The Writer's Corner
The Years Before...
Chapter 7 - The Telegram
Written by Michelle Palmer
Dear family, The winters here are
cold. I can't recall it ever getting this cold in Oklahoma, but
then this is the East and I reckon things do get cooler here.
The captain keeps us busy with drills, even when the snowís
falling. We bundle up and hurry through the drills, then we
start a big fire and all sit around it. No matter though, it
always seems to be cold.
Luke keeps us entertained with plenty of stories, amazing!
This man can sure tell a story. You should hear some of the
things he tells me about the trouble he and Margaret got into as
kids. Itís amazing. I donít know why I didnít know about these
things, especially since Margaretís my sister.
Ma, I know you worry. And I know that asking you not to worry
will just be a waste of my time. I had hoped the war was almost
over, but it looks like weíll still have a long way to go. I
sure do miss all of you.
Well, I never was too good at letter writing, you know that. So
I really donít know what to say. I think you all know what you
mean to me, and I think you know I think about you often. I hope
all is well at home. I hope your winterís going better than
God bless you this Thanksgiving. Eat a turkey leg for me.
I love you all.
Andy addressed the envelope then handed his letter to the
private as he walked by collecting the mail that morning. He
wrapped his arms around his legs and stared into the fire. "Hey
Luke?" Lucas grunted. "Iíve been wondering something."
"Oh?" Lucas took a long puff off his cigar. "Whatís that, Andy?"
"Well...if a man...I mean a Rebel...comes face to face with you...and
you are able to see the whites of his eyes...and you have the
chance to shoot him...do you think that..." Andy sighed, unable to
finish his sentence. "I mean..."
"...could I shoot him?" Lucas shook his head. "I donít know, Andy.
I often wonder that myself. There have been times Iíve shot at
the Rebs, but I never focused on one man. When the time comes
that I come face to face with a man and Iím able to look into
his eyes...I wonder if I will have what it takes."
Andy sat staring into the fire. "Thanksgivingís tomorrow." Lucas
looked up at his friend over the fire. Andyís voice sounded
lonely. "I wonder what the familyís doing right now."
Lucas smiled. "Ma and Aunt Jenny are arguing over who will host
the dinner this year. The men folks of the winning host will be
given many, many strict orders. The women folk will be planning
out the menu, though I donít see why they bother. They always
end up fixing everything!"
Andy chuckled. "Yeah. I figure theyíll have Thanksgiving at our
house this year, huh?" Andy saw the question in Lucasís eyes.
"Well, I mean since your father..." He saw Luke's eyes sadden.
A silence grew between the two men. Lucas took a long puff off
the cigar in his mouth as he remembered the last thanksgiving.
"Thatís right. Pa wonít be there. I just canít picture home
without Pa there. I just...canít wrap my mind around it...I wonder
how Maís doing?" Lucas wondered suddenly. "I mean, she lost Pa
and Iím gone. Jeremiahís married. She only has Peter, Emily, and
Laura to take care of now. I just canít help but wonder how
sheís handling it all."
"Your mother is strong." Andy turned and looked into the fire.
"My motherís strong. I wonder, though, how strong sheíd be
Lucas narrowed his eyes as he studied Andy. "Andy...you canít
think about those things. Out here we have to survive. This is
war. People die, but you look out for number one. Iíll help you
the best I can."
"I donít need help, Lucas! I can do this!" Andy stared into the
fire. "Iíll make my father proud."
It wasnít the words that frightened Lucas, but it was the way
Andy said the words. His voice shook when he spoke them. Lucas
saw the fear in his eyes. He could never see Andy as a coward,
but theyíd always known that Andy wasnít as strong as Scott on
the inside. Andy and Scott had always complimented each other.
Andy would give the physical strength, but when things got
rough, Scott delivered the inner strength Andy needed. Up to
now, there was no need to worry because Scott was always there
to give Andy that strength he needed. But now...now, Andy needed
Scottís inner strength if he were to live.
"Andy...I guess I never told you, but..."
The men jumped up at the sound of the bugle call. Itís the sound
the men always hated to hear. "Mount up, men!" the First
Lieutenant called out. "Weíre riding out!"
Lucas threw his cigar into the fire. He turned and saw the look
of fear on Andy's face. "Andy...if you do face a man with a gun, I
think youíll be able to shoot him. Just remember you have a
family at home who needs you." Andyís mouth shook. He tried to
hide his fear from Lucas. "You hear me?" Lucas asked quickly.
Lucas couldnít stop for an answer. He had his own work to do. As
Lucas rushed forward to obey orders, he asked God to protect
Andy that day, because right now Lucas was walking with a heavy
It was the day of Thanksgiving Eve. Margaret took the long list
of supplies to pick up from the General Store from her mother
and turned to Beth. "Are you sure you donít want to go?" she
asked for the third time that morning.
"I'm sure," Beth answered as she continued to quietly sew on her
dress. "Iíll stay and help Mother with the baking."
Margaret shook her head. Beth was very reserved and quiet. She
had her small circle of friends and even a boyfriend or two, but
she was happiest sitting alone thinking. "Alright. Scott, you
ready?" Margaret asked as she turned to her older brother.
Scott buttoned his coat and led Margaret out the door. "The
snowís falling again."
Margaret suddenly shivered. It wasnít from the cold because she
felt warm and toasty under her heavy coat. The shiver was
something she couldnít explain. "I wonder how Luke and Andy
are." She didnít realize it, but she had been thinking about
them all morning.
"Iím sure theyíre sitting around a nice fire remembering past
Thanksgivings," Scott answered as he took Margaretís arm and
helped her into the wagon.
"They wouldnít be fighting...I mean, not this close to
Thanksgiving." Margaret jerked her head around when Scott
chuckled. "Whatís so funny?"
"Iím sorry, Sis, but I donít think the Rebs or the Union are
really thinking about taking a Ďbreakí from the war just because
"I know!" Margaret sighed. "But they could still take a break
from fighting. Why, with everything theyíre doing for the war,
they could give them a big feast of turkey and all the
Scott picked up the reins. "You know, thatís what I love about
you, little sister? You are always thinking about others."
Margaret rolled her eyes and smiled, but as the horses started
forward a strange feeling settled in her heart. She stared down
at her clasped hands in her lap as she closed her eyes and sent
up a prayer for her two fighting men.
Margaret remembered back to a Thanksgiving several years ago
when Luke, Peter, Andy, and Scott had walked into the McCain
house with big grins on their faces. Their boots were covered in
mud. Andy held a great big turkey by the feet. Blood dripped
from the bird onto Aunt Ruthís freshly cleaned floor. Andy was
so proud of that turkey he had shot Ė his very first hunting
trip and heíd taken down the bird. But Aunt Ruth was being a
mother, and she planted her hands on her hips and shouted, "What
do you think you are doing bringing that dead bird in here with
blood dripping on my clean floor! Scoot! And wash that mud off
of ya Ė all four of ya!" She hadnít missed the look of
disappointment on Andyís face as he turned and walked out,
feeling very dejected.
The snow was falling lightly as Margaret hurried into the
General Store later. She smiled when she saw Emily, Tiffany, Em,
and Julie. "I hesitate to ask where the children are."
"My husband has baby duty right now," Julie answered. "Weíve
come in to start gathering supplies for the big Thanksgiving
"You mean..." Margaret put a hand to her mouth. "You left Abraham
alone with...four boys?" She giggled. "Are you sure itís a
"Oh...donít you worry...he has reinforcements." Emily giggled.
"Peter and Jeremiah are with him. Oh...and Laura!"
"Well, Mother is insisting we have Thanksgiving at our house
this year. She doesnít want to put too much strain on your
mother after..." Margaret stopped.
"Yes." Julie nodded. "We told Ma that would be best. Itís going
to be hard for her, having lost Pa and all." She reached out a
hand to Margaret. "Have you heard from Andy?"
The moment the question sounded, something tugged at the back of
Margaretís mind. She looked down at the floor as her eyes filled
with tears. "Itís the first Thanksgiving without Andy. I..."
Margaret swallowed. "Itís going to be so different without Luke
or Andy there."
"Theyíll be here next year, Margaret. We know they will!"
Margaret nodded. "Yes. Iím sure they will." Yet there was a
growing ache inside Margaretís heart...an ache she couldnít seem
They rode quickly into battle. The bugler and drummer marched
ahead playing the battle cry as the front horseman carried the
flag. Lucas, Corporal McCain, rode behind Sergeant White and
asked no questions. They stopped at the top of a hill. The
entire infantry lined up beside each other and waited for the
call. Lucas swallowed a lump growing in his throat when he
looked down below and saw the battle already in progress. "Look
at them all, Sergeant."
The Sergeant nodded. "The battleís lasted since sunup this
morning. Thereís already many dead." He turned and looked at
Corporal McCain. "You and your men go over there!" he pointed. "Corporal Drako,
you follow Corporal McCain and his men!"
But they couldnít go until the Captain gave the order. The
Captain looked out over the field of fighting men and shook his
head. He was worried about how many men he would lose. He turned
and nodded to the bugler then shouted out orders.
The men hurried forward on their horses. They rode to the battle
line and began firing. Lucas saw two of his men go down right
away. He dodged through the bullets the best he could, but his
horse toppled over. Heíd been shot. The horse cried in pain.
Lucas fired one final shot into his horse.
Andy jumped from his horse and began firing. Across the field,
he couldnít make out a particular person, but he could see men
firing all around him. A fellow soldier beside him cried out in
pain as a bullet pierced his shoulder. Andy grabbed him to help
him out, but the soldier shook his head. He wanted to keep
Andy turned and looked toward Lucas, whom he now served under.
Lucas cocked his rifle and shot over and over, not focusing on
one person as he fired. Andy fired a few more shots, but stopped
when he suddenly heard a bullet whiz past his ear.
He remembered back to a year ago. It had been an unseasonably
warm day. He, Luke and Margaret were sitting down by the creek.
