You've heard Lucas' story, now hear Mark's Story
written by Michelle Palmer
Tinhorn — Episode 134
Sweat poured from my brow as Pa and I worked for the second day cutting hay. It was hard, slow work without a hay machine. I knew of some around these parts who had them and shook my head. Walking over to the water barrel on the back of the wagon, I took a long swig. “I don’t understand why we are living in the dark ages!” I groaned.
Pa smiled at me. “What do you mean by the ‘dark ages’, son?”
I sighed as I took yet another drink of water. “Well, why don’t we have a hay machine? Why don’t we get one of them new plows that do the work faster? Why don’t we get those new feeders for our cattle? And why –“ I dumped a ladle of water of my head and sighed in satisfaction. “-don’t we get a toilet inside the house?”
“A…” Pa put his hands on his hips. “A…toilet?????” I flinched at Pa’s raised voice. “Mark, why should we get a toilet INSIDE our house? Why would a person want a thing like that inside?”
“Well, they have ‘em at the hotel,” I pointed out.
“That’s the hotel, son. It’s not our home.” Pa folded his arms together and gave me a hard stare. I looked away. I could feel the hairs on the back of my neck standing on end. “Why should we want a toilet in our house when we have a perfectly fine outhouse just out back?” As Pa spoke, he jabbed his hand toward the house and outhouse. “Well, boy?”
“Well…” I sighed. “That way, we won’t have to go outside in the middle of the night and risk rattle snakes or…or…skunks in the darkness. And in the middle of winter we wouldn’t have those…” I wrinkled up my nose just thinking on it. “Those nasty chamber pots to empty!”
Pa shook his head. “I don’t understand you, Mark! Nobody in their right mind would like something like that INSIDE their house! Why, if we do that, we might as well move the cattle and pigs inside to…in fact, why don’t we just move to the barn?”
“Sorry I mentioned it.” I put my gloves back on and turned to go back to our task.
“And about the other stuff…” Pa pointed a gloved hand at me. “You just remember, boy, that hard work doesn’t hurt a person! Idleness has cause for troublemaking!”
“Yes sir.” I turned and rolled my eyes as I listened to Pa’s tongue lashing all the way back to the hay.
I was dog-tired when I got home that night. I groaned and threw myself down in Pa’s chair. “Mark, you have mud all over your boots!” Pa complained. “Take them off outside!”
I stood up with a groan and went outside to remove my boots. Then I came back in. “What’s for supper?”
Pa turned and put his hands on his hips. I flinched. I just wasn’t have a good day! “Uh…I mean, what would you like me to fix for supper, Pa?”
Pa picked up a bucket and headed out the door. “Why don’t you fry up some fried potatoes and pork sausage tonight, son. I have something I have to do in town after supper.”
I smiled. “Oh! We’re going in town?”
“No.” Pa turned and pointed toward my books. “You’re doing your studies, son.” He pointed at his chest. “I’m going into town.”
“Milly again?” I asked.
“Uh…” Pa lowered his eyes. He wouldn’t look at me. “I have some uh…business to tend to.” He turned and started down the steps on the porch. “But first, I have to take a bath.”
I watched him leave as I began wondering what sort of business would give him cause to take a bath in the middle of the week. I just shrugged and shook my head. Obviously it was none of my business.
I was asleep when Pa got in the night before. I had taken advantage of him not being there and stayed up later than I was supposed to. As a result, I was unable to get up at my regular time. I listened as again Pa lit into me about my being old enough to be responsible. He said he shouldn’t have to be home to tuck me into bed at night – I knew when my bedtime was. All I could say was “Yes sir.”
So because I got up late, I got a late start to school. That was only part of the problem I was about to face. When I walked in, Miss Pritchard had already started discussing our latest essay assignments. She stopped when she saw me rush inside. “Mark, see me after school,” Miss Pritchard stated with a click of her tongue.
