My Wandering Boy
by  Vicki L. Nelson


New Fic:  A Lancer AR 

(Second in the “Small” Matters Series)


“Out in the cold world and far away from home

Some mother's boy is wandering all alone

With no one to guide him or keep his footsteps right

Some mother's boy is homeless tonight...”

Lyrics to “My Wandering Boy” 


“...Well, Young Man, I got a telegram from your grandfather.  It seems you've gone missing from your boarding school.  I think you and I need to have a long talk.”

I was getting good at this 'father' thing after all.  With just a few words, I had wiped the smile off my son's face.  Spoiled his appetite, too, as he pushed away his half-eaten breakfast with a frown. 

That same frown was reflected back at me by Maria.  Since she had made it her personal mission to fatten Scott up, she was less than pleased by this turn of events.

Scott looked at me, dubiously, and I could tell that he had never thought that far ahead.  I believed that, in his dreams, he would show up at my doorstep and I would welcome him with open arms:  no questions asked.

Of course, I welcomed my firstborn with open arms.  I had always wanted him at Lancer with me, but fate and his grandfather had taken that from us. 

But if my thirteen-year-old son thought he could up and leave Boston, arrive on my doorstep, no explanation given; he had another think coming.

Scott looked up at me through his lashes but before he could speak, I said, “Think very carefully about what comes out of your mouth right now.  I will not abide lying.”

That surprised him.  It was the first bit of ammo in my father's arsenal.  I had not had much practice with fatherhood, less than two years with Johnny and none with Scott. 

However, I had plenty of dealings with ranch hands and I knew all the signs.  Scott was looking up and to the left; a clear sign that he was trying to come up with a plausible answer.

An answer which may or may not be the truth, only what he thought I wanted to hear.

As I watched his inner struggle, I heard the Grandfather clock in the Great Room chime the hour. 

It was then that it occurred to me that I couldn't afford to dally.  Harlan Garrett would soon find out that Scott was at Lancer, if he didn't already know about it. 


I needed to my see my attorney in Green River immediately.  It was imperative that I take whatever legal steps were necessary to keep Scott. 

I didn't know if Harlan's guardianship of Scott would have any legal bearing in the California courts.  I would take whatever steps necessary to keep my son.

“Scott, hurry upstairs and get dressed.  We have to ride into Green River right away for supplies and to conduct some business.  We also need to return your horse to the livery stable.”

He had arrived late last night with nothing but the clothes on his back, shabby ones at that.  He looked like the rag picker's son. 

That needed to be explained as well.  I certainly had to buy new clothes for him so I could accomplish both with one trip.

Scott looked relieved as he jumped up to do my bidding, but I reined him in.

“Don't think that I've forgotten about that explanation from you.  There will be plenty of time for the telling on the way to town.” 

His face fell as he trudged upstairs to change into the only set of clothes he had been wearing on his trip to Lancer. 


~ L ~ L ~ L ~ L ~ L ~ L ~ L ~ L ~ L ~ L ~ L ~ L ~ L ~ L ~ L ~ L ~ L ~ L ~ L ~ L ~ L ~ L ~ L ~


Half an hour later, we were riding through the Lancer arch.  Scott turned around in his seat to stare at the arch in awe.  He hadn't seen it in the light of day. 

“Son,” I said.  “When you ride through that arch, you know you are truly at home.”  He turned around and gave me a look that was unfathomable, then turned back to face the road.

A short while later, I said, “Okay, Scott, spill it.  I want to hear how you got all the way to Lancer on your own.  I want the truth and not what you think will appease me.  Don't leave anything out.”

He looked sideways at me, clasped his hands, lowered his eyes and let out a long-suffering sigh.

“It's kind of a long story, Sir.  I don't know if I'll be able to get it all out before we get to town...”

“Don't you worry about that,” I assured him.  The trip will us several hours and if you can't finish before Green River, there's always lunch and the ride back.”

Scott did not seem to welcome this bit of news but he continued on gamely.  “Well, my best friend, Will and I planned what I should do if you ever wrote back. 

Grandfather usually only visited once a month on the fourth Friday afternoon of the month.  When your letter arrived, he had just finished his monthly visit.”

I was surprised and rather saddened to hear that Harlan had only bothered to visit Scott one day out of a month but I kept silent.

“I had saved money for a long time.  I guess maybe I knew that if you ever wrote me that I would have to come to you.”

“You know, I wrote you on my birthday every year since I was old enough but you never answered me except for this one time.”  He flashed me a disgruntled look. 

I knew I owed him an explanation which I would give him later.  Right now, I wanted to get to the bottom of his trip to California.

