The Writer's Corner
Chapter 5 - School Days
Written by Michelle Palmer
Laura stood at the table and carefully cut out the star-shaped
cookies. Emily smiled as she placed the cookies on the cookie
sheet. “That’s the last of them, Laura Rose,” Emily declared.
“Now can we?” Laura asked as she jumped up and down.
“Alright.” Emily sat down at that table and opened the letter
they had received from Lucas earlier. Emily unfolded the paper
and read the words.
I can’t wait to taste some of the things you are learning to
cook. No, we don’t get many eggs out in the army camp. For
breakfast, we mostly eat salt pork or mush. Once in a while we
get to eat pancakes, but they’re nothing like Ma cooks up. We
did have a few good laying hens, but…we all had a craving to eat
chicken so we no longer have them.
I do get plenty of time to play cards or checkers in the
evening. Our Captain doesn’t let us play cards for money. He
says it causes trouble, and I reckon he’s right. But my favorite
game is baseball. Of course I always play on opposite teams with
Johnny because he can’t play very well. But I enjoy it when I
get Andy on my team. Sometimes I hit the ball so hard that the
boys won’t even go find it. They’re afraid the enemy has caught
the ball and are now having their own baseball game. Ha ha ha, I
have to laugh at this, but then they make me go make another
one, and that’s usually costly out here!
I kiss your dollar every night before I go to sleep. I’m so glad
Abraham has agreed to take Pa’s place in raising you. Even if I
was there, I’d want it to be Abraham. I think that sometimes his
bark is worst than his bite. I’m sure I’d help you get into
plenty of trouble, were I there. Don’t worry too much about Abe.
He’s pretty mean, but he’s a nice brother I reckon…when he’s not
yelling. He likes to yell when you rile him, and he spanks
I have to go now. I love you, Laura. Kiss it quick!
“Luke don’t have to tell me Abraham spanks hard!” Laura
declared. “I know! He reminded me of that yesterday!”
“Well…” Emily shook her head. “You should have known he’d whip
you after you hit Jessica like you did!”
“But she deserved it!” Laura declared with a firm nod of her
head. “She was mean!”
“I declare, Laura Rose! Abe expects you to act like a lady.
Ladies don’t go around punching girls!”
“Well then, who should I punch? Boys?” Laura asked
“A lady doesn’t hit at all!”
“This lady does!” Laura lowered her head when she saw the look
on her sister’s face. “Well, Maybe I just don’t want to be a
lady!” Laura declared then as she lifted her chin.
“I declare!” Emily shook her head. “I’ve never met anybody as
stubborn as you! I’m warning you, Laura Rose, you’re gonna get
yourself into more trouble than I can EVER get you out of!”
“Laura,” Ruth came in with the berry bucket. “I want you to go
on down and pick me a big batch of blackberries so I can fix a
“Oh, Mama! I don’t like picking blackberries!” Laura groaned.
Ruth put her hands on her hip and held out the berry bucket.
“Laura Rose…” she warned.
“You see?” Emily shook her head at her sister. “You just can’t
seem to obey! You’re gonna get another whipping before the
Laura groaned. “But Mama, I don’t like the thorns! They make my
finger bleed!” She tried again. “Can’t Emily do it? I…”
“Laura!” Laura turned to see Abraham standing in the doorway.
Laura swallowed and slowly stood up. “Yes Abraham?”
Abraham jabbed a finger outside the door without saying a word.
But he didn’t need to say a word. Laura saw his orders on his
face. She merely nodded and slowly made her way toward the door.
She turned sideways so she wouldn’t get a smack on the back
side, but Abraham stopped her in the doorway and twirled his
finger around, indicating for her to turn around. She swallowed
hard, but did so. Abraham brought his hand down firm on her back
side. Laura gasped as she hurried out the door and ran up the
“She certainly is head-strong!” Emily declared as she sat down
to peel potatoes.
“I know.” Abraham came inside and walked over to the desk where
they kept all the important papers for the farm. “What’s this?”
Abraham asked as he picked up $13 from the desk.
Ruth turned from her task. “Oh, that’s the money Luke sent from
his pay in the war.”
“But he only gets $13 a month. Are you telling me he sent his
whole pay?” Abraham asked, a bit surprised. “He should keep some
of it for himself.”
“Don’t you worry, Abe. Margaret and I sent Luke a big care
package the other day with plenty of stuff. I’m sure the
sulter’s store expects him to pay a lot more than we can get it
for,” Emily declared.
“But…you didn’t spend his money on the package,” Abraham pointed
out. “What are you going to do with this money?” He smiled at
“Well…” Emily smiled up at her brother. “You being the man of
the house, we thought we’d let you decide that.”
“Oh.” Abraham studied the money then folded his arms. “Mother?”
Ruth turned toward her son again. “I tend to get into trouble
making decisions without consulting my family, so…what should I
do with this money?”
“Well, if you ask me I think if at all possible, saving the
money Luke sends home would make quite a nice nest egg for him
and Margaret when they get married. You know the parcel of land
he always had his mind on ranching, he could purchase that
property to start a nice little ranch. Don’t you think?”
“Then that’s exactly what we’ll do.” Abraham folded the money
and put it in his pocket. “I’ll just put it with the $13 he sent
last month.” Abraham grinned.
Emily and Ruth rolled their eyes at him. Then Emily cleared her
throat to brace the next family problem at hand. “Uh…By the way
Abe, school starts Monday. I think as the man of the house, you
can break the news to our dear sister.” Emily looked up to see
the look of disgust on her brother’s face. Nobody wanted to make
that announcement to Laura because Laura had made her position
on going to school very clear. Emily turned toward her mother.
“Don’t you think so, Ma?”
Ruth looked up from rolling out the dough for the cobbler. “I
think that would be a great job for the man of the house!” Ruth
“Mmm….” Abraham mumbled. “You two are just chicken! What’s the
worst she can do to you?”
Emily ignored that question all together. She didn’t like
listening to Laura whine, but she couldn’t be as stern with her
sister as Abraham could. Neither Jeremiah nor Peter could
either. Abraham had the right looks that got results, and Emily
had noticed that Luke was picking those looks up to use for his
advantage. “Ma’s been sewing some new dresses for her to wear to
school.” That was another matter that would not appeal to Laura.
She didn’t have a hankering to wear new clothes. Emily took a
step toward her brother. “Uh…Laura’s already told us that she
thinks she’s too busy to go to school.”
Abraham lifted his head from looking at the bills he had to pay.
“She’s going to school and that’s final!”
“And I’m sure, my dear son, you will find a very sensitive
method of convincing your little sister of that fact,” Ruth
smiled as she walked back into the kitchen.
Abraham grunted as he turned and walked out.
Laura sat down next to the blackberry bush and sighed. She
looked over at the tabby kitten that always followed her around.
“You know…I don’t understand why God ever invented blackberries!
They always seem to just get in the way of things. I hate eating
blackberries, but Mama makes me pick them anyhow.” Laura screwed
up her face. “Whoever would want to eat berries with seeds in
them anyhow? Ew!” Laura sighed as she rested her chin in her
hand. ‘You suppose that I can think of a really good story to
tell Mama about not getting any blackberries?”
The tabby just purred in answer to her question. “I guess you’re
right. And if Abe found out…” Laura shuddered as she remembered
her trip to the barn yesterday. Abraham had come up in time to
see her punch Jessie. He had grabbed her by the arm and dragged
her to the barn. After it was over, Laura had cried to her
mother and Emily hoping for sympathy, but they had sided with
Abraham. Laura suspected today would be no different.
Laura shook her head as she stood up and slowly started picking
the berries. “Hi.” Laura turned to see Abraham coming up behind
her. “Need some help?”
“You have time to help me?” Laura asked.
Abraham laughed. “Well, actually I do. Things are a bit slow for
us right now. I’ll have more time to spend with my baby sister.
But, I suppose things will soon pick up again and I’ll be busy.”
They worked together filling the bucket with blackberries. When
the bucket was filled, Abraham sat down. “I think we need a
Laura sat down beside him. “You want to tell me something,” she
Abraham turned and looked down at her. He nodded his head. “You
know what next week is.”
“It’s September!” Laura declared. “It means that things are
going to pick up on the farm and I’ll have plenty of chores
around the farm and…” Abraham cleared his throat as he raised an
eyebrow at his little sister. “Yes. I know what Monday is.”
“And you know you have to go to school.”
“Well…” Laura lowered her head but tilted it sideways and lifted
her eyes up to look at Abraham. “I don’t HAVE to go. Mama said
that when she was a little girl…”
“Things were different when Mama was little,” Abraham reminded
her. “She didn’t have the opportunities you have. Ma and Pa
wanted all us kids to finish school with our certificates, and
we’ve all done that…except for you.” Abraham folded his arms.
“And I intend to see that you, my sweet little sister, finish
with your certificate as well.” Laura stayed quite. “Well?”
“Yes Abraham,” Laura answered quietly, but she still wouldn’t
look at him. “But I don’t know why I hafta.”
“Because it’s important for you to learn how to read and write,
add and subtract. Maybe you’ll want to be a teacher or a nurse
when you grow up.“
“No I don’t!” Laura declared. “I just want to be a mama.”
“Then you’ll need to go to school so you can help your kids with
their homework,” Abraham pointed out.
“Hm mm!” Laura answered. “I won’t make my kids go to school
Abraham narrowed his eyes at his sister. “Oh, I see.” He sighed.
“Then I’ll give you another reason, Laura Rose McCain.” Abraham
lifted her head up to look into her eyes. “If you don’t go to
school, or if you give Ma, Emily, or Peter any trouble, we’ll
take another LONG trip to the barn.”
“Oh. That’s a pretty good reason,” Laura mumbled. “How long do I
have to go to school for?”
Abraham laughed at her improper grammar. “For many years.”
Abraham smiled. “Maybe until your 15 or 16.”
“That long?” Laura groaned.
“Some even go until their 17 or 18!” Abraham declared. “But I
think you can finish earlier if you try.”
“I wish I didn’t have to go at all…” Abraham never knew a child
who had such a mouth as this one sitting beside him.
“You know, you should consider yourself blessed. Most children
don’t stay in school to finish. Most children are out by the
time they’re twelve because they are needed badly on the farm.
Be glad our father had a dream to see us all graduate with a
certificate in hand.”