I looked around the classroom. “You mean…at lunch…”
“No. I mean after school.” Then she went back to teaching. She handed out our latest essays. As she handed them out, she began speaking with a hint of impatience in her voice. “I don’t know what you children have been doing over the harvest break, but it seems to me that none of you can remember how to smell. I only gave one “A” on this latest essay. That “A” goes to Lucille Bennet.”
I turned and watched as Miss Pritchard handed Lucille her essay. She smiled. “Great job, Lucille.” Lucille looked at me and smiled as she held up her paper for me to see. I rolled my eyes and turned back around.
“Maybe you should get Lucille to help you with your homework,” Freddie teased.
“Mr. McCain…Mr. Toomey…” Miss Pritchard was a very strict teacher – even more strict than Mr. Griswald. I was counting the days for Mr. Griswald to get back. But for now, I turned and sat straight up in my seat. “Both of you may now stay after school.”
She walked back up to her desk and clasped her hands together in front of her. “Now, because the rest of you cannot seem to spell your IE/EI words, we will be working on those for the next couple of weeks. You will be expected to write 20 different words each night correctly. I will also be giving weekly spelling tests on these words.”
I groaned. She dismissed class for lunch and turned as she began writing the afternoon lessons on the board. “Uh…Miss Pritchard?” She turned and looked at me. The lift of her eyes indicated she was waiting for me to continue. “As you know, I get off at noon and-“
“And as you know, Mr. McCain,” Miss Pritchard said as she folded her arms and stepped off the platform. “Mr. Griswald’s agreement with you clearly stated that you would be dismissed at noon as long as you grades keep up. If they begin slipping, you will return to full days until they approve.” She lifted her eyebrows. “Am I correct?”
I sighed. “Yes ma’am.”
“What did you make on your essay, Mark?”
I hesitated. “Actually ma’am, I didn’t look. I was sorta…afraid to.”
Miss Pritchard nodded toward my hand which held the essay in it. I slowly turned it over. Ink marks were scribbled all over the paper and a great big D- was sprawled at the top. “Ohhhhh….” I groaned loudly. I’d been so busy lately that I hadn’t had time to put proper care into my studies.
“And this isn’t the only thing you’re slipping in, Mr. McCain.” Her intent eyes bore into mine. I knew she was referring to my arithmetic grade. “Have you showed these things to your father?”
“No ma’am.” I sighed. “We’ve been so busy lately and…and…he’ll kill me when he finds out.”
“Kill is a pretty strong word, Mr. McCain. I’m sure your father will punish you appropriately.” She stepped back up onto the platform and began busying herself with some papers. “Since you will be going full days for the near future, you have no choice now but to tell your father. I expect you back in time for the afternoon session.”
“Yes ma’am.” I sighed with a shake of my head. Pa surely wasn’t going to like this! It seems lately, I’ve had a record for growing down instead of up.
“Oh, and while you’re breaking the news to him, I suggest you also make him aware that you will be assisting me with the firewood after school.”
“You WHAT?” I cringed as Pa’s angry voice hollered very close to my ear.
“I…” I swallowed. I was standing in front of my Pa looking him in the eye as he had demanded only moments ago when I told him I had something bad to tell him. “I…made a D- on my last essay.”
Pa crossed his arms. “Well…what do you have to say for yourself, boy?”
“That’s not all…sir…” I swallowed as I looked into Pa’s irate eyes. “My arithmetic grade has also slipped down to a…a…” I hesitated. I couldn’t bring myself to say the word.
“A…WHAT?” Pa demanded.
“Well…is there anything else?” I could tell sentence was just about to be passed.
“Yes sir.” Pa closed his eyes to regain composure. “I also have to stay after school today to chop wood on account I was late…and Freddie talked to me in class.”
