The Writer's Corner
Chapter 24 - The Horse
Written by Michelle Palmer
A heavy, cold rain welcomed February of 1866. Little snow still
remained, and the rain succeeded at washing away the remainder
of the snow. Behind the rain came warm air that made the
residents of Enid, Oklahoma and thereabouts experience a teasing
to an early spring.
On February 4, Margaret woke up to find Lucas already up and
gone. She quickly dressed then went to stand on the porch,
allowing the warm breeze to blow her loose hair gently. The barn
was still locked up tight, though she saw the horses already in
the corral for some much-needed fresh air. Margaret suspected
they would greatly enjoy the exercise when Lucas later drove
them to church.
Margaret took in a deep breath. Even though it was early
February, she mentally started planning her very first garden in
her head. Seeing no sign of Lucas, Margaret picked up the bucket
and started toward the creek. She smiled as a squirrel scurried
along a fallen tree as she passed. A bird pecked in the dirt,
hoping to find a worm now that the snow was gone. As Margaret
sank down on the dormant grass along the bank, she slowly sank
her fingers into the water, but instantly pulled them back when
she felt the sting of the coolness.
Margaret filled her bucket then stood. As she lifted her bucket,
her foot slipped and she began to topple forward, but two arms
reached out and grabbed her before she fell into the cold creek.
“Whoa there,” Lucas said from behind her as he steadied her and
kept his hands around her thin waist. “You almost went for a
“And a cold one at that,” Margaret declared.
Lucas smiled at her as he took the bucket from her hand. “I was
going to do that. No need for you to…”
“I don’t mind,” Margaret shook her head with a smile. “It’s a
Lucas nodded as he looked around. “Yes. Pa always said that if
we get a day like this in early February, we can expect a big
snow just behind it.”
“I hope your father’s warning is wrong this time, Luke.” They
started walking back toward the house as Lucas slipped his arm
around her waist. “I’ve seen enough snow for the winter. I’m
ready for spring.”
“Come spring…I’ll build a well. I’m planning on putting a pump
in the house as well, Margaret. Can’t have you walking to the
creek anytime you need water.”
“Well…” Margaret shrugged. “It was just a few years ago that Pa
built our own well. I don’t mind.”
“Well I do!” Lucas bent over and kissed her. “Anyhow, it’ll be a
nice day to drive to church. We should leave early so we can
enjoy the nice air God’s blessed us with.” Lucas paused and
looked up at the sky. “Where’s Sunday dinner today?”
“At Mother’s,” Margaret answered. “Our horse, Marigold, is close
to her time. Scott doesn’t want to go too far away.”
Lucas heard the sad tone in her voice. He turned and looked at
her. “You’re worried.”
“Yes.” Margaret nodded. “The vet warned us she was getting too
old for this. She’s not in the best of health.” Margaret bit her
lip as she worried on it some more.
Lucas squeezed her hand. “What is it Ma always said about
“Borrowed trouble?” Margaret gave him a smile. “Anyhow, Ma asked
if we could have Sunday dinner there this week since Marigold’s
now in her eleventh month.” She watched Lucas scratch under his
nose and he looked up at the sky. “Something wrong, Darling?”
“Hm?” Lucas squeezed her hand. “Uh…no…”
Margaret didn’t quite believe him, but she went inside to fix
Lucas helped Margaret over the wheel in front of the church then
drove the wagon to a grassy area. Margaret started up the steps,
but when she came face to face with Reef Jackson, she stopped
suddenly and pressed a hand to her chest. “Excuse me.”
Reef removed his hat as he continued grinning down at her. “I
declare, Margaret, you are getting prettier every day.”
“It’s Mrs. McCain,” Margaret quipped. “And thank you.”
Margaret was happy when Lucas came to stand beside her. “Well
Reef!” Lucas gave him a gentle punch on the arm. “Where have you
been, you ol’ son of a gun?”
“Luke,” Margaret’s sharp voice interrupted anything Reef was
going to say. “We should get inside. We’ll be late.”
“Margaret!” Lucas was a bit surprised at her reaction. Months
ago, she had met Reef Jackson in almost the very spot. He had
known she was married, but proceeded to make an inappropriate
remark toward her. Margaret, knowing Reef Jackson was a good
friend of her husband’s, had chosen not to say anything. She
didn’t like the look he was giving her now. The look made her
feel dirty somehow. “Reef, you coming to church?”
