I think I made it very clear to Pa from the moment I got out of bed that morning that I did not want to go to school. First of all, he had to come in and wake me up three times. The third time I got a hard poke, which sent me to squalling. Then as I sat at the table to eat my breakfast, I ate slowly – that is until Pa threatened to make me wash dishes for a solid week if I didn’t move a little faster. Then I had a lot of trouble finding all my books, which I had left scattered all over the table the night before and Pa had gathered up and sat on his desk so we could eat breakfast.
But I think my biggest point of hinting that I was in no mood to go to school is when Pa sent me outside to saddle my horse. I saddled him and everything, but as I looked around the barn, I suddenly noticed how dirty it was. So I brought my horse out and stood by the barn as I tried to find the perfect way to hint to Pa that I wanted to stay home and clean the barn.
I was supposed to be on my way to school by that point, because when I came back in to get my books, Pa told me to get going to school. So I’m supposing he wasn’t too happy to see me standing by my horse when he came outside. He came up to me, pulling his horse behind him. Then I broached the subject. “Pa, I was noticing the barn. It sure could use a cleaning,” I announced carefully.
Pa didn’t disagree with me. He agreed, but wanted to know why I hadn’t noticed that on a Saturday. Gee, who wanted to notice something like that on a Saturday? I already had plenty of chores before I could do anything else, and I certainly wasn’t going to go around looking for more work when the fish were biting! “Well,” I had to think fast. “I just happened to notice it now. And I could clean it up good while you’re in town.” I smiled at him when I said this for good measure.
Then Pa asked me about school. At first, I played all innocent-like, pretending that I hadn’t even thought about school. Then I told him that I was doing a really good job and one day wouldn’t hurt me much. Pa smiled at me and told me I could clean the barn. I smiled a victorious smile at first, but then he added, “After school.” I didn’t like that. I had just gotten another chore added by trying to get out of going to school. Pa always did tell me I talked too much.
Pa was planning on going into town a little later, but I guess he figured the only way I was going to get to school on time was by him chasing me there all the way. I think I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again. I love riding side-by-side with my Pa across the range! I love being with him. But I enjoyed taking my time when riding to school, and Pa didn’t let me do that when he rode with me.
I slowly mounted my horse as Pa watched me closely. Then I started Blue Boy off at a nice, slow pace. But Pa didn’t like that, so he gave Blue Boy a nice, firm slap on the back side to get him moving faster! Usually, Pa would just leave me at the cutoff and ride on to town, but he really didn’t trust me today. He followed me all the way to school! I told him it wasn’t necessary, but he informed me sternly that he thought it was very necessary. He even stayed while he watched me get off my horse!
I stopped on the steps and watched him leave, shaking my head slowly! Adults get to have all the fun – making kids do what they have to do while they make the decisions! I slowly walked into the school. What met my eye scared me something awful! The desks were overturned and school books and supplies were torn up and thrown all over the classroom. But the worst thing was Miss Adams. She laid unconscious on the floor.
I dropped my books and ran out onto the porch, screaming for pa as loud as I could. Pa heard my distress calls and rushed back. “Come quick!” I stated. Pa jumped off his horse lickety split and grabbed his rifle. He asked me what was wrong and I told him it was Miss Adams. He started to rush up front where she should have been, but I grabbed his arm and pointed to where she lay.
At Pa’s orders, I ran and got some water. When I got back in, I asked Pa if I should go for the doctor, but he was hoping I wouldn’t have to.
I started looking around. I couldn’t believe how much damage was done. Now, I didn’t like school and was always trying to talk Pa out of making me go, but I sure wasn’t going to destroy the school to make it happen. I knew that whoever did this sure was in trouble! Then I stopped when I saw the picture drawn on the chalkboard. There was only one person who could draw like that – Johnny Clover! I didn’t mean to say it out loud, but I must have. Because pa asked me what I said. I didn’t want to get Johnny in trouble, so I tried to brush it off, but the damage was already done and pa knew who was to blame.
When Miss Adams came to, she was shocked to see the destruction, and she didn’t want Pa to know who did it either. I apologized to her that I let out who did it. While Miss Adams went to look for what was missing, Pa pulled me aside and asked me quietly who Johnny Clover was. I reminded him that Johnny’s Pa had been killed in a stampede and his uncle was taking care of the place. Then I commented on how silly it looked for an eighteen year old to be going to school. Miss Adams stated that we made it very clear when we made fun of him. I didn’t miss the stern look Pa flashed at me as she said this.
“Well, it’s true Miss Adams!” I stated. But then she stated that we stopped laughing when we realized how smart he was. Pa looked at me with yet another firm expression.
