Answers by Winj

Word Count 3,720


Second in The Letter series

Scott Lancer walked into the small church with some trepidation. He scanned the small room and thought it was very nice for a church in the middle of this wilderness that was his home. He had never been in a Catholic church before and wasn’t sure where he might find the priest. He heard light footsteps echoing off the acoustics in the room and idly wondered how music and singing would sound in here.

Padre Felipe walked out of his office and around the alter to change out the candles for the Mass that evening when he noticed the young man standing near the entrance. He walked toward him to offer his assistance and realized who his visitor was. “Mr. Lancer, welcome. May I help you?”

“Hello, padre. I hope you can. Do you have a minute for me?” Scott asked respectfully.

“Of course. Please follow me,” the priest said and started back to his office. He offered Scott a seat and took his own chair behind the desk. “Now, how may I help you?”

“It’s about that letter you gave my brother,” Scott started.

“Ah yes, I hope it was not anything distressing,” the priest said sympathetically.

Scott almost laughed out loud but managed to control himself. “I’m afraid it was much more than that, Padre. I wouldn’t feel right discussing the contents with you, that would be up to Johnny. But I did want to ask you about some things that I’m curious about.”

“Certainly, anything I can do to help,” Padre Felipe smiled.

“You have no idea how much you have already helped just by keeping that letter all these years. Although it was difficult for both my brother and my father, it answered some questions that have been … well, tormenting them both for many years. But there are some things I would like to understand better. I grew up in a very privileged environment, Padre. I was never subjected to, shall we say, the uglier side of people until I joined the army. Even then, I understood why there was so much hostility. At least, I think I did. But I must admit, being in the union army, I was sheltered from the hatred and prejudices that helped bring on that war.” Scott stopped here, not sure exactly how to proceed without insulting the man.

“Whatever it is you need to know, Mr. Lancer, just ask me,” the padre said gently.

Scott smiled at him, thinking he could read his thoughts. “My brother has been the victim of a lot of prejudice in his life. I’m sure you can imagine. I just don’t understand it. I mean, why is it so … why do people feel so…”

“Mr. Lancer, there are many people in this world who believe it is wrong to mix races. Be it Mexican or any other race. There are people who believe it is a sin to do this. I have never believed such, myself. I believe that when two people find love it is the most important thing. Backgrounds, race, ethnicity, whatever you call it, should have no bearing on how people feel. Some people of privilege, as you describe yourself, believe they should not marry to a “lower class” of their own race. These things have been imprinted into our minds for thousands of years. Hatred is a form of self importance. To say, “I am better than you. I am more important than you therefore you do not deserve to be treated equally” is something many people have been taught from earliest childhood. Your own Constitution says that all men are created equal. Sadly, many do not practice this. Why? I do not know. There are many forms of hatred in this world. It is sad but nonetheless, it is true.”

“I just wish I knew what to do about it. I mean, there’s no point in fighting about it, arguing with those people you talked about. How do you make a person change their beliefs?” Scott asked in frustration.

“It can only begin with people like you, Mr. Lancer. And it can only be changed with our children. What we teach them from the first day of life on is what they will most likely believe when they are adults. There are people who have been raised in prejudice who somehow are able to see the truth when they grow up. This usually happens due to some event in their lives, some meeting of the minds with someone of a more tolerant nature. I have given this much thought. My role as a priest demands that I be nonjudgemental. I see the hatred almost daily. In this country and my own, it is mostly because of Mexicans and whites marrying. Their children are the ones who suffer. But does that mean they should ignore their love for one another? Or that they should not have children? Of course not. It is most difficult. I know your brother has experienced this many times in his young life. I assume it is because of this you are here?”

“Yes, his mother left because of the prejudice against her. I don’t know if she thought she would be more accepted in her own country but that certainly didn’t happen. I guess I was hoping to find some way of helping Johnny deal with this,” Scott said, feeling dejected.

“I wish I could give you a miracle answer. Some knowledge that would help you. Unfortunately, the answer to your earlier question is, you cannot change how others feel or what they believe. Oh, you can certainly try to reason with them and your reasoning would be most logical. But to one who is full of hatred and may not even know why themselves, it is usually their pride that prevents them from listening to that logic. Pride and fear of what they do not understand. It is this fear that fuels their hatred. It is a vicious circle, I’m afraid.”