Scott saw that his diversionary tactic was getting him nowhere, so he slowly continued.

Will had also saved some money and he gave me all he had.  We did some research and put our best plan together while we hoped and waited for your reply.

“Will has an older brother, Ward, who is an upperclassman at Harvard.  We took a chance and told him what we were planning.  He could have told on us. If he had, I wouldn't have been able to get away.”

Ward wasn't pleased, at first, with our plan.  But I'd known Will and Ward for so long and they knew my story.  They really wanted me to finally meet you. 

“So, even though I know Ward was worried about me making the trip to Lancer alone, he decided to help.”

I left on a holiday weekend when there was less supervision.  Since the Smythe's were old family friends who lived on Beacon Hill, I was allowed to leave school if Ward signed me out.”

“So early Saturday morning, Ward signed me out of Boarding School and we took the Long Island Rail Road together from Boston to New York.

Will and I knew that the clipper ship, The Rainbow, was setting sail for San Francisco out of the New York Harbor later in the day.

I didn't want to get Will and Ward in trouble so Ward was going to say that he took me to Grandfather's house and watched me walk in through the front door.

Everyone would figure that I took off on my own, with no help from anyone.

Ward had a friend in New York City that he planned to visit, so he took the train with me.  When we reached the New York harbor, he took me to the ship and spoke with the captain.

Ward told him that I was a ward of the Boston Home For Destitute Catholic Children where he was employed.

He said that I had just found out that I had a father in California who was very sick and I needed to get out there as soon as I could.

I told the captain that I was fifteen and he must have believed me because I'm tall for my age.  I told him that I knew how to sail and that I had money for the voyage. 

I think he didn't believe that because I had dressed in ragged clothes because I didn't want anyone to know that I had money.

Captain Bates told me that he would take me on as a cabin boy and I could work off my fare.

I agreed, said good-bye to Ward and shook his hand.  He slipped me quite a bit of money for my trip. 

So between what I had saved and what the Smythe brothers gave me, I had more than enough for my trip to Lancer.

Before riding away, Ward gave me a long look and told me to be careful.  He said that both he and Will wanted to hear from me when I reached California.  I was a little scared when he rode away because now I was all alone!

As cabin boy, I ran errands for the captain, helped the cook in the galley, and carried buckets of food to the forecastle where the sailors ate.   I learned about the sails, lines, and ropes and the use of each in all sorts of weather. 

I also scrambled up the rigging whenever the sails had to be trimmed.  Sometimes, I stood watch or acted as helmsman if the weather was good. 

Another of my duties was running from one end of the deck to the other carrying messages from the captain. 

I was alarmed.  I wasn't sure if a young boy traveling alone would be safe on a ship.  Not all sailors were of upstanding character.  I tried to remain calm as I asked Scott about that.

“Did any one aboard the clipper ship bother you?” I asked.

“Bother me, Sir?”  Scott was clearly puzzled.

I needed an answer from my son, but I didn't want to scare him in the process. 

“Did anyone touch you inappropriately?” I asked.

“Inappropriately, Sir?”  asked Scott.  “I'm not sure what you mean.”

I sighed and tried to figure out a way to ask him a difficult question in the simplest terms possible.

“Scott, did anyone touch you anywhere you didn't want to be touched?”  I said, in a rush.

Recognition dawned on his face. 

Oh no, Sir!” he told me.  “Either Captain Bates or his First Mate, Mr. Mason, were always keeping an eye on me.  In fact, I slept in the captain's cabin.  He really seemed to like me.

We took the clipper ship from New York to San Francisco around the Cape of Good Hope.  It took us almost three months to reach San Francisco.

Once we arrived, Captain Bates spoke to the ferryman of the Port of Stockton, Mr. Doakes.  He agreed to take me on as a favor to Captain Bates. 

I somehow lost my valise between San Francisco and the Port of Stockton so all I had when I arrived at Lancer were the clothes on my back.  Luckily, I kept all my money in a pouch around my neck.

When I got to Stockton, I had money for the stage to Morro Coyo.  I wasn't questioned because I could pay the fare.

When I arrived in Morro Coyo, I went to the livery stable to pay for a horse to take me to Lancer.  It was late but I pounded on the door and woke the livery man up. 

He wasn't happy but when I told him who I was and that I had to get to Lancer quickly, he relented. I think he was surprised to find out that I was your son.

I asked the man at the livery stable the way to Lancer.  He gave me good directions and I had a compass.  And, I was able to travel by the light of the full moon.

On the way to Lancer, I had a little problem getting used to the new saddle and the new way of riding but I figured it out pretty quickly.  You see, since I rode back in Boston, I was only familiar with the eastern saddle and rig.