Pa wanted to turn him into the Marshal, but Miss Adams didn’t want to. So Pa stated he would go talk to Johnny’s uncle. I stayed with Miss Adams as Pa left. “Well, let’s start cleaning!” Miss Adams said. She saw kids standing in the door. “Mark, go announce that school is canceled for the rest of the week. But tell them that if they want to help clean up, they are welcome to stay.”
“Yes ma’am,” I said happily. Then I saw the disapproving look on her face, so I lost my smile. “I mean, yes ma’am.”
We started picking up all the books and stuff and put in a pile for the girls to separate. They stood up front and helped Miss Adams figure out how many were damaged. When we got everything off the floor, we began carrying out the benches that were damaged. It took us a couple hours, and by the time we were working on sweeping out the schoolroom floor, Pa was back.
Pa looked at the benches and shook his head. Then he told me to go get a rig in town and haul these benches to the blacksmith.
“What are we going to do, Pa?” I asked. “This sure is gonna cost some money!”
Pa rubbed his neck with his hand. “Well, I was thinking on that.” He walked up to Miss Adams. “Say Miss Adams, what do you say if we have a covered dish picnic at my place on Saturday? I can get with some of the other men, and we can have games and dancing.”
Miss Adams nodded. “I think that’ll be just fine!”
I was excited, and I told Pa as much as he started to leave.
I did as told, and some of the older boys helped me load the heavy benches into the back of the wagon. I thanked them as I took them to the blacksmith’s shop. Mr. Toomey looked at them and scratched his head, stating that some of them were in pretty bad shape. “You say that Johnny Clover did this?” He asked. I shook my head. “I hope your father’s talking to the marshal.”
“That’s where he is right now, but-“ I stopped as Pa walked inside.
Pa walked in then. “Toomey,” he greeted him.
“Hi Lucas. Mark brought in those school benches.” He stated as he worked. He told Pa that he would have to fix them by putting some crossbars on them. I listened as Pa wanted to know how much it would cost the school board. Mr. Toomey said he would just charge for the supplies, but I didn’t think that was fair. After all, his son was one of the kids in the school! “He could throw in the materials, pa,” I suddenly stated.
Of course, Pa didn’t approve of my saying that, but I said what I felt. I guess Mr. Toomey got my point, because he agreed to charge nothing. I smiled, knowing I had won another battle for North Fork. “And will you buy a ticket to the covered dish picnic?” I was on such a roll that I didn’t want to stop yet! It worked! He threw me a quarter.
We heard gunshots then. Pa rushed out and me and Mr. Toomey followed close behind. The shots came from the saloon. I stood in the doorway, but that was as far as I went, because I knew Pa’s rules about going into the saloon. It was the one place in town he forbade me to go. As I stood in the doorway, though, I saw Johnny Clover in there with a gun. He was waving it around while my pa and Micah tried to get it away from him. He finally told my pa he was mad because Pa talked to his uncle about what he did to the school. His uncle tried to wallop him, but instead, he whipped his uncle.
Pa wanted him to put his gun away, but Johnny told Pa to put his down. I watched as Pa did that, then Johnny asked Pa if he was going to wallop him. That’s when Johnny noticed me standing in the doorway. He asked me if Pa walloped hard. I felt sorry for him that he had to be beaten for punishment. My Pa could punish me bad without ever laying a hand on me (except maybe a poke, a pull of the ear, or grabbing my arm). When he asked me, Pa realized I was where I wasn’t supposed to be. He ordered me to get out of there.
I started to turn around and leave, but I decided to obey Johnny instead of my father when Johnny told me he’d shoot my pa if I didn’t come in and talk to him. I hated going against my father’s words, but I couldn’t let Johnny kill my pa! I slowly walked inside and came up to Johnny. I didn’t like him waving the gun around – it made me nervous. But I didn’t like him pointing it at my pa either. Pa started to tell Johnny what he’d do to him if he hurt me, but Johnny told Pa he only wanted to ask me a question.
He asked me if Pa walloped hard. I swallowed, but answered honestly. “My pa never wallops me,” I answered, feeling sorry for any child who was beaten like Johnny was.
My words upset Johnny. He didn’t think that was fair. “You mean to tell me he never smacked you?” I was afraid to answer the truth because it might make him mad enough to shoot. But I couldn’t lie to him either. Pa knew the struggle I must be facing, so he ordered me to keep quiet.
Johnny was mad though. I couldn’t believe he actually wanted to stand and watch my pa hit me, but that’s exactly what he ordered Pa to do. I stood perfectly still, afraid of what Johnny would do next. After a few moments, pa started taking off his belt, acting as if he was getting ready to whip me. I knew my father wouldn’t hit me no matter what – he’d rather risk being shot then hit me to satisfy someone, so I trusted and believed in my pa completely.
