Word Count 6,705
I stand corrected on calling the language Murdoch used Gaelic. I used a Scottish dictionary and to my uninformed mind, Gaelic is Scottish. I’ve been proved wrong. I did ask everyone to take the translation with a pound of salt. Evidently, I erred in thinking you all would know what that means. For those that don’t the phrase “take it with a grain of salt” means it might not be right. To take it with an entire pound means “it’s probably not right”. In other words ignore the language and concentrate on the story. From now on, I won’t use any foreign language in my stories. Lord knows I have enough trouble with English.
Further, what language he was speaking and what he said aren’t really important to the story, other than he shouldn’t have said it in front of guests.
Lacy practically demanded, very nicely, I might add, that I continue the story. So for Lacy with Shelley doing me the honor of consenting to beta, here’s the continuation of the story. All mistakes are mine.
Scott sat in his room and thought about his relationship with his father and his brother. He knew he was right in defending Johnny. However, was wrong to speak to his father in such a manner? Sam thought he was. He decided Sam was right; he shouldn’t have quoted a rule to his father. He hadn’t meant it to offend. He was trying to make a point and bring a little lightheartedness to the argument. He’d expected rolled eyes and groans when he’d quoted the rule. He delighted in seeing their reactions when he spouted yet another of George Washington’s rules. He knew sometimes it rubbed the wrong way. Though mostly they laughed about all the rules; timing and circumstance; that’s where he’d gone wrong. He’d broken a couple of rules; one much older than George’s; the one from the bible, “Honor thy Father.” He’d also spoken when he wasn’t the one being addressed. Surely there was a rule in there somewhere that covered that. That rule he’d quoted to Johnny last week maybe.
He pulled the pillows out from under the covers and ruthlessly mashed them into the position at the head of the bed, taking some of his anger out on the feather filled puffs. Leaning back and wiggling just a bit to get them in the right place, he picked up the book he’d been reading. ‘1st Every Action done in Company, ought to be with Some Sign of Respect, to those that are Present.’ ‘Well, hell, I broke the very first one. I not only owe Murdoch an apology, I owe Sam and Aggie ones as well,’ he thought with bit of anger at himself mixed with embarrassment. He went back to the study of the book rule two didn’t apply. ‘3d Shew Nothing to your Freind that may affright him.’ ‘Damn, I bet I gave them all a fright going off at Murdoch like that,’ he thought sourly.
His study of the book and his own actions was interrupted by the unannounced arrival of his younger brother. ‘Hadn’t I just quoted a rule to Johnny last week about that, or was it the week before?’ He couldn’t remember. The rule he’d quoted his brother came to mind, “68th Go not thither, where you know not, whether you Shall be Welcome or not. Give not Advice without being Ask’d & when desired do it briefly,” ‘Well, I certainly fell off the mark with that one, didn’t I? Fine example I make,’ he silently berated himself. ‘That was the one I broke at the table. Murdoch hadn’t asked for my opinion, but I gave it anyway.’
‘I really don’t feel like talking to Johnny right now,’ he thought. So he pretended Johnny wasn’t there; thus breaking yet another rule. ‘Yes, there it was “18th Read no Letters, Books, or Papers in Company but when there is a Necessity for the doing of it you must ask leave: come not near the Books or Writings of Another so as to read them unless desired or give your opinion of them unask’d also look not nigh when another is writing a Letter.”’
‘Maybe all these rules had times where they could or should be broken. I really ought to lay the book aside and talk to him. Johnny can appear almost cold hearted when danger’s present. Right now his heart is on his sleeve.’ Scott’s heart clinched at the pain on his brother’s face. ‘I’m sure if Johnny were aware I’m watching him, he’d guard his emotions somewhat.’
Finally he lay down the book. “Johnny? You OK?”
“Hell no, I’m not OK, Scott.” Johnny almost roared the first part and barely whispered by the time he got to his name. The tone of his name said so much that Johnny wasn’t aware of, but Scott heard the heartache anyway.
