I know my Pa’s already told you all about the father named Andy Moon and his son Bobby. I’m not going to re-tell that story. But instead, I’m going to tell you about the boy Bobby.
First of all, before I met him I was telling Pa about a birthday party I had been invited to. Jay invited me just the day before. It happened something like this:
“Mark, wait up!” I heard Jay Gordon call from behind me. I was just about to go into the General Store when he ran up behind me. “Mark, I’ve been trying to catch up with you all the way from school!”
“Sorry,” I shrugged.
“I’m having my birthday part next Saturday. My Ma’s making her ice cream.” Jay grinned at me.
I broke out in a smile. “Her ice cream? It’s the best! I’ve just gotta go!”
“And my Pa’s planning lots of games, Mark! We’re even gonna get a ball game going!”
We walked into the store together. I walked up to the counter and gave Miss Hattie my nickel. “I reached into the jar and grabbed five sour balls and popped as many in my mouth as I could. “Come look at something!” Jay declared.
I followed him over to the knives. He picked up a hunting knife. “This! Look at this!” He took the knife out of it’s cover and rubbed it up and down. “Isn’t it keen?”
I nodded as I continued sucking on my sour balls. My mouth was too full to speak! “Mark,” I heard from the door. I looked up at Pa as he came over. “Oh, hi, Jay.”
“Mr. McCain? Can Mark come to my birthday party next Saturday? Please?” He suddenly grabbed my Pa and begged.
Pa stared at me and narrowed his eyes. “Sure,” Pa stated as he patted Jay’s back. Jay excitedly ran out the door. “Hattie, hand me that waste basket there behind you.” Pa grabbed it and held it out towards me. “Spit them out!” he ordered.
I stared at him, but did as he told, keeping only one in my mouth. “All of them,” he said quite sternly. I did after hesitating a moment.
“Pa, that was five cents worth of candy!” I declared.
“Now it’s five cents worth of trash!” Pa declared. “You know better then to stuff that much candy in your mouth!”
“Oh Pa,” I grumbled.
The next day was Saturday. That was the day I was to meet Bobby and his father. Pa had given me plenty of chores to do that day. I had sort of messed up cleaning the barn all week, so Pa declared to me that today was the day and the barn would be spotless! I sort of had it in my mind to go fishing that afternoon. Pa promised me I could go as long as my chores were done. Then he reminded me of the fence I was supposed to have fixed three days ago. I knew without a doubt that those two chores would be done today!
So after lunch, Pa announced that I had to wash dishes. I complained that Pa wasn’t planning on helping me with them. He told me he had the books to do. Besides that, “I did the cooking, you do the washing,” he declared. I hardly ever got to cook, but that’s because I wasn’t good at it.
Okay, now on to Bobby. The moment I laid eyes on him I knew he was very sad. I could tell he hadn’t had things easy. He was so quiet and withdrawn. He was worried about his father, but there was something else there. I sensed he was carrying a huge burden on his shoulders – a burden that he felt was his alone to carry.
I knew his father was hurt, but I didn’t know how hurt. And after I brought in the hot water, I kind of wanted to stay and listen to see how badly hurt he was, but Pa didn’t want me there and reminded me sternly that I still had chores to do. Bobby’s father told him to help me, and we left.
We worked on the chores for quite some time. As I started working on repairing the corral like Pa had ordered, I suggested we go fishing. Bobby didn’t think he could go. He and his Pa had been on the run now for a week, and he knew they’d be moving on as soon as his Pa could. I know I shouldn’t have; Pa always told me I talked too much – but I did it anyhow. I asked Bobby if they were running from the law. He just looked at me. I knew what Pa would have said if he had been there, so I thought it anyway: I should mind my own business!
Everything was quiet for a few minutes while I worked on the fence. Suddenly, I turned and looked at Bobby. “You okay?”
Bobby suddenly sniffed. “You’re so lucky, Mark.” I suddenly found myself placing a hand on his shoulder like my Pa did to me when I was upset. “You have a house to live in, chores to do and a Pa who talks to you.” He suddenly narrowed his eyes. “He does talk to you?” I nodded. Bobby suddenly lowered his head. “I wish…” His voice died off.
“You don’t have a house?” I asked surprised. Bobby nodded. “Where do you live?”
“Wherever,” Bobby shrugged. “We can’t stay anywhere for long. My Pa-“ Bobby stopped talking and lowered his head in shame.
