Kids These Days…..A Lancer fan fiction short story by Diana L. Pierce….no copyright infringement intended.
As the sun peeked over the mountains near the great San Joaquin Valley, Johnny Lancer found himself wondering why he chose to start this search by himself. He saddles his horse and drowns his campfire with what was left of his morning brew. After packing up his supplies, he set off hoping today would be a more productive search for the young lady he managed to hurt by his thoughtless words days earlier. He had hours ahead of his brother Scott and father Murdoch who decided to wait for daybreak to begin looking for her. Johnny sure regretted telling Miss Maria Ward she was just a kid, but he couldn’t take the words back if he couldn’t find her. Anyways how was he to know she would get so upset she thought she needed to run away. Picking back up the trail he thought was hers may not be easy as now he was beside a roaring mountain stream. Did she cross it? Did she follow it? He was about to find out.
Slowly working his way along the stream’s bank, Johnny thought he heard something. He stops to listen. The rustling in the trees up ahead of him left him uneasy he unlatches the strap holding his sidearm. He sighs as he sees the huge gray mare with its reigns tangled in a limb. “Maria! Maria!” He dismounts looking along the edge of the stream. Then he spots a glimpse of blue clothing floating in the water. He hurries toward it. He jumps into the stream up to his knees and brings the lifeless body of a young woman out onto bank. Nearly in tears he presses her chest and smacks her on the back. “Come on, don’t you die on me.” She coughs and coughs. She’s breathing on her own now. “Thank God, you scared me to death, Maria.” She opens her eyes and as she looks at her rescuer she begins to shiver. He carries her to where he had left the horses and wraps her with a blanket. He hurries to get a fire burning to warm her and prepares some coffee.
Maria is still shaking like a leaf and he knows she needs to get out of those wet clothes. “Can ya get those wet clothes off?” She looks at him with a blank stare, but the wet clothes fall to the ground beneath her blanket made robe. He hangs them on a tree branch to dry in the sun. Johnny hands her a cup of coffee. She looks at him, “Thank you.” He grins, “You can talk. Wasn’t sure there for awhile.” They sit near the fire for nearly an hour. Maria was very quiet and Johnny could see she wasn’t going to talk to him. The warm sun dried her clothing quickly, but his leather boots were going to need more than an hour in the sun to dry them out. He knew better than to even take them off until he got home.
Maria goes behind a bush and dresses. She starts to get her horse. Johnny walks toward her, “So now you think you can just run off. Maria stay here, talk to me. We really need to talk about this.” She stares at him, “Thanks for saving me. Don’t reckon we got much more to talk about. You pretty much said it all the other night. I’m a kid. I can’t believe Teresa thought she could be a match maker to an old man such as yourself and a kid like me. Johnny Lancer go home and I’ll leave ya be.” He grabs her, “I’m sorry I don’t know what I was thinking. I can see you’re not a kid, Maria. I never meant to embarrass you.” Johnny holds her close and gently kisses her forehead. She holds him tight for a moment and then breaks free. “Don’t feel sorry me. Just tell Uncle Jake when he comes for me I headed for home.” Johnny looks at her, “At least let me go with you. This just ain’t any country for a woman to be traveling alone in.” She smiles at him, “Yeah, guess you’re right, she might fall in a stream trying to fill her canteen.” They laugh. Johnny says, “You’re Uncle will be here in a few days. You don’t think you can handle that long staying with us at the ranch? You know Teresa needs your company. I need your company and besides we’re at least a day getting back there. Come back to the ranch with me. Please.” She agrees to go home with him.
As Johnny and Maria get closer to the ranch, Scott and Murdoch ride up fast behind them. Murdoch is so relieved Johnny found her, “Maria, you gave us such a scare. Jake would have my hide for sure if you weren’t here when he comes for ya.” She nods her head, “I know, sir. I’m sorry for causing a fuss. Guess I wasn’t thinking very straight.” He looks at Johnny and back at her, “Well, guess we all have a problem with thinking straight sometimes. Teresa is sure going to be happy to see you’re back. Come on lets hurry.” She follows Murdoch at a full gallop. Johnny and Scott hang back to talk. Scott looks at Johnny, “I take it you must have told her you were sorry?” Johnny smiles, “Yeah, I did. You know I was wrong? She’s not a kid.” Scott laughs, “Not much more than you are anyways. Heck most girls are married with kids already at seventeen. Dang, if I would have ever told her such a thing, little brother.” With that, they hurry for home.
Maria helps Teresa prepare dinner. Teresa smiles at Maria, “I’m so glad you came back here. I was worried I lost your friendship.” Maria drains the water from the potatoes, “Never think that. We’ll always be friends. Just try not to push me on any more of these handsome cowboys okay? A heart can only take so much ya know.” Teresa starts to set the table, “I promise no more match making for me at least not with these thick headed Lancers.”
