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

Quiet Fear Episode 127
Mark’s story

I couldn’t help looking towards Abby Stryker as Pa drove the wagon toward the Stryker ranch. She looked so happy – as if nothing was wrong. I couldn’t understand it – none of what I’d heard earlier made any sense. While trying to make my brain comprehend what I’d heard, I thought back to all the complaining I had done earlier. I didn’t like what Pa cooked for breakfast this morning. I didn’t like the fact that I had to go to school while Pa worked on branding the cattle. I didn’t like the fact that I couldn’t have candy after school.

Pa and I had ridden into town earlier to pick up a friend of his from the War. Mr. Stryker introduced us to his daughter.. We were both shocked. Pa was shocked because he didn’t know Abby existed. And I was shocked because Mr. Stryker apologetically announced that she couldn’t hear and she couldn’t talk.

As we continued to their new home, I suddenly felt so very ashamed. How could I have been so selfish earlier? I turned and looked at Abby again.

It’s unfair. That’s what kept going through my mind over and over and over. Yet, no matter…she continued smiling as if nothing in the world was wrong!

“You just ride on over when you two are all freshened up. We’ll have supper ready!” Pa declared as he stepped down from the wagon and helped them down. We had already put their horses in the barn and Pa let Mr. Stryker borrow one of our wagons.

They were coming over for a reunion supper tonight.

But I didn’t feel much like celebrating.

I felt the wagon start back down the road toward our own ranch. We rode for awhile in silence as I thought about how unfair it all seemed to be. “So, what do you think of them, Mark?” Pa asked, trying to break through this clouded brain of mine.

I shrugged my shoulders. “They’re nice,” I answered simply.

“What’s wrong?” Pa asked. I just shook my head and remained silent. “Mark?” There was concern in his voice.

I turned and glanced at Pa. I didn’t want him to see the shame and question in my eyes. “Not now, Pa,” I answered simply. I knew Pa was allowing me my quietness, hoping that I could get my thoughts in order.

When we got into the yard, I hopped off the wagon and started for inside. Pa jumped down and hurried to me as we both walked inside the house. “Now Mark, I want you to talk to me now.” His voice was stern, but concerned, as he reached for my arm. I tried to shake his hand off, but his grip was firm. “Mark, now!” Pa’s voice was a little more firm this time.

I turned to him as my eyes filled up with tears. “It’s not fair, pair! It’s just not fair!”

“What’s not-“ Pa started. Then his face relaxed as he laid a gentle hand on my shoulder. “Sit down, Mark.”

“I don’t want to sit down!” I declared. “I just-“

“Sit down.” Pa’s voice held a touch of impatience in it. I sat down. “Now, tell me, what’s not fair.”

“Life!” I declared.

“This is about Abby, isn’t it?” I nodded. “I should have known, son.”

“Pa, she was born that way! She can’t say a word and she can’t hear a word!” I started to stand up to walk to the window, but Pa kept a firm hand on me. “Pa…here I was complaining about what you made for breakfast this morning or that’s it’s not fair that I couldn’t have candy after school today. Then I meet Abby.She can’t even hear or speak – she CAN’T complain! Makes me wonder…” I stopped speaking and closed my mouth.

“Wonder what?” Pa coaxed me.

“Nothing,” I answered as I looked away from him.

“Mark, I want you to speak what’s on your mind. Hidden thoughts cause more hurt to build up on top of it.”

“I don’t want to make you angry, Pa,” I answered as I looked to the ground.

“Son, whatever you have to say isn’t going to make me angry…Unless it’s some hidden confession you have to make.” I lifted my head then. “It just makes me wonder about…about…” I closed my eyes as I finished speaking – the last word was a mere whisper. “God.”

“What about Him?” Pa asked.

I tried to stand up again, this time Pa didn’t stop me. “Why…If God is this gentle, loving, giving person who gives us perfect gifts, why does he give us such suffering.”

“Mmmm,” I heard Pa say. Then I heard him stand and walk up behind me. He didn’t touch me. But he placed his hand against the window pane as he spoke softly. “The suffering isn’t from God, son. You know the story of Adam and Eve.” I nodded. “You know who coaxed them to eat that forbidden fruit and their condemnation from God that they would die – that we all would die on this earth…suffer…” I nodded. “You lost your mother. I lost my wife. You’ve been kidnapped, beaten, you’ve watched men beat me over the years.” Again, I nodded. “I don’t see as how Abby sees what happened to her a great curse.”