The McCain and Gibbs homes were both in chaos with all the
preparations being made; and this was the first opportunity the
teenagers had to slip away for a few moments to enjoy the peace
and quiet at the creek. They talked about their future. Andy
remembered wondering if Luke and Margaret would possibly be
married by the next Thanksgiving. Never in his wildest dreams
did he ever imagine theyíd be in the middle of a bloody war...
As Andy reloaded his rifle, he remembered the soft, gentle
breeze that blew through the trees. He remembered smiling as
Lucas put his coat around Margaret as she shivered. Then Lucas
had allowed his arm to linger on her shoulders for just a bit
longer. But most of all, Andy remembered the quiet that was all
Andy got on his knee in line with the other privates around him.
The man who had been shot in the shoulder earlier fell right
beside him. He was a man Andy had been with since the beginning.
Andy bent over to check him. Heíd taken a shot right in the
head. He was dead. Andy shook his head. If only heíd gone when
Andy suggested, heíd be alive. He could have gone home to his
Johnny Drako was firing shot after shot just a few men down from
him. Andy turned and looked at Johnny. Then he turned and looked
at Lucas. They both looked so brave, never hesitating as they
fired. But Andy...
Andy saw a rebel soldier in the distance. He was firing toward
the Union Soldiers and had already wounded several. Andy stood
and hurried toward the soldier. Now was his chance to prove
himself...he wanted them to believe he was like them so badly.
Andy came face-to-face with the rebel. He aimed his rifle and
prepared to fire. Their eyes met. As he looked into the rebelís
face, Andy saw a boy just like him. The boy had a mother and
father...brothers and sisters...
He hesitated. Sweat broke out over his forehead.
In that moment, Andy knew his answer to the question heíd asked
earlier. Would he be able to shoot when he looked the rebel in
the eye? Andyís heart sank as he realized what his answer was.
No. He couldnít.
Only a millisecond went by between the time Andy looked the
Rebel in the eye and the time the rebel fired. There was no
hesitation. It was a long second...Perhaps the longest second of
Andy's short life.
It was as if in slow motion as he watched the rebel pull the
trigger. Then the shot fired. A sharp, piercing pain in his
middle made Andy groan as he fell to the ground. He couldnít
move. He could hardly breathe as he clutched his middle. Blood
poured from the wound. In the midst of the battle, he lay dying.
Andy knew this was it...he was going to die.
His mind flashed back as if he were running a stallion back
through the last 19 years of his life. The stallion raced
through every scene...every memory...everything he had stored up
in his memories. He saw his father and mother. He saw Scott. He
saw Margaret and Beth. He saw Johnny. He saw himself with his
family. A tear fell from his eye. Iím sorry I wasnít stronger.
It had been several hours of fighting. The shots were wearing
down. Only a few Rebel soldiers remained. Lucas continued
firing. "Lucas!" he heard Johnny call suddenly. "Andyís down!"
Lucas gasped and hurried down the row. His heart pumped with
fear at what heíd find. "Oh Dear God!" Lucas cried when he saw
Andyís ashen face. Lucas bent down beside Andy. Andyís breaths
were shallow. "Andy..." Lucas swallowed. "Andy..."
Blood oozed through Andyís fingers as they clutched his middle.
Lucas could hear Andy gurgling, choking on his own blood inside.
"Luke..." Andy whispered painfully as he coughed. Lucas dropped to
his knees and lowered his ear close to Andyís mouth so he could
hear. "Luke...I got my answer."
"Cease fire!" They heard the Captain shout. There was silence.
Lucas looked up to see the Captain walking among the bloodied
bodies. He shouted out orders for his men to look for wounded
before cleaning up the bodies of soldiers who had perished.
Captain Bentonís eyes locked on Lucasís. They lowered down to
Andy. Sadness came to his eyes and he quickly turned away to
give the friends privacy. "Luke...I...I couldnít..." Andy swallowed.
"He was a kid like me and I..." Andy closed his eyes as he
"Andy, you canít die!" Lucas sat down and put Andyís head in his
lap. He stroked Andyís cheeks with his hands. "Please...Youíre
like a brother to me and I canít do this without you!"
Andy took another breath. "You...you have to, Luke. The
countryís...depending...on..." Andy coughed. He weakly lifted his
bloody hand. Lucas grabbed it as a tear fell from Andyís eye and
trickled down his cheek. "Luke...Margaret..."
"Yes?" Lucas coaxed his friend to go on.
"M...m...marry her." Andy licked his lips. "Marry her. I..."
Lucas nodded as he began sobbing. "Please...please donít leave
me, Andy! Please..." Lucas begged.
"Tell them I..." Andyís face suddenly relaxed. His eyes stared
blankly at Lucas and his hand fell to his side.
"Andy?" Lucas cried softly. "Andy?" Lucas began gently shaking
his friend. "Andy, donít...donít go! Please Andy...donít..." Lucas
begged through his sobbing.
"Lucas!" Johnny hurried over to Lucas and grabbed his shoulders
from behind. "Lucas, itís over! Heís gone."
"No..." Lucas shook his head. His mind was spinning with memories
of all the times they had spent together. Lucas stared into
Andyís cold, lifeless eyes. "No!" Lucas rubbed his hands against
Andyís cheeks as he continued weeping as he held Andyís head in
his lap. "No...no...no..." he mumbled over and over.
Captain Benton saw the scene. He hurried over to help Johnny.
Benton grabbed Lucasís other arm. "Heís gone, Luke. Heís
Benton said quietly.
"No..." Lucas felt tears continue to fall down his face. "Oh
Margaret...My sweet Margaret Iím...sorry I failed you. Iím so
Lucas brushed a hand over Andyís eyes to close them. Then he
lowered his head to Andyís and wept. Captain Benton looked at
Johnny and motioned for him to leave Lucas alone to mourn.
"Weíll get a burial detail together. Go help with the wounded.
Weíll leave Corporal McCain here to mourn."
"Yes sir, Captain Benton."
The bugle sounded as the boy stood among the dead playing TAPS.
The tune was the same tune Lucas always heard being played over
the dead. It was that lonesome song. The song had always made
Lucas feel saddened, but today he could hardly bare it. Lucas
continued to keep his head buried in Andyís lifeless face as he
wept. Tears fell from his eyes and his body shook. "Oh
Andy...How do I ever...ever...tell Margaret? She asked me to
take care of you and Iíve failed her."
In time, Lucas slowly lifted his head from Andyís body. He laid
a kiss on his forehead. "Thatís from Margaret." Then he slowly
stood up. Two privates came to lift the body, but Lucas shook
his head. "Iíll take care of this."
"But Corporal, you have other responsibilities!" Private Grace
Lucas narrowed his red eyes at the Private. "I said Iíll take
care of it, Private!" Lucas shouted. "Give me a shovel."
"Sir..." Private Grace said quietly. "You should report to
Sergeant White. Let us burry him."
Lucas shot his head upwards. "I gave you an order...PRIVATE
Grace!" Lucas lowered his head and stared down at Andy. "Heís
like a brother to me. Iíll burry him."
Captain Benton looked up from the paper he was writing on. He
had names to record and telegrams to prepare. "What is it,
Private?" he asked as his eyes looked over the privateís
shoulder at Lucas who was standing over Andyís body.
"SirÖCorporal McCain asked me to bring him a shovel!" Private
Benton said nothing as he stared at Lucas. He understood Lucasís
pain. It was the first month of the war when he stood right
where Lucas was standing now. He hadnít had an understanding
Captain then and he had been forced to leave his friend. He
never forgave himself. "So? Whatís the problem?"
"Well...he has other responsibilities, sir."
Captain Benton slowly moved his eyes to focus on the Private.
"Private Grace, are you forgetting your rank? McCain is a
Corporal. You do as ordered."
Private Grace stared into the Captainís eyes. "Yes sir."
Lucas just stared at Andyís lifeless body. It was only hours ago
that he and Andy sat by the campfire talking about Thanksgiving.
Only hours ago had Andy mentioned that he couldnít wait to see
the family again. What had happened? Why was his friend now
laying here dead? Lucas kneeled down next to his friend. The
trumpet continued to play TAPS. The lonesome sound sounded
throughout the battlefield, which was now a graveyard.
Another tear slipped from Lucasís eye. "This is my fault...my
fault..." Lucas swallowed. "This is all my fault..." He bowed his
head. "Oh Margaret...Margaret...Iím sorry...oh, Iím so sorry!" He
couldnít keep himself from weeping over his dead friend.
"Corporal?" Lucas didnít look up. Private Grace held the shovel
in front of Lucasís face. Lucas stared at it blankly. "Hereís
your shovel, sir."
Lucas jerked it out of the Privateís grip. His feet shook as he
stood up. Lucas looked around for a good place to bury his
friend. He remembered watching Andy climb a big oak tree once.
Margaret had shot her hands to her mouth, sure Andy would fall
and bust every bone in his body. Lucas turned and looked down at
his friend. Johnny Drako slowly walked up and put a tarp over
Andyís body. "Can I help?" he asked softly. Emotion laid heavy
on his voice. Johnny, too, was losing a good friend that day.
Lucas turned toward the tree. "No." His heart lurched painfully
as he shoved the shovel down into the ground. He closed his eyes
as he lifted the first shovel-full of dirt out. "Itís not
Lucas mumbled. "Itís not fair!"
The memories plagued him as he dug that hole. It took him two
hours of hard digging. In two hours, a man can relive a whole
lot of memories. He remembered his earliest memory when he was
four years old. He, Margaret, and Andy were all sitting on the
grass playing a game. Their mothers sat in rocking chairs close
by talking and smiling. Lucas remembered hearing his mother
declare that they would always be close.
Then when he was six, he and Margaret started school together.
Andy, having been in school already for a year, stayed beside
them all day and assured them heíd protect them from the evil
teacher. But instead, Andy had gotten them into a lot of
With each shovel-full of dirt Lucas lifted from the hole, he
unburied another memory from his past. He had 18 years of
memories with Andy. That was a lot of memories.
Lucas threw down the shovel after taking his last shovel-full of
dirt. He sat down beside the hole as Johnny handed him the
canteen. Lucas ignored it as he just stared blankly into the
hole. Johnny sat down beside him. He too stared into the hole.