So, here I am! he said, noting the stern look on my face, trying to cajole me. 

“I wasn't hurt and I was never in danger.”  


~ L ~ L ~ L ~ L ~ L ~ L ~ L ~ L ~ L ~ L ~ L ~ L ~ L ~ L ~ L ~ L ~ L ~ L ~ L ~ L ~ L ~ L ~ L ~


He trailed off after telling his story.  I set the brake of the buckboard, looked at him in shocked surprise, then buried my face in my hands.

I couldn't speak for a minute or so.  Scott just looked at me nervously, not knowing how I was going to react.  He didn't have to long to wait!

I exploded.  Do you have any idea how dangerous your trip was, all by yourself?  I shudder to think what could have happened to a young boy all on his own!  For a smart young man, that was a very, very foolish thing to do! 

What were you thinking, taking off all by yourself, no word to anyone?  I should drag you off this buckboard and tan you good, right here in the road!

Scott's eyes widened, and he scooted as far away from me as he could, up against the edge of the seat of the buckboard.

B...but I couldn't tell anyone!  When I got your letter, Will and I made plans for me to come here.  Grandfather would never let me go, so I couldn't tell him...

Grandfather didn't like you much, he said, stating the obvious.

“Well, why didn't you write me back?” I inquired, eyebrow arched and trying to calm myself down.

“What could you have done?  Would you have come for me?  And, if you did, could you take me to California?”

“I don't know, Scott.  I just know that as your father, what you just told me scared me half to death.  I just wish you'd have written me back before you decided to take off all alone.”

The tears that had welled up in his eyes now spilled down his cheeks.  “I was afraid might have said 'N-O-O-O-O-O!' “

My son was clearly distressed and I took pity on him.  I drew him over to me and let him calm himself.  I was reminded how hard it was to see your child in tears.

“I wouldn't have said 'no.'  I've always wanted you here with me, but your grandfather would never allow it.

“But, you're my father...!” he protested.

“Your grandfather had custody of you.  I would have had to fight for you in the Massachusetts courts and I don't think I would have won.

You probably never knew this but I came to Boston on your fifth birthday to bring you home and your grandfather threatened to take the matter to court. 

You might have been called on to testify and I just didn't want to put you through that.  It was like a knife through my heart to leave you there, though.

“ came to see me; to take me back?” he asked as he rubbed the tears away furiously.  I handed him my handkerchief.

“Yes, son.  I did.  I wanted you to grow up here at Lancer by my side.” I reassured him.

“I would have liked that,” he replied, sadly.

“Scott,” I said.  “I can't make any promises, but if you want to live here with me, I will fight with everything I have.  But you have to be absolutely sure and you have to be prepared.”

“I doubt that your grandfather will simply allow you to live here.  I am sure he will fight to get you back and we will have to go to court here in California.  You may have to testify; can you do that?”

He hesitated, worried his lower lip, then nodded his head.

All right, then.  But you must promise me that you'll never run away again by yourself.  I don't know how you were raised, but I'm guessing that your grandfather wasn't very strict with you.

I will be strict, but fair.  I have no doubt that you will get upset with me from time to time.  How am I to know that you won't run away from Lancer when that happens?

He looked at me with wide eyes.  “Oh no, Sir.  I won't...I won't run away.  You have my promise.”

I gave him a stern look and said, “See that you don't.  Because if you do, rest assured, I will come after you.  And when I catch up with you, you will be a very sorry boy indeed!”

He looked a little wary as he nodded his head.  I relented and patted him on the knee.

“Okay, that's settled.  We'll take the horse back to the livery in Morro Coyo then head into Green River. 

You need some clothes!  I hope Petersen's Emporium has clothes that fit you since you're a tad on the skinny side. 

Didn't they feed you in Boston?  I know that Maria has made it her mission to fatten you up!”

Scott looked at me and grinned as he flexed his bicep.  “It's all lean muscle, Sir.”  I pretended to be impressed by his miniscule muscle and tousled his blonde hair as we drove away. 

I had no doubt that he would get stronger, doing chores and helping out with ranch work at Lancer.

All the way to town, we both tried to catch up on each other's lives: his in Boston, mine at Lancer. 


~ L ~ L ~ L ~ L ~ L ~ L ~ L ~ L ~ L ~ L ~ L ~ L ~ L ~ L ~ L ~ L ~ L ~ L ~ L ~ L ~ L ~ L ~ L ~


I pulled up in front of Petersen's Emporium in Green River. 

Scott had started out with very little on his long journey west and had lost that on his way here.  He would need everything and I had a list made out to give Joshua and Annabelle Petersen, the proprietors. 