“I was…but something came up.” Reef tipped his hat to Margaret.
“Margaret, I’ll be right back.” Lucas left Margaret to make her
way inside. At the top of the steps, Margaret heard Lucas speak
to Reef. “I need some help building a well…” Somehow, Margaret
didn’t like the thought of Reef Jackson being that close to her.
Lucas still hadn’t appeared when the preacher motioned for
everyone to stand up for the singing of Amazing Grace. Margaret
gave her husband a disapproving look as he made his way to his
seat beside her during the third verse. He muttered sorry as she
looked at him, then turned his attention to the preacher and
The sermon was shorter than usual. Some of the men declared it
was a pleasant change seeing as how the Reverend was usually
long-winded and had plenty to say. “My stomach is usually
growling by the time he gives us our weekly blessing!” Peter
declared to Lucas.
Lucas started to agree, but stopped when Margaret declared, “We
get one chance the whole week to hear a preacher. Sometimes we
don’t even get that. I don’t think it’s too respectful of you to
be thinking of food during a time like…”
Lucas lifted his eyebrow and grinned as they hurried from the
church. The McCain/Gibbs families loaded up in their buckboards
and made their way to the Gibbs Ranch for fried chicken. They
were just finishing up when a hard knock sounded on the door.
“Mr. Gibbs, your horse…Marigold…It’s time!”
Margaret gasped, knowing ‘time’ meant Marigold was giving birth.
Lucas started to stop her from going out, but Margaret hurried
behind Scott. “I’ll help!”
Jennifer chuckled when she saw the look on Lucas’ face. “Now,
you know any time there’s a birth of anything, our sweet
Margaret has to be right in the middle of it!”
Margaret and Scott hurried into the barn. Marigold laid on the
floor breathing hard. Scott dropped to his knees to feel the
horse’s stomach. “How long’s she been like this?”
“About an hour,” Silas, the foreman, answered. “She seems to be
Margaret chewed on her bottom lip. Marigold had given birth
several times over the years without any trouble. Scott met her
eyes and smiled. “You know she’s getting too old, Margaret.”
Margaret averted her eyes. “The vet warned us…what could
happen.” Margaret nodded. Scott turned his attention back to the
mare. “She had her last foal just a year ago…I should have been
“It’s not your fault, Scott. It’s just…” Margaret watched Scott
examine the horse. Marigold took a few more breaths and
whinnied. “We can’t get the vet…”
“No,” Scott answered as he worked his jaw. “There’s nothing more
he could do anyhow, honey.” He looked up at Lucas who stood in
the doorway. “You best take her out.”
“NO!” Margaret shook her head. “I want to help.” Scott turned
and looked at his sister. “Please, Scott.”
“It could go bad…for both of them.”
Margaret nodded. “I know. But I’ll stay.”
“Alright.” Scott looked up at Lucas, who nodded his approval as
well. “We best get the other horses out of here. She needs a lot
Margaret sat at Marigold’s head and ran her hand up and down,
speaking softly to her. Scott ordered his foreman to get the
items ready he requested. It could be awhile. Margaret knew it
could be anywhere from a few minutes to a few hours for the foal
to be born. Lucas suggested everyone else stay out. Brother and
sister could handle the delivery just fine.
As they sat out in the barn, they reminisced over the other
births Marigold had gone through. She had given birth to both
Margaret and Andy’s last horses – both now dead through tragedy.
In all, Marigold had bore eleven horses of the best stock.
Margaret knew this would be her last horse, and she feared
Marigold wouldn’t be around to raise it.
The day grew later. The door to the barn opened, and Jennifer
came in with blankets. “Storms coming in,” Jennifer announced.
“Luke said it looks like a blizzard. You should…”
“NO!” Margaret swiped at the tears that were forming on her
cheek. “I won’t leave her!” Margaret lifted her head and looked
at her mother. “Oh Mama…She’s going to…” It was obvious that as
Marigold’s labor progressed, her body was weakening. Only a
miracle would keep her alive. “I can’t leave her, Mama…I just
Jennifer bent down and took Margaret’s chin in her hand. Mother
and daughter looked into each other’s eyes for only a moment.