"I canít help but remember the day we dug that great big hole at
your house, Luke. Do you remember that?"
Lucas laughed shortly. "Yeah. Andy wanted to dig a hole all the
way to China. We both told him he was crazy, but when he sets
his mind on something..." Lucas sobered then. "Did you know Andy
didnít even want to fight in this war?"
"I know." Johnny nodded. "Luke...donít blame yourself."
"I should have told him he couldnít come with us!" Lucas shouted
suddenly. "I should have..."
"He died a hero, Luke. Letís leave it at that." Johnny stood up.
Lucas looked up at Johnny. "I saw it happen. I know the truth."
But Lucas knew Johnny was just telling him what he hoped was the
truth. They both knew better though. Luke knew the truth, and he
could see the truth in Johnnyís eyes. "We best get him
Lucas nodded as they walked toward the tarp that covered Andyís
body. Lucas bent down and uncovered the tarp over Andyís head.
He stared into Andyís lifeless face. "He..." Lucas choked on his
words. "He asked me to marry Margaret. Those were his dying
words." Lucas looked up into Johnnyís eyes. "I...donít know if I
can fulfill them."
"Why not?" Johnny asked.
"Because..." Lucas swallowed. "Because I think sheíll hate me."
Lucas looked back down at Andyís face. "How do I tell her
"You donít. Captain Benton will send out telegrams to all the
slain menís families tomorrow." Johnny bent over and slowly
covered Andyís face with the tarp. "Come on."
They carried Andyís body over to the grave and gently lowered
him inside. Lucas cried as he picked the shovel up. "IÖI donít
know if I can do this..." Lucas mumbled. He threw the shovel down
and bent down beside the grave. He couldnít keep the tears from
coming as he began sobbing. He body shook with sobs.
"The Lord is my Shepherd I shall not want. He maketh me lie down
in green pastures..."
Lucas slowly lifted his head to see Johnny holding his hat in
his hands standing over the grave. Lucas slowly spoke the next
words with Johnny. "He leadeth me beside the still waters. Yeah
though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death I will
feel no evil, for though art with me..."
Lucasís voice became a bit steadier as they continued the Lordís
prayer. Lucas slowly stood up next to Johnny. As they spoke,
some of the privates from their camp slowly walked up to them
and recited the Lordís Prayer with Lucas and Johnny.
"...and I shall dwell in the house of the Lord
The group grew quiet. Finally, Johnny spoke. "He was aÖgreat
friend. Iíve known him all my life."
"He was a great private," one of the Privates declared.
"Yes." Lucas nodded. "He was a great...brother..." Lucas swallowed.
"Earlier, he came to me and asked me if..." Lucas closed his eyes.
"He asked me if Iíd be able to shoot when I came face to face
with a rebel who was a boy just like me. I told him I didnít
know. I hope I can. Then I told him there was only one way to
"Luke...donít," Johnny whispered. "We donít like his answer
anymore than you do. But...donít."
"We talked about Thanksgiving. Thatís where he wanted to be. He
wanted to be home with the family for Thanksgiving..." Lucas
closed his eyes as tears fell from them. "I never told you this
Andy, but...I loved you like a brother." The emotions were so
real. Lucas bent down next to his grave. "Oh...oh...Andy!"
A hand touched his shoulder. "Corporal, we have to break camp
soon. Weíre moving on." The voice belonged to the Captain. "You
have to say goodbye now. Lucas...I know itís hard, but heís in
Heaven now. The war has ended for him." His voice was raw with
emotion as well. Lucas nodded as he slowly lifted his head and
looked at Johnny. His eyes held a silent question.
"Iíd be honored," Johnny answered his silent question. He picked
up the shovel and began throwing the dirt over Andyís body.
Captain Benton nodded toward the bugler. The boy slowly lifted
the trumpet to his lips and began playing "Amazing Grace." The
tune reminded Lucas of the news their families back home were
about to hear. When the last tune of the trumpet died, Captain
Benton and Johnny Drako bent down and lifted Lucas by the
shoulders. "We all have a job to do," Captain Benton said as he
firmly turned Lucas from the grave. "Weíve got to move on."
As Lucas slowly walked from the grave, his heart hardened just a
bit. His life changed forever in that moment.
Margaret, Beth, and their mother were up long before the sun
that Thanksgiving morning. Lunch would be at noon that day, and
they had a lot of work to do. The day before, Margaret had
ordered Abraham and Jeremiah both to be there early so they
could help Scott and Samuel arrange tables and get things ready
for the big family get together.
As the women worked, Margaret grew rather quiet. Jennifer turned
and looked at her daughter after checking on the turkey. "You
Margaret smiled. She did miss Luke terribly, but that wasnít
what was bothering her. There was more, but she couldnít quite
put her finger on it. "I do miss Luke, Mother. This Thanksgiving
isnít going to be the same as all the others. Weíve never had
family member missing at a Thanksgiving before."
"You children are getting older. You have your own lives to live
now. Things wonít always stay the same, dear."
But Margaret wasnít really listening. She paused in her work and
looked up at her mother. "Uncle Marcus is gone. Luke and Andy
are at warÖIt just feels like thereís such a void this year. It
"I must admit that my heart feels sad today to, Margaret. Maybe
Luke and Andy will be back by next year."
It was right after breakfast when the McCain family started
showing up. Abraham and Julie came with their four boys so
Abraham could help set up the tables. Samuel Gibbs wasnít as
young as he used to be and Scott struggled with such tasks with
his lame leg. Both families had mentioned that it was time for
the younger men to do the work. The morning was a fury of
activity as more of the McCain family showed up. By 11:30,
everyone was there. The day was rather cold and windy so the
ranch house felt rather full with the whole family in there.
"Alright!" Abraham announced. "Letís all line up for the
traditional McCain/Gibbs announcements!" The Gibbs family lined
up on one side of the table while the McCain family on the
Samuel Gibbs cleared his throat. "I...would like to have a moment
of silence for the three who arenít with us this year. Marcus
McCain has gone on to be with the Father. Hopefully the other
two chairs will be filled next year." The room grew silent as
the family thought about the three missing family members. Then
Samuel cleared his throat. "Uh...I just want to say that Iím
proud of my family."
Jennifer took Samuelís hand and nodded. "I am proud of our
family. I think weíve had some hard times recently, but it seems
weíve become stronger through them."
"Yes...yes..." Samuel nodded. "Iím mighty proud of our
Andy...fighting in the war alongside Luke...Iíll be proud to see
him walk down the street with the other soldiers when they come
back from war."
Scott cleared his throat. "I donít really have anything to
announce. Iíve been busier with Andy gone to war. "
Everyone looked to Johnny who was daydreaming. Samuel cleared
his throat and Johnny straightened up. "Oh...uh...Iím thankful
for my dog and for all the pretty girls at school!"
Margaret rolled her eyes. She smiled as she looked around at her
family. "Iím thankful for my whole family. I miss Luke and Andy
so badly, and I do pray they come back soon. Iím very happy for
the distraction Iíve received in helping Julie care for the
triplets. And Iím thankful Laura is all better after her ordeal
in the cave."
Beth smiled. "Iím thankful for my new beau, Jeremy. I also hope
Andy comes back soon." Her mother cleared her throat. "Oh! And
Iím very, very thankful that I will be getting my school
certificate next month. That means Johnny here is the only one
left in school."
"And me!" Laura declared. Everyone laughed.
"Ma?" Abraham nodded toward her.
Ruth stepped forward and lit a candle on the table. Her family
gathered around her as she stood over the candle. They held
hands. "I am thankful for my family, of course. My heart is
still grieving for the passing of my beloved husband. Thereís an
empty place inside, and I thank you all for being here for me
during this difficult time. Of course, I miss Lucas very, very
much. But I believe in my heart he will come back to me. Iím
thankful for my new daughters-in-law, Em and Tiffany; and Iím
thankful for my three new grandchildren, though I must admit it
was quite a surprise."
Abraham chuckled. "I guess itís my turn, huh? WellÖI AM thankful
for our three new sons, though Iíd rather next time Julie have
them one at a time..." Julie poked her elbow in his ribs. "Iím
adjusting to our instant family and...I know you are all aware
of the struggles Iíve been going through now that País gone. I
thank you all for putting up with me."
"Anything else?" Scott suddenly asked as he grinned at Abraham.
Abraham looked down at Julie. "I donít...think so. What should I
"Well..." Scott folded his arms and cocked his head to one side.
"For the past two Thanksgivings, youíve made a special
announcement. I just thought..."
"Scott Gibbs!" Julie declared as her eyes widened.
"No, thereís no babies expected...I donít...think..." Abraham looked
down at his wife who merely smiled at him. "Are there?"
"No, dear. Not that I know of!" Julie assured him. Abraham
breathed a big sigh of relief as everyone laughed.
"Well...as you know, Em and I got married this year," Jeremiah
announced. He turned and smiled at his wife and squeezed her
hand. "Weíre adjusting to life. Itís hard learning to be bossed
by a female but..." Jeremiah groaned as Em gave him the elbow.
"Youíll toughen up, brother," Abraham declared. "Youíll get used
to the abuse we have inflicted on...oof!"
"Are there any announcements?" Scott asked then as he grinned at
"Well..." Jeremiah looked at his wife. "Weíre working on it."
"Yes...Iím sure you are!" Peter declared with a grin.
"Peter McCain!" several in the room shouted.
Peter cleared his throat. "UhÖIím thankful for my family and..."
Peter turned and picked up Tiffanyís hand. "Iím also very
thankful for my new wife. She has been a McCain for almost a
whole month now and she hasnít threatened to leave me yet!"
Tiffany smiled. "I think your family is wonderful..." She turned
back to the others, joining in on the bantering. "And I realize
I have a lot of training to do with this one!"
"Thanks a lot!" Tiffany chuckled.
"Do YOU have any...OUCH!" Scott cried out suddenly when his father
gave him a hard kick in the shin. Tiffany blushed as she looked
up at Peter.
"UhÖIím sure theyíre working on it!" Jeremiah declared. Peter
stared at his older brother, his mouth gaped open. "Hey little
brother, what comes around...goes around!"
