Well, I’m sorry to say that I missed out on most of this story! It seems that most of the exciting stuff happened while I was sitting at my desk in school! So, I don’t really have that much to say about this story, but I’ll try to do my best…
I could feel Pa’s eyes boring into the back of my head as I desperately looked around for it. I desperately looked all around the sink, in the cabinet under the sink, and all over the floor. I even get on my hands and knees and crawled around the floor looking for it with no luck. Suddenly, as I was crawling around, I saw two large feet right in front of me. I looked up, up, up and saw my Pa’s arms folded across his chest and a very stern look on his face. “I guess I lost it.”
Pa suddenly bent over and grabbed my by the arm, pulling me up into the standing position. “It was here yesterday, Pa. I promise it was!”
Pa suddenly shook his head as he tried to keep a grin off his face, but it didn’t quite work. “Wash your face while I make you one,” Pa suddenly stated.
Make me one? I wondered how Pa was going to make me a toothbrush. He came in with a small stick and started carving in it. He cut some pieces out of the top and told me the wood had a nice clean taste. I didn’t like the idea of brushing my teeth at all, especially with a stick! “It doesn’t look much like a toothbrush to me!” I stated.
Pa handed it to me and told me it would do until he was able to get to town and get me a new one. I stared at it for a second before walking over to the sink and using it.
While I was at the sink, a man and woman rode up into the yard. Pa told me to get buttoned up. I did, then went out onto the porch to see who had come visiting so early in the morning. The second I came out of the house, the woman came up to me and hugged me! I wasn’t used to being hugged by strange women I didn’t know, so I didn’t really return the hug, but looked at my Pa for an explanation. Pa told me that she was one of my Ma’s friends. I told her I was pleased to meet her.
I could tell that Pa and this couple had some talking to do, so I offered to water the horses. As I was finishing up, Pa came and told me it was time I get to school. “Oh, I thought maybe I should stay and visit today,” I tried knowing I wouldn’t get away with it.
Pa shook his head and threw me my books. “Go on, get going, boy!” Pa said with a smile. “I put your lunch in your saddle bag earlier.”
Things were pretty exciting around town the next few days, but like I said, I missed it. From what my Pa says his is version of the story, it would have been a lot more exciting being in town with him then in school or back at the ranch doing chores! I couldn’t believe that five outlaws rode into town to take on Mr. Carney and I didn’t even get to meet them! In fact, one day after school, I started to go into town. But my Pa was riding toward the school and told me to go on home. He said he had to stay in town for a bit. Then later that night, he told me I wasn’t even to go into town until he told me it was okay! That meant I wouldn’t get to see Micah or Miss Hattie for awhile!
“Can’t I just ride through so I can get a peak at the outlaws?” I asked Pa.
Pa shook his head, but said nothing. “How bout with you?”
Pa didn’t even shake his head that time. He just looked at me. I took that as a final no and went back to writing my spelling words.
The next night, I was sitting at the table trying to do my homework. Pa quietly sat at the desk as he read the paper. I had word problems that night and struggled through most of them. Pa had helped me get started with the first two, but told me I had to figure the rest out on my own. But then I read the last word problem:
Fred has 15 cows.
John has twice as many cows as Fred had when Fred had as many cows as John has now.
How many cows has John?
I read this problem over and over. I even wrote the problem out like Pa told me to. But I could get nowhere with it! Here’s what I came up with:
John =2 X ____(Fred) = Fred=John
John = ____?
This problem was impossible! I thought for a long time. Then, frustrated, I banged my pencil on the paper. Pa turned around and told me I needed to get to bed, but I told Pa I was stuck on the last problem. Pa turned in his chair to listen to my problem. I could tell by the blank look on his face that he didn’t have a clue either! “Well, study on it some more, son. If you can’t come up with the right answer, we’ll…uh…figure it out…together.”
But as it turned out, I didn’t have to. We heard a noise at the door, and Mr. Carney came in. He had been all beaten up. Of course, I had to miss out on that excitement to, because pa sent me to bed after getting him some water!”
I obeyed Pa and went to bed. Before long, Pa came in to get some blankets. “Pa, what’s the matter?”
Pa turned and looked at me. “Never mind, Son. Get to sleep.”
“But Pa-“ I started.