“I think I’d rather have to stop at twelve because there’s too
much work to do on the farm…” Laura grumbled. She heard her
brother’s sharp intake of breath and knew she was very close to
another tanning. “Alright, alright…I’ll go! But how will I get
there? Luke always took me to school!” Laura declared. “Oh! Can
I walk by myself this year?”
“Oh no!” Abraham declared. “We’ll make sure you get there
“But Abe, I’m old enough! Honest!” Laura tried to assure him.
Abraham turned and looked at his sister. “Honest! I can walk to
school!” She saw the hesitation in his eyes. “I’m seven years
“Well…” Abraham frowned. “Let’s think on that for awhile. We’ll
walk with you and see how it goes this week. I’ll talk to Ma.”
“Can I…” Laura swallowed. “Can I wear pants?”
“Pants?” Abraham stared at her. “Of course not!”
“But the boys won’t let me play kick ball with them or…”
“No!” Abraham declared “Absolutely not!”
“Jessie wear’s ‘em! She wears ‘em every day!” Laura pointed out.
“Yes. Well, I’m not in charge of bringing up Jessica. I’m in
charge of Laura Rose McCain, and Laura dresses like a lady!”
Abraham stood up and helped her to her feet. “Let’s get these
berries to Ma. I’m looking forward to blackberry cobbler for
“I’m not!” Laura declared as Abraham lifted her into his arms
and they headed home.
When Laura got up the next morning, her Ma had a new dress all
ready for her to wear to church. If there was something Laura
hated wearing more than fancy dresses, it was a NEW dress! Her
mother always washed it with something that made her itch, and
even with her chemise on! “Do I have to, Ma?” Laura moaned.
Ruth pressed her lips together. “Yes, young lady, you have to!”
“But Mama, I’ll itch something AWFUL!” Laura complained. Her
mother said nothing, but Laura could tell saying more would get
her into trouble. “Yes Mama.”
Laura itched as Peter drove the wagon into town. She scratched
all the way there knowing she would not be allowed to scratch as
soon as they got into the church. Peter lifted her out of the
back and she ran to say hello to her friend, Jessie, who was
also wearing a dress. But unlike Laura, Jessica only had to do
so on Sundays. “I’m going fishing this afternoon!” Jessie
announced. “You wanta come with me?”
Laura smiled. Lucas would always take her fishing when he went
on Sundays, even though her mother didn’t care much for her
doing such an activity. Emily was all lady-like and her Ma
didn’t see any reason for Laura to be any different. Emily never
liked fishing or doing boy things, but Laura did. She figures
it’s because she’s been doing them with Lucas ever since she
could remember. “I’ll have to ask Ma,” Laura mumbled.
“Come along, Laura,” Emily called to her sister. Laura knew
better than to even ask her sister! It would be a flat out no.
The Enid Community Church had pews. Lucas had told Laura once
that pews were hard to come by in small towns, and they should
feel very blessed to have such things. There were three pews
that were always used by the McCain/Gibbs family. Abraham and
Julie were already in their seats. Charlie sat between his
parents while Abraham and Julie held the triplets. Ruth slid in
next to Abraham and took one of the triplets. Then Emily sat
next to Ruth. Laura sat next to Emily and Peter sat on the end.
Then on the next pew Jeremiah and Em sat down. They arrived a
little late. Laura watched her brother turn and say something to
Jeremiah. Jeremiah just gave Abraham a look as Em’s face got all
Laura started itching again. She wiggled her back against the
pew as she scratched. “Sit still!” Emily ordered, but Laura
didn’t want to sit still. She itched too much and nobody seemed
to understand! She kept twitching her back against the pew to
scratch it. “Laura, I said sit still!” Emily ordered as the
preacher walked in.
“I can’t! It itches!” Laura complained loudly as she continued
scratching. The room had grown quiet so her words were heard all
over the church. From the corner of her eye, she saw Abraham
bend his head toward her. He gave her what she called the “bad
eye” and she immediately stopped scratching. But she folded her
arms across her chest and stuck out her lip to let them all know
she wasn’t happy.
The preacher was always long-winded too. At one point, he
reminded all the children that school would start at 7:30 AM the
next morning. She didn’t mean to, but Laura let out a loud
groan. Everyone in her family turned and stared at her. Laura
especially didn’t like the look her mother gave her. She
expected her Ma would give her a good lecture on the way home
As soon as church let out, Jessie ran up to her. “You coming or
not?” she asked.
“Ma, can I go play with Jessie?” Laura asked as they walked
toward the wagons.
Ruth straightened from talking to one of the other ladies in the
church yard. “Maybe after lunch. Where will you be playing?”
Laura started to answer, but Jessie interrupted. “At my house!
She’ll be at my house!”
Ruth turned and looked toward Abraham. Abraham sat Charlie down
and walked up to the two girls. “What are you going to play?” he
“We like to play hide and seek! Don’t we, Laura?” Laura nodded.
“Alright.” He turned around. “Ma, it’s not that far. I think she
can walk over there alright.” He turned back to Laura. “But you
have to be home by 4:00 and not a minute later! Understand?”
“Yes sir!” Laura declared.
As was the custom, The McCain’s all gathered at the main house
for Sunday Dinner. They always had roast with potatoes and
carrots, and it was always ready by the time they got home from
church. Laura was more than happy to take her new dress off and
slip on her old play dress. She hurried out in her bare feet,
another thing she was allowed to do while at home. The family
gathered hands as Abraham led his family in prayer. Then
everyone chatted as they ate around the big table.
Laura was anxious to go fishing. She didn’t feel guilty in the
least about not telling her mother and brother where she was
going because she really WAS going to Jessie’s house and she
really DID like playing hide and seek. As she finished her last
bite of dessert, she stood from the table. Manners wasn’t
something she was learning too easily, and she was reminded of
that fact when she heard Abraham clear his throat. Laura sat
back down and started to ask to be excused.
“Now young lady, I don’t think we should have to remind you at
every single dog gone meal to ask for permission to be excused
from the table. The next time will result in your going without
dessert for a time.”
Laura nodded and licked her lips as she prepared herself to ask
the next question. “When do I get to stop asking permission?”
Abraham started to lift from his chair and Laura held up a hand.
“May I be excused?”
Abraham turned and looked toward Ruth. Ruth shook her head
slightly. “Yes. You may be excused,” he answered. “You may march
in there and help Emily clean the kitchen before you go out to
By the time the dishes were done, Abraham was hitching up the
team to go home. Laura hurried from the house and started out of
the yard. But her brother sternly reminded her to be back by
As soon as she got in the yard, Jessie came running out of the
house. She hurried to the shed and picked up the fishing poles.
“You can use my Pa’s. He said it was okay. I done dug the worms.
They raced down to the fishing hole. As they sat down on the
bank and cast their lines into the water, Laura turned to her
friend. “How come your Pa don’t care about you dressing and
acting like a boy?”
Jessie shrugged. “It’s always been my Pa and me. He says I have
to do a man’s work on account that I killed my Ma when I was
“You…you killed your Ma?” Laura asked.
Jessie nodded. “My Ma died borning me. Pa said that makes it my
fault, so I hafta work out in the fields like a boy would.”
“Boy…” Laura shook her head as she looked into the water. “My
brothers would never let me work in the fields! I help Mama in
the vegetable garden, but I’m not even allowed in the fields.
Abe won’t let me wear pants, and he said I don’t need to learn
how to shoot a gun! Even when I’m older!”
“You want to learn how to shoot a gun?” Even Jessie was shocked
“Why not?” Laura shrugged. “Can’t girls do anything boys can
do?” She knew what that question would get her if her family
heard it. But she had been around Luke so long that she wanted
to do everything Luke did. Except she didn’t think she’d enjoy
fighting in a war.
The girls fished quietly for awhile. “Laura?” Jessica turned and
looked at her friend. “Why can’t ya wear pants? You sure could
play the boys games at school if you wore pants! And it makes
fishin’ a lot easier!”
“Mama an’ Emily want me to be lady-like. Mama says girls don’t
never wear pants! She says girls don’t go fishing or play kick
ball! If that’s the truth, then I don’t want to be a girl!”
“Papa said I can be lady-like on Sunday, but come Monday
morning, I’ve plenty of chores to do before and after school.”
“I don’t understand adults much.” Laura looked up at the sky and
gasped. “Jessie, I hafta go! Abe will skin me if I come home
late!” The girls jumped up. Laura gave Jessie her fishing pole
then waved to her. “See you tomorrow!”
When Laura got home, her mother and sister were busy with
supper. She greeted then and asked if there was anything she
could do to help. “Yes.” Ruth turned toward the table where a
basket sat. “You can run these up to Abraham and Julie. You
brought me plenty of blackberries back for two extra pies. I
sent one with Jeremiah already.” Laura looked inside the basket
at all the stuff her mother had packed. Not only was there a
freshly baked pie, but there were also two loaves of bread,
cookies, and several jars of canned vegetables. “Well, get
Neither Ruth nor Emily had ever actually turned to look at the
child. If they had, they would have noticed that Laura had been
behaving very unladylike that afternoon!
Laura hurried through the field to her brother’s house. She
knocked on the front door before entering as she had always been
taught to do. Julie turned from the counter in the kitchen and
hurried toward her sister-in-law. “Oh, she shouldn’t have!”
Julie exclaimed when she looked inside. “Tell your mother thank
“You can have all the blackberry clobber you want!” Laura
exclaimed. “I don’t like it…not one bit!” Laura turned to hurry
Julie looked down at Laura’s feet. Her eyes grew wide and her
mouth slowly opened in surprise. “Laura…” she tried to stop the
girl before walking outside, but she was too late.
Abraham waved to Laura from the yard where he was working. He
slowly walked up to her. “You remember what I said, young lady.
You get to bed early so…” Abraham suddenly stopped as his eyes
focused on her feet. “Laura, did you go to Jessie’s house like
Laura looked down at them to find the bottom of her dress and
her feet caked with mud. She gasped when she realized she had
forgotten all about being barefooted. “I thought you went to
Jessie’s house!” Abraham declared.
“I did! I…” Laura started.
“It looks like you were down by the creek.” Laura lowered her
head. “Laura Rose, were you at the creek?” Abraham asked
gruffly. Laura kept her head lowered as she nodded. “I don’t
recall Ma giving you permission to go to any creek.”
“You and Ma said I could go play with Jessie,” Laura argued.
“Well, it just so happens that Jessie wanted to play by the
Abraham folded his arms. “Maybe with two fishing poles?” he
asked then. Laura nodded. “And you knew that before you went
over there. Did you not?” Laura nodded again. Abraham sighed.
