Disclaimer: I like to think I own them…so philosophically speaking of Lancer ownership, Cogito ergo sum…doesn’t Latin make it legal? LOL.
Author’s note: In remembrance of Father’s Day and dedicated to Murdoch Lancer, he was a better father than he sometimes gets credit for.
Author’s note 2: Inspired by the Father’s Day card I bought my Pa, which stated, I walked twenty miles, up hill, both ways, in a blizzard to get this card.
Thanks to Kit for the beta.
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The hacienda was quiet except for the soothing ticking of the Grandfather clock. The hands showed the hour to be ten minutes after midnight. Shadows of oak tree limbs danced on the walls from the moonbeams streaming in the large picture window. Most of the occupants of the house had long since retired for the night, all but one.
Lamplight made the silver hair on Murdoch’s head shimmer in its meager radiance as he sat, head bowed over an open book. His chair creaked under the protest of his weight as he shifted slightly to dip his pen in the inkwell and then returned to his task. In his flowing bold script he recorded his thoughts on the day past, his pen making a joyous scratching sound as it etched his happy memories on paper.
The task finished, he blotted excess ink from the page of his leather bound book. Satisfied, with his effort, Murdoch poured a bit of water from the desk pitcher to wet his handkerchief. Leaning back in his chair, he cleaned the spots of inks from the fingers of his right hand as he relived in his mind the events he had just recorded, the memories softening his stern features.
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The day had started off stormy, the weather so severe upon his awakening he knew before he threw the covers back and swung his feet to the floor, that the family would not be braving the elements to attend church.
Murdoch’s feet hit the floor and he shivered as the cold from the wood leeched into his still blanket warm toes. A thunderous boom rattled his window pane and at the same time his bedroom door crashed open. Murdoch blinked in surprise as Johnny rushed into the room, his brother’s bathrobe clutched around him, the sash tie trailing on the floor behind him.
“Hey, Murdoch, we ain’t goin’ to church in this, are we?” Johnny asked, chewing his lip anxiously, waiting for the answer he wanted to hear.
Eyeing his youngest, knowing how pleased he would be to get out of attending Sunday services, Murdoch pursed his lips as though he were actually considering it. Chuckle…I believe he’s going to vibrate out of his own skin if I don’t soon answer. “No, the Lancers will be staying home today.”
“YEE HAW!” Johnny shouted, so loud it almost drowned out the sound of Scott storming down the hall bellowing his younger brother’s name. Johnny took a massive leap and bounced onto the bed, narrowly missing cracking his head on the wooden footboard.
Despite his obvious ire and the fact that the door was already open Scott, ever mindful of his manners, knocked upon the frame before entering. Stomping into the room barefooted, with only his pants on, he bent to retrieve his sash from the spot where Johnny had just seconds before been standing. Gesturing towards his smirking kid brother, Scott growled, “Sir, would you please tell him to stop coming in my room and taking my things without asking!”
Making himself comfortable in his father’s still warm blankets, Johnny defended his actions. “I needed somethin’ to cover up my drawers, so I could come ask Pa if we were goin’ to church. The scamp turned and gifted Murdoch with one of his brightest smiles.
Shaking his head and scratching roughly at his scalp at this less than sunny start to the day, Murdoch intervened on what would be the first argument of the day. “You obviously had to cross the hall in your underwear. Why didn’t you use your own robe?”
“Because he used it to line a crate for that mama cat and her litter of kittens in the barn,” Scott replied. Stepping forward and yanking at the quilt to get to his robe, a struggle immediately ensued between the Lancer boys.
Separating the battling brothers, Murdoch ordered, “Give you brother his bathrobe and in the future ask permission.” Swatting at his youngest son’s backside when Johnny stripped the robe off, wadded it up and tossed it at his brother’s head, he added, “And I better not hear tell of you using good clothes to make beds for animals again. Do you think new clothes just grow on trees?” Oh, good Lord, I have officially turned into my father. How many times did I hear Angus Lancer say that? After all these years the old man still haunts me.
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The spirit of Angus Lancer appeared again at breakfast.
Johnny pushed his mound of eggs around the plate. Using his fork, he struck one of the scrambled yellow lumps; his brow furrowing as the utensil actually seemed to bounce. He stomach did a slow flip-flop. Yuck…I like my eggs fried with a runny yolk.
Snapping the newspaper he was reading and causing the paper to rattle, Murdoch frowned at Johnny as he glared sternly over the top of the page. “Young man, those eggs are to eat, not play with. When I was growing up we were lucky to have eggs at all, much less every day. In this very valley there are people who would gladly exchange their oatmeal for the luxury of eggs.” Alright, Da, are you happy? I just used more of your fatherly phrases.