I sighed suddenly, deciding it was time to change the subject. “Let’s go ask our Pa’s if we can go fishing,” I suggested.
“It’s no use, Mark. My Pa won’t let me.”
“Well, my Pa can be pretty convincing. Come on!” I declared.
I put my arm around his shoulders and we started inside. I had made him feel a little better.
We ran back inside to tell Pa we were all done with the chores. Then I asked Pa if we could go fishing. “Bobby’s father will have to decide that, Mark,” Pa answered.
Bobby ran up to where his Pa was lying. “Can I Pa? Can I?” he begged.
“No Bobby, I’m sorry,” his father answered. My heart sank for him. He was right. His Pa said no.
“Why not?” Bobby asked.
“Because I want you to stay here with me,” his Pa answered.
I jumped to Bobby’s defense. “We’ll only be gone a little while-“ I started.
But Pa stopped me sternly. “You heard what Bobby’s father said.”
Bobby was upset and ran out of the house. I turned to look at Pa, wondering why he hadn’t done more to help my friend. It wasn’t fair to be denied this, and his Pa didn’t even give him a reason! Pa told me to go outside with him with a nudge on the shoulder. I left.
I ran outside and called his name but he gave no answer. I finally spotted him under a tree. “Bobby,” I sat down beside him. “I’m sorry.”
Bobby was crying. It broke my heart to see tears streaming down his face like that. “Just go away!” He turned and looked at me with a deep sadness. “Just go away, Mark! Go to your Pa.” He swallowed. “I’m sorry. I…You can go fishing if you want, I’ll be okay.”
I shook my head. “I can’t leave my guest and go off fishing. That would be rude of me. Besides, my Pa would have my hide if I did something like that. He’s taught me better then that!” I declared.
Bobby stared at me and bursted into tears again. “Let me be! Just let me be!” He cried.
I saw Pa walk out of the house. He was calling my name. I ran up to him. He laid a hand on my shoulder. “Listen son, I’m going in for the doc. You and Bobby stay here.” Pa looked around. “Where is he?”
“Under the tree, crying!” I declared. “Pa, why didn’t you stick up for him? You usually try to stick up for people when there are wrong going on!” I sputtered out angrily.
Pa suddenly put his hands on his hips and gave me one of his famous stern looks. “Now just a minute, young man. Just what wrong are you talking about? And you better change that tone of voice right now!”
I lowered my head. “I’m sorry,” I said quietly. “You should have tried to convince his Pa to let Bobby go fishing with me.”
Pa suddenly bent down so he was level with my eyes. “His father said no, Mark. That was his father’s decision and privilege to make. I can’t tell him how to raise his son anymore then he can tell me.”
“But he was wrong! He can’t just say no just because!” I sputtered, suddenly angry again.
“Now hold on, son.” Pa’s voice was soft but stern. “You don’t know what his reasons are, and neither does Bobby.”
I turned and looked towards Bobby. “He doesn’t know what?” I asked.
“Well,” Pa lowered his head. “I can’t tell you that, son. I was told in confidence and it’s none of your business. Don’t mention anything to Bobby either. It’s not our place.”
“He’s keeping secrets from his son?” I asked.
Pa nodded. “Like I’ve told you, son. Different parents protect their children in different ways. It’s not our place to judge, but I’m afraid he’s pushing Bobby further and further away by not being honest with him.” Pa patted me on the back and stood up. “I’m going to town. You keep Bobby here with you.”
“Pa, can I take him out on the range to see the cattle?” I asked then.
Pa turned and looked at me. No words were necessary. “Yes sir, we’ll stay here.”
Pa started to the barn. “Oh,” he turned and pointed at me. “And if strangers ride up, get inside the house and don’t let them come in. You hear?”
I watched Pa ride away. Bobby ran over to me. “Where’s he going?” Bobby asked.
“He has to get the doc for your Pa.” I put my arm around Bobby. “Want to play kickball?”
“What’s kickball?” Bobby asked.
I smiled. “Well, you kick the ball and the other team tries to tag you with it before you get to a base.”
“Oh! Sort of like base? I’ve played that with a ball and bat.”
“Oh, Town Ball!” Some of us kids have played it a couple times, but kick ball is much easier, I think. My Pa watched us play town ball one day and just shook his head. He said it would never go anywhere…people hitting balls with a stick! I think that someday we’ll see lots of people playing that game. He’s just never played it and-“
Suddenly, Bobby started laughing. I hadn’t heard him laughing up to this point. “What’s so funny?” I asked.