“Want to talk about it?” asked Scott quietly.
“I don’t know that there’s anything to talk about. Murdoch doesn’t care that I had a hard day; that there was more to do than just fix the fence; and it was in worse shape than we thought. I tried to get to dinner on time. I know I broke some rules, but there weren’t no one in the yard. My gun wasn’t hurting anything on my hip. I just don’t know how to please him. It seems everything I do is wrong.”
“Well, for nothing to talk about that’s certainly a long list,” joked Scott, sitting up and throwing his arm around his brother’s shoulders. “For what it’s worth, I know you had a hard day. I should have told Murdoch about the extent of the damage to the fence and the cows wandering from both herds.”
“Cattle, Scott, cattle,” said Johnny playfully.
Ignoring Johnny’s correction, Scott continued, “Murdoch’s had a lot on his mind. These contract negotiations are not going well; a couple of them are renegotiations, contracts that have to be changed because of weather problems that can’t be controlled. I know, that doesn’t mean he should take his anger out on you. You just happen to be the first thing that irritated him after discussing the contracts. May I offer a suggestion or two?”
“Yeah, I’ll listen. I don’t know that I’ll take ‘em though.”
“Johnny, you’re one of the bosses; act like it. If it’s getting time to be home for dinner, appoint someone to take charge of the last of the work and come home. You can always go back out and check on the work after dinner or in the morning if you think it might not meet Murdoch’s standards. You could also leave it for the next day. Could you maybe have strung two wires instead of 3 or four and finished tomorrow?”
The younger man pondered his brother’s advice. “Yeah, I suppose I could do that,” he said, not entirely convinced. “Maybe I could give a little something extra at the end of the week for anyone who was late to dinner.”
“I don’t know as I’d go that far, but use your position to get you home so that you’re not in trouble. Or just send someone with a message if you’re going to be late.”
“But, look what happened the last time, I left something partly done. Murdoch expects us to get the work done. He don’t want excuses, he don’t want work put off. He wants it done by his timeline. How many times has he told us that the boss leads by example? We’re not to expect the men to do something we’re not willing to do? How do I go off to dinner and make the men late for theirs? Sometimes he asks for the impossible.”
“Last time, you didn’t leave anyone in charge to make sure the work was completed. We’re talking about you complying with his request to be on time for dinner, not for you to go out chasing horse. You’ve learned from that or you would not have been late. Johnny, Murdoch’s a tough master at times. If you talk to him quietly, without losing your temper, he’ll listen. Give him a chance. Could you have left a man or two out to keep the herd separated and let the others come back and then trade off? There must have been something you could have done. You’re almost as new to ranching as I am. Maybe this is a question you could take to Murdoch. Go in to talk to him. Simply ask something like, Murdoch, I’m not sure how to handle this situation, explain the problem and then let him give you suggestions. It would be a sign of respect to ask his opinion. Maybe if you tried to show him more respect, he’ll start to show you more as well. It’s at least worth a try, isn’t it?”
“Scott, I try to show him respect, you make is sound as though I don’t respect him at all.”
“Johnny, that’s not at all what I meant, but you could try calling him old man less often.” Scott gave his brother a grin and messed his hair. “You need a haircut, boy. Maybe you should get one before Murdoch comments on it.”
They sat in companionable silence for a few minutes.
“Thanks for standing up for me. That hasn’t happened a lot in my past,” admitted Johnny.
“Anytime brother. Next time though, I need to do it in a more appropriate way so I don’t land myself in hot water. All I accomplished was to make him madder.”
“You shoulda heard Aggie light into him. She sure took him down a peg or two.”
“Johnny, 22d Shew not yourself glad at the Misfortune of another though he were your enemy.
23d When you see a Crime punished, you may be inwardly Pleased; but always shew Pity to the Suffering Offender,” quoted Scott.