“Is there nothing I can do to help Johnny?”

“Of course there is! It is the simplest thing and something you are obviously already doing,” the padre said. Scott looked at him questioningly. “Love him,” Padre Felipe said softly.

“What if that isn’t enough?” Scott asked.

“It is everything. Love is the only thing that can help you get through the most painful times. Your brother has dealt with this alone for most of his life. He understands it, accepts it even. It is you who are having trouble accepting. You must follow his lead, allow him to teach you. He needn’t do this with words, but with his actions. Have you ever been involved when he has been faced with this prejudice?”

“I’ve seen it. He walks away,” Scott said.

“Why do you think he does that?”

“Because there’s no point in arguing about it. It doesn’t do any good. That’s what he’s told me,” Scott answered.

“This is the only way to deal with it in a moment of trial. Should he stand up and fight or should he walk away? I am sure he has fought many times and I am just as sure he knows when it is wise to fight and when it is not,” the priest explained.

Scott nodded his head, trying to come to terms with this. “I’m sorry, Padre. You’ve been very patient and understanding with me. I don’t know what I was expecting to hear. I suppose I was hoping for that miracle answer,” he said with a small smile.

Padre Felipe smiled at the young man. “Perhaps some day, we will learn to accept each other. We are all brothers under the skin, yes?”

“Yes. Thank you for talking with me. I’ll leave you to your work,” Scott said and stood to leave.

“I am most happy to discuss this or anything else you need at any time, Mr. Lancer.”

“Please call me Scott. I’m not Catholic you know,” he said.

“It does not matter. As I said, we are all brothers,” the priest smiled and shook hands.

Scott left the church feeling no wiser than when he entered. Well, that wasn’t true. Padre Felipe had helped him understand the nature of people a little better, but he was no closer to finding an answer for his brother’s plight. Maybe there was no answer. Maybe it just was what it was. Still, there must be some way to make people understand. After all, the priest was right, underneath we all bleed red, we are all made up of the same parts.

He arrived home to an empty house. He wondered where everyone was but he was glad no one was around. He perused the mass collection of books on the shelves in the living room, hoping to find something to help him. He didn’t find much, nothing in fact that dealt with the subject. He supposed there hadn’t been many books written on this particular subject but he remembered reading Uncle Tom’s Cabin and how it had effected him. He had been sad and angry at the same time at the injustices this country was capable of. He figured the sentiment behind it wasn’t any different than what Johnny had experienced. Hate is hate, no matter where you might find it.

Scott began pacing in front of the fireplace, his arms crossed, his face in a frown. He still had no real answers. He wondered if the library in San Fransisco was open yet. He had read about it in the newspaper. Maybe he could find some answers there. The thought suddenly occurred to him that he had innumerable resources within his reach right there at Lancer. He could talk with some of the ranch hands, get their perspective. Many of them were Mexican and they all seemed to accept Johnny easily. They must have some insight. Still, he thought he would have to approach them cautiously. Some of them were still unsure of him after all these months and he wondered if that wasn’t some form of prejudice itself.

Having decided what to do, he now needed to formulate a plan on how to get the information he needed without insulting or provoking any of them. They were not the only ones on his list, he wanted to speak with the ‘gringo’ hands as well. This was beginning to remind him of the research papers he had been assigned at Harvard. He smiled at the fond memories of those less tenuous days of his life. He knew he had to be careful. If Johnny found out what he was up to, he was pretty sure his brother would have his head.

“Penny for ’em.”

Scott turned quickly to see Johnny watching him from the doorway. “I didn’t hear you come in,” he smiled.

“I guess not. You sure were thinkin hard about something, Boston. Want to talk about it?” Johnny asked, a bit concerned.

“No, it’s nothing. Just an idea I had, nothing solid,” he explained.

“Uh huh, well if you want to talk, I’m around,” Johnny offered.

Scott smiled warmly at him and Johnny returned in kind. They spoke tomes without words and the energy in the room was tangible.

“There you are, Scott. I was wondering where you’d gotten off to,” Murdoch said as he walked in, breaking the spell.

“I was wondering the same myself. I thought you’d all run away from home,” Scott teased.