I looked in his eyes and saw only love for me there, but I also saw him with a plan. When he told me to come to him, I stood still at first, but then acted like I was going to step forward. Then I watched with a heavy heart as Pa slapped Johnny twice with the belt. I know it was hard for Pa to do that, but he wouldn’t have done it if he didn’t have to.
Pa ordered Johnny to stand up after he took the gun. Then Micah led him to his office. I stood and watched him walk out, then shook my head slowly. “I-I’m sorry, Pa,” I said sadly.
Pa picked me up and carried me out, suddenly needing to feel the closeness to me once again. I needed the same thing as I realized once again how lucky I was to have such a loving father!
When we walked into the Marshall’s office, Pa immediately worked at sobering Johnny up and gave him a cool cloth for his forehead. I watched in awe as he did it with so much love. Even after Johnny had threatened to hurt my pa and wanted to see pa hurt me, pa still wanted to help me. As I watched him talk lovingly to Johnny, I thought to myself about how I want to be just like my pa when I grow up.
They talked for awhile. I won’t go into the details of the whole conversation, because I know my pa’s already told you about that. But I will say that I sure was happy when Johnny decided he’d work on paying for the damages to the school. You know me and my ideas…well, I just got another one. And though it may look like a selfish idea on the surface (and maybe it was to a point), I really was thinking of Johnny…honest!
You see, I suddenly remembered that barn, and thought that Pa could let Johnny stay with us and work with us. “You could give him a job, pa! There’s a lot of work to be done around our barn.” I thought my suggestion was innocent enough…But Pa didn’t miss a thing. He gave me a mean look for suggesting such a thing! I don’t think he really wanted to do it at first.
But how could he resist when he had Johnny’s begging him on one side and me on another. He finally gave in and said Johnny could come home with us. Micah tried to warn him that his uncle wasn’t very nice. But Pa said, “Well Micah, I feel like I’m helping myself by hiring a hand.” He looked at me and shook his head, letting me know he was onto my plan.
I can’t help saying that maybe I was just a little ornery here. I turned around and gave Micah a winning smile, though Micah had no idea that I had just gotten myself out of an extra chore that afternoon! I stood as we got ready to leave. Pa told Johnny to get moving, and Johnny just stood there, so Pa pointed at him and said, “Well, come on!”
I didn’t move at first, waiting for Pa to give me permission to move. “You too!” Pa said as he snapped his fingers and pointed at me. Then he smiled and shook his head at me.
When we got home, I went to unhitch the horses, then started on my chores. Pa came outside. “Mark, when you’re done with your chores, you and Johnny can get started on the barn.”
I stared at him. “Oh, but Pa!”
Pa just looked at me and raised his eyebrows. I groaned. “Oh, but Pa! I thought that’s why we hired Johnny!”
“Yes, I know that was your plan all along, but you will help him since it was you who so kindly pointed out that the barn needed cleaning!” Pa said. Then he raised his eyebrows at me and I nodded.
Since school was canceled for the rest of the week, I got to stay around the ranch and help pa and Johnny with the work. Then on Friday afternoon, we had some men come out with tables and stuff to help us set up for the picnic the next day. “My wife’s been cooking all day!” One man announced. “We sure are going to have lots of good food.”
I watched the men as they sat up the different games. There were horseshoes, target shooting, and even a three legged race, which I told Pa we had to do together! Johnny even suggested that he draw portraits for pay. I knew the picnic was going to be a whole lot of fun!
I sat up with Johnny that night as we played checkers and talked about the following day. Pa came inside from doing his chores and told me to get to bed. I opened my mouth to argue, but he simply pointed to the bedroom. “Yes sir,” I said with a sigh.
I lay in bed for a long time, not being able to get to sleep. I was too excited about tomorrow! I finally fell asleep and dreamed, of course, of the picnic.
When I got up the next morning, Pa was working on fixing sandwiches. “I thought the ladies were taking care of all the food,” I said.
Pa smiled. “Well, since it’s my ranch, I couldn’t just not do anything!” Pa stated. “Since I baked these two loaves of bread yesterday, I thought I’d make a few extra sandwiches.” I reached for a piece of bread, but Pa reached out and lightly smacked my hand. “Go get yourself dressed and ready for breakfast, boy!”
I tried to hurry through breakfast, but Pa made me slow down several times. After breakfast, Johnny started setting up the area in the house where he would have people posing for portraits. I started to race outside to watch people come, but Pa gave me one final order. “Mark, remember that you are the host, not the guest today. Make sure you are on your best behavior!”
“Oh Pa,” I moaned as I raced out the door.