Emily quickly jumped in to speak. "Iím staying busy, and Iím NOT
"And I miss Luke!" Laura declared finally.
That concluded the announcements. Everyone gathered hands as
Samuel led his family in prayer. The room was soon filled with
noise as the family sat down at the tables and began eating as
they chatted. The food was very good as usual; and as usual
there was too much food for them to eat. Finally, Margaret stood
up from the table. "Anyone for dessert?"
He pulled the collar of his coat up around his ears and pushed
his horse to move a little faster, though he wasnít sure why.
Delivering telegrams like this was not his favorite part of his
job. Heíd give anything to change what he had to do now. He
wasnít even supposed to be at the office today; he had gone to
get some money he had left there the day before. But when he
heard the clicks come through, and realized it was from the
United States army, he couldnít ignore it. The words that he had
to transcribe still echoed in his head.
Silas rode into the Gibbs yard and slowly dismounted his horse.
Laughter filtered from the ranch house. "God, give them
strength." Holding off until tomorrow had crossed his mind, but
he knew that he had a job to do...and Thanksgiving or not, he had
to deliver the telegram.
Silas lifted his hand to knock and suddenly paused when laughter
again sounded through the door. He lowered his head, knowing he
would be the reason their laughter suddenly died. Then before he
could lose his courage, he quickly knocked on the door.
Margaret laughed as she lifted the apple pie from the counter
and turned toward the table. Suddenly, a knock sounded on the
door. Everyone quieted as Samuel stood and walked to the door.
"Silas!" Samuel greeted him with a handshake. "Come on in and
"No, I...Iíd rather not." There was a coolness in his voice.
Samuel paused. Abraham slowly stood from his chair and walked
over to stand beside Samuel. Margaret still held the pie in her
hand as she came to stand closer to her father. Silas cleared
his throat. "I donít want to do this, Sam...not to any of you
The room was deathly quiet as everyone watched Silas slowly
reach into his pocket and pull out a piece of paper. His hand
shook as he held it out to Samuel. "Iím...so...very, very
"Samuel? What is it?" Jennifer asked as she jumped from her
chair and hurried over to her husband. "What?"
Samuelís fingers shook as he unfolded the telegram and slowly
read the words to himself. "OhÖDEAR GOD IN HEAVEN!" Samuel
suddenly cried out as he dropped to his knees. "Oh God no!
The pie slipped from Margaretís hands and fell to the floor. She
dropped down beside her father. "What is it, Pa? What?" Margaret
asked, though in her heart she already knew.
"Oh God, please not my boy! Please God..." Samuel wept into his
Abraham slowly bent down and took the telegram from Samuelís
hands. He read it silently to himself then looked up at the rest
of the family. Emily and Julie threw their hands to their mouths
as their eyes filled with tears. "NoÖ" Julie whispered silently.
Jennifer bent down next to her husband and began weeping.
Margaret and Jennifer both clung to Samuel. Beth jumped up and
ran to her family as well. Johnny and Scott just stared at each
other. Abraham opened his mouth to speak, but closed it as his
voice choked on his words. He cleared his throat to read.
"We regret to inform you that your son, Private Andrew Gibbs,
was killed in the line of duty on Wednesday, November 25, 1863.
Your son was a fine man and a fine soldier. His friends gave him
a Christian burial. I am so very sorry for your loss. May God go
with you during this difficult time. Captain Benton."
Abraham slowly lowered himself back to the table. He looked at
Julie then they embraced and held each other as Julie cried.
Laura sniffed and threw her arms around her motherís neck. Ruth
held her and allowed her to cry as well.
The room was silent, except for the weeping coming from those
gathered there. What had been a happy gathering just moments
before was now a time of extreme sadness for the family. Laura
began crying in her motherís arms. Her tears could be heard
through the house. Abraham looked up at Silas still standing in
the doorway and stood. He silently went to take Laura from his
mother. "Go to Aunt Jenny, Ma. Iíll take care of Laura." Then
after bundling himself and Laura up, he walked Silas out.
After the door was closed, they started walking toward Silasí
horse. Laura continued to weep in Abrahamís arms and Abraham
himself felt like crying. "You donít know how much I hated doing
this today. I...almost wish I hadnít been in town today. I came
in to get some money I had left the day before...."
"I understand," Abraham answered quietly. "Itís best the family
"Well I donít!" Laura suddenly turned from Abrahamís shoulder
and cried out. "How could you? How could you?"
"Laura..." Abraham warned quietly.
"You did this!" Laura screamed.
"Honey, he just brought the telegram. He had no way of..." Abraham
"Andyís dead! If he hadnít brought the..." Laura shouted.
"Laura Rose!" Abraham suddenly snapped at her. "Itís alright to
be sad that Andyís gone, but itís not alright to take your anger
out on the person having to tell us. " Laura grabbed Abraham
around the neck and cried harder.
"I best get home to my family." Silas mounted his horse. "AbeÖtell the family how sorry I am." Abraham nodded as he
watched Silas leave. Laura sniffed quietly. So many thoughts
were running through the little girlís head.
Inside, Charlie started fussing, probably partly due to the mood
he sensed in the room. Julie lifted him then walked over to
Emily. The two women hugged each other and cried.
Margaret, Samuel, Beth, and Jennifer were still huddled in their
circle of grief on the floor. "AndyÖOh Andy..." Margaret whispered
Ruth walked up behind Jennifer and put a hand on her shoulder.
Jennifer turned and clung to Ruth as she wept loudly. "My babyís
dead!" Jennifer shouted in horror then. "My baby..." Her body
shook with sobs and tears streamed down her face. "Oh my sweet
Andy! My sweet Andy!" she wept again.
Samuel didnít cry much. He mostly just sat on the floor staring
at it as if it would shout the answers to his unasked questions.
But nobody had any answers.
Margaret suddenly let out a loud groan. She jumped up from the
floor and grabbed her middle. Then she blindly ran out of the
house. Everyone stared as she ran out into the cold. She ran
past Abraham and Laura and fell to her knees on the cold ground.
She took deep breaths as she heaved into the dirt. "Andy! Andy!"
Abraham ran toward her, Laura still clinging to him. Emily and
Julie hurried past him with Margaretís coat. They kneeled down
on the ground next to her and helped her into her coat. "Why did
God take Andy from us? Why?" Margaret cried as she clutched her
middle. "Oh God, why?" She wept as Julie held her in her arms.
There were no answers to the question. Julie and Emily simply
held Margaret and allowed her to cry.
An icy wind suddenly started blowing. Emily and Julie slowly got
to their feet and lifted Margaret up between them. But Margaret
began struggling. "Why?" she shouted. "Why, why, why, why,
why??????" Margaret began crying harder as she asked these
questions. Her breaths came out fast as she fought against them.
Abraham sat down Laura and hurried toward Margaret. They knew
what was about to happen and Abraham got there just in time.
Margaret fainted, and Abraham reached out to catch her as she
started to go down. "Letís get her inside," Abraham said.
Jennifer wasnít in any better shape. She was weeping
hysterically in Ruthís arms. Samuel didnít even reach out for
his wife. He just continued to stare down at the floor, the same
position heíd been in since reading the telegram. "You should
lie down," Ruth mumbled softly as she stood and helped Jennifer
to her bedroom. "Perhaps we should send for Doc Williams. He
could give you somethingÖ"
"No!" Jennifer shouted. "I donít want the pain to go away! I
donít..." She lay down on her bed and wept. "As long as I feel
this pain, I can hold on to my boyÖ" Ruth nodded in
understanding and sat beside Jenniferís bed. Silently, she
wondered why her husband wasnít mourning with her.
Samuel slowly stood up on shaky feet. He reached for his coat,
still in a daze and started out the door. "Pa?" Johnny stood up
and hurried over to him. "Pa, where are you going?"
"Away," Samuel answered.
Scott jumped up. His eyes were red from crying. He hurried over
to Samuel. "What do you mean away? Mother needs you!"
"She doesnít need me..." Samuel answered. "She doesnít...Iím
"No, Pa! You must stay here and deal with this!" Scott shouted.
"You canít just leave!"
"Deal with what?" Samuel turned and shouted. "The fact that I
killed my boy?" Samuel turned and hurried out.
"Pa!" Johnny hurried toward his father to stop him. Samuel
ignored him as he walked out into the bitter cold. "Pa!"
Jeremiah hurried after Johnny. "Let him go, son."
"No! He canít leave!" Johnny shouted. "I need him!"
Samuel froze when he heard those words. He lifted his head
skyward then turned and looked at Johnny. "You donít...I killed
Andy. I killed my boy." Samuel quickly turned from them and
hurried toward the barn. Nobody missed the tears shining in the
manís eyes. No one missed the despair.
"How can he leave us?" Johnny asked as he turned toward
Jeremiah. "Doesnít he know that...we need him?"
"He has to deal with this in his own way, son," Jeremiah
Johnny lifted his head and looked into Scottís eyes. His eyes
filled with tears and he suddenly threw himself against Jeremiah
and wept for his brother.
Lucas ran across the wide field. He held his rifle up and fired
shots at random. His feet were moving in slow motion, but the
bullets were moving fast. "Go faster!" her voice screamed an
echo. "Go faster, Luke!"
Then suddenly, Andy appeared over the hill. He was smiling and
waving at Luke. "Watch out!" Luke shouted in horror. Andy
stopped and turned. He stood in place and watched as the bullet,
now moving slowly, came and hit him in the chest. Andy fell to
the ground. Luke dropped to his knees and shouted in pain as he
crumpled in a heap.
They were both dead.
"No!" Margaret screamed as she started forward. "NO!" But her
feet wouldnít budge. She felt like she was running but she
wasnít getting anywhere. "AN-DY!" her shout echoed and came out
slowly. "LU-CAS!" She continued to try to run. "NOOOOOOOOO!"
"Margaret! Margaret!" Margaret gasped as she woke with a start.
She stared up and looked at Emily. "Itís okay. It was just a
"Just aÖ" Margaret lifted her head from the pillow. "What..."