“You talk too much. Let’s play.”
I smiled and we started playing. A few of the boys from school were riding together up the road when they heard us and came to join in. We soon had a real kick ball game going. Bobby had caught on really fast and we were all laughing and playing. I ran around the bases once, and Jay hit me hard in the back, getting me out.
The score was finally 6 to 6. I was up to kick. I kicked the ball hard and started around the bases, but my new friend, Bobby, quickly retrieved the ball and hit me half-way to home plate. His team cheered as they gathered around me. The boys went over to Bobby and told him he could be on their team anytime. Bobby smiled proudly.
Pa and the doctor returned then. He waved at me and smiled as they hurried into the house. Bobby started to follow. Pa put a hand on his shoulder and shook his head. “Stay out here, son.”
“But, I-“ he started.
“Just stay out here,” Pa smiled at him. Then he went inside.
“Come on, Bobby! Let’s play some more!” I called.
Bobby turned and smiled. Then he shook his head. “I don’t feel like playing anymore.” He walked away toward the barn.
“What’s wrong with him?” Jeff suddenly asked in a sarcastic voice.
I turned and gave him a hard stare. “His father was shot!” I answered. “And if you can’t be any nicer then that to my guest, you can go home.”
“Okay, okay,” bobby held up his hands in surrender. “Don’t get so touché!”
I walked to the barn while the boys rode off. Bobby was sitting inside crying. “What’s wrong?” I asked. “You were having so much fun!”
“It’s no use, Mark. Do you know who my father is? He’s Andy Moon,” Bobby sniffed. “He was in jail for a long time because he did some really bad things – things that shamed me. I…I think he killed someone again cause we’re on the run.” Bobby suddenly bursted out into tears.
I ran over to him and gave him a hug. “You’re father seems like a nice man!” I declared. “Have you talked to him about it?”
“No,” Bobby quickly wiped his eyes. “My Pa’s never told me anything. He-“ Bobby swallowed as he hung his head in shame. “He doesn’t even know I know.”
“How did you find out?” I asked.
“People in town told me. They said horrible things, Mark…horrible things.”
I patted Bobby on the back. “One thing my Pa says about folks in town talking is not to pay attention to them. You should talk to your Pa about it – maybe some of the things they said wasn’t true.”
“If he wasn’t bad, he would have told me the truth,” Bobby stated. “He’s hiding it from me. It must be awful.”
Pa was right. His father’s keeping secrets was destroying Bobby. I looked toward the house. No telling how long Pa and the doctor would be in there. “Listen,” I said as I sat down. “If you want, I’ll sit here and talk with you about it.”
We sat there in silence for awhile while Bobby cried. “Mark!” I finally heard Pa calling. I cam out of the barn. “Mark, I’m going to start supper. Will you bring in the potatoes and green beans?”
Bobby hurried toward the house. He wanted to talk to his Pa. But then he turned and said, “Mark, please don’t tell anyone what we’ve been talking about.”
After I brought in the vegetables, Pa looked at me from where he was putting the roast on. “What was that all about?”
“What?” I asked innocently.
“What were you and bobby talking about, son?” Pa suddenly asked.
Pa had told me earlier that what Mr. Moon had told him was none of my business, but I didn’t figure my telling Pa that would be a very good idea. “It was said in confidence, Pa. He trusted me not to tell.” Pa nodded in understanding. I looked at him from the corner of my eye though. “Let’s just say that I think you’re right about his pa and the damage his keeping secrets is doing.”
While we were eating, Bobby was really quiet. Pa tried to assure him that his Pa would be okay. Then when Mr. Moon called to Pa, he went into the other room. Pa called me to set another plate at the table, then before I knew it, his Pa was coming out demanding that they had to leave right away.
I watched with a sad heart as Bobby refused to go with his father. He threw his chair over and declared he was tired of running. He was angry. He ran to my Pa, begging him not to let his father take him.
Then I found out what horrible think Bobby thought his father had done – he’d shot people in the back. “I hate him!” Bobby screamed.
I stared in horror! How could a child hate his own father? He suddenly turned and told his Pa he wished he were dead.
So many questions were running through my mind as I stood there in horror and listened to the words. I knew Bobby was hurt and angry, but I had no idea that it was that bad!
I could tell the father was hurt. He gently explained why he had kept it from him, and explained that he had never shot a person in the back. Pa and I looked at each other as we witnessed what keeping secrets from each other could do.
