Sadly, Janet (JEB) is no longer with us. Her stories are archived here for her friends to remember her by. Enjoy her legacy to Lancer.
The sun shone brightly bringing warmth to the earth as Spring started making it’s appearance at Lancer. The Lancer sons, Johnny and Scott, had left the house as soon as they ate breakfast. Their foster sister, Teresa O’Brien was planning on doing spring-cleaning and they wanted to avoid getting roped into moving furniture around. Both young men would much rather chase stray steers and deal with angry cows as they separated them from their offspring, than be around when that yearly ritual began. Scott, early on in his relationship with his half brother, had clued Johnny in as to what it would be like. He’d been chased around and out of his grandfather’s house back in Boston by the servants as they did their spring and fall cleaning. And scrubbing the house for the holidays was even worse. A small boy stood no chance of getting any attention, save for negative reactions to his presence in the kitchen, when the holidays approached. Everything must be sparkling clean when Mr. Harlan Garrett’s guests arrived in the following weeks.
Johnny’s mother had taken him and left her husband and home when Johnny was only around two years old. Growing up poor in the border towns of Mexico, Texas and Arizona, Johnny had never experienced such goings on. His mother’s flight had deprived him of a stable home and the love of his father. After a rocky start when he first arrived, at the time of the battle with Day Pardee and his outlaw bunch, Johnny and Murdoch were getting along better. They still butted heads every now and again, being prideful and stubborn, but they were learning.
Teresa, daughter of Murdoch’s deceased foreman and best friend Paul O’Brien, had told them from the very first morning that they were at Lancer to think of them as a sister. Of her mother she knew very little. The older women, mostly wives of the ranch hands, had taught her how to cook, sew, embroider and clean house. Murdoch was her unofficial guardian. He’d taken the girl as a daughter when her father was killed. The Mexican women had taught Teresa well. Every April it was the same thing. The house was scrubbed from top to bottom. Sand was swept up and removed. Carpets were taken out and beaten. Floors, ceilings and walls were scrubbed. Furniture was polished.
The boys may have escaped but Jelly Hoskins, all around horse wrangler and handyman, would not. Teresa had already informed the older man that he would be helping her. There would be no escape no matter how much he protested. Going to Murdoch was a waste of time. The Lancer patriarch wasn’t about to mess with Hurricane Teresa. What she wanted at this time of year she got. And Murdoch himself would soon disappear into Morro Coyo, Green River or Spanish Wells on the pretext of having important business to take care of.
“Now Teresa, you know I’m not a housekeeper! Dang it! I’m a wrangler and a handyman!” Jelly groused.
“Today you’re helping me and the other women Jelly. Scott, Johnny and Murdoch may have managed to escape but you’re going to stay here.” Teresa was adamant. “Easter is this Sunday. I want the house shining when our guests come.”
“Why the children and their parents who are coming for the Easter Egg Hunt and the big dinner we’re going to have. Didn’t Murdoch tell you?”
“No, he didn’t!”
“We’re going to have ham and potatoes, carrots, several kinds of breads…all kinds of good food. And Maria’s making hot cross buns. We have to hard boil about ten dozen eggs and color them. You won’t mind helping to color eggs for the children will you Jelly?” Teresa looked at the old man with big, innocent, pleading eyes. She knew what a softie Jelly was when it came to children. When they’d first met Jelly he was caring for eight homeless boys he’d found wandering in different places during his travels. Those boys all had good homes now but Jelly continued to get involved with children – especially those in need. And Johnny was just as bad. Jelly’s boys and Johnny had really taken to each other during his brief stay with them after being found by the boys when wounded by bank robbers.
“Well, all right. But only ‘cause it’s for the kids,” Jelly said. “Where you planning on hiding them?”
“All around. Outside in the grass, around the trees, near the wall. We don’t want to make it too difficult for them. They’re supposed to have fun – not get frustrated because they can’t find any.”
“And just who is it that’s going to hide all them eggs? As if I didn’t know?”
Teresa smiled at the grumpy old man. She knew he wasn’t serious. “You and Johnny and Scott. Only they don’t know it yet and they also don’t know that they’re going to help decorate the eggs. Johnny’s never had a chance to do such things and you know they’d both do anything for a child.”
“Do they know that?”
“Not yet and you won’t tell them will you Jelly? They’ll run off with some excuse about work to do if they know too early.”
“Aw heck, what do you think I am? A blabbermouth?”
Teresa just looked at him. It was well known that Jelly couldn’t keep a secret.
“Don’t answer that.” The old man pouted. “You just wait – they’ll find a way to get out of it anyway and leave me to do all the work.”
“And you’ll love every second of it because it’s for children.” Teresa smiled and kissed him on the cheek. “Thank you Jelly.”
The old man blushed to the roots of his receding hairline.
“So what do you reckon Teresa’s up to with all this cleaning?” Johnny Lancer asked his brother.
“Oh, I don’t know. It is Spring. At least according to the calendar. And I think she’s planning on having company for Easter. Which means…..”
“Yeah, I know,” Johnny groused. “Suits and ties and company manners.”
“You got that right brother.”
“She knows I hate ties,” the brunet grumbled. “Why’d she have to go and plan such a big thing like that?”
“Now Johnny,” his blond haired, older brother chided, “Teresa doesn’t ask a whole lot of us. And she doesn’t get much company. The least we can do is stay out of her way when she’s cleaning and wear our good clothes for a few hours once in a while.”
“I ‘spose. But I still hate ties.”
That remark brought a chuckle from his brother as he spurred his horse toward a stray steer he had just spotted.
Johnny also spotted a stray in the same general area as the one Scott was going after. He had little trouble hazing his quarry back toward the bunch that some vaqueros, including Cipriano, were keeping track of. A sudden loud cry from Scott drew Johnny’s attention back to his brother just in time to see him and his horse take a hard fall.
The steer that Scott had been hazing proved to be more difficult to round up. It had turned this way and that so fast that Scott had had a hard time keeping up. Finally breaking out into an open area it ran away from the herd as fast as it could go. Scott, intent on his pursuit of the animal didn’t see the hole that some burrowing rodent had made. His horse stepped in it and fell sending Scott sailing over its head where he landed hard, on his face and right arm, just as Johnny turned in their direction.
“Scott!” Johnny yelled as he turned his palomino mount, his beloved Barranca, toward his brother. Dismounting rapidly by his brother’s side as two of the others went after the runaway steer. “Scott are you all right?” Gently he rolled him over and put an arm behind his shoulders raising him up and leaning him against himself for support.
Scott’s eyes were closed, his pale face smudged with dirt and he had a couple of scrapes that were bleeding slightly. A lump the size of a goose egg was forming on the right side of his forehead. His shirt was dirty and the right sleeve torn. He moaned softly as he started to come around.
“Come on brother,” Johnny coaxed. “Open those eyes.”
“Señor Johnny?” It was Cipriano who had ridden up and dismounted beside his patron’s two sons.
“He’s coming around.”
Scott’s eyes blinked open at that point but he seemed unfocused.
“Wh-what happened?” Scott asked.
“You took a header brother. Your horse stepped in a hole. You all right?”
“Cipriano, give me a hand here,” Johnny said as he tried to help his brother up.
“Ow!” Scott yelped. His already pale face went a shade or two whiter.
“What’s the matter?”