“You know how Ma feels about you fishing.”
“Ma’s wrong!” Laura suddenly declared. She saw the angry look
come over her brother’s face. She planted her hands on her hips
and glared into her brother’s eyes. “There’s nothing wrong with
a girl fishing or a girl wearing pants or going barefoot if she
has a mind to…” She stopped. “Nobody understands me! Nobody!”
Laura turned and ran out of the yard. She ran all the way home
and attempted to wash the mud off of her feet. Ruth came out of
the house to call her to supper. Her eyes grew wide when she saw
the mud still caked on the hem of her dress and all over her
feet. “Laura Rose McCain! Did you go to Jessica’s house without
your boots on? What have I told you about that?” Ruth declared
as she lifted the hem of the dress and stared at the mud.
“I’m sorry, Mama! I forgot to put my boots on before leaving!”
Laura cried. “But I don’t see why I can’t go barefoot like the
“You certainly will not go barefoot!” Ruth declared. “My
children have always worn shoes to school, church, and visiting,
and that won’t stop now!” She turned to Emily.
Laura slowly went inside and ate her supper in silence. Ruth
sent her to bed directly after supper. Laura was so sad that
everyone was upset with her. She just didn’t understand. Nobody
understood anything about her. She cried until she fell asleep.
The next morning Emily awoke Laura early. She was in no hurry to
get her new dress on that was sure to itch all day. Nor was she
in too much of a hurry to sit down and eat her breakfast. Ruth
handed Laura her boots and her second year books as Laura walked
out of the room and sat down at the table. She didn’t speak to
anyone as she sat down at the table. As she started eating her
oatmeal, Laura dared to speak the words that had been on her
mind all morning. “Ma, I don’t wanta go to school.” She had this
harsh feeling deep inside her that made her not want to go.
“Laura, just eat your breakfast,” Peter said quietly as he
continued looking at the newspaper and eating.
Laura lowered her head toward the table and ate in silence. She
slowly lifted her head again and spoke. “Mama, don’t you think
there are people who aren’t fit for school? Don’t you think…”
“Laura, this is your final warning,” Peter declared as he lifted
his eyebrows to her.
“Yes sir.” Laura could feel the tears in her eyes, but she knew
better than to cry. She also knew better than to refuse to eat
so she ate the rest of her oatmeal in silence.
Emily stood up from the table and motioned for Laura to stand.
She did so and Emily straightened out her sister’s dress and
straightened the ribbon in Laura’s hair. She didn’t want to wear
that stupid ribbon either. She wanted her hair to just fall down
her back. “Let’s get your pinafore on, Laura, so we can get you
“Oh Emily, do I hafta wear…” Emily gave her a look at the same
time her brother cleared his throat. “Alright.”
Laura indeed felt very stiff as she walked beside Emily a few
minutes later. She didn’t like the new stockings or the new
dress. She didn’t like wearing the pinafore. And she certainly
didn’t like the ribbon in her hair. But Emily and her Ma both
insisted she needed to look lady-like at school. She didn’t
understand how she’d ever be able to play kickball or race at
recess. Emily told her those were not lady-like things to do at
recess. She doubted anyone cared that she didn’t want to be
As Laura walked into the schoolyard she saw all the other kids.
Last year had been her first year of school and Luke had walked
her in everyday. Laura couldn’t help but feel a little sad about
the fact that Luke wasn’t beside her right now.
As Laura looked around at the other kids, she noticed some of
the girls sitting off by themselves talking softly to each
other. Then she saw her best friend playing kickball with the
other boys. “You be good now, Laura Rose.” Emily bent over and
kissed her. “I’ll see you this afternoon.”
Laura watched her sister walk out of the yard. She turned as
Jessie hurried up to her. “Boy, you DO look all lady-like,
Laura!” Jessie declared as she shook her head. “How are you
going to play kickball in that?”
Laura shook her head. She felt so sad. “Mama don’t make me wear
this stuff at home, and I understand looking nice when we go
into town or to church…But why do I have to look like this going
“Well…” Jessie lifted her hand and untied Laura’s ribbon in her
hair. “Your ribbon just fell off and I bet your apron could fall
“It’s called a pinafore!” Laura declared. Then she lifted her
eyebrows. “And I bet it WOULD if you unfastened the top!” Jessie
did just that, and sure enough the pinafore came right off.
Laura took her boots and stockings off as well. That was as
close to Jessie as she would be able to look.
The girls ran up to the other kids playing in the game and
insisted on playing. “She can’t play in a dress!” Jimmy Peters
declared as he looked Laura up and down.
“I can too, Jimmy Peters!” Laura declared as she put on her
meanest face. “And I can beat ya too!”
“Whatever!” Jimmy rolled his eyes. “You can be on their team!
I’ll take Jessie.”
Laura smiled. When it was her turn to kick, she gave the ball a
firm kick with her bare feet and laughed when she watched the
ball go clear across the school yard and right between Jimmy’s
feet. She ran around the bases, but she fell flat on her
backside before getting back home. When she stood up, she saw
the dirt on her new dress…and a tear. She knew her Ma would give
her a good tongue lashing for that.
The bell began ringing then. The kids grumbled as they picked up
their books and slowly walked inside. Laura had heard they were
getting a new school teacher, and she was surprised to see that
it was a man. As she climbed the steps, she looked into his
eyes. Somehow she had a feeling that he would be a lot meaner
than the one she had last year. He looked her up and down,
obviously not too impressed with her appearance. Laura, being
the strong-willed child she was, lifted her head and proudly
nodded at him. Then she walked inside and found her seat.
After introducing himself and the class rules, he assured the
children he would not hesitate to punish anyone that didn’t
follow the rules. Laura shivered to hear some of his
punishments, including standing in a corner with her nose in a
circle, writing sentences, getting rapped on the knuckles with a
ruler, and a good switching. Laura knew she had a mischievous
nature, so the strict rules of her teacher did scare her a bit.
It didn’t take long for Laura to realize she didn’t enjoy being
at school this year anymore than she did the last. The first
assignment they had was to rewrite the rules that Mr. Richards
had just given them. She wasn’t very good at writing, partly
because she had stubbornly refused to put much effort into it
the last year. And when Mr. Richards saw how badly she had
written the rules on the paper, he ordered that she rewrite the
rules properly at home that evening. The tone of voice he used
wasn’t too nice either. “Any student that writes papers like
this should be in the first year! And don’t you think I wouldn’t
hesitate to move you right back there if I think that’s where
Laura felt her face grow warm as the children around her
chuckled. She didn’t dare allow the tears to climb to her eyes,
because she didn’t want this mean ol’ man to know how much his
words had hurt her. The mere thought of being treated like a
first year student was downright humiliating!
The first school work they had to do was reading. Reading wasn’t
one of Laura’s favorite things to do either. When it came her
time to read, she struggled with the words. Some of the kids in
the class laughed at her and Laura felt her eyes filling up with
tears as she again tried to pronounce the words. Mr. Richards
silenced the laughter as he smacked his stick on the desk in
front of him and demanded silence. Laura jumped at the noise and
bent over her book to continue reading. “Very well, Miss McCain.
I want you to practice this story tonight at home, should your
family find the time to allow you to read. Tomorrow, you will
re-read it to me at lunch, and I hope that you will at least try
to learn some vocabulary tonight.”
Again, Laura felt embarrassed that she was being singled out
from all the children. She sat down quietly as she felt her eyes
fill with tears. Mr. Richards asked the five second year
students to open their math book and begin working the problems.
Laura stared at the page of figures. She had just begun to grasp
the concepts of math last year and was certainly not ready to
understand the problems sitting before her. She turned and
looked at Jessie. “Do you understand this?” she asked in a
Mr. Richards had been talking to the higher grade students, but
immediately stopped when he heard Laura speak. “Laura McCain,
stand up!” he ordered.
Laura swallowed the lump in her throat as she slowly stood from
the seat. She stared into the angry eyes of her teacher and
waited for him to reprimand her. Slowly, he walked to her seat.
“You will stay in at morning recess.”
Laura’s eyes grew wide. She had been told hundreds of time by
her parents and siblings to guard her tongue, but as of yet she
hadn’t learned the concept. “I just asked a question!” she
Mr. Richards turned and looked at her. His eyes grew wide at her
questioning his authority. “Miss McCain, would you please repeat
rule number two to the class?”
“I…” Laura lowered her eyes. “Yes sir.” She swallowed. “There
will be no speaking during class without permission.”
“And since you found it necessary to argue, you will stay in at
afternoon recess as well. It appears you have not been taught at
home on how to guard your tongue, so it becomes my job to teach
you this lesson here. If I must, I shall use the switch to teach
such a lesson.”
Laura opened her mouth to argue, but Jessie tapped her on the
leg in warning. Laura clamped her mouth shut and nodded. Then
she sat back down.
It was a miserable morning. Mr. Richards told Laura she should
know how to add and subtract by her age, and he told her so in
front of the other children. Laura felt so embarrassed.
“I hate school!” Laura declared to Jessie as she sat on the
bench eating lunch. She turned to her friend. “I hate this
school and I hate him!”
“You mustn’t speak such a way!” Jessie argued. “Mr. Richards
will give you the switch! I’ve a feeling he doesn’t care if
you’re a girl or a boy.”
“Neither do I!” Laura shouted. “He’s mean and rude and ugly! I
The afternoon session didn’t go any better. By the time school
let out, Laura was ready to run far, far away. She found herself
in even more trouble when she bounded down the steps and came
face-to-face with her sister, Emily. “Laura, what happened to
your ribbon?” she asked.
“It fell out,” Laura answered.
Emily folded her arms as she looked her up and down. “And am I
to believe that your pinafore ‘fell’ off as well?” Laura lowered
her head. “And where are your boots and stockings, young lady?”
“Emily, I…” Laura closed her eyes with a sigh. “I don’t want to
talk about it!”
“Well, I do!” Emily folded her arms and glared at her sister.
“You tell me why you did this right now!”
“Leave me alone!” Laura shouted suddenly. “Just…leave me alone!”
Laura threw her books and slate down then ran out of the
schoolyard as fast as she could.
“Laura!” Emily called after her sister. “Laura Rose, you get
back here!” But Laura didn’t stop. Tears blinded her as she ran
as fast as she could.
Laura stopped suddenly. She found herself at a creek. She sat
down on a rock and cried as she remembered the terrible day she
had had. She wasn’t going back to school – not ever. Nobody
could make her go back!