I turned and stared at Pa. “Pa, she can’t speak and she can’t hear! Why?!”

“Son, you remember last year when that young man named Mark showed up in North Fork? He couldn’t speak.”

“But that’s because somebody cut his voice out!” I declared. “This is different!”

“How?”

I turned from the window. “How?” I repeated his question in surprise. “Pa, you’ve always told me that before a baby is born, God is the one who cares for him or her. He gives the baby ten fingers and toes, eyes to see and ears to hear…a perfect body.”

Pa held up his hand. “Yes, son. A perfect body. Not perfect in our eyes – but in His eyes. Abby can see – and the things she sees are so much brighter…so much more special. On the way home, her father was telling me that she can understand a lot of what he says by watching his lips. Just like you learned to speak by listening to your mother and me…Abby learned to listen with her eyes by watching people talk.” Pa put a hand on my shoulder. “Son, sometimes God doesn’t give us certain things so we can learn to use something else, that much more. Abby doesn’t know what hearing is, so I don’t think she misses it. She’ll bless lives just like a hearing person.”

Pa sat a hand on each of my shoulders. “Yes Mark, God created Abby like you and me. He didn’t take anything from her – he gave her things in a different way. Maybe it’s to help Mark McCain see that not getting candy after school, or not getting to stay home and do what he wants to do…those aren’t things to complain about – those are things to be happy about. At least you can go to school and learn to read and write and speak properly.”

I hung my head then. I remembered back to a few days ago when I helped little Brian learn to read. He had a handicap – a block on his mind that kept him from learning like everyone else, but I was able to break through that block. Suddenly, I thought about her eyes. She can see and she can understand what I’m saying if she watches me. A huge smile spread across my face. Sorrow left my heart as I looked up into Pa’s concerned eyes. “I can teach her!” I declared. “Pa, I can teach her! All Abby needs is her eyes and someone to show her the way!”

Pa’s face broke out in a big smile. He looked proudly into my eyes. “You see? A blessing’s already come from her handicap, hasn’t it son?” I nodded. “I’m proud of you, Mark.”

I gave Pa a quick hug. Then I started out the door to get the vegetables for supper. “I’ll start with my earliest reader – the one Ma gave me when I started. I think she needs it. I-“ I stopped at the door and turned. “Do you mind?”

“No,” Pa answered. “I think your mother would be very proud of her little calf right now.” Then Pa added, “I think she is proud.”

I opened the door. “Oh Pa?” Pa lifted his head again. “I don’t care what you fix for breakfast. I’ll eat it any which way. And tomorrow, I’ll go to school and sit at my desk relaxing all day while you sweat and labor over those cattle!”

Pa laughed. “And unless my lazy, content son wants some more chores, he better get started on those he was blessed with!”

We both laughed as I ran out the door.

I hurried through my chores while Pa worked on supper. He was fixing the works – Roast with potatoes, green beans, carrots, and bread. Milly gave him a freshly baked apple pie that I couldn’t wait to sink my teeth into! I had smelled it baking after school, which is what had led to a small candy argument. But one threat of not getting apple pie for dessert and I shut up about the candy!

I heard a wagon approaching. Running to the barn door, I saw Abby and her father coming. I hurried to the wagon and held out my hand for Abby. “I see your father is raising a real gentleman, Mark!” Mr. Stryker declared. “I never would’ve believed it.”

“I hear tell that’s my mother’s doing.”

Mr. Stryker shook his head. “She must have been quite a woman to have changed your father that much.”

I allowed Abby to take my arm as we started inside. “Oh, yes sir! She certainly was!”

When we got inside, I walked Abby to the table and helped her in her seat. Mr. Stryker watched me intently and turned to look at Pa. “I’ll help Pa now. Excuse me!”

Pa sat the bread on the table. “Mark, son? Um…Can I talk to you…outside?”

I looked up at Pa and knew from his expression that it wasn’t a question for me to answer. It was an order. I nodded and followed him outside. After the door was firmly closed, Pa turned to me with folded arms. “Mark, I don’t think I was clear enough while ago. Though it’s true that Abby can’t hear or speak like you and me, she is a completely normal…and independent person.”

I looked toward the house and nodded. “Yeah, so?” I asked, not getting his point.

“So, you treat her like a normal human being.” I still didn’t understand. I thought that’s what I was doing. “Son, when a woman has supper in our home, do you treat her like you just treated Abby?”

