The Writer's Corner
by Michelle Palmer
Mark sat at the table doing his homework. The house was quiet.
He had finally finished the dishes and his father was out on the
porch smoking his cigar. Mark looked down at his math book and
shook his head. He always did hate math. The older he got, the
worse math got.
Lucas came into the house and saw Mark struggling. “Son, someday
Mark sighed. “I know, I know. Someday I’ll appreciate you
forcing me to do all this schooling!”
“By the way, son. On your way to school tomorrow, would you
please stop by and tell Neils I need to have Blue Boy and razor
shod? Ask him if he can do it Friday.”
“Telephone…” Mark sighed.
Mark stood and ran over to Lucas, who was pouring coffee into
his cup. “Telephones. My teacher’s been telling us about this
man named Alexander…um…something. He made a new invention a few
years ago called the telephone. They already have them in the
East and are stringing up wires.”
“Yes,” Lucas sat down at the kitchen table and grabbed Mark’s
notebook to look over his math problems. “I’ve read about it in
“You have this contraption in your house, and if a wire is
connected to it all the way across town, you can talk to a
person. Why, we could call Nels right now and set up a day. We
could call the President of the United States or-“
“-or your teacher.” Lucas sat the notebook down. “Mark, you’ve
gotten ten of these problems wrong, son.”
“Oh Pa, you know I hate math!” Mark exclaimed. “If I had a
telephone, I’d call Billy up right now and ask him what the
“Well, the point of doing homework son is so you can learn. Now,
I want you to erase these problems and do them over again – this
time correctly!” Lucas stood up. “As for this telephone
business, it’ll never take! All that nonsense will die down in a
few months when they realize how ridiculous of an idea it really
is.” Lucas grabbed his hat and gun. “I’m going to go bed down
the stalk. I expect to see those problems answered correctly
when I came back in.” Lucas pointed his finger right at Mark and
gave him a stern look.”
Mark swallowed and shook his head. “I’ll do my best, but you
know how I am with fractions!”
Lucas made his way to the barn. He lit the lantern and started
bedding the horses down for the night. Suddenly, he saw pieces
of hay falling from the loft and heard muffled crying. Lucas
cautiously climbed the ladder to the hay loft and gasped. He saw
a boy, not much older than five or six. His face was smeared
with blood and his clothes were torn. He had tears streaming
down his face.
“Hey there, son. How did you get here?”
The boy looked at Lucas cautiously. Lucas reached out to touch
him gently. “It’s okay. I’m not going to hurt you.”
“The wagon…” the boy sniffed. “My ma and Pa were on the wagon
and now it’s gone!”
The boy burst into tears and threw his arms around Lucas. Lucas
held him and let him cry, not understanding what was going on.
“Can you walk?” Lucas asked.
The boy was shivering in his arms. “Hey, if you can just get
down the ladder, I’ll let you put your arms back around me,
The shaking little boy turned and made his way back down the
ladder. As soon as Lucas got down, the boy stretched his arms up
and Lucas picked him up, allowing the boy to wrap his arms
around his neck, shaking like a leaf.
Lucas hurried inside with the boy. Mark jumped up from the table
and hurried over to Lucas. “What-“ he started.
“Son, go finish bedding down the stock for me, will you?” Lucas
sat the boy down on the cot in the living room, but the boy
wouldn’t take his arms from around his neck. “It’s okay. I need
to look at you. I need to see if you are okay.”
The boy allowed Lucas to carefully take his arms away. “Where
are you bleeding?”
The boy lowered his head, tears squeezing from his eyes. Lucas
lifted his chin. “What is it, son?”
“It’s not mine,” the boy answered, his voice heavy with sobs.
“What’s not, son?”
“Th-the blood. It’s not mine.” The boy buried his face in
Lucas’s chest and cried.
Lucas grabbed his head and lifted it back up. “Whose is it?”
“Sir, my folks were travelin’ and the wagon flipped.” The boy
couldn’t go on.
Mark hurried in. “It’s done Pa-“ The boy’s head jerked around
and he let out a loud cry.
“Go to bed, Mark.” Lucas ordered.
Mark stared at the little boy. “What’s wrong?”
“Go to bed. I’ll explain it to you in the morning when I know
Lucas turned back to the little boy. “What’s your name?”
Lucas smiled. “From the Bible?”
“Do you live around here, son?” Lucas kept his hands on the
boy’s shoulders and a small smile on his face.
Matthew shook his head. “We were Passing through.”
“With your Parents? Where are they, son?”
“Dead, I think…” Matthew again threw his arms around Lucas and
“Can you tell me where the wagon is?”
The boy shook his head. I just runned. I don’t know.”
Lucas tried to stand up, but the boy held tight. “Okay. I’m
going to get you something to sleep in. We’ll get you cleaned up
and you can sleep in the bedroom with Mark.” Lucas stood,
carrying Matthew. “Are you hungry?”
Matthew shook his head. “I can’t,” he stated.
Lucas understood. He carried Matthew into the bedroom, grabbed a
shirt Mark had grown out of, then carried him to the Basin and
started washing him off. After he had him all snuggled into bed,
he sat with him and told him a story until he fell asleep. When
Lucas was sure the boy was asleep, he pried his hands out of the
boys’ and went to Mark’s bed. Mark woke up at Lucas’s soft
shaking. “Son,” Lucas whispered. “The boy’s folks were in a
wagon accident. I don’t know if they are alive or not, but we
have to check. I’m going to get a search Party together. If he
wakes up, I need to you sit with him.”
Suddenly, Matthew started crying. Lucas hurried over to him and
rubbed his back. Memories flooded him. Mark was about this age
when his mother died, and he had nightmares like this. Lucas
lost many nights of sleep rubbing his son’s back and sitting
with him. “I don’t want to leave him.” After Matthew had calmed
down, Lucas stood up. “I’ll try not to be gone too long.”
Mark heard Lucas come in at about 4:30 AM. He quietly got out of
bed and went into the living room. Lucas had a long face and was
visually exhausted. He sat down in his chair and put his head in
his hands. “Pa?”
