I Can Make It . .

By Laraine Van Etten 

 Johnny’s thoughts as he flees Pardee and his gang and desperately makes his way “home”. . . 


            The High Riders had crested the hill and were assigned their tasks by their leader, Day Pardee.  Each Rider knew where to go and what to do in their ultimate goal—to overtake the Lancer ranch.

Johnny Madrid rode amongst the High Riders, and he, too, knew where to go and what to do in his ultimate goal—to save the Lancer ranch.

As the Rider’s scattered to wait for the word from their leader to attack, Johnny made his way to Pardee.  He hopped off his horse and walked toward his old friend, now an enemy.  Pardee leaned against a tree branch, overlooking the vastness and beauty of the ranch as he finalized his plan in his mind.  Johnny looked at Pardee’s back and hesitated, for just a second, before he spoke.

Well, this is it, Johnny Boy.  It’s now or never. . . . .


“Yeah, what is it, Madrid?” Pardee asked, half-interested, not bothering to turn all the way around.

“It ain’t Madrid.”

“What?”  Pardee was interested now, turning around and looking at Johnny, with a puzzled, almost comical look on his face.

Too late now. . .I’ve done started it.  Just get it said. .  .

Coolly, calmly, Johnny Madrid stated a fact.

“This is my land. . . and I want you to get off. . .”

“Your land? You know. . .the Lancer?”  Pardee asked, recognition kicking in.

A slight nod and smile came from Johnny.

He’s pissed. . .stay alert. . . .

“Get him! Get him! Kill him!”  Pardee’s voice broke the serenity of the early April morning.

Shots rang out, and Johnny instinctively grabbed his gun, intending it for Pardee.  But when Colley, one of Pardee’s slow-witted henchmen, got in the way, Johnny’s plan was changed and his efforts were averted from Pardee to Colley.

Colley’s shot missed, but Johnny’s aim was right on target.  Colley went down, but Pardee was aware of Madrid’s betrayal and Johnny knew he was a target for Pardee’s own quick, sure-fire shot.

Dammit, Colley, you son of a bitch. . . .why’d you get in the way?

Johnny quickly spurred his golden Palomino into action. 

“Come on fella!  You can do it!  Get me home, Boy!” Johnny called out to the golden horse.

God, I wish I knew this horse better, wish he knew me better.  Sure hope he ain’t spooked by all this gunfire. . . . .

As the horse galloped at full speed, Johnny turned around and began shooting at the riders behind him as the smell of gunpowder and the noise of gunshots filled the air.

Good, got one. . .another!  God, I never felt so vulnerable in all my life.  Where’s Pardee?  Ain’t worried about the others, but Pardee can get me. . . .he’s almost as good with a gun as I am. . . . .

Just then, a bullet whizzed by Johnny’s head.

Damn, that was too close. . . .

And another slightly knicked his shoulder.

Well, there’s another one to add to my collection of scars. . .Come on, fella!  Get me home!  God please, get me home!!

Just then, the white hacienda came into view.

Gracias. . .there it is!  I wonder if they hear us coming, if they know I’m coming.  Dios!  I wonder if they know what I’m doing!!!!  ‘Cause I sure as hell don’t. . . .

Another bullet brushed by Johnny.

Another one too close for me. . . . I need to get home. . . .now!

Johnny continued his backwards shooting, while at the same time, riding at full gallop on a horse with whom he was not familiar, but somehow, trusted.

Good goin’ fella. . . .you’re doin’ great!

The hacienda grew larger as Johnny got closer, and he breathed deeply, for just a second.

“I think we made it, Compadre!  I think we’ll be all right!” he shouted above the gunshots.

But his relief was too soon in coming.

Damn, the fences, I forgot about those.  I don’t know if you can jump it, Boy. . .but we got no choice.  Go for it!

The palomino jumped one fence, then the other, both times landing with a loud grunt from Johnny.

The hacienda was there, in front of him.  He could see the vaqueros, and he could see the two figures he knew were his brother.  And his father.

Hell, they ain’t shootin’. . .they must know it’s me!  Hey, I think I made it!  Just a little further and I’ll be safe, I’ll be ho. . . . .

The explosion knocked him off his horse with such a force the world went black for a minute.  Then his mind awoke before his eyes could open.  

What happened?  Where am I?  I’ve been shot. . .again. . .never been back shot before.  What if I can’t move?  Can I?. . . . .  Thank you God, I can still move.  What’s on my back? What is that warmth I feel?  Blood?  It’s oozing out of me.  Please, don’t let me bleed to death. . . I still hear gunshots. . . .well, Madrid, don’t you look good?  Laid out here dead while the old man and the greenhorn fight your battle for ya. . .old man ain’t never gonna let ya stay now.  Say I didn’t earn my keep. . .well’ I’ll show him.  Get movin, Madrid. . ya ain’t done yet. . . .