“What, you mean taking her arm?” I asked suddenly. “And helping her sit at the table?”

“Son, you didn’t take her arm like you take Milly’s arm when she comes over. Nor did you sit her down like you sit down another guest. You did it with…a “You need my help” attitude. You know what I’m saying?”

I nodded. “I’m sorry, Pa. I didn’t realize…”

Pa patted my shoulder. “I know you didn’t, and I think they realize that too. Before you do something, just ask yourself if you would do it that way for another guest in our home.”

I smiled as we walked back inside.

Supper was pleasant, but Pa had to remind me a few times not to bolt my food. It was hard not to when I was looking so forward to what was coming next! I popped the last bite of apple pie in my mouth. The adults were still engaged in a conversation. I looked toward Abby, then started to stand. Pa quickly glanced at me and I sat back down. “May I be excused, Pa?” I asked impatiently, but politely.

Pa nodded. “You may. And uh…start clearing the dishes.”

I did, but Abby stood up and placed her hands in front of mine. I looked up at her and she smiled and took the dishes from me. “Oh no, you’re our guest!” I declared as I looked straight at her. She smiled and motioned for me to follow her. She proceeded to fill the wash pan with hot, soapy water and handed me the dish towel. “Well, she certainly knows her way around the kitchen!” I declared.

After the dishes were done, I walked into our bedroom and pulled out one of our memory boxes, the on where all my old schoolbooks were kept. There I found a picture book and carried it to the front room. Abby came over to me suddenly curious. My heart leapt for joy as she suddenly held onto it as I started flipping. “Boat!” . She looked at me and I motioned with my hands a boat going over waves.

She smiled that sweet smile at me. We continued through the book. C showed a cat. D showed a dog. I showed her the word each time with my lips. She understood mostly. When we got to H, it showed a horse. “That’s a horse,” I stated. She looked at me as I made a motion of a horse. It made her eyes laugh.
We looked through the book a little longer. We got to a picture of buffalo and I tried to explain to her about reading. I showed her the word buffalo and pointed to it, but she didn’t seem to understand. “Here, I have an idea,” I stated as I took a pencil from my pocket.

I wanted her to have this book. I wanted her to learn. It was very important to me. I wrote her name in the front of the book – A B B Y. “That is you,” I stated. She didn’t understand. I pointed to the word, then pointed to her. She finally understood that it was her.

Then I told her to practice writing her name. I took her hand gently in mine and wrote the A and B. Then I told her to write another B. It was hard, but she did it. I was happy! It’s so nice to see her learning!

She wanted to do it again. I helped her with it. Then the third time she wanted to do it alone. I got her a big piece of paper and sat her at the table. She practiced it over and over until our fathers came back in. “It’s time to go, Abby.” I smiled when I saw a look of disappointment on her face.

“Oh, can’t she stay just-“ I started.

“Mark!” Pa warned me. I clamped my mouth shut. I was disappointed. We had just gotten started when…

All of a sudden, I looked down at the paper. “Mr. Stryker?” Mr. Stryker turned around. “Look what Abby did.”

Abby stood and smiled. She pointed to the name then at herself. “That’s right, honey. That’s you!”

I was awarded again as the father stood there with tears in his eyes.

I watched them leave. As we stood in the doorway, Pa held his hands on my shoulders as he stood behind me. “You did good, son. When we do for others, our awards are their smiles.”

I leaned back against Pa’s chest. “That’s the only reward I want, Pa.”

For the next week, Abby and I worked hard. As soon as school was out, I hurried over to her house and sat with her on the front porch as we studied the first year reader and her favorite picture book. I smiled as she learned to read. I didn’t know what thoughts were going through her head, but she really worked at it. She learned the sounds the letters made by watching my lips. She learned to mouth things with her lips. She learned to write things.

One day, she asked me to learn to write her father’s name. I taught her to write Papa. “When he comes over here now, you show him you can write it!” I said. She did just that. They hugged and cried.

I was a bit confused. Her Pa looked sad. “Is something wrong?” I asked Pa as we left for the day. Pa simply assured me that something was very right.

I was amazed at how much she could understand. But it broke my heart to see how hard it was for her to communicate. There had to be something that could help her!

The next day at school, I sat and helped Brian learn to read. He was really reading well! Once he got the basic concept, he jumped ahead of many of the other kids.
Mr. Griswald thought my grades were better now that I was helping, so he wanted me to continue helping Brian for an hour every afternoon out by the fishing pond. I hadn’t told Pa about Brian, I just asked him if I could go fishing after school.