“I see.” Pa started pacing in front of me. He clasped his hands behind his back. “Well…” He shook his head. “Well…well…well…well…”
“Well, I’ve been working so hard on the ranch lately, Pa that I guess I’ve been rushing through my homework. And that sentence for you I just finished…it was rough. I-“
“That is no excuse, boy!” Pa stopped and shook a finger at me. “Mark, I have a lot to worry about right now, and I don’t need this! There’s something going on in town that keeps me away at night right now and I…” Pa sighed. “Alright, you’ll go full days for awhile and I’ll hire someone to help me with the hard chores until you bring your grades back up.” Pa folded his arms and stood in front of me again. “No…you’ll hire someone – I mean, I have someone in mind and I’ll talk to him in town tonight, but you’re allowance will go towards his pay. When you come home from school, you’ll go straight to your chores and then you will spend the rest of the evening doing homework.”
Needless to say, Pa wasn’t happy. But I wasn’t too happy with him either. He wasn’t telling me what was going on in the evenings, and quite frankly, his secrets were bothering me. When I got back to school, Willie hurried up to me. He crossed his arms. “Mark knows the new tin horn in town. He knows him really well!”
I rolled my eyes as I went up the steps. “Who?” I asked.
“His name is Lucas. Lucas McCain.”
I suddenly turned in the doorway and narrowed my eyes at Willie. “What?” I snapped.
“Your father is a tin horn!” Willie answered. “He gambles in the hotel every…single…night…”
I clinched my fists at my side. “You take that back!” I ordered. “You take that back right now!”
“Mr. McCain, what-“ Miss Pritchard suddenly appeared in the doorway. “Now boys, I don’t know what this is all about, but you two best get inside.” Willie and I just stared there glaring at each other. “Now!” Miss Pritchard demanded.
I sat in class all afternoon trying to figure out why Willie said what he did. The truth was, I didn’t know. I remember all the talks Pa and I had over the years about gambling. He said a man works hard for his money, and he should be careful on how he spends it. Anytime I wanted to engage in a bet, he reminded me of what I went through to earn the money I wished to bet. Pa said cards lead many to a road of despair.
By the time class was over, I was beside myself as I wondered what exactly was going on. I couldn’t help but wonder why my Pa was in town every night. Many nights, he didn’t come home until late. He wasn’t there to see that I got my homework and evening chores done. For the last several nights, Pa had been in town. It wasn’t like him to leave me home alone after dark while he went to town, and gambling wasn’t something my father engaged in – rather I needed parenting or not.
I worked on the woodpile for an hour. Miss Pritchard finally dismissed me and I took off for home as quickly as I could. As I rode, Willie’s words echoed in my head. Why would he say something so crazy as that?
When I got home, Pa was working on supper. He wanted to get supper eaten so he could get into town earlier tonight. I stood in the doorway and watched him with crossed arms. I leaned against the doorway and cocked my head to one side, studying him. Pa turned and froze when he saw me. “Mark? Is something wrong?”
I walked to the table and sat my books down. “Why do you go into town every night?” I asked softly.
Pa continued working in the kitchen. “I have some business to tend to,” Pa answered. He avoided my eyes. I could tell he was hiding something.
“What sort of business?” I asked as I closed my eyes.
Pa turned from the stove. “Son, would you go get to your chores? After the dishes are done, I want you studying on your homework. You’ll show it to me in the morning.” He turned back to the stove. “And make sure you get to bed by 9:00 tonight!” I just stood in my spot staring at him. Pa suddenly turned and looked at me. “Well?”
“Well nothing,” I answered. I hurried out to do my chores.
I slammed my pencil down on the table in frustration and shook my head. “Oh Pa, what’s going on?” I put a hand to my forehead as I tried to make sense of it all. I was punished for not tending to my work like I was supposed to, yet Pa could go and-
I stopped myself. No – I wasn’t going to think that of Pa. He had always been a good father. He’s always here for me when I need him! Except for lately.
I looked down at my math book and sighed. I had to get this done! I wrote down the problem and studied the numbers, but they meant nothing. If only Pa were here – he’d know how to help me!
But he wasn’t. He was in town. Why?
I looked towards the door. The sun was going down and Pa wouldn’t like it much if I rode into town. I looked back down at the numbers. I rubbed my eyes and opened them again. 23K was written on there. I looked on the second line of the problem A5J. That was it!
I stood up and grabbed my jacket. Then I went outside to saddle Blue Boy.
