No disclaimers, they're not mine to keep, just borrow for a bit.
The very word chilled my soul. One minute Johnny and I were checking into the hotel, the next, my son was running out into the street, arms raised overhead, straight into the path of of a wagon barreling out of control. In one heart-stopping, breath robbing moment, time froze and I feared I would lose him forever. A thunder of hooves and before I could blink, Johnny dove into action.
In that split second, I remembered a time I doubted my son, didn't want him to stay at Lancer. Madrid had no place on my ranch. But Madrid was my son, a brave man that proved himself many times over. How many times did I need, before I saw my son, instead of a deadly gunfighter I once had no use for? There was more to Johnny, much more.
“Is that what you think of me?” he asked that fateful day I almost drove him away for good. So much raced through my mind, these seconds I watched.
“I don't know what to think,” I said in answer.
“Think what you like.”
Johnny walked away. Thought he walked out of my life, mumbled something about not being good at taking orders. A chip off the old block, my father would have said. Funny, what goes through your mind when faced with circumstances you had no control over. A life flashing before my eyes. Johnny's life, one I had too brief a time to share with him.
There was a time I addressed my own father as 'old man'. Didn't go over very well, and I quickly curbed my tongue, but a spark of my youthful defiance was present in Johnny's voice when he first addressed me. Like father, like son, they say. I never was too good at taking orders, either. Liked calling the tune from the minute I was born, my sainted mother was so fond of saying.
I shook my head and stared. Johnny looked frantically around, making sure there were no small children in the street, before running out into the path of that damned wagon. Ready to risk his own life, should the need prevail. And it was needed, no one else made a move to help. Whether from shock or fear for their own safety, they stood back, me included, and watched that poor woman being dragged through town, maybe to her death.
Never before had I felt a fear so stark, so mind numbing, as I stood helpless on the walkway and watched. Before I could blink, Johnny, my lost boy, ran into the street straight for the wagon. Arms raised, he began a dance that had my heart in my throat.
Pride surged. My boy was strong. Brave and fearless, and I won't ever forget that. I plan on telling him that very thing. He jumped into action, without a moment's hesitation, doing what no one else had the courage to attempt. I have to admit, Johnny was good with horses, I saw that the first day he broke Barranca, but this was a little out of my league.
As a man, I stood proud and watched my son corral those runaway horses. As a father, my heart stopped, but I couldn't tear my eyes away. All I could do was pray, please, please let him be all right. I can't lose him again.