“And not tell you? Never, brother,” Johnny said in mocked shock.

Scott quickly changed the subject as he didn’t want to answer the question his father was sure to ask.

The next morning, Scott was ready to start his probe for the truth. He decided the easiest person for him to talk with would be Cipriano. He trusted this man implicitly and knew if he asked to keep this quiet, Cipriano would say nothing. He found the man in the corral and asked to speak with him privately. Apprehensive, the vaquero took Scott to his living quarters.

“Constancia, we need some privacy,” he said to his wife as he entered.

“Actually, you might both be able to help me,” Scott said.

“Very well, please sit,” Cipriano said and his wife brought coffee for them, then joined the men at the table. “How can we help you, Senor Scott?”

“This is a delicate subject. I’m afraid I can’t tell you the particulars of why I’m about to ask these questions. Before I do, I have to ask for your discretion. I don’t want my family to know about this, not yet anyway,” Scott explained.

Cipriano looked at him warily. “Before I give you my word, Senor, I must ask if this could harm your father or brother,” he said.

“Oh no! It isn’t anything like that. In fact, it has nothing to do with the ranch. There are things I want to know about and I thought you might be able to give me some perspective,” Scott said.

Cipriano simply nodded his head as did his wife.

Scott explained what was troubling him much as he had with Padre Felipe. The man and his wife were quite surprised by the subject matter and neither were sure how to respond.

Mrs. Cipriano was not a demure woman however, and she decided she would be as honest with Scott as she could. “Senor Scott, these things you ask about have been true for many many years. Our people, your people have always felt this way. No, not all of course, but many. I cannot help but think this has to do with Senor Johnny,” she said wisely.

“It does, Senora. I want to help him. I don’t want him to have to live with this hate anymore. I know that isn’t going to happen but how can I help him deal with the very thing that drove his parents apart?” Scott noticed there was no surprise on the woman’s face when he said this and he wondered just how much she knew about the situation. “You knew about it didn’t you?”

“Si, I knew. I did not know it was the reason she left, but I suspected as much. There are no answers for you, Senor. You cannot change what is. Johnny, I mean, Senor Johnny has dealt with this his entire life. Do you think he needs your help?”

“I know he has and I know he says it doesn’t bother him anymore but I don’t believe that. I know it still hurts him. What do I say to him when it happens? How do I comfort him?” Scott asked, feeling more desperate with this conversation.

“What do you think you should say? That you are sorry? He knows that. That you hate it, too? He knows that as well. You are his brother, you are always there for him. This he knows very well. It is enough,” Cipriano explained.

“I want to change it for him. Make it go away,” Scott whispered.

“You cannot make it go away, Senor. It is not of your making. It is not your problem. We have felt this prejudice, too. Some of the gringos, they hate us. Even some who work on this very ranchero. What can we do? Ignore them, that is all. Be proud of the work we do here, be proud of who we are as a people. These things we can do, the rest is not up to us,” Cipriano said.

“Who on this ranch?” Scott asked, dismayed with this news.

“Why do you ask? Will you fire them? Will that not make matters worse? Their hatred will only grow stronger. With them among us, we have a chance to show them we are men as well. We can show them we are not stupid, that we know our craft. We have the chance to earn their respect as men. If you fire them, it will only lend to their beliefs and make them hate you as well. No, Senor, that is not the answer.”

Scott looked at him in absolute amazement. “How can you be so tolerant?”

“Senor Scott, before you came here, did you ever know a person of another race?” Mrs. Cipriano asked.


“Then you are not used to this, we are. We have lived with it all our lives. It only became worse after the war. Our war with the United States. Some of our people were angry that we lost so much land, some of your people were angry that we did not all just pack up and go back to Mexico. But this is our home, the only home many have ever known. They were born here, raised here, they did not wish to leave and your laws did not prevent us from staying. What I am saying is, you cannot change such deep feelings among people with talk. It is only when people come together for a common cause that they learn from each other and respect each other. This is why we say nothing about those who would hate us. We can only hope that they will learn as they see us as human beings,” Mrs. Cipriano said.

“I understand. You are amazing, I must say. I’m beginning to see things more clearly now. The only way to stop hatred is to embrace it,” Scott replied. “I do want to know who these men are, though. I won’t fire them but I’d like to have them work with Johnny. Give them some lessons,” he added with a small smirk.