It was dark by the time I rode into town. I dismounted Blue Boy in front of the General Store. No sooner had I jumped off when Willie ran up to me. “Hey, Tin Horn!” He laughed at me. “Come to see your old man?”
“No,” I answered as I lifted my head up high. “I just went for a ride.”
“Well, your Pa’s over there.” He pointed at the hotel. “He’s over there right now with that waitress. He’s been gambling for a couple hours now. Been there every night!”
“Liar! Liar!” I screamed.
“I saw it with my own eyes!” Willie shouted back.
"I don't care what you saw! You're a liar!" I shouted then.
"I am not a liar! You take that back!"
“Liar!” I screamed. Willie hit me hard and we toppled to the ground. We fought – Willie got the best of me.
I was so angry! I hated someone calling my Pa names and saying anything against him.
Willie was hateful. He wanted me to look in the window – if he was right, he’d punch me in the arm for an apology.
I slowly stood up and grabbed my hat. I hesitated as I walked toward the hotel. What if…
I stopped and shook my head. There was no way my Pa would be there. He wouldn’t leave me at home alone while he gambled his hard-earned money away! He wouldn’t-
My thoughts died as I stared into the window. Sitting at a poker table playing poker was my father. A woman sleekly dressed was leaning over him smiling and laughing. I couldn’t believe my eyes! I just couldn’t…
All these years Pa had taught me gambling was bad. All these years Pa had brought me up learning the importance of a dollar – teaching me that a father’s place is with his children – not at a saloon or at a poker table. The air left my lungs as I stared.
I barely felt Willie punch my arm. I was hurting much worse on the inside. I slowly turned and walked away from the window. I couldn’t think. I felt tears well up in my eyes. “I can’t believe it! I just…” My words died.
“Mark!” I turned to see Miss Milly running up to me. “Mark, what were you and that boy fighting about?”
“Nothin’!” I turned toward Blue Boy.
Milly grabbed my arm and turned me back around. “Now Mark, don’t you fib to me! I’ll bend you over my knee. Now you tell me what that was all about!”
I turned toward the hotel. “Nothing. I gotta get home before Pa finds out I’m gone.” I started toward Blue Boy.
Milly suddenly gasped. She grabbed my face with her hand and studied my eye. “Now Mark McCain, you come with me and let me see about that eye!” I heard the hint of anger in her voice. “And I demand you tell me what’s going on with you!”
I stayed silent as she pulled me by the arm all the way to her house. Blue Boy was allowed to come behind me. When we were inside, Milly pushed me down into a chair and went to the kitchen for her medicine box. She started doctoring my eye. “Well, I’m waiting.”
“Nothin’!” I said.
“That’s not an answer. There had to be some reason you boys were fighting and I want to know what that reason is, Mark!”
“Miss Milly…” I cleared my throat. “All I can tell you is that Willie made me mad.”
“You aren’t going to tell me then?” Milly asked.
“No ma’am.” I lowered my head. I felt her stern stare. I looked up. “I’m sorry, but this has to stay between him and me.” I stood up and put my hat on. I touched my hat to her, then turned toward the door. “I’m sorry. Thanks for caring.” Then I walked out the door.
There wasn’t much moonlight on the way home but Blue Boy knew the path well enough. I was tired when I got home. I took one look at my books and shook my head. I knew Pa would be upset when he found out, but I was pretty upset with him as well.
I laid down but couldn’t go to sleep. I tossed from one side to the other thinking on Pa and his gambling. I just couldn’t believe I’d seen what it seemed like I’d seen. I knew…in my heart…that there just HAD to be some explanation.
It was an hour later that I heard the door open and Pa walk in. I went to confront him about the situation, same as he’d do if the shoe was reversed. Pa saw me and apologized for waking me. “I wasn’t asleep.”
Pa noticed the bruises on my face and hurried forward. “Say, it looks like you got banged up a little. What happened?” I pulled away from him. I didn’t need or want his concern at the moment. I told him Milly took good care of my bruises.