We walked into the store and, immediately, Mr. Petersen, came forward to greet the both of us.  He looked at Scott, curiously, and I introduced them.

“Josh, this is my son, Scott.  Scott, this is Mr. Petersen.”

Scott, as I was pleased to note, was a very polite young man.  He shook hands with Josh and said, “How do you do, Mr. Petersen.  It's a pleasure to meet you.”

Josh smiled at Scott, clearly delighted by my son's good manners.  He looked up to give me a curious look.  Green River was nothing more than pasture divided by the river when Scott was born. 

It had grown since then and people had known Maria and Johnny.  They did not, however, know anything of Scott and Catherine. 

I never talked about that part of my past; what would be the point? Besides, it was a very painful memory for me. 

I knew, however, that if Scott was to live with me at Lancer, I would have to explain his presence with no apologies.

Annabelle Petersen appeared at her husband's side and smiled at Scott.

“Josh, Annabelle” I said.  “Scott is my oldest son.  His mother, Catherine, was my first wife and she died shortly after giving birth to Scott.  His grandfather took him to Boston and raised him.  He is now living with me at Lancer.”

I didn't go on to explain further as I didn't yet know how this would all play out.

After meeting Scott, Mrs. Petersen took the list from me and drew Scott away to began filling the list. 

I took this opportunity to draw Josh aside.

“Josh,” I explained.  “I fear that Scott's grandfather may try to spirit Scott away back to Boston.  I don't want to scare him, but I won't feel safe if he's out of my sight or that of another responsible adult. 

I need to go over to my attorney's office to ascertain what steps I need to take, legally, to fight Mr. Garrett if he decides to fight me for my son.  Could I ask you to watch over Scott while I'm gone?”

Josh gave me a look of understanding and nodded.  “Of course, Murdoch,” he replied.  Looking over his shoulder at Annabelle and Scott, he went on. 

“I can tell Annabelle is smitten with your Scott.  She will help him pick out everything on his list.  And since it's quite a large list, I think there will be plenty of time for you to conduct your business with Mr. Bailey.”

“Thank you, Josh.  I do appreciate it.” I said, shaking his hand.

I called Scott over to me and explained that I needed to conduct business in town while Mrs. Petersen helped him find what he needed. 

“Stay with the Petersen's,” I told him.  “I will be back as soon as my business is through.”  Scott gave me a curious look, but didn't ask for further explanation.

“All right, Father,” he said. 

“Thank you, Son,” I answered, patting him on the shoulder.  “Be good and don't give the Petersen’s a difficult time.”

Scott looked deeply offended and I hurried on to explain to him that I knew he would behave in my absence.  Leaving him in safe hands, I hurried off to my attorney's office.


~ L ~ L ~ L ~ L ~ L ~ L ~ L ~ L ~ L ~ L ~ L ~ L ~ L ~ L ~ L ~ L ~ L ~ L ~ L ~ L ~ L ~ L ~ L


Several minutes later, I was seated across from Matthew Bailey, my attorney in Green River.  I explained the whole situation with Scott and asked what I needed to do to help ensure that my son stay with me.

“Well, Murdoch,” said Matthew.  “Did you ever willingly give Scott up?”

No,” I replied.  “Harlan took my son away after his mother died and I never set eyes on him until his fifth birthday. 

I wanted to bring him home with me, but Harlan had obtained guardianship of Scott in the Boston courts.  He threatened to drag me through the courts, make my little boy testify. 

How could I allow that?  What kind of childhood would Scott have had, going through all that?

Matthew looked at me thoughtfully.  “The law is pretty clear on this matter.  Children are considered under the guardianship of their natural parents. 

But just to be sure we have all our ducks in a row, the first thing you might need to do is file for guardianship here in California. 

Mr. Garrett may try to use his guardianship of Scott to take him back to Boston.  He will be prevented from doing so while your application for guardianship is in review.

We also have the benefit of having Scott here in California.  Mr. Garrett's guardianship was established in a Massachusetts court.  It won't be recognized here. 

He will have to come to California to fight you in court.  Rest assured, I will do everything I can to enable you to keep your son.

I heaved a sigh of relief, as Matthew went on.  “I will file for guardianship of Scott on your behalf in the California court system. 

In addition, I will draft a letter to Mr. Garrett and his attorney, informing him of our intent to keep Scott with you.  I will ask him to “cease and desist” immediately.

Of course, that doesn't mean that he will roll over, but it will give him something to think about.  It will let him know that you are serious about keeping your son.

I rose from my chair and shook his hand.  “Thank you, Matt.  I know you will fight for Scott and me with everything you have and I appreciate that.”