That afternoon, I questioned Mr. Griswald about what was on my mind. “About a year ago, I had a friend who couldn’t talk,” I explained to him as he sat down in the seat in front of me and turned to listen to me talk. “His family had been taken and the Indians tried to raise him up to be like them. When he couldn’t learn their language, they cut out his tongue. His name was Mark too.” Mr. Griswald smiled. “I…That is, Pa and I…We helped him to learn how to deal with his anger. Pa knew about a school to help him.”

“A school for the deaf,” Mr. Griswald stated. “Yes, there’s a wonderful school in Denver.”

“What do they teach them there?” I asked, suddenly leaning forward in my seat.

“Oh…” Mr. Griswald thought. “They teach them to read and write and speak.”

“Speak?” I suddenly asked.

“Yes, with their hands. They have a whole language they speak. Like you use your mouth to speak with your voice, they use their hands to speak. It’s just like you and me talking right now.”

I thought on this. “Now, that’s something!” I told him about Abby. “You think they could help her father also?”

Mr. Griswald smiled. “Mark, I must say that I’m very proud of you. When I first got here, you didn’t seem too fond of school. Now you seem to really be taking an interest in not only your own education, but the education of others. I’m proud of you.” Mr. Griswald stood up. “In fact, I want you to ask the father to come in and see me. I’ll help him get it all set up. It’s reasonably inexpensive to study, and there are special funds available for cases like Abby.”

“Like Abby?” I asked then.

He nodded. “Those who were born that way and have lived to adulthood without much communication skills. She will have a place fairly cheaply in their school.”
“Yes sir,” I answered.

“Oh, and Mark?” I turned and looked at him. “I’d like to speak to your father. Ask him to stop by tomorrow.” Mr. Griswald turned from me then and went back to his desk.

I started to ask why, but decided against it. I hurried out the door and into town and to the general store. Pa was there. I saw Abby looking at some books on the shelf. I walked over and greeted her. She pointed to the spellers. “No, no. don’t buy it,” I said. She looked at me with a question. “I still have mine. I’ll bring it to you after school tomorrow.”

“Come on, son. We best get going!” Pa called to me.

“I’ll see you later. Okay?” Abby nodded and waved goodbye.

As we got up into the buckboard and started for home, I grew quiet. I started wondering what I had done wrong this time. I couldn’t recollect anything I’d done really. “Mark, Mr. Stryker invited us over to his house tomorrow night. He said Abby makes the best fried chicken!”

That caught my attention. I couldn’t imagine much better then fried chicken! “I wonder if it’s better then Miss Milly’s…” I teased.

“I don’t reckon we’ll be comparing.” Pa lowered his head close to mine. “Will we?”

“Oh, no sir!” I answered matter-of-factly. Then I sobered up. “Uh…Pa?” Pa turned to me as he drove the wagon along the road. “Uh…when a teacher wants to talk to a parent…is it usually bad?”

“With you, it has been in the past. Why do you ask?”

“Well…Because Mr. Griswald wants to talk to you. Tomorrow.”

“Any idea why, son?”

“No sir,” I answered. “None!”

“Are you sure son?”

“Honest Pa. Between helping Abby and my own studies, I haven’t had time to get into trouble.” I declared, hoping he’d believe me. Because I wasn’t too sure, myself.

Pa nodded. “Alright. We’ll wait to see what Mr. Griswald has to say tomorrow.”

I didn’t sleep very well that night as I wondered what exactly it was. Pa saw me off to school the next morning. I sat nervously in my seat all morning as I waited…and waited…for Pa to come talk to Mr. Griswald. At lunch, I gathered up my books and grabbed my lunch. I turned to leave and Pa was standing there in the doorway. My heart suddenly beat faster. Mr. Griswald approached me and saw my hesitance, “Go on to lunch while I talk to your father.” He gave me a gentle prod towards the door.

I turned and looked at Mr. Griswald. Then I looked back toward Pa. Pa nodded and nudged his head toward the door. “Yes sir,” I answered. Pa patted my back as I hurried out the door.

I choked down my food and drank several dippers full of water. The knot wouldn’t go away in my stomach. I remembered the days when Pa left the school house looking all mad and ready to yell. Sometimes he’d pull me aside and yell at me right there. Sometimes he’d let it fester up to boiling. Those were the worst. Then when I got home, he’d really give it to me. I hoped this time would be mild. I hoped it was nothing bad.

