There’s a lot of things I still remember about my Ma. I remember how she always came in my bedroom at night to tell me a story. I remember her singing and humming while going about her chores. I remember her kissing me goodnight and good morning along with Pa. I can even vaguely remember how she smelled. But one of my fondest memories was how she would set me on her lap in her rocking chair and read me a story from the Bible. There was something so special about her voice as she read from the Good Book.
Another thing I remembered about my Ma is that she put a certain look on my father’s face – a look I haven’t seen on him since she died. It was a sparking eyes/grin on face/loving look. It would appear on his face anytime she was in the room. There was a love between them that even a six-year old boy could see. And I must admit that I did miss seeing that look on my father’s face. Oh, I’m not saying that he didn’t still have special looks…he did…he had a sparkle in his eye for me – but the look he had for my mother was so different, and it would light up any dark room – no matter how dark the room was!
Perhaps it was for these above reasons that I suddenly got the desire in me. I would be lying if I said I wasn’t selfishly thinking of a mother for myself as well. After all, there are times a boy wants a mother to talk to about certain things, and to get hugs and kisses from. But I was honestly, truly thinking of that look in my father’s eyes as he watched my Ma read from the Bible while I sat on her lap, or the look they gave each other as he pulled her down onto his lap and kissed her as I sat at the table coloring a picture or peaking outside my bedroom door at night. I missed that look!
Perhaps that’s why I did what I did that day. At the time, I didn’t understand exactly what I did “wrong,” but I knew that my Pa found himself in a lot of trouble. But, it was all done with good intentions! Well, maybe I should start at the beginning of the story.
One day after school, I came home. Pa was out finishing up with the herd, so I went inside and sat down at the table, not really wanting to do my chores. I saw a book Pa had been reading on the table and opened it up. Suddenly, I saw a picture – a lovely, loving picture – of a woman holding a child on her lap. That’s when I told myself I was going to talk to my Pa about him marrying again.
Pa came inside and went to the sink to wash his hands. “Got your chores done, son?” he asked.
I shook my head as I continued staring at the picture. Pa came over and tapped me to stand up. I did and he put the stool on the chair. I knew what that meant. “Oh Pa,” I started to complain.
Pa narrowed his eyes at me. I obediently climbed up to sit on the stool as he grabbed an old tablecloth and draped it around me. I hated having my haircut, and I wasn’t afraid to admit it. I flinched as he cut a bit too roughly. Pa merely laughed it off, but I thought a professional barber could do a much smoother job on my hair. I asked Pa why I couldn’t get my hair cut in town like he did, and he stated that we could only afford one store-bought hair cut.
It took a while for me to muster up the courage to do so, but I finally broached the subject. "Pa, can I ask you a question?" I asked after I mustered up enough courage to finally speak my thought out loud.
I could tell Pa was anxious to get his hair-cutting chore done. He always complained that I couldn’t sit still long enough for a decent haircut, and he’d probably get charged double downtown because of that fact! "Just so you hold your head still. What do you want to ask me?”
Suddenly, I hesitated. Now that I was about to broach the subject, the question sounded a little…personal. "It ain't easy to ask, I've been meaning to ask you for a long time," I answered him.
"Sounds important. Why don't you ask and get it over with?"
"Well,..” I tried to think of the best way to ask the question. Do you… have you ever thought of marrying another woman?"
Pa’s reaction was pretty much the one I was expecting. He was a bit shocked by my question. "Marrying a-“ I turned my head around to look at him. He grabbed my head and turned it back around, then started snipping again. “What made you think of that?"
"Well, like I said, I've been thinkin' of it for quite a spell." I looked down at the book again at the image that reminded me so much of the three of us when we were together.
I was excited at Pa’s answer. "Yes, I'd like to take another wife someday, that's natural."
"When?" I suddenly asked.
I was so excited! I couldn’t wait for this to happen! "When I find the right woman."
"How will you know her?" I wondered.
"I think I'll know her when I meet her son,”
Suddenly, I tried to picture her in my mind. "What will she be like?" I wondered blissfully.
Pa described someone that reminded me of Ma. "Well, she'll have to cook and sew and scrub. Her hands gotta be soft, she's gotta have hair like crimson as the setting sun. Eyes as brown as chestnuts. She's gotta wear a flower because that's womanly. And she’s gotta ride a horse like a man."
Suddenly, a realization hit me, and I was none too happy about it. How many women in this world could be as special as Ma? "A woman like that is gonna be kinda hard to find, ain't she Pa?"