He slowly opened his eyes and sensed someone running from behind—one of Pardee’s men.  He had the audacity to jump over Johnny, like he was some forgotten carcass left in the desert.

Johnny shot him. . .

That’ll show them. . . .

He perched himself up on his right elbow and began shooting.

Don’t know if I’m hittin’ anything. . .kinda hard to see. . .but at least I’m trying.  God, my back is burning. . . . .Hey! What’s that!  Someone’s grabbin’ me!  Hurting me!

Johnny felt himself being dragged, then found himself perched under a large oak tree; for now, safe from the line of fire.  He looked up and saw Scott, his brother, aiming and shooting with a rifle.

Thanks. . . .got me outta the way for now.  You know, you’re pretty good with that thing. . . .

Just then, he spied his father, Murdoch, shoot one of Pardee’s men that was aiming for his sons. 

Hey, pretty good shot, Old Man.  Hmmmm, guess these two ain’t that bad after all.  But this is all wrong.  I’m supposed to be watching their backs. . .they’re not supposed to be watching mine.  Guess I’ll be asked to leave when this is over.  Wait a minute. . .where’s Pardee?  We’re all sitting ducks!  Where the hell is the bastard?

Just then he saw Pardee, aiming  at. . . .he wasn’t sure if it was Scott or himself Pardee was aiming at. 

Think he’s aimin’ for you, Brother. . . .

“Watch out!” Johnny managed to breathlessly warn his brother.

Scott reacted, aimed his rifle, and shot.  Pardee fell to the ground.

Way to go, Brother!  You got him!  That’s better than I did on top of the hill. . .damn that Colley. . . .

“They got him!  They got Pardee!  Let’s get outta here!” were the shouts of the High Riders as they realized their leader was down and probably dead.  They weren’t taking any chances.

Johnny watched as Scott finalized his attack, in military stance, aiming and shooting his rifle with an accuracy that impressed the downed gunfighter.

He’s pretty damn good. . . . .

Johnny noticed the gunfire lessened; a calm seemed to be returning to the once serene morning. 

Hope it’s over . . . .think I might need some fixin’ up. .just a little.  I hate the feel of blood on me.  Dios!  My back hurts. . . .

He saw his brother walking toward him in a confident, victorious stride.

Here he comes. . . .what should I say to him?  Thanks, maybe. . . .I don’t know, I just can’t let him know how much I’m hurting. . .stay cool, get control of yourself, Madrid.  You’ve been in worse spots than this.

Scott stood above Johnny, looking at him with a grin a mile wide.

Boston, that’s the silliest grin I’ve ever seen in my life.  You’re happy with yourself, ain’t ya?  Yep, you one upped the mighty Johnny Madrid.  Guess I need to say somethin’ . . .

“Good shootin’. . . .”

Dumb Madrid, really dumb. . . .

“Thanks, Brother.  We’ve about given up on you, Boy,” Scott replied, the grin never leaving his face.

“Well, you had your plan, and I had mine,” Johnny answered, hiding the pain as two blue eyes sparkled.

Don’t ever call me ‘Boy’ again. . . .Guess I better get up, make my way back to the house.

Johnny stood up, the pain burning through him.  He grabbed onto Scott’s sleeve, and was soothed by his brother’s gentle words:  “Easy.  Take your time. . . .”

Johnny looked ahead and saw his father. 

Can’t let him see me fall, can’t let him see my weakness.  I’ll walk back on my own.  Just stay close, Scott. . .

“I can make it,” Johnny told his brother. 

Yeah, like hell I can make it. . . . .One, two, God, it’s a long walk to the house.  I feel the blood running down my back. . .five. .six. .You close by, Brother?. . . . .

Johnny let himself fall into the waiting arms of his brother.  He knew he was being carried, and he hated it.

Feel like an old sack of potatoes. . . the old man will really make me leave. . ain’t much use to him now. . . .

But somehow, he couldn’t fight the pain anymore, and he really didn’t care.  He let himself go limp; he knew Scott was carrying a load of dead weight.

Hope you’re strong. . . .

He studied the ground as he was slowly carried, literally upside down.  His eyes grew heavy, but he couldn’t help but notice the trail of droplets that he left as the blood dripped  from his back and neck.

I’m gonna die. . . .but I can’t fight it no more.  At least I’ll die around people who care. . .least I think they do.

As his eyes slid shut, the pain too much to bear, Johnny Madrid thought one last thought:

Thanks, Brother.  Glad you were there for me.  Dios, I have a brother!  What do ya know. . . . . Think I’ll sleep now. . . . See ya, maybe. . . . .


By Laraine Van Etten

For the 2006 Lancer Convention



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