Murdoch Lancer was tired. How could a day that seemed to start out so well, end so badly? This morning had started out like any morning. The family was at the breakfast table, well all except Johnny. He hadn’t arrived yet, but it wasn’t 7:00 yet. As the clock chimed 7:00, the youngest Lancer skated into his seat.
“Sorry!” Johnny said as he reached across the table for Maria’s eggs and chorizo. One of his favorites.
“John,” Murdoch admonished, “please don’t reach across the table, just ask for it to be passed.”
“Sorry,” said Johnny already reseated and eating.
Scott rolled his eyes, Teresa giggled and Murdoch shot the whole table a stern glance. Everyone settled down lest the Lancer patriarch become angry.
“Sir, work assignments for the day?” Scott asked.
That’s when the day started to go down hill. A simple little question asked by his oldest son.
“I want you and Johnny to check the fence on the northwest section, seems we have a few head of cattle missing up that way.” Murdoch said.
“Yes sir,” said Scott nodding his head.
“Sorry old man, I’m breaking horses today.” said Johnny shaking his head no.
Murdoch raised his eyebrows at his youngest. “You’ll ride fence, son.”
“Nope!” said Johnny.
Scott winced. Murdoch absolutely hated that “Nope!”.
Murdoch sighed. Johnny had only been at Lancer a few months. He was constantly butting heads with Murdoch over the most trivial things. Murdoch tried to remember that Johnny was only 19. He was still very much a little boy testing his father’s limits and his father’s patience. Murdoch wasn’t sure he was up to having his patience tested today.
Johnny stood up, turned and headed for the door.
Murdoch caught Johnny by the wrist in a vice like grip. “A number of things young man. First, you do not have permission to be excused. Second, I am tired of your rude disrespectful behavior. Third, YOU WILL ride fence with your brother today. Fourth….”
Johnny twisted. He couldn’t get out of his father’s grip. Dios, the man was like an ox. At 6’5”, Murdoch was a giant. He had a good six or seven inches on Johnny. Johnny opened his mouth to curse at his father. They locked eyes.
Before he could utter a word, “Fourth, if one single curse word come out of that mouth, we will finish this discussion in the barn.” his father stated as he forced Johnny into the sitting position. Understood?”
Johnny glared at his father. Scott kicked him under the table. Johnny whipped his head up and started to curse at Scott. Scott shook his head ever so slightly and mouthed “Yes sir.”
“John, I asked you a question.” Murdoch said, his hand still gripping Johnny’s wrist.
“Yes sir.” he mumbled.
Murdoch relaxed his hold on his youngest cub. “Good, finish your breakfast, you have a lot of work to get done today.”
The rest of breakfast was thankfully very silent. Teresa asked to be excused so she could attend to the breakfast dishes.
Scott finished his breakfast and noticed that Johnny’s plate was clean. “Umm, Sir, may we be excused? We need to get to that fence.” Scott didn’t usually ask to be excused. After all he was 24. However, with the mood his father was in, he didn’t want to add fuel to the fire.
Murdoch nodded his head in affirmation.
The boys quickly departed the kitchen and headed for the barn. As the exited the house, Scott lit into Johnny.
“For God’s sake Johnny, why do you have to bait him like that?” Scott asked.
Johnny just shrugged his shoulders. “I don’t know, sometimes, he just sets me wrong.”
Scott shook his head, “I’m going to have to teach you the art of negotiating with our father.”
“Neg… what?” asked Johnny.
“Getting what you want.” said Scott.
“I’m tired of him telling me what to do. I was going to go work those horses this morning and head to town this afternoon for a little relaxation.”
“Are you crazy? It’s the middle of the week. There is no way Murdoch is going to let you go to town in the middle of the week with work to do.” Scott spat.
“That’s just it Scott, I’m tired of Murdoch telling me what to do and what not to do. It’s like he still treats me like I’m two years old.”
“Come on Johnny, you don’t mean that. In his eyes, you’re still not a grown man. You’re 19 and even though you are Johnny Madrid, you’re still Johnny Lancer, 19 year old son of Murdoch Lancer.”
Johnny shook his head.
Scott placed a hand on Johnny’s arm. “Johnny, you need to come to grips with that fact. You are the 19 year old son. He is the father. A 19 year old is still under his father’s authority. Just because you didn’t have him around at the beginning doesn’t change it.”
Johnny shook his head, “Scott, I’ve been on my own too long. I’m not a kid, maybe be age, but not by experience. It does change it!”