"Very hard to find son!” Pa declared. He was finally done with my haircut and told me we had to hurry and get into town to pick up supplies for our new shed.
I thought about this all the way to town. Pa rode Razor right in front of the wagon as I drove the team, and I must admit that my mind did wonder off a couple times and I allowed the horses to slow down to a crawl. Pa had to come up to the side of the wagon and remind me to get the horses going. “Keep your mind on your work, boy!” Pa reprimanded me.
When we got to town, Pa was still shaking his head at me. “What are you daydreaming about, Mark?” Pa asked me.
I just smiled as I sat on the wagon seat. “Nothing.” I certainly didn’t want Pa to know that I was trying to think of a woman around here that would fit his description. But I couldn’t think of a single lady!
Suddenly, Pa told me to go over to the General Store and tell Hattie to sit out a keg of ten-pennies. “And, what about me?” I asked suddenly, my mind temporarily distracted from match-making to think about candy.
Pa grinned as he tied razor to the hitching post. “What about you?”
My mouth watered just thinking about liquorish! “Well, I was good in school all day! Didn’t get in no trouble!”
Pa acted busy with the horse as his grin got bigger. “So? That’s good. It means we won’t have to talk about punishment tonight.”
“Well, I’m thinkin’ that a piece of candy would do me some good,” I stated suddenly.
Pa looked down at me. “Oh,” he said. Then he reached into his pocket and threw me a coin. “Now get going, boy!”
“Thanks!” I exclaimed excitedly as I raced off for the General Store.
I paid my candy. Then I left the general store to watch the stage unload. As I started to take a bite of my liquorish, I suddenly saw her! It was the woman Pa was looking for – everything he described fit her to a T! I had to meet this woman – to find out more about her.
Forgetting about my liquorish, I made my way to the stage depot. Opening the door, I stuck my head inside and looked around. There she sat, and she was beautiful! I just knew my Pa would find her beautiful too! Suddenly, she saw me and told me to come inside. I was a bit nervous to meet her, afraid I’d find out she wasn’t as nice as I was hoping.
I did as she requested and came in. For once, I was able to remember my manners and took my hat off. We introduced ourselves and talked about how our names were from the Bible. We discovered that Bible names ran in both our families! I could already see it! Lucas, Rebecca and Mark McCain!
I needed to know if she lived here or was visiting, so I asked her if she was here visiting. My heart leapt when she informed me that she lived here. That was another good thing in my favor! I thought for a minute to decide on what to do. But I quickly decided that I had no choice. I had to get some answers to some important decisions before introducing her to Pa. "Ma'am, do you have a husband?" I asked quickly before I lost my nerve.
She acted like she didn’t hear me, so I repeated the question. Her answer brought a huge smile to my face. "Well, no…no not yet. But I hope to have one someday. I hope to have a husband and a boy exactly like you!” I was so excited! She wanted a little boy like me, which was good since she’d get one after marrying my Pa.
It was a little hard to believe that everything was falling into place. “Do you really mean that?” I asked, half expecting her to tell me it was all a big joke. But she assured me that she did mean it! I was so excited that I could hardly stand it! There was one more thing I had to find out, then I’d know for sure that she was the wife my Pa was looking for.
I asked her if I could ask her another question, and she told me to go ahead. “Do you ride a horse?” Guess what she told me? She told me that she did ride a horse. In fact, she said she could outrun both of her brothers!
I didn’t need to ask anymore questions! I ran to find Pa. He had to meet this woman. I really found the perfect woman for him! It didn’t take long for me to find him, and I grabbed him by the arm and just told him to come with me. I figured it was best not to tell him what I needed him to see. “Well, you better just come with me!” I merely stated, knowing that would get him moving.
I quickly led him into the Stage Depot and stood him in front of her. I just knew he would be proud of my finding! I just stood there silently and let them talk. I knew that when he started talking to Miss Rebecca that he would think she was the perfect woman to marry. But he wasn’t finding out the important things quickly enough for me, so I had to jump right in and tell him what he needed to know! “She lives here, pa. Said she’d like to get married and have a boy…something like me.”
Pa didn’t seem too happy with me. “Mark!” he sounded surprised at what I had said. I innocently stood silently as they talked a little more.
But Pa quickly scooted me out of there after telling her I was a “fair boy.” What did that mean? To me, it sounded like I was in trouble! But I hadn’t done anything wrong, had I?
After we got outside, Pa spoke to me. When he spoke, I knew I had done something wrong, though I was still a bit confused as to exactly what it was I did wrong. “You know, I have a strong feeling you had notions on me courtin’ that girl!” He scolded me.