“Looks broken to me Señor Johnny. Better take him to town and have the doctor look at him.”
“I think you’re right. Where’s his horse?”
“Over there,” Cipriano pointed. “But I don’t think you will be using him. He is hurt.”
Sure enough, the bay gelding was standing there holding it’s right leg off the ground, his head hanging low in pain.
“Oh great!” Johnny exclaimed. “Could this day get any better?”
“Johnny?” Scott was groggy from the fall and from the pain in his arm. “Whassa matter?”
“Oh not much. Just a horse with a bum leg. To say nothing of a brother with a sore arm and a bump on the head.” Johnny said wryly. Looking up at Cipriano he said, “I think maybe his arm is broken. Can you find me a couple of sticks to use for a splint? I don’t think I’d better move him until that arm is immobilized.”
“Sí. Right away.” The Mexican man hurried off toward a nearby grove of trees. He returned shortly with several sticks of the right size. He then proceeded to help Johnny immobilize Scott’s injured arm with the aid of the sticks and the bandanas that he and Scott wore around their necks.
“Barranca!” Johnny called and whistled for his horse. Obediently the Palomino, who had wandered off a little way, came trotting over to his master. Johnny rose to his feet and, with a little help from Cipriano, got his brother up onto Barranca’s back. He then swung up behind the saddle holding Scott around the waist as his brother swayed dizzily.
“Don’t feel so good. Head hurts.”
“Yeah, I know. I’m gonna take you to Doc Jenkins and get you looked at.” Looking down at his father’s Segundo he said “You’re in charge. You know what to do.”
“Si. You just take care of su hermano. Get him to the doctor. I will send someone to the casa to tell the patron what happened.”
“Thanks.” With that Johnny turned Barranca’s head to the North toward Green River. Sam Jenkins, the only doctor in the area, divided his time between Morro Coyo, Green River and Spanish Wells.
“Oh my! What happened?” The speaker was Maura Talbot a neighbor of the Lancers and part time nurse to Sam Jenkins.
Johnny, supporting his brother who was still swaying dizzily as they walked into Dr. Jenkins’ office, answered.
“Scott’s horse stepped in a hole and threw him. He hit his head and I think his arm’s broken.”
“Sit him down over there,” Maura said indicating a vacant chair. “I’ll tell Sam you’re here. He’s in back with another patient at the moment.” She left the brothers and departed into another room.
“Come on brother. Let’s sit you down, like Mrs. Talbot said, before you fall down and take me with you.”
Turning to his right Johnny helped Scott over to a vacant chair. Fortunately nobody else was waiting for attention. The wooden chair wasn’t exactly comfortable but at least Scott could sit while he waited to be seen.
It wasn’t long before Maura Talbot returned with Sam Jenkins in tow. His patient, a local shopkeeper, had cut himself on a broken window he was trying to replace. After cleaning the wound Sam had had to take ten stitches to close it. The other man thanked Sam for his help and departed after nodding to Johnny and Scott.
“Now then. What do we have here?” Sam asked. “Usually it’s you Johnny. Pretty unusual for it to be Scott. What happened?”
Johnny explained quickly while the doctor examined Scott’s face and the lump on his head.
“Bring him in the back room,” Sam instructed. “I want Maura to clean those scrapes and then we’ll see about that arm.”
Johnny helped Scott up and, with an arm around his waist, guided him to the room Sam indicated. Maura followed after the three men several minutes later with a basin of warm water and a pair of clean towels.
Her gentle hands soon had the scrapes on Scott’s face cleaned up. There was no need to bandage them. The bump on his head wasn’t bloody but it was sore. He flinched when Sam probed it. Johnny winced in sympathy.
“Hmm. Let’s see that arm son.” Gentle as Sam tried to be Scott tried to pull away as his injured arm was probed. “Broken all right. But it’s a clean break. The bone snapped back into place. We’ll just replace these makeshift splints with some good boards and bandages and he’ll be ready to go. Johnny, would you mind going out to the shed behind the house and getting two boards about two feet long? We’ll use them. Maura get some bandages from the cabinet out front would you?”
Both parties did as requested. It didn’t take Maura more than a couple of minutes to get the bandages and Johnny was almost on her heels with the boards. In less than ten minutes Scott’s makeshift splint had been replaced with a sturdier one and his arm was resting in a sling to minimize movement and aggravation to the injury.
“All right. That does it.” Sam said. “Now Scott it’s going to be about six weeks before that arm is any use to you. You won’t be able to use it at all for at least two. Any movement could dislodge the fracture and cause the bone to come through the skin. So no riding, no chasing strays, no lifting – no nothing! Johnny you see to it that he obeys that order.” Johnny nodded solemnly his usual joking manner subdued for the moment.
“As for the head injury – I’d say he bumped it on a rock. There’s no sign of skull fracture but he’ll have a headache for a while. He’s got a mild concussion so dizziness is going to be a concern for a day or two. When you get him home you put him right to bed. Teresa will know what to do for him when you do. She’s a smart one that girl.”
“Thanks Doc.” Scott managed to mumble.
“Yeah, thanks Doc. Now I just gotta get him back on Barranca and get him home.”
“No horseback riding! Not in his condition.” Sam was adamant. “The ride will jolt him too much.”
“How am I gonna get him home if I don’t put him up on Barranca again?”
“I’ll take you both home in my rig,” Maura told him. “I was about through for the day when you brought him in anyway. You just run on over to the livery stable and get my buggy. Levi or Jonas will know which one is mine and which horse I drove into town. You see them. Meantime Scott can stay here and rest until you get back. It’ll do him good.”
“Ok. But we’re sure beholden to ya Mrs. Talbot. It’s not that long ago that you nursed us both through influenza and pneumonia. I don’t know how we’ll ever repay ya.”
“Oh nonsense child! It’s nothing more than any good neighbor would do.” Maura blushed at the praise, her face almost as red as her hair. Her slight brogue became heavier when she was embarrassed. More than thirty years in the United States had not completely robbed her voice of the brogue of her native Ireland. “Get along with you now!”
Johnny did as she bade him and was back in fifteen minutes with her buggy. He helped Scott out of Doc Jenkins’ office and in to the back seat of the buggy. Once he had tied Barranca to the back of the buggy he climbed in beside his brother to support him and try to cushion him during the ride.
“Whoa, Barnabas, whoa.” Maura Talbot reined her horse to a stop in front of the Lancer house. Murdoch came out to meet them.
“Hello Maura,” Murdoch greeted his friend as he exited the French doors from the living room. “It’s nice to see you.”
“Hello Murdoch,” she replied. “It’s nice to see you too. I wish it were under happier circumstances.”
“So do I Maura. So do I. You seem to be spending an awful lot of time nursing these two lately.”
“Oh fiddle! I just happened to be in Sam’s office working when Johnny brought Scott in. Sam did most of the work.”
Johnny had exited the buggy and untied Barranca. One of the hands, a young man named Raul, came and took the Palomino away to put him in his stall in the barn. Johnny would see to his grooming in a little bit. Everyone who worked for the Lancers knew two things about Johnny. One was that he was very close to his half brother. The other was that he was very fond of his horse and would do everything in his power to see that Barranca was comfortable. Consequently he generally did his own feeding and grooming. As Raul led Barranca toward the barn Johnny came around to the other side of the buggy and helped Scott down. Murdoch stood back and let Johnny handle it. He could see that if he tried to help it would only cause Scott more pain. As he led Scott toward the house Johnny slipped his arm around his brother’s waist from the left side being careful not to touch the broken arm.