 “That boy should have been here with you from the very beginning and I mean to right the wrong that was done to the both of you,” he replied.  “I will keep you abreast of everything that happens.”


~ L ~ L ~ L ~ L ~ L ~ L ~ L ~ L ~ L ~ L ~ L ~ L ~ L ~ L ~ L ~ L ~ L ~ L ~ L ~ L ~ L ~ L ~ L ~


My business concluded, I returned to Petersen's with a lighter heart.  Matthew Bailey was a good attorney, and I knew that he would do everything legally within his power to keep my firstborn with me.

Entering the store, I noticed several packages piled up on the counter.  I had left an extensive list of Scott’s needs:  Shirts, trousers, underwear, socks, boots, nightshirts, belt, coat, hat, and a good Sunday suit.

By the looks of all the packages, it looked like my son had bought out half the store.

Scott looked up at me, with a grin.  “Mrs. Petersen helped me with everything, Father.  Wait until you see what all I got!” he told me, excitedly.  “Real ranch clothes!”

I looked at him and smiled.  “I see that, Son.  Do I have any money left in the bank?  And did you behave yourself while I was gone?”

He looked offended, once more.  Mrs. Petersen said, “Oh, Mr. Lancer.  Your boy is delightful.  He is a very polite young lad and I enjoyed helping him pick out what he needed.”

Her praise of my son made me proud as I asked, “You can see he's tall and on the thin side.  Were you able to find clothes to fit him?”

She laughed and said, “For the most part.  Your Maria will probably need to take his pants in at the waist and let the hem down and they will fit him fine.”

Mr. Petersen offered to help Scott and me load the buckboard with all of Scott’s packages.  When we were done, we returned to the store because Scott wanted to say good-bye to his new friend, Mrs. Petersen. 

He held out his hand to shake hers and said, “Thank you, Mrs. Petersen, for helping me today.  I like everything we picked out.  I enjoyed my morning with you.”

She gave him a fond smile and, batting his hand aside, she gathered him up in a big hug.  He stiffened for a brief moment, then leaned in for her hug. 

She reached into the pocket of her apron and pulled out a brown paper bag, full of penny candy. 

“Here,” she said, “For you; for being such a little gentleman.”  Before putting out his hand to accept her gift, he turned to look at me as if to ask permission. 

I nodded and he accepted the candy with a dazzling smile and a heartfelt thanks. 

“What do I owe you for the candy, Mrs. Petersen?” I asked, reaching into my pocket.

Now it was her turn to look offended.  “You owe me nothing, Mr. Lancer.  I enjoyed my time with your Scott.  All I ask in return is that you bring him by here often.”

I assured her that I would most definitely do that and Scott shook hands again with Mr. Petersen and thanked him politely. 

Say what you would about Harlan Garrett, he had taken pains to give my son perfect manners.  I was very proud of Scott.

As Scott took the bag, I admonished him, “Only one piece, Scott.  We are going to have lunch now and I don't want your appetite spoiled.”

He gave me another offended look as he popped a lemon drop in his mouth, but he obeyed me.

We ate our noon meal at the Hotel.  Scott still didn't eat enough to suit me, but I kept quiet about it.  I knew that Maria would work on that.

After lunch, I had another errand to run and I brought Scott along with me.  I needed to discuss Scott’s situation with the local law. 

We entered Sheriff Kent's office and I asked the sheriff if we could speak outside as I didn't want Scott to overhear our conversation.  Asking Scott to stay put, the sheriff and I walked outside to talk.

I told him that I now had my son with me now.  I was worried that his grandfather or one of his minions might try to snatch him back to Boston.  I asked the sheriff to keep an eye out for any strangers in town.

I asked him to take notice of anyone dressed in Eastern apparel or who spoke with a New England accent.  I wanted to be told immediately if such a thing happened and he agreed.

Stepping back inside his office, I noticed that Scott was seated in a chair alongside Deputy Riley’s desk, nose buried inside of a book.  When I noticed what he was reading, however, I wasn't pleased. 

He was engrossed in one of those dreadful dime novels, titled “The Pee Wee Pistolero.”  I let him know, in no certain terms, that I did not approve of that choice of reading material.

Scott looked up at me and said, “But Father, I got bored and Deputy Riley let me read his book.  It's really interesting...”

I gave the deputy a dubious look and he had the grace to look embarrassed.

Scott continued on, “There's a story in here about a ten-year-old gunfighter down in the border towns.”  He snorted, “Patently ridiculous!” 

I had to hide a smile as the deputy stared at him in surprise.  I don't suppose he'd ever heard the words “patently ridiculous” come out of an adult's mouth, let alone that of a thirteen-year-old boy.

