As soon as Miss Adams said that “dismissed” word, I was out of there! I started out the door as Billy stopped me. “Wanta go fishin’ Mark?” he asked with a smile. “I heard their bitin’ awful good down at the Valley Lake right now.”
“I can’t,” I answered disappointedly. “Pa said I was to meet him at Micah’s right after school.”
“Ah Mark, can’t you ask your Pa?” Billy asked.
“I already did this morning and he told me I couldn’t go today. He said I had to spend some time learning the capitols since I didn’t do very good on my test. Maybe this weekend we can go.”
I tried to hurry out of the schoolyard but Freddie stopped me. “Some of us are starting a kick ball game, Mark. You want to?”
I suddenly remembered I forgot my math book inside and turned to run back in. “I can’t! Pa will skin me if I’m late. He said to be there five minutes after 3!” I hollered as I hurried back inside.
When I got inside, I saw Miss Adams writing dates for the Roman Empire up on the board. I suddenly remembered her talking about the fall of the entire empire in class today. “Miss Adams? Uh, can I ask you a question?” It was something that had been bothering me all day since she wrapped up the story.
For the moment, I forgot all about my Pa’s orders this morning. “It’s about…about the Roman Empire.”
“Well,” Miss Adams stated as she put the chalk down, put her hands on her hips, and stepped around her desk. “For a boy that dislikes school, it’s nice to see you’ve suddenly taken an interest.”
“Well, I-“ I turned to make sure no one else was in the room. It wouldn’t do to ruin my reputation now! “I was just wondering if-well, if the same thing could happen here – in New Mexico?”
Miss Adams cocked her head to one side and folded her arms across her chest. “Are you really worried about that, Mark?”
I nodded as she came up to me. “Sit down, Mark,” she waved her hand toward the desk. I sat down and she sat down across from me. “Mark, we don’t know what tomorrow holds. If you remember, this nation was taken over once before, only not by enemies but by white man. It was taken by a more powerful group of people from the Indians. Many say that it was God’s blessing, and maybe it was. I do believe that the United States is blessed, and some day we will be included as a state.” She suddenly looked into my eyes and smiled. “As long as we have good men like your Pa who believes in the land and keeps those who do wrong from controlling us, no one’s going to come in and take it away.”
“Well,” I lowered my head. “Suppose that a group of men – a large group – come in here with guns and order us out. Suppose-“
Miss Adams held up her hand. “I’m telling you, Mark. As long as we have faith and stick together for the common good, it’ll all work out.” I smiled at her, knowing she was right. That’s what my Pa had always taught me too. I’d heard the preacher state that many times on Sunday – that as long as we kept God on our side and stuck together, even when things didn’t go our way – everything would turn out right in the end.
“Mark!” I suddenly heard from the door.
I stood up, suddenly remembering Pa’s orders from this morning. “I-I-“ I started.
Miss Adams came up to me and put her arm around my shoulders. “Now see here, Lucas McCain, if I want to give the boy a little extra tutoring after school, well you can’t say a thing about it! After all, what’s more important then a boy’s education?” She suddenly wagged her finger at Pa.
“Uh…yes, Miss Adams.” Pa stuck his arm out and I started forward as he put his arm around my shoulders and gave me a shake of the head. After we walked outside, he asked, “extra tutoring?”
“Well,” I shrugged my shoulders. “You know…I came back for my math book and-“ Suddenly I gasped. “My math book!” I raced back into the school and picked it up off the floor where it had fallen earlier. Then I raced back out to Pa and put my arm around him. I though it best to pick up on the conversation where I had left off. “Anyway, I came back for my math book and suddenly remembered a question I hadn’t had a chance to ask from the history lesson.”
“You?” Pa asked as he looked at me and raised an eyebrow.
“Well,” I shrugged my shoulders as I started ahead of him. “It happens.”
