The Writer's Corner
Written by Michelle Palmer
A Mark’s Memory Production
I studied my paper carefully.
Everything looked in order, but I knew Pa would want to check it
for accuracy. I stood up and ran into the bedroom where Pa
had been for quite sometime. I saw him going through one
of our memory boxes that was usually kept under the bed.
“Pa, my essay’s done.” I got no response. I bent
down next to Pa. “Uh, Pa?” I reached out and touched his
Pa jumped, startled by my sudden
touch. He stared at me then threw a hand to his chest.
“Mark,” Pa breathed a sigh of relief. He gave a short
laugh. “You startled me, son.”
I sat down on the
floor next to him and looked over his shoulder. “What’s
that? It looks like scribbles on a paper.”
Pa’s smile widened
as he put an arm around my shoulder. “This, my dear son,
is a work of art. You were only three years old.” Pa
sighed as he thought back. “Ten years ago. Your
mother was working on the laundry outside and you had a little
cold. There was a coolness in the air and she didn’t want
you outside.” Pa studied the paper in silence.
Pa picked up where
he left off as if he didn’t even hear me. Maybe he hadn’t.
“You were so hurt because you couldn’t go with me on my chores.
I told you to stay at the table and draw me a pretty picture of
your favorite thing, then I’d come in and look at it.”
“Hm,” Pa nodded
proudly. “This is it.”
I leaned my head
on his shoulder. He squeezed me closer to his side. “What
Pa looked down at
me and grinned. “Well, this line here is you, son.
And this is me. Over there is your mother.” I looked
up at Pa and smiled. “We’re out on the range herding the cattle.
You’d always sit on the saddle in front of me when your mother
would allow you to go. That was your favorite place – up
on the saddle with me.”
Pa sat the picture down and
picked up something else. It was a picture of the three of
us. I was six years old. “Two weeks before your
mother died.” Pa turned and looked at me. “We’ve
been alone for almost seven years now, son. More years
then you had your mother.”
“Thirteen’s a big year, huh?”
“Yeah.” Pa swallowed.
“You’ve become a real man, son. I’m proud of you. In
the last two weeks, I’ve watched you really get serious about
your studies. You haven’t gotten into trouble in about
that long either.” Pa put a hand on my face. “My
boy’s growing up.”
I looked around the floor.
“Are you reflecting on happier days gone by?”
“No, no, son. I’m
reflecting on my life as a father of a small boy. In two
days, I’ll be a father of a teenager. I…” Pa stopped and
swallowed. “It just went so fast.”
I suddenly put a hand to his
back. “Well, if it’s all the same to you, Pa, I think I’ll
stay a boy for a while longer. I’m not ready to be all
mature and grown up just yet.”
Pa smiled at me. “Thanks,
son.” He stuffed the papers back in the box and shoved it
under my bed. “Now, about that essay you want me to read.”
“Mark, this is your final
warning!” I groaned, hearing the firmness in Pa’s voice.
Pa stood in the bedroom with his arms crossed. I saw him
as I opened one eye. “You’ll be late, son. Now, get
I groaned and stretched.
Then I slid out of bed. My bare foot hit something on the
cold floor. I bent down and picked it up. It had a
bunch of three letter words written on it. At the top, it
had a great bit smiley face. “Mark, I said-“ Pa stopped
and walked over to the bed.
“What is this?” I asked, holding
out the paper to him.
Pa grabbed it and sat down on the
side of the bed. He put a hand to his mouth as he grinned
proudly from ear to ear. “This, my son, is a paper from
your second week of school.”
“My second week?”
“Hm,” Pa nodded. “You
teacher worked with you and the other children on the first day
of school to learn reading and spelling. She gave you a
list of words to write down. This is the list.”
I looked down at the paper.
“But Pa…You said this was from the second week.”
“So I did,” Pa answered.
“You see, you weren’t too keen on the idea of going to school.
If you think back, you might remember the fits you threw that
first week and the final trip to the barn we took to get you
started back on track.” Pa shook his head as he stared at
the paper. “You were a stubborn, stubborn little boy!
You refused to do your homework, and you tried to run and hide
every morning. Your mother took everything from you she
could, but you didn’t’ care! You wouldn’t give in. I
finally took you to the barn and tanned your britches. The
next day, you willingly went to school.”
I thought back to that time.
I reckoned that was the first and only time I ever did get my
britches tanned. I remembered Pa telling me it wasn’t a
laripin or hitting – it was a spanking out of love. “That
weekend, we again told you to write your words. You did.
This is the paper you turned in on Monday.” Pa smiled.
“You were such a cute little boy! Those sunken dimples on
your cheek as you handed us the paper. Your Ma threw her
arms around you and squealed so loudly. Then you said,
‘Ma, I get a cookie now?’”
Pa continued staring at the
paper. “Well, you best go eat your breakfast. I’ll
be in there in a minute.”