"The doctor came Thursday night and gave you and your mother
something to help you sleep. You were both rather hysterical
after the news that night." Emily put a hand to her friendís
shoulder. Mama took Beth home with her."
"Andy..." Margaret swallowed. "Then it wasnít all a
Margaret closed her eyes and began weeping softly. "Why, Emily?
"Oh Margaret..." Emily shook her head. "IÖI wish I had the
answer because I wonder the same thing. The truth is...I donít
Margaret sat up in bed and wiped at her eyes. "I knew...somehow
I knew..." Margaret sighed. "Nobody told me that Andy had been
"forced" by my father to join the war. But I know Andy, and I
know heís not a fighter. Andy never could say no to Pa. I think
Luke knew that." Margaret stood up and walked to the window. She
looked outside in the yard. "The day I rode with Andy to say
goodbye...the day the men left...I saw the look on Lukeís face. He
didnít want Andy to go." Margaret turned from the window. "I
asked Luke to take care of Andy, but now Iím sorry."
"Sorry?" Emily hurried over to her friend. "Youíre not mad a
Luke? Oh Margaret, you canít be!"
"Mad?" Margaret shook her head. "Iím not mad. IímÖaching for
Luke. What he must be going through right now..." Margaret turned
back and looked out the window. "If Andy were here..." Margaret
mumbled. "...Andy would be outside with Johnny. Theyíd be having
an old-fashioned snowball fight like when they were little." She
grew quiet as she remembered back to last winter when their
family was still all together...still happy. "Where is Johnny?"
"He and Scott went off to work with cattle this morning. Scott
told Johnny it was best to go about their chores."
"And País with them?" Margaret asked. She was concerned for her
family. Emily didnít answer so Margaret turned around. "Is Pa
with them?" she asked again.
"No." Emily lowered her head. "Your father...rode off shortly
after you fainted that night. He...never came home."
"Heís not with Mama or the boys?" Margaret asked. "I donít
"I donít either." Emily shook her head. "The boys figure heís
just away dealing with this in his own way."
Margaret laid her head against the windowpane and sniffed as
another tear rolled down her cheek. "Iím worried about Luke."
"I know. I think we all are," Emily answered softly.
"The pain..." Margaret swallowed. "The pain of losing Andy is
almost more than I can bear." She turned and looked at Emily.
"But the thought of losing Luke is..." Margaretís eyes again
filled with tears. She suddenly began sobbing again and threw
her arms around Emily. "Oh, the pain is so bad!"
"I know..." Emily stated as her own eyes filled with tears. "I
Abraham sat down at the table that morning as Julie was putting
breakfast out. She held one of the babies in her arms as he
cried. Laura, who had come home with them the night before, had
her arms on the table and her head propped up on her arms as she
stared at her glass of milk. "Whatís wrong, Rosebud?"
Lauraís eyes became moist when she heard her pet name. She
stayed quiet as she continued to stare at her milk. Abraham
stood and came over to her chair. He bent down in front of her
and turned her toward him. "Honey, whatís wrong?"
"Luke calls me Rosebud..." Laura said as her lips began to quiver.
"OhÖYou donít want me to call you Rosebud?" Laura lowered her
head and began to weep. "Come here, sweetheart!" He took Laura
in his arms and stood up. Laura clung to him and sobbed. He
bounced her up and down as he walked to the window. "We have to
keep faith. We have to believe that Luke will come back."
"You lied to me!" Laura cried. "You lied!"
"Hey, hey, hey, whatís this?" Abraham pushed her away from him
and looked into her face. "What are you talking about?"
"You told me all three of them would come back. You told Me Luke
and Andy and his friend would come back, but you lied!" Laura
sobbed. "None of them are coming backÖnot ever!" Laura reached
in the pocket of her dress, pulled out the silver dollar and
flung it across the room.
Julie jumped up and stared as the dollar rolled across the
floor, then slowly rolled to a stop. She stared at the coin then
turned and threw her hands to her face. Her shoulders began
shaking with sobs and she ran to their bedroom and slammed the
Abraham looked at Laura, then slowly walked to the bedroom door.
"Alright...I think we all need to talk about this," he said as he
opened the door to the bedroom. "Me, you, and Julie." Julie sat
up on the bed and wiped her eyes. "Right now."
Abraham sat down on the side of the bed. He sat Laura firmly on
his lap and put an arm around Julie. "Luke is going to come back
just as soon as this war is over. Heís thinking about us. Heís
going to live for us."
"No!" Laura shouted as she pushed away from Abraham. "Itís not
true! Heís gonna die just like Andy! Andyís never coming back
and neither is Luke! Heís never coming back! Not ever!" She
started banging on his chest.
"Laura, Laura!" Abraham felt tears fill his eyes. "Honey, listen
A knock sounded on the door. Abraham jumped up and hurried out,
still holding Laura in his arms. He opened the door to see Silas
standing there. "No!" Laura shouted. Go away!" She forced
herself way from Abrahamís embrace and shoved the door closed.
"Laura!" Abraham grabbed her and tried to hold her back.
Julie came in and picked up Laura. Laura kicked and screamed. "I
donít want him here! Heís a bad man! Heís bad!" she shouted.
Julie hurried from the room with Laura.
Abraham took a deep breath and opened the door. "Iím...sorry,"
Silas said. "I didnít mean to upset her." He walked inside and
took off his hat. "I didnít bring a telegram. I just came to
report that..." Silas toyed with his hat, trying to find the best
way to put what he had to say into words.
"What is it, Silas?" Abraham asked.
"Well...." Silas sighed. "It seems that Samuel Gibbs is taking
the news of Andyís death hard. I understand Emilyís at the Gibbs
house caring for the woman folk and I didnít want to bother them
with this. Iím not quite sure how to go about this problem..."
"Spit it out, Silas."
"Samuelís been in the Circle Q since Thursday night. He refuses
to leave and we canít get him to budge. Thursday night, he drank
until they closed and the bartender just left him asleep at the
table and closed up. He was drinking all day yesterday and
passed out again last night. Weíre afraid heís going to make
"Alright. Iíll go..." Laura let out a loud scream from the
bedroom. Abraham turned toward the scream and ran a hand through
his hair. "Tell the bartender Iíll be there as soon as I can.
Iíll talk to him." Abraham hurried toward the bedroom. "Iíll be
Abraham closed the door and hurried into the other room. Laura
was kicking her feet and screaming, "Heís dead! Heís dead!"
Abraham grabbed Laura from Julie who was again in tears. The
screams upset all four of their own children. Julie hurried to
pick up Charlie and cried as she paced back and forth with him.
Abraham hurried out the door to ring the bell. If ever they were
having an emergency, it was now! He didnít care who came, just
as long as somebody...anybody...came to help! He held Laura tight in
his arms. "Hush now!" he begged. "Hush!" Laura kept crying.
Abraham finally sat down on the bed and grabbed her head in his
hands. "Stop it!" he shouted.
Laura stared at him in shock, but she hushed her crying. "Now
then...he didnít bring a telegram, honey. He just came to tell
"Lucas ainít dead?" Laura asked. "You promise?"
Abraham turned and looked at Julie who was holding Charlie tight
as he cried. He wasnít sure how to answer her question.
Suddenly, there was a knock at the door. It opened. Peter and
Tiffany rushed in. "Whatís wrong?"
"Oh thank goodness!" Julie shouted as she handed Charlie to
Tiffany and turned to pick Adam up. "Iím sure they all need fed
and changed. Itís been quite a morning all ready!"
Tiffany hurried out of the room and went to finish feeding
Charlie. Peter picked up another one of the babies and began
walking back and forth. "Whatís wrong with her?" he asked.
"Sheís still upset about Andy." Abraham sat Laura on the bed and
walked over to Peter. "She has it in her head that Lukeís going
to die too. I canít convince herÖ"
Peter looked toward Laura, then he looked down at little Sammy
in his arms. "I think Iíd rather take care of the babyÖ" Peter
shook his head. "Abe, I donít have any answers."
"Uncle Samís at the Circle Q. Heís been there since he left the
house Thanksgiving day. He refuses to leave. I told Silas Iíd be
in to talk to him." He turned and looked at Laura. "Can you and
Tiffany stay here?"
Peter nodded. "Uh...Maís still pretty shaken and sheís down there
by herself with Beth. Perhaps you could take them to Jeremiahís
until we get back there." Abraham nodded. He started to turn
back to Laura. "I was thinking on something, Abe...I know itís
hard when a soldier dies in war because thereís no funeral, but
maybe we could have some sort of memorial service or something
"IíllÖtalk to Uncle Sam and Aunt Jenny about it." Abraham turned
and bent down in front of Laura. "Honey, I have to go for a bit.
Can you stay here with Julie, Tiffany and Peter?" Laura sniffed
and nodded. Abraham walked out into the main room. He saw the
dollar still laying on the floor. Sadly, he bent over and picked
it up. He turned and went back into his bedroom. "Honey, why
donít you hold on to Lukeís dollar?"
Laura shook her head as she drew her knees up to her chest and
sniffed. It broke his heart to see his sister in such a state.
"Okay. Iíll put it up here on the dresser. Maybe youíll want it
Julie looked up from the rocker where she was nursing Adam.
Abraham bent down beside her. He bent over and kissed Adamís
head. "Peter and Tiffany will stay here, hon. Thereís an
emergency in town."
"What sort of emergency?" Julie asked anxiously.
"Itís Uncle Sam. Heís drinking himself to death." Abraham shook
his head. "Iíve never seen him take a drink of any sort of
alcohol before. Iím worried about him."
"Iím worried for the whole family. This is quite a blow," Julie
"Yeah..." Abraham nodded. "For our family too. Laura andÖ" Abraham
sighed. "I can only imagine what this thing is doing to Luke."
"Well...t least Andy had Luke and Johnny close to him when he
Abraham nodded as he stood up. "I expect so." He took his gun
belt from the hook and strapped it on. "Iíll be back as soon as
I can. Iím sorry to leave you in such a mess."
"Just help him, Abe." Abraham bent over and kissed her. Then he
grabbed his coat and hat and hurried out the door.