“I’m not pleased, just surprised. I’ve never thought she particularly liked me. Not enough to defend me against Murdoch. Where were you anyway. I thought you’d come in to talk to me.
“Well, I was a bit busy. Sam took me down a couple of pegs too. I owe both of them apologies as well as Murdoch.”
“Hey Scott, isn’t there a verse in the bible about fathers not angering children?”
Scott stood and walked to the bookcase he pulled out his bible and thumbed it open. “Yes there is; it the same passage that exhorts us to honor our father. Here it is; Ephesians 6:1-4, ‘Children, obey your parents in the Lord: for this is right. Honour thy father and mother; which is the first commandment with promise; That it may be well with thee, and thou mayest live long on the earth. And, ye fathers, provoke not your children to wrath: but bring them up in the nurture and admonition of the Lord,” he read.
“Guess you didn’t honor Murdoch very well by correcting him in front of guests,” offered Johnny with a grin to take the sting out of his words.
“No, I didn’t. I broke at least one of George’s rules tonight as well. I’ll be doing some apologizing tomorrow. For tonight, I’ll stay in my room as he demanded. Where did you learn that verse Johnny?” asked Scott.
“We had bible study every day at the orphanage. The padre often made me read more. He said I caused trouble.”
“Damn, I wished you could have grown up here. After your mother died, the Padre would surely have sent for Murdoch. But you didn’t tell him who your father was did you?”
“Why should I? I told him my father threw us out, because that’s what I believed. Sometimes, like at dinner, I wonder how close to the truth that might be.”
“Surely you don’t think because Murdoch was angry you were late, that he would throw you out or that he threw your mother and you out in a fit of rage.”
“I don’t know, Scott, sometimes I wonder if he’s trying to get me to leave without actually throwing me out. If maybe, that’s what Mama felt when she left.” Johnny hung his head with this last admission and Scott’s heart broke for him all over again.
Scott retook his seat next to his brother, causally throwing his arm around his shoulders once more. “I wondered that a time or two myself. We will probably never know why she left. I do know that I’m glad you’re here and I want you to stay around,” consoled Scott.
Johnny grinned at Scott’s words.”I’m glad you’re here and don’t want you to leave either.” Johnny went to his room feeling a bit lighter in spirit leaving his brother with a pleased smile replacing his earlier frown.
The next morning.
Scott was dressing when Johnny walked in. One look at Johnny’s face told the older man he hadn’t slept much.
Johnny sat on the side of the bed and finished buttoning his shirt. “Think we’ll be welcome at breakfast?” he asked.
“I don’t know, but I don’t plan on being late.”
They headed downstairs to greet their father and the new day.
Murdoch looked up from his paper when they entered the kitchen. “Boys, I’d like to talk with you both before you head out this morning. Have some breakfast it’s going to be a long day.”
Both young men sat down and Maria placed loaded plates in front of them.
Theresa poured them both coffee and placed a glass of milk in front of Johnny. She gave them both smiles and went to strip their beds so she and Maria could start the weekly washing.
Breakfast over, Murdoch led the way into the great room. “Have a seat boys. Johnny, did you get the fencing finished yesterday?”
Johnny bristled at the question. He took a deep breath when he felt his brother kick his shin and calmly answered. “Yes, sir. We finished.”
“Is that why you were late for dinner?”
“Scott will you excuse us for a few minutes?”
Scott looked from his father to Johnny and back. He stood, clasped Johnny’s shoulder reassuringly and left the room; his heart full of trepidation.
Murdoch got up and walked around the desk. He sat on the front of it and then moved to the chair beside his son when he realized Johnny had to crane his neck to look up at him. He laid a gentle hand on Johnny’s forearm. He felt the tension as Johnny fought his reactive flinch at the contact. “Son, I owe you an apology. I should have given you a chance to explain your actions instead of jumping all over you.” He cringed inside when Johnny looked at him in shock.
“I . . . I thought I should . . . should apologize to you for breaking your rules,” he stammered out, speeding up to rush out the last of the sentence.