I knew Pa was again walking down
memory lane. On the way out, I saw my slingshot sitting on
top of the dresser. I wasn’t allowed to take it to school
with me, but today, while Pa was distracted with my paper from
seven years ago, I grabbed it off the dresser and hurried out
Pa walked with me out to my
horse. He suddenly felt uneasy – like I was leaving to
never return. “You be careful now, son.”
I had one foot in the stirrup and
froze at his words. I turned and cocked my head to one
side. “Pa, I’m going to school like I always do. You
act like I’m going off to war.”
Pa smiled and slapped my shoulder
with his hand. “Just uneasy this morning.”
“Oh, by the way, Pa, I think
everyone in my school will be here for my birthday party
tomorrow night. I told them we’d have plenty of cake and
“Ice cream?” Pa put a hand on his
hip and stared at me. “I never said anything about ice
“Oh, but Pa, we have to have ice
cream!” I stated. “Besides,” I cocked my head to one side.
“You make the best ice cream in the world and uh…I only turn 13
Pa narrowed his eyes at me as a
grin spread across his face. “Oh, you!” He gave me a smack
on the back side. “Get to school!”
I laughed as I mounted my horse.
“Now, remember Pa, this year I want a rifle for my birthday.”
Pa shook his head. “You
already know the answer to that!”
“Well then, a dog?” Pa
sternly pointed toward the road. “Yes sir.”
I didn’t turn around to look as I
rode away. I didn’t have to. I knew Pa was shaking
his head at me.
I smiled happily as I rode to
school. But when I was half-way there, I stopped my horse
and peered down the path. The stagecoach was coming down
the lane at a high rate of speed. They usually didn’t come
this far out toward the ranch unless something was wrong.
I sat there on my horse and studied the cloud of dust as the
stagecoach got closer and closer. My instincts told me
something was wrong.
Suddenly, I heard gunshots.
I saw horses running along side the stagecoach. It took a
minute of my studying on it to figure out what was going on.
The stagecoach was being held up!
I turned my horse and started
back towards home to get Pa. But the driver in front
suddenly shouted, “You stop, boy!” I kicked my heels into
Blue Boy’s flank and he neighed a protest, but ran faster.
Suddenly, a bullet whizzed right past my ear. Blue Boy
startled and reared back on his hind legs with a loud cry.
I held tight, but held Blue Boy at an abrupt halt.
I was soon surrounded by three
men on horses. Two more had the stagecoach pulled over on
the side of the road. I swallowed, suddenly terrified for
what they were going to do. “What…what do you want?” I
asked in a shaky voice.
One of the riders – the one with
the long, bushy mustache and a scar that ran clear across his
forehead, smiled really big as he looked me up and down.
“Well, it’s jut a kid!” He laughed. He saw my books on my
saddle horn and lifted them up. “On his way to school.
Too bad you didn’t decide to play hooky today, kid!” He
looked behind me at another man who was grinning from ear to
ear. “Ain’t it, Mole?”
Mole laughed. “It sure is,
Lizard!” Mole reached out and smacked my face a few times.
“Yep, still wet behind the ears alright! Hey, you know how
to use a gun?”
I turned and stared at all three
men. “N-No,” I answered.
“Oh, too bad,” Lizard exclaimed
as he ran a hand across his sunken cheek. “Never played
shootout with a boy as young as you.” He leaned forward.
“How old you, boy?”
I swallowed as I looked around
again. “What do you want?” I asked again. This time
I asked it a little more forcibly.
Mole grabbed me by the shirt and
pulled me toward him. I had to hold tight to the saddle to
keep from falling out. “We want you dead,” he sneered.
“Now, get down off that horse!”
I swallowed hard as I obliged
him. After I got down, I turned and looked at the other
men. “Why don’t you take the money and go? You done
shot the driver and got the money. What else do you want?”
“I done told you, we want you
dead!” Mole smiled at me again. “You see, nobody’s ever
been able to identify us. We don’t want no pictures on our
Wanted Poster! Nobody knows who we ‘er, but now…now you’ve
I gave Blue Boy a hard smack on
the rump and he took off at lightening speed. Lizard took
out his gun and shot at Blue Boy as he raced down the lane.
Blue Boy cried out in pain, but kept going. “Get after
that horse, Shark!” Mole yelled to the third man.
“Run Blue Boy, Run!” I cried out.
Silently, I prayed he’d make it home to Pa in time.
“Fool Boy!” Mole smacked me hard
across the face. I winced, but made no sign of pain as I
continued staring at him. He drew out his gun and stuck it
under my chin. “Say yer prayers!” He cocked the
hammer. I closed my eyes as a tear ran down my cheek.
“Mole, put it away!” I
heard another voice order.
Mole looked up with a grunt.
