Usual disclaimers:- don’t own ‘em but love to write about ‘em.. No profit made.
This was in response to a challenge on LTAN. A B/W picture was submitted of a cowboy kneeling at a grave and we were asked to come up with something. Here was my response. Enjoy…
Murdoch, Scott and Johnny crested the hill almost as one and looked down at the small valley before them. They'd been riding for four days and they were tired and a little sore from sleeping on the hard ground.
This was a place Murdoch new well but neither Scott nor Johnny had ever been there.
"It's beautiful Murdoch." Johnny said his eyes taking in the sight.
"Yes, it is." Scott agreed.
"Come on boys lets go see Catherine." He spurred his horse on into a lope and the boys followed suit.
Together they rode in tandem neither one speaking again till they got to the little grave; so isolated but beautifully kept none the less. It was plain, nothing fancy but the flowers which sat on it were fresh and so was the water that fed them.
Murdoch interrupted knowing full well what the question was going to be. "I pay someone to look after it and visit randomly my self just to check things are alright."
There was an expression on his son's face that he had never seen before and he watched as his son knelt his head bowed in silent prayer. Neither he nor Johnny went to him in that moment afraid they might disrupt his private thoughts. But both men young and old felt his pain.
"I would've liked to have known her." He let out a breath. "I don't even know what she smelled like." He sighed.
"Lilac." Murdoch said without thinking as if he were smelling her sweet sent right at that moment. "You're mother always smelled of Lilac's Scott."
Scott nodded his eyes filling, as he looked at the small grave and marble cross.
Here lies Catherine Lancer
beloved wife, mother, and daughter.
May she Rest in Peace.
He touched the inscription his finger tracing the letters. The grave looked so tiny in the vast landscape; almost out of place.
"You were loved Scott. She used to rub her swollen belly and tell me all about you and she was right. Looking at you now you did turn out to be a strong intelligent young man. I couldn't be more proud of you son." Murdoch moved to touch him on the shoulder and gave it a little squeeze.
Johnny sighed, a painful expression on his very young face. Visiting Scott's mother's grave had opened up some raw wounds for him too and it'd got him to thinking about his own mother. Not that he had many warm memories of her but there was one.
"My Mama always smelt like lavender." He said almost wistfully, afraid he might've spoken out of turn. After all, this trip was about Scott seeing for the first time his mother's grave and not about him and his mother. He felt suddenly ashamed and embarrassed.
Murdoch turned to his younger son. "Do you know what happened to her Johnny, where she is buried, of if she is even dead?"
"NO." he answered quickly…too quickly and then angry kicked out at a stone. He sighed and took in a deep breath and eased up a little on his father. It wasn't his fault he knew that now. "No, Pa I don't know nuthin'."
Murdoch nodded. "I'm sorry Johnny."
Scott faced him. "I am to brother."
Johnny dipped his head in his usual shy way and said. "I know but it don't really matter none. There ain't nuthin' I can do about that right now." He lifted his head to face his father, his blue eyes filled with the sense of loss he felt. "I wish it could've been different Pa. I wish she'd left me with you."
Murdoch risked putting his long arm around Johnny's shoulders and smiled when he felt the boy lean in. "I do to son."
"Yeah but I didn't even know you wanted me…I stayed away Murdoch. Later, I knew the Pinks had been hired by you, and I knew you wanted me at Lancer but I hated…." He dipped his head, embarrassed at what he'd been about to say. "I was so full of hate Pa."
This time when he used the term of affection he meant it and turning he looked at his brother. "Sorry Scott, don't know where this is comin' from."
Scott took a hold of his shoulders. "Johnny this day wasn't just about me this was about all of us… We are one now…this day was about reaching out to one another, so that we can also reach into ourselves and let out some of the pain we carry around inside. Don't you apologise. I didn't know my mother Johnny but I knew I was wanted and loved even before I was born. So please don't feel bad ok, were all in this together."
Again Johnny dipped his head. "Kay only if you're sure."
"I'm very sure." Scott smiled affectionately, taking his brother into his arms. Johnny usually would've pulled away but this time he didn't.
Murdoch's heart soured. He couldn't even have imagined that his two boys, who were so different, could be so close, but they were and it made his heart swell with pride.
"You know boys, coming here was a good idea. What say you, we do this again real soon?"
Johnny poked his father on the ribs. "Now that's one of yer better idea's Papi, anything to get off pushing beeves." He grinned enthusiastically, skipping out of his father long armed reach. He was back, that mischievous boy they were all getting to know so well.
Scott laughed out loud. The boy had experienced such pain in his short life, yet he was one of the most resilient youths he'd ever known. "Yes sir I agree it is."
Johnny again, a twinkle in his bright blue eyes, "Hey Murdoch, I saw a nice creek a ways back maybe we could make camp there and have us some more of those.... family moments, Scott's been sprouting off about for the last few days." He rolled his eyes, teasing.
Murdoch grabbed for his younger sons neck in mock anger…and shook him just a little. "You know son, that's not a bad idea." he laughed. "Scott?"
Scott was pleased that they were all there together. Life was good. There had been a missing link in Scott's life but now…he felt fulfilled and he knew he never wanted to loose that feeling again. "Yes father, I agree."
He watched as his father moved for the last time, towards his mother's grave, his bare head dipped reverently. His lips were moving but neither Scott nor Johnny heard the private words Murdoch spoke, but they knew by the way he looked, he was telling her something good. Patting the cross once, and finally blowing her a kiss, Murdoch moved away.
It was Scott's turn. "Murdoch, Johnny, would you mind if I had a quiet moment with my mother?"
Both nodded and discreetly moved a decent distance away.
Once more Scott knelt at his mother's grave. "Thank you for guiding me home and thanks Mom for choosing Murdoch to be my father." He blew her a kiss and told her finally. "I'm happy Mom for the first time in a long while. I'll be back real soon…I promise." With that he wiped a single tear from his cheek and stood up, turning to accept a tight hug from both his brother and father.
The small family mounted their horses, with a final glance back at the little grave that meant so much to all of them now, they rode for the creek; united by their bonds of love and blood.