Sipping his coffee, Scott’s eyes twinkled as peered over the rim of the cup at Johnny. “Yes, eat up, Johnny, after all you are a growing boy,” he chided.
“Kiss my ass, Scott,” Johnny snapped; cringing and gritting his teeth when his father folded his paper and slammed it down on the table. Oh shit, I know he hates cussin’ at the table. I might as well have plopped my boots next to his plate; cow shit and all. This ain’t gonna be pretty.
Jabbing forcefully at the table top with a rigged finger, Murdoch barked, “If I hear filth like that coming out of your mouth at the table again, I’ll drag you to the sink and wash your mouth out with lye soap! Do I make myself clear?” Da, I wish you would get out of my head!
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The escalating sounds of a squabble drew Murdoch’s attention towards the wingback chairs in the Great room where his son’s were playing a rowdy game of chess. Closing his ledger and preparing to intervene yet again, he paused when he realized it was actually playful banter on their part.
“Johnny, you can’t make that move,” Scott advised as he watched his brother make yet another reckless choice.
“Why can’t I? That somewhere in that book of rules you’re always spoutin’ off about? The real book of rules, not that phony big brother thing you keep trottin’ out?” Johnny grinned up at his brother and then danced his Queen teasingly around the space.
Crossing his arms, and then lifting his right hand to drum his long fingers against his cheekbone, Scott considered the question for awhile before answering. “No it’s not against the rules. It just isn’t done because it’s not a wise move.”
Cheerfully ignoring his brother, Johnny laughed and made his move; tracing the path with his fingers to show his older, wiser brother no matter what move he made next, he was now in checkmate. “The king is dead,” he smirked, remembering Scott’s explanation of where the term check-mate originated. “Long live the King.” He thumped his own chest with his cocked thumb.
Scott studied the board. It irked him to lose to his baby brother since he was the one who taught him the game, but at the same time he couldn’t help but feel proud that Johnny’s agile mind grasped not only the fundamentals of the game, but was also adept at forming very daring strategies. Pulling a cushion from behind his back, Scott smacked Johnny in the head. Never one to back off, the youngest Lancer did not turn the other cheek. By the time Murdoch stood up, intending to call a halt to the shenanigans, the chess board and pieces were sprawled across the floor as were his sons.
Marching into the fray, Murdoch grasped the first thing he could get a hold of, which happened to be the waist of Johnny’s pants and belt. Long hours working he forge and bending metal gave strength to his massive arms, allowing him to lift his youngest with one hand as though he weighed no more than a ten year old. An infectious giggle sounded as he shook Johnny like a mother dog would a pup.
With Johnny dangling from one hand, Murdoch reached with the other to help Scott to his feet. His breath literally stalled in his chest when Scott threw his head back, exposing the long column of his neck; the younger man laughing joyfully, his Adam’s apple bobbing up and down. His eyes twinkling as he caught his father’s extended hand, Scott caught his breath. But the smile was still there.
Murdoch Lancer felt he had just received a great treasure; something long missing finally restored to a life that had been empty far too long: a precious, unfettered moment of mirth displayed by his normally serious older son.
A squeak of distress from Johnny brought Murdoch back to reality and he quickly released his younger son, allowing him to drop to the floor on all four. Johnny’s hands pulled at the crotch of his pants as he tried to relieve the pressure the inseam had caused on his groin. “OUCH! You just about cut me in two,” Johnny half-heartedly complained. But the smile had never left his face.
Much to his own horror, Murdoch could not stop the ghost of Angus Lancer from speaking. “It’s all fun and games until somebody get hurts,” he sagely advised, cringing to hear himself voicing the much hated phrase from his own childhood.
Johnny snorted as he finished adjusting his pants and stood. Cocking his head at an inquisitive angle and crinkling his nose, he retorted, “Where’d you hear a crazy thing like that?”
Shaking his head ruefully, Murdoch confessed, “It was a phrase my father was forever quoting me and my brothers,” he paused, rubbing a longer finger horizontally across his chin, “truthfully I thought at the time it was his way of ruining any fun we were having.”
“Sounds about right to me,” Johnny replied.
Scott chuckled. Grinning he held an index finger up next to his sparkling eyes and sagely observed; “By the time a man realizes that maybe his father was right, he usually has a son who thinks he's wrong."
At that moment, Murdoch realized as austere and unyielding as his father seemed to be every time he tossed one of his many quotes at his children, it was merely the man being a father, showing his love in a way he felt comfortable. A lump formed in his throat and despite the pain it caused to swallow against it, a bright smile lit his face, making his own stern features relax.