“But boss, he-“
“I said put it away!” Mole
jammed the gun into my chin. I kept my eyes closed.
My heart calmed when the metal
was no longer pressing to my chin. I opened my eyes to see
the boss of the gang glaring at me. “What’s your name,
looked around. “Ma-Mark.”
The boss slapped me hard across
the face. I closed my eyes as pain shot through my
stinging jaw. “Mitchell!” I lied. “Mark Mitchell!”
“Want me to finish the driver
off?” The fifth rider walked up to the group. “He’s still
breathing, but he’s shot bad.” The boss didn’t say
Boss turned around and slowly
shook his head. He looked up at the sky. “No,” he
answered. “I reckon the buzzards’ll get him soon.
Maybe they’ll do some peckin’ afore he meets his maker!”
I gasped as I turned my head
toward the wagon. Mr. Cole laid there. I’d known Mr.
Cole for a long time – he’d been the very first stagecoach
driver I ever knew.
Shark came back without my horse.
“Sorry, Boss. I don’t know where he went.”
The Boss cursed. He took
out his gun and held it in his hand. Wiping his forehead
with his gun hand, he walked back and fourth as he thought.
“Okay, let’s get the boy in the coach and-“
“No Boss, we need to kill the boy
right now!” Mole argued.
Boss came over and smacked Mole
hard. Mole cried out in pain as his nose began bleeding.
“I give the orders round here! No one else!” Mole
nodded. “Now, we’re gonna have an angry Pa following us
shortly, and I hear tell that an ugly cuss lives here with the
name a McCain. I don’t want to tangle with him. I
done had my run-in with him back in Oklahoma a few years back.”
I closed my eyes
in relief. I was so glad he didn’t know McCain was my Pa.
I know they would have shot me on sight! They dragged me
over and put me on the stage. I asked them to get the
driver, but they said he was as good as dead anyhow. I
listened as Boss turned toward the other members of the gang.
“Shark, you ‘an Skunk ride on ahead to the next town.
We’re gonna hit Bannick day after tomorrow. You two be
I watched them
ride off. “Who are you?” I shouted.
Lizard walked up
to the Coach and grinned. “Ever heard of the Snake Gang?”
I had from my Pa.
He told me some wicked stories on them from Oklahoma. I
couldn’t let them know who they were though. I shook my
head. “Don’t look like much, though!”
Lizard slapped me
hard. I felt blood ooze out of my mouth. “Shut your
Lizard to ride along the stage on his horse. “I’ll take
the other side. Mole, you drive!”
I was the only one
in the coach. Apparently there were no passengers aboard
this stage, and I was glad. The stage took off at a fast
speed. I began digging in my pockets to see what weapons I
had to fight with. I was no longer a child. Tomorrow
I’d be thirteen. I was old enough to fight now. I
was old enough to go up against the outlaws.
We had been
traveling for a solid two hours. I looked out the window.
Nothing looked familiar to me. I leaned my head against
the back of the seat and closed my eyes. Oh, how I wished
I was in school right now day-dreaming about my party I was
having tomorrow night! My birthday’s tomorrow. My
head suddenly banged against the side of the coach as the stage
ran over a rock. I began to wonder – would I live to see
my thirteenth birthday?
I felt tears
filling my eyes, but I pushed them back. I knew there was
no time for tears at the moment. I had to stay focused on
my task at hand. I had to get through this. I looked
down at the seat. I had my pocket knife and my slingshot.
I also had a couple nickels I had been saving for candy after
school. Those are all the weapons I had to work with.
I knew Boss was on
one side of the coach and Lizard was on the other. Driving
the stage was Mole. That gave me three outlaws to fight.
I looked down at the slingshot and knife. I didn’t have
much to fight them with!
I sat back and
remembered the story from the Bible Pa had read last Sunday – it
was one of my favorites about David killing a Giant that
threatened his people with just a slingshot and three stones.
There were three men…I didn’t want to kill anyone, but if I
could knock them unconscious long enough to get them away, I-
“Oh Pa, do you
even know I’m missing?” I whispered. “Do you think I’m at
school? I wish I was! Oh, how I wish I was!”
I opened my eyes.
The stage was slowing down. I leaned over out the window
and saw the Boss holding up his hand toward Mole. I reckon
we would be stopping for a spell. I sat quiet as a mouse
in the coach and listened to what was about to be said
“Let’s get rid of the boy here, take our horses, and go!” Lizard
suggested with a gruff voice.
I peeked out the
window. The three men were standing together talking.
“Have you forgotten I make the rules round here, Lizard?” Boss
sneered at him. He folded his arms. “Now, we’re
still undetected. Nobody knows where we are. This
road isn’t used that much except by dumb sodbusters who don’t
know no better!”
tracks and dust following us all the way from North Fork!” Mole
argued. “We have no choice but to kill the boy and ride
like the devil on our horses.”