“Give the deputy his book back.” I ordered.  “There are dozens of books back at Lancer that you are welcome to read that won't fill your head with rubbish.”

“Yes, Sir,” he replied, but didn't sound convinced.

I had one more purchase to make at Petersen's. 

Scott was thirteen and old enough for a rifle.  In fact, it was a necessity on a ranch.  A rifle could protect you from an attack from wild animals or could be used to raise an alarm in case of trouble. 

I also planned to take him hunting and fishing when time allowed.

Scott was excited and I told him that I would teach him how to shoot and care for his rifle.  We would choose a horse for him back at Lancer. 

He would carry a rifle with him when he rode but there would be rules to follow.  My son would soon find out that I had a lot of rules for living on Lancer.  Rules that I had set down for safety's sake.

“Sir,” Scott wheedled, “May I also have a handgun?” 

Scott was fascinated with the ranch hands and the men in town who wore guns on their hips.  I think he felt he would be truly grown up if he was allowed to wear a gun.

“A handgun?  No, Scott.  You are too young for a gun.” I told him, sternly.

My son was nothing if not persistent, “But, when will I be old enough?”

I replied, “There is no magic age, Scott.  When I feel that you are old enough to handle one, I will teach you to shoot.  However, for now, figure that you won't get a gun until you are sixteen.”

He frowned and protested, “Sixteen?  But Johnny Madrid wears a gun and he's only ten!”

“Who is Johnny Madrid?”  I questioned.

“He's the young gunfighter I was reading about...” Scott insisted.

“Johnny Madrid, if he even exists, is not my are.” I replied.

 I continued on with my speech,  Scott, that's why I don't want you reading those dime novels.  They will fill your head with garbage.  You cannot believe what you read in those. 

Besides, didn't you just pronounce that story 'patently ridiculous?'

I had Scott over a barrel and he knew it.  However, I was beginning to learn that he was a stubborn little cuss.

“But, I'm thirteen!  I'm practically grown up!  Don't you think I should have a gun to protect myself?” he persisted.

“You have a rifle to protect yourself.  But if you keep it up, you won't have that either,” I groused.

Scott knew he was beat, and the little devil had the audacity to roll his eyes at me!  I let it pass this one time, but I was tempted to swat him right there and then. 

I don't know how or if he was disciplined in Harlan's house, but he would soon learn that I don't put up with nonsense.


~ L ~ L ~ L ~ L ~ L ~ L ~ L ~ L ~ L ~ L ~ L ~ L ~ L ~ L ~ L ~ L ~ L ~ L ~ L ~ L ~ L ~ L ~ L ~


The buckboard was loaded down and it was time to make the journey back to Lancer.  Scott chattered on as we rode along about his new possessions, his opinion of the people he met, and all about the day he'd had. 

He seemed happy and carefree and I wanted him to stay that way, the argument about the gun seemingly forgotten.

However, there was a few more things I needed to tell him and I felt it was better to do it sooner than later.  I wanted to talk to him before we arrived back at Lancer.

I stopped the buckboard as I wanted to give him my full attention as I spoke.  He was curious as to why we had stopped.

“Son,” I said.  “Before we get back home, I have a couple of things I'd like to discuss with you.”  Scott looked at me, questioningly, and waited for me to go on.

“You mentioned that I never replied to all the letters you wrote.  Scott, I never received any letters from you.  But, I did send you letters; several times a year.”

Scott looked at me, with a frown on his face.  “I did write you!  And, I never got letters from you...just the last one you sent after my thirteenth birthday!”

I didn't want to point my finger at Harlan, for Scott's sake.  My son would have to draw his own conclusions.

“I don't know what to say, Scott.  I don't know why you never received my letters because I can assure you I sent many to you over the years.”

Scott was deep in thought and unusually quiet.  I could tell he was trying to make sense out of what I just told him.  Now I had to spring another surprise on him.

“I have to ask you another thing” I said.  “Did you ever wish you had a brother or a sister?”

He looked at me in total confusion as if to say, “Where is this coming from?”  When he spoke, he said “Yes.  I would have liked a brother.  All my friends have brothers and some have sisters, too.

I always felt a little lonely when I'd go to their houses.  They seemed to have so much fun and it was always pretty noisy in their homes.  It was very quiet at Grandfather's house.”

I cleared my throat and then hurried on before I lost my nerve.

“...Scott, there is something I need to tell you.  I married again after I lost your mother.  You have a brother, Johnny.  He would be ten years old now.”

Scott's gray-blue eyes opened wide as he asked, “Where is he?”

I sighed.  “I don't know, his mother took him away over eight years ago and I don't know where they are.”

“Are you looking for him?” Scott asked.