“Well, there you are.” Laura didn’t turn around. She heard the
voice of her brother, Abraham. “What do you have to say for
yourself, young lady?” Laura shrugged. She heard Abraham’s
footsteps behind her. He bent down next to her. “Do you know
we’ve been looking for you?” Laura nodded. “Well?”
Laura lifted her head up to look into her brother’s angry eyes.
“I’ve had a bad day,” she mumbled quietly.
“Mm…” Abraham paused as he looked at her. “Emily told me about
your bad day.”
“She doesn’t know.” Laura glared at her brother. “None of you
know! You don’t understand!” she yelled angrily.
“The only thing I understand, young lady, is that you tore and
dirtied your new dress; took off your pinafore, stocking, and
boots; took the ribbon from your hair; and then ran away from
your sister when she questioned you about it.” Abraham studied
“That’s not what made me have a bad day,” Laura said quietly.
“Oh?” Abraham sat down and pulled his legs up to his chest.
“Then why did you have a bad day?”
“The teacher’s mean, Abe. He’s real mean!” Laura’s eyes filled
with tears again as she remembered his getting onto her. “I hate
Abraham’s eyes narrowed. “Laura Rose McCain, don’t you EVER say
the word ‘hate!’ It’s a terrible thing to hate a person!”
“He didn’t like me writing or my reading or my math! He just
yelled at me all day, Abe! He made me stay in at recess for
whispering to Jessie; then he made me stay in at afternoon
recess for arguing. He’s not fair! He’s not fair! I don’t like
having to dress so lady like and I don’t like that mama is
making me look that way at school! I ain’t going back there! I
ain’t!” Laura spat out the words as tears ran down her cheeks.
Abraham listened to her speak. Then he looked out over the water
as he thought on his response. “Laura…” Abraham sighed. “Life is
full of responsibilities. For instance, I have a wife and four
little boys to take care of. They depend on me every day to tend
to the farm and chop the wood…tend to my chores…every single
day. Then your brothers depend on me. I have responsibilities to
work the farm, help them bring in the crops and tend to the
stock. It’s a big job and I don’t necessarily want to do it.
“Then there’s you.” Abraham turned and looked at Laura. “I have
a big responsibility to discipline you and teach you the way Pa
would expect me to. I have to take time out of my own
responsibilities to give you the guidance and discipline you
need so that you can grow up to be the responsible young woman
Ma and Pa would want you to be.”
Laura lowered her head as Abraham continued to speak. “Ma and
Emily have a lot of work. With Pa gone and Peter the only other
one to live on the farm now; they have a lot more work. Then
they have to contend with a little girl who doesn’t want to do
as they ask.” Abraham cleared his throat. Laura looked up at
him. “Which brings me to you. You have responsibilities too,
Laura. And you’re most important responsibility is to go to
school and learn. You are also expected to obey Ma’s wishes. Ma
raised Emily to be a proper young lady and she wants you to be
the same. She’s not doing it out of meanness, honey. She’s doing
it because she loves you.”
Laura again lowered her head. She knew better than to argue and
after the day she had, she wouldn’t argue. “Now, I want you to
get home and tell Ma and Emily you are sorry. Then I want you to
wash your face. Then after your chores are done, you are to do
“All of it?” Laura asked, remembering all the trouble she had
gotten into that day.
Abraham nodded. “ALL of it.” Laura sighed. “Honey, I know you
don’t understand, but everything we do is for your own good. We
love you.” Abraham stood up and reached out his hand to her.
“The next time you behave like this, I’ll be doing more than
talking. Do you understand?”
“Yes, Abe,” Laura answered. But inside her heart, she was
devising a plan. It was the only thing she could do. No matter
what anybody said, she wouldn’t go back to that school and that
Laura was quiet as she walked to school the next morning. She
hadn’t gotten half her work done before Emily told her to go to
bed. She had lost an hour last evening because of her actions at
school, and she didn’t even bother explaining that she didn’t
have her homework done.
She wasn’t going back. Laura looked up at Emily as they walked
toward the school. She squeezed her book against her chest and
kept a straight face as she continued walking. No matter what,
she wasn’t going back. If it meant Abraham would take her to the
barn, then so be it because she wasn’t…not in a million
years…was she EVER EVER going to go back and face that mean,
She stopped when they got to the schoolyard. “Leave me here,
Emily. Oh please let me walk from here!” Emily nodded and told
her to have a good day. She watched Emily round the corner and
“Laura, what’s wrong?” Jessie asked from behind her.
“I’m waiting,” Laura answered as she stared in the direction her
sister had just gone.
“Waiting?” Jessie asked. “Waiting for what?”
“To run away.”
“Laura McCain, what are you talking about?” Jessie asked then.
Laura turned and stared at her friend as her eyes filled up with
tears. “I can’t go back in there. I didn’t finish my work last
night and I didn’t want to anyhow! So I’ll go hide in one of the
caves my brother showed me. I’ll hide there all day and hurry
back here in time for school to let out.” Laura swallowed. “I
“You mean…play hooky?”
“Don’t you tell, Jessica Layton! Don’t you tell a soul! My
brother will whip me if he finds out!” Laura declared quietly.
Laura turned and looked toward the school. “I can’t go in there!
I just can’t! He hates me and he’s mean talking to me like he
did. My brother doesn’t care either. He just told me I need to
be responsible. I can’t go back! I just can’t!” Laura turned and
hurried away before Jessica could say anything. She watched her
run around a corner and disappear.
Then the school bell rang.
“What do you mean she’s not here?” Emily asked Mr. Richards that
afternoon. “I walked her here this morning!”
“She’s been absent all day, Miss McCain.” Mr. Richards turned
from locking the door to the school. “Your sister is a defiant
sharp-tongued young lady. She needs a firm hand!”
“My brother’s hand is very firm, Mr. Richards!” Emily sighed. “I
admit that Laura has a dislike for school, like many other
children, but she didn’t seem to have too much trouble last
“Maybe that’s the trouble, Miss McCain. She can’t read or write;
and apparently she can’t add or subtract. I had to reprimand her
several times in front of class yesterday.”
Emily’s eyes widened. “What are you talking about?”
“I asked her to write the rules on paper. Her grammar was very
poor, as was her spelling and handwriting. Then I asked her to
read from her reader. She faltered so many times that I couldn’t
understand her. I ordered her to read it again at home. Then at
math, she couldn’t even do simple addition and subtraction
problems. I told her that obviously she didn’t learn her
lessons from her first year.”
Emily glared up at Mr. Richards. “Are you aware, Mr. Richards,
that Laura McCain is a seven year old child who has had a VERY
rough summer? She lost her father and watched her brother go off
“That is no concern of mine, Miss McCain,” Mr. Richards answered
as he ripped his spectacles off and twitched his mustache.
“Family matters stay out of the classroom. I am only concerned
with her ability to learn, and I’m not sure if her ability is up
“Up to…” Emily’s glare became even angrier. “Of all the low
down…” Emily turned from him and hurried away. She turned back.
“Thank you, Mr. Richards, for opening my eyes to so many things!
I will be speaking to my brother about your rude behavior!”
Emily hurried as quickly as she could back home. Her sister had
no doubt ran away from school that morning, and Emily couldn’t
say she blamed her a single bit! As she quickly walked toward
home, she thought on how she and her mother had insisted for
Laura to be so proper without even stopping to explain the
reasons. And Mr. Richards certainly didn’t help Laura’s state of
“Ma!” Emily called as she ran into the yard. “Ma!” Ruth hurried
from the house at Emily’s frantic call. Her brothers hurried
down the hill from the wheat field when they heard her frantic
cry. “Is Laura here?”
“Of course not,” Ruth answered as she hurried up to her
daughter. “What do you mean…didn’t you pick her up from school?”
Emily felt tears come to her eyes as all three of her brothers
hurried up to her. “Emily, what’s wrong?” Abraham asked as he
grabbed her shoulders. “Where’s Laura?”
“I don’t know!” Emily cried. “She never showed up at school!”
“Didn’t you take her this morning?” Peter asked as he began
buttoning his shirt.
“Yes!” Emily wiped the tears from her cheek. She looked from
brother to brother to brother as she explained. “I think it’s
the teacher. You should have heard the terrible things he said!”
Laura quickly began repeating everything. Abraham kept his hand
on her shoulder as they listened. “Where would she go? Oh…what
“Now sis…” Abraham held up a hand to quiet her. “Don’t start
filling your mind with ‘what if’s.’ “
“This is all my fault!” Emily shouted. “It’s my fault!”
“No, Emily.” Abraham buttoned his shirt. “This is all of our
faults. None of us were willing to listen to Laura. We all just
expected her to do as told with no questions asked.” Abraham
hugged Emily. “We’re all guilty.” He pulled her away and softly
laid a hand on her cheek. “You ride on into town and check with
everyone there. See if anyone’s seen her today.” Emily hurried
with Peter to the barn to saddle her horse.
Abraham turned to his mother. “Ma, you stay here just in case
she comes back.” Ruth rung her hands on her apron. “Ma…take it
easy. We’ll find her.” He led her inside and sat her down at the
table. “If she comes back, you fire the shotgun.” Abraham took
the shotgun off the rack over the mantle and put a cartridge in
it. “You stay here, Ma. You hear me?”
Ruth nodded as she folded her hands. “Find her, Abe. Find my
baby,” she pleaded as a tear fell from her eye. “She’s so
“We’ll find her, Ma. I promise we’ll find her!” Abraham squeezed
her shoulder then hurried back outside.
Abraham watched Emily race off toward town. He turned to his
brothers. “We need to split up. We need to check all the creeks
and caves. She may have decided to hide there. I’ll go to my
house and let Julie know what’s going on. Then I’ll go by
Jessica’s house and see if she’s heard from her. Whoever finds
her fires three shots in the air.”
Abraham hurried toward his house to tell Julie. The moment
Margaret heard the news, she declared that she was joining the
search. Julie nodded, telling Margaret it was okay. Abraham and
Margaret hurried toward the Layton farm. Mr. Layton was in the
yard and when they asked him about Laura, he hollered to his
daughter. Jessie hurried from the barn, but stopped when she
realized it was Abraham and Emily. “Come here, girl!” Mr. Layton
Slowly, Jessica walked up to the group. “Mr. McCain here says
his sister’s missing. They are very concerned. Do you know where
she is?” Jessica stared at the visitors but didn’t say a word.