Then Jennifer nodded and stood up. “I’ll talk to Luke. He’s
tying a rope from the barn to the house. I’ll tell him to bring
in some wood so you can build a fire in the stove, Scott.”
“Thanks, Ma.” Scott waited until his mother left the barn before
putting a hand on Margaret’s shoulder. Margaret lifted her head.
“How old were you when Marigold came to us?”
Margaret smiled. She still remembered the day her father brought
her home. “I was only three years old,” Margaret answered. She
bit her lip another tear slid down her cheek. “Pa came inside
and told me he had a surprise in the barn. Oh, but she was so
beautiful! I wanted to ride her, but Pa said we had to wait a
“You never did ride her,” Scott mumbled as Marigold let out
another weak cry. “She was too full of life for you to ride.”
“Oh, but she’s so beautiful.” Margaret ran her hand down
Marigold’s golden mane. “I remembered sitting on Papa’s
shoulders watching her run around the corral.” Margaret sniffed.
“Does Pa know about Marigold?”
“I haven’t seen him in two days, Margaret. I’m sure he’ll be
back when he sobers and his money runs out.”
Marigold let out a louder cry. Scott went to check the progress
of the birth. He lifted his head. “She can’t hang on much
longer. Margaret…perhaps you should…”
“No Scott. I won’t leave her. She needs comfort at a time like
this.” Margaret began sobbing.
“You know what I may have to do, Margaret.”
Margaret heard the pain in Scott’s voice. “I know.”
Scott hated the pain and agony he saw in his sister’s eyes.
“Honey…if we don’t try to take the foal, we’ll lose both of
them. Marigold’s going to die. There’s nothing…”
The door opened. They heard the wind howling outside. Lucas
shivered and hurried over to help Margaret into her coat. “How
“She’s going to die, Luke,” Margaret answered. “Scott said he
might have to…take the foal.”
Lucas stayed kneeled behind his wife and looked at Scott. Scott
nodded his head slightly. “She doesn’t have much longer, Luke.”
“Honey, I think you should go inside,” Lucas suggested, his
voice shaking from grief at what this would do to Margaret.
Margaret shook her head. “Margaret…”
“Oh Luke, I can’t leave her! Even if she is almost gone, she
needs to feel someone loving her. I’m staying. I’m staying until
she’s gone.” Her lips quivered as she looked up at Scott. “Just
do it. Do what you have to do.” Margaret watched Scott turn and
reach for the instruments he would need. Margaret lowered her
head down onto Marigold’s. “Oh, I’m so sorry…I’m sorry we can’t
save you too.” Margaret sobbed as she closed her eyes.
Lucas laid an arm around her shoulders. “She’s had a lot of good
years, Margaret. She’s lived a long time.” Margaret nodded.
“Margaret?” Scott’s voice questioned softly.
“Goodbye, Marigold. Goodbye.”
Margaret heard one more quiet quiver from Marigold, then it was
over. She knew when the life left the mare. Margaret sobbed,
keeping her head down and her eyes closed until it was over. She
could hear Scott and Lucas both working on the foal. Finally,
she heard a canvas being spread across Marigold. Then Lucas put
his hands on her shoulders. “It’s over. We have a new addition
to the family.
Margaret opened her eyes and crawled to where the foals laid,
amazed that within minutes of its birth it stood on shaky legs.
She lifted a shaky hand to touch it. The touch was like magic as
Margaret looked into the foal’s eyes. “Oh Scott…” Margaret
whispered. “She looks just like her mother!” Margaret ran a
finger across the white spot on the foul’s forehead. The white
spot was just like the one Marigold had. Margaret laughed
through her grief as she studied ever inch of the foal. Then
Scott and Lucas stared in amazement as the foal stared into her
eyes. Their eyes locked.
The walls suddenly rattled as harsh blizzard winds hit the barn.
But Margaret didn’t even notice. She continued running her hand
across the foal’s back and smiling as the foal nickered softly.
“Bring me a bottle of milk,” Margaret whispered so quietly the
men didn’t hear her. But they didn’t have to. Both Lucas and
Scott knew that Margaret had just met her next horse.