Scott left the Cipriano home feeling he understood the situation better. Though he would never understand hatred for its own sake, at least he saw how it could be fought. Not with a sword, but with a smile. He found the men he was looking for, grateful it was only a small trio, and instructed them to work the south pasture to help with the round up. His only word of warning was that they would be supervised by his brother. He held his breath and hoped it would work.

Johnny came home that evening in a foul mood. He slammed the door and stomped up the stairs to his room. Scott felt he had made a very bad mistake and went to find out the problem. “Bad day?” he asked as he peeped in Johnny’s room.

“Yeah,” came the soft reply.

“Want to talk about it?”

“Just some trouble with some of the new hands,” Johnny shrugged.

“Oh, those men I sent to help you. What’s the problem?” Scott asked innocently.

“They didn’t want to do what I told ’em.”

“How did you handle it?” Scott asked, praying Johnny hadn’t fired them.

“I talked to them. I told them if they wanted to work here they would have to accept that I know what I’m doing. They seemed to think I didn’t have enough sense to come in out of the rain! Of course, that all changed pretty fast,” Johnny said.

“What do you mean by that?”

“Well, they got themselves in a pickle. Got caught up in some thickets cause they weren’t payin attention. I got them out, eventually,” Johnny grinned.

“I hope they thanked you,” Scott said, amused.

“Hmmph! Yeah if ya wanna call it that. They said they were sorry for the mess and hadn’t been watching what they were doing. I told them that was pretty obvious and I thought they were supposed to be experienced hands. That got their backs up but then I told them how I let fifty steers fall in a gully one time and they thought that was pretty funny. They pretty much relaxed after that and we actually talked a while at break. They’re okay, just got off to a bad start,” Johnny finished.

“I see. Well, it sounds like you handled it very well. So, why are you still in a bad mood?” Scott asked.

“Cause they shot their big mouths off to the rest of the hands. Now they all know about those fifty steers!” Johnny huffed.

Scott laughed at this but wondered how much Johnny wasn’t telling him. He was sure he knew but, as always, his brother liked to handle his problems on his own. He only hoped those men were seeing things from a different perspective now. It’s a start at least. Maybe with some effort, we can change a few other minds, he thought.

Johnny was no fool, however, and he knew his brother had sent those men to him on purpose. He wasn’t sure exactly why but it didn’t matter. Scott had confidence in him that he could handle the situation and that made him feel good.

The next day the boys headed to town for supplies. As they were loading the wagon, Padre Felipe walked along the boardwalk. Scott saw him first but he couldn’t remember if he had asked the priest not to mention their conversation. He held his breath as the padre approached.

“Buenos dias, gentlemen.”

“Buenos dias, Padre,” Johnny replied with a smile. Scott only nodded his head and looked a little pale.

“Isn’t it a beautiful day?” the padre commented.

“Si. How are you, Padre?” Johnny inquired.

“Very well, thank you. I was taking a stroll. It helps me to think of what to speak of during Mass.”

“Come up with anything good?” Johnny grinned.

“I’m afraid not yet. Do you have any suggestions?”

“Not my area, Padre. I wouldn’t know what to say,” Johnny replied.

“Actually, a thought has just now occurred to me. Yes, I think it is a very good subject. Well, have a nice day,” the priest said as he started to continue his stroll. He looked at Scott as he passed and winked conspiratorily.

“Huh, guess he wasn’t obliged to tell us what he thought up,” Johnny said as he watched the man walk on.

“Well, there is one way to find out,” Scott grinned devilishly.

“I ain’t that interested, Boston. Come on, I could use a beer,” Johnny said sardonically.

It was a passionate Mass, unlike the usual fare the congregation was used to. Padre Felipe spoke fiercly on the subjects of hate and prejudice to his flock. The people walked away feeling either refreshed or ashamed, depending on who you talked to about the matter.


Comments:  We don’t have this author’s current email address. If you leave a comment below, if she reconnects with the fandom, then she will see how much her work is appreciated.

One thought on “Answers by Winj

  1. This is such a good story. We need more like this one to bring the problems of bigotry and prejudice to a personal level. Thank you.


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