What's a 'Osophy?
I do not, never have, nor ever will have any ownership regarding ‘Lancer’ - but they’re fun to play with.
To my beta, Karen, thank you again for your help and understanding. I did some ‘tweaking’ after you read it, so the mistakes I made then are all mine.
What’s a ‘Osophy’?
It had been the usual hard day’s work on the ranch, and after dinner Murdoch, Scott, Johnny and Teresa were relaxing in the great room before retiring to bed. Murdoch, Scott and Teresa were engrossed in their books. Johnny had tried reading but wasn’t really in the mood for it, now he paced the room
“What’s yours about, Teresa?” Johnny asked.
“It’s called ‘North and South” Teresa replied without looking up, “and it was written by an English lady called Elizabeth Gaskell*.”
“English, huh. North and south what?”
“”England, and the different ways of life. How much harder it is for the people living in the north where the factories are.”
“Factory?” he queried
“Huge buildings where they make things, in this case spinning cotton.”
This clearly wasn’t anything to interest him, so he tried another tack. He looked at Murdoch whose glare warned him not to interrupt.
“What yuh reading’, Scott?” When bored Johnny couldn’t leave his brother in peace.
“It’s a book about Taoism.” replied Scott patiently, “A friend has sent it from Boston.”
“Taoism - it’s a philosophy.”
“Philosophy, huh. Never heard of a ‘osophy’ - how come this Phil’s got one? Where’d he get it an’ what’s it for?”
“Philosophy is a way of thinking.” Scott responded, wishing that if his little brother had ‘nothing to do’, he would go and ‘do nothing’ somewhere else.
“Ya mean there’s different ways?” Johnny was being his annoying worst; not intentionally, he simply had an ‘insatiable curiosity‘.**
“Yes, you know Johnny, the age old question of why we are here.”
Johnny snorted, “Well, I know why I’m here - it’s because momma an’ Murdoch…”
“John! Remember, Teresa!” Murdoch warned.
Johnny had wandered across to Scott’s chair and was hanging over his brother’s shoulder, peering at the book, “So what’s this Toa-whatsit about then? Does it say ya shouldn’t go into town on a Saturday night an’ have some fun? Like the ol’ priest used ta try telling’me?”
“’Toa’means ‘The Way’ “ Scott began. He’d always hated anyone reading over his shoulder
“What ya mean - The Way - the way ta where?”
“Not to anywhere Johnny, just a way of living and of dealing with the tribulations life throws at us.”
“Ya know I get confused when ya use words like ‘trib-u-lations’, Scott.” Johnny moaned, “what tribes ya talkin’ about.”
“Not tribes, Johnny - tribulations - things that happen, usually bad things.” Scott explained.
“That’s easy, Scott. If ya can’t shoot or eat ‘em, then just walk away.”
Murdoch and Teresa looked at each other - this was definitely going to be one of those conversations. Scott knew he was going to lose, but there was little he could do to escape his fate.
“Look, there’s a little story here that illustrates one of the basic thoughts.”
“Illustrations, huh. Ya explained that one to me last week, but I don’t see any pictures, Scott. Where are the pictures?” To Johnny it was all quite simple and he failed to see why Scott should be making life so difficult.
“No, Johnny, this illustration is in words.”
“Jeez, Scott. Your life sure is complicated!”
Scott ignored the last comment and began the story “A long time ago there was an old man who lived with his son on a farm.”
“What kinda farm?” John demanded to know.
“Mainly crops, I suppose, the story doesn’t say.” Scott felt he was beginning to lose control.
“Well, ya need to know ta understand…”
“Will you just let me get on with it?” Scott snapped, “I would like to get to bed some time tonight. This farmer and his son were very poor, but they had a horse.”
“Can’t have been…” the words froze in Johnny’s mouth and he caught his brother’s glare.
Murdoch and Teresa could scarcely control themselves.
“One day the horse ran away. The farmers’ neighbors were very sympathetic…”
“So, they offered to lend a horse so the old man could keep on workin’ his farm…right, Scott?”
“Well, ain't too neighborly of ‘em was it. I thought ya said they were sympathetic.”