Lucas followed Scott over to the table as he fixed the foal’s
first bottle. Having suspected the horse would die, Scott had
asked for milk to be sent to the barn. Lucas came to stand
beside Scott. “What are your plans for that horse?”
Scott smiled as he turned and watched Margaret gently pet her as
she spoke comforting words to the orphaned foal. “That one?”
Lucas nodded. “I’m giving her to my sister.”
“Was that your plan all along?”
“No,” Scott answered as he lifted the bottle. “But is there
anything else to do?” Lucas slapped a hand on Scott’s shoulder
and smiled. Both men turned and looked at Margaret. She kissed
the foal’s nose, continuing to speak softly. The foal almost
seemed to smile at Margaret.
“Amazing…Truly amazing,” Lucas whispered.
Margaret woke up with a start. Lucas, laying beside her, slowly
sat up and rested a hand on her shoulder. “It’s okay.
Everything’s okay,” he mumbled softly. Margaret sighed as she
remembered the events that had unfolded the previous day.
Marigold was gone. The precious horse that had been part of the
family since she was three years old had sacrificed herself so
her foal could be born. Margaret had stayed with that foal for a
long time. She couldn’t have given her own child anymore love
and devotion as she gave that foal.
Then Lucas had gently pulled her away. He mumbled that it was
late – she was exhausted and needed sleep. Margaret had fallen
asleep in her husband’s arms. “She’s just like Marigold, Luke,”
Margaret mumbled as she wrapped her arms around her legs. “She’s
the spitting image. Oh, it’s so eerie, yet it’s such a gift!
Luke…” Margaret turned in bed and stared into her husband’s
face. The wind still howled outside, but she was warm as she
remembered the foal. “Luke, I felt it…”
Lucas ran a hand through her hair. “I know,” he nodded. His
voice was a little more than a whisper. “We both saw it.”
“Oh, but I can’t! She’s Scott’s horse.”
“No, my Darling…She’s yours.”
Margaret turned and stared at Lucas. Her eyes grew wide. “Oh
Luke…” Lucas smiled as he nodded his head. “Oh, but we can’t! A
horse like her costs dear. We can’t afford to…”
“Margaret,” Lucas lifted his hand. “Seeing as how your birthday
is so close to Christmas, and seeing as how yet another disaster
struck right around the thirteenth, we failed to give you a
“Oh, but I don’t want a…”
Lucas pressed a finger to her lips and shook his head. “No,
Darling…Don’t talk. Just listen.” Lucas smiled as he lifted her
hands in his. He shifted on the bed so he could look into her
eyes. “Scott and I talked for a long time last night. He wants
to give you this colt, and I’m giving him those two pigs that
are about ready for market. He’ll take the bacon in exchange for
my portion of the payment.”
Margaret stood from the bed and walked to the window. Why was
she looking out? The darkness and snow blinded her from seeing
anything. But maybe it was the tears that suddenly filled her
eyes that kept her from seeing. She felt more than heard Lucas
come up behind her. “Talk to me, Margaret,” Lucas said softly.
“I can’t, Luke,” Margaret whispered. “I can’t take her.”
Lucas forced her to turn and face him. His eyes filled when he
saw the hurt in her own eyes. “Why, Honey? Why can’t you?”
“It broke my heart when my horse, Golden, died in the blizzard.
Then Andy’s horse died in the fire a few months ago…They were
both Marigold’s foals.” Margaret shook her head. “I just…I
can’t, Luke. We’ve just lost Marigold. I’m afraid.”
“Afraid? You?” Lucas watched her turn away from him. “Why,
honey? Why are you afraid?”
“I don’t know…exactly.” Margaret swallowed hard. “I just…I don’t
want her, Luke.”
Margaret whirled around. She angrily wiped at the tears on her
cheeks. “I SAID I DON’T WANT HER!” Confusion was etched on
Lucas’ face. His eyebrows crinkled as he looked her up and down.
Margaret saw his disappointment. She had never rejected anything
in her life, but she was now. Her heart ached. “I should get
dressed so I can help Mother and Amanda with breakfast.”