I hurried into town ahead of Pa and climbed up on the wagon seat. I was sitting there as angelic as could be when Pa finally got into town. As he climbed up, he was still giving me a playful doubtful look, trying to figure me out or something. “Lucas Boy, I see you found Mark!”
Pa turned to me. “You…uh…want some candy before we go?” Pa flipped me a penny and I jumped off the wagon and ran into the store. After I bought the candy and ran out of the store, I saw Pa and Micah talking. “He should be back in a couple hours,” Micah was stating.
“Okay, well I’ll come back in. I’ve got a lot of work to do at the ranch,” Pa stated. “We’ll have supper with you before we go back home.”
I sure was happy to hear that! I hopped back on the wagon as Pa turned around. As we rode for home, Pa said “Well, I hate coming all the way back into town, but I just can’t bare being without my rifle. The leaver’s broken and I’ve got to get a new one tonight.”
I couldn’t help but smile. If Pa ever misplaced his rifle I think he’d go crazy! Pa’s told me often enough that it’s a terrible thing to have to be married to a gun. That’s why he was making me wait to handle guns or rifles. He didn’t want me to grow up having to depend on one like he did.
When I got home Pa told me to get started on my chores while he went out to check on a few strays he had seen earlier. I quickly hurried through my chores, then did my homework. If we were going to have supper in town tonight, I wasn’t going to give Pa any excuse whatsoever to tell me I couldn’t stay or make him change his mind. By the time he got back inside I was done with my homework and was doing my last chore – sweeping all the dirt out of the rug.
Pa waved his hand around and sneezed as he came inside. “Mark, could you please take that rug outside and beat it?” Pa asked with a bit of annoyance in his voice.
“Oh, yes sir!” I answered as I quickly rolled it up and took it outside. I beat it as hard as I could. When I was done, I dragged it back inside. “I’m going to go saddle the horses,” Pa stated. “You best freshen up – like wipe some of that dirt off your face!” Pa grabbed his hat. Then he turned around to me. “You know, if you’d sweep that rug when I tell you to, it wouldn’t get that bad.”
“Yes sir,” I answered as I picked up the comb and started combing my hair. When Pa used to comb my hair as a young boy, he told me I had contrary hair. I didn’t exactly understand what he meant by contrary hair, but today I did! I couldn’t get my hair to lay down the way it should. Just a few months ago, I didn’t care one way or the other if my hair looked messed up or not, now I suddenly did. Pa said it was on account of me becoming a teenager on my next birthday, and many twelve year old boys find themselves in such states. It sounded good to me!
As I stood grooming myself in the mirror, Pa appeared in the doorway. “Well, when I went outside five minutes ago to saddle the horses, you were combing your hair. Still at it, huh?”
“Well, we’re gonna have supper at the hotel tonight, I gotta slick up for it. You know that,” I stated. Pa had been teasing me lately about wanting to look nice when we went into public. A couple months ago when this started, Pa looked at me strangely and told me I was growing up way too fast. He told me I’d soon be interested in girls. I screwed up my face at that. I didn’t think that time would ever come! I simply wanted to look nice in public, but I guess Pa was right when he said I was changing. After all, I can still remember when Pa had to chase me back in the house to comb my hair or wash my face, and it wasn’t all that long ago either!
“Now just a minute, young fella! We’re going into town to get me a new leaver for my rifle at the gun shop. I didn’t say anything to you about eating at the hotel,” Pa stated.
Okay, now this is where I decided to have a little fun with him. Now, I admit that it wasn’t very nice of me to do, but it sure was fun! I told him he didn’t have to come right out and say where we were going. “ So, I just added up two and two and got four!”
“How do you mean?” Pa asked as he washed his hands.
That’s when I gave him my reasoning. Now, I must admit that I thought I was pretty cleaver – coming up with reasoning like I did! “Well, we haven’t eaten dinner yet have we? And it’s five o’clock and we haven’t brought in any mean from the smokehouse. You haven’t asked me to peel any potatoes or shuck any corn. And it’s about an hour’s ride into town and it’ll take about half an hour to get your rifle fixed, another hours ride back and that’s about 7:30. And we never eat that late, do we?”