“How bad is it Maura?” Murdoch asked in concern.
“He’s got a slight concussion and his right arm is broken,” Maura replied. “It could have been a lot worse. Johnny says he was running his horse full tilt after a stray steer when it put its foot in a hole of some kind and threw him.”
“Yes Cipriano mentioned that the horse had stepped in a hole. That horse won’t be chasing any cattle for a while. He wrenched his leg pretty badly. I’m just thankful that Scott isn’t too bad off. He could have been killed taking a fall like that.”
“He’ll be fine Murdoch. Sam says he’s not to try and use that arm for a couple of weeks. The break was a clean one – went back into place on its own. But if he tries to use it before he should he could cause some serious damage to it. He also said it’s best to keep him in bed for a couple of days until the headache subsides and the dizziness goes away.” So saying she picked up the reins again. “I must be getting on my way. Alex will be worried.”
“Thank you for bringing the boys home Maura. I appreciate it.”
“Any time Murdoch,” she said. “They’re fine boys. I hope Scott feels better soon. Get up there Barnabas. Let’s go home boy.” The roan gelding set off immediately and the buggy headed back down the road to pass under the large stone arch.
Upstairs in Scott’s room Johnny was getting his brother out of his work clothes, into a nightshirt and settled in his bed. Teresa was in the kitchen getting some cold water and would get a small towel in order to make a compress for his sore head.
“There you go brother,” Johnny said with a small grin as he pulled the covers up to Scott’s waist. “All tucked in nice and cozy.”
“Thanks.” Scott’s voice, never very loud to begin with, was barely above a whisper. His head was pounding like a blacksmith was hammering on an anvil. And his broken arm throbbed unmercifully. There wasn’t much they could do about it for him. Any painkillers containing opiates, such as laudanum, were out of the question until the concussion went away.
“Any time. Trust you, though,” Johnny said with a teasing grin, “to find the only rock in the whole doggoned clearing to land on. Didn’t they teach you nothin’ back in Boston? A rock’s a whole lot harder than a head you know.” Johnny hid his concern behind a joke and a smile.
“Johnny? Take this would you?” Teresa arrived back at Scott’s room bearing a full pitcher of cold water and some clean towels.
Johnny relieved the brown haired girl, a surrogate sister to himself and Scott since their arrival at Lancer, of the pitcher and washbasin and placed them on the small table located a short distance from the bed. Teresa then took one of the small towels, soaked it in the cold water and wrung it out. Crossing the room to Scott’s bed she seated herself gently on the mattress to Scott’s left and placed the cool compress on his forehead.
“There now. Does that feel better?”
Scott just gave her a weak smile and closed his eyes again. Murdoch entered the room as he did so.
“How is he?” the Lancer patriarch asked quietly in consideration of the headache he knew his son had.
“All things considered,” Scott answered his father in a faint whisper, “not too bad.”
“’Not too bad huh?” Johnny scoffed. “Let me tell you something brother – you scared me half to death when you took that fall. Don’t go doin’ anything like that again you hear? Or I’ll lock ya up somewhere safe – like one o’ them padded cells I’ve heard about they got in those insane asylums back east.”
“Johnny,” Murdoch stifled the laugh he felt coming. He knew Johnny was only half kidding. He’d do anything in his power to protect his brother. It still amazed Murdoch, and many others, how close the two half-brothers had become in such a short amount of time. “Maura told me that Sam said he’d be fine in a few weeks but he’s got a couple of days bed rest coming. Why don’t we all get out of here and let him get some sleep.” He shooed his other “children” along. “I’ll check on you later Scott. You get some rest now.”
“Yes sir,” came the faint reply from the invalid. The long ash blond lashes lay against his high cheekbones as he drifted off.
At supper that night the talk was of the spring round up and Scott’s accident. Cipriano had already explained to Murdoch what had happened but he wanted to hear it from Johnny as well.
“It’s just like Cipriano told ya Murdoch,” Johnny explained. “Scott was chasing a stray when his horse stepped in a gopher hole or something. He didn’t have a chance to save himself and nobody was close enough to him to help. He just flew right over Teddy’s head and landed hard on his head and his arm.” Johnny paused here to take a big swallow from his glass of milk. “Cipriano and I splinted his arm and I took him right in to see Sam. Mrs. Talbot was there and gave us a ride home when Doc said Scott wasn’t to ride for awhile because of the dizziness.”
Murdoch nodded, satisfied. It wasn’t that he didn’t trust Cipriano – there was no one he trusted more than the Segundo other than his sons – he just felt better hearing it from Johnny himself. Cipriano had willingly admitted that he didn’t personally witness the accident. His knowledge came from Johnny and the fact that he himself had tended to Scott’s injured horse.
“I imagine Sam wants us to check on him every now and then.”
Johnny nodded and said, “Yeah, he said to make sure Scott don’t have any trouble waking up. I’ll go sit with him for a while and see how he’s doing.”
“Don’t stay up too late son,” Murdoch said. “You’ve had a long day. You must be pretty tired yourself.”
“No Murdoch,” Johnny said. “I’m not tired.” He could have added that he was accustomed to going without sleep for days at a time but memories of his days as Johnny Madrid, ace gunfighter, were painful for all of them. “I’ll sit with him for a while.”
No amount of persuasion or cajoling would move the younger son. He finished his dinner, excused himself from the table and went straight up to Scott’s room. Entering he found his brother sleeping peacefully and turned down one of the lamps while extinguishing the other. Then he pulled a chair up to the side of the bed and made himself comfortable. After about an hour he roused his brother, asked him a few questions which Scott was able to answer and then let him go back to sleep.
Around ten o’clock Johnny was relieved by Murdoch who sent his son off to bed. The patriarch brooked no nonsense from his younger son this time. Johnny had to be tired – physically as well as emotionally. It wasn’t every day that he chased strays, witnessed his brother taking a bad fall from his horse and took him to the doctor after doing what he could for him at the scene of the accident.
Teresa relieved Murdoch at midnight. She had already made arrangements with Maria the housekeeper and Maria’s aunt, also named Maria, to manage the kitchen and laundry for a few days while she tended to her “brother”. The two older women were happy to do so. Meals would be served on time and the house cleaned from top to bottom with minimal supervision or suggestion from Teresa. She would be free to spend as much time as she needed to with Scott. One thing both women were sure of – Scott could be as difficult as his brother if he got bored and keeping him in bed once the headaches and dizziness disappeared would be hard to do.
The next morning Scott was feeling a little better but still forced to stay in bed for the most part. Teresa brought him a bowl of oatmeal liberally covered with butter and sugar and a glass of milk. He wasn’t going to get her or either of the Marias to give him any coffee until he was over the headaches and the dizzy spells. After breakfast he went back to sleep. The squint lines around his eyes told everyone that he wasn’t a hundred percent yet as far as the concussion was concerned.
Each time Johnny, Jelly or Murdoch was in the vicinity of his room they would stop in and bring him up to date on how the round up was going. Or how much fence line had been repaired. How the pastures were greening up. It didn’t keep him from being restless but it did keep him informed and involved in what was happening.
Jelly brought him his lunch at noon the day after the accident.