Boss took out his
gun and pointed it at Mole. “Like I said, I’m the boss.
You wanta do more arguing?”
crazy!” Lizard argued. “Supposing that McCain fella gets
in on the posse? Will we have a chance?”
thought as he scratched his head with his gun hand. “Not
much of one.”
I knew I was just
about to die. I had to act fast! Their backs were
all turned to me. I quietly opened the door of the coach
and snuck out. I peaked around the corner. “Alright
Lizard, you do it,” Boss ordered.
asked. “Why not Mole? He was all set to do it!”
There was silence. I slowly began walking off the road and
toward the woods. “I’ve never gunned a kid!”
“Oh, you coward!”
Mole shouted as I continued making my way into the woods.
“Alright, I’ll do it.”
I darted behind a
tree. I couldn’t see the coach from my position, but there
was no mistaken Moles angry growl. “The kid’s gone!”
“Well, he couldn’t
have gone far!” Boss replied angrily. “Lizard, you go that
way, Mole that way. I’ll look in the woods.”
I looked around
me. There was no where to go without being a sitting duck.
I grabbed my slingshot from my pocket and picked up a small
stone. Aiming for some bushes across the way, I shot it.
My plan worked perfectly! Boss turned and shot at the bush
where my stone had landed. “Alright, you stupid kid, come
I’d be stupid if I thought I stood a better chance standing in
front of him then hiding behind this tree! For now, I was
safe! I looked behind me and saw a big rock I could hide
behind. Chances were I had more bullets for my weapon back
there. I started running. Just as I landed behind
the rock, I tripped over the root of a tree. My ankle
twisted as I went down. I put a hand to my mouth to keep
my cry from sounding too loudly.
Pain shot through
my ankle. I knew it was a bad sprang if not a break.
Oh, why had I been so clumsy? What was I going to do now?
I knew I had no choice – it was me or them!
They searched the
woods for a long time. By looking at the sun , I could
tell that it was getting to be afternoon. About 2:00. I
was supposed to meet Pa in town when school let out at 3.
If he didn’t know I was missing, he soon would.
I suddenly gasped.
I heard footsteps quickly approaching. I peaked around the
rock and saw Lizard looking around. He would soon be by
the rock where I was hiding. I closed my eyes and prayed
to my Protector.
“Pa, how old you
reckon David was when he killed that Giant?” I remembered asking
as I sat on the floor at Pa’s knees last Sunday morning.
“Well, the Bible
doesn’t say son, but I’m figuring he might have been around your
age,” Pa had answered as he smiled down at me.
I thought on that
for a minute. “Supposing that I come up on a giant, Pa.
You thinking that maybe I could slay him with a slingshot?”
Pa bent down and
looked at me. He smiled and placed a hand on my cheek.
“It wasn’t the slingshot that saved David that day, son.
It was his faith in God. He was fighting for the Truth –
He stood up for his God. You remember what he said, ‘You
come to me with a sword and a spear; but I come to you in the
name of the Lord.’”
I had looked down
at my own Bible and read those words again. “You suppose
I’ll face a giant someday, Pa?”
Pa had sat back
and sighed. “I hope not, son. As your father, I pray
you will never have to face a giant. But if you ever do,
remember that you’ll always have me and God backing you.
Have faith in that son.”
I looked down
behind the rock. I stared at the man. He was closer
now, but his back was turned. I looked up at the sky and
prayed for God to help me. Then I looked down at the
ground. I found a large stone. If I aimed just
right, I’d be able to hit him right between the eyes. Pa
had done some yelling about me practicing my target shooting on
the playground at school. I’d even had this slingshot
taken away from me at times. But today, I was glad for my
disobedience to the school rules. Pa was right – this was
a weapon as dangerous as his Winchester!
I looked up at the
man. Taking a deep breath, I whispered, “You come to me
with a sword and a spear, but I come to you in the name of the
Lord.” My shaking hands brought the sling back as far as
it would go. I closed one eye and aimed it right at his
head. The man turned and started to draw his gun. I
The man grunted as
he fell to the ground. I had rendered him unconscious.
Painfully, I scooted over to him and looked down. He had
a pretty bad head wound. I knew he’d be out for quite a
spell. I took his six shooter and winced as I scooted back
behind the rock. I stared at it. I’d never be able
to use it, and Pa told me that a man with a gun he didn’t know
how to use was more dangerous then a man with a gun who knew how
to use it. I emptied the bullets from the chamber and
pocketed them. Then I threw the gun back toward the man.
I knew my odds of
escaping alive had decreased considerably. As soon as Boss
and Mole found Lizard, they’d be after me! I sat down
behind the rock and closed my eyes. What was I going to do
I closed my eyes
and listened carefully for any sound of footsteps. Pa had
taught me and taught me well. He taught me how to listen
like an Indian for the slightest movement. He taught me to
listen to my senses deep inside me to tell when I needed to come
on guard. I had looked around for a better hiding place.