Bobby was so sad. He wouldn’t even hardly look at his Pa. He didn’t hug him or tell him he was sorry. He just turned away.
Pa and Mr. Moon started to leave. Pa told me to make sure Bobby got to bed when I did, which meant by my bedtime.
But before they could leave, the door opened. Some men came in. I soon figured out that they were after Mr. Moon for killing their brother in self-defense. They were there to kill him. But you know my Pa – he won’t let men come into his house and shoot someone down without a fight! One of the men punched my Pa really hard – so hard that he went flying over the table. Now, I’m not one to just stand by while my Pa’s being whooped on, either so you know what I did? I bit the man that punched my Pa! I surely did!
Then you know what I did? I kept a firm hold on this man and he tried and tried to fight me off, but I wouldn’t let him, because he was going to kill my Pa! Then Bobby started fighting the other man until his Pa shot him down. Then my Pa ran to the door, grabbed his rifle, and killed the other man.
It all worked out because we all four worked together as a team. Our Pa’s needed us and we were there for them.
Bobby ran to his father to make sure he was okay. Then they hugged.
I watched my Pa help him back into bed. He told me to fix the cots up I the living room for me and him, then to get into bed. Pa started to leave, but I ran up to him. “Pa,” I said with tears in my eyes. We just looked at each other, then Pa hugged me.
“We’ll talk in the morning,” Pa stated. “I promise.” He started to leave. Bobby came out then and hugged my Pa, thinking him for all he did. Pa smiled at him and stooped down to his level. “You go on to bed, now okay? I’ll look in on your Pa when I get back.”
Pa had already loaded the bodies in the wagons and I started cleaning up the mess. After I got the cots stet up I undressed and got in bed, leaving the lantern burning for when Pa got back. But he was a long time in coming. I sat up on the cot and looked out the window. The wagon rode over the bridge and I couldn’t wait to talk to him. I ran out the door toward the barn.
Pa turned from unhitching the horses when he saw me. I ran up and hugged him. “I want to help ya,” I declared.
Pa looked down at me and smiled. “You should be in bed, young man.”
“I can’t sleep,” I sighed. I had something hard on my mind and didn’t quite know what to think about it. It bothered me something awful that a boy could tell his father he hated him and wished he were dead.
Pa could tell something was bothering me. He pulled the horses into their stalls, took me by the hand, and led me over to sit down. “Okay, let’s talk.”
“What Bobby said earlier…I just don’t understand, Pa,” I said.
“Mark, do you remember when you were missing your Ma really bad and you didn’t talk to me about it?” I nodded. That memory was still to fresh in my mind. “What did that do to us?”
“I ended up hurting you by disobeying you and by saying things I shouldn’t,” I answered.
“You allowed it to fester in here,” Pa patted my chest. “And your problem was only a few days. This has been building up in Bobby for years, son. It built up and built up until he suddenly cried out in anger and what was there – and it was his father.”
“He didn’t really mean what he said, did he?” I suddenly asked.
Pa raised his eyebrows and looked into my eyes. “What do you think?”
I smiled. “I don’t think, Pa. I know. I know that he loved his Pa.” Pa started to stand, but I stopped him. “Is that why you tell me everything?” I asked.
Pa nodded. “Mark, it’s better you know what’s bothering me or what’s happened rather then my trying to keep it from you to save us from getting hurt. Secrets always come out eventually. And secrets don’t seem to age well, you know what I mean?”
I nodded. “Yes sir.”
“Good,” Pa yawned. “Let’s go to bed.”
The next day, Mr. Moon and his son left. He was going to get things straightened out with the Marshal and try to get a clean start for him and his son. As he and his son started to leave, Mr. Moon declared that he had his son backing him.
I watched them leave. “Pa?” I suddenly wondered what he meant.
“Oh, like you back me, Mark. You know, I do the cooking, I do the dishes.”
“Oh,” I answered. Then I gave Pa a hard stare. As we started walking down the street, I decided to talk to him about that. “You know Pa, I’ve been thinking. Maybe I can do more of the cooking and less of the dishes. You know that dish washing isn’t my favorite job.”
Pa nodded. “Yeah, I’ve heard that son,” he answered as he gave my shoulders a squeeze.
But somehow, I had this feeling I would still be doing the dishes!
*A special thanks goes out to Michelle Palmer for her insight on how Mark had seen these episodes.
Mark's Memories ― Table of Contents
You've heard Lucas' story, now hear Mark's Story
around The McCain Ranch