“Johnny, would you explain to me why you were late? Maybe, we can come up with a tactic you can employ the next time you’re running late that will help us keep from fighting.”
He’d never expected an apology. He was stunned; he’d expected Murdoch to still be mad. The floundering young man grabbed the lifeline his father threw to him.“Well, the fence was busted in more places than we originally knew about. Cattle from both herds had strayed onto the other’s property. It took a while to round them up. Then some of us kept having to stop to shoo the cattle back when they tried to stray again. We were kept mighty busy. When I realized how late it was getting, I rushed home. How would you have handled the situation, knowing you needed to be somewhere, but unwilling to leave the job unfinished?” he asked almost timidly.
Murdoch heard the uncharacteristic shyness in the question. He realized his son was asking for the benefit of his expertise, afraid he’d be rebuffed. “Well, that depends. First I would figure out which break in the fence would be the one to use to push both herds through. Then I would set some men to fixing the remaining breaks and others to rounding up cattle on both sides of the fence. Then before closing the last break, drive the cattle the appropriate direction and seal the remaining stretch of fence line. Is that what you did?” he asked when he saw his son relax and heard the let out breath he’d been holding.
“Yeah, but that only answers part of the question. Say you knew you were going to be late, that there were guests expected at dinner. Would you ride fast through the yard, if there was no one out there to put in danger? Would you have stopped to take off your gun belt?”
“I think that I would race through the yard, if there was really no one present. I’d probably also leave on my rig if I wasn’t yet used to taking it off. After all, I wouldn’t be likely to use it against friends I was sitting down to supper with.” He smiled as Johnny further relaxed he risked another pat on the forearm and was pleased when Johnny gave him a smile in return. “Are we good now?” he asked.
“Yes, ol’ man!” crowed Johnny.
“Watch it, boy,” returned the older man. “Get on off to today’s assignment and send your brother in on your way out. Oh, and one more thing. You know, you’re the boss out there. If you’re running late, have someone take over and come on home on time. We can always give the men a bit of bonus for being late to dinner.”
Johnny gave Murdoch one of his luminescent smiles and left the room with a spring in his step.
Johnny clapped Scott on the back. “He wants you now, big brother,” Johnny stated gravely.
Scott approached his father’s desk with just a hint of trepidation. “Sir, I’d like to . . .”
He got no farther, “Son, sit down please. I’m not upset with you. Matter of fact, I owe you an apology. Last night I was out of line and you were right to point it out. I should have spoken to Johnny privately. I should also watch my mouth; I’ve scolded Johnny for it enough times. You knew your brother had more work than he could reasonably get done in the allotted time, didn’t you?”
“Yes, sir; I spoke with Johnny last night and apologized for not letting you know how much work there was. Sir, I also want to apologize, I was out of line to quote that rule; especially in front of guests. All I can say in my defense is we all tend to get a laugh out of them. I was trying to put out the fire. Instead I doused it with lamp oil.”
“Scott you were right in trying to get me to listen to your brother. But I’d rather not hear any more of those rules at least for a while.”
“Murdoch, I forgot a much older rule. Johnny and I talked about it last night.”
“What rule is that son?” asked Murdoch risking placing a hand on Scott’s shoulder.
“The rule about honoring your father and your mother, Sir.”
“If I remember my scriptures correctly, that passage also has a statement about fathers not inciting their children to anger. Let’s call it even, though I suppose I still owe you an apology for sending you to your room like a child. The only thing I can say in my defense is that I was afraid if the two of you didn’t leave the room, I’d say something that would cause you to leave forever.”
“Apology accepted. May I ask a question?”
“Certainly, go ahead and ask. I’ll answer the best I can.”
“Why didn’t you apologize to Johnny for sending him to his room? He’s no more a child than I am.”