Lucas looked up. Tears were in his eyes. “How’s Matthew?”
“He’s still asleep. He finally settled down and hasn’t made a
sound. What’s wrong?”
“They’re dead. We found them about a mile up the road. The
mother was in the back of the wagon. She must have put the boy
under her to protect him. I had to bury them.
Will you go unhitch the team? I have to spend some time alone
with the Lord before the boy wakes up.”
“What-what’s going to happen to him, Pa?”
“He’ll stay here for now, son. He has no where to go and he
needs a lot of love.”
Lucas would cut off his right arm if he didn’t have to listen to
this boy’s lonesome crying. He would take the last 24 hours back
if he could. The boy’s lost both of his Parents, and he’s
terrified. “Son, I’ll take care of you. You aren’t alone.”
Matthew wiped his eyes. “Forever?”
“Do you have any family? A grandpa or aunt or anything?”
The boy shook his head. “I don’t know,” he sobbed.
Lucas took the boy into his arms. “Okay. Do you want to go to
the graves and put some flowers there?”
“No! Please, no!” Matthew cried.
“Okay. You don’t have to.” Lucas sat with the boy on his lap.
“Have you ever gone fishing?”
Matthew shook his head. “My Pa…he tended a store. I don’t do
much in the town.”
Matthew shook his head again and sniffed. “When Mark comes home
from school, you want him to show you how to fish?”
Matthew lowered his head. “I just want to sit here alone.”
Lucas nodded. “Okay. For awhile, then Mark can take you fishing.
Sitting and thinking about bad things can hurt you more. You
When Mark came home, Lucas told him to take Matthew fishing.
They were gone for two hours. When they came back, Matthew still
had a sad look on his face, but Mark informed Lucas that Matthew
had hooked his first fish. “I’ll show you how to clean them.”
“You give them baths?” Matthew asked.
Mark laughed. “No! We can’t eat their scales though. We’ll have
fish for supper.”
Lucas allowed the boy to grieve that week. He talked to the boy
everyday and made sure the boy talked about his Parents’ death.
Lucas explained that talking about it was important in the
healing process. By the weekend, the boy was happier and less
frightened. When Lucas got up on Saturday morning, the boy was
Lucas went looking for him and found him in the yard chasing the
chickens. “Hey, boy!” Lucas hollered.
Matthew ran over to Lucas, who kneeled down beside him. “We
don’t chase the chickens, son. These chickens live here. We feed
them and take care of them. They give us eggs for breakfast and
eventually provide us good fried chicken.” Matthew shrugged, as
if he didn’t care. “Okay son, let me show you where the feed is.
This will be one of your morning chores.”
“I don’t want to do no chores!” Matthew folded his arms and
stomped his foot.
Lucas bent down to the boy’s level. “Lets get some things
straight, boy. We don’t use that kind of attitude here. Everyone
does chores – including you. If you don’t, you will be punished.
Do I make myself clear?”
The boy shook his head. “Another thing, Matthew.” Lucas looked
into his eyes. “It’s ‘yes sir.’”
After he showed Matthew how to feed the chickens, he showed him
how to gather the eggs. “Tomorrow I’ll show you how to milk the
cows.” Lucas declared. Matthew opened his mouth to comment, but
saw the stern look on Lucas’s face and closed his mouth.
“Why don’t you explore around the yard? Mark and I have to make
some rePairs on the roof. Then we’ll go check the herd. This
afternoon we’ll go into town and see about getting you some
clothes.” Matthew slowly walked away. “Stay where I can see
you!” Lucas called.
Lucas and Mark worked on the roof. They had just one more
shingle to replace when Lucas realized he hadn’t seen Matthew in
a while. He called his name, but got no answer. Mark couldn’t
help but smile. “You just get me raised and-“
“Hush, Mark!” Lucas warned as he climbed down the ladder. “When
you get that done, hitch up our horses. I’ll go track down the
boy.” Lucas called Matthew’s name a few times with no answer. He
finally went into the house and found Matthew in the bedroom
with a can of Paint. He was Painting the bedroom wall red! Lucas
grabbed the brush out of Matthew’s hand. “What are you doing,
Matthew jumped up and shrugged. “I was bored.”
“You were-“ Lucas sighed and stared at the wall. “Well, we’ll
see what we can do about that!” He grabbed a bucket and filled
it up with soap and water. Start scrubbing. I want if off before
it dries, boy!”
Mark came in to announce the horses were hitched up. He saw the
wall and gasped.
Lucas held up a hand to hush him. “You go ahead and check the
cattle, son. I’ll be along as soon as Matthew gets this mess
It took awhile. Matthew complained that it was hard work, and
Lucas lectured him on behaving himself. When the work was done,
he helped the boy on the back of his horse and they rode off to
finish checking the cattle. It took most of the morning checking
the cattle. He promised Matthew that he would teach him how to
ride a pony soon. They would have to get him a pony that fit him
and a saddle. The boy jumped up and down about this.
They headed back to the ranch for some lunch before going into
town. Matthew complained when he was told to wash his hands, but
with a threat of not getting the candy from the General Store
promised to him earlier, Matthew finally decided that washing
his hands before lunch wasn’t so bad after all.
They went to town. Lucas took the boy to the doctor to get
checked out, and he was given a clean bill of health. The doctor
agreed not to charge Lucas for this visit, and they headed over
to the General Store. Lucas knew money was tight. To get the
boy clothed properly, he would have to sell a few head of cattle
to Pay the bill at the store. Milly stated that it would be no
trouble, however. So Lucas got the clothing he needed for
church, school, and chores. “I wasn’t able to recover anything
from the wagon. Everything was pretty messy.” Lucas had
explained. Milly wanted to help Lucas with the boy’s supplies,
and Lucas finally relented and agreed to only pay half-price for
the items the boy needed.
Mark wanted to talk to Lucas alone, so Milly kept the boy at the
General Store to look at the stuff while they went out to talk.