“Jessica Layton, unless you want thrashed with a belt, I suggest
you answer me!” her father ordered harshly.
Jessica swallowed as she stared at Abraham. “Laura made me
promise not to tell. She said you’d whip her if I did!”
Abraham turned and looked at Margaret. He sighed. “I’m not going
to spank her. Not this time. I just want to know where she is,
honey. We are worried.” He bent down in front of Jessica. “If
you’re her friend, you’ll tell us.” Jessica looked away, still
unsure on rather she should. “She could be hurt somewhere,
honey. Do you understand? She could be hurt!” Abraham pleaded
“Well…” Jessica shook her head. “I don’t know exactly but…she
said she was going to hide in a cave Luke used to take her to.
She said she’s gonna remember back to the times she was in that
cave with him.”
Abraham slowly stood up. “That could be half a dozen caves!” he
“Those are dangerous, Abe!” Margaret shouted suddenly in a
panic. “She could have fallen and gotten hurt or…”
“Stop it, Margaret!” Abraham ordered. “Now, we cannot start
thinking that way. We must stay strong for Laura!”
Margaret nodded. “Luke and I used to go to those same caves when
we were kids. We should go to the two on the North Ridge. I know
Laura’s gone there before.”
They turned and hurried off back to Abraham’s farm. Abraham and
Margaret mounted their horses then quickly rode toward the north
ridge. When they arrived, Margaret said she’d check the one
across the field. She turned from Abraham and hurried away. When
she approached it, she found a pile of rocks over the mouth and
the cave-in was recent. She relaxed a bit, not believing Laura
was there, but then she looked down she saw a piece of red
ribbon. Margaret gasped as she slowly bent over and picked it
up. Her eyes grew wide.
“Laura!” Margaret shouted. “Laura, are you in there?”
There was no answer!
“Laura, if you’re in there you answer me!” Margaret begged. She
put her ear up to the rocks and listened. She heard a tiny
muffled cry coming from the inside of the cave. “Laura? Laura!”
“I’m here!” Laura cried louder. “I’m here! I’m here!”
“Abraham!” Margaret turned and screamed. “Abraham, I found her!”
Margaret began tearing the rocks away as best she could. “Over
Abraham hurried over to her. “What happened?”
“She’s in there!” Margaret cried. “I heard her!”
“Laura? Laura?” Abraham shouted. “Honey, can you hear me?”
“I’m here!” Laura cried again. “I’m here! Help me, Abe!”
“Okay. You just stay still, honey. We’ll get you!” Abraham
stood up. “Keep talking to her, Margaret. Just keep talking to
her!” Abraham took his gun and fired it into the sky three
They worked together trying to get rocks and debris away.
“You’re going to be okay, Laura!” Margaret called to her. “Your
brothers are on their way and they’ll get you out.”
“It’s dark!” Laura cried. “It’s dark and I’m scared!”
“You’re okay, honey! We’re going to get you out of here!”
Margaret continued tearing the rocks away. “We’re going to get
you out! Then we’ll go to your house for supper!”
Abraham heard the horses behind him. He hurried toward his
brothers. “She’s in there!” he shouted as he pointed a gloved
hand to the cave. “She’s in there and I can’t get her out!”
They hurried up to assess the situation. “We’ll need tools!”
Peter declared. “Some of these rocks are big.”
Abraham turned toward Margaret. “Go get your father and Scott.
Tell them we need help getting her out.”
“What about your mother and Emily?” Margaret asked.
“Tell Ma to make sandwiches…lots of them! It’ll take us hours to
get her out. We’ll need lanterns and leavers. Go into town and
find some good strong men. We’ll need all the help we can get!”
Margaret wasted no time. She immediately became the town crier
and soon had a lot of able-bodied men heading toward the cave.
She, Jenny, and Beth helped Ruth and Emily prepare sandwiches
for the men. Em went to stay with Julie until they heard
The men worked desperately to get to the little girl. It was
like a solid wall of rock and they had no idea what Laura’s
condition was. She cried more than anything. By the time the sun
went down, the men had managed to break a small hole in the top
of the wall to offer more oxygen. They could hear Laura’s
fearful cries a lot better and no one was happy that they
couldn’t get to her.
Ruth talked to her daughter until her throat ached. Margaret
hurried to the cave as Emily dragged her mother away and began
speaking to the little girl. “You’re going to be okay!” Margaret
assured her. But she had no idea if her words were true or not.
The little girl’s cries were slowly dying.
The more time that elapsed, the harder the men worked. The women
all took turns talking to Laura, but Laura had not said a word
in over an hour. It was now well past midnight and the men
continued working trying to get the wall of rock torn down. The
process was very slow and painful. Abraham hadn’t stopped
working since he and Margaret found the little girl. Margaret
could tell he felt guilty for the state his sister was in. “Pa!
Pa!” Margaret hurried up to her father. “He’s got to stop. He’s
going to kill himself!” She pointed toward Abraham.
Samuel nodded and hurried toward the eldest McCain brother.
“Abe, it’s time to rest and eat something,” Samuel said gently.
“No!” Abe shouted. “No! She’s my sister!”
Jeremiah helped Samuel by grabbing Abraham’s other arm. “We’ll
keep working, Abe, but Uncle Sam’s right. You’re going to hurt
yourself!” They dragged him away from the cave and forced him to
sit down. “We’ve all taken breaks and now you will!”
Abraham put his head in his hands. Emily hurried up to her
brother and put her arms around him. “This isn’t your fault
anymore than it is mine!” Emily assured her brother.
“I had her…” Abraham whispered as he rested his head on her
shoulder. “I had her right there on the creek bank. She was
trying to tell me how bad things were and…all I could do
was…lecture her on responsibility!” His voice broke.
“And it was a good lecture, I’m sure!” Emily insisted. “You
worked with the information she gave you, right?” Abraham didn’t
answer, but merely nodded his head. “Then you did the best you
could, Abe. There is no perfect parent. Ma and Pa weren’t
perfect, and you aren’t either!”
“But it’s that imperfection that could kill my sister…” Abraham
threw a hand to his mouth as he began sobbing. “It could kill
“No, no…” Emily hushed him and gently smoothed his hair. “She’s
going to be fine. She’ll be okay…”
Emily heard the steady breathing of her brother and realized
he’d fallen asleep. She had no choice but to stay still and
allow her shoulder to be his pillow.
The sun peaked at the busy activity among the friends and family
of the McCain’s as it slowly made its way into the sky the next
day. As it began to shine, a bigger hole could be seen inside.
Darkness had been the enemy for the concerned family members.
But now that the sun was once again shining, they could see into
the cave better. Breaking the rock away was a very slow and
tedious process, but the men had been able to get a hole big
enough to look into. Laura could be seen, but she was pinned
down with even more rock.
“Laura!” Abraham called. “Laura!” She didn’t move. Abraham ran a
hand through his hair in frustration at the situation.
As he was shouting into the cave, Julie and Em arrived with the
children and the ladies all began preparing a breakfast over a
campfire. Julie hurried up to her husband and put an arm around
him. “How is she?”
“I don’t know,” Abraham answered quietly. “She’s not moving.” He
slammed his fist into the rock wall. “I don’t know how long
she’s been in there! I don’t know…”
“Abe…” Margaret hurried up to him. “Let me in there! You can
lift me up and I can climb over. I’m small enough!”
“No!” Abraham answered.
“She needs water, Abe! She needs nursing. I can do that. I can
fit through that hole!” Abraham turned and looked toward Samuel.
Samuel nodded his head. Abraham turned back toward Margaret.
“Please!” Margaret begged.
“Alright.” Abraham turned. “Let’s get Margaret a canteen of
water. She’s going in!”
The women stood and hurried over to watch. Margaret put the
canteen over her shoulders and climbed onto Abraham’s shoulders.
She squeezed through the tight hole and lowered herself into the
mouth of the cave. Margaret hurried over the rocks and bent down
beside Laura. “She’s hurt!” Margaret shouted. “She’s hurt really
bad!” Margaret brushed Laura’s hair out of her face.
Laura mumbled but couldn’t open her eyes. Margaret took the lid
off the canteen and gently lifted Laura’s head. “Here honey.
Here take a sip.”
Laura managed to swallow a few sips before passing out again.
Margaret stood and hurried over to the mouth. “She needs the
doctor really…really bad, Abe! She’s hurt something awful!”
Margaret studied the wall from the inside. “We’ve got to get
this rock down! We’ve got to!”
Abraham turned to the other men. “Blasting powder?” he asked.
“It’s risky,” Jeremiah answered. “It could cause another cave
“Look…our sister’s in there dying!” Abraham suddenly shouted as
raw emotion took charge of his voice. “It’s risky to wait! This
wall is going to take days to tear down!”
Jeremiah laid a hand on Abraham’s shoulder. He turned and looked
at the women who were occupied at getting the food ready. “Don’t
cause a panic, Abe!” Jeremiah warned in a low voice. “Your
right. Tearing this rock wall down could take days. Why don’t we
try using blasting powder? We can try to get Laura loose from
the rocks first so we can hurry and get her out.”
“What if it doesn’t work?” Abraham asked. “What if…” His eyes
filled with tears.
Julie saw her husband’s tears and hurried up to him. “Is it bad?
Is it really bad?”
Abraham looked into her eyes. His answer was revealed to her.
Julie threw a hand to her mouth. “Oh God in Heaven, help us…”
“The rocks…their crushing on her legs!” Margaret called. “We
just need to get these rocks off!”
“We’re working on it!” Abraham shouted suddenly. He turned and
saw the men eating. “Alright…” He ran a hand through his hair.
“I think Laura’s far enough back in the cave that blasting
here…” Abraham pointed toward the pile of rock. “…will be safe.
Anybody in town an expert on blasting powder – how much we can
use without causing a big explosion?”
“Hal Dodd’s worked with blasting powder.” Peter hurried to get
him. As the men ate breakfast, they devised a plan on how to go
about in getting Laura out.
They all decided that Laura needed out right away. Johnny Gibbs
was lowered into the cave to try and help Margaret free Laura.
Brother and sister worked together trying to free the little
girl. The work was slow. Tension grew on the outside. The
triplets grew fussy and some of the older children from town
were asked to take the McCain boys home and watch them.
The women stood and watched as Hal Dodd made his way to the cave
with the blasting powder. He shouted out orders to the men on
what to do. Ann Pritchard watched her boyfriend work bravely,
but no one missed the sweat on his face.