Lucas stood, dumbfounded, and watched her make her way across
the room to slip back into her dress from yesterday. She didn’t
say a word as she ran a brush through her hair, then hurried
from the room. Slowly, Lucas sat down, trying to understand what
emotional battle Margaret was fighting. She wanted the horse;
she even loved the horse, that much was clear to see.
Never in his life had he ever known Margaret to reject
something. Every living creature that ever came in contact with
Margaret Gibbs-McCain was accepted and loved by her. Lucas
chuckled as he thought about it…even a small mouse that was
found in her mother’s kitchen one day was protected from the
shoe her mother had lifted against the rodent.
But now…Margaret was rejecting the splendid horse that was the
spitting image of her mother. Marigold had always been loved and
adored by Margaret. Marigold had been the one horse Margaret
couldn’t have, and the one horse she wanted the most. The new
horse had been born purely a golden color. The only thing that
wasn’t gold was the small white spot on her face – identical to
the spot her mother had. Yet even Marigold didn’t hold the magic
this new colt held.
Lucas stood to dress, praying he’d hold the key to unlock the
Margaret hardly said two words all through breakfast as the
blizzard continued to rage outside. Scott even offered to let
Margaret go with him to the barn and feed the foal, but Margaret
shook her head. She mumbled that it wouldn’t be a good idea.
Margaret’s mother and grandmother walked her to the parlor,
stating they needed her help with their latest quilting project.
The project was mostly done by Jennifer and Amanda, but Jennifer
wanted her mother to feel she was part of it too, even though
the older woman’s eyesight was quite poor. Jennifer would take
the stitches out later and right them. Grandma Bertha never knew
But Margaret couldn’t concentrate on the quilt. Jennifer fretted
for her daughter, wondering how she could reach into the
darkness and pull her back into the light. She wasn’t sure where
the match was to light the wick, so she simply had to wait
until she figured out what was wrong. Lucas came in a couple
hours later and announced he would be out helping Scott with the
stock. The snow had let up considerably, and Scott’s leg was
again bothering him.
Margaret soon abandoned the quilt and went to help Amanda
prepare lunch. By the time the men returned, they were near
frozen and welcomed the hearty potato soup the women had
Lucas announced they would try to get home the following day.
Margaret nodded, still not ready to discuss her outburst with
Lucas or anyone else. Lucas worried, but Jennifer assured him
time was the only thing they had on their side. Margaret had to
deal with whatever was bothering her in her own way.
Lucas and Margaret were just about to retire for the night when
Scott came hobbling in from the barn. “Luke, you’ve got to ride
for the vet! Something’s wrong with the foal.”
Margaret’s face grew pale at hearing her brother’s words. She
grabbed the chair in front of her. “What? What is it?” She
pleaded for Scott to tell her.
“I don’t know. She’s down and doesn’t have the strength to get
up.” Scott looked at Lucas. Lucas saw the state Margaret was in
and hesitated on leaving her. “It’s okay,” Scott assured Lucas.
“We’ll take care of her.”
Lucas nodded. He laid a hand on Margaret’s moist cheek then
hurried to his errand.
Margaret snapped as soon as the door closed. She turned and
reached for her coat. “Let’s go!”
“Where?” Scott asked as he buttoned his own coat up.
“To save that horse!” Margaret buttoned her coat. “We’ve lost
Marigold. We’re not going to lose Sunshine!”
Scott turned and looked at his mother. “Sunshine?” Jennifer
chuckled as she shrugged. Scott hurried out after his sister.
Brother and sister worked together in caring for the young foal.
Scott feared it was some sort of respiratory distress, and
Margaret knew that could be bad, especially since the horse
would not get up.
Two hours later, Lucas arrived with Dr. Phillips. He examined
the horse, then frowned stating it wasn’t pneumonia, but that
the cold temperatures and no dam for it to keep warm had
exhausted it. But if they couldn’t keep the foal warm, pneumonia
and certain death would result. Margaret listened carefully to
the doctor’s instructions about keeping the animal warm and went
to work while Scott and Lucas offered her support. She wouldn’t
move from the horse’s side, nor would she hardly say a word to
Lucas or Scott. She kept her hands folded in prayers, her lips
moving in a quiet plea to the God who made all living things.
