“Mark, come on, son! Get up. Breakfast is on the table.” I heard Pa say again. This time though he held a bit of warning in his voice. I dragged myself out of bed, feeling very tired. My throat was achy too. After getting dressed, I went to sit down at the table.
Pa saw me as I put my head in my hands. “Did you not sleep well, son?” he asked as he sat my oatmeal in front of me. I just shrugged. He put his hand to my forehead. “Well, you don’t have a fever. I guess you’re just a little tired.”
I took a drink of my milk. “Pa, can I stay home today? I just feel so tired!” I asked.
Pa shook his head. “I’ll be in town all day though. I’ll take you in and check in on you. If you start feeling sick, I’ll bring you home.”
I sighed as I took a bite of my oatmeal. I didn’t understand why I had to go. Pa was reading my thoughts, though, and smiled. “Son, just because one is tired doesn’t mean he can use that as an excuse to stay in bed. Maybe you’ll shake it off soon.”
“Yes sir,” I said quietly.
After breakfast, we went on our way. Pa stopped right in front of the school. “You know, I am feeling a little better!” I declared.
Pa smiled. I almost thought it was a relieved smile on his face. “Great! Have a great day, son.”
I was okay most of the morning, but by about 10:30, I was feeling ill. I couldn’t concentrate on what Miss Adams was saying. The room looked like it was moving around. And it was getting really hot! “Mark McCain?” I heard Miss Adams call.
I lifted my head from my desk. Miss Adams rushed over to me. She felt my head. “Lay your head back down, Mark. Is your Pa in town today?”
“Yes ma’am,” I answered quietly. I heard her tell someone…I think Charlie…to go get my Pa and the doctor. I then heard her tell all the kids to go outside for an extra recess. I just laid there.
I laid there for what seemed like a long time. But then I heard Pa’s voice. By this point, it was like an echo. “Charlie said Mark’s sick?” Pa asked. I heard the concern in his voice. Then he was over there, bending down beside me. “Son, what is it?”
I lifted my head. He put his hands on my cheeks. “You’re burning up, son. How do you feel?”
“I just hurt all over and feel really hot and dizzy, Pa.” I groaned.
Suddenly, Pa lifted me up in his strong, secure arms and rushed out of the school. “The doc’s waiting for you in his office.”
I knew that Pa didn’t deal well with me being sick. Even when I had a little cold, he would get overly concerned. I looked at his face as he carried me into town as fast as he could. There, I saw so much concern and fear. “I’ll be okay, Pa,” I tried to assure him.
Pa took me in and gently laid me down on the bed. I was so tired and so weak that I drifted off to sleep. When I woke up, Pa was sitting there holding my hand and smiling. “Hi, Pa!” I said weakly. Pa smoothed my hair back from my forehead. “I don’t feel so well, Pa.”
Pa nodded. “You’ve got the measles, son. Doc Burge says several of the kids in your class has them.”
“Oh,” I said. I looked around the room. “Am I gonna have to stay here at the doc’s?”
“No,” Pa smiled. “Hattie’s going to come sit with you while I get the supplies we’ll need. The doc’s giving you a tonic to help you through. You’ll be sick for about a week, but you’ll live.”
“Oh,” I licked my lips. “Can I have some water?” Pa held a cup up to my lips and I lifted my head to take a drink. “You aren’t worried, are you?”
“Not as much now that I know what it is,” Pa answered.
“Have you…had the measles?” Pa shook his head. “Pa, can I go back to sleep now?”
The next time I woke up, Pa was lifting my up into his strong arms again. He smiled as I opened my eyes. “I have the back of the wagon all set for you, son. It should be a comfortable trip.” He tucked the blankets around me and made sure I was completely comfortable before he climbed up onto the wagon seat and started for home. The road was a bit jolty and I bumped around some, but Pa managed to get me home in one piece.
I sat up after he pulled up beside the house. Pa came back and started to lift me out. “I can walk, Pa,” I stated.
Pa put his hands under my arms and looked at me. “I know, but let a overly-concerned Pa have this pleasure.” I smiled weakly as he picked me up and carried me into the house. He tucked me into bed and kneeled down beside me. “Do you need anything? Some broth or water? Anything?”
“Sleep,” I answered as I drifted off.
When I woke up, I was itching something awful. I’m supposing the spots finally appeared. As I scratched them, Pa came in to check on them. “Uh uh uh uh,” Pa shook a finger at me and put another cloth on my head. “No scratching, son.”
I complained that it itched terribly, and Pa threatened to sit on me if I kept scratching.
So, for the next three days, I laid in bed while my Pa checked on my every hour. I felt bad that he just stayed around the house and couldn’t do his ranch work, but he just told me that this is where he was supposed to be, and he had neighbors watching the stock for him. Sometimes, Miss Hattie or Micah would come sit with me to let Pa go work on some chores, but I don’t remember Pa being away from me for more then an hour the entire time I was in bed.