“What are our chances on this working?” Abraham asked suddenly.
“Not good,” Hal answered. “If that hole you dug is big enough
for Margaret and Johnny, then pray they can get her unburied and
then can drag her out. After looking this over, if we were to
blast, it would bury her alive for sure.”
His words weren’t good. Nobody said a word as they prayed that
the Gibb’s children could get Laura out.
But Abraham wasn’t satisfied. He hurried up to the doctor who
was waiting. Dr. Stevens paced back and forth anxiously. “Dr.
Dr. Stevens grabbed Abraham’s arm. “Any news yet?”
“She’s hurt bad, Doc. She hasn’t said a word in hours and
Margaret said her legs are pinned. I know they removed some
rocks from her middle earlier. Is it safe to move her?”
Abraham’s voice held tears. His eyes showed a heap of worry. His
face held desperateness.
“Abe, I don’t know what’s wrong with her. But I’ll tell you
this: We don’t know how long that child’s been in that cave, but
we DO know it’s been at least since 4:00 yesterday. We’ve got to
get her out!”
“But moving her…” Abraham scratched his head. “Look…we have a
hole at the top. We can get her out if the kids can get the
rocks off, but…she could have busted ribs or worse and I…”
“Get her out, Abe. Just get her out.” Abe nodded in
By mid morning, Margaret and Johnny had managed to drag Laura
out from the pile of rocks. The women all stood in a circle
huddled together in prayer as the men tried to make the opening
a little larger. They prayed in tears that everything would
“She’s free!” Margaret shouted. “She’s free. Now what?”
Abraham turned and looked at the doctor. Dr. Stevens hurried up
to the opening of the cave. “Listen, she could be seriously hurt
so please be careful…We’ve got to get her out of there.” He
asked for a blanket then asked Abraham to toss in into the kids.
“Now…I want you to wrap Laura up in this. Wrap her up tight.”
Hal Dodd hurried forward. “Margaret, do you have something you
can stand on? Can you make a ledge or something?”
They waited anxiously for her answer. “No!” Margaret replied. “I
don’t see any…”
“Alright, forget that!” Abe stepped up onto the ladder they had
propped against the hole. “Margaret, you get her head and Johnny
her feet. You two have to lift her up until I can reach her!”
Abraham bent through the hole, but he could only get his head
and arms through. “Get her wrapped up tight now…really tight!”
Abraham watched as Margaret swaddled Laura in the blanket. They
wrapped her as tight as they could. Then Margaret picked up the
girls top while Johnny lifted the bottom.
Slowly they made their way over to the opening and began lifting
Everyone outside the cave watched in anticipation as the men
crowded around the opening.
“A little more!” Abraham urged. “Lift her a little higher!”
Peter and Jeremiah held the ladder steady as Abraham leaned over
on the ladder into the cave. Abraham grabbed the bundle the
Gibbs kids handed him. “I got her!” Abraham shouted. He slowly
lifted his head from the cave and wrapped his arms around the
bundle. “I’ve got her!”
Cheers erupted and prayers of thanks were breathed throughout
the large group of people who had come to help free Laura from
Abraham held the precious bundle close to him and hugged her as
he hurried away from the mouth of the cave. Jeremiah and Peter
stayed to help Margaret and Johnny from the cave. Ruth let out a
cry and hurried up to her baby. “My baby! My baby!” she cried
when she realized Laura wasn’t moving at all.
“Aunt Jenny!” Abraham called when Ruth tried to take Laura from
him. “Take Ma away!”
Abraham laid his sister down on the quilt as Jennifer forced
Ruth to step away. Ruth fell to her knees and cried softly as
the doctor hurried up to Laura. He bent over her and began
examining her. Laura began mumbling. “Mama…Mama…Help me…”
“You’re okay, baby!” Ruth cried. “You’re okay!” Tears flooded
her eyes as she realized that for now, her child was alive.
There was no longer a dry eye among the crowd – man or woman.
“Give her some water,” the doctor muttered softly. Abraham took
the canteen from Margaret and put it to Laura’s lips. Dr.
Stevens injected a shot into Laura’s arm. “This will put her to
sleep for awhile. Get as much water into her as you can until
she goes to sleep.” Laura moaned softly as Abraham forced the
water into her mouth.
She fell asleep. “It’s better this way,” Dr. Stevens mumbled to
Abraham. “I’m afraid she’s in a lot of pain.”
Abraham looked toward his mother. She laid her head on her
daughter’s chest. “Oh baby…” she whispered.
Abraham stood up to talk to the doctor. The brothers gathered
around, as did Emily, Julie, and Margaret. “She has a cracked
rib or two. Her leg may be broken. I won’t know the full extent
until I get her back home and examine her.”
“Emily, take mother home.” Abraham turned to his brothers.
“We’ll carry Laura gently.”
Dr. Stevens splinted her leg and wrapped her ribs before they
moved her. She was very ill due to lack of food and water, but
the sedative Dr. Stevens had administered was light enough that
she wouldn’t sleep for long. He just wanted to get her examined
and cared for before she woke up. Emily stayed in to assist the
doctor while everyone else waited inside or out in the yard to
hear the news. It was getting close to dinner and Margaret
helped Ruth prepare a meal while Jenny and Julie worked at
putting the boys down for a nap in Ruth’s bedroom.
It had been nearly 34 hours since Emily left Laura in the school
yard. As Margaret set the ham on the table, the door to the
sisters’ bedroom opened and Emily walked out followed by Dr.
Stevens. Silence fell in the room as everyone waited for the
news. Em handed Dr. Stevens a cup of coffee as they waited for
him to speak. “She took some more water when she woke up, but
she’s a rather sick little girl,” Dr. Stevens stated. “I’ve
sedated her and only time will tell us if she’ll get better.
I’ve wrapped her up tight. She has two cracked ribs. I also put
a splint on her broken leg. If her fever breaks, she’ll be
“When will we know, doctor?” Julie asked.
“Soon.” Dr. Stevens picked up his bag. “I have to go. Emily has
instructions and the medicine to give her if she wakes up.” He
paused at the door and put a hand on Ruth’s arm. “It’s…best if
she stays sedated until the pain’s a bit better. The ribs and
leg on anyone is pretty painful. On a little girl…”
Ruth collapsed into a chair after the door closed. She began
crying softly. “Why…why…why?” she asked no one in particular.
Emily hurried over to the chair and bent down beside her.
“Ma…let’s eat. Then you can sit with her awhile.”
“I’ve been terrible!” Ruth cried. “I’ve expected too much.
Abraham bent down on the other side of Ruth. “No, Mama. You
haven’t!” He stroked her hand as he spoke softly. “We’ve all
played a part in this.” He stood up. “And I’m going to give that
so-called school teacher a piece of my mind as soon as we know
how she’s doing!”
Nobody argued with him. Everyone was pretty frustrated with all
that had happened. Supper was eaten in silence. Ruth took a few
bites of food, but finally stood and walked into Laura’s room.
She closed the door firmly behind her. Everyone knew she was
crying over her baby. After supper, Emily went in to check on
her mother. Ruth was bent over her daughter stroking her hair.
“Mother?” Ruth turned. “You should rest.”
But Ruth wouldn’t budge from her baby girl’s bedside. She would
stay there all night if she had to. At one point in the evening,
Abraham came in and gently laid his hands on her shoulders and
led her out of the room. “You have got to get some sleep, Ma.”
His voice was very stern as he led her toward her own room.
“Julie and the kids have gone home. Margaret’s staying with them
for a few days. I’ll be right here with you.”
After he had gotten his mother settled in bed, Abraham went into
the kitchen and poured a cup of coffee. He sat down at the table
but simply stared into the cup. “She’s bad, Abe,” Emily mumbled.
“She was so dehydrated…by the time Margaret got to her she was…”
Emily couldn’t finish her statement.
“I know.” Abraham closed his eyes and put a hand to his
forehead. “I could just kick myself! I had her…” Abraham banged
his fist on the table. “I had her right there…She was trying to
tell me and I missed it!” He banged his fist on the table again.
“I missed it! I just gave her some damned lecture about
Emily sat down beside her brother and put an arm around him. “I
know! I feel terrible too, but we can’t get angry. She needs
us!” Emily stood up and walked into the bedroom. The three
brothers continued to sit at the table while Emily went in to
sit with her sister.
Two days passed. The family couldn’t concentrate on their work.
All the members of the family took turns sitting with Laura. She
continued to run a high fever and the doctor suggested she stay
sedated until her fever passed. When she did wake up, she would
cry in pain. No one could stand listening to her cries, but
Abraham would force some water down her while she screamed. When
they were satisfied she had enough, they allowed her to go back
Abraham sat with Laura on Friday. He kept the Bible open on the
bed as he read. A low moan sounded as he dozed off. Abraham’s
eyes opened up and he lifted his head. Laura was staring at him.
Pain shone in her eyes, but she didn’t look as uncomfortable as
she had before. Abraham pressed a hand to her forehead. “It’s
gone,” he whispered. He closed the Bible and sat on the side of
the bed. “Oh thank you, God.” He hugged her as best he could
without hurting her. He brushed a hand against her cheek. “How
are you, Rosebud?”
Laura didn’t speak. She just stared at her brother. She looked
Abraham swallowed, trying to keep his eyes dry. “You went into a
cave and…” he swallowed the tears. “There was a cave in. It took
us a long time to get you out.”
Laura continued to stare at him.
Abraham sighed as he smoothed her hair down. “This is Friday.
You had the…accident…on Tuesday. You hurt some ribs.” Abraham
gently laid a hand on her middle where her ribs were. “Those are
in here. They protect your lungs…And you broke your leg, but
Abraham’s heart broke when he saw a tear slip from her eye and
roll down her cheek. “Am I…” She swallowed. “Am I in trouble?”
Abraham couldn’t keep the tears from his eyes. He shook his
head. “No…No, not at all!”
“Your not…mad at me for playing hooky?” Laura asked then.
Abraham shook his head. He turned away, unable to control his
emotions. Then he turned back and kissed her forehead and stood
up. “I’ll get Ma.” His voice choked. Abraham hurried out of the
room. “She’s awake.” Everyone jumped up and hurried into the
room. Abraham hurried outside and went around the corner of the
house. He sat down on the chopping block and stared down at the
ax. Then he put his hands to his face and sobbed. His shoulders
shook as he cried. “I’m sorry…I’m sorry…” he cried.