I’d even thought on running deeper into the woods. But Pa
told me never to run into a situation blind. That’s
exactly what I’d be doing if I ran deeper into the woods.
And with the way my ankle was aching and swelling, I didn’t
figure I had much of a chance anyhow.
I thought back to
all the times Pa had to get himself or me out of scrapes.
Many times, he had to use his rifle, but he said he never shot
to kill. Sometimes, a quick shot couldn’t be aimed right –
and many times, shooting at vital organs was the only sure way
to know that you would not be killed yourself.
I remember one
time as we rode home after such a shooting, I told Pa I was
actually proud of how great he was as using the rifle. He
had just killed a man. Pa suddenly stopped the wagon and
jumped down. “Jump down here, boy!”
He took my hand
and walked me into the woods. “It wasn’t long ago that the
whole New Mexico territory was just like these here woods.
Oh, I don’t mean the trees and grasses – I mean the wild
wilderness. There was no law and man had to use weapons to
stay alive. It’s not like that anymore, but here I am
still having to use this.” Pa held the rifle out to me.
“Touch it, son.”
I reached out and
touched it. “This is a weapon. A deadly weapon.
What you are touching isn’t what makes it deadly though.
It’s the man behind it. Son, whatever weapon you have,
remember that it’s another human being or animal – another one
of God’s creatures – standing in front of you. God made
that person or animal on purpose. There are no accidents
in God’s nature. I didn’t know the man I killed or what
demons he faced. But I had no choice.”
I stared into Pa’s
stern eyes. I was only ten at the time. Pa kneeled
down in front of me and laid a hand on my shoulder. “Mark,
after the killing, never, ever be proud. Allow your heart
to cry. Allow your hands to shake.”
My eyes suddenly
popped open and I looked around. There was no sound coming
from the woods. It was quiet. Too quiet. I had
complained many times about hearing the same old lectures over
and over and about getting the same stern teachings over and
over. But I was beginning to see why Pa had done it.
growled. I’d been stuck behind this rock for hours.
I looked down on the ground and picked up another large stone.
I wiped the tear that came to my eyes.
Suddenly, I heard
two voices in the distance. I strained to listen. I
looked behind me and heard the man moaning. He had moaned
a few times and was bleeding to death. But there was
nothing – absolutely nothing – I could do about it. I was
prepared to shoot him again, but only if I had to!
“Because he’s a
blazing idiot, that’s why!” I couldn’t tell which man that
lost here in the woods somewhere!” The voices were getting
“Oh God, what am I
going to do?” I prayed.
Pa’s words echoed
in my head. “Have faith…have faith…have faith…” I
took out my pocket knife and opened it, ready to use it if I had
I often wondered
if I’d actually be able to hurt another man. My first use
of a deadly weapon against a man showed me I had the courage to
protect myself. I suddenly found I didn’t need a rifle –
at least not yet.
“He’s just a
little kid! He’s only – what – eleven? Twelve at the
most?” That was Boss and he was getting awfully close.
“You go back and watch the road. I’ll just walk down to
this rock, then go looking somewhere else.” The sound of a
wild cat was heard. “If he went deeper into those woods,
he’s a goner anyhow. These woods are full of Cougars.
This is Cougar Canyon.”
I swallowed hard.
We were far from North Fork! I had no idea how to even get
back. I hid behind the rock and held tight to the knife.
I began breathing heavily as the footsteps got closer and
closer! I looked up from the rock and saw Boss. His
gun was drawn and he was walking straight toward me. I’d
be discovered in another minute. I grabbed my slingshot
and aimed it at the man. If he turned, I’d be able to get
him right between the eyes.
My hands were
shaking something awful as I again whispered, “You come to me
with a sword and a spear, but I come to you in the name of the
He heard my
whisper and whirled around. I let the sling go and again,
he toppled over. But he moaned and reached for his gun.
I stomped on his hand and held it down. The wound on his
head was worse then the other man’s, and he soon leaned back and
went to sleep. I grabbed the gun and pocketed the bullets.
Now I only had one man left.
But I had another
problem. The other man was coming to. Oh, what was I
going to do? I didn’t want to hit him again. The man
sat up slowly looked around. I grabbed another stone and
aimed it at the man. He held up his hands. I turned
and looked at Boss. He was still out cold!<
Again, I repeated,
“You come to me with a sword and a spear, but I come to you in
the name of the Lord!”
The man slowly
stood. He painfully smiled at me and started toward me.
My hands were shaking as I again let the sling go. He fell
to the ground but wasn’t out. I stared at my knife.
My hands began shaking as I reached to pick it up. I
didn’t know if I could use it on a man or not! “Help me
God!” I cried out loud. “Help me!”
grabbed a big rock and bashed the man on top of the head with
it. He fell to the ground, cold.