My fever broke about four days later and I started feeling a lot better, but Pa told me that until the doctor told me differently, I couldn’t get out of bed. I groaned and rolled my eyes at this, but Pa simply gave me a look that told me his word was final. I sure was happy when the doctor finally came to check on me. He asked me how I felt and I told him I felt fine. But Pa came to stand directly behind Doc Burge. “Tell us the truth, son.”
I sighed. “Alright, I still feel tired. But Pa, I’ve been in this bed for four days! Can I please get up?”
Doc Burge laughed and said he didn’t blame me for wanting to get up. “I tell you what,” Doc Burge said. “You stay in bed for the rest of the day today, and if your fever doesn’t come back, maybe your Pa will let you sit up tomorrow.”
“Okay, Pa?” I asked. Pa nodded his head.
I got out of bed the next morning as soon as the sun was up. Pa was already in the kitchen cooking breakfast. He must have heard me walk in, because he turned around from mixing the eggs. “Morning, son.” He sat the bowl down and walked over to me. He laid a hand on my forehead and smiled. “Well, you still have spots, but no fever,” he smiled. “Get in my chair. I’ll get you a blanket.”
I think that was the only time I was ever aloud to eat my breakfast in that chair! After he took my plate, Pa went out to gather the eggs. When he came back in, Miss Adams was with him. I smiled at her. “How are you feeling, Mark?” she asked as she came to sit beside me.
“Not good enough to come back to school!” I answered hastily as I looked at Pa. Pa raised an eyebrow at me and shook his head.
“Well, your Pa didn’t want you to get too behind on your studies, so I brought some lessons for you to work on.” She gave me a list. On there, I saw math lessons, reading lessons, spelling lessons, and even history reading. I thought I was going to be sick!
“Ah, shucks Miss Adams! I’m sick. I don’t think I should-“ I started.
But Pa immediately interrupted me. “He’ll do them, Miss Adams!” He said as he gave me a look. “Won’t you, boy?”
“Yes sir,” I groaned. It was only Tuesday, and I had been happy when Doc Burge said I would stay out of school for the rest of the week. That’s when Pa told him to look up Miss Adams and ask her to have my assignments sent out.
Miss Adams smiled at me. “Well, on another note, I brought you a book to read that I think you’ll like. It's called Moby Dick. It's about a giant whale and a sea captain. The captain spends his life trying to catch that whale because he bit off his leg."
“The whole hog?” I asked. That surprised me, and I was suddenly interested in reading this book.
She started to tell me the rest, but then told my pa to read it to me while he was here taking care of me. She started to leave, but when she stood up, some papers fell. My pa, the gentleman, bent over and helped her. I listened as Miss Adams started telling Pa that she was starting a class for women to teach them about government and woman voting.
I could tell right away that my pa didn’t like the idea. He thought a woman’s place was in the house keeping it clean, cooking, sewing, and taking care of the kids. I’ve asked him about voting before, and he told me that it’s a man’s job to understand the issues and make the best decision on who should run our town and our country.
After Miss Adams left, I asked him if she was serious about women voting. He handed me a pamphlet she had left and told me to stay there while he went to town and got my tonic refilled.
While he was gone, I started looking at the pamphlet a little bit. But mostly I just sat there and daydreamed. I wasn’t going to touch my school work until Pa made me, which would probably be really soon! I was really getting interested in the pamphlet when Pa came back in.
But he wasn’t alone. Miss Adams was with him. I wanted to know what was going on, but by the expressions on their faces, I knew I wasn’t to ask any questions. Pa came up to me and took the blanket off me. He told me I needed to go lay down for awhile. I knew he and Miss Adams were going to do some talking, and he didn’t want me to hear what was going on. As I walked toward the bedroom, I told Pa that I had been reading the pamphlet. “Wouldn’t you have wanted Ma to vote?” I asked.
I put Pa on the spot. Miss Adams had already gotten on to him earlier for saying some things, so Pa wasn’t about to open his mouth now. He said he might have to read the pamphlet and decide for himself.
While I was in the bedroom, I laid awake in bed. Now, a energetic boy like me can get pretty stir crazy in bed, so I got up and started moving around a bit. I got down my horses and plastic cowboy and Indian and pretended like I was engaging in a fierce battle like The Battle of Little Big Horn that had happened just a few years before. I galloped the horses through the air as I ran around the room in circles. I guess I was making too much noise, because came in. “Mark!”
I stopped and turned around, the toys still in my hands. “Pa, I’m restless! I can’t just lay in that bed anymore!”
Pa came over and grabbed the horses and other plastic toys from my hands and sat them on the dresser. Then he turned and pointed to the bed. “But Pa! I can’t sleep and I feel fine!”
He just stood there with a stern look on his face and pointed at the bed. I got in bed and he came over and put the covers over me. “Lunch will be in about an hour and I’ll let you come sit at the table. Until then though, I want you to take a nap!”