The sky was grey, but snow had yet to fall. Abraham stopped on
the edge of town and looked down the road. The Circle Q was
already alive, even though it was only ten oíclock in the
morning. He slowly moved his horse forward and stopped outside
the saloon. As he dismounted his horse, he saw Ann Pritchard,
Margaretís best friend, coming from the store. "Abe..." Ann
reached out and took his hand. "I heard about Andy. Iím sorry."
Abraham nodded. "How are you all doing?"
"Well..." Abe sighed. "Weíre hanging in there. Itís rough...you
knowÖAndy was like a brother to us. Emilyís staying with
Margaret and Aunt Jenny. The doctorís kept them pretty sedated
since it happened. Bethís over at Mamaís house but...sheís not
talking much. Scott and Johnny...Well, you know them. They are
trying to keep the ranch running."
"And Samuel?" Ann asked. "Howís Samuel?"
Abraham turned and looked toward the saloon. "I donít know."
"You think I could stop by and see Margaret? I was going to go
yesterday, but Hal told me I should wait."
"I think thatís best. Maybe tomorrow. We should know more by
then." He tipped his hat to her. "Excuse me."
Abraham walked up to the saloon doors and looked inside. The
bartender caught his eyes and motioned to a corner table where
Sam sat with a whisky bottle. Abraham slowly walked inside and
went to the back. He stood by the table and waited for Samuel to
look up at him. "What do you want, boy?" Samuel asked gruffly.
"To know why youíre here," Abraham answered as he sat down.
Samuel picked up the whisky glass and took a long drink. "Well
now...thatís my business."
"Thatís where youíre wrong, Uncle Sam. You see, youíve always
told me that weíre family, and I believe thatís true. And Iím
making it my business to tell you that you should be home."
"Oh?" Samuel reached for the whisky bottle. Abraham grabbed it
and pulled it away. Samuel slowly lifted his head. Abraham
gasped at the grief and guilt he saw in his eyes. "I want you to
"Your wife and daughter are grief stricken. Your sons are doing
their best to keep the ranch running. And youíre here..." Abraham
stared at the whisky bottle. Then he angrily slung it against
the wall. "GETTING DRUNK!"
Samuel glared at Abraham. "Now, youíre going to pay for that.
Thatís a dollar a bottle!" Samuel stood up on shaky legs and
walked toward the bar.
Abraham grabbed Samuel by the arm. "Weíre leaving!"
"I ainít going nowhere!" Samuel shouted.
"I said weíre leaving!"
A cowboy stood from a nearby table and walked up to the two.
"Mister, I think the man said he didnít want to leave."
"This is no business of yours, mister!" Abraham snarled at the
cowboy. "You just butt out!"
"I said..." The cowboy reached out to grab Abraham. Abraham gave
the cowboy a hard kick then grabbed tighter to Samuel as he
hurried him outside.
"Letís go!" Abraham declared.
"To get you sobered up. Then Iím taking you home!"
"NO!" Samuel suddenly flung his arms toward Abraham. Abraham
stepped back with a start. "I ainít going back home! Not EVER!"
"What are you talking about?" Abraham shouted. "Your family
needs you! Your son just died!"
"They donít need me! I KILLED MY SON!" Samuel shouted. "I KILLED
"What are you talking about?"
"I made him go! I told him Ö" Samuel swallowed as he stepped
further away from Abraham. People had stopped in the street to
listen to the personal conversation. "íBoy, if you wanta make me
proud, you join the army with Luke!í Thatís what I said! You
know what he said?" Samuel laughed bitterly. "He said, ĎNo Pa!í
Then I told him that his brother was lamed so Andy had to do
what his brother would have done! I MADE him do it! I MADE him!"
"He could have refused!" Abraham shouted back. He walked toward
Samuel and tried to grab him, but Samuel shook his head and
"No!" Samuel shouted. "Nobody refuses me! Nobody! Iím the
father. I know whatís best for my family..." Samuel shook his
head. "What best...ha! What a joke! I killed my son! I killed
"Youíre son died fighting for the country. A rebel killed your
son!" Abraham lunged forward and grabbed Samuel. "You have a
wife and four children at home who are hurting! They need you
"No!" Samuel gave Abraham a hard shove. "NO! Iím not going
back!" Samuel turned to go back into the saloon. "Theyíre better
off without me."
"So what? Youíre going to just drink yourself to death?" Abraham
asked. "Is that what you plan to do?" Abraham followed Samuel
into the saloon. "You think the guilt and the pain will go away
if you just drink? Your wife and daughter are in so much mental
anguish right now that they canít get out of bed, yet you are
here in town getting all whacked out on booze?" Samuel walked up
to the bar. "You think the whisky will take away your pain? You
want to die so the pain will end?"
"YES!" Samuel shouted as he turned around and glared at Abraham.
"GOD HELP ME, YES!!!" Both men grew quiet as they stared at each
other. Slowly, Samuel turned back toward the bar. "Now...go away."
Samuel looked up at the bar tender. "Give me another bottle." He
slapped the dollar down on the bar.
"Donít serve him," Abraham ordered. "Donít serve him another
"Miste...only the Marshal can tell me that. As long as he has
the money, Iíll serve."
Abraham slapped his thigh in disgust and turned to walk out the
door. He paused at the swinging doors and slowly turned around.
"Iím going to see about having a memorial service for Andy. Iíll
let you know when it is. If you cared about your son and family
at all, youíll be there."
Abraham slammed his way out the doors. He was so angry! He could
not believe the nerve of some people. "Whoa there!" Lariat Jones
declared as he grabbed Abraham.
"Iím sorry," Abraham mumbled.
"Say, Iíve seen Samuel in there drinking like thereís no
tomorrow. Is it because of Andy?"
"Thatís none of your business!" Abraham declared as he hurried
to his horse and rode toward the Gibbs ranch. When he got into
the yard, he saw Scott and Johnny coming from the barn. Abraham
tied his horse to the hitching post. "I talked to your father."
"Where is he?" Scott asked. "Weíve been so busy hereÖ"
"UhÖ" Abraham looked toward the house. "Howís your mother and
"They both got up for lunch today. Theyíre talking but worried
about Pa. We were about to go into town to look for him."
Abraham took off his hat and leaned against the hitching post.
"Heís at the saloon."
"The saloon?" Scott asked in surprise. "País never had a drink
in his life!"
"Well, heís been there since Thursday afternoon. He hasnít
leftÖblames himself for Andyís death."
Scott jerked his head up and stared at Abraham. He slowly nodded
his head. "Because he made Andy go." Scott took off his hat and
smacked it on his knee. "País always been that way. He has a way
of making you do what he wants, no matter how wrong you think it
is. But he shouldnít blame himself." Scott slapped his thigh
again. "Shoot! If anyoneís to blame itís me. I felt bad for this
lame leg of mine. Andy always had to do the hard labor and I
knew he wasnít as strong mentally. I guess I took up the slack
in that area. In the end, it hurt him more than it helped."
"Look...nobody is to blame for this! Itís war." Abraham ran a hand
through his hair. "Everythingís a mess. Your fatherís trying to
kill himself, Laura believes Lukeís not coming back and is
hysterical. Iíve got four children I have to leave alone with
Julie now that Margaret canít help out...And Mother...well, Iím
worried about what this is doing to her." Scott lowered his
head. Abraham sighed. "Iím sorryÖListen, Iíd like to have a
Memorial Service for Andy. Maybe that could put some sort of
closure on Andyís death since we canít have a funeral."
"I think thatís a good idea," Andy nodded. "Should I go into
town and talk to Pa?"
"Letís wait until after the service. I think right now your
fatherís too torn up to talk to anyone." Abraham patted Scott on
the shoulder. "I know this is a lot of pressure on you. How are
"WellÖdepending on Pa, Johnny may have to lay off of school for
awhile. Iíll hire a couple ranch hands if you can help me with
that butÖother then that, weíre hanging in there."
"Alright. Iíll go in and check on the ladies." Abraham paused. "If you need anything, you let us know." Scott nodded as he and
Johnny went to work on more chores.
Abraham walked into the house. Emily looked up from the table
where she was breaking beans. "Abe!" She sat down the bowl and
jumped up to hug him. "Oh Abe!" She started crying.
Abe held her and allowed her to cry. He knew she had a huge
burden on her shoulders. "Iím sorry, sweetie. This is too much
pressure on you."
"I just canít wrap my mind around this. I canít believe heís
really gone," Emily cried.
"I know." Abraham looked around the house. "Whereís Aunt Jenny
"Margaret...is in the bedroom writing a letter to Luke. I thought
she should wait, but she had some things to say. Aunt Jenny is
asleep. Sheís still pretty upset Ė especially since Uncle Sam is
gone." Abraham looked away. "Where is he?"
Abraham shook his head. "Iíll go check on Margaret." He walked
to Margaretís bedroom and knocked on the door. Margaret called
for him to come in. Abraham opened the door and stood tall in
the doorway with a questioning look on his face.
Margaret jumped up and rushed over to him. "Abe! Oh Abe!" She
hugged him. Abraham kissed the top of her head. He held her
while she cried. "I canít believe heís gone! Itís soÖso hard to
"I know, honey. I know." Silence settled as he held her.
Finally, he pulled her away from him. "Emily said youíre writing
Luke a letter."
"Iím trying to." Margaret sat back down at the desk. She picked
up the letter and cleared her throat. "Dear Lucas. We received
the news of Andyís passing on Thanksgiving Day. My heart is so
burdened. Iím so worried about you not coming back. Iím afraid
that any day now weíll receive yet another telegram telling us
that you too have been taken away from us. I donít know if my
heart can take another beating. For the last two days, Iíve
Margaret stopped when she heard Abrahamís sharp intake of
breath. Abraham sat down in a chair next to her desk. "I donít
know exactly what happened on that battlefield, Margaret. I
donít know if Lucas was there when Andy died, but I do know that
Lucas is feeling absolutely terrible about Andyís passing."
Margaret hung her head. "I feel terrible for what I said just
before they left." Margaret sighed. "I told him to...to..." She bit
her lip. "...take care of Andy." She lifted her head and looked at
Abraham. "I know my brother. I saw the looks they exchanged and
I knew this was something Andy was being forced into doing. I
put a burden on Luke that I shouldnít have."