I waited for it to come, that’s why I did my homework early. There’s no telling what would have happened if I hadn’t! Pa asked me when I was going to do my homework, and of course I was more then happy to assure him I had already done it! He in turn demanded to know when. “Oh this afternoon when I came home after I heard you tell Micah that we were gonna eat supper with him!”
I got him pretty good and he knew it!
I mounted my horse and we rode into town side-by-side down the same path Pa and me had taken many many times before. I smiled as I suddenly looked over at my Pa who was right beside me. Pa saw me smiling at him and turned to smile at me. “You aren’t still thinking about that…trick you pulled on me earlier?” Pa asked with a mock frown.
“Nope,” I answered. “I’m just thinking.”
“About?” Pa asked.
I shrugged. “Oh, nothing I guess.”
“That’s not a nothing smile, Mark. Come on, what are you thinking about?”
I turned slightly in my saddle so I could get a better look at my Pa. “I wish all families had this.”
“Had what?” Pa asked.
“This,” I waved my hand from him to me. “A father who loves me unconditionally, a son whom you can trust with anything. A ranch built on love and devotion for each other. All that.”
Pa nodded. “Yes, we have been very blessed, son.”
Suddenly I started thinking about that Roman Empire thing again. “Pa?” I licked my lips as I slowed my horse down. “Is it possible that maybe someday someone could take our ranch away?”
Pa suddenly grabbed Blue Boy’s reins and stopped him. Then he sat in the saddle directly in front of me. “What?”
“Well, I mean I’ve heard stories about Indians or…squatters-“
But Pa didn’t let me finish. He shook his head. “Mark, no one will take our land. I promise you that.”
“How old is North Fork, Pa?” I suddenly asked.
Pa narrowed his eyes at me. I knew he was trying to figure me out. “I’m not really sure, son. Why?”
“Well, I just wondered if people could come in and take our town like-“ I stopped. “I guess it’s silly to worry about those things now, huh?”
Pa nodded. He put a hand on my shoulder. “Son, we need to get to town before it gets too late. Now hustle!” He slapped Blue Boy and we took off at a faster pace.
As I climbed off my horse, Micah hurried over to meet us. “I’ll go with you to the gun shop,” Micah said. Pa reached in his pocket and handed me a list. “Son, get those things from Hattie before she closes up.” I started to leave, knowing I had a nickel in my pocket that was just itching to be used for some candy. I hurried across the street when suddenly Pa stopped me. “Um, make sure you don’t buy any candy.”
“What?” I asked suddenly.
“You’re about to eat supper at the hotel.” Pa walked up to me and held out his hand. “Give it here, son.”
“Oh, but Pa, don’t you trust me?” I asked.
“When it comes to candy?” Pa reminded me with raised eyebrows.
I reached into my pocket and slapped the nickel in his hand. “Yeah,” I answered. Then I walked across the street shaking my head. I turned in time to see Pa grinning at Micah shaking his own head.
I know Pa told you all about that prison wagon we saw. I had heard the men inside yelling and all, but I really had no idea what it was all about. Now granted, I knew that I was being curious and going to see what was in there would not meet my father’s approval. But when boys get curious, they don’t always think rationally. So, I started toward it with that – irrational curiosity.
I can’t tell you the fear that gripped my body when a man grabbed me, or the relief I felt that Pa ran over and smashed that man’s hand to get him to let me go! As soon as I was loose, Micah grabbed me and pulled me back. He immediately put a protective arm around me. “Your okay now, boy,” he said quietly to me.
But my heart was still beating a mile a minute! I watched Pa pick up my hat and turn around. My heart began beating faster when I saw the look on Pa’s face. He was angry. He began yelling at me right there in the street as Micah’s arm tightened around me. “Mark, what are you trying to do?" I was still in shock and couldn’t answer. “Answer me boy!” Pa demanded.