As I played with the kids, I watched the door open. Pa hurried to his horse. I couldn’t read the expression on his face. He turned and waved at me, then he rode towards town. I had no idea what was going on, but I knew I’d have to wait. And I began to dread every minute of it.

After school, I hurried over to Abby’s house to give her my speller as promised. I knew Pa was expecting me at home so I rode for home as fast as I could. “I didn’t eat much lunch today, Pa,” I declared after I told Pa why I was late. “I’ve been starving myself for Abby’s cooking all day. I sure bet she’s a good cook!”
“Yeah, I bet she is! Tend to your chores, son, so we can get started.”

I started to go, but then turned back to Pa. “Can you tell me what the talk at the school was about today?” I asked suddenly. “Are you thinking up more chores for me to do?”

Pa looked up at me. “Not now Mark. Just get to your chores. Then he turned toward the barn. “We’ll talk about it after supper tonight. I promise.”

More waiting. But at least it wasn’t bad news, yet! Pa’s voice sounded pleasant, not agitated and tense like it usually was when I did something wrong.

I hurried with my chores. Pa sent me inside to get cleaned up while he saddled the horses. Then we were on our way. “Can you give me a hint, Pa?” I asked while we rode down the road.


“Nope,” Pa answered.

“Am I going to live to see my fourteenth birthday??”

“Yep.”

’Well, that was a relief’ I thought to myself and whistled. But then Pa shook his head at me and mentioned that it was a beautiful day. Now I was perplexed.

I forgot all about the happenings at school, though, when I saw Brice running from the barn and holding his head. Oh, Brice is a young man who previously owned the ranch Mr. Stryker had bought. Brice had spent more time gambling and playing then working, so lost it. Pa said he had a short fuse, but was really a good man with a good head on his shoulders. Brice now worked for Mr. Stryker and had fallen hard for Abby. Abby told me she liked him too.

We all ran toward the barn. Abby was lying there on the barn floor. She was out cold. Pa sent me for a towel and water while Mr. Stryker started hitting on Brice. Pa had to calm him down. Soon, Abby was revived and pointed to Brice when asked who hurt her. But then some hay fell into the pan of water I was holding. We also realized that Abby wasn’t pointing at Brice, but to a name scrawled on the wall. We realized it was Bud, a local rough guy who liked to gamble with Brice and some other suckers, who was up in the hayloft. Anyhow, my Pa took care of him. He rode him in to see the doc and then the Marshal while the rest of us started eating Abby’s wonderful fried chicken, but don’t tell Miss Milly I said that.

Pa came back and joined us half-way through. That’s when I made my announcement. “Mr. Stryker, I took liberty to talk to Mr. Griswald about Abby learning to read and write…and talk.”

“Talk?” Mr. Stryker asked.

“There is a school for the deaf in Denver. There is special funding to help you and your daughter learn sign language. Mr. Griswald said it’s like talking – except with your hands.” Mr. Stryker looked down at his plate. “Oh, it would mean a lot to Abby! I know it would. I turned to Abby and slowly pronounced my question. “Would you like to learn to talk with your hands?”

A smile spread across her face. She nodded. Brice cleared his throat then. “I want her to learn. Then she can teach me. We’re going to be married, you know.” Brice smiled.

I turned and looked at Abby. “Is that true?” I asked. Abby blushed and looked down at her plate.

“Mr. Stryker, it would mean a lot to Abby to learn. Please don’t deny her this.”

“I’ll see to your ranch and…” Suddenly, I looked toward Brice. “Actually, I think Brice could tend to your ranch.”

Brice nodded. “I would love to.”

“He’s ready, Jake. It will do you all good.”

Abby stood and went to her father’s chair. She bent down and gave him a soft kiss on his cheek. She mouthed the word please. Mr. Stryker looked at our pleading eyes. “Well, how can I say no?”

“You’ll talk to Mr. Griswald in the morning?” I asked.

“Yes, Mark,” Mr. Stryker stated. “In the morning.”

Abby wouldn’t let me help her with dishes. She wiggled a finger toward Brice who complained but went to do as told. I smiled as Pa and I walked out the door. She was in good hands for sure!

The ride home was silent. I saw Pa deep in thought. As we rode into the barn and unsaddled our horses, I saw Pa look at me as if he had just discovered me. After bedding down the horses, we walked inside. Pa sat down at the table and lit a cigar. “My boy…” he commented after taking a puff. “My wonderful boy!”