After his tears subsided, Emily came around the side. “She’s
back asleep. She’s exhausted, the poor child.” Abraham didn’t
look at her. “She’ll be okay now.” Abraham nodded. He stood and
started out of the yard. “Where are you going?” Emily suddenly
“To town. There’s someone I have to see!” Emily hurried forward
to beg him not to go, but he was on his horse and gone before
she could get the words out.
Emily hurried inside. “Peter, get Julie! I think there’s going
to be trouble at the school house!”
“What do you mean?” Peter asked.
“Abraham. He just took off on his horse.”
Stan Richards turned from locking the door to see Abraham McCain
riding up. Abraham didn’t bother tying his horse, but hurried
toward the stairs. “Thought you might want to know my sister’s
fever broke today.”
Abraham folded his arms. “Now that I’m not so worried about her
anymore, I must ask…what did you do to her Monday?”
“Do to her?” Mr. Richard’s shook his head. “I didn’t DO anything
to her, Mr. McCain.”
“Did you…or did you not single her out in front of the class?”
Abraham asked in an accusing voice.
“Mr. McCain, I…”
“I asked you a question.”
“Well…” Mr. Richards took a step down. “I merely told the child
that she obviously didn’t study her math over the summer. Nor
did it seem she had worked too hard the year before. She’s not
at the level she should be.”
“Did you bother asking…” Abraham started.
“Mr. McCain, as I told your sister, your personal life is NOT my
concern. The fact that your sister played hooky on Tuesday is
obviously proof that there are some things going on at home that
are interfering with-“
Abraham reared back and punched Mr. Richards. Mr. Richards fell
to the ground. He put a hand to his bloodied nose. “We are ALL
at fault for my sister’s current condition. And let me tell you
“Abraham!” Jeremiah hurried up to his brother. “Abe, stop it!”
Mr. Richards stood up, still holding his nose. “Well, I rest my
case, Mr. McCain!”
“I mean it!” Abraham yelled as he pointed a finger at him. “I…”
Jeremiah grabbed him from the back under the arms. “Come on,
Abe! Not now! Not like this!”
“If you ever…”
“Abraham!” Jeremiah shouted. “I said come on!”
Abraham mounted his horse and rode away. He didn’t wait for
Jeremiah. He didn’t stop riding hard until he got to his house.
He went into the barn and sat down. He didn’t hear the door open
behind him. “Abe?”
He jumped as he turned around. Julie walked up to him. “I heard
you went riding into town.”
“Please…” Julie bent down in front of her husband. “Tell me you
didn’t act in haste.” Abraham turned his head from her. “Abe…”
Julie put a hand to his cheek and turned his head back around.
“You…know that Laura disobeyed you that day. She was told to go
to school and in the end, Laura chose to play hooky and Laura
went into that cave.”
“But I should have listened to her. I should have…” Abraham
closed his eyes. “She was trying to tell me, honey. I’m
responsible for her and I failed her.”
“Just talk to her, Abraham. Just talk to her….tomorrow…” She put
her arms around him and hugged him close. Then she pulled away
and smiled into his eyes. “We miss you.”
Abraham stood up. As they walked into the house, he slipped an
arm around her. “How are the boys?’
“Growing,” Julie answered as she smiled up at her husband.
Abraham smiled tiredly as they walked inside and closed the
“And they lived happily ever after.” Margaret smiled as she
closed the book.
“Margaret?” Laura cringed as she tried to turn over. She laid
back on her pillow. “You suppose Sleeping Beauty really slept
for a hundred years?”
Margaret laughed. “No, Sweetie. I think Mother Goose made the
whole story up.”
“Who made Mother Goose up?” Laura asked then.
“Well…” Margaret looked down at the book. “I don’t know.”
“I bet she was really pretty…” Laura mumbled. She turned her
head toward Margaret again. “Sleeping Beauty I mean. I want to
be really pretty like her.”
Margaret smiled as she brushed Laura’s hair back. “You ARE
“Is that why Mama and Emily want me to wear a dress?”
Margaret frowned. “What do you mean?”
“Well…I put up such a fuss about having my hair up in those
fancy ribbons and being all dressed up and such. My Mama didn’t
let me have dessert Monday night because I took my shoes off at
school…said I wasn’t being lady like.”
“What’s so important about being lady-like?” Laura asked.
“Well…” Margaret licked her lips as she tried to think of an
answer. “You ARE a lady…well, at least someday you WILL be a
lady. Your Ma and Emily want you to learn what it’s like to be a
lady. They want you to learn how to be a lady.”
“You’ve always been a lady!”
Margaret laughed. “Oh, you ask Luke about that.” Laura narrowed
her eyes. “I don’t suppose you ever heard about the mud fight
your brother and I had when we were seven years old?” Margaret
giggled as Laura’s mouth opened. “And I don’t suppose Luke ever
told you about our climbing trees together?”
“You?” Laura threw a hand to her mouth and giggled. But she
grabbed her middle and groaned suddenly.
“I’m sorry.” Margaret cleared her throat. “And I got into
trouble for not behaving lady-like. You see, most mothers want
their daughters to grow up with all the lady-like qualities she
grew up with. Now mind you, I’m not nearly as lady-like as my
mother. My mother would never ride a horse like a man. Nor would
she ever play with a piglet or climb a tree. But I understand
now that I’m an adult why she taught me all those things. And
someday you’ll understand too.”
“But…I hate wearing those pretty dresses and ribbons. Those boys
won’t let me play kickball dressed all pretty like that!”
Margaret smiled. “Well…there ARE advantages to dressing like
that, you know.” Naturally, Laura wanted to know what the
advantages were. “Well…” Margaret blushed as she thought about
Lucas. “You’ll learn about those things when you get older.”
Margaret stood up. “Goodnight, Laura.”
Abraham walked into the house Sunday morning. Ruth was just
leaving Laura’s room with an empty bowl. “She seems to be
getting her appetite back, son.”
“Ma…” Abraham walked up to her. “I was wondering how she’s
doing. Has she talked much about…why she didn’t want to go to
“No.” Ruth sat the bowl in the sink and turned back around. “But
Margaret talked to her the other night about the reason’s we
want her to be lady-like.” Ruth sighed. “Then Margaret and I
talked. I think I’m being rough on her. She is different from
your sister, and it’s not her fault. I suspect it has something
to do with the fact that she has four older brothers, one of
which is Luke…”
“Yes.” Abraham nodded. “Luke loved to take her to caves and take
her fishing…almost like he wanted a little brother.”
“I suspect so.” Ruth chuckled.
“Ma…You go on to church. I’ve a few things to talk to Laura
about this morning. Peter will drive you, Julie, and the boys
then we can stay the afternoon for lunch if you’ll feed us.”
Ruth nodded. She knew Abraham needed this time with his sister.
Abraham sat down beside his sister’s bed and read her a Bible
story. Then he closed the Bible and cleared his throat. “How are
Laura turned her head toward him. “Tired of being in this silly
bed!” Laura sighed. “How long does it take for ribs to mend?”
“About as long it takes for your leg to mend.” Laura gave him a
funny look. Abe chuckled. “About six weeks.”
“Six weeks?” Laura squeaked out. “I have to be in bed for six
“Well now…” Abraham folded his arms and grinned at her. “You
should have thought about that before you went into that cave
young lady.” Laura sighed and nodded. “I’m sure that when Luke
took you in there, he also told you to never go in there without
an adult.” Abraham waited for an answer. “Or do I have to go out
on the battlefield and whip my brother for not teaching you
“Yes sir.” Laura answered. “He told me.” She sighed. “I messed
“Well…” Abraham cleared his throat again. “You aren’t the only
one who messed up. I’m afraid I didn’t do much listening the
other day out by the creek. I was a little upset with you for
the way you behaved and I didn’t take time out to figure you had
cause for behaving that way.” Abraham bent over the bed and
looked into her eyes. “You want to tell me about it?”
“Oh Abe, it was just awful…just AWFUL!” Laura declared. “Monday
morning, I go into the school and he gives us all these rules.
So I write them down the best I can. I can’t spell ‘absolutely’
or ‘permission!’ But I wrote the words as best I could.” Laura
pointed to her books on the table.
Abraham stood and got the tablet. He opened to the first page
and read what she had written. “Well, I’d say this is good for a
seven year old,” he mumbled.
“I did the best I can! Honest, Abe!” Laura declared with a shake
of her head. “Then he gave us reading. I’ve only had one year
and Mama tried to work with me this summer but we were so busy.
I read the best I could, but Mr. hateful…”
“Laura Rose…” Abraham warned.
“Sorry.” Laura sighed. “Mr. Richards…he just tapped that stick
in his hand and sighed really heavy as I tried to read. I
couldn’t concentrate! The other kids…they started laughing. Then
Mr. Richards banged that stick really hard on his desk and told
me I had to re-read it at home then read it to him the next day
again!” Laura felt her eyes fill with tears. “Oh Abe, it’s not
that I got into trouble for not knowing the words, but…the way
he said it and in front of everybody! It made me feel so
ashamed! And everyone was staring at me!”
“I’m sorry, Laura.”
“Then he made us do math and I didn’t understand! He just told
us to open our math books and start working the problem. I
whispered to Jessie and asked her if she knew how to do the
problem, then he told me I had to stay in the whole recess.”
Laura sighed. “I know I shouldn’t of, but I argued and he told
me I had to stay in the whole afternoon recess too. But..it’s
what he did in the afternoon that was the worstest of all!”
“Well…I was working on my reading some more and he told me that
my folks didn’t seem to care about my schooling so he’d have to
see to give me extra attention. He said he wished Ma would give
me some sort of schooling at home in the summer.” Laura’s eyes
filled with tears. “That’s why I hate him. I hate him, Abe! I
“Now wait just a minute there, young lady!” Abraham wiped the
tears from Laura’s face. “We don’t go around hating people who
we don’t agree with. I’m going to have a talk with your
teacher…tell him I don’t appreciate him treating you that way.
But you must admit that you didn’t put much stock in your
studies last year.” Abraham sighed. “Laura, I owe you an
apology. I should have asked you what happened the other day
but…I thought you were just being…well…Laura. I understand why
you played hooky, but it’s still not okay.”
“I know.” Laura nodded. “And I’m sorry. When I was sitting in
that cave, I got this really funny feeling down deep inside me
and I decided that I better go on to school…even if I did get a
whipping. But when I stood up I heard a funny noise. Then all
these rocks started falling.”