What could I say? I didn’t know what was going on. It was just curiosity that made me go over there – right or wrong. I was so scared at the moment that I wanted to feel my Pa’s arm round my shoulders and see that relieved smile on his face. "Well...I...I...I'm sorry Pa. I...I just wanted to find out what it was. I didn't mean to get so close!”
I knew that fumbled explanation wasn’t good enough for him. He was awful mad at me! "You got no business going anywhere near that wagon!” Pa yelled at me again. I didn’t like it when he hollered at me – it just made me more nervous.
Suddenly, Micah jumped to my defense. His arm tightened around me as he spoke gently to Pa, trying to calm him down. That’s when I realized that Pa was yelling at me out of his own fear for me. I breathed a sigh of relief as Micah was able to calm Pa down in a way I wasn’t able to.
As Micah spoke, I watched the anger drain from my father’s face. His expression turned to relief as he apologized to me and plopped my hat on my head. He admitted that I had scared him – shoot, I had scared myself!
I suddenly found myself smiling when Pa came to me and put his arm around me. That made me feel lots better as he suggested we go get a steak. I wasn’t going to argue with that!
But then those men in the wagon – they started yelling something awful again! Pa looked at me and I looked at him. I knew what he was thinking – that he didn’t want me around these men any longer. He quickly pulled me around the wagon and hurried me inside the hotel. When we got inside, I stopped and turned back around because I heard they were still yelling threats to my Pa. “Come along, son,” Pa said in a harsh, stern voice.
I followed him inside the hotel where Micah was talking to the two guards. I turned and looked at them as they talked. “Sit down, son,” Pa ordered in that same voice. “That’s an adult conversation. I don’t care for you to hear it.”
“Pa, those men, they’re-“ I started.
Pa grabbed my hat off my head. “Don’t think about those men, son. They’re locked up.”
After the guards left, Micah came to sit down. Pa allowed me to order my own food this time. But when I told them I wanted my steak rare, Pa cleared his throat. “Um, Medium rare.”
“Oh Micah,” I turned toward him and smile. “Thanks for…you know.”
Micah smiled at me as he glanced at Pa. I turned and looked at Pa who had an eyebrow raised at me. “Well, I mean after all-“ I started.
“Um…” Pa held up his hand. “Let’s just leave it at that!”
I sighed. “Yes sir.”
I looked over at the guard again. He sat there eating. I wondered what it was like being a prison guard. When I turned to ask Pa, he gave me another one of those looks and said, “Of all the things you’ve thought about doing, this is the only one I will admit that I don’t approve of.” Then Pa motioned that our food was coming.
As we ate, the prison guard told us all about those prisoners. As he spoke, I could tell Pa wasn’t too happy with this. He kept looking at Micah as I listened. After he had his say, I realized I was still staring at him. “Eat, Mark,” Pa said in that annoyed voice of his.
I watched the prison guard leave. “I wish Mark hadn’t come into town tonight,” Pa said quietly.
“Why?” I asked. “Pa, I’m not a little kid!”
Pa put an arm around my shoulders. “No, but you’re my son. I want to protect you from stuff like this, Mark. I don’t know why, but those men out there make me really nervous. We’re gonna leave just as soon as you finish eating that pie.”
It wasn’t long before I was eating on that pie either! I was in a better mood by this point, and Pa tried to be, but I could still see the nervousness in his face. “That really gave you a scare, didn’t it Pa?” I asked.
“Yes, I guess it die,” Pa sighed. “Son, hurry up, huh?” He really did want to get me out of here fast.
Suddenly, we heard shooting out on the street. Pa jumped up, grabbed his rifle and ran out there without even a word to me. I watched him leave. Fearing he would get hurt, I jumped up to go after him. Hattie ran after me and grabbed my arm. “Stay here, Mark.”