“How’re you doin’ Scott? Feelin’ a mite better?”
“Yes. I’m feeling much better.” Scott lied gamely.
“Sure ya are.” Jelly was not fooled. He’d had enough broken bones in his lifetime to know that the arm had to be hurting even if the headaches were dissipating. “You just eat this soup and the biscuits the women sent up.”
“So Jelly,” Scott inquired with a grin he tried to hide. “How come you brought me my lunch and not Johnny or Murdoch? As if I didn’t know.”
“And just what’s that supposed to mean?” Jelly huffed.
“The women are doing spring cleaning aren’t they? That’s why Johnny and I left so early yesterday. I’ll just bet they’ve got you moving furniture around and taking drapes down and anything else they can think of. How far have they gotten?”
“Now what makes you think I’m working with a bunch of women? I got better things to do.”
“Like what? I know Teresa. And Maria. I’ll bet they nailed you before you could get away from the table after breakfast this morning. So are you going to tell me or do I have to figure it out for myself?”
Just then Teresa’s voice could be heard from downstairs.
“Jelly? What’s taking you so long? We’ve got a lot of work to do. Just give Scott his lunch and come on down. He’s not completely helpless you know!”
“I’ll be right there Teresa.” Jelly called back. Turning to Scott he said “Can’t you tell her you need me? That you want me to keep you company? Something? Anything?”
“Why Jelly that wouldn’t be honest.” Scott hid his grin behind a poker face – something he’d learned from Johnny.
“Señor Jelly we are waiting.”
Jelly gave Scott another pleading look. “Sure you don’t want me to sit and read to you?”
“No thank you Jelly. I’m just going to go back to sleep. My head’s better but not exactly back to normal yet.”
“No big surprise there. Johnny said you took quite a tumble.”
“Jelly!” Teresa sounded annoyed this time.
“Uh Jelly, I think Teresa’s getting a little upset here. Don’t you think you’d better get back to work?”
“Scott? Is Jelly up there with you?” Teresa’s voice was getting closer.
“Yes, Teresa, he’s here.” Scott answered in spite of the glare he got from the old man.
“Scott help me out here. It ain’t fittin’ for a man of my talents to be doing housework.”
Whatever reply Scott might have thought of making to that remark was lost when a small brown-haired tornado blew through the door in the form of one Teresa O’Brien.
“Jelly! Didn’t you hear us calling you? Come on! We’ve still got a lot of work to do before this house is clean enough for our guests.” She noticed that Scott’s lunch was gone and took the tray from him. “Good, you’re finished. Now you lie back and go to sleep again while Jelly helps us downstairs. We’ll try not to disturb you.”
She took the tray and headed for the door. Looking back over her shoulder at the older of the two men she said emphatically, “Come on Jelly! We’ve got a lot to do before supper and Scott needs his rest.”
Jelly looked pleadingly at Scott before reluctantly getting up from his seat and following the girl out the door and down the stairs. Only after Jelly and Teresa were safely out of hearing did Scott burst into laughter at the older man’s indignant departure. He laughed until his sides hurt and his headache started to renew itself. Things would never be dull around Lancer as long as Jelly was around. And Johnny. The two of them kept things very lively indeed. Life in Boston was never this entertaining.
“Hey, Teresa,” Johnny asked as he returned to the house for supper that night. “How’s Scott doin’?”
“Last time I checked he was fine.” Teresa glanced up from the cake she was frosting.
“Is he awake?”
“I don’t know Johnny,” Teresa answered.
“Hey, is that cake for dessert?” Johnny reached toward the frosting bowl only to have Teresa slap his hand.
“Don’t touch that or there won’t be enough for the cake.” Teresa was a little irritated. She’d spent the afternoon chasing Jelly down who disappeared every time she or the Marias turned their back. Consequently supper was slightly off schedule and she was in no mood to put up with Johnny trying to filch things or get his fingers into anything he could reach. The spring-cleaning would come along much faster if they could keep track of Jelly.
Murdoch walked in a few seconds later as Johnny was rubbing his hand where Teresa’s spoon had hit him.
“Looks good darling,” he said to his ward.
“Thank you. It’ll taste good if I ever get it frosted,” she said with a significant look at Johnny.
Murdoch failed to notice her exasperation until it was too late. “How’s Scott feeling?”
“I don’t know,” Teresa said. “I haven’t seen him since lunch time. Why don’t you go ask him yourself? I’m sure he’d appreciate your company.”
Taking the hint this time he motioned to Johnny that they should leave the kitchen, and Teresa, before they got into any more trouble. Together they went upstairs to check on Scott.
As Teresa had suggested Scott was very happy to see his father and brother. He was feeling much better, except for his arm, and was anxious to get out of bed at least to join the family at supper.
“How are you feeling son?”
“Better. I don’t suppose I could get up and come downstairs for supper?”
“Maybe tomorrow Scott. Sam’ll be here in the morning to look you over. If he says you can get out of bed then okay. If not you’ll just have to stick it out until he says you can.”
“Cheer up Scott. You may be stuck in bed but you’ve got a houseful of women here to wait on you hand and foot.”
“For your information brother those women are so busy tearing this house apart that I’ve hardly had any company all day.” Scott tried not to complain but he was feeling better enough that having to stay in bed was beginning to be lonely and trying.
“Tell you what Scott,” Johnny said. “After supper I’ll bring the checkerboard up and play you a few games. Might even let you win one,” he added with a roguish grin.
“You’re on little brother.”
After a supper of fried chicken, potatoes, corn and the cake that Johnny had tried to snitch frosting from, the checkerboard was brought up on a tray and set up in Scott’s room. They managed three games, two of which Scott won, before Johnny dozed off. Managing his work and his brother’s for the next month or so was going to be hard on both of them. Johnny would be exhausted and Scott would get bored.
Dr. Sam Jenkins arrived, in his ancient buggy pulled by his almost as ancient mare, shortly after breakfast the next morning.
“How’s my patient this morning,” he asked Teresa who let him in.
“Better I think. His arm still hurts but he’s not squinting as much so I think the headache’s going away.”
“Well I’ll just go on up and see him,” the older man said.
Entering Scott’s room he was not surprised to see Scott’s father and brother waiting for him. He knew they’d be anxious to know what progress the young man was making.
“Murdoch. John,” he said by way of greeting with a brief nod to each. “If you gentleman will excuse us I want to examine my patient without an audience. I’ll let you know how we make out.”
Somewhat reluctantly Murdoch and Johnny left the room to wait anxiously in the hallway until Sam was through. Teresa joined them. Even she was temporarily banished from the room. Sam had already told her he wouldn’t need her assistance with anything.
“Well young man,” Sam said to his patient, “how are you feeling this morning. Any headache? Still woozy?”
“My head hurts a little but not like it did,” Scott answered. One thing he’d learned in his first few months at Lancer was that Sam Jenkins was no fool for all he was a country doctor. He’d brook no lying from his patients. It was the straight stuff or suffer the consequences.
“Good. Now how about dizziness? Still light-headed if you try to stand?” Sam knew his patient well enough to know that the boy would probably have been trying to stand up as soon as possible. Lying in bed was not the way Scott Lancer wanted to spend his days.
“A little,” Scott admitted. “But not like yesterday.”
“I imagine you’d like to get out of this bed wouldn’t you?”
“Yes sir. I would very much like to get out of this bed.”
