can concentrate.” Pa looked over at Blue Boy and then back at me as he blew out the light. He put his arm around me. “After you’re done, we’ll check his leg again. If I think he needs it, I’ll let you help me with the wrapping.”

“Thanks, Pa,” I smiled up at him.

Blue Boy didn’t have to have a wrapping or any limonite. I was so excited as I ran back into the house the next morning to tell Pa that his leg seemed perfectly fine. Pa said he’d already been out to check his leg. I knew he’d gotten up several times in the night to go out to the barn and check. I didn’t say anything – I let him keep the secret that Blue Boy was awful special to him too. He was almost like a member of the family!

I grabbed the sack of dirty shirts and rode over to the Wangs’ camp. Lee was all dressed and excited about going to school. But as soon as he walked into the store, several kids started to laugh. Mr. Griswald was angry with the class and told every child that laughed that they had to bring back an essay the next day on different people and their cultures. Those who were being punished groaned.

After school that day, Noah started making fun of Lee. I wouldn’t let Noah get away with that and started to fight him, but then Lee saw I was loosing and got Noah in a choke hold. He was really mad! He ran straight into town to tell his Pa and we were suddenly involved in an argument again! Mr. Fergus pulled a gun o n Wang Chi this time and I was really sure he was going to use it. But Pa again came and saved the day. He could be mean when you riled him as you well know.

Pa demanded to know what was going on. He started out by asking Noah, but Noah knew he had been in the wrong so he shut up about it. Then Pa asked me and Lee. Neither one of us wanted to get into trouble, so we kept shut up about the matter. But then after Mr. Fergus went back into the saloon, Pa asked me straight out what happened.

Pa went to the Livery Stable. I walked over to my horse and waited there for him. We wouldn’t eat in town tonight – Pa said once a week and on Sundays was all he could afford. Besides, we had a busy weekend ahead of us! I anxiously studied Blue Boy’s leg again and smiled. There was no sign of swelling in his leg today. Noah walked up to me. “Your old man sure knows how to stick up for you!”

“Doesn’t yours?” I asked.

“Only when it benefits himself,” Noah answered.

“That’s pretty sad.” I turned and looked at Noah.

Noah suddenly reached out and touched my horse. “What’s so special about him anyhow?”

“He was given to me by my Uncle shortly before he died. I was with him when he died, and it was his dying wish for me to have this horse.” I smiled as I patted Blue Boy.

“That’s stupid!” Noah sneered out.

I turned and stared at him. “How can you say that? After what I told you?”

Noah turned and walked away. I shook my head as I watched him walk into the saloon. I started to mount my horse when I suddenly heard yelling coming from the saloon. The next thing I knew, Noah was pushed out the doors so violently that he landed on his backside. He stood up and turned to stare at me. Then he ran away.

I didn’t even want to think about it after that. My heart ached for him having such a mean father. I wished every boy could experience the love from a father like I had. Oh, there were times I didn’t think it was love – like when Pa was yelling at me or punishing me – but in my heart, I knew that Pa only did many of the things he did because of his great love for me.

I rode him in silence. Pa wondered if I was worried about Blue Boy and I assured him I wasn’t. “But I did tell Noah why I cared so much for this horse. He just told me it was stupid.”

Pa shook his head as we rode into our yard. “I’m sorry, son. He’s lost a lot of love in his short life. I’m afraid of what he’s going to be like as a man.”

After I finished the dishes, Pa told me I needed to wash up. I didn’t want to but he insisted on it. He even made me wash behind the ears. I know Pa told you all about the conversation we had – about God making people different because he didn’t want us to get board.

And I know Pa also told you all about what we saw when we got to Mr. Wang’s camp. I was so proud to watch Mr. Wang attach Mr. Fergus and bring him down to size! He sure did put that man in his place!

Then on Saturday, Blue Boy’s leg swelled up really bad again. I had gone out to give him food early Saturday morning. I noticed his leg and bent down to touch it. It was all swollen again. Tears popped into my eyes. He’d been doing so well. I jumped up and ran inside. “Pa, Pa!” I cried. Pa was at the stove cooking flapjacks. “Oh, Pa!” I flung my arms around him.

Pa pushed me away and asked me what was wrong. “It’s…it’s Blue Boy! His legs all swollen again! I pushed him too hard – I know I did!”

Pa let go of me and hurried back out to the barn. He bent down and touched his leg. “It is swollen – almost as bad as before. Mark, I want you to go into town and find Doc Burrage. Tell him Blue Boy’s leg is as bad as ever.” I flung my arms around Blue Boy and cried. “Hurry, son.”

I quickly saddled the Blackie again and raced into town. Doc Burrage came back with me in his buggy. I got home way before he did and heard Blue Boy crying from discomfort. Doc Burrage said that sometimes the swelling comes back. He didn’t seem too worried but I sure was!

Pa was torn. He knew the work over in the North Pastor had to be taken care of today, but he didn’t want to leave me alone with my worry so deep. I just continued doctoring Blue Boy’s leg as my heart pounded. “I’ll be fine, Pa,” I assured him in an unsteady voice.

“Mark, Doc said he’ll recover from this. He said it happens sometimes,” Pa reminded me. I nodded. I’d heard Doc Burrage say that. “I don’t want to leave you like this, son.”

I quickly wiped a tear that had fallen down my cheek. “I’m sorry I can’t help you, Pa. But Doc wants me to keep applying these bandages to his leg. I’ll be fine.”

Pa finally left, though I didn’t figure he’d stay gone very long. I worked hard all morning on Blue Boy’s leg. Suddenly, I heard a noise at the barn door. I turned to see Noah standing there. “What do you want?” I asked. My voice wasn’t friendly and I was sorry for it. He was the last thing I needed right now.

“He’s gonna be okay?”

I nodded. “Doc Burrage said he’ll be fine.”

Noah walked inside. “Why’s your Pa so nice? Doesn’t he ever yell at you?”

I applied another wet bandage to Blue Boy’s leg. “He yells at me plenty – when I deserve it. I rile him something awful at times.”

“But he tells you he loves you?” Noah asked. I nodded. “And he helps you when you have a problem?”

I couldn’t help but smile. “I’ve had a big problem this week, Noah. Blue Boy’s sore leg has really been hard on me and my Pa understands. He’s been here for me.”

“You know why I act the way I do?” Noah asked. I shrugged. I didn’t want to jump to any conclusions. “It’s because I have a horse that’s broken and I don’t know how to fix it. There’s no limonite to help the horse. I reckon that’s why I’m so mean.” I stared at him as I sat down on the barn floor. He turned and walked toward the door. “I’m glad your horse will get better, Mark.”

I stared at the door for a long time. Pa came in just a few moments later. “Was that Noah I saw leaving, son?” he asked.

I nodded. “You know, Pa, I think he’ll be okay. He’s just worried about his Pa. That’s why he acts the way he does.

Pa stared at me as I went back to working on Blue Boy’s leg.

A week later, Blue Boy and I were once again riding across the range. Noah and his father had been ordered out of the county. As I raced Blue Boy across the range that first day, I thought of Noah and hoped his own “lame horse” was getting better.

*A special thanks goes out to Michelle Palmer for her insight on how Mark had seen these episodes.

Vaqueros

Mark's Memories ― Table of Contents
You've heard Lucas' story, now hear Mark's Story

Death Trap

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around The McCain Ranch