I jerked my arm away. “No! I have to go. My Pa.” But Hattie silently wrapped her arms around me from behind and patted my shoulder. I knew she was only doing what Pa would want her to do. I helplessly looked toward the front and sent a prayer up to God for Pa’s protection.
“Come sit down here on the couch, Mark.” Hattie requested softly.
Just then more shooting occurred. “I can’t!” I suddenly shouted. “My Pa-“
Pa came rushing through the dining room. “Pa-“ But he held up a hand, silently demanding me to stay put. I began pacing again.
I was beginning to realize the problem. “Those men broke out,” I suddenly said. “That’s what it is. Those men broke out!”
Pa came hurrying through and Hattie and Mrs. Sweeny stopped him. Pa had no idea what was going on. I just stared after he left.
“Seven against two,” I said in a loud whisper. Hattie and May suddenly turned and stared at me. “There’s seven of them and two of us.” Pa and Micah sat just inside the door discussing what they should do. Pa turned and looked at me. We locked eyes for a second then he turned back around.
I had to sit down as I thought about this. I couldn’t utter another word. The story of the Roman Empire’s fall kept going over and over in my head. What if these men succeeded? What if they stormed us and were able to take us prisoner? They could take our town form us – bust the telegraph and keep us all under their control. Maybe they’d even kill us to keep us out of their way. They could take over the town.
I stared at Pa silently as he and Micah asked the prisoners what they wanted. My heart leapt into my throat when one of them stated they wanted my Pa. They wanted my Pa! Not my Pa! That scared me even more, and I could tell my Pa was scared. But he never let on. He was as brave as he always was.
I stood still, frozen in place as I listened. Pa said that he was the one that grabbed me and that’s why he wanted to kill my Pa. Guilt suddenly rushed through me along with all the other emotions I was feeling. I had caused this. I had caused the men to get mad and my Pa’s life was now in danger because of me.
Then they grabbed Sweeny and threatened to kill him if my Pa didn’t come up. Sweeny’s life was now in danger too. Mrs. Sweeny was beside her self – hysterical. Pa had to grab her to keep her from running out onto the street. I watched as he struggled to calm her down. I started to step forward. “Stay back!” Pa shouted to me. I stared at him and saw the fear in his eyes, but only for an instant. I knew that it wasn’t fear for himself, but for me.
I had the same fear, but I couldn’t hold mine back I was afraid for my Pa. Bang! A shot suddenly rang out, causing hysterias from Mrs. Sweeny all over again. My heart stopped as I stood and stared at the door. But then, almost instantly, relief flooded me as I realized that Sweeny was okay. They must have shot one of their own.
I wanted this dreadful nightmare to be over. I already felt like we were prisoners in our own town. I felt like there was no way out. What was I going to do? I got us into this mess! How-
Suddenly, Mrs. Sweeny screamed at him that it was him they wanted. I stared at Pa as he turned and looked at me. Our eyes locked for a moment. “Yeah, it’s me he wants.”
I saw it in his eyes. I wanted to run forward and beg him not to do it. I wanted to go crying to him and cling to him like I did when I was a little boy, but I couldn’t. I would shame Pa and make the choice that much harder for him. Pa knew what he had to do. I knew what he had to do. He was going to answer his call. There was no other choice and I knew it.
I saw Micah go forward and start to stop him, but then he stopped. Like me, Micah knew the truth too. Pa had to go out there. There was no other way. Fear gripped me when Pa answered him. He was going to go out there. My eyes filled with tears instantly as I watched Pa head outside. “Be careful Pa! Oh, please be careful!” I whispered under my breath. I closed my eyes and prayed as I listened to them yell at each other.
Then Pa gave final requests. Hattie took Mrs. Sweeny to comfort her. Micah left to keep an eye on the men in the back. I stood there alone as Pa turned and looked at me. I suddenly remembered standing right here – almost in this exact same spot – nearly two years ago when we arrived here in North Fork. Our eyes locked just like they did then. Pa’s eyes said the same thing as they did that day. “I love you.”