“Hmm.” Sam acknowledged as he checked Scott’s pulse. Then he examined his eyes and made him turn his head a little so he could check for stiffness or damage to his neck. The way Johnny had described Scott’s fall it was possible that there was damage that his initial examination didn’t find. Lastly he examined Scott’s injured arm. This was somewhat harder on Scott than the rest of the examination. His face, which had started to regain its normal color, got pale when Sam touched the injured extremity.
“Take it easy. I’ll just be a few more seconds,” Sam said as Scott gave a gasp and involuntarily started to pull away from the source of his pain – in this case Sam’s hands on his broken arm. “There. All done.” Sam rewrapped the bandages around the splint. Then he went to the door and admitted the anxious family members.
“Well?” Murdoch said. “Is he all right?”
“He will be.” Sam closed his bag as he spoke. “The concussion is well on its way to being gone. His eyes are equal and reactive. He admits to still being a little light-headed and having a bit of a headache. The arm is quite definitely broken and it’s going to be six to eight weeks before it’s of much use to him. At least four of those weeks will require that arm being splinted while the bone knits back together.” Sam smiled at his patient and the family. “It really could have been a lot worse and Johnny and Cipriano did an excellent job in splinting that arm right away. If the bone hadn’t snapped back into place he could have required surgery and getting him into my office on horseback could have caused a lot of internal damage.”
Murdoch gave his younger son’s shoulder a squeeze. He knew that Johnny had been a little anxious still about his handiwork. They all heaved a collective sigh of relief that Scott was on the mend.
“So am I permitted to get out of this bed?” Scott wanted to know.
Sam paused for a minute debating over what to tell him. “If you’re very careful. No climbing the stairs, up or down, without someone being with you for a couple of more days. No horseback riding. No trying to use that right hand for anything more than lifting a pen or a pencil. You’re not to go any farther than the porch until that headache and the dizziness is completely gone. That’ll be in another day or so.” Turning to Teresa he said, “Keep him on a light diet for the next two days. Soup, broth and maybe some eggs.”
“I gave him some oatmeal this morning. Was that all right?”
“Yes, that’s fine. It’s good for him and it’s not too heavy.” Turning back to his patient he said, “You’ve got your orders and the family’s got theirs. No overdoing it trying to help out. You’ve got a lot of mending to do. Walk around some from room to room to the porch if you like. Rest when you’re tired. No sneaking cookies from the kitchen.” This last was referring to his and Johnny’s raids on Teresa’s cookie jar between meals when they were “starving”. “I’ll be back in a couple of days to check you over again.” He started for the door with Murdoch right behind him.
Teresa and Johnny made themselves comfortable on the edge of the bed and in the chair for a few minutes before the boys managed to convince Teresa to leave while Johnny helped Scott dress in pants and a shirt. Boots were out of the question but Johnny had bought a pair of moccasins from a local Indian widow for himself that Scott had admired so much he’d bought a pair for himself. At least the moccasins wouldn’t require much effort to get on and off. With only one good arm at the present time the easier it was for Scott the better.
“Will we see you here, Sunday, Sam, for the service?”
“If I’m not tied up on an emergency somewhere Murdoch. You know how it goes. We country doctors can’t always count on making plans.”
Murdoch smiled and shook the other’s hand. “Fine. We’ll look forward to it.”
“About Scott, Murdoch,” Sam said. “He’ll be fine if he takes it easy like I told him. The concussion wasn’t too bad and he’s almost over the effects. But watch him that he doesn’t overdo it. He’s young and, like his brother, he’s somewhat impulsive and reckless. He’s not to try to use that arm at all. See to it that he keeps it in a sling until I tell him otherwise. I don’t want to risk any permanent damage.”
“I will Sam. And I’m sure Teresa and Johnny will keep an eye on him as well. We can always have Jelly ‘baby-sit’ him if necessary.”
Sam laughed and signaled his horse to move along. Murdoch turned back toward the house. As he entered he found Scott slowly making his way down the stairs with Johnny at his side. His son was still very pale but he supposed that was to be expected. He’d taken a few hard falls himself and knew that it would be a few days before Scott was back to normal. Especially as he’d broken his arm as well as hit his head.
“Where do you want to go Scott? The living room or the porch?” Johnny asked his brother.
“The porch. Please. I’ve had enough of being indoors.”
“Johnny, you settle him in a chair on the porch,” Teresa said. I’ll get some pillows for behind his back and a blanket to cover his legs.
“Teresa I don’t need….”
“You just hush Scott Lancer!” Teresa was not about to be put off. “You took a nasty fall yesterday and you’re not over it yet. You’re going to be treated like the invalid you are for the next few days!”
Scott looked pleadingly at his father and brother but neither one of them was any help. When Teresa O’Brien put her mind to something, whether it be nursing an injured “brother” or guardian or getting that same guardian to dance with her at every social they attended, she usually got her way. All she had to do was give them “that smile” of hers as Murdoch had once called it.
Within ten minutes Scott was settled in a comfortable chair on the porch with a pillow behind his back, another one on the footstool placed in front of his chair to keep his feet up and a blanket over his lap. Spring was there and the air was warm but not without its cool breezes coming down from the mountains. He was there the rest of the morning and part of the afternoon before Teresa, in a short breather from the cleaning frenzy she was on, decided it was time for him to be upstairs in bed again. Jelly was given a reprieve from the “women’s work” long enough to help Scott up the stairs and into bed again. Johnny and Murdoch were out on the round up and checking on the other work crews.
Supper that night was a bit cheerier than the night before. It had been so sober and quiet the night before when Scott had been brought home after his accident. Now that he was on the mend, and they had Sam’s assurances that he was, everyone’s heart was lighter.
“How’s the spring cleaning coming Teresa?” Murdoch asked his ward.
“Fine Murdoch. We’ve got downstairs done. Everything’s polished except the silver. We’ll do that Saturday. I straightened your desk up but don’t worry I didn’t lose anything,” she said when she was the slightly paranoid look on her guardian’s face. “It’s all there. It’s just organized into piles instead of being spread out all over the place like it usually is.”
“Good. You had me worried for there for a minute.” Murdoch was relieved.
“Tomorrow we start on the bedrooms so you’d better be up and out of here early unless you want us to pull you out of bed.”
“Am I going to be able to find anything when you’re through?” Johnny wanted to know. He wasn’t the most organized person at times, when it came to his clothes, and there had been times when he wanted to gently break it to Teresa that he’d damaged a shirt, jacket or a pair of pants only to have her discover them when she cleaned his room.
“What does that mean?” the girl wanted to know. “Are you hiding something again Johnny? Like a ripped shirt that needs mending?”
Murdoch laughed. “She’s got you there John. She always finds the clothes you’ve damaged no matter how hard you try to hide them.”
“Yeah, I know. But ya can’t blame a fella for tryin’” Johnny grinned at his “sister” who turned up her nose at him.
“You’ve been warned,” Teresa said. “Easter is this Sunday and we’ve got a lot of guests coming. And we still have to boil the eggs and color them for the egg roll and hunt. And then there’s cookies to bake, and hams to prepare and potatoes to peel and oh, all sorts of things.”
“What’s an egg roll?” Johnny wanted to know. Growing up in the border towns, with his mother always on the move, hiding from his father, he’d never experienced the joys of hunting for Easter eggs or the traditional egg roll where the children rolled their eggs as far as they could without breaking them.