“Pa, with all this stuff you are buying and promising to buy him
a pony and all…does that mean you are thinking of…well…keeping
Lucas looked back toward the General Store. “I wouldn’t make it
permanent without consulting you first, son,” Lucas stated. “He
doesn’t have a family, though. I can’t say I’ll keep him
“Aren’t you, Pa?” Mark grinned. “You love that boy, don’t you?”
“Well, there’s something about him, Mark.”
Mark smiled. “I’m not a child anymore, Pa. I know you are a
great father, and he needs that right now. But,” Mark looked
around, as if someone was about to walk in on the big secret.
“He’s seems to have a mischievous streak in him, like I never
Lucas smiled. “You have had some pretty mischievous moments,
son. But I know what you mean.”
Mark nodded. “I think that unless we find a family member, you
should keep him.”
“I ain’t going to no school!” Matthew declared Sunday afternoon.
They were sitting in the hotel restaurant after church when
Lucas made the announcement. He was talking very loudly and
people were staring.
Lucas folded his arms. “You are. Tomorrow. And don’t talk so
Matthew Paid no heed to Lucas’s warning. “I said I ain’t going
to no school! You can’t make me!”
Lucas threw down his napkin, grabbed Matthew by the arm, and
dragged him out of the restaurant. When they were outside, Lucas
got down on the boy’s level and grabbed him by the shoulders.
“You do not ever talk to me like that, boy!” Lucas snapped. “I
am telling you that you are going to school tomorrow.”
Matthew folded his arms and stomped his foot. Lucas gave him a
warning smack on the backside. “When we get home today, you and
I will have a little talk in the barn. Now, I have never whipped
Mark – never had to. And I’m not going to whip you unless you
give me cause to. We’ll discuss your punishment at home. Right
now, I want you to march back into that restaurant and finish
your food. And,” Lucas pointed a finger at Matthew. “-I don’t
want you to say another word until we are home. Do I make myself
Matthew did stay quiet until they were home. He did listen to
Lucas’s “talk,” and agreed to do the extra chores that evening
for back-talking at the hotel. But the next morning, he pleaded
not to go to school while they were eating breakfast. Lucas took
a drink of his coffee and stood up. “Okay, boys. Let’s get
Matthew stood and folded his arms. Lucas gave him a stern look.
“Remember our talk from last night, Matthew. I think you should
think hard before saying or doing anything.” Lucas reached for
the boy’s books. “Here are the first years’ books Mark used. If
there are anymore, the teacher will tell me.”
Lucas rode them to school and Matthew sat quietly, sulking that
he had to go to school. Lucas hopped off the wagon. “Come on,
Matthew slowly got down and grabbed a hold of Lucas’s hand.
Lucas could tell he was terrified to go into the school, so at
the steps, he stopped and bent down onto the boy’s level. “What
is it, Matt?”
Matthew sniffed. “Back home I-I was going to go to school, but
the first day all the kids made fun of me. It really hurt my
Lucas shook his head. “I’m sorry about that, son.”
Matthew looked towards the door. “I was the store keeper’s son,
and they didn’t like my folks cause they was real mean an’
stingy.” Lucas looked into the boy’s eyes to show that he really
cared. “They were. My folks was mean, Mr. McCain. But they taked
care of me.”
Lucas smiled. “Well, they don’t know your folks here, Matt. You
go on in there and learn hard. I’ll be here to pick you up at
3.” Lucas stood and took the small boy’s hand in his and they
walked inside together.
Lucas sat down at Micah’s desk with a grin. “There is something
about that boy, Micah. He’s so…mischievous, but he is so
“You’ve taken to him, Lucas boy. That’s for sure.”
The door to the Marshall’s office opened and Mark walked in.
“Pa, if you are busy, I’ll take Matt with me until you are
“Is it that late?”
Mark nodded. “You got all your chores done?” Lucas nodded. “Pa,
Matt had a rough first day. I think you should talk to him.”
Lucas followed Mark to the wagon. Matt was sitting in the back
eating some candy. “Where’d he get that?”
Mark shrugged. “Where’d you get the candy, son?
Matt pointed to a young man up the street. “He bought it for me
cause I told him I’m an orphan.”
Lucas rolled his eyes. “Son, you aren’t an orphan. You are
living with us. And you don’t ever let strangers or even friends
buy something for you. We Pay our own way – that’s very
Matt said nothing. When they got home, Matt stated he wanted to
play. Lucas told him that he had afternoon chores to do, then
homework. “There’s not a lot of time to play, son. I want you to
go feed the chickens.”
Lucas decided to talk to Matt about his day once he was done
with his chores. The problem was, the boy was taking too long in
doing them. Lucas went outside to find the six-year old. He
called his name several times with no answer. Finally, he looked
up and saw him in a tree. “All right, son. Come down from
Matt shook his head. “I ain’t never comin’ down! Never!”
Lucas thought for a moment. He looked at Mark who just shrugged
his shoulders. Then he shrugged his own shoulders in defeat.
“All right, son. Have it your way.” Then he winked at Mark.
“Mark, there’s fried chicken on the table. Let’s go eat.” He
said it loud enough for Matt to hear.
They went inside and shut the door. Supper was almost done when
they heard a bump at the door. The door opened and Matt walked
in. “Can I eat some too?”
Lucas Patted the chair next to him and Matt came over. Matt
started eating. Lucas folded his arms on the table and looked
sternly at the boy. “Now, what do you have to say for yourself,
Matt grinned. “I can’t do my chores in the tree.” Lucas shook
his head at the boy and frowned. “An’ I can’t go to school in a
Lucas stared at Mark in disbelief. Mark stood and started
clearing the table. “I need to hurry with these dishes so I can
do my homework.”
“Go ahead and start on your homework, son. I think Matt will do
the dishes tonight.” Matt gave Lucas a pouting look. “Not only
tonight, but every night until I say differently.”
Matt had a piece of chicken in his hand and threw it down on the
table. Lucas stood up and grabbed Matt by the arm. “It seems
your own folks never punished you!”
“As long as I stayed out of their hair, I could do it my way!”
“Well that’s not the right way to bring up a boy. And it’s not
the way we do things around here. Around here, we do things MY
way, boy.” Lucas dragged Matt kicking and screaming out to the
barn. He sat him down sternly into a chair and sat down beside
him. “Now, the other night you and I had a talk about what
happens if you are naughty like this. Matt, I told you that I
never whipped Mark – there were always other way to punish him.