“Scott, since you weren’t in the room, I can only assume you were eavesdropping. We’ll let that go this time, for I think you were concerned about your brother leaving, hmm?” Johnny is an adult in experience, I know that’s true, but sometimes I remember the little boy he was and I treat him as such. I’ll try to remember he’s a grown man.”
“Sir, one more thing about Johnny, if I may? Murdoch, he feels like you’re trying to push him away, get him to leave. You’re not are you?”
Murdoch’s quickly drawn breath confirmed Scott’s suspicions. “Hell no, I’m not trying to push him away. Whatever gave him that idea or is this your suspicion talking.”
“No, sir; it’s Johnny sir. He told me last night that he sometimes feels that way. What’s more he wonders if his mother felt that way sometimes and that’s why she left.”
“I don’t know how Maria felt. It was a surprise to me when she left. If Johnny’s feeling that way then maybe she did too. I don’t know. I’ll talk to him. I’ll find a way to do it so that he doesn’t know you spoke to me. I don’t want him thinking you broke his trust. Though I suppose by telling me you already have.”
“I’ll tell him I told you. He will be hurt if I didn’t and he found out. I’ll explain that I was worried about him and wasn’t being malicious. You’ve got to do your best though to let him know you want him to stay. One thing you might do is give him a little praise now and then and don’t yell at him so much. He really is trying to make you proud of him.”
Before the older man could say anything, he continued, “Murdoch I need to go see Sam and Aggie and apologize. I can’t put my mind to work until I put right my conscience. May I have today off?”
“Son, I don’t think either of them expects or requires an apology, but if you can’t concentrate for needing to do so, go ahead. You could get the supplies while you’re in town and then you’re still working some. The day won’t be totally lost. Check with Theresa, see if she or Maria needs anything.” Scott nodded and turned to go when Murdoch’s words stopped him in his tracks. “Son, I’m proud of both my boys; seems they take care of each other.”
Scott turned back and gave his father a full-fledged smile that lit his entire face. Then he turned and strode out the door, his head high and his shoulders back.
As Scott drove the buckboard into town, he thought about the book by his side; oh, the fun and laughs and the trouble the darn thing had caused. He thought about his discussion with Murdoch and Murdoch’s admission that he should have waited to speak with Johnny alone, instead of calling him on his lateness in front of their guests. ‘Maybe Murdoch does know these rules, then why the hell doesn’t he apply them himself?’ thought Scott. He recited to himself the rule about admonishments being given private. 45th Being to advise or reprehend any one, consider whether it ought to be in publick or in Private; presently, or at Some other time in what terms to do it & in reproving Shew no Sign of Cholar but do it with all Sweetness and Mildness. ‘At least Sam had done that for me,’ he thought. He thoughts went to yet another rule. 46th Take all Admonitions thankfully in what Time or Place Soever given but afterwards not being culpable take a Time & Place convenient to let him him know it that gave them. ‘That’s how I should start off.
He had no more time to think as he pulled up in front of Sam’s house. ‘Hopefully, he’s not out on a house call.’ He took a deep breath, set the brake, and jumped down from the wagon. He stood for a moment in thought. His thoughts were interrupted by Mayor Higgs exiting Sam’s office.
“Good Moring Mr. Mayor,” stated Scott.
Mr. Higgs gave him a suspicious look, not used to being addressed formally. He returned the greeting. “Good Morning, Mr. Lancer. If you’re here to see Sam, he just took a patient into his exam room. He has two more waiting, I’m afraid you’re in for a bit of a wait, son.”
Scott cringed inwardly at being addressed as son by this pompous fool. He hid his distain and replied as politely as if he were greeting the president. “Thank you, I’ll go in list my name in his book and see to a few errands. Good day, Sir.” The monkey on his shoulder provided yet another rule, ‘47th Mock not nor Jest at any thing of Importance break no Jest that are Sharp Biting and if you Deliver any thing witty and Pleasent abstain from Laughing there at yourself.’ ‘Well I didn’t deliver anything, but one of these days, I just might break a few of the rules and do so, if he calls me son again,’ he snickered quietly to himself.