“But Pa! I’m not even tired.” I complained.
“I mean it, Mark. This afternoon, you can do some schoolwork.” I groaned at that, but knew better then to complain.
I laid there awake of course, anxiously counting the minutes until I could get up and eat lunch. Suddenly, I heard some yelling in the yard. I got out of bed and ran over to the window. Looking out, I saw some of the Healeys in the yard. They were yelling at each other and stuff, but I couldn’t make out what they were saying, and I didn’t dare open the window to listen.
Suddenly, my eyes grew wide as I saw Jed Healey with a gun in his hand. He was crying and yelling as his Pa. Then he shot his Pa. I sure was wishing I could hear what was going on! They sat there for a minute. Pa chased the other Healy’s off his place. Garth stayed there with his Pa doctoring him the best he could. “Mark!” I suddenly heard.
I turned and saw Pa standing in the doorway, his hands on his hips. “I-I’m sorry, Pa! I just-“ I started. But he simply pointed at the bed and I slowly made my way back to the bed. “I’m getting really hungry. Is it almost time to eat?”
Pa nodded. “We’re going to load Pa Healy up in the buckboard so his son can take him back to town. Then we’ll eat. This afternoon while you are doing schoolwork, I’ll have to go into town and take care of things with the Marshal.”
“What was it all about?” I asked.
Pa turned and looked out the door. Then he came in and sat on the side of my bed. “Mark, it’s kind of a private matter between them and Miss Adams. I want to respect that privacy. You understand?”
I nodded. “All I can tell you is that what happened today was bound to happen sooner or later anyway.”
I sure was happy when I finally got to go sit at the table to eat my lunch. After I was done, Pa sent me to his chair with a blanket. He sat my schoolwork right beside me. “Now son, I’m going to let you sit up since I can’t seem to keep you in bed. But, I want you to stay put and do your schoolwork. I’ll check on what you did when I get back from town.”
“Pa?” I asked as he stood up to leave. He turned around. “When can I start moving around again?”
Pa put his face right in front of mine and looked sternly into my eyes. “When the last spot is gone,” he answered.
“Do I still have a lot of spots?” Pa nodded. I groaned. “You stay there, you hear?”
When Pa came back, he told me Pa Healy was going to be okay. His son, Garth, was leaving town. His son Jed was in jail for shooting his Pa. I thought it was kind of sad. “Is Miss Adams having that town meeting and marching tonight?” I asked.
Pa shook his head. “In a few days, son,” he answered. “Why?”
I smiled. “Well, I certainly don’t want to miss it!” I declared. Pa just raised an eyebrow at me.
Well, guess what happened a few days later? Pa got sick! Yep, he sure did. He didn’t get as sick as I was, but he still got sick and broke out all over with the measles. I thought I was going to get to miss school in order to stay home and take care of him, but Pa informed me that things worked differently with adults – and he would take care of himself!
I went for the doctor, who came out and informed my Pa that it was just one of those advantages of having a child – everything I got, I shared with him!
When I came home from school one day, Pa was sleeping in his chair. He really looked crummy. I asked him how he felt and he just moaned. “Have you been there all day?” He simply nodded his head. I smiled and said something about that it was great I wasn’t the only one in the house who had to have those itchy spots. He didn’t even open his eyes. “You should be in bed, Pa. You know what the doctor said!”
“I’m fine right where I’m at,” Pa said. “I don’t want to move from this chair…ever!”
I had read some of Moby Dick to him the day before as he snoozed in his chair. He asked me to read some to him again, mainly because he knew it was a class assignment, and that was the only way he was going to get me to read it. But I thought he needed to hear what the pamphlet had to say. I picked it up and started reading it from where I left off. But then something I read puzzled me. “And so gentle women of the gentler sex, we ask you to evaluate the meaning of the word freedom. We ask you to stand together now, holding hands against the common tyrant that enslaves us.” I read with emotion. Then I stared at the next word. “Man?”
Pa didn’t like what I was reading and insisted that I go back to Moby Dick. I was enjoying the pamphlet and wanted to continue reading, regardless of what I just read. But Hattie came just then with Pa’s tonic. I had stopped by on my way home from school, but she said she hadn’t had a chance to fill it. After asking Pa how he was, she started to leave.
But as I watched her go, my eyes grew big and round. She had on a bright colored pair of silky pants. I didn’t like the look of that, and if that’s how women were going to try to win men over, I wasn’t ready for that! I slowly walked back to my chair, throwing the pamphlet on the table as I passed by. “Maybe we should go back to Moby Dick, Pa!” I stated as I again turned and looked at the door. Pa simply patted my hand with sympathy.
*A special thanks goes out to Michelle Palmer for her insight on how Mark had seen these episodes.
The Money Gun
Mark's Memories ― Table of Contents
You've heard Lucas' story, now hear Mark's Story
The Angry Man
around The McCain Ranch