Margaret slept off and on, but didn’t leave the foal’s side all
night. As the sun peaked through the clouds the next morning,
the men were jolted awake by Margaret’s squeal. Margaret had
opened her eyes and let out a cry as she realized the foal was
standing on her feet. Margaret got to her knees and crawled
over, hugging the foal and thanking God.
Scott and Lucas soon joined her. Scott declared a miracle had
saved the foal from death, and Margaret assured both men that
God could perform miracles, even on a horse. The foal nuzzled
Margaret’s cheek and whinnied softly, as if to thank her for the
faith she had in her. “Looks like Sunshine already knows her
owner,” Scott declared.
Margaret lifted her eyes and looked at Scott. A small smile
played at the corners of her lips. “I think she knew me the
second she was born. She saw me with her Mama.”
Lucas heard the fright in Margaret’s shaky voice. He wondered
what she was thinking and was just about to ask when the barn
door opened. Amanda, blushing as she smoothed her dress and a
small bump appeared at her middle, announced breakfast was
ready. Scott stood and walked over to his wife. He laid a hand
on her middle. “I hadn’t noticed that before.” Amanda smiled up
at him, then turned as they walked arm-in-arm.
Margaret started to stand, but Lucas reached out and took her
arm. “You want to talk about it now?” Lucas asked the question
as gently as he could. “I don’t want to pry if you’re not
“Pry?” Margaret smiled as she sat down next to the foal. “Oh
Luke…I’ve been so afraid…ever since Andy’s horse died in the
fire. I promised myself a long time ago – after Golden died –
that I wouldn’t let myself get so attached to another horse. I
didn’t realize how attached I was to Andy’s until she died as
well.” Margaret felt her eyes fill with tears. “It wasn’t until
this moment that I realized it was the Mother I loved so much.
She was something special to me. I’m not sure what she stood
for, and I always wanted to ride her…I suppose that’s
envy…wanting something I can’t have, but…”
“No, Margaret,” Lucas said gently. “You could never be envious.
“Thanks, Luke. But I was.” Margaret nodded. “Deep down…every
single time I watched my Pa get on that horse, I wished I could
be riding with him.” Margaret gave Sunshine another pat. “He was
too afraid the Marigold would spook. She spooked so easily, he
said. He couldn’t take any chances with me.”
“So?” Lucas prodded her to go on.
“I was just afraid, I guess. I was responsible for two of
Marigold’s offsprings, and they both died at my hand.”
“Margaret…” Lucas waited until she lifted her head and looked at
him. “Golden died in a surprise blizzard. You did all you could
to save her. As for Andy’s horse…Well, he was killed in a fire
that was started by some outlaws. You had NOTHING to do with
Margaret nodded. “Oh Luke, I know but…it hurt so much to lose
them. I just don’t know if I can…” The foal neighed softly.
Margaret lifted the bottle to feed her new charge. “But I can’t
NOT take her as my own. I already love her so much, Luke.”
Margaret spoke in a little more than a whisper. “I’m so
afraid…afraid of my heart breaking again.”
“It will,” Lucas said honestly. Margaret was shocked at his
honesty. “And I’ll be right here to help you when it does…Just
like you help me when my heart breaks.”
“Of course you’re right.” Margaret sat the bottle down than
hugged the foal’s neck. “Oh, I do love her so much…My little
Sunshine.” Margaret kissed Sunshine’s white spot. “Luke, when
can we take her home?”
Lucas chuckled. “In a few days. We’ll need to make special
accommodations for her in the barn.”
Margaret hugged Lucas, suddenly excited. “I’m sorry for how I
behaved. I was just…afraid.”
“You can’t be afraid to love, Darling. You’d miss out on so much
joy along the way.” Lucas laid a hand on her cheek. They looked
into each other’s eyes, then their faces drew closer to each
other. Lucas wrapped his arms around Margaret as they sat on the
barn floor. They kissed. Margaret pressed against Lucas, giving
into his kiss.
Then a throat cleared in the doorway. “I know that the miracle
of life makes us all wish we could experience it…I mean after
all, my wife is with-child. But please, let it start in your own
“Scott Gibbs!” Margaret stood and started toward her brother.
Scott took off, running for the house. “Mama! Mama!” Scott
yelled as if he were a child again. “Make her leave me alone!”
The Margaret Years — A Sick Heart
These stories are based on the TV series
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