He squared his shoulders and schooled his face to hide his mirth and proceeded into the office. Just as the mayor stated there would be a wait. He put his name in the book and left to order the supplies.
Twenty minutes later he returned. Sam was just finishing with a patient.
He watched Scott enter and looked him over for injuries. Not seeing any he asked. Scott how serious is your injury?”
“I’m not injured, Sam; I need to speak with you. Please take care of your patients first. I’ll wait,” he assured the older man.
Sam nodded and took the next person in line.
Scott sat down and began to read the book again for lack of anything better to do. A mother came in with her young son. The boy was only seven or eight years old. Scott tried not to listen as the child complained about having to visit the doctor. When the boy smarted off to his mother, Scott could not sit quietly. “Ma’am, may I speak with the boy a minute? I’m Scott Lancer.”
“I know who you are, word travels fast in these parts, you’ve been home for a few months, but this is the first we’ve met. I’m Mrs. Ramirez, this is Jose.”
“Jose, would you please sit down and let me tell you a story?”
“A story Senor?”
“Yes, a story about a little boy,” enticed Scott.
“Si, I would love to hear a story, if I must sit here, it will help make the time pass.”
“Yes, for all of us. Several years ago, really more like 25 there was a beautiful blonde-haired woman and her husband came to live near here. She became with child, but there was danger all around. Her husband sent her off to meet her father. The husband sent his most trusted employees to escort his wife and unborn child to safety. The wife gave birth, but died before the husband could be summoned. The infant was taken by the grandfather and the baby lived with him, thinking his father didn’t want him and knowing his mother was dead. That little boy often cried his heart out, because he wanted a mother or a father to love him. He even promised God he’d be good if he’d just give him his father’s love. Twenty-five years later, his prayer was answered. Then the boy did something he promised he would never do, he raised his voice to his father and insulted the man. His heart broke when he realized what he had done. You have a mother and a father. You must treat them nicely, because you never know how long you may have them. Do you understand, you have two people in your life that little boy never had?”
“Si, I understand. Thank you, Senor.” He turned to his mother, “Mamacita, I am sorry. I will behave.”
The mother gave Scott a knowing smile and patted her son’s leg. “Thank you, Jose for listening to the story. You should thank Mr. Lancer for telling it.”
“Thank you, Mr. Lancer,” the boy parroted.
Scott looked at the book in his hands. “Jose, this book is a book of rules that helps us get along with others. I no longer need it, would you keep it for me and learn the rules?”
Jose gave the gringo man a big gapped-tooth smile. “Si, I will learn the rules, Senor.”
Sam called Scott into his office; keeping the mother from refusing the gift.
“What can I do for you, Scott?
If you’re here to apologize, there is no need. Sometimes one has to break rules to keep hearts from breaking. Did you just give George Washington’s book of rules to young Jose?” he asked with a twinkle in his eye.
“I did, I don’t need or want it anymore.”
“Scott there is a rule in that book the 48th, I believe, ‘Wherein you reprove Another be unblameable yourself; for example is more prevalent than Precepts.’ Remember that rule and the others will fall into place. Do the best you can to live by the rules and remember; sometimes rules have to be broken. I hope all you Lancers learn that rule that George never listed.”
“Thanks, Sam. Thank you for reproving me in private and I promise I’ll try my best to live the rules.”
In aggravation, Murdoch slapped shut the ledger he’d been working on. Scott’s words about Johnny thinking he was trying to push him away kept replaying in his mind. ‘Could Scott really be right? Does Johnny think I’m trying to get rid of him? He’s not leaving. I’ll make sure he knows how much I want him to stay.’ With that silent resolution Murdoch pushed back from his desk and strode quickly to the hall tree where by his command, weapons and hats were to be kept.