I ran to the first wagon that came along. Jeff jumped out and we ran off together as his Ma took her apple pies to one of the tables. More and more people started arriving, and we were soon in full swing. The horseshoes were more for adults then for kids, but I tried a go at playing anyhow, failing miserably. I watched my Pa, who was able to get 3 out of 4. Mr. Toomey couldn’t even get one, and I started to laugh, thinking it was awfully funny that a blacksmith couldn’t play horseshoes, but Pa shot me a warning look (okay, more like a warning glare). So I immediately stopped laughing.
Some of the boys and I soon got a ballgame together, and we started playing kickball. A couple of us argued over where the bases should be, but Pa came over and settled that argument really fast. He set out the bases and warned me that he wanted no more arguing. We played for quite awhile, and I wasn’t on the winning team!
Next the girls challenged the boys to a relay race. We knew we could win this one hands down, so we took the challenge on. I asked Pa to referee, but he suggested we get a mutual party. Mr. Hamilton came over to do so, and he declared it a tie. This of course made the girls really happy because we could not longer argue that we were better then them!
Pa was talking to one of the other pa’s when I ran up and declared I was hungry. “When are we going to eat?” I asked. Pa reminded me not to interrupt when he was talking to someone, and I apologized. Then pa told me we would eat after the three-legged race.
When it was time for the three-legged race, I ran up to Pa again and told him it was time. I guess we needed more practice, because we fell down several times. It was still a lot of fun. Every time we fell down, we just looked at each other and laughed. I loved hearing the laughter in Pa’s voice as we ran side by side. And I loved seeing him so happy.
But the laughter suddenly died in my throat when I suddenly saw the commotion going on inside our corral. “Pa!” I suddenly shouted. Pa tried to tell Mr. Freemont to leave Johnny alone. Apparently, he had come to teach Johnny a lesson. Pa limped to his horse, our feet still tied together, and grabbed his rifle. Then he started toward the corral. Unfortunately, I wasn’t big enough to keep up with him and kept falling, causing him to fall. So Pa finally picked me up and raced the rest of the way.
Pa did his best to avoid a shootout on such a fun day, but Mr. Freemont would have it no other way. He had to shoot him. Fortunately though, he didn’t kill him – just hurt him a little. Pa untied the rope around our legs and rushed in. He helped Mr. Freemont on his feet and grabbed him by the arm. “Let’s go see the Marshal!” Pa said.
I watched Pa ride off with Mr. Freemont. There was no longer laughter ringing throughout our yard, but Mr. Hamilton soon put an end to that. “I think it’s time for the chopping contest!” He announced. “Ladies, get that food ready, because after the chopping contest, the men are indeed going to be hungry!”
I was sad that my pa wasn’t going to be here for this one, but there was nothing that could be done about it. I came to stand beside Johnny who looked sad. “It’s not your fault. Pa will make sure he doesn’t bother us again.”
“I know,” Johnny said as he patted me on top of the head. “I’m just sorry he had to come ruin such a special day.”
Miss Adams came up to us then. “Listen to all the laughter, Johnny. Your uncle didn’t ruin a thing!”
I smiled as we watched the contest. I didn’t even know the person who finally won the contest. But I did know that it was now time to eat. By this time, Pa was back. I ran to get in line, and got up pretty close to the beginning, but then I felt two strong hands on my shoulders pulling me out of the line. “You’re the host, son.” Pa reminded me. My stomach was growling something awful, but I nodded and moved to the back of the line. Then Reverend Meadows stood up and offered a prayer for the food.
We spent most of the afternoon just sitting around enjoying the food. When I knew I couldn’t hold anymore, I asked Pa if me and some of the kids could go start another game of kickball. Pa reminded me that there was to be no arguing.
It was such a fun day. The fond memories of this day lasted many years. And still today, I smile as I remember back to all we did. As the sun started to sink behind the mountain, the men got out heir harmonicas and fiddles. Then we started the dancing. The boys danced with the boys and the girls danced with the girls. We laughed as we tried to out-dance each other. Then we groaned when slow songs were played for the adults. Many parents had already left, but a few families stayed on, dancing in the moonlight. I was soon the only kid left. Pa came up to me and suggested I say good-night to the rest of the guests.
“Oh, but pa!” I again protested.
“You’ve got church early in the morning!” Pa reminded me as he swatted me lovingly on the backside. “Now get to bed!”
I sighed as I got undressed. Looking at the window, I watched the adults dancing and laughing in the moonlight. Then I slowly got into bed. But I was soon asleep, falling asleep by the sound of adult laughter and fiddle playing. I knew it had been an almost perfect day!
*A special thanks goes out to Michelle Palmer for her insight on how Mark had seen these episodes.
The Angry Man
Mark's Memories ― Table of Contents
You've heard Lucas' story, now hear Mark's Story
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