Scott looked at his brother, “No, Johnny, it doesn’t change it. If you don’t figure that out real soon, you better be getting a pillow for your saddle because he’ll set that backside of yours aching every day if he feels the need.”
Johnny just hurumphed.
“Johnny, please can’t you just try. If you are more respectful, he will be more respectful and quit treating you like a child. Come on, just a few “yes sirs and no sirs” and for God’s sake, quit calling him “Old man” to his face.”
Johnny tore away from Scott’s grip. He saddled Barranca and headed out. “You coming, Boston?” he called.
Scott quickly saddled his horse and chased after his little brother. The boys rode fence for the day. Most of the day they rode in silence, each lost in his own thoughts. As they ended the day and headed toward home, Scott stopped Johnny.
“Johnny, will you at least think about what I said?” Scott asked him.
“Yeah, I’ve been thinking about it all day.”
They rode into the yard and toward the barn. Each one tended to his own horse and headed toward the house.
“I’m taking a bath,” said Johnny headed for the bathroom upstairs.
Scott was suspicious, if Johnny was taking a bath now, he was probably planning on riding into town tonight. Scott sighed. There were going to be fire works tonight.
Johnny ran up the stairs, past the great room and into the bathroom. He really didn’t want a confrontation with his father tonight. He figured if he quickly cleaned up, he could head for town before his father settled himself in the great room before dinner. He could avoid his father altogether and just deal with the consequences in the morning. As long as he was on time for breakfast, the consequences should be minimal. A great plan, so he thought.
Johnny took a quick bath and headed for his room. He dressed in a clean shirt and pants, throwing his towel and dirty clothes on the floor in a corner of his room. He donned his boots and spurs and gave his hair a quick brush. Satisfied with his appearance, he headed down the backstairs to sneak out the kitchen door.
He put his hand on the door knob of the back door to open it. He looked behind him to make sure nobody was witnessing his escape. As he opened the door, he turned to be literally face to chest with his father. “Just where do you think you’re going?” his father barked.
“Town.” Johnny said nonchalantly.
“Scott give you permission?” his father asked, his eyes bearing down on his youngest.
“Well, you don’t have my permission.” Murdoch said with an edge.
“Don’t need your fu….” Johnny caught himself, “permission.”
Murdoch’s eyes got very dark. The flush was moving up his neck to his face.
“Yes, you do.”
“Nope, old man. Headed out.” Johnny said trying to side step the older man.
Murdoch started to boil. “I told you this morning, I’d had enough of your rudeness and disrespect. Up to your room.”
Johnny looked at his father, “Nope! Headed out.” he smirked as he tried to side step his father once again.
Murdoch was going to end this battle of wills here and now. He grabbed Johnny’s shirt collar and lifted him off the floor. He headed toward Johnny’s room with his youngest in tow. Johnny tried every which way he could to get loose, cussing all the way to his room. Murdoch stepped over the threshold of Johnny’s room and closed the door behind him. Murdoch rummaged through Johnny’s dresser and came up with a night shirt. He thrust it toward him, “Put it on!” he demanded.
“No way old man!” Johnny said shaking his head.
“Now!” Murdoch said, his voice low and deep.
“No way, I haven’t even had supper, lot’s of time left.” Johnny countered.
“John, you have to the count of three to get changed for bed.” Murdoch advanced on his son.
Johnny stepped back from his father, his back facing the bed.
“We can do this the easy way or the hard way,” continued his father. “I have undressed you and gotten you ready for bed a number of times, I can do it again.” Murdoch advanced on his son.
Johnny snatched the nightshirt from his father’s hand. He quickly undressed and slipped the nightshirt over his head. He stood in his nightshirt glaring at his father.
Murdoch grabbed a chair and sat down. He grabbed Johnny with an iron fist and pulled him over his knee. He lifted up the nightshirt and proceeded to give Johnny a bare bottomed spanking that he would have given a small child. Johnny was coughing and sputtering and cursing. “Continue to curse son and there will be a swat for every word I hear.”
Johnny finally gave up struggling and cursing. When Murdoch was done, he stood Johnny up and turned him so he could look into his eyes. “John, the defiance of the small boy is over tonight. I gave you the punishment of a small boy, it is done. Time to grow up into a young man. You will not come out of your room until called. I will send your dinner up. And Johnny, until you grow up into a young man, your punishment will be that of a little boy.” With that, Murdoch left Johnny standing in his room as he exited and closed the door.