That thought brought him up short, ‘my command?’ Who the hell do I think I am? The King of Scotland?’ Disgusted with himself he stopped and buckled on his gun belt. “Maria, Theresa, I’m going out. I’ll be back by dinner time,” he called. Hearing replies from both women he stalked out the door and mounted his horse that Jelly quickly saddled brought over to meet him. He rode under the arch and then kicked his horse into a gallop.
He stopped his mount on the hill overlooking the stream where Johnny toiled with four other men to clear the debris washed down with the latest storm. Each man had clearly been assigned a section. Johnny was working alone in the section he’d chosen. Murdoch noted it was the section with the most debris. Nudging his gelding forward, he rode down to where his son was working.
Johnny heard the rider approaching and turned to see his father. He offered a tentative smile and then a puzzled eyebrow rose in silent question. Inside his heart hammered. Had he done something wrong? Things were good with his father when he’d left the house, now his father wore an expression Johnny took for pain. He recalled his anger with his brother when Scott had been to see him before heading to town. ‘Scott, something’s happened to Scott.’ Aloud he queried in a hesitant tone that clearly conveyed his worry, “Scott?”
As far as I know, your brother is fine. Have you talked with him after he finished speaking with me?”
“Yes, he told me a bit about your conversation and apologized. When he left I was still upset that he ‘broke my confidence’ as Scott put it. When I saw you looking pained, I was afraid I wouldn’t get the chance to right things with him.”
“I’d just like to talk with you. It looks like things are under control here. How about leaving someone in charge and go for a ride with me?”
Giving a loud whistle, Johnny then yelled, “Miguel, come here.” The man in question began making his way towards his bosses. “He hated talking to the big boss, so he took his time.”
“Hurry up,” called Johnny.
When Miguel finally made it to where Johnny and his father stood, he looked to the Murdoch and asked “Yes, Senor?”
Johnny looked to his father to reply. Murdoch gave a nod to indicate Johnny should give the orders. “Miguel, I’m needed elsewhere, when each man has finished his section, have them start on mine. I will be back to help as soon as I can. You’re in charge until I get back.” He patted the man’s shoulder and gave him a big smile.
Miguel went back to work with a much livelier step than he’d used to join them.
When Miguel was out of hearing range, Murdoch patted his son on the shoulder. “He’ll work harder because you put him in charge. Nicely done,” he praised.
Johnny looked up into his father’s beaming face and returned the smile in kind. He quickly ducked his head, embarrassed his father could affect him that way.
The older man reached out and lifted his son’s chin. “Johnny, never be ashamed to show me how you feel. You have a right to be proud of your ability to lead. I’m proud of you.”
Johnny blinked back the wetness his eyes produced. “You’re proud of me?” he asked in a tone bordering on awe. “Really?”
“Really. Johnny. I wanted to talk with you. Let’s ride over to the fishing hole and talk under the big tree.”
They mounted and in moments were dismounting again. They settled in the shade of the ancient tree.
Murdoch sat down beside his son. He wanted to throw an arm over his shoulders, but it was too soon for that. “Johnny. I want you to know how much I want you here to stay and how much I missed you when your mother took you with her. I missed being able to watch you grow, teaching you things you would need to learn, like riding a horse, or how to hunt. I looked for you so long; I’d almost given up hope.”
Johnny feeling that things were too serious offered with a mischievous grin, “You can still teach me to fish.”
They both laughed at their remembrance of Johnny’s only fishing outing. Johnny had gotten tired of waiting on the fish to bite and began shooting the fish. There wasn’t enough left to eat after Johnny put a couple of holes in them.
Murdoch became serious again. “Johnny, I don’t know why your mother left. We will probably never know. Perhaps she felt what your brother tells me you’ve been feeling. I don’t want you to leave. Lancer is your home. This is where you belong. If you feel I’m pushing you away, it’s probably because, I’m afraid, one of your friends will come along or you’ll grow bored with this hard life and leave. I thought it would hurt less if you left and I didn’t become close to you. I was lying to myself. If you or your brother left; I don’t know that I’d have the strength to go on. I’ll make you a deal; I’ll try to be more tolerant, if you’ll come to me if you feel I’m pushing you away.” After a pause he added, “Men aren’t supposed to talk about their feelings. If you’d grown up here, you would have heard this when you were small and I wouldn’t have to say it now as you would already know; I love you, son. I’m glad you’re home.”