Pa came and sat on the side of my bed. “Wes used to be a gunfighter, Mark. You know how I’ve told you that you need to be careful with the choices you make, because those choices can follow you around for the rest of your life?” I nodded. “Well, Wes made a choice to be a gunfighter…on the good side of the law…But now he can’t let go of it. Those bad men in town want to make him mad enough that he’ll have a gunfight with him, son. They beat him up tonight hoping to provoke him.”
I thought about this for a minute. “That’s not right though!” I stated. “He’s married and all.” I knew there was a lot of stuff my Pa wasn’t telling me, and I may never be told. But he told me that was enough for me to know.
“Go to sleep now.” Pa walked out the door.
I woke up at the feeling of Pa’s tucking the covers around me. Then he gently smoothed my hair and kissed me on the forehead before he went to bed himself. He never knew I woke up.
The next morning, Pa was shaking me awake. “Son, get dressed. Breakfast is ready.” I smelled breakfast. When I walked out into the kitchen fully dressed, I saw Mrs. Carney sitting a plate load of pancakes on the table. I smelled fresh maple syrup and smiled.
As we all gathered hands, Pa asked the blessing. I heard him ask God for wisdom when they went into town. After the blessing was over, I asked Pa what was going to happen in town that day. Pa didn’t answer, but told me to pass the bacon around.
As I tasted the pancakes, a smile spread across my face. “These are the best pancakes I’ve tasted in a long time!” I declared.
Pa gave me a mock frown. “Thanks a lot!” He said. “You know, I fix pancakes for him every Sunday morning before church. He’s never complimented me on them.”
“Oh,” I swallowed a mouth full of pancakes and took a long swig of milk. “Your pancakes are fine, Pa. It’s just that hers are better.”
Mrs. Carney stood up to gather the dishes. But my Pa placed his hand over hers. “Thanks for cooking, Clare. But you don’t have to clean them too. Mark will be happy to do the cleaning.”
I opened my mouth to protest, but when I saw my Pa’s raised eyebrows, I simply nodded and started gathering the dishes. When I was in the middle of washing them, Pa came back in and told me he and the Carney’s had to go into town. “Hurry and finish the dishes and get yourself to school,” Pa ordered.
“Pa,” I stopped him before he went out the door. “Are you gonna have a shootout?”
“I hope not, son,” Pa answered.
I knew nothing more would be said. At recess, we were all outside playing when we suddenly heard gunshots. I froze and stared at the others as we wondered what was going on. “Children, everyone come inside!” Miss Adams called. She always made us come inside when she heard gunshots. It wasn’t necessarily because she was afraid, but because we were all curious, and she could corral us better inside.
I stopped at the bottom of the stairs and looked in the direction of town. I just knew my Pa was there, and I was afraid for him.
Miss Adams gently placed hands on my shoulders and walked me up the stairs. “My Pa’s in town,” I tried to explain.
She firmly kept her hands on my shoulders as she guided me inside. “Then I’m sure everything’s under control,” she stated with a smile.
“Yeah, but-“ I started.
But I couldn’t say anything else as she started talking to the class at the time. At lunch, I quickly ran from the schoolyard and into town. I saw my Pa standing outside Micah’s office. “Pa?” I called as I stood beside the church. I knew I wasn’t to come into town.
Pa came over to me and knelt in front of me. He gently laid his hands on my arms. “What is it, son?”
“We heard gunshots at recess. Lots of them. I was worried.” I smiled at him. “I had to make sure you were okay.”
Pa smiled then. “I’m fine, son.”
“And the Carney’s?” I asked.
“Well, they are getting ready to leave on the stage this very minute.”
“What about the Outlaws?”
“Dead,” Pa stated simply.
“All of them?” I asked, surprised.
“All of them,” Pa answered.
“Why did all this have to happen during the week while I was in school?” I groaned. “I missed all the excitement!” Then I saw Pa’s expression. “Uh…I best get back to school and eat my lunch!” I turned and started to run back.
“Mark,” Pa called to me. I turned around. He reached in his pocket and pulled out a nickel. “After school, why don’t you visit with Miss Hattie for a bit? She’s been missing you I think. While you are visiting, you can chew on some sucker sticks.”
“Gee, thanks Pa!” I shouted before I turned around to leave. But then I turned back around, ran up to Pa and hugged him around the waste. “I really am glad you are okay!” I declared. Then I ran back toward the school.
*A special thanks goes out to Michelle Palmer for her insight on how Mark had seen these episodes.