“Milly? What did you do? Get in a fight in town?” Pa asked. He didn’t even act like anything was wrong with my being in town.
He did notice I was holding out on him. "Now Mark, we don't keep things from each other as a rule."
"No...not as a rule,” I answered sarcastically.
“Well then?” Pa walked up behind me and leaned onto the chair.
“I got in a fight with Willie. I said he was lying and…and he wasn’t.”
Pa waited, but I didn’t say anymore. "Lying about what?" he finally asked.
I turned to him. "About you gamblin' with that man who's married to the new waitress at the hotel. Willie said you’re no better then a Tin Horn. "
"And you fought him on my account?" Pa sat me down at the table.
“One of our neighbors had gambled with the man called Keeler. He’d lost his ranch to the man. Pa thought he was cheating. That’s why he was playing. I was relieved to hear he did have an explanation. Pa cleared his throat. “Son, I know I’ve been away a lot of nights, and I hate that. If the man gambled during the day, I’d be here for you at night. I have to help our friend. You know that.”
I nodded. “Pa, you should have told me.”
Pa sighed. “I know, son. I’m sorry. I just…” Pa cleared his throat. “I’ve always taught you, Mark, that gambling isn’t good. You waste your money and…well…this is a good example. I don’t condone gambling, but I don’t condemn it either. But son, when a man cheats at cards or anything else…it’s the citizens that have to stand up to the injustice. That’s what I’m doing.” Pa leaned forward and placed a hand on mine. “I’m sorry, son. It was wrong of me to keep it from you. I guess I was afraid you’d be…ashamed of me.”
I couldn’t answer. I stood up. “Let’s turn in, Pa. I stopped in mid-stretch and turned back to Pa. “You should know, Pa, that…well…that I didn’t get my homework done tonight. I just couldn’t’ concentrate.”
Pa watched me for a second. Then he nodded. “Thanks for telling me, son. Let’s go to bed.”
The next morning, I made sure to wake up early so I could hurry with my chores. By the time Pa got up, I was sitting at the table. He walked by me and ruffled my hair as he greeted me. “Oh, I’m sorry! I meant to get the coffee on,” I apologized as Pa started the fire in the stove.
“Why, you gonna drink it?” Pa asked.
“No.” Pa and I looked at each other for only a moment. Then we laughed. “Homework done?”
I closed my tablet. “And I took my time! I didn’t get my twenty ie/ei words done yet. Maybe if I hurry to school I’ll have time to do them before.” I strapped my books together and grabbed my saddle bags. I had the door opened before Pa stopped me. “Whoa! Whoa! Whoa there, cowboy!” I turned and looked at Pa. “What about your breakfast?”
“My breakfast?” Pa nodded. “I’ll eat an apple on the way to school. See ya!”
Again I tried to get out the door. “Since when have I allowed you to leave this house without a proper breakfast? Sit down.” I sat. “While I fix the mush, you go ahead and finish your homework.”
I groaned. “Mush? I’d rather go without breakfast!” Pa turned and glanced at me. Then he shook his head.
“You need me this afternoon to help with the hay, right Pa? I mean…I have to get out at noon today?” I asked hopefully.
“Nope. Your priority is school. I hired a hand – he’ll do the work just fine. But when you get out of school today son, I want you to come straight home. You have a lot of chores waiting for you this weekend – and a lot of studying.”
I was glad it was Friday. Pa said it wouldn’t be long before it was all over. I hoped he was right.
When I got to school, Willie and some of his buddies were there to give me a friendly greeting. The only problem was – I didn’t think it was friendly enough! Willie laughed and called me a tin horn. I wanted to punch him right in the nose, and was all ready to at recess when he took off into the school. “Just wait until I get my hands on him!” I mumbled.
After school I went into town and again, Willie was there teasing me. He had a mock game going on outside the General Store. Joe and I walked by and quickly walked into the store. I went up to the candy and studied it for only a moment. Then I pulled the two cent piece from my pocket and took that much candy. “How’s your face, Mark?” Milly asked nicely.