“I read about it in this book about Dolley Madison,” Teresa said with enthusiasm. “When James Madison was President he didn’t have any children of his own and his stepson was too old for kids games. So Mrs. Madison invited the children of Washington, D.C. to the White House to roll their Easter Eggs down the hills of the lawn. And she’d stand out there and watch and enjoy every minute of it. We’re going to have one here on Sunday. The two Marias are going to help me color the eggs for the egg hunt that we’ll have before the egg rolling.”
“You color eggs?” Johnny was incredulous. He’d never heard of such a thing.
“Sure. You take eggs and you hard-boil them and then you dip them in dyes to make them real pretty. Or use a paintbrush. On Easter Sunday morning we’ll hide the eggs around the South Pasture or some other field with good hiding places and watch the children from Green River, Morro Coyo and Spanish Wells hunt for them.” Teresa was getting very excited about this. “I also read that in some countries, like Russia, the eggs are very fancy. I’ve seen pictures of them.”
“What’s the sense in coloring eggs?” Johnny wanted to know. “Can’t they just hunt for eggs that aren’t colored?”
“That would take the joy out of it Johnny,” his father explained. “The bright colors make it easier for the children and they really enjoy it. It doesn’t hurt the eggs. They can eat them afterward.” He smiled at Teresa. “I hope you have plenty of help darling. You’ve taken on a lot organizing this.”
“I’m sure I can get Jelly to help if I need him,” she said. “He’d do anything for kids. You know that.”
“Yes, I do,” Murdoch smiled to himself remembering the circumstances of how they had met Jelly.
“Oh, I think so. We’ve been planning for this since January.”
That was Wednesday night. For the next two days Teresa, the two Marias and every other woman that could spare the time, swept, dusted, scrubbed and polished every piece of furniture and every floor in the house. The curtains and drapes and rugs were taken down and out and beaten, shaken scrubbed and aired. Pillows were refilled. Feather mattresses removed, aired and fluffed before being put back in their place. Sheets and blankets were scrubbed and dried in the warm air.
The invalid was disturbed as little as possible on Thursday. By Friday Scott’s headache and the dizziness from the concussion had disappeared and he began to get bored and restless. His arm still ached but not as badly as it had. When he got underfoot once too often Teresa scolded him and sent him back to the porch to rest and read. Much as Scott liked to read he quickly got tired of that. He was beginning to feel a little neglected. When he wandered into the kitchen the elder Maria chased him out but not before giving him a handful of cookies and a glass of lemonade. The cookies he tucked into the sling his injured arm rested in. The lemonade he carried in his good hand and got out before she took the broom to him as she threatened. He knew that with her up to her eyebrows in dinner preparations for that night and getting a head start on the baking she would need to do for Sunday he’d better stay out of her way.
Still, he wished there were something he could do. There must be something he could do with just his left hand.
“Not now Scott. Can’t you see I’m busy?”
“Yes, of course,” he said. “But…”
“No buts.” Teresa shooed him out of the guest room she and the younger Maria were cleaning. “You just get yourself a good book and go sit on the porch out of the way.”
Deflated Scott went to the living room and pulled out a volume of Shakespeare’s comedies. Seating himself in a chair on the porch he attempted to read but soon found himself dozing off.
At supper that evening he was so quiet his father and brother began to worry about him. He seemed so depressed as they discussed how the work was progressing. The round up, the fence repairs and so on.
“Something wrong Scott?” Murdoch finally asked.
“No. Not really.”
“Are you sure?”
“Well, if you must know I’m bored!” Scott finally complained.
“Yes. This broken arm doesn’t allow me to do much of anything but I’m tired of sitting around doing nothing! Isn’t there something I can do to be of help around here?”
“There is the bookwork. The ledgers need to be updated,” Murdoch said.
“I already did that. This morning. They’re up to date.”
“Gee Scott if I were in your place I’d be thrilled to have some time off,” Johnny said. “Minus the broken arm of course.”
“But you’re not me and I’m not you and I’m about to lose my mind!” Scott was frustrated.
“Tell you what Scott,” Teresa said. “I’ll find something you can do to help me tomorrow. And I don’t mean just sitting on the porch out of the way.”
Teresa was true to her word. First thing she had him do was gather the eggs. After an initial protest he went out and scattered some grain so the hens would leave their nest. He found two dozen eggs that morning and one hen that was broody and wouldn’t let him near her nest without threatening to peck him. He decided he’d had enough and left well enough alone.
“Oh good! You did good Scott. Maybe I should let you feed the chickens and gather the eggs from now on.” Teresa was very pleased with the results of Scott’s search. “I never can find more than half a dozen.”
Somehow Scott felt giddy at her praise. He couldn’t explain it unless it was the euphoria of finally feeling useful again – broken arm or no broken arm. Ordinarily he’d disdain doing that particular job. He’d still rather be out chasing cattle or breaking horses but at least he wasn’t sitting around doing nothing.
“Now we’ve got to wash these eggs and put them on to boil. The ones we’ve already boiled are cooling off.” Teresa bustled about getting the eggs on the stove.
After about 15 minutes they were cooked, the water drained and they were set aside to cool off. Teresa and the two Marias bustled about getting the materials to make the Easter egg dye. The senior Maria took charge of the red cabbage and vinegar, the pickled beet juice and onionskins. The younger Maria gathered up paprika and turmeric. Also cochineal and spinach leaves. The ingredients would make beautiful red, purple, yellow and green. Combining these colors in other containers would give them orange and lighter shades of those colors. Most of the eggs would be dipped into one color or another and set aside to dry. The three women busied themselves mixing the dyes.
“May I have a few eggs Teresa?” Scott asked. “I’d kind of like to try my hand at making some a little fancier than dipping them in one color.”
“Sure Scott. What colors would you like?”
“How about some of that scarlet and yellow? And maybe some green.”
Teresa mixed the colors for him. Spinach leaves in water made a nice green. Cochineal gave them a beautiful scarlet – the color of a male Cardinal’s feathers. The onion skins made a mottled yellow but Scott mixed a little of the yellow with some of the red, somewhat awkwardly as he was not left handed, and got what he considered as passable orange.
“I can do that Teresa.” Scott insisted on trying to do it although he could only use his left hand.
“Ok, but don’t blame me if you get it all over yourself.”
Teresa’s warning was well founded. Not being accustomed to using his left hand for things Scott managed to get some of the dye on his shirt. Then on his pants and on his hand. Teresa giggled as she watched him get decorated himself.
“You think this is funny do you?” Scott playfully growled at his “sister”.
“Yes. I think it’s very funny.”
“Sí, Senor Scott,” the older Maria laughed at him. “You wear that color, that rojo, quite well.”
The younger Maria agreed with her aunt. “Sí, tia, he does.”
“And doesn’t that green just do wonders for him?” Teresa added with more giggles.
Scott picked up his paintbrush and flicked it at Teresa. The red dye landed on her right cheek. She retaliated by picking up a paintbrush of her own and splashed Scott with purple. The next thing they knew they had an all out battle going between him and the three women. And the kitchen rang with the shouts and laughter of the quartet as they decorated eggs and each other. It was to this scene that Johnny returned at lunchtime.
“Hey! What’s goin’ on here?” he asked stunned by the scene in front of him.