I sat down next to Pa. “What?” I asked. “What’s going on?”

“Mark, I watched you tonight at that table. You were a man , pure and simple. You made me proud, son. You saw a need and you didn’t come to me to help you fill it – you were able to fulfill that need all by yourself. I’m so very proud. It did my heart good to watch you tonight.”

“So does that mean my punishment for whatever Mr. Griswald talked to you about, won’t be so bad.,” I said proudly.

Pa stood and went into the kitchen. Without speaking, he poured himself a cup of coffee and took a sip. Then he sat down at the table and wrapped his hands around the cup. Looking down into his cup, Pa said in a somber tone, “Mr. Griswald was very concerned Mark. He’s very concerned with your grades this term, son.” I stared at Pa, I thought I had been doing better. But then I saw the faint flicker of a smile on my Pa’s lips, he couldn’t keep it from growing across his face.
“He also told me about you helping Brian?” He lifted his head “Mark, you’ve earned A’s and B’s. For the first time ever…you made all A’s and B’s. I had to ask Mr. Griswald if we were talking about MY Mark. I know you’ve not been struggling as much, but I had no idea. Grades aren’t due out until next week. It does my heart proud.”

I slowly stood and placed my hands flat on the table as I leaned into Pa. “You mean…THAT is all he wanted to talk to you about? I’m not in trouble?!”

“No, not exactly. There’s more,” Pa answered. “You’ve been doing so well in school. You’re 13 ½ years old now. You’ve been learning steady all those years – no matter how painful it was for you…and me.” Pa looked toward the ceiling and smiled as if he was remembering back. “Mr. Griswald is so proud of the progress you made that he’s…well…”

Pa’s face broke out into a big smile. “You only have to go to school half-days from here on out.”

Pa said the words so fast and with so much emotion that I almost missed them. I shot my head up and stared at him. There were tears of pride shining in his eyes. “When the kids are dismissed for lunch, you will come home.”

I suddenly stood up. I stood so fast that my chair fell over and hit the floor with a bang. “You mean it, Pa? You really mean it?” I asked excitedly.

Pa laughed but held up his hands. “There’s a few conditions, son.”

“Oh.” I sat my chair up and sank back down. “I knew that was too good to be true.”

“Now hold on, son.” Pa chuckled as he sat down his coffee cup. “Here are the rules. First of all, you must maintain the grades you have now. You are still expected to participate in all the courses: Math, Grammar, Reading, Writing Comprehension, Current Events, Science, and history. But, some of your studies will be done independently here at home. I’m sending off for some more advanced text books. Mr. Griswald doesn’t teach these, but he believes you are wise enough to learn yourself, with his guidance. You will have extra work – but you’ll have more time to help out on the ranch.”

“Sounds great, Pa!” I agreed with a smile. I was excited to be able to work on the ranch more and be in school less. But then I got to thinking about Brian and how he was enjoying learning to read with my help.

“There’s more.” Pa took another puff off his cigar and a drink of coffee. “You only have a couple more years left in school, son. Mr. Griswald is going to suggest you take the test for your certificate when you turn 16. Until then, he thinks another good use of your time, when work is caught up at the ranch, would be in helping others. He’s recently seen something in you that I knew you always possessed. I’ve been waiting a long time for it to be drawn out. You will agree to tutor the younger children who are having trouble.”

I saw pride written all over Pa’s face. “I’ll do it!” I declared. “When do we start? Tomorrow?”

Pa laughed. “How about the end of the month?” Pa asked. “That’ll give us both, Mr. Griswald and me, time to get situated and figure out what’s going on. You’ll get your books by then.”

I suddenly jumped up. Excitement was boiling inside me. “Oh Pa, this is great! I’m gonna get to spend more time helping you on the ranch! I can do the plowing and planting and…”

“Remember, boy, you still have plenty of studying to do!” Pa declared.

“Yes sir!” I started pacing the floor. “But when I’m not studying, I can help round up the cattle and even do some of the branding! I could ride into town and do errands for the ranch. I may even need to ask for a raise in my allowance what with all this additional hard work I’ll be putting in and…”

As I continued talking and planning, I heard Pa groan. “Boy oh boy!”

So that’s what happened when I met a little boy named Brian and a nice lady named Abby.

Oh, and if you’re wondering what ever happened between Brice and Abby…well, let’s just say that’s a story for another day! And boy, they say its stuff that fairy tales are made of!

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

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