Did your folks ever whip you?”
Matt shook his head. “They didn’t care what I do’d as long as I
stayed out of their hair!”
“I see. Well, Mark told me you had a bad day at school today.”
Matt folded his arms and gave the pouting face again. Lucas
stood up, lifted the boy from the chair and gave him a hard
smack on the back side. The boy let out a hard cry. Tears sprang
to his eyes. “I didn’t want to learn!”
“You aren’t going to be a child forever, son. Someday you are
going to be a man, and you are going to have to make your own
way in this world. How will you do it if you can’t read or write
or add figures?”
Matt’s expression softened and he shrugged his shoulders. “Matt,
you are a very special boy. God made you for an important
purpose, and I am here to help you. I want to be your friend.”
A grin played at the corners of Matt’s mouth. He stood up and
crawled into Lucas’s lap. “Sir, my folks never wanted to be my
friend. They never let me sit on their lap. They didn’t let me
Lucas smiled. “Nothing wrong with hugs and kisses from your
folks. There’s nothing wrong with crying either. I cry sometimes
Matt’s mouth popped open. “Honest?”
“Honest.” Lucas saw tears pop into the boy’s eyes. “What’s
“Never met no one like you before…I wish you were my Pa.”
“You are special to me, son. Did you only come to me a week
ago?” Lucas sighed and hugged the boy close. “I would love for
you to be my son. Mark told me he wants you to stay.” Lucas
looked into the boy’s eyes. “I’ll punish you when you are bad,
son. But it’s only out of love.”
“Love? You mean you…you love me?”
Lucas nodded. “I mean I love you.”
“Can-can I call you Pa?” the boy asked softly.
Lucas smiled. Tears came to his own eyes. “When you are ready,
we’ll talk about it. Okay?”
They did understand each other. The boy nodded. “Are-are you
going to still lick me?”
Lucas smiled. “I’m not going to lick you. But, I don’t want
another trip to the barn.” He shook a warning finger at Matt.
“Now, let’s show you how to do dishes, then we’ll do your
The days Passed quickly. Lucas drove the boys into school every
morning and picked them up every afternoon. Mark got tired of
such attention and gained permission to ride Blue Boy so he
could hang out with his friends after school. Lucas was spending
a lot of time teaching Matt how to do his daily chores. After
supper, he and the boy sat down at the table and worked on his
lessons. Lucas was proud of how well the boy was doing. Within
in couple weeks the boy was able to write his whole alphabet and
read any three letter word. The boy seemed to take after Mark
when it came to math, and Lucas knew he had several years of
fighting the math bug. Now that Mark was 14, he thought that was
Lucas made sure to put aside time for Mark every day. He talked
to Mark each night on the front porch before bedtime. Matt went
to bed at 8:00, so he and Mark had time alone together before
they went to bed. “What do you honestly think of all of this
son?” Lucas asked, taking a puff off of his cigar.
“What do you mean? What should I think of this?”
“What do you think about the boy being here?”
Mark sighed. “I think that he’s good for you, Pa. I think you
need each other.”
Lucas turned and stared at Mark. “Well, I agree he needs me –
never had a Pa to teach him right from wrong. But how do I need
“Oh Pa!” Mark rolled his eyes. “I’m growing up. You love being a
Pa and taking people under your wings. Pa, you know I’ve been
talking about what I want to do in a couple years when I’m done
with school. Well, I think maybe I should try to go to school. I
know you’ve been setting money aside for me in the bank just in
case I wanted to. Well, with me gone, you wouldn’t have anyone
to boss around.”
Lucas laughed. “Mark, you are my son and no one can ever replace
“I know that.” Mark looked out over the land. “Pa, you’ve given
me good values to live by. You’ve taught me so many lessons. You
always let me know you loved me and taught me the Good Book.”
Mark sighed. “I guess I just want to see someone else get those
same values from you. You have so much to offer.”
Lucas put a hand on Mark’s back and smiled. “I want to give that
boy everything I’ve given you, son. He wants to call me Pa.”
Mark nodded. “I know. He told me. Pa, he still has a mean streak
in him, and when the newness of this wears off, he’ll bring it
out again. But I want him to call you Pa. I want him to be as
special to you as I was, and I want you be as special to him as
you are to me. And you are, Pa. You are special.”
Lucas smiled. “I think you are pretty special too, son.”
“I call you my best friend, Pa. I know I joke with you about you
being my Pa and bossy and all, but you know you are my best
friend. You will stay my best friend even if I move to the big
city and become a fancy lawyer or something.”
Tears filled Lucas’s eyes. “I’ll be proud of you no matter what
you decide to do, son. Good night.”
A month had Passed. Matt was finally settled in school. Though
they were having some small problems, Lucas knew how to handle
them. Lucas was still nervous about letting a little six year
old boy out of his site for so long, so where he went, the boy
went unless he was in school. There had been a couple times he
had to leave the boy with Mark or Milly while he helped Micah
deal with some law and order business. Other than that, though,
things seemed to be pretty calm.
Things were going so well, that Lucas was a bit surprised at the
boy’s actions one day. He was trying to finish rounding up the
stray cattle before it was time to pick him up from school.
Suddenly, he saw Mark and Matt riding up on Mark’s horse. Lucas
watched them ride up. Mark helped Matt down and Matt came and
stood in front of Lucas. “Here’s a note, Pa. I gotta get back to
school. I have a test to finish.”
Lucas watched Mark ride off before opening the note. “You got in
a fight at lunch, talked back to your teacher, and threw a-“
Lucas closed his eyes to keep control of himself. He slowly
folded up the note and walked towards his horse. “Get to walking
to the house, boy!”
Matt started walking. He hadn’t been very far when he plopped
himself down on the ground and refused to move. Lucas came and
sat down beside him on the ground. “Son, you are getting
yourself into more trouble.” He said sternly.
“I’m not walking any further! It’s too far.” Matt declared.