“And you learned a really hard lesson, Laura. You learned why
parents give their children rules.” Laura nodded. “And you
learned why Ma and Emily wants you to dress and act like a
lady.” Laura nodded again. “I think Mr. Richards was way too
harsh to you and I’ll speak to him. But you will have to do your
part to make school work. Right now…I want you to understand
something, Laura. You have to go to school rather you like it or
“Yes sir.” Laura shook her head. “But not with him! Not with Mr.
“We’ll see.” Abraham stood up. “Now, I’ll bring schoolwork home
with me after I talk to him in the morning. And you WILL do it.
“So?” Abraham raised an eyebrow. “Do you forgive me?” Laura
smiled and nodded her head. Abraham bent over and kissed her
forehead. “How about if you get some rest?”
Immediately, Laura closed her eyes. Abraham smiled as he
scratched under his nose and shook his head. He sure had his
work cut out for him!
Abraham watched Mr. Richards step from his buggy early Monday
morning. His arms were crossed and one foot was bent and his
foot propped on the wall. Mr. Richards turned and froze when he
saw the McCain brother standing there. Then slowly, he
approached the school. “You’ve…come to finish the job, Mr.
McCain?” Mr. Richards asked.
“No. I’ve come to set some things straight. I will not resort to
violence unless you force me to.”
“And what exactly is that supposed to mean?” Mr. Richards asked.
“I think you know.” Abraham waited for Mr. Richards to unlock
the door. Then they both walked into the schoolhouse. “Now
then…” Abraham took out the rules his sister had written the
week before. “First of all, I want to know what’s so terrible
about the rules my sister wrote for you. She did exactly as she
was told and worked hard at sounding out the big words.”
Mr. Richards studied the sheet. “Mr. McCain, half of these words
are spelled incorrectly. She left out several words, and the
grammar is all wrong!”
Abraham leaned forward. “Okay…” He tried to stay calm. “First of
all, she’s a seven year old child. Second of all, she has had a
really rough summer. Her favorite brother left to join the war
and she worries about him all the time. Our father died a few
months ago. We’ve all been struggling to adjust to this new life
we’ve been given. My sister did the best she could.”
“Like I said before, Mr. McCain, her personal problems…”
“I know what you said!” Abraham boomed out. “And frankly, I
don’t give a…” He stopped and closed his eyes to regain
composure. Through clinched teeth, he spoke…”Her personal
problems are important because they affect her. A seven year old
child doesn’t just leave her problems outside the door. She
carries them deep inside her like the rest of us! Now then…about
her reading aloud in class…My sister may seem a bit behind the
other children in her class, but I assure you my mother, sister,
brothers, and I will make sure she applies herself. But if you
ever…EVER…speak to her the way you spoke to her in class on
Monday, I will personally come down here and beat you into a
pulp!” Abraham leaned over the desk. “Do I make myself clear?”
“You’re…beginning to, Mr. McCain.” Mr. Richards stood up and
checked his watch. “I’m afraid it’s about time for school to
start. Is there anything else?”
“Yes. What did you do before you came here?”
“I taught in a boy’s school in Philadelphia. I taught grades 5
and 6. They were taught with strict discipline and all turned
out very well.”
“Well my sister is in grade two,” Abraham reminded him. “And
rather you like it or not, she has and still is going through a
very hard time. So you better take that into consideration when
she’s here. Now then…” Abraham sighed. “My sister is a very
mischievous child. I’m supposing it comes from having four older
brothers…and I will deal with her behavior if I need to.”
Abraham turned and looked at the switch. “I also understand you
use the ruler and the switch. I have spanked my sister on
several occasions as her behavior warrants; so I say this as
clearly as I can. If you lay one finger on my sister, you better
darn well have proof that it was justified or I will personally
see that you are taken out into the street and flogged!”
Abraham turned and started out. He stopped. “Oh, I have a few
errands to run in town. I’ll be back at noon to pick up my
sister’s assignments for the week. She won’t be back to school
until she’s completely healed.” With that, Abraham walked out.
Mr. Richards stared at him as he left and slowly shook his head.
“Sod busters…They’re nothing but savages!” he muttered under his
breath as he slapped down the papers he was holding in his hands
and went to ring the bell.
The healing was slow and painful. It was a fight to get Laura to
lay still. Ruth gave Laura some herbs that helped with the pain
to the point that she could sit up, but that was as far as she
was allowed to go. As the days went by, Laura became grumpier
and grumpier. She knew she couldn’t be taken to the barn or
punished so she grumbled all she wanted. Usually, though, a
stern look from one of her brothers quieted her down for a bit.
Emily worked with Laura on her lessons every day. The fact that
Emily had to devote so much time to Laura put the farm chores in
a bind, so Abraham asked Margaret to help them out for awhile,
and sometimes Margaret would even bring Charlie along and left
Julie with the babies.
Margaret did write a short letter to Lucas and informed him of
what had been happening. A short letter was all she had time for
at the moment. Between her chores at home and helping the McCain
family out, Margaret had little time to worry about Lucas.
Then the day arrived. It had been six weeks since the accident.
Everyone had been counting to Monday afternoon for the last
several days. Keeping a rambunctious child like Laura in bed was
like trying to keep a bear from a pot of honey. Everyone waited
in anticipation as the doctor went in to examine the child.
Julie, Emily, and Margaret worked at preparing the meal while
Ruth and Em entertained the children. The three brothers paced
outside anxiously waiting to hear the news. Finally, the door to
Laura’s room opened and Dr. Stevens walked out. Beside him stood
Laura who was smiling. “She’s okay. Her ribs are a bit sore and
she’ll walk with a limp for a week or so until it gets all
kinked out, but she’s going to be alright.” The room was filled
with shouts of joy as everyone hugged Laura. “Have her take it
easy for a few days. I say she can return to school Monday!”
“Oh…if I have to stay out later, I…” Laura started.
“Laura Rose!” Laura heard several shouts of her name. She smiled
as she turned and looked at her brothers.
Dr. Stevens picked up his bag and started for the door. “Oh, and
stay away from caves, young lady!”
“At least that one!” Laura declared. But when she saw the look
Abraham shot her, she said, “And all the others too!”
Abraham walked the doctor out, promising to pay him as soon as
they delivered the wheat crop to market. Then the family
celebrated Laura’s recovery.
But the following Monday came too soon as far as Laura was
concerned. She had all her lessons done the best she could and
was dressed up all pretty when Abraham stopped by. He had a
surprise for her. All her brothers and sister stood outside the
door as he made the announcement. “I think you are big enough to
walk to school all by yourself.”
“You mean it?” Laura shouted excitedly. “You really mean it?”
“I do.” Abraham folded his arms and lifted his eyebrows. “This
is an important day for the McCain family. The last McCain is
finally allowed to walk to school by herself. Laura, I want to
trust you, and I’ll try. I trust you’ve learned a lesson from
what happened recently. And I trust that you won’t hesitate to
let us know if there’s any trouble.”
“You mean…” Laura swallowed, realizing for the first time that
she was going to face her teacher alone. “…that I hafta do this
Abraham smiled. Nobody answered her question, but Laura knew
that was the truth of the matter. The only way for her to face
this was head-on. “But you will go directly to school and come
straight home afterwards.”
The family watched as Laura slowly walked out of the yard.
Abraham put his arm around his mother as she sniffed. “My
baby…going at it all alone…”
“You know she has to, Ma. She knows what she did was wrong, and
she has to face that alone.” Ruth nodded. “She’ll be okay.”
Margaret was out for her morning ride. She stopped Golden and
smiled when she saw a lonely seven year old girl walking toward
school all by herself. She waved and Laura waved back but never
stopped laughing. With a prideful smile on her face, Margaret
turned her horse toward home.
My Dearest Lucas
Well here it is the middle of October already. I miss you more
than ever, my love, and long for the day when you will come
I know I’ve written you, at the family’s request, and told you
about Laura’s ordeal. But I just had to write you about what I
witnessed today. Today Laura Rose walked to school by herself.
She didn’t know it, but I watched her the whole way. I just
couldn’t help myself. She looked so little and scared, but she
did it; and she did it proudly!
So for now, things are restored in our small town here in
Oklahoma. As the winter approaches, I can think of only three
things that are missing. Your father is one of those things. The
other two are you and Andy. I pray that, like Laura, our family
will soon be restored. I pray, Lucas, that you are all well.
I hold you always in my heart and my thoughts. And though I
can’t always write you and tell you what I’m thinking, please
know I carry you around with me everywhere I go.
I love you.
Lucas smiled as he laid on his cot and reread the letter. “My
little Rosebud,” he mumbled. “I’m so proud of you.” He closed
his eyes and tried to picture Laura…little Laura Rose…walking to
school all alone. The mere thought frightened him, but not
nearly as much as the thought of her dying alone in that cave.
He was grateful that Margaret was brave enough to go inside and
care for his sister. She would make a great mother someday; and
Lucas found himself hoping that someday she would be the mother
of his child.
Lucas put the cigar in his mouth and sat up. He reached for the
paper as he wrote the letter home.
My Dearest Margaret,
You have made my heart so happy today. I’ll rest easier knowing
my little Rosebud is so much better. Please give her a big hug
and kiss from me. Wrap your arms around her and tell her I love
her. Then ask her to give you a kiss…It’s the best I can offer
under the circumstances.
I received a letter from Laura the other day and was hoping you
confess in the letter. But I suppose I should tell you Laura
told me you and she talked about how much trouble we got in as
So…did you tell Laura who’s fault the mud fight was? Did you
tell Laura that YOU, my dear, pushed ME into the mud puddle? Did
you tell her that you then smeared my face in the mud and I
actually ate mud that day? Oh, or did you make it seem that the
mud fight was something we both participated in?
She also told me we climbed trees together. But did you also
mention that I had to climb the trees to come after you? You had
no trouble getting up them; but you certainly had trouble
getting down! I certainly wouldn’t want to ruin your “lady-like”
image when you are trying so hard to convince Laura it’s in
tact. Your secret’s safe with me, my sweet.
I’m so tired, Margaret. It seems the captain’s expecting a
skirmish or battle soon because he’s been working us very hard.
I better close for now. I think about you every day and read
your letters often. Please stay beautiful until I get back. Oh,
and happy Halloween.
The Years Before — Mischief Night
This is a story based on the TV series The Rifleman
Here are some other great stories. Enjoy!
around The McCain Ranch