Then he walked out. Again, I wanted to run after him but I knew I couldn’t. I had to stay here and stay strong. “God, go with him,” I prayed silently as I watched him step outside.
I listened from inside the hotel. They were going to have a fist fight with the intention to kill. Now, my Pa told you all about this fight, so I really don’t want to relive that. I will tell you that it’s the most violent fight I’ve ever seen. When it started, I slowly crept up to the door and looked outside. I cringed as I watched it. The man was mean – violent.
I couldn’t bare to see it, yet I couldn’t look away. Those images are still with me today.
That’s all I’m going to say about it. I shudder to even think on that time. I was so very scared for my Pa. And then when he held him under the water, I prayed to God in Heaven that He would help my Pa. I don’t care what anybody says, God did help my Pa.
Then when Micah scared that horse, the shooting started. Hattie quickly grabbed me and knocked me to the floor. She and Mrs. Sweeny did the same. “Pa!” I suddenly cried.
I started to get up, but Hattie held a tight arm on me. “Just stay down, Mark. Stay down!” she begged me.
But the instant the shooting stopped, I ran to the door. My Pa was still kneeling there, rifle in hand. He was gasping out breaths of exhaustion and relief. He was soak and wet and bleeding, but he had never looked better to me. He was alive.
I walked up to him and Pa looked up into my eyes. It was my turn to care for him. I lovingly put my arm around him, thankful he was alive. Pa laid his head against my chest as he tried to come back to his right senses.
I could feel him shaking against me. My heart began beating hard again as I realized the truth. My Pa hadn’t been scared – he’d been terrified. A hundred different emotions leapt through me. I didn’t know what to do – what to say. Pa slowly stood up as we watched Micah take the rest of the prisoners to jail. I grabbed a hold of Pa’s arm to steady him. “Let’s go to the docs,” I said quietly.
“No,” Pa answered in a broken voice. I looked up and saw that he was crying. I gasped. It was a rare occasion that I saw this. “No, I’m fine.”
But I grabbed Pa’s arm and started dragging him forward. “Maybe so, but we’ll let the doc decide.”
Pa swallowed hard. “Mark-“ he started. But I stubbornly continued dragging him forward. We went into the doc’s office where he was waiting. “I heard what was going on. I thought you might need me.”
Pa sat down exhausted and suddenly put his head in his hands. I suddenly knew he needed to be alone to collect his thoughts. “Maybe we should-“ I started, pointing toward the back.
Doc nodded and we hurried out of the room. We sat in the back and waited for a long time. Finally, Pa came inside and sat down as he unbuttoned his wet, dirty shirt. I helped him take it off and looked into his eyes. They looked better but he was still emotional. “I’ll see about running you a bath at the hotel, Pa,” I finally said. “We’ll stay here tonight.” I wasn’t asking. Pa was in no condition to make the decisions, and for just a while I was in charge. “Don’t leave without me.”
I hurried outside and suddenly stopped, staring at the bodies still laying everywhere. But I shook my head. I had to be strong. I couldn’t allow my emotions to take over right now. I hurried into the hotel and saw Eddie. “I need a room for Pa.” Eddie handed me a key. “Could you draw a bath for him?” I asked. “I need to wash his clothes too.”
Eddied took the shirt from me. “I’ll see that they are ready for him in the morning.” He suddenly put a hand on my shoulder. “Mark, you’re shaking like a leaf! Are you okay?”
“I’m fine!” I insisted suddenly. “I have to get back to Pa.”
I hurried out and ran back over to doc’s office. Doc finished putting medicine on all his cuts. Pa kept saying it wasn’t necessary, but doc insisted it was. “It’s to help with infection, Pa!” I stated.
Pa suddenly looked at me. I think he saw the emotions in my eyes but I quickly turned away. “Come on, Pa. Let’s get you to the bath.”