“Oh hi Johnny,” Teresa said between giggling fits. “We’re just decorating the eggs for the egg hunt tomorrow.”
“Looks more like you’re decorating each other,” Johnny observed noting the paint that decorated his siblings’ faces and clothing.
“Why don’t you join us Johnny? Decorating eggs I mean. There’s still a lot left to do.”
Johnny looked askance at his brother for a minute then decided to join in. It did look like fun.
“What the heck? Sure. Pass me a paintbrush and some of that dye. Red and blue and green I think. Maybe some of that yellow too.”
All was quiet for a few minutes as Johnny concentrated on his painting. Then the urge to be silly struck him as it had first Scott and then Teresa. In no time at all there were five people painting eggs and each other and laughing as they also decorated each other.
When Murdoch returned mid-afternoon he was amazed at the sight of his three children and two of his employees covered with splotches of almost as much dye as there was on the eggs they were decorating.
“What’s been going on around here?” he asked in amusement.
“Hi Murdoch,” Teresa greeted her guardian. “We’ve been decorating the eggs for tomorrow’s festivities.”
“It looks like you’ve been decorating yourselves as much as the eggs,” he said shaking his head.
Scott had a big splotch of red dye on his forehead and patches of green and purples decorated his cheeks. Johnny had blue and green on his right cheek and his chin was splashed with purple. Teresa had yellow on her forehead and the tip of her nose. Some red had found its way into her hair. The two Marias were equally as colorful. The group took one look at each other and started laughing all over again.
Murdoch just shook his head with a smile. “And here I thought I had left Scott with three adults. Now I find both my sons are still little boys.”
“Aw come on Murdoch,” Johnny grinned. “We’re just having a little fun.”
“And making a big mess,” Murdoch struggled to hide his own grin. He was getting a big kick out of this. Neither of the boys was exactly a fussbudget about their appearance but they were neat and clean – as much as their work allowed. To see them, Teresa and the two Marias “decorated” the way they were was almost too much for him. He put on a good show of appearing shocked. “If you’re through playing around I would like some lunch.”
The senior Maria apologized profusely and set about making him some sandwiches which he took to his desk in his library to eat while he checked over the books that Scott had worked on. The “children” and the Marias could have sworn they heard him laugh as he got out of hearing range.
After lunch Jelly was recruited to help gather the eggs and hide them. Johnny and Scott helped as Teresa and the Maria’s had a lot left to do in the kitchen. Teresa was planning on surprising Scott with a Daffodil Cake. She’d gotten the recipe through a friend of Murdoch’s who lived in Boston. She’d already planned a chocolate cake for Johnny’s benefit. Shortbread cookies were being made for Murdoch. There would be molasses cookies, ginger snaps and sugar cookies for the children and the neighbor women were all bringing cakes or pies to help round out the dessert menu.
All afternoon Teresa and the older women peeled potatoes and put them in pots of water to stay fresh. They scrubbed carrots and celery. Salads were prepared and put in cold storage well covered. A couple of the ranch hands were recruited to set up tables over which bright tablecloths were placed. The dishes that the food would be served on to the attendees were washed and placed on counters with towels over them to keep them clean.
Lanterns were polished and filled with kerosene. Then they were hung from a rope that was strung around the patio. The service was to be a sunrise service but they would need light to see by as their guests arrived. The area where the service would be held, the patio, was scrubbed and wooden folding chairs borrowed from various places were dusted and set up. A table was set up to use as an altar. A vase full of spring flowers was placed in the center, as was a large pulpit Bible lent to them by a local mission. It was time for supper before Teresa was satisfied with how it looked.
Meanwhile the boys and Jelly were all over the courtyard and adjoining areas hiding the colorful eggs. Due to his broken arm Scott was unable to manage a basket and hide eggs too so he and Johnny worked as a team. They made some easier to find than others. The children that would be in attendance were anywhere from two-years-old to twelve. The older kids would need more of a challenge or the younger ones wouldn’t stand a chance of finding any eggs at all. Johnny was all for hiding some in a couple of trees and the hayloft but Scott’s common sense prevailed. The last thing they needed was for one of the kids to get hurt climbing one of their trees. And Jelly’s boy Toogie had taken a nasty fall from the hayloft when the eight of them had taken refuge in the barn upon arrival at Lancer.
By nightfall all the eggs were decorated and hidden. The hams were ready to go in the oven. The potatoes were peeled and in pots ready to cook. All was in readiness. The entire family and their employees went to bed early that night. Easter Sunday service would be at sunrise and they needed to be up and their chores done before their guests arrived. The Easter egg hunt would take place after dinner. Johnny and Jelly had been elected, along with Cipriano and Raul, to take wagons and buggies and drive into the orphanage to bring out those children for the egg hunt. Padre Miguel would conduct a service at a more reasonable hour for the children there. It was the children of the local ranchers, farmers and merchants that would attend the sunrise service in the Lancer courtyard.
Easter Sunday. Two hours before sunrise the Lancers and their various employees were up and about hurrying through their regular chores. Maria and Maria got breakfast going. Johnny and a couple of the others fed, watered and groomed horses. Cows were milked, chickens were fed and hogs were slopped.
An hour and a half before sunrise Johnny, Murdoch and Cipriano made certain that all the lanterns had been filled and lit. Some of the vaqueros were stationed near lanterns so that when the sun started to come up they could put them out and everyone in attendance could enjoy the colors as they were reflected on the snow capped mountains in the distance and against the fair weather clouds in the sky. Then they retired to their rooms to wash up and change into their good clothes.
A half hour before the service the Rev. Robert Hawk arrived. He settled himself in his seat near the altar after conferring with the song leader over which hymns would be sung. They didn’t have an organ or a piano so they would have to sing A Capella. Fortunately the Reverend was blessed with a decent voice as well and knew music. Teresa and Jelly had placed hymnals on each of the seats immediately after breakfast.
Hot on the heels of Rev. Hawk the neighbors from town and the nearby ranches and farms started to arrive. Murdoch, Johnny, Teresa and a still pale but much better Scott greeted each new arrival. Each was dressed in their best clothes. Scott and Murdoch wore dark suits with white shirts and black ties. Teresa had found a bright blue piece of silk to use as a sling so Scott would look a little more colorful. His pale features looked worse with the stark black and white of his clothing. Johnny wore a suit much like the Spanish dons. Black pants with silver buttons on the side and a white shirt and a short black jacket with red embroidery on the lapels. Teresa had made herself a bright yellow dress that reminded Scott of the buttercups and daffodils back east. Even Jelly was dressed up. The seats soon filled up and it was almost time to start the service.
“Good morning everyone,” the Reverend said by way of greeting. “Happy Resurrection Sunday.”
“Good morning,” everyone responded in kind.
“Before we begin the service I’d like to thank Mr. Murdoch Lancer and his family for hosting us this year. It’s always nice to have a sunrise service on Easter Sunday in such lovely surroundings as we have here.”
Everyone nodded as the pastor continued. “I’d like you all to turn to number 110 in the hymnal. We’ll start our service this morning by singing that glorious Easter hymn by Charles Wesley – ‘Christ The Lord Is Risen Today’.”
In short order the words of that old hymn were heard resounding through the courtyard of the ranchero. From tenor to bass and everything in between the Lancers and their guests sang with enthusiasm:
Christ the Lord is risen today alleluia!