Later after dinner they all relax outdoors and take time to enjoy each other’s company. Jelly scratches his head and looks at Maria, “Never thought of what a mistake I made letting you borrow that old horse. Glad ya came back. Not sure if old Smokey had that many miles left in her to take her clear back to your place.” Maria looks at him, “I’m sorry, Jelly. Guess I got a lot to learn I reckon about what age has to do with anything.” Johnny is leaning against the hitching post, “Guess, I do, too. Can ya ever forgive me, Maria? How about you and I go for a picnic tomorrow? Maybe we can be friends ya think?” Maria laughs, “Sure Johnny I can forgive ya. But if we go on a picnic we’re inviting the rest here to go. My pa hasn't raised no fool.” Johnny chuckles, “He sure enough hasn't, ma’am. Okay, who all wants to picnic tomorrow?” Murdoch shakes his head, “I think you and Scott will be having you’re picnic finishing up that fence row. Jelly and I got to work on opening up the ditch to get some water into the south section. We have already wasted away two whole days. So I’d say Maria and Teresa will have to picnic without us.” Johnny could see Murdoch would always find a way to shoot down any ideas he had of enjoying life if it don’t involve work. “Yes sir. Reckon it’s going to take us all dang day. What we ain’t stopping to eat? How much time could a little picnic take?” No more was said about it.
The next day Teresa and Maria packed a picnic lunch. They headed to where the young men were building fence. Maria smiles at Teresa, “Johnny is sure going to be surprised.” Teresa says, “Yes, he will. It looks like they are ready for a break.” They stretch out a table cloth not far from where Johnny and Scott are working. Teresa begins to unload the basket. Johnny looks at Scott. “Well, look it there. Time to eat I’d say.” He wipes the sweat from his bare chest and puts his shirt back on as Maria walks up beside him, “I couldn’t just let your picnic idea go. Can ya spare the time?” He smiles at her, “We can spare the time.” He takes her arm and escorts her toward the lunch waiting for them.
After they ate, Scott heads back to the fence. Teresa packs up the basket. Johnny and Maria walk away from them a bit to be alone. Johnny looks into her big brown eyes and gently kisses her on the cheek. “I hope you’ll drop me a line or two when you send Teresa a letter. Guess you’ll be leaving in a couple days.” She can see he really is trying extra hard to be nice to her. “Johnny, I’ll send you a letter all your own.” Johnny chuckles, “That’s my girl. Reckon I better get back to work.
A couple days later Maria is awaiting the arrival of her Uncle Jake. Her Uncle brought her there to visit Teresa who Maria met as a child years ago. Maria’s mother was busy nursing Maria’s father back to health from a fever and she wanted her daughter away from there. Teresa’s invitation came at a most appreciated time. Maria has three older brothers back home. They were needed to help take care of their farm and tend the crops. This left only her Uncle Jake to take Maria to visit Teresa. Maria runs to greet him when he gets there, “Is Pa better? I thought one of the boys was coming with ya.” The old man smiles, “Your Pa is just fine. And I managed just fine without them I reckon.” Maria had planned to exchange the match making idea with Teresa by introducing her to one of her brothers.
Maria’s uncle stays for the night and plans for them to leave early the next day. Johnny knew this would be the last chance he would get to talk to Maria. He asked her to take a walk with him. Arm in arm they walk in the moonlight while staying close to the house. “I’m so glad Uncle Jake and Murdoch have so much to talk about.” Johnny says, “Me, too. They won’t miss us for few minutes then. Will they?” She turns to him, “No, not for a few minutes. What did ya have in mind?” He pulls her close and they share a passionate kiss neither of them thought they had in them. Johnny thought this was the only way he could prove to her he really was sincere when he apologized for once calling her a kid. “I promise I’ll never call you a kid again. Can ya promise me you’ll be back for another visit one of these days?” She hugs him, “I promise you. We better go back to the house. Our few minutes are about up, don’t you think?”
They walk back into the house to find Murdoch reading and Maria’s uncle sleeping in his chair. Jelly wakes the man up, “Sir, come on I’ll show you where ya can sleep.” Maria watches him get up and stagger about. “Thanks Jelly. He sleeps in a chair at home most of the time. But he refuses to go to bed until he can't hold his head up. Uncle Jake, you need a good night sleep in a bed. It will be a spell before ya see one again, ya know?” Her uncle looks at her, “I know. You just worry about yourself there young lady and get yourself some shut eye. Kids these days I don’t know about them.” They can still hear him sputtering on his way to the guestroom. Johnny looks at her with a devilish grin. She stares at him. He shakes his head, “I ain’t saying nothing. Good night, ma’am.” She grins, “Good night.”