I sat back against
the rock. My hands were shaking and my eyes were burning
with tears. I brought my knees to my chest and buried my
face in my arms as I wept for what I had done.
Boss?” I heard the last man holler. It was Mole, and he
was the meanest of them all. I looked up at the sky.
It was getting close to 6:00 now. The sun was almost down
and I would soon be here alone with a mad man and a man who
would be mad when – and if – he came to. I scooted over to
Boss and looked at him. His wound was bad. He had
lost a lot of blood. I wasn’t sure if he’d live through
this or not.
I winced as I
stood. “Please God, give me strength!” I cried out.
I stood, but couldn’t put much weight on my ankle. I was
afraid I would be doing more damage to my ankle, but right now I
had bigger problems. I picked up my knife and slingshot
and cautiously made my way to the front. I painfully
hobbled and hid behind the tree I had hidden behind at my first
screamed again. “It’s getting dark! We’ve got to get
out of here!”
I turned and
looked on the ground for another stone. But then I looked
down at the weapons in my hands. I had killed a man today.
Could I ever use these again? “Hey kid, if you’re out
there, you better show your face afore them cats come out after
I closed my eyes
to regain strength. “Have faith…have faith…have faith…”
Pa’s voice echoed loud and clear again.
I couldn’t stay
out here very much longer. My shaking hand picked up the
stone. I took the slingshot and got it ready. Then I
stepped out from behind the tree.
There he was –
right in front of me. Tears flooded my eyes as I pointed
the slingshot at the man. His gun was still holstered.
I sniffed loudly as tears filled my nose. “You…You come to
me with a sword…and a…” I swallowed. “and a spear…” I drew
the sling further back, closed one eye, and aimed. “But I
come to you in the name of the…Lord!”
I held my fire.
Mole stared at me and suddenly started smacking his hands and
laughing. “A slingshot and God?” he asked. “That’s
all you think you need?” He laughed. “Oh, let me
guess! You are David and I’m Goliath!” He backed away as
he laughed. Then he stood up straight and started toward
me. “Okay, boy, I-“
I kept my aim and
fired. The stone was rather large and hit him right
between the eyes. A grunt escaped him as he fell to the
ground. His eyes were open and he stared up at me.
“I’m thirteen!” I shouted as I wiped the tears from my eyes.
“I’m thirteen tomorrow!”
I grabbed his gun
as his eyes closed. I emptied the bullets from it then
threw the gun down. I didn’t wait around to see if he was
alive or dead. I closed my eyes and cried out in pain as I
quickly ran as best as I could to the road, got on a horse, and
raced off in the opposite direction as the last rays of sun sank
behind the mountain.
It was pitch black
now. I had no idea where I was, nor did I know if I was
even going in the right direction. I heard the cats
screaming from the woods. “Have faith…have faith…have
faith…” Pa’s voice kept tune with the clip clop of the horse’s
hooves. With my good foot, I kicked in on the flank for
him to go faster. I had been riding for a long time and
was so tired, I was about to fall out of the saddle.
Suddenly, I heard
a noise. It was another horse – two or three more horses –
and they were coming this way! I stopped the horse and
fell off of him. I cried out as pain again shot through my
broken ankle. “Oh God, help me!” I crawled off the
road and into the woods.
horses stopped. I stayed quiet and hid my face. I
prayed it wasn’t those men returning for me. My shaking
hands once again opened my pocket knife and readied the
slingshot. I began feeling around in the grass for a stone
but couldn’t find it.
The footsteps were
silent but stepped off the road. They were getting
I began feeling around for a stone. Tears burned my eyes.
My face was soon wet with tears and sweat as I heard the
footsteps come even closer.
“Mark!” I gasped.
That was my Pa’s voice. “Hello? Who’s out here?”
I wanted to call
out, but was afraid those men were there. This could be
some sort of a trick. My heart pounded in my chest.
My throat closed up. I couldn’t speak.
Tears again wet my
“Mark, if you’re
here, it’s okay, son. It’s Pa and Micah. It’s just us.
Mark?” Pa’s voice called out.
I whispered his
name. Then I closed my eyes and screamed, “Pa! Over
here! Oh Pa, I’m over here!”
I lifted my head
and saw Pa’s shadow run toward me. A light lit his way.
“Over here, Pa! I’m over here!” I cried.
Pa found me.
He fell to the ground and picked me up into this strong arms.
“Mark!” He cried. I suddenly felt wet tears on his own
cheek. “Oh Mark! Thank God you’re alright!”
Pa lifted his head
from shoulder and looked into my eyes. “Blue Boy came back
shot and I’ve been looking for you, son.”
remembered what I had done. I suddenly felt a deep sadness
sweep through me and I began shaking uncontrollably. I
clung to Pa and wept bitterly for a long time. Pa didn’t
know what to think and just held me and rocked me back and
forth. He patted my hair. “Sh, Mark. Sh, son.”