I stopped at the door, suddenly remembering those bodies were still in the street. But as we stepped out, we saw men beginning to clear them out. I held onto Pa’s arms and closed my eyes. I could no longer look at those things. When we got into the hotel, I started helping Pa get undressed. I started to take his boot off, but he suddenly put a firm hand on my shoulder.
“Mark.” I looked up at him. “Stop.”
“Stop what? I’m just-“ I started.
Pa drew his hand across my shoulder, and under my chin. Then he rubbed my cheek with his thumb as he looked into my eyes. “Stop avoiding this. Let’s talk.”
I drew my eyes away. “There’s nothing to talk about,” I said a bit too fast as I went to feel the bath water.
Pa stood up and grabbed me by the arm. He led me over to the bed and pushed me down onto it. Then he pulled a chair up and sat down directly in front of me. “Talk now,” he ordered.
I looked down as my eyes filled up with tears. I had wanted to stay strong for Pa – to let him know I was there for him. I wanted to take care of him for a change since I had caused all this. “I don’t want to talk about it, Pa!” I suddenly yelled as I tried to stand up.
But Pa’s hands were firm as they held my shoulders. He forced my eyes to look into mine. “Talk to me,” he said again in that gentle voice.
I suddenly allowed the tears to come. I threw my arms around his shoulders and cried. “I wanted to help you – to be strong for you!” I suddenly cried. “This is all my fault! All my fault!”
Pa’s hand had been rubbing the back of my head, but it suddenly stopped. He suddenly grabbed my arms and pulled them from around his neck. As he pushed me away, I saw the sternness in his eyes. “This is not your fault!”
“If I hadn’t been so curious. If I hadn’t-“ I started again.
“No, Mark. This is not your fault.”
“I-I wanted to be strong like you. I-I wanted to be brave and-“ I cried.
“Strong? Brave? Mark, you have been strong and brave all night! You are my hero!” Pa suddenly declared.
I stared at him. I was his hero? “Son, I could tell you were scared for me, but you stayed put. You allowed me to do what I had to do and you prayed for me. I know you did. I could feel your prayers. You could have come running to me, but you were brave enough to know what had to be done. You were brave enough to let me go.”
Pa suddenly rubbed his hand up and down my back as he continued talking to me. “If you think I wasn’t scared, you are wrong. I was terrified, Mark. When were we were fighting, I had no idea I was going to come out of that alive. That’s why…that’s why afterwards I had to…to be alone.” Pa swallowed back his own tears then. “And another thing. You were strong enough to see that I needed that time alone. You were strong enough to see that I needed care. You were strong enough to make me go to the docs.”
Tears filled my eyes again. “I was so scared,” I whispered. “But Pa, if I hadn’t gone to that wagon, I-“
Pa shook his head. “We can’t look back on our choices, Mark. We can’t live by ‘if onlys.’ We have to look forward.”
Pa suddenly wiped some of my tears with his thumb. “Mark, if you need to cry, I’m here.”
That’s all I needed to hear. I suddenly was in his arms again crying onto his bare shoulder. After my tears were spent, I sat back and told Pa to get into the bath. Pa told me to get more hot water to rinse his hair. When I brought the rest of Pa’s clothes down to Eddie, I got some water, but as I poured it over Pa’s head he began yelling. I quickly pulled back. “I said hot water, boy! That’s ice cold!” Then he began laughing.
Before I knew it, we were both laughing so hard we again had tears running down our cheeks. Micah came in then. Pa and I stared at him. “You always come barging in when a man’s taking a bath?” Pa asked.
“Well, I heard you laughing from all the way downstairs!” Micah declared. “I never knew a bath could be so funny.” Pa and I just looked at each other, then busted out into laughter again. Micah shook his head, threw a disgusted hand toward us, and walked out the door.
“Goodnight, Micah!” Pa hollered.
Micah opened the door and looked back in. He pointed straight at my Pa. “I’ll talk to you in the morning!” he declared. Then he was gone.
We busted out laughing 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
Woman from Hog Ridge
around The McCain Ranch