“Yes, I have detectives looking for him.  I haven't been able to find out anything definite, but they think he may be around Matamoros, Mexico.”

Scott was silent for a while as he gazed off into the distance.  I watched him and wondered how he was taking the news I'd just given him.

After a few minute's time, he turned to me and quietly said, “I hope you find him soon.”

I choked up at the generosity of my son.  He had barely spent any time with me, his long-lost father, and yet he was willing to share me with his unknown brother.

“I hope we do, too, Son,” I said, patting him on the knee.  “Well, we better get going.  Maria will be mad if I don't get you home for the evening meal.  She wants you fat!”

Scott giggled and went back to chattering away as we drove towards Lancer.

“What if my brother, Johnny, is the Johnny Madrid in the book?  He's ten years old and a gunfighter in Mexico!” he exclaimed, eagerly.

“Scott, don't be ridiculous.  Your brother is not a ten-year-old gunfighter.  I don't want you reading any more dime novels!” I scolded.

“Yes, sir,” mumbled Scott, hanging his head slightly and looking at me from the corner of his eyes.


~ L ~ L ~ L ~ L ~ L ~ L ~ L ~ L ~ L ~ L ~ L ~ L ~ L ~ L ~ L ~ L ~ L ~ L ~ L ~ L ~ L ~ L ~ L ~


We were about thirty minutes from home, my mind occupied with keeping Scott with me and of finding Johnny.  I failed to notice that Scott had grown silent some time ago until I felt him slump against my shoulder. 

He had fallen fast asleep.


I looked down at him and smiled to myself.  He'd had a very eventful journey to Lancer and I was still amazed at the plan he had pulled off, successfully, to find his way back to me.

He's also had very little sleep and he'd had to process so much new information.  He was completely worn out.

Setting the brake, I gathered him up in my arms and laid him in the wagon of the buckboard.  I always kept a quilt in the back that was needed in case any of my ranch hands were injured.

Climbing back up in the seat, I turned to look down at my slumbering son.  I had only seen him once, for five minutes, when I went back to Boston on his fifth birthday to claim him. 

One minute for each year of his life.  It was a deep disappointment when I had to leave without him, thanks to Harlan Garrett. 

I drank in the sight of him; how long I had wanted to see him and here he was right in front of me. 

He looked so much like Catherine, his mother, that my heart skipped a beat when I looked at him.  He had her blue-gray eyes, her honey-colored hair, and her fine bone structure. 

I'm not sure what he inherited from me except for some character traits:  a temper and stubbornness.

I didn't know what the future would bring, but I would do anything and everything in my power to keep him at Lancer with me. 


~ L ~ L ~ L ~ L ~ L ~ L ~ L ~ L ~ L ~ L ~ L ~ L ~ L ~ L ~ L ~ L ~ L ~ L ~ L ~ L ~ L ~ L ~ L ~


We arrived at the hacienda as a hand hurried to unload packages and unhitch and care for the horses.  Scott was oblivious to all the activity, still fast asleep.

I picked him up and carried him upstairs to his bedroom.  I laid my cheek upon the crown of his head; his hair was as soft as corn silk.  I breathed in the clean scent of him as I kissed him on top of the head.

He sighed and nestled closer, but did not awaken.  I wondered what it had been like to grow up with his grandfather in Boston.

I had no doubt that Harlan loved Scott, but Catherine had spoken to me of her upbringing.  Outright affection was never shown. 

And, if Harlan couldn't express affection physically to his only daughter, how much less would he have shown my little boy?

Now my son considered himself a very grown-up person at the advanced age of thirteen.   Overt displays of affection from me weren't tolerated in his waking hours. 

I had to sneak them in while he was defenseless in his slumber.  I had waited so long for this opportunity; I would not waste it while he was in my care.

Laying him on the bed, I removed his boots, and covered him up with a quilt kept in a chest at the foot of his bed.  I thought perhaps he might wake up in time for dinner. 

Taking another long look at him, I quietly left his room.

Dinner came and went and no Scott.  I went up to his room and discovered him deep in sleep.  I undressed him, bundled him into one of his new nightshirts, and tucked him into bed.  He was dead to the world. 

I was sorry and Maria was mad that he had missed the evening meal, but it was obvious to me that my son needed sleep more than he needed nourishment.

I bent over his sleeping form and brushed his wheat-colored bangs off of his forehead.  He stirred a little at my touch, but went straight back to sleep. 

I kissed him on the forehead and tiptoed silently out of his room.  I quietly closed his bedroom door; keeping it open just a crack in case he needed me during the night.

It did both my heart and soul good to have my firstborn safe under my roof.  I would fight to keep him at my side where he had always belonged.