He said over and over. “Pa’s here. You’re alright!”
I couldn’t speak!
How could I admit that I…I killed a man – maybe more? Is
that what coming of age is about? If not, I didn’t want my
Pa picked me up in
his arms and carried me, but I continued clinging to him and
crying. My moans became less frequent, and I soon fell
When I woke up, I
was riding in front of Pa on his horse like I used to when I was
little. For a minute, I didn’t understand what was
happening, then it all came back to me. “Oh God, no!”
I began crying again. Pa’s arms was around me and he
clinched as I began shaking. “Oh God, forgive me!”
We were riding
into North Fork now. Pa stopped in front of the Doctor’s
office and hollered for help. I vaguely remember him
handing me down to someone and hurried into Doc’s office.
I laid down on the cot, turned over and cried. Someone
touched my ankle. That’s when I remembered that I had hurt
it. I cried out in pain. “I’ll give him a shot,” Doc
Burrage mumbled quietly. “He needs to sleep.”
“No,” I cried.
“Don’t take the pain away! Pa said I need to feel the
pain!” But I felt the needle go into my arm as Pa’s strong
hands held me down. Everything went black.
I slowly opened my
eyes. The room was bright with light. I looked
around to discover I was in my own bed at the ranch. Milly
sat at my side reading a book. I groaned at the pain I
felt in my ankle and she jumped up. “Lucas!” she shouted.
Pa hurried in
from the other room and bent down beside me. “Hello son.”
Pa smiled tearfully as he smoothed the hair back from my face.
“How’s your ankle?”
I stared at Pa.,
then at Milly. I put a hand to my forehead as I tried to
remember the events that had happened. Suddenly, I
remembered. “Pa, what is today?”
Pa smoothed the
hair back from my head. “It’s Saturday,” he answered
softly. “It’s your birthday.”
shouted suddenly. I sat up, but the room spun around.
“Take it easy,
son.” Pa grabbed me and pushed me back down on the bed.
“Doc has you on some medicine to help you sleep. He said
you shouldn’t move around on it too much.”
I wanted to cry
out again about everything I remembered. But first thing’s
first. “Pa, they’re planning on job in Bannock!
Shark and Skunk are there waiting for the others.”
“Shark and Skunk
are in jail, son,” Pa answered. “They never made it to
I closed my eyes
and breathed a sigh of relief. “What about the others?”
Pa looked at
Milly. He motioned for her to leave. Milly gave me a
look of sympathy and told me she’d be just outside the door.
I watched her leave then turned back to Pa. “Well?”
Pa lowered his
head. “Well, after Blue Boy came back yesterday morning, I
took off looking for you. But then I knew I needed help
and raced into town for Micah. Together, we looked for
along time. The coach left a pretty good trail, but we
came up on Shark and Skunk.. I knew Boss from back in
Oklahoma and knew they were part of his gang. That’s when
I really began to worry. Well, we were finally able to
head them off and Micah’s deputies took them back to North Fork.
“I also knew that
you were in grave danger. They’d have no trouble gunning a
kid. It was getting dark by this time, and by the time we
found the coach, you’d already done your work.” Pa pulled
out the slingshot. “You went up against a giant, son.
And you won.”
I stared at Pa as
he spoke those words. He wasn’t smiling. He was
looking quite grim. I swallowed. “I didn’t win,” I
said. Tears began to fill my eyes again. “Are they…”
Pa stood up and
walked to the window. He stared outside for a long time.
“Part of me wants to lie and tell you they’re fine. I know
what it feels like, and no man – or child – should have to live
with this hurt. I knew what you were feeling last night
when you begged me not to take the hurt away. You wanted
to feel it, but I couldn’t stand it, son.”
“I want the truth,
Pa.” I really did want the truth. “I’m pretty sure that
Pa came back and
sat down on my bed. He took my hands in his and looked
into my eyes. “He is.”
I bent my head
down and allowed the tears to come. I wrapped my arms
around Pa and wept bitterly. “I didn’t mean to kill him!
Oh God, I didn’t mean to kill him!” I cried out.
Pa was crying too.
I heard him sniffing. “I know you didn’t, son. So
does God.” Pa lifted me up and cradled me like I was a
baby. “I hurt for you, son.”
After my tears
were spent, I pushed back and looked into Pa’s eyes. “Mole
Pa lowered his
head. “They are critically injured. Doc doesn’t
think Boss will make it.”
Again, I cried.
“Can I pray he does?” I asked.
“Of course you can, son.” Pa put his hands on my face.