“You’ve been so good the Past three week, Matt.”
Matt looked at Lucas. “I’m not walking!”
Lucas stood up. “Suit yourself.” He got on his horse and started
riding away. He hoped the boy would call his bluff. Lucas rode
very slowly, then he saw the boy run Passed him toward the
ranch. He was crying.
Lucas tied his horse to the fence and pointed toward the barn.
Matt hung his head and stood in his spot near the house. “Okay,
I’ll do extra chores.”
Lucas grabbed him by the arm and headed toward the barn. “Before
I punish you, we’re having a little talk, son.” He took him into
the barn and they sat down. “Now, tell me why you misbehaved in
Matthew stuck out his lower lip. “I’m sorry, sir.” Then he
sighed. “Why do I have to be in the barn to talk?”
Lucas sighed. “I want you to understand that this is our
punishment spot. Any time we meet in this spot, you know you are
Matt hung his head. “Are you angry with me?”
Lucas took off his gloves. “Angry? I can get there really fast.
Right now I just want to understand what happened today.”
“Well, I-“ Matt looked up. “I guess I was just mad!”
“Mad about what?”
“Well, that John…He said that you were…were…” Matt hung his
“I’m what?” Lucas asked. He could see the hesitation in the
little boy’s eyes. “It’s okay. I can take it, son.”
“You were going to send me away.” Matt looked up at Lucas. “He
said Mark is done growin’, and you won’t want to grow up another
Lucas raised his eyebrows and shook his head. “What do you think
Matthew shrugged. “I don’t know. I’m only six!”
Lucas laughed. “Well, let me tell you what’s true, son. You
aren’t going anywhere. I can promise you that I want you here
always with me.” Lucas took out the note. “Why did you yell at
Matt lowered his head again. “I didn’t do all my homework, and
she told me I had to do extra.”
“I see.” Lucas looked into Matt’s eyes. “You told me you didn’t
“I-I didn’t want to do it.”
“Hmmm….And what about throwing the eraser and hitting her in the
back of the head?”
“I lost my temper.”
“Is that all?”
Matt raised his head and nodded. “Yes sir.”
“Okay.” Lucas stood up. “You know you have to be punished, son.”
Matt nodded. “Stand up, son.”
Matt froze in his seat, afraid of his punishment. “Stand up I
said!” Lucas said a little louder. Matt slowly stood up. Lucas
stood directly in front of him and Matt raised his head back as
far as it would go to look into the face of the giant of a man
that stood before him.
“First of all, we are going into town. You are going to
apologize to the teacher today. Second of all, since it’s her
you offended, you will do some chores for her with my approval.
Thirdly, the next stunt you pull will mean a licking. Son, I
don’t want to lick you, but I’m not going to tolerate anymore of
this. Do you understand me?”
They did go to the school and Matt apologized to the teacher. It
was agreed that he would stay after school and dust the erasers
for a week. He would also have extra homework. For the lie he
told Lucas, he would not be able to go swimming with his friends
as planned on Saturday.
Two more weeks Passed without any major incidents. Small matters
still came up, but nothing untypical of a six year old boy.
Lucas knew that Matt’s surprise would be waiting for him that
Friday when he got home. He and Mark had been going crazy,
trying to keep the secret. Mark finally came galloping in, Matt
securely hanging on behind him. “Well son, it’s been close to
two months since you came to us. I think it’s time for a new
Suddenly, a pony whinnied and Matt realized there was a small
pony in the corral. Mark and Lucas looked at each other and
smiled. Lucas laughed as Mark took Matt over to see the pony.
“Who’s is this?”
“Yours,” Mark smiled.
“Pa and me, silly! I put in some of the money I’ve been saving
too. It’s about time for you to learn how to learn to ride,”
Mark Patted Matt on top of the head. “He’s all broke and
Matt climbed up on the fence and laughed. “Can we start learning
Lucas smiled. “In the morning, son. It’ll take some time.”
“Then can I ride him to school like Mark?”
“With Mark,” Lucas stated. “When I think you are ready. When you
are ready, I don’t want you riding by yourself until I say so.”
Lucas knelt down in front of Matt. “Owning a horse is a
privilege and a big responsibility, son. Disobedience will
result in not riding the horse for a time. You understand?”
“Yes sir!” Matt declared. Tears popped into Matt’s eyes.
Mark and Lucas smiled at each other. Lucas hugged Matt, tears in
his own eyes. “You’re welcome, son.”
Mark watched Lucas teach Matt how to ride the horse. He laughed
every time the boy made a mistake. Lucas came to Mark, “He’s
doing great, isn’t he?”
“Almost as good as I did when I learned.”
Lucas gave Mark a swift Pat on the bottom. “You had your own
troubles, son!” he declared. “He’s been working on it for two
weeks now, so I think we can let him ride with you Monday.” They
watched for a few minutes than Lucas said, “Don’t you have
chores to do, boy?”
Mark sighed, “Yes sir.”
Monday morning dawned clear and bright. Lucas couldn’t decide
who was more excited – Matt for getting to ride his horse, Mark
for watching his little brother ride his horse to school with
him for the first time, or Lucas for watching his two boys ride
off to school together.
Mark helped Matt saddle Painter. Then they mounted up. Lucas
watched from the doorway and tried to keep himself in tack, but
he finally hurried out. “Now Mark, remember to stay close beside
“I will, Pa. Don’t worry.”
“And Matt, remember not to run him. Just trot him like I showed
you. Don’t get in a hurry. Be careful and-“
“Pa, he’s in good hands!” Mark declared.
“I know, but he’s only six, and I don’t want-“
Lucas saw the looks his boys were giving him and stopped. “Okay,
it’s just hard for a father to let go.”
Mark nodded. “Don’t I know it! Don’t you worry, Matt. You’ll get
used to it.”
He watched the two trot off together, pride swelled his heart,
and a big smile grew on his face. Lucas went to saddle his own
horse. He had a few errands to do in town and wanted to get back
early so he could work with the cattle all afternoon.
As he rode into town, Lucas saw Micah drinking coffee outside
his office. “I was hoping you would be in town today, Lucas Boy.