Sons of men and angels say alleluia!
Raise your joys and triumphs high alleluia!
Sing ye heavens and earth reply alleluia!
Love’s redeeming work is done alleluia!
Fought the fight the battle won alleluia!
Death in vain forbids him rise alleluia!
Christ has opened Paradise alleluia!
Lives again our Glorious King alleluia!
Where o death is now thy sting alleluia!
Dying once, He all doth save alleluia!
Where thy victory o grave alleluia!
Soar we now where Christ has led alleluia!
Following our exalted head alleluia!
Made like Him like Him we rise alleluia!
Ours the cross, the grave, the skies alleluia!
A brief prayer followed the hymn and an offering was taken up. The Rev. then preached a brief sermon on the resurrection. Just as he finished and as the congregation was about to sing Chris Arose the sun came up and the lanterns were extinguished so that all might enjoy it. The hymn was sun, a final prayer offered and everyone turned to their neighbors and exchanged greetings and news before departing for their homes for a few hours before the egg hunt would begin later that morning.
Teresa, Maria and Maria excused themselves to tend to matters in the kitchen. It was time for the hams to be put in the oven, potatoes put on to cook and all the other last minute preparations for the dinner taken care of. Biscuits were mixed, rolled out, cut and baked. By noon everything was ready and the neighbors that were invited to dinner arrived. The makeshift tables out in the courtyard fairly groaned under the weight of the dishes that were placed on them.
In short order everyone had consumed as much as they dared. Johnny, Jelly and a couple of the others went and hitched up the wagons. The teams had been groomed until they shone. The harness had been polished to perfection and the wagons and buggies had never looked better. Those who had been elected to go after the children climbed into their vehicles and drove off toward town to collect the children who were to take part in the egg hunt.
An hour and forty-five minutes later the vehicles returned carrying almost fifty boys and girls from the orphanage arrived at Lancer. All of them were chattering excitedly as Murdoch, Jelly and the drivers of the various vehicles helped them down. All ages, all sizes, all colors. About fifty more arrived in their family’s vehicles.
“All right children,” Murdoch said. “We’re going to start the egg hunt now. Each of you go see Teresa and Scott for a basket. As soon as you all have baskets we’ll start.”
There was a mad dash as the excited children crowded around the two young adults and received a basket for them to collect their eggs in.
“Now remember, no pushing or shoving. No stealing eggs from each other.” Teresa lectured each child that came to her. Scott told them the same thing.
Lining the children up five across Johnny and Scott, along with a few of the other adults, made ready to send the children on their way. Each would supervise the children as they searched to make sure they abided by the rules and didn’t get into any trouble.
What a sight they made. The orphans in their blue uniform dresses and overalls. The little girls from the towns wore bright frocks of red, green, yellow, blue and various plaids. The boys were in jeans and white shirts or brown or green and sometimes plaid. Sometimes blue and white checked.
The air soon rang with the excited squeals of the children as they searched in the bushes, around the fences and all over the fields they were permitted in. The boys and Jelly had done a good job but these were determined children. They had a mission and they were going to excel.
Once or twice Johnny had to break up a fight between a two boys, about eight years old, who were fighting over who had found a certain egg first. Teresa had no trouble at all with her little girls save one, a five-year-old, who dropped her favorite egg causing it to break when it landed on a rock. Teresa promised her one just like it that she had been saving for herself. She couldn’t bear to see the little one cry. Scott, handicapped by his bad arm, was hard pressed to break up a tug of war between two ten year old girls and a nine-year-old boy who couldn’t agree on which basket belonged to whom. They’d all put them down in the same place and they looked the same – except for the contents. But eventually the only noise was the excited voices of the seekers as they found what they were after.
An hour later all the eggs had been found. Deciding to break up the contest into age categories the Lancers chose winners from the three to five-year-olds, six to nine-year-olds and ten to twelve year olds. The girls won packets of hair ribbons and the oldest boy won a pocketknife. The younger boys won bags of marbles.
After the winners had been declared refreshments were served before the egg rolling contest would begin. Lemonade by the gallon and sugar cookies by the dozen disappeared in short order. When everyone was through the children, carrying one egg apiece, were gathered up and taken to the nearest hill. There they were lined up with their egg in front of them and the long hill rolling down below them. Various adults were spread out to watch them. The idea was to roll the eggs down the hill as far as they could without them breaking. The Lancers had prizes for the victors in this contest too.
“Is everybody ready?” Johnny yelled with a grin on his face. He’d volunteered to be the starter for this one. No big surprise since he wasn’t one to sit still. As soon as those eggs started rolling down the hill he’d be right behind the kids doing the rolling.
“Yes!” the children yelled back.
“All right then. On your mark, get set go!”
Scarcely were the words out of his mouth when the eggs started rolling. One boy was a little too enthusiastic and sent his egg right into a rock no more than five feet down the slope. Not to worry though. He just picked up his egg, peeled it and wolfed it down with a triumphant grin on his face.
The air rang with the squeals of the excited children and the encouraging shouts of their parents or friends. Johnny, as excited as any of the kids, didn’t pay enough attention to what he was doing. Stepping on a rock that rolled right out from under his foot he fell, landing on his back. What was worse was that he smashed about a half a dozen eggs in the process thereby eliminating their owners from the competition. Scott saw it from his position about ten feet away and practically fell down laughing at the sight of Johnny wearing smashed hard boiled egg on his back and the seat of his pants. He’d be a long time living that one down.
Soon enough the egg rolling was over with and a group of tired, but contented, children said good-bye to their hosts. Their parents and some of the ranch hands loaded them into wagons and buggies again this time laden with baskets of eggs and cookies and, for those who were fortunate enough to win one of the games, a prize be it marbles, ribbons or a knife.
“Good-bye Mr. Lancer!”
“Thank you, Mr. Lancer. Thank you Teresa.”
“It sure was fun. Can we do it again next year?”
“Good bye kids.” Murdoch smiled at the enthusiasm of the bunch. His own sons had had as good a time as the children and Teresa always loved doing things for the children at the orphanage.
“Thanks Murdoch,” one of the fathers said. “They had a wonderful time.”
“You’re welcome. I’ll see you in town one of these days soon.”
“Good-bye everyone,” Teresa called as they left. “We’ll see you soon.”
Scott, looking a little pale and tired, joined them. “They sure did have a good time. I’m glad we did this.”
“Even though you ended up decorating yourself?” Teresa teased.
“Even though I decorated myself,” he agreed. “Actually I think that was half the fun.” As Johnny joined them having left the driving to Jelly and a couple of the others he added, “But I think the best part of the day is Johnny starting a new fashion trend.”
“What’s that supposed to mean?” Johnny approached them just in time to hear his brother’s remark.
“It means, little brother, that wearing egg on the back of one’s jacket and shirt or on the seat of one’s pants, is going to become quite popular in certain circles.”
“Oh, you think so huh?”
“Yes. I think that the three to five year old age bracket will love it.”
“What?” Johnny roared indignantly as his father bellowed with laughter and Teresa started to giggle.
“Sure. By having the clothes already covered in smashed egg they won’t have to worry about doing it themselves. You’re setting a wonderful example for them.” Scott chuckled and ducked behind his father heading for the safety of the house as his brother chased him with one of the few hard-boiled eggs that hadn’t been discovered or devoured by the children.