“Are you going to listen to the story or not? Were you like this when you mother tried to read you a bedtime story?” Scott was becoming more irritated as he increasingly lost control of the situation.
“Don’t really remember momma havin’ the time ta read me a story at bedtime, Scott.” Johnny replied simply.
“I’m sorry, Johnny, I shouldn’t have said that.”
Johnny shrugged his shoulders, “Don’t bother me none, Scott, nothing’ I c’n do ‘bout it. “
Scott continued. ”The old man’s neighbors said what bad luck it was that the horse had gone, as now the old man couldn’t get his crops to market. The old man replied, ‘You think so?’ The following day, the horse returned bringing with it a herd of wild horses.”
“That musta been some smart animal, Scott - smarter’n Barranca. Sorry, I’ll be quiet.” Johnny muttered.
“The old man’s neighbors said, “What incredible good fortune, your horse has returned bringing many others with it. And the old man said, ‘You think so?’ ”
“Yeh, but did he have the land to keep ‘em on, an’ what about…” Johnny’s voice trailed off as he realized he’d interrupted again.
“The old man’s son decided to break the horses and sell them so they could live on the money.”
“See, Murdoch, I aint th’only one at think there’s a profit in horses, these Toes think there is too.”
“Taoists, Johnny” Scott said angrily. “And this story isn’t about breaking horses or whether it’s a profitable occupation! “ Murdoch and Teresa were giggling silently. “Anyway,” Scott tried bravely to continue, “The following day the young man began breaking the horses and was thrown, breaking his leg.”
“Sure is risky thing breaking horses, ‘specially if ya don’t know what ya doin’, c’n hurt yourself…”
“I will hurt you, Johnny, if you don’t shut up and listen! Do you want me to finish or not?”
“The old man’s neighbors were sympathetic - and before you ask the question, no, they didn’t offer to help on the farm, I don’t know why, it isn’t relevant to the story…”
“Sure seems like it should be to me, we’d help out, wouldn’t we.”
“They said, what incredibly bad luck it is that your son should be so badly hurt and unable to help you round the farm. And the old man said, ‘You think so?’ “ Scott paused, daring Johnny to make a comment, but his younger brother decided to keep it to himself. “The following day, a warlord came to the village and demanded that all the young men in the village should join his army. However, as the old man’s son had broken his leg, he was of no use to the warlord, and he was the only one left behind.”
“So it’s a good thing ta break ya leg?” Johnny’s voice was incredulous.
“No, that isn’t the point to the story. It’s to illustrate - show- that sometimes even bad things can have a good outcome.” said Scott, relieved that he’d finally managed to get to the end of the story.
Murdoch and Teresa had collapsed in a heap of laughter by this point.
“Bit like me then, aint it?” Johnny’s voice was calm and without a hint of bitterness.
“How so, Johnny?” Scott’s voice was concerned. Murdoch and Teresa had suddenly stopped laughing.
“Well, lotsa bad things happened ta me, but what I learned was useful when it came to Pardee and keeping’ Lancer. So that make me one them Toes?”
“It makes you an incredible person I’m proud to call ‘brother’” Scott’s sincerity came through in his voice.
“I aint incredible, Scott, I’m just me. Well, been fun, brother, but time for me ta turn in. Night, all.”
He straightened himself up and strolled through the room, closing the door quietly behind him, taking the brightness that had miraculously survived the experiences Johnny Lancer had known growing up.
*Elizabeth Gaskell was a contemporary of Jane Austen, but where Jane wrote about the ‘upper classes’, Elizabeth was focused on the ‘working classes’ and how hard their lives were. Her characters were strong women who weren’t afraid to take on the established way of doing things. Well worth a read if you can get hold of a copy.
**A phrase taken from , ‘How the elephant got his trunk‘ one of a series of ‘Just So’ stories by Rudyard Kipling, I wish there had been some way that I could have had Johnny reading it as I’m sure he’d have enjoyed them, but he wouldn’t have become bored and this story would not have been written. Unfortunately the book wasn’t published until 1907.