I didn’t really want to send word home through Mark.”
“What word?” Lucas asked.
“Well, I think you better come into my office.”
Lucas sat down. “Matt rode his horse to school with Mark today.
You should have seen those two ride off together! They love each
other – like two real brothers! I don’t like to brag, but I
can’t help saying that I’m mighty proud of my two boys!”
Micah held a frown on his face. Lucas shifted in his seat.
“I’m afraid you’ll think so.” Micah answered.
“What? What is it? Something happened here in town?”
Micah picked up a piece of Paper and held it out for Lucas to
take. “Got that telegram yesterday afternoon.”
Lucas read it. “An aunt in Chicago?”
Micah nodded. “She’ll be here tomorrow. She wants to take him
back with her.”
Lucas stood up and walked to the window. He didn’t trust his
voice, so he just stared out the window. Micah stood up and put
a hand on Lucas’s shoulder. At the feel of human contact, tears
came to Lucas’s eyes. “She can’t just come in and take him.
She’s a stranger. A boy needs a Pa.”
“She’s family, Lucas. The judge will rule on her side.”
“No,” Lucas turned. “I don’t believe that, Micah! He’s my boy
now!” Lucas hurried out the door before Micah could say another
Lucas hurried over to the General store, stuffing the telegram
into his jacket. “Hi, Milly!” Lucas greeted. “I need some
supplies.” He handed her the list. “I’ll take a bag of the boys’
favorite candy too. A bag for each of them. Oh, and I need to
get Matt another Pair of Pants. I tell you, that boy is rough on
those Pants!” Lucas was trying to be happy, but there was a fear
in his eyes.
“What’s wrong, Lucas?”
“Nothing, Milly. Can you just get that stuff together quickly? I
have to get back to the ranch.” Lucas turned toward Milly. “I’m
Milly nodded. “Okay, Lucas.”
Lucas did go back to the ranch. He tried to concentrate on his
work, but thoughts of Matt flooded him all day. As he roped the
stray cattle, he pictured Matt there screaming, “You got him,
sir!” Then running excitedly to help steer the stray in the
right direction. As he repaired the fence, he pictured Matt
standing beside him, ready to hand him a nail. As he rode back
to the ranch, he pictured Matt mischievously chasing the
chickens, even though he was told over and over not to do it.
It was a long day, but Lucas finally saw the two boys riding up
to the ranch. He hurried forward and lifted the boy off the
saddle, giving him a hug before sitting him down. Matt stared at
him, unsure why Lucas had given him such a tight hug. “I’ll go
start my chores.”
“No, let’s go fishing. All three of us.”
Mark came over to Lucas and looked at him. “What about our
Lucas gave a tight laugh. “One day without doing your chores
won’t hurt, son.”
Mark studied his Pa. Then he turned to Matt. “Okay. Why don’t
you go get the fishing poles, Matt.” He watched Matt go. “Pa,
Lucas sighed, then gave Mark a faint smile. “Nothing, son.
“Pa, do you remember that we don’t keep anything from each
Lucas nodded. “Yes, I remember.” He started toward the barn. “I
can’t right now, Mark. Please understand.”
They did have a fun afternoon fishing. Mark knew his father
wasn’t okay. His laughs were forced and he couldn’t keep his
eyes off of Matt. He could tell Matt was bothered by Lucas’s
forced happiness too, and he tried to make up for it by keeping
light conversation going. Try as he might though, his father’s
demeanor was still strained throughout their family outing.
They had lots of fish for supper that night. Lucas didn’t care
that Matt was picking at his food. Nor did he care that Matt’s
table manners were poor that night. At the end of supper, Mark
told Matt to start scraping off the supper dishes and then he
would help him wash.
“I scraped them off last night! You scrape them off!” Matt
Mark shook his head. “It’s your job to slop the hogs, so it’s
your job to scrape off the dishes!”
Matt stood up. “I said I’m not scraping off the dishes tonight!”
“Yes, you are!” Mark declared.
“All right, both of you just stop it right now!” Lucas suddenly
Both boys gasped and stared at Lucas. Lucas closed his eyes in
regret, but said nothing. He stood up and rushed out the front
door. Mark watched him leave. “Matt,” he said softly. “Please
start scraping off the dishes. I’ll wash and rinse and you can
“Okay,” Matt said quietly. “Mark, what’s wrong with Pa?”
Mark patted Matt on the head and gave him a smile. “He works
hard all day. Keeping a ranch is really hard work. He’s really
tired and our arguing just got to him. I’ll be right back.”
Mark found Lucas sitting inside the barn in the spot where he
always talked to Matt about their punishments. Lucas was rubbing
the seat where Matt usually sat. “It’s about Matt, isn’t it,
Lucas looked up. Tears were running down his cheeks. “What is
it, Pa? Talk to me!” Mark came to sit down beside him.
Lucas took the telegram out of his pocket and handed it to him.
He gave Mark a moment to read it. “Pa, she can’t just…take him!”
“She can, son. She’s his aunt – his flesh and blood. It’s the
right thing to do.”
“How are we going to do that?” Mark had tears in his own eyes.
“How can I give up my brother?”
“I don’t know, son. I don’t know!” The two embraced, grieving
for what was to come.
As they walked back toward the house, Mark asked when he was
going to tell Matt. “I don’t know.”
“She’s coming tomorrow afternoon.”
“I know!” Lucas shouted. Then he stopped and closed his eyes to
regain composure. “I’m sorry. I know.”
“Do you want me to help you tell him?”
Lucas shook his head. “No. I have to do this alone.”
Mark saw Matt sitting at the table. “I’ve been waiting!”
“I’ll do the dishes myself tonight.” Mark announced. “I think Pa
needs to talk to you.”
“Well, I know I’m not in trouble, cause we aren’t in the barn.”
Matt stated as they sat down on his bed.
Lucas patted his knee. “No, your not are in trouble, son.” He
forced a smile on his face.
“I actually have some good news. We got a telegram and they
located an aunt.”
The smile on Matt’s face disappeared. “Aunt?”
