Johnny's Birthday Present
Today was Johnny Lancer's birthday. Usually that meant a
party at Lancer with dancing, pretty girls, and lots of good food. But not this
year. This year Johnny didn't want a party. Oh, he knew that Teresa and Jelly
would insist on celebrating with a cake and presents, but his heart really
wasn't into celebrating. How could it be when Scott had left Lancer for good?
Two months before Scott had been called to Boston to visit his dying
grandfather. He hadn't returned. Johnny understood Scott's thinking, but it
still hurt deeply.
"Johnny!" Teresa yelled to the young man. "Come in now. It's time
for your cake and presents."
Johnny shook off his sadness and prepared to enjoy himself--at least for
"Sit down and close your eyes." Teresa, Johnny and Murdoch were
gathered in the dining room. "Now, Jelly!"
Jelly carried in a huge cake and placed it before Johnny. "Open your eyes
and make a wish." As he did so, the other 3 began to sing, "Happy
Birthday". Jelly's gruff voice could be heard above all the others. When
all the candles flickered out together, everyone sighed with relief because they
knew what Johnny' wish would be.
"Teresa, it's beautiful. Let's just hope it tastes good". After
cutting huge slabs of cake for all, Johnny complimented Teresa "It's really
delicious. Hardly burnt at all."
Teresa gave him a playful swat. "I do not burn my cakes."
"No, how about that one for Jelly last year?"
"That was an accident. I got distracted."
Everyone laughed and continued to finish their cake.
"Now it's time for the presents. " Mine first", insisted Teresa.
Her gift was in a big box with a red bow.
"Teresa, did you make this?" The sweater was hand-knit and obviously
done with love.
"It took me several months, but I wanted you to have something to keep you
warm out there on the range." Johnny leaned over and gave her a kiss.
"Thanks. I'll think of you every time I wear it."
Clearing his throat, Jelly murmured, "Might as well open mine next."
The box jingled.
"Jelly, it must be bells. How thoughtful!"
"Consarnit, them's not bells. Just open the darn thing." The present
turned out to be new spurs and a bridle with "J.L." on the sides.
"Thanks, Jelly. They're great. Much better than bells." Jelly looked
quite pleased with himself.
"Uh son, I couldn't wrap your present, but I hope you'll like it."
Murdoch's gift turned out to be a new saddle with Johnny's initials and the
Lancer brand tooled into it.
"Murdoch, it's magnificent. Thanks so much. I can hardly wait to try it
"Why don't we all go down to the stable and see how it looks, "
Just as the 4 headed out the door, up rode a young lad named Danny Evans.
"Johnny, Sam asked me to bring this out to you. It came in on today's
"Thanks, Danny." Johnny took the package. Murdoch handed the boy a tip
before he rode back to town.
"Maybe it's from Mary Henderson?" teased Teresa.
"No, it's not," whispered Johnny. He had recognized the handwriting.
Johnny walked slowly into the living area. Opening the package, he found a
wooden carving; it was a mare and her colt. He stared at it for a second then
opened the enclosed note:
"Happy Birthday, Johnny! This carving reminded me
of Catherine and Madrid. I forgot to tell you that I had intended to name the
colt Madrid, but you can change it if you want. Take care of yourself. Scott"
Johnny Lancer handed the note to Murdoch; but he kept the carving as he walked
into his room, closing the door.
After about 20 minutes, Murdoch knocked on Johnny's door then entered. Johnny
sat on the edge of his bed staring down at the lovely carving.
"Are you alright, son?"
Johnny nodded and then looked up at his father. "Murdoch, can you spare me
Murdoch hesitated for a moment. "Sure. I'd go with you but....."
"I understand. I'll leave first thing in the morning."