Johnny furiously blinked back the traitorous tears that made him feel like a twelve year old. Admitting that feeling to himself and knowing, there would probably never be another chance to say what he’d been denied as a child, he replied with enough cheek to maintain his dignity, “It’s a deal; I love you too, old man.”
Scott drove the wagon loaded with supplies towards Lancer. He turned off on the path towards Aggie’s ranch.
Pulling into the yard, he was pleased to see Aggie on the porch talking with her foreman. At the sound of the coming wagon, the two on the porch finished their conversation.
Aggie stepped to the edge of the porch as Scott pulled up. “Scott what a pleasant surprise!” She greeted. “To what do I owe this unscheduled visit?” she asked with a broad smile. Her smile faltered when he asked permission to get down. “Scott, is something wrong? You never need permission to get down here. You are always welcome. Come sit on the porch with me and tell me what’s wrong.”
“Aggie, I want to apologize for my behavior last night. I was out of line to correct Murdoch in front of anyone or to even attempt to correct him as he is my father. I just wanted to apologize and let you know that Johnny and I both spoke with Murdoch this morning and things are mostly resolved between us.”
“That’s wonderful that you talked. May I ask what is not resolved? You look like you’re carrying the world on your shoulders. If there is something I can do to help, even if only to offer an ear, then I’m willing.”
“No thank you, Aggie. I appreciate the offer, but, talking when I shouldn’t got me in this mess. I’ve apologized and that’s all I wanted to do. The rest is between my family.”
“I understand that. I didn’t mean to pry.”
“I know. I appreciate the offer. I best be getting back. Thank you, Aggie for being a friend to Murdoch, Johnny and I. Good day.” He left Aggie worried for her friends, but knowing that Scott would work it out.
Aggie could read Scott enough to see his determination to fix whatever was still wrong. She said a little prayer as she watched him drive away.
Scott drove the wagon into the yard and was surprised to see Barranca tied to the hitching post in front of the Hacienda. ‘Johnny’s obviously planning on going back out. I hope I haven’t pushed him away by breaking his confidence,’ he thought.
He jumped from the wagon as Johnny opened the front door and stepped out. “Johnny.” “Scott,” they greeted. “I just want . . .” they both spoke at the same time.
“You first,” offered Johnny.
“Thank you. Normally I’d let you go first, but what I have to say is important. Johnny you’re important to me. I’m sorry I told Murdoch that you felt he was pushing you away. I should have asked your permission first.” Scott stood and waited for a reply from his brother.
Johnny stood for a moment and though of how to reply. “Scott, there’s nothing you need to apologize for. You were worried about me. No one’s ever cared enough to be concerned about me, before you that is. I didn’t know how to react and that made me angry. I’m sorry I didn’t accept your apology the first time. We good?”
“We’re great Johnny. Let me tell you about the little boy I gave that book of rules too.” Scott slung his arm over Johnny’s shoulders and pulled him into a headlock. He messed up Johnny’s dark silky hair. Their laughter followed them into the house.
Written 2009/ archived 2022
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4 thoughts on “Apologies by Vickie G.”
I love the story. It made my day
Thank you for this beautiful story.
Thank you for this wonderful story, especially the perfect ending.
Nice story, but I can’t help but wonder why Murdoch knows the rules and have been taught manners, uses them for friends and family with the exception of Johnny. I have yet to read a story that truly justify his actions as a person let alone parent. Most of his excuses being I didn’t realize, he looks so much like his mother and I never know what he’s thinking worst of all is he’s so different from Scott. Manners indeed? SMH. Thanks again for sharing your talent and keeping Lancer land alive. JML always ♥️