“It’s fine. Don’t hurt a bit!” I declared with a smile. “I better get home or something else may start hurting soon! See ya, Milly!”
I hurried through my chores. Pa had supper ready when I got to the house and I managed to get the dishes washed while he was still there. I turned to see Pa come out with fresh clothes on. “You going again, ain’t ya?” I asked.
Pa walked up to me and put his hands on my shoulders. “I’m going again. Listen son, tonight is the big night. It’ll all be over…one way or another.”
“You know I don’t like you doing this.”
“I know.” Pa pointed to the table. “Now, I want you working on your studies until bedtime.”
I groaned. “But Pa, it’s Friday-“ I started.
Pa walked up to the wash basin and started wiping his face. “Mark!” Pa’s voice snapped.
“Yes sir.” I sighed and took out my tablet. I’d already started a list. I thought of another word – glacier. I looked at it, remembering the simple I before e rule. Wait a minute…
"I before E except after C and when sounding like A is in neighbor and weigh." That was Pa’s help.
“I know that…well, like here’s a word where the I comes before an E and it’s after a C! Glacier,” I pointed out.
“Glacier…Oh, that’s a French word or something,” Pa tried to reason. I wonder why parents always came up with a good reason for things!
I looked down at the paper again. This was just not going to work! I threw down my pencil. “I can’t concentrate.”
“Well son, it’ll all be over tomorrow, one way or another.” Pa patted my head. “Goodnight.”
I tried to go back to my lessons. But instead of writing my I-E words, I wrote words like 'gambler' then 'gunfight.'
Yep, I could tell this was going to be a long night! I worked for a couple more hours on my homework, but I didn’t get very far. I finally got frustrated and decided to go straight to bed.
But as I lay there in the darkness, I heard the piano music playing. I saw my father sitting at the poker table with those men – drinking hard liquor and smiling at pretty girls. Then I saw it in my mind – Pa calling someone a cheating tin horn. I heard a gunshot.
I sat straight up in bed and threw back my covers. That’s it! I’m going to town – rather I get into trouble or not!
Again, I relied on Blue Boy to get us there. I rode into town and pulled up in front of Micah’s office. He came out wanting to know what I was doing there. He thought maybe something was wrong.
“No sir. I just thought I’d take a ride. I couldn’t get to sleep.” I was really worried. I looked over toward the hotel. Knowing what Pa was doing in there really made me uncomfortable. “Micah, isn’t there something’ you can do? Can’t you arrest him or something?”
“Not until he breaks the law, and there’s no law against poker,” Micah answered. He then took me inside to wait on the outcome.
I obeyed him because I had to. But I turned to the window and stared out onto the street. From behind me, Micah tapped a pencil on his desk over and over. I allowed a sigh to escape me. “What’s got you so bothered, Mark?” Micah asked.
“I don’t know.”
“That’s no answer.” The tapping suddenly stopped. I heard the chair squeak as Micah soot up and came over to me. He leaned sideways against the wall in front of me and waited. “Well?”
“Micah, all my life Pa’s taught me that gambling’s bad. He said that we work too hard for our money and should think wisely on how to use it. He said many lives are ruined over gambling.”
“Yes,” Micah answered. “I don’t take up gambling myself either. But, Mark-“
I held up my hand. “Don’t say it, Micah.” I crossed my arms. “Pa must be a pretty good poker player being over there so long. I reckon that’s what’s gotten me so riled.”
“Oh.” Micah lowered his gaze to the floor, then lifted his face back up toward me. “Mark, I’m sure you’ve heard tales about your father’s life before your mother came along.”
“Your father was a different man then.” I nodded. “He was young…immature like the rest of us. He has regrets.”
“Yeah, I know.” I sighed as I laid my head against the window. “But I suppose I don’t want to see that side of him. I guess a boy wants to see his folks as perfect – inhuman…immortal…”
“Hm.” Micah turned from the window then. “Come on, boy. Let’s play checkers.”
We did. We played one game…and another…and another…I was growing tired. Micah made me lay down on the cot in the cell and go to sleep. It didn’t take me long to fall asleep.