The next morning, Scott appeared at the table dressed in his new clothes, and looking refreshed.  Since he'd missed the evening meal, he was starving. 

As he dug into his flapjacks and drank down several glasses of milk. Maria stood by, looking extremely pleased at his appetite.


~ L ~ L ~ L ~ L ~ L ~ L ~ L ~ L ~ L ~ L ~ L ~ L ~ L ~ L ~ L ~ L ~ L ~ L ~ L ~ L ~ L ~ L ~ L ~


After breakfast, I took the opportunity to introduce my eldest to the ranch hands and took him on a tour of Lancer.   

When we paused and overlooked the valley, I told him that he was looking at Lancer land all the way up to the mountains. 

Scott stared at the beautiful sight in front of us and was silent for a long moment.  He turned to me and said, “This is yours; all of it?”

“No,” I told him.  “This is ours: yours, mine and Johnny's.” 

I could tell he was stunned at the immenseness of Lancer.  Scott turned to me with an earnest expression on his face and said, “Father, I can't go back to Boston.  I have to stay here at Lancer to help you with it.  I have to stay here to meet my brother when he comes home!”

Although I could not promise him anything, I assured him, again, that Mr. Bailey and I would do everything in our power to keep him here.  We planned to keep him where he belonged; Lancer was his birthright, his legacy. 


~ L ~ L ~ L ~ L ~ L ~ L ~ L ~ L ~ L ~ L ~ L ~ L ~ L ~ L ~ L ~ L ~ L ~ L ~ L ~ L ~ L ~ L ~ L ~


Back at the Lancer compound, I leaned my arms across the top rail of the corral and watched Scott trot around the ring.  I had let him choose his own horse from the new-broke horses in the corral.

My son had an eye for good horseflesh.  He picked out a dapple gray and promptly dubbed him “Shadow.”  Shadow was the horse Scott had left behind in Boston and he was very much missed.

Scott was an excellent equestrian.  He had told me that he had began riding lessons at the tender age of four.  He sat up tall and straight in the saddle and had gotten used to western rig quickly. 

Scott was having a wonderful time, riding around the corral, and it did my heart good to see him so happy and excited.  His blonde hair bounced up and down as he put Shadow through his paces.

I then heard the sound of little feet running toward me and turned around.  Six-year-old Teresa O'Brien ran toward the corral to watch Scott. 

She was enamored with my eldest while he tolerated her unwanted attention as gracefully as a thirteen-year-old boy could.

“Ooh, Patron,” she cooed, never taking her eyes off Scott.  “Look how well Scott rides!  Is that his horse now?  Maybe he and I could go riding together!”

I looked down at the curly-haired brunette and smiled.  Clearly, she had a crush on Scott and wanted to be with him as much as possible.

“Well, perhaps,” I said without actually promising anything.  “Did you have a nice trip into Morro Coyo with your papa?”

“Oh, yes,” she replied, never taking her eyes off of my son.  “Papa has some mail for you.  Oh, and a telegram!”  I felt my heart jump into my throat.

It was then that Paul, my Segundo, walked up to me.  “Murdoch,” he said almost reluctantly.  “There is a telegram for you...from Boston.”

I glanced over at Scott, but he was oblivious to everything but his new horse.  I turned my back to the corral and walked away, Paul at my side.

I scanned the telegram and my worst fears were confirmed:



                - HARLAN GARRETT 


~ L ~ L ~ L ~ L ~ L ~ L ~ L ~ L ~ L ~ L ~ L ~ L ~ L ~ L ~ L ~ L ~ L ~ L ~ L ~ L ~ L ~ L ~ L ~


How foolish I had been.  I had thought Lancer to be my everything.  Now I would give it all up, if necessary, to keep Scott and to bring Johnny home.

The gauntlet had been thrown down and picked back up again.  If Harlan Garrett wanted my son back, he would have to fight me on California soil. 

Scott was my son, my firstborn, and I would use every weapon in my arsenal to keep him here at Lancer with me.




Up next:  The Battle for Scott

Note:  I tried to make this story as historically accurate as possible.  However, I was forced to take creative license for expediency and continuity.

*The Pacific Telegraph Act was established in 1860.  The first telegraph to California was in 1861.

*Cabin boys were between the age of 14-16.  Since Scott lied about his age, saying he was fifteen, he would have been old enough for the job.

*Boston Latin School is not a boarding school.  However, the Milton Academy, Boston is a boarding school for students in Grades 9-12.

*The Home For Destitute Catholic Children was established in 1864 by the Very Reverend John J. Williams, in Boston, MA.


September 2013





Submission Guidelines