“Yes. Your Aunt Jenny is coming.” Lucas announced. “She’ll be
here tomorrow when you get out of school.”
“Aunt Jenny…” Matt said quietly. “I don’t like her.”
Lucas’s head shot up. “It’s not nice to dislike anyone, son.”
Lucas stated firmly.
“I told you how my folks are – they never punished me like you.
They let me do what I wanted and all…well, my aunt…she-“
Lucas studied Matt intently. “What?”
“I don’t remember much, but I remember her slapping me.”
Lucas’s heart skipped a beat. “We all have our opinions on
discipline, son.” Lucas stated. “I’ve given you a couple smacks
on the back side too.”
“No, on the face. It hurt something awful and…” Matt sighed…
Lucas looked into Matt’s eyes. “Pa, don’t you want me?”
“Yes, son. I do. Very much.” Lucas took the little boy into his
arms. “But, the law will side with your aunt. She’s family.”
“I don’t want her. I love you, Pa!” Matt shouted. He started
crying. “Please let me stay with you! I promise I won’t argue
Lucas couldn’t speak. He couldn’t think of anything to say that
would make the hurt any less. “You best get ready for bed,
“Can I stay with you today, Pa?” Matt asked at breakfast the
Lucas took a sip of his coffee. “You need to eat so you can get
to school, Matt.”
Matt sighed. “I-“
Lucas sighed. “I think I’ll take you and Mark to school in the
buckboard today. I’ll pick you up a little early so we can be
there to meet the stage.”
Matt sniffed. “Best hurry up, boy.” Lucas ordered.
Mark watched his father go out the door. He was hurting himself,
but he didn’t know what to do about it. He knew Lucas dealt with
grief in his own way – alone. But he also knew that Matt was
confused and needed to understand. “This is really hard for Pa,
Matt.” Mark explained. “He loves you just as much as if you were
his own son – that’s Pa’s way. He feels like he’s losing his
Matt fiddled with his food. Mark took the food from him and put
it on his own plate. “Pa’s grieving something awful, but he
wants us to go on as normal. I think its best you go to school
with me. We’ll be together.” Mark quickly ate the food off his
plate before Lucas came back in. “Pa also doesn’t like you not
finishing your food.” Matt stared at all the food Mark had just
eaten. “This is what brothers are for – we help each other out.”
Matt stood up and threw his arms around Mark. “Oh Mark, I just
Mark smiled through his tears. “Best go wash your face.” He
pushed the boy away from him so he could look into his eyes.
“Pa’s the best man I know. But when he’s upset he doesn’t always
make sense. Just stick with me, little brother.”
They exchanged a loving smile. Then they stood to finish getting
ready for school.
All three stood nervously as they watched the stage coach
approach. Matt stood between the two men – Mark on one side and
Lucas on the other. He chewed on his lip as he watched the stage
coach come. He didn’t want to see her. He couldn’t stand her.
Lucas watched the stagecoach come. The woman on there was about
to take his boy away from him forever. He squeezed Matt’s hand
and closed his eyes, trying to keep his tough composure. He had
to be strong for the boy. He couldn’t let his true feelings
Mark watched the stagecoach as he came closer and closer. He
gave Matt’s hand a squeeze. Tears filled his eyes, and one even
escaped and ran down his cheek. He quickly wiped it away before
Matt saw it. He loved this boy like a brother. How could he say
goodbye? How could he allow a stranger to take his brother away
from him forever? He sent a silent prayer up to God as the door
to the stagecoach opened.
All three watched the woman step off the coach. She looked
around, then looked straight at Matt. Matt let out a gasp.
The woman wore a red, shiny dress. She had black lace gloves on
her hands, and a fancy hat with a blue bird on it. She looked
more like someone who needed to be in the White House then
someone who was guardian to a rambunctious boy. She held a
Parasol in her left hand, and a bag in her right. Another
Passenger helped her from the stage and she stood in front of
the little boy. “Well, so there you are!”
Lucas stared at her. “I must go freshen up, then we’ll get set
to go. We’ll leave on the morning stage, boy!” With that, she
walked past the three of them with no other acknowledgement.
Lucas looked down at Matt who had a fearful expression on his
face. “Um…Mark, take Matt over to the hotel and buy a piece of
pie.” Lucas handed Mark a couple silver pieces, then walked off
after the woman.
“Ms. Stevens!” Lucas called. She was about to go into the
telegraph office when he stopped her. “I wish to talk to you!”
She turned around. “Well, cowboy, I can’t possibly think of one
thing we have to say to each other!”
“I’ve had Matt in my home for nearly three months now, and you
have nothing to say to me?”
“Oh, well…I’m sure you’ll be glad to get the little varmint off
you hands, sir!” She stated, turning from him.
Lucas grabbed her by the arm and spun her around. “Listen lady,
I don’t let people see my temper very often, but you are about
to! The boy has settled in my home and has come to care about my
son and I like a family. You drop news that you are taking him
home with you in a telegram the day before you show up, and then
you greet the boy like he was a puppy about to come live in your
She laughed. “Oh, he’s not coming to my house! That’s for
Lucas stared at her. “What are you talking about?”
“There’s a nice boarding school just outside of Chicago. He’ll
stay there until he’s old enough to make his own way. I’m too
busy to keep up with a snotty nosed kid! He’s an evil one, I
“No thanks to his parents, from what I gather! How dare you
treat the boy in that respect!” Lucas boomed. “Why take him away
“No kin of mine is going to grow up in a wilderness around
half-men!” she declared. “Now, if you will let go of my arm, I
need to send my new hubby a telegram.”
Lucas was in shock. He couldn’t believe what was happening. This
bright, loving little boy was about to enter a life where he had
no loving parents, lots of work and studying. He didn’t hear
good things about boarding school, and he will die before he
allows his boy to be treated like that! He stared into this
woman’s cold eyes for a second before releasing her. “He wants
to live with me.”
“Too bad for him. He’s only five. He’ll get over it.”
“He’ll be seven in four months. He doesn’t like green beans. He
loves horses and cattle. He has nightmares at night and has to
be held for awhile before he goes back to sleep. The boy likes
to go fishing, but he doesn’t like to eat catfish – only trout.