Johnny lay on his bed on his belly. Dios, his backside hurt like the devil. He thought about what Scott had said. He thought about what Murdoch had said. Had the great Johnny Madrid acted like a little boy instead of a man? Why did he bait Murdoch? Was he really just testing him to make sure what he did, he was still loved? With all those questions and thoughts swirling around in his head, Johnny fell into a restless sleep.
Scott brought up a tray for Johnny. He knocked, but got no response. He opened the door and saw Johnny laying on his bed sound asleep. Scott put the tray down on the dresser and pulled a blanket over his little brother. “Sleep well little brother”, he said as he slipped out of the room.
Scott entered the great room and headed for the drink cabinet. He poured one for himself and one for his father. “Sir?” he offered Murdoch the drink.
Murdoch accepted the drink from his oldest. “How is he, son?”
Scott gave him a small smile, “He’s asleep sir.”
Murdoch smiled to himself, “Well, I wore his backside out.”
Scott sent his father a worried glance.
“Relax son, I just gave him a spanking that I would have given a naughty little boy.”
“Murdoch, he’s trying so hard to be a man, but he’s still a little boy in some ways. You know the defiance, the testing, like he never had the chance, so he’s doing it now.”
“I know son, he just wants to make sure that no matter what he does or what he says, that I still love him and want him here.”
“Do you sir?” Scott whispered.
“With all my heart son. But, he needs to learn that I call the tune no matter what.”
The two older Lancers spent the rest of the evening quietly reading. As the clock struck 10:00, Murdoch looked at his oldest softly snoring with a book on his chest. He pulled his big frame out of his chair and went and tapped his son on the shoulder. “Come on son, time for bed.”
Scott blinked bleary eyed, “Sure Pa.”
Murdoch just smiled, he didn’t often get a “Pa” out of Scott. He’d never gotten it out of Johnny. Both men headed up the stairs to bed. Murdoch reached his room, quickly undressed and slipped into a nightshirt. He crawled into bed and was just about to turn the lamp down when he heard a knock at his door.
“Come in.” he said.
The door opened to reveal his youngest standing in the door frame in his nightshirt bare foot. His eyes seemed to be red and swollen from crying.
Murdoch was concerned, he didn’t think that spanking had caused all of that for Johnny. He scooted up to a sitting position in his bed. “Come in son.” he said patting the space he had made on the bed.
Johnny hesitated at the door. Murdoch motioned again patting his bed. Johnny went to sit on his bed. Johnny looked down at the floor. He was shifting uncomfortably trying to find a spot where his behind didn’t hurt too much.
Murdoch spoke, “Johnny, did you have something on your mind?”
Johnny was still looking at the floor.
Murdoch took Johnny’s chin and lifted it up so that he could look into his son’s eyes. “Johnny, what is it mi hijo (my son)?”
“Por favor, papi, no mas, no mas papi. (Please, papa, no more, no more, papa.)” said Johnny with tears running down his face.
“No mas, que?” (No more, what?) asked Murdoch pulling Johnny toward him. He put a pillow down between him and his son and pulled Johnny onto the pillow with Johnny’s back leaning again his chest. He wrapped his strong arms around his weeping son and rocked him like he had down many times as a toddler.
Johnny turned to look into the face of the man that was his father. He no longer wanted the fights. He just wanted to be part of this family and accepted. “Papi, no more fighting, no more whippings, no more, Papi, por favor.” Johnny pleaded.
Murdoch looked lovingly into his baby boy’s eyes. “John, I don’t want to fight with you or give you a whipping, but you need to obey me boy. I try not to ask too much of you or ask you to do anything I wouldn’t do. I know I have a lot of rules, but they are really to keep you safe and others around you.”
“I know.” Johnny whispered.
“Johnny, I can’t treat you different than the others. I have to treat you the same. You will be running this ranch some day with Scott and if you want the men to respect you, you have to respect me and them.”
Johnny looked away and leaned back on his father’s broad chest and sighed. “Papi, I’m trying. It’s so hard. I was on my own for so long. I just…..”
“I know Johnny, I don’t expect that to change overnight. We have to learn together. But you are my son and no matter what you do or what you say, you will always be my son and I will always love you.”
“I will try to be a better son, Papi. I will be more respectful, I won’t curse, I will do as you say.”
“Don’t make promises you can’t keep son. Just like I can’t promise you no more whippings. If you need one, you’ll get one.” Murdoch said laughing. “Rest assured, I will be here trying to hold you to your promises.” He shifted so he could push Johnny off the bed, he gave him a hug and pushed him up. “Go to bed my son.”
Johnny got off his father’s bed and headed for the door. “Goodnight Papi.”