"No." Abraham shook his head. "I donít think so. He asked us to
take care of you. Thatís what Iím trying to do." Abraham picked
up the letter. "Perhaps...you should wait a few days before you
write him. Maybe then it wonít be so...dark...Listen, Iím going
to set up a service so we can put some sort of closure to Andyís
death...so we can all move on..."
Margaret gave Abraham a weak smile. "Iíd like that." She wiped
her eyes. "Howís your family?"
"Weíre hanging in there. Lauraís struggling with everything, but
itís hard for a little girl to understand all this. "
"Iíll be back to help Julie on Monday. I just...need some time."
"I donít want you to come back until youíre better. Iím going to
try and set the service up for Monday. We can announce it in
church tomorrow. I think that will help."
"Iíll wait to write Luke until after the service then." Abraham
nodded. "Abe...have you seen my Pa?"
Abe sighed. He didnít want to have this conversation with her.
But he couldnít lie to her either. He walked back and sat down.
"Heís really having a hard time, Margaret. Your father is
struggling in his own way to understand this. He
"Where is he?"
"Heís in town."
"In town?" Margaret asked. "In town where?"
Abraham turned from the door again. "I think you should ask your
brothers that." He turned to leave again.
"Abe?" Abraham turned around. "Why donít you bring Laura over? I
think it would do us both good." Abraham nodded. Then he walked
The sun was going down by the time Abraham rode to his own home
later that evening. After helping with a few chores at the
Gibbsí, he stopped by the main house to help Jeremiah with a
few. Then after making sure his mother and Beth were coping
alright, he rode to his own house. When he walked inside, he saw
Julie tiredly washing out more dirty diapers. Tiffany was
cleaning up dishes while Peter read Charlie a bedtime story.
Abraham hung his hat and coat up then removed his gun belt. He
bent down and took Charlie from his brother. "You and Tiffany
can go now."
"Iíll just finish these dishes," Tiffany said quietly.
"No, Iíll do it," Julie stated. "Youíve done more than enough.
Abraham saw them off then turned and looked at Julie. Her hair
was falling down around her face and every inch of her face was
etched in worry. She seemed to be taking all her frustrations
out on the diapers she was washing. "Howís Laura?"
"Not good," Julie answered. "Sheís been sleeping for the last
hour I thinkÖleast-wise sheís been quiet." Julie wiped the back
of her hand across her brow. She paused as she saw the weariness
on her husbandís face. She wiped her hands on her apron and
walked over to him. "You want some coffee?" Abraham nodded as he
sat down at the table. Julie sat down beside him and watched him
sip the coffee. Finally, she laid a hand on his. "Howís
"As well as can be expected, I suppose." Abraham rested his
hands around the coffee cup and stared into the cup. "Uncle
Samís drinking himself to death. He blames himself, says he
pushed Andy into it. Heís right, but blaming himself wonít do
any good. Then thereís Aunt Jenny. Sheís still so distraught she
canít hardly get out of bed. Margaretís always been a survivor,
though I doubt sheíd survive were Lucas to..." Abraham shook his
head. "Emilyís almost beside herself. She cried in my arms while
ago and I could tell she was almost at her end butÖI donít know
what to do. I canít leave Aunt Jenny and Margaret there
alone...The boys have more work than they can handle. They
havenít grieved properly. Mother is upset by this andÖ" Abraham stopped
as he turned his face away from her. It shamed him to cry in
front of his wife.
"And how about you?" Julie asked softly. Abraham said nothing,
but kept his head turned from her. "I know all this is killing
you." Julie lowered her head. "It has to be. Itís killing meÖ"
Her voice suddenly broke. She began sobbing. "Iím sorry..."
Abraham turned and took her in his arms. He held her while she
cried. He couldnít hold back the flood of tears any longer. He
began weeping with her. For a long time, husband and wife sat at
the kitchen table holding each other and cried until they were
empty. Finally, they stood from the table together. "I just want
to go to bed."
Julie turned and looked at the tub of diapers she had just
washed. "I must get these on the line, Abe."
"Letís work together." The line ran across the kitchen and into
the living room. They quickly hung the diapers up. Then Abraham
threw the water out. "How about the children?"
"They should be down for the night." They walked into the
bedroom. Abraham smiled when he saw Laura sleeping at the foot
of their bed. He started to lift her and carry her to the other
bedroom, but she moaned. "Leave her, Abe." Abraham nodded. He
was too tired to care at the moment. They undressed and got in
bed. Laura lay at the foot of the bed all covered up nice and
cozy. Julie and Abraham got under the covers and cuddled up next
to each other. Julie laid her head on her husbandís chest and
fell asleep. Sleep eventually came to Abraham as well, but it
was restless as he thought on all the burdens.
Laura woke up early in the morning while the house was still
quiet. She crawled up and lay down next to her brother. Abraham
grumbled and put an arm securely around her. Laura felt a bit
more protected and went back to sleep.
The sun was up by the time the babies woke up to announce they
were hungry. Julie and Abraham both stood and took one of the
babies from the cradle. As Julie nursed one, Abraham changed the
other. Then they traded. Laura woke up just as they were
settling the babies. But she didnít stir from the comfort of the
bed. She was very quiet. Abraham straightened up from laying the
last baby down as Julie dressed to go tend to Charlie. "Good
morning," Abraham greeted her. Laura didnít say anything.
Abraham lay back down on the bed and propped his head in his
hand as he looked down at her. "How are you feeling?"
"Not so good," Laura answered sadly.
"What can I say to convince you, honey?" Laura buried her head
in the pillow and sniffed. "Julieís going to fix pancakes this
morning. I know you love pancakes." Laura didnít say anything as
Abraham gently brushed her hair from her face. "Then we have
Laura suddenly jerked her head off the pillow. "I donít want to
go to church!" Laura cried. "I donít want to!"
Abraham forced himself to ignore the outburst. He knew his
little girl was hurting.
"Maybe you can go back home today. Weíll see how things are
later." Abraham brushed her hair back. "Do you want to go home
today?" Laura shrugged. "Donít you miss Ma?" Laura nodded.
Abraham sighed and hugged her to him. "Oh honey, I wish I could
take your pain away. I wish I could give you faith to believe
our brotherís fine."
Abraham lifted from the bed and went to do the chores. When he
came back inside, Julie had everything set on the table and
Laura was even dressed and ready to eat. He looked toward Julie,
but Julie just shook her head. Abraham asked the blessing.
Meanwhile, at the Gibbs house, Jennifer emerged from her bedroom
and declared that she was feeling better and would be attending
church. Margaret and Emily worried a bit, but they nodded their
approval of her decision. She also declared that her sons would
be going to church. Surprisingly, Jennifer never asked about the
whereabouts of her husband.
The mood of the Enid Community Church that morning was rather
quiet and reserved. There wasnít the normal chit chatting that
usually occurred on a Sunday morning. The McCain wagons arrived
with very little talking, as did the Gibbs wagon. As the
families sat in their respective seats, members came up to offer
their condolences. Nobody asked about Samuel, because there had
been rumors circulating around town about his whereabouts.
At the end of the service, the Reverend stepped down from the
platform. "Iím sure most of you know by now, but if you donít I
would like to make the sad announcement that our brother, Andrew
Gibbs, has gone home to be with the Lord. He died fighting for
his country. My condolences go to the Gibbs and McCain family.
There will be a short memorial service at 10 AM in the morning.
The family would like you all to attend to pay your respects to
Andy. And nowÖmay the peace of God surround you this week."
There was an eerie silence as people quietly filtered out of the
church. Abraham slowly stood and put his hand on Jenniferís
shoulder. She nodded and stood up slowly. Her knees felt weak,
so Scott grabbed her on one side and Abraham on the other as
they helped her from the church. Just as they were getting out
the door, voices filtered in. "Samuel Gibbs is just sitting in
that saloon drinking himself to death! If you ask me, it should
have been him who died instead of that sweet boy of his!"
Jenniferís eyes grew wide. Her face turned white as a sheet and
she went down. Abraham lifted her into his arms and carried her
hurriedly to the doctorís office. The families waited outside
while the doctor examined her. "How much more can this family
endure?" Julie cried out suddenly. "Andy, then Uncle Sam
and now Aunt Jenny..." Julieís lips began shaking with emotion.
"Dear God, how much more must they endure?"
Abraham looked up at her. He didnít have any strength left. The
door opened and Dr. Stevens stepped out. "Sheís suffering from
depression and malnourishment. Iím afraid she hasnít eaten since
this whole ordeal started." Dr. Stevens looked toward the
saloon. "And her husband isnít helping matters at all."
"Thatís it!" Scott declared as he slapped his hat against his
thigh. "Thatís it!"
"Scott, donít!" Margaret begged.
"Heís right, Margaret. Enough is enough." Abraham nodded toward
Scott and the two men made their way down the street. The saloon
was closed, but they found Samuel in the lobby of the hotel.
Scott grabbed him on one side and Abraham on the other. Samuel
mumbled as they lifted him to his feet. "Your wife is over at
the doctorís office!" Abraham declared. "Sheís in a state of
depression and fatigue, sheís so worried. Do you even care?"
Samuel cursed under his breath. "Pa, whatís happened to you?
Iíve never seen you like this before!"
"Yeah?" Samuel suddenly snapped awake. "Well, Iíve never lost a
son before! Iíve neverÖOh, what the hell do you care?"
"PA!" Scottís eyes opened wide. "What is wrong with you?" Scott
was quickly growing angry. "Pa, Ma is beside herself with grief!
None of us can reach her. Youíre the only one who canÖ"
"No!" Samuel shouted. "NO! Just get out of here and leave me
"What is WRONG with you, Pa?" Scott screamed. "Whatís happened
to you? You think youíre the only one grieving? Andy was my
brother! He was my BROTHER!!!" Scottís eyes filled with tears.
"With you gone, all this burden rests on my shoulders and I
canít do it! I wonít do it, Pa! I wonít!"