The utter stillness of their father concerned the Lancer boys and they moved beside him, each son wrapping an arm about him. “Are you all right?” they asked in unison.
“I’m fine. I was just remembering some of the phrases my father used to lecture us with,” Murdoch replied.
Pulling his father towards his big leather arm chair, Johnny pushed him to sit down, and then plopped down on the ottoman before him. “Tell us some more of the things Grandda Angus used to say, Pa,” Johnny pleaded. The youngest Lancer always enjoyed stories of Scotland and the family he had never met.
Scott moved towards the drink cabinet and poured his father some Glenlivet. Bringing the glass to him, he stated, “Yes, catch us up on all those wise fatherly saying for the day when we have sons of our own.”
Taking the tumbler and swirling the amber liquid gently, Murdoch was quiet for a brief moment; reflective. He cleared his throat. “I hope that day is a few years off. Scott would make a fine father now, he does so well in helping to guide Johnny…but Johnny, my baby, I want nothing more than for you to experience the next few years as a carefree youth. “Where should I start?” he sighed; taking a sip of whiskey and pursing his lips in consideration.
“Tell us the phrase you hated the most,” Johnny prompted.
Shifting comfortably in his chair, Murdoch replied, “That’s an easy one to remember. Anytime Da was going to whip us for some infraction, he would say, ‘This is going to hurt me more than it does you.’ That was a hard one to believe until I had a terror toddler under foot, who didn’t like the word no.” He looked pointedly at Johnny.
“Hah,” Johnny snorted, twitching under the knowing look. “If that’s true, then I have an idea that will save us both a lot of pain next time you’re thinkin’ on wallopin’ me. For instance…”
Quite sure his father didn’t want to hear any of Johnny’s thoughts regarding any future wallopings -- and there would undoubtedly be some future wallopings -- Scott wisely interrupted. “Which phrase have you found to be the truest?” he asked.
“No one ever said life would be fair,” Murdoch stated quickly. If life were fair I wouldn’t have lost two wives or all those formative years with my boys.
Displaying his restless nature, Johnny lifted his feet and twirled completely around atop the ottoman as he asked, “Which one did you think was the dumbest?”
Choking on a sip of Glenlivet, Murdoch cleared his throat and solemnly quoted, “If all your friends jumped off a cliff, would you jump too?”
“Are you kiddin’ me?” Johnny snorted, sitting up straight and staring at his father. “What’s that supposed to mean?”
“I believe it was Grandfather Angus’ way of insuring his off spring didn’t fall into the trap of doing something foolhardy just because their friends were doing it,” Scott explained; his right eyebrow arching. “Though truthfully, our father strikes me more of a leader than a follower.”
Drumming his fingers on his thigh, Johnny studied his father a moment, and then smirked mischievously. “So…Pa would have jumped first. Is what you’re sayin’, big brother?” The smart aleck quip earned Johnny a light kick to the butt from Scott’s boot and a vigorous hair ruffling from his father.
Smoothing the crease on his already immaculate pants, Scott smiled across at his father. “And which one did you vow never to use on your own children?”
Murdoch scowled and his eyes narrowed in disdain as he replied, “Stop crying or I’ll give you something to cry about.”
Johnny snorted. “That seems kinda mean! If you’re already bawlin’, you must have already had somethin’ to cry about.”
Murdoch tossed back the last of his whiskey. “My father was not an overly demonstrative man; but he hated suffering of any kind. He didn’t handle tears well at all. He felt emotions were not to be publically displayed; but were a private matter.” But I understand now, Da, he mused. All your admonishments were your way of teaching me what I would need to teach my own sons, as well as your way of saying I love you.
Realizing the storm had passed, the boys decided to take a little ride and survey for damage and expend some energy. They retrieved their jackets, hats, and gun belts from the coat tree. As often happened with the brothers it became a race to see who could outfit themselves faster and get out the door first. In their rush to leave the door was left wide open, prompting Murdoch to march across the room and shout after them. “Were you raised in a barn? In the future, I would advise you to remember to shut the door!”
The spirit of Angus Lancer chuckled.
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A contented sigh slipped past his smiling lips as the flashback of memories ended and he knew he needed to add just a little more to the page to truly be done. Lifting his pen, he dipped and inscribed his last thoughts of the day.
I will always think of this day with fond recollection and lightness of heart; for today I received the greatest gift of all: I felt like a father, I acted as a father, and I was a father in name and deed. I also realize my own father loved me.
This morning I awoke an ordinary man. Tonight I will settle myself to sleep having been redeemed as a father by the now unconditional love of my sons. My whole universe has changed this third Sunday, the 19th of June 1870 .
Father’s Day 2010