But I was still convinced she was the one he was looking for. “She’s sure pretty! Prettiest girl I ever seen!” I stated with a smile. At the age of ten, I was unaware that beauty wasn’t everything.
“She’s a shade young! She’d make you a better sister than a mother!” I couldn’t believe my Pa! I thought she was perfect. I told him she looked fully grown to me. But Pa assured me that she was too young, stating that she was nearer to my age then his. I was disappointed. I thought I had found a treasure, but discovered I indeed didn’t understand enough to find that treasure. Pa scolded me some more, ordering me not to ever pull anything like that again.
I was so disappointed. I didn’t understand what went wrong, but I knew she fit his description perfectly. “She sure did fit! Crimson hair, chestnut eyes, wear’s flowers, got soft hands…She rides a horse like a man, too!” Pa wanted to know how I found all that out. I thought that was obvious. “I asked her!” I stated. Pa just raised an eyebrow at me. “Of course, I didn’t ask her about cookin’ and such, cause all women can do that.” He raised another eyebrow at me.
Looking back on it now, I guess I had been mischievous, but it was all done in innocence! No matter, I guess Pa wanted to make sure I stayed out of trouble, so he told me to go tend the team.
I waited for a long time before I saw Pa finally come out of the café. I wasn’t sure what he was doing, but I had seen him go in there earlier, so I pulled the wagon up next to it and waited for him. “All ready to travel, Pa!” I announced.
Pa put the keg of nails in the back of the wagon. But then he had to talk to Micah. I waited patiently as he talked to some man that made him mad. Then he climbed up in the wagon and told me to drive over to the blacksmith’s. When we got over there, Pa told me to ride on and he’d catch up with me.
"I took the team pretty slow, but Pa never did catch up with me! It was dark by the time I got to the ranch and pa still wasn’t there. So I went inside the house and lit a lantern. It was a bit spooky out in the dark, and I didn’t much like the darkness that was over the ranch. I then went into the barn and lit a lantern as I waited for Pa. I finally heard a horse and saw Pa ride over toward the house. I called him over to the barn."
I had been getting a bit worried about him. He didn’t normally like me being at the ranch by myself at night, and I figured he would make sure to catch up with me fairly quickly. “What took you so long?” I asked him. He just told me Razor’s shoes were worse off then he thought.
I started to unsaddle Razor when I suddenly heard Pa cock his rifle. “Mark!” I heard him call.
I ran to the door and looked out. There were three men with guns standing on our porch. “Put that light out and get down!” Pa commanded me.
I knew a gunfight was about to happen, and I didn’t like Pa going against three men. I quickly put the light out and went over to a stall, but I didn’t get down. I had to keep an eye outside to make sure Pa was okay.
I flinched when the gunshots started, worried that they were shooting my Pa. I went a little closer to the front of the stall. Pa walked in then and ordered for me to get down. I knew I had to obey him. I did so, and saw him turn around to make sure I obeyed him. Then I watched Pa go to the window and shoot once more. I don’t know how many people were still alive out there, but I knew Pa was still in danger.
Pa then turned to check and make sure I was still down. I bent my head around the corner to see what he was doing. Pa left the barn, so I couldn’t see what was going on. Everything was quiet for several moments. Then I heard another gunshot which hit the window. Then everything was silent. I was afraid. Pa wasn’t firing and neither was anyone else. Had they gotten my Pa? I was scared and knew I couldn’t come out yet, because they may still be out there.
Then I heard two more shots. I took a chance and peaked outside. There were two other men there that had helped Pa kill the last outlaw. I ran up beside Pa as he talked to them. The beautiful woman rode up then. These must have been her brothers she told me about! I listened to the conversation, and was surprised to hear that Miss Rebecca was engaged – that meant she was going to get married. Oh well!
But then I had to laugh when the brothers told Pa they had another sister at home. I didn’t understand everything, but I knew Pa wasn’t too happy about the whole thing! And the look on Pa’s face made me laugh.
After they left, Pa fixed supper with my help. But as we sat down to eat, Pa was still shaking his head at me. “You can wash dishes tonight, boy!” Pa declared as he rubbed his forehead. “And tomorrow night too!”
I nodded, knowing that I had gotten him into some trouble that day, but still unsure exactly what that trouble was at the time. If you want to know, just read his story of The Sister!
*A special thanks goes out to Michelle Palmer for her insight on how Mark had seen these episodes.
New Orleans Menace
Mark's Memories ― Table of Contents
You've heard Lucas' story, now hear Mark's Story
The Safe Guard
around The McCain Ranch