“Mark? Mark?” I suddenly heard Pa’s voice.
I groaned and opened my eyes. “Come on out of there, son. We need that bed.”
I suddenly sat up and saw Mr. Keeler behind Pa. Micah had a firm grasp on him. “What-“ I started.
Pa took my arm and led me out. I sat down by the table and picked up the cards. I smiled as I started studying the cards. They were marked! I continued studying them as Pa and Micah continued talking. Then I made the announcement. "Hey look at this, Pa….this is a marked deck." I declared excitedly.
“I know, son. I know.” From the sound of Pa’s voice, he didn’t want me to be excited about it.
I hit the cards on the table a couple times. "Pa...teach me how to pay poker!"
"If you don't Lucasboy, somebody else will," Micah warned Pa.
"Yeah but not for a while yet Micah. Alright son, someday! First thing you have to learn about poker is that it's not always played as a game. Come on, let's go home."
We walked out the door. “Wait a minute, Pa! Micah said we could have that deck of cards as a souvenir! I think I want them! I turned around and started back inside.
Pa grabbed my arm and turned me back around. “Oh no you don’t, boy!” I heard the finality in his voice.
We mounted our horses and started down the street. “Pa, how much did you win tonight?”
“Nevermind, son!” Pa answered.
“Well…I was just wondering what you were going to do with all that money,” I explained.
Pa sighed but said nothing. “Well, we could use a good haying machine…or a harvester…or…we could get a toilet inside…”
Razor stopped. Blue Boy took his cue and stopped beside him. Pa turned in his saddle. “Son, have you not learned anything from all this? Because if you haven’t, perhaps this weekend is a good time for you to learn another lesson.”
We started riding slowly down the road. I wasn’t going to ask Pa what I was supposed to learn – because then he would make me have a lesson this weekend. Pa saved me the trouble. “Money is not important, son. We get the hay cut every year, don’t we?”
“And we get our crops harvested and our cattle fed. We have no trouble walking to the outhouse.”
“I guess not.” I sighed.
“Son, Mr. Phillips almost lost everything he had because of that little thing called money. He thought he could make some fast cash to buy seed and look at all the trouble it caused him.” Pa stayed silent for a few moments. “Getting those things you want – they may make our jobs easier, but then what do we do?” I could think of plenty to do, but I didn’t figure Pa would be interested in hearing about them. “When you grow up, you’ll always remember the hours we spent together cutting the hay and stacking it. You’ll remember us working side-by-side in the fields bringing in the crops. You’ll remember riding out on the range and working with the cattle.”
“Yeah.” I smiled. “How many hours have we put in I wonder…How many of those hours could be used for fishing together instead?”
I heard Pa suck in his breath beside me. I reckon I did have a little more growing up to do at that. “Well…” Pa gave me a sideways glance. “Anyway, I can’t keep money earned over a poker table. I’m giving it all – every penny except my $125 I started with – to the city council. They’ll use it as aid for our poorer citizens.”
“Yes sir.” I was a 13 year old boy, so of course the news upset me a bit. But I understood Pa’s matter of principle. “I reckon we’ll keep doing our chores the old-fashioned way…for now.”
“Mm hm…” Pa answered. “Now, shall we discuss the little matter of you out on the road alone at night?” I saw Pa’s finger suddenly point at me. “Now boy, it’s been two nights that you’ve done this. You know how I feel about-“
“Uh Pa, I also know how you feel about leaving me ‘home alone’ at night. Usually you have Miss Milly or Micah look after me.” I saw Pa give me one of ‘those’ looks. “Uh, let’s hurry home. I suddenly feel very tired!” I galloped Blue Boy forward and smiled as I heard Razor quickly speed up to catch up with me, as I also heard Pa laughing.
*A special thanks goes out to Michelle Palmer for her insight on how Mark had seen these episodes.
None So Blind
Mark's Memories ― Table of Contents
You've heard Lucas' story, now hear Mark's Story
around The McCain Ranch