Abraham watched Scott turn and run out. He turned back and
glared at Samuel. "The service is at ten oíclock in the morning.
I expect you to be there by 9:30 or Iíll come find you and DRAG
you over there!" Abraham started out the door. He paused. "What
would Pa say if he saw you now?"
The afternoon was full of painful memories and stress. Emily,
Margaret, Em, Tiffany, and Ruth worked at fixing lunch for the
two families at the McCain house. Lunch was eaten in silence as
the family continued to mourn and worry. Only a week ago the
family was laughing gaily together. But Thursday, a telegram had
ripped the family apart.
Tiffany and Peter assured Abraham that they would keep a close
eye on Laura. Her rapport was still at odds with everyone. She
seemed to have withdrawn somewhere no one could reach. Beth
returned home to be with her family, and Abraham insisted Emily
stay home with hers. He saw a strain in her that he wasnít happy
That evening, everyone fell in bed exhausted emotionally.
The next morning, the families tried to focus on morning chores,
but no one could get anything done. Today was the day they had
to find some way inside themselves to say goodbye to Andy. Today
was the day they would lay him to rest.
Margaret wept as she stood from her bed that Monday morning. She
walked over to her desk and took out her journal. She opened it
to a blank page and dipped her pin in the ink well.
Today I have to say goodbye to my brother Andy. As I talked to
Laura last night, she asked me how we say goodbye to someone who
we cannot see. Her question made me stop and think, and the
truth is I donít know how to say goodbye to him. He and Luke
went off to war together. Though I feared Andy wouldnít come
back, the news of his death shocked me badly. Iíve cried until
Iím numb, and yet I still donít know quite what Iím crying
about. Is Andy really gone? Is it an absolute certainty that he
wonít come walking down that road and itís some sort of mistake?
Can I really give up on him that easily?
Abraham told me to hold off on writing to Lucas until after the
service today. Oh, my heart is so heavy. I donít want the
service to come because I donít want to say goodbye; yet at the
same time I DO want it to come so I can move on. But can I
really put this behind me? Can I really tuck Andy away in my
heart as if he were some childhood toy I want to hold on to
because of the joy it brought me?
Again, how do I say goodbye? Why do I have to?
The sounds of wagon wheels creaking as the wagons drove into the
churchyard and came to a quiet stop and footsteps shuffling -
thatís all the noise that was made as people silently made their
way into the church that morning. Everyone stood silently
waiting for the family of the deceased soldier to ride up. The
sound of a wagon could be heard. Everyone turned to watch the
Gibbs pull up in their wagon. Scott climbed down from the seat
and helped his weakened mother over the wheel. He held her up on
one side and Margaret on the other. Beth walked silently behind
them, and Johnny walked behind her. They didnít look at anyone
as they walked toward the church. Jennifer pressed a tissue to
her nose and sniffed as Scott and Margaret silently walked her
into the church.
A second wagon arrived shortly after. In silence, Peter jumped
down and assisted his mother down. She was silent as she waited
for Emily and Tiffany to join her. Laura sat quietly in the back
of the wagon and refused to move. She had a stubborn lift of her
chin and shook her head as Peter whispered in her ear. Ruth
stepped back and whispered something to the child, but Laura
refused to budge. Peter and Tiffany led Ruth into the church
while Emily stayed out with her sister.
Abraham pulled up beside his brotherís wagon. He stepped down as
he studied his sisters. Then he turned and helped Julie over the
wheel. She picked up one of the babies as Emily stepped forward
for another. Abraham lifted Charlie out then lifted the third
baby. He bent over and whispered something to Laura, but Laura
again shook her head.
Jeremiah and Em pulled up last. Em took the last baby from
Abraham and walked into the church. Abraham again bent over and
talked softly to Laura, and Laura again refused to move. "Weíre
going in together, Laura Rose," Abraham said sternly. "This is
something we all have to do. If you make a scene, Iíll have no
choice but to take you out and spank you." Abraham lifted her
out of the wagon and carried her inside.
A man walked toward the church. He looked like a drunk who had
no home. He was growing whiskers on his face. When he got to the
foot of the stairs, he paused. Then Samuel Gibbs made his way up
the stairs and walked into the church. Everyone turned and
stared as he slowly made his way up front and sat down next to
Reverend Gentry quietly stepped into the church. He stepped up
onto the platform and looked around the church. "On behalf of
the family, I want to thank you all for coming today. I...know
this is a difficult time for us. We watch our boys leave
expecting them to come back. The harsh reality is...some of them
donít come back."
Julie laid her head on Abrahamís shoulder, remembering her
brother who attended their wedding three years before. He had
gone off to fight for the Confederacy, and he would never come
home. Abraham put his arm around her.
"There are no words to express what happened on that fateful
day. Some want to question God. Itís not our job to understand
the ways of God. Itís our duty to accept that God knows best.
Others want to blame themselves. But the truth is, nobodyís to
blame for Andyís death. He died fighting for his country.
"I had someone come to me yesterday afternoon. This person asked
me how to say goodbye. I never really thought about it, butÖit
is hard to say goodbye to someone you canít see. Itís hard to
accept a reality of something like this. What if the telegram
came to the wrong person? What if he was put on the fatality
list instead of the wounded list? But...we must search our
hearts for the answer. In our hearts, we have to know heís gone.
In our heart we must believe that what happened to Andy wonít
necessarily happen to other family members."
Reverend Gentry stepped down from the platform. "The family
members have requested I allow a time for people to stand up and
speak their own words about Andy. I will lead the church in the
Lordís Prayer once everyone is finished speaking."
It didnít take long for someone to stand up and report what they
loved about Andy. Then another and another stood. A serene
peace...warmth...slowly began to settle over the church. Margaret
thought it felt almost like Andy was there...Like he was standing
in the back listening to everyone speak. He was smiling proudly
as he listened the those speak, telling him they loved him one
Margaret looked at her mother and saw a peace settle over her.
But her fatherís expression still held bitterness. She looked
around the other family members and saw the same peace. Laura
bit her lip fighting it.
Margaret slowly stood up and made her way to the front. Her legs
felt like jelly as she grabbed a hold of the pulpit for support.
Reverend Gentry quickly grabbed her arm and helped her turn
around. Then she spoke in a shaky voice. Her words were spoken
straight from her heart, and as she spoke she became stronger
until she no longer needed the Reverendís support.
"My brother...Andy...he was very special, and not just because he
was my brother. Andy was a friend. He didnít know a stranger. He
wanted to make people proud, to make them laugh. I canít help
but think that my brother is in this very room today. I feel his
presence and I feel at peace now. This morning I wrote in my
journal, and I asked the question ĎHow do I say goodbye?í"
Margaret shrugged as she smiled. "I donít. This isnít goodbye.
Someday I will leave this earth and when I get to Heaven, Iíll
see him there. We will run and play and laugh like we used to. I
know it wonít be for a long time yet...Maybe fifty years or maybe
fifteen...maybe five..." Margaret lowered her head. "So today,
Andy, I want to say...Iíll see you soon because in Heaven, our
earthly lives are like a day."
Margaret returned to her seat. Her father turned and stared at
her. He was confused at her words. Jennifer slowly stood up and
walked up to the front. She stumbled and Scott immediately ran
to her, but Samuel looked away. Jennifer smiled painfully as she
looked out over the crowd. Peter held her up with much support.
"Today..." She paused as he pressed a hand to her chest. "Today
I have to say goodbye..." Tears filled her eyes and streamed down
her face. Her lips shook as she sobbed. "...to a boy that I gave
birth to 19 years ago. I held him in my arms and sang to him. I
was there in his birth, but I wasnít there in his death. But as
I listened to the speeches today, Iíve come to the conclusion
that...in a way I WAS there. His father was there. His brothers
and sisters were there. Because I believe in my heart that my
sonís last thoughts were of his family. We were the most
important people in his life, and he loved us. Neither am I
going to say goodbye, my son. But Iíll also say...Iíll see you
when I get to Heaven." She laid her head on her sonís shoulder
as she allowed the last of her mournful tears to wet his shirt.
"Come on, Mama," Scott quietly whispered as he led her back to
the front pew. "Iíll be here with you the whole way."
As her words died, the room grew quiet. Reverend Gentry lifted
his arms indicating everyone to stand up. He led the group in
the Lordís Prayer. Then he quietly slipped out the door.
Jennifer turned toward her husband. He nodded his head slightly.
"I...canít come home. Iím going to get a job and send money
home, but I canít return there. Please understand."
Jenniferís eyes filled with tears again. She shook her head.
"No. I donít understand." Her voice held hurt.
"Youíre sorry..." Scott whispered bitterly. He bolted forward and
grabbed his father by his collar. "Youíre sorry????" he shouted.
"Scott!" Abraham hurried forward and grabbed him under his arm.
Jeremiah grabbed his other arm and they forced is fists to let
go of Samuel. "You canít help him now. Let him go..." Abraham said
"How can you do this?" Scott shouted. "How can you abandon us
"Scott!" Jeremiah tried then. "Let...him...go..."
Samuel turned and walked out.
Jenifer turned and hugged Ruth. "Iíll be okay. Iím strong. Weíll
survive this storm."
"I know you will," Ruth nodded.
Margaret, Beth, Scott, and Johnny all walked out with their
mother. They all looked more peaceful then when they walked in.
"They say time heals all wounds," Jeremiah mumbled as they
watched the last member of the Gibbs family leave the church.
"Yes." Abraham nodded. He sighed. "But I donít know if Uncle Sam
has enough time for the wound he needs healed."
"He holds the key." Abraham nodded. "He just has to unlock the
door." Jeremiah turned to Em. "Shall we go home?" She nodded.
The McCainís watched the couple walk out. The rest of the family
slowly walked from the church. Laura quietly stepped into the
back of the wagon and buried her head in her arms.
"What about Laura?" Abraham asked Julie. "How do we heal her
"With time," Julie smiled. "And lots of talking, hugs, and
The McCainís all climbed into their wagons and rode home in
The Years Before ó The
This is a story based on the TV series The Rifleman
Here are some other great stories. Enjoy!
around The McCain Ranch