“Mark, I know this is something you’ll have to live with the
rest of your life. Every man I’ve killed has chipped away
at my heart. It’s hard to get over a killing. But
never…ever be sorry it hurts you so bad. I love you for
the pain you felt. It makes me proud that you have such a
“Pa, God’s who did
it. Each time I went to face the giant, I said those
words. Each time, God fought for me – just like he did for
Pa’s eyes again
filled up with tears. He held me close as he cried tears
of joy. “I’ll help you through this, Mark. I promise
Pa wrapped my
ankle up after he helped me get my pants on. “I’m sure
glad it wasn’t broken!” I declared.
nervously. “Something wrong?” It was Saturday night and I
had insisted on going ahead with my party. It took some
convincing, but Milly was finally able to talk him into having a
short party. She promised she would personally scoot the
guests out the door if I started feeling the least bit
Pa carried me out
into the living room and sat me down at the table. Milly
smiled at me proudly and blinked the tears back from her eyes.
The cake sat in front of me. Pa walked over and hugged
her, thanking her for being here. I smiled as he placed a
quick peck on her cheek.
“They can come in
now,” Milly announced. Pa went to the door and called
We had cake and
ice cream. I got some curious glancings from some of my
school friends. I suspect Pa had a stern talk with them
about not mentioning the events of the last two days. I
was glad, because I’d just as soon forget any of it ever
But then Micah
arrived. Pa took a deep breath and looked at me nervously.
He grabbed Milly’s hand as if she was holding him up.
“Okay, Micah has an announcement!”
I stared at Micah.
“As you know, the Snake Gang has been on the run for years.”
Micah looked around the room as everyone grew deathly quiet.
“There was an award out for them, and the bank who’s money was
on yesterday’s stage donated additional money.” Micah took
out a piece of paper from his pocket. “Mark McCain, I’m
giving you a bank draft in the amount of $3,500.00.”
The air left my
chest as my mouth popped open. There were gasps all around
the room as everyone stared at me. Micah held the bank
draft out to me and my shaking hand reached out for it.
I stared down at
the amount on the check, but couldn’t believe the amount it was
But then I started
thinking. I remembered the man lying there with blood all
over his head after I killed him. I had taken that life
from him. I remembered those other two men who may never
recover because of my hands. I knew I had done the only
thing – if not the right thing – I could do. But I also
remembered the pain and anguish it had caused not only me and Pa
and Milly…along with others in this room; but also the families
of those outlaws and their friends.
I looked up at Pa,
remembering times he was handed award money and rejected it with
a shake of his head. I was never able to understand how he
could just give money away as if it was nothing.
But at the age of
13, I now understood. I understood better then anything!
I looked around at the group. With tears in my eyes, I
stammered as I tried to speak. Suddenly, I felt Pa’s firm
hand on my shoulder. Milly came to stand behind him.
Pa put his arm around her as he kept his hand on my shoulder.
They gave me the strength to say what I had to say.
I cleared my
throat. “Last Sunday, Pa and I read from the Bible the
story of David facing the Giants. We had a long talk
afterwards and Pa told me that, like David, as long as I have
God on my side I too can face the giants. Out of
disobedience, before leaving for school yesterday I snuck the
slingshot out the door with me.” I paused and looked up at
Pa who only smiled and shook his head. “I could sit here
and say that it was the slingshot that saved my life. But
that wouldn’t be true. I-“ I suddenly felt tears in
my throat and I bent my head down.
Pa bent down
beside me and whispered in my ear. “You can do it, son.
I lifted my head
and smiled. “So many of the things Pa taught me about life
and God went with me out in those woods. It was God who
saved me – not the slingshot.” I looked around at the
group. “I’m sure most of you know that that weapon killed
a man and fatally injured two others.” I shook my head.
“But I never wanted that to happen. I just wanted to get
back to my Pa.” I looked over at Pa who smiled.
I lifted my
shaking hands. “This is blood money. It’s not an
award. I didn’t win anything. Instead, they
lost…everything.” I bowed my head. “I think this
money should go into a special account so we can hire ourselves
a right proper preacher and work at fixing up the parsonage that
was damaged in the last storm we had. And-“ I turned and
looked at Pa. “If those men who died had a wife and
children, I would like this money to go to them as well.”
I handed the money back to Micah.
I looked around
the room. There were many stares. Some were
disappointed, some surprised, but only a few were proud. I
turned and looked at Pa. He again had tears of pride in
his eyes. “Did I do right, Pa?”
Pa folded his arms
around me. “You did right, son! You did just right!”
Milly bent down
beside Pa. She looked at me proudly and scooted my hair
back. “Mark,” she sighed as her own ears filled up with
tears. “You are just like your father. Happy 13th
You know, I did
get birthday presents that year, but I don’t remember what they
were. I knew that my best birthday present I ever received
was a step into manhood that day, and seeing the pride in the
faces of all who cared so deeply for me.
These stories are based on the TV series
Here are some other great stories. Enjoy!
The Writer's Corner
Table of Contents
around The McCain Ranch