He likes apple and peach pie, but not cheery pie or chocolate
cake. His favorite candy is licorice sticks, and he doesn’t much
care for the rock candy in Milly’s store. The boy is always
pulling at his shirt collars because he doesn’t like them on his
neck. He also likes to play ball with his friends after school.
He likes to chase chickens and has to be given an extra chore
every now and then to be reminded not to do it, but then he’ll
be pretty good. His full name is Matthew Andrew Thompson. He
wakes up happy, and doesn’t like to go to bed. Matt struggles in
math, but is excellent at learning to read and spelling. I work
with him for about an hour every night on his math, and we have
a good time doing it. He and Mark ride the range after school
every day to check the cattle and they are usually late getting
back because they have so much fun together. The boy plays with
bugs, reptiles, and any other animal that comes his way. He is a
boy, Mrs. Stevens. He’s not a dog or a varmint. He’s a little
boy who wants and needs a lot of love and discipline like any
other boy!” Lucas had raised his voice more and more thought his
monologue. He stopped now, too upset to go on.
People had gathered on the street to watch the interaction.
Jenny stared at him for another moment. “Well, if you’ll excuse
Lucas turned and walked off toward the hotel. He wasn’t sure
what he was going to do now, but he knew that little boy could
not go with such an evil woman. He suddenly turned toward the
church and went in to pray.
He had been in there quite awhile, kneeled at the alter praying.
He didn’t know what else to do. His heart was broken, and the
alter was wet with his tears. He couldn’t recall a time he had
cried so much since he had mourned the death of his wife. He
felt a total loss for his little boy, and he didn’t know what to
do. Suddenly a hand was on his shoulder. He looked up into
Mark’s eyes. “Where’s Matt?” Lucas asked in a broken voice.
“I took him to Milly’s. She gave him a fun chore to do in the
store so I could come talk to you.”
“Mark,” Lucas licked his lips and put a hand on each of Mark’s
shoulder. He looked into his son’s eyes. “Son, don’t think I
don’t love you.”
“I don’t. You feel like you’re losing your son, Pa. I totally
understand. I know you love me as much now as you did 15 years
“No son,” Lucas shook his head. “I love you so much more. My
love for you grows everyday.” Lucas quickly recounted the
conversation he had with the aunt.
“Any insight from Him?” Mark asked as he turned toward the
Lucas sighed. “I don’t know. I haven’t prayed so hard since-“
Mark knelt down beside his father. “Mind if we pray together?”
Lucas smiled and they bowed their heads together, hand on each
other’s backs, as they each cried out to God.
Suddenly the door to the church opened. They heard footsteps
behind them. Both Lucas and Mark looked behind them. It was
Jenny Stevens. Lucas started to stand up, but she motioned for
them to stay still. “I’ve been looking for you for quite awhile,
Mr. McCain. I was actually looking for you to tell you just how
rude and inhuman I think you are!”
Lucas opened his mouth to retort, but she again held up her
hand. “I’ve been standing outside the church listening for quite
awhile. I know your words were private. Do you know how long
you’ve been in here?” She looked at Lucas, then Mark. “Two
hours. You’ve been praying for two hours.” She sat down on a
pew. “I’ve never known anyone who went to church, much less
prayed to someone for two hours.”
Lucas stood up and sat down beside her. “Ma’am, God is important
to us out here.”
“I’ve heard.” She gave a hint of a smile. “I guess we’re too
busy for Him in my area of Chicago.” She sighed. “I-I think the
boy…I mean…Matthew…Matt should stay here with you.”
Lucas and Mark looked at each other and smiled gleefully. Then
Lucas took the woman’s hand. “I think you should visit with him,
ma’am. You are the only connection he has to his parents.”
“His parents were lazy and self-absorbed like me, Mr. McCain.”
She shook her head. “He’ll be better off not knowing me. I will
say good-bye in the morning if you’ll let him miss just a little
of school in the morning.”
“What made you change your mind?” Mark asked.
“Um...” She looked toward the front of the church. “You
introduced me to someone I want to get to know better. God.”
Then she stood up and walked out of the church, never looking
The Final Chapter
“He’s in there.” Milly pointed to the back storage room “The
reality of his leaving in the morning just hit him. He said he
wanted to be alone and cry like his Pa does.”
Lucas patted Milly’s shoulder and motioned for Mark to stay out.
He made his way into the room and saw his little boy hunkered
over, his body shaking with sobs. He came up behind him silently
and knelt down. “Matthew…”
Matt turned around. His eyes were red from crying. “I can’t
stand it, Pa! I just can’t stand it!” He threw his arms around
Lucas and cried.
Lucas pushed him back so he could look into the broken boy’s
eyes. “Okay. Now, if you will stop crying, I have something to
tell you, young man!”
Matt watched Lucas as he tried to keep from crying himself. “We
need to get you home so we can get your chores done. I hear you
have a math test tomorrow, and we have some work to do tonight,
Matt stared at him. “You mean-“
“You will be my son forever.”
Matt cried again. This time, though, he was crying tears of joy.
He threw his arms around Lucas. Lucas picked him up and they
walked out together. Mark saw them and rushed up to them. He
came behind Lucas to look at the boy’s face. “Well?”
“Looks like I’m your brother forever!” Matt declared.
“Well, okay. But don’t think I’m doing the dishes for you
tonight, little brother!”
The three laughed as they walked out of the store. Milly walked
to the porch and watched the three climb into the wagon. As they
rode out of sight, she heard the boys. “Okay. Tonight I’ll
scrape the dishes and you do the rest!” Matt said.
“Oh no!” Mark argued. “Tonight I’ll wash and that’s it!”
“But I have a test tomorrow!” Matt retorted back.
“No matter, you do your share!”
“Quiet boys!” Lucas said jokingly. “Before I take you both to
the barn and lick you!” Milly heard as the wagon turned around
the corner and disappeared.
These stories are based on the TV series
Here are some other great stories. Enjoy!
The Writer's Corner
Table of Contents
around The McCain Ranch