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The Trip by Ruthie W.

Word Count: 4,171

Johnny Lancer looked out the big window in the library watching the leaves starting to change into brilliant colors. His father and brother had been on a business trip to San Francisco for three weeks now and while he missed his brother who had a way of making him laugh and who was always there to support him , he missed his father even more. It was almost two years ago when Johnny came back into his father’s life with the belief that his father threw him and his mother out. It took time and a lot of mistakes were made but now they were as close as a father and son could ever be.

Murdoch and Scott were due back in a day or so and Johnny had worked hard to keep the ranch going but in addition he had been working on a proposal that he was going to present to his father and brother as soon as they came back.

Johnny went to bed early and after putting in a hard day at the ranch went off to sleep as soon as his head hit the pillow. He slept so soundly he did not hear the voices of his father and brother in the hallway when they arrived home days early from their trip. Scott went right to bed but Murdoch went to Johnny’s room to check on his sleeping youngest son.

Johnny was fast asleep and Murdoch tenderly touched his check, kissed his forehead and told him he loved him. Johnny stirred and said “Pa, is that you”? His father told him he was home and he would see him in the morning. Then saying goodnight he left Johnny sleeping once again.

Next morning at the breakfast table Murdoch and his sons were happy to be back together again and they all ate everything that their wonderful cook Maria had made for them, which was all Scott and Murdoch’s favorites to celebrate their home coming.

After breakfast the men adjourned to the library or the Great Room as it was called and told Johnny that their cattle buying trip was a success. In addition they had signed more businesses to purchase their meat.

Johnny listened but he was really waiting for the chance to tell them about his new plan. When he had the chance he laid out his plan to expand the horse business that Johnny had started up with the family’s blessing.

“Pa, Scott, while you were gone I read a newspaper article about a new breed of horse. The horse is known as the Quarter Horse and there is a rancher in Wyoming that has mares for sale and I think we should buy them.”

Almost at the same time Murdoch and Scott asked the same question, “what’s a quarter horse?” Johnny explained that this breed was especially excellent for managing cattle and other work needed to keep a ranch running as well plus meet the demands of the Army buyers.

“The man who breeds these horses in Wyoming is Mark Adams and I remembered that our bank president was from Wyoming so I talked to him and he said Adams has a good reputation and comes highly recommended. We can take a train from Sacramento to Denver, then a stagecoach to Cheyenne where Adams’ ranch is. I wrote to him and got a reply the day before you came back and he is willing to meet us halfway between Denver and Cheyenne.

Murdoch and Scott asked some follow up questions but were very much in favor of Johnny’s plan. However as this was October and the winters in Cheyenne were bad it was decided they would not leave till late April. Then they talked about price. Johnny was told they could get both champion mares for $3000. Plus the cost of travel and the things they needed to buy for cold weather would bring the cost to no more than $5000.

Both Murdoch and Scott seemed surprised by the cost until Johnny said he had been putting away money for such an opportunity as this. The Lancer men went back and forth then finally agreed to the deal. Murdoch proposed a toast and while Scott broke out the glasses and the whiskey Murdoch told Scott that they was going to see a part of the country they had never seen before and he envied them. But as he turned back to Johnny he saw a look of hurt on his face. Murdoch put his arm around his shoulder and said “what’s wrong son?”

Johnny looked at his Pa and his brother and then told them that while he loved taking trips and sharing adventures with Scott he wanted Murdoch to go with him on this trip.

“Pa,” he said, “you and Scot always take trips together and then come home with stories of the things you saw and good times you shared together but I have never taken a trip with you and I really want to do this with you. We could share things just between the two of us while Scott takes care of the ranch. We would be gone for about 3 weeks and maybe if we decide to continue doing business with Mr. Adams then Scott and I could go the next time.”

Scott walked over to Johnny and gave him a hug. “Little brother I’m proud of you and I cannot wait till you and Murdoch come back and tell me all about Wyoming”. Then they all toasted to April in Wyoming.

Between October and April they celebrated Halloween, Thanksgiving, and just before Christmas Johnny turned 20. The cattle business grew and Johnny’s horse sales was going full speed ahead.

Two weeks after Easter Murdoch and Johnny boarded the train for Denver. During the months before they left Johnny had finalized everything with Mr. Adams who was eagerly waiting to meet them. During the train ride Murdoch saw a worried look on Johnny’s face and guessed what he was thinking.

Murdoch put his arm around Johnny. “Son, I think I know what is on your mind. You are worried that someone in Cheyenne will recognize you as a gunfighter aren’t you”? Johnny just looked up at his father with a sad look in his eyes as Murdoch pulled his son into a hug and held him tight. “Son, if someone does remember you are Johnny Lancer, my son and who you were before you came to me is over and done with. Your life as a gunfighter has been over for almost two years now. You are not alone anymore I am here with you and always will be.”

Johnny smiled at his Pa the smile that always warmed Murdoch’s heart.

The train pulled into Denver right on time and after spending the night at a hotel they took the stagecoach the next morning for Cheyenne. Though Adams had offered to meet them outside of Cheyenne they decided to drive straight to his ranch which was 5 miles out of town. Adams was his father’s age and as tall as Murdoch and the three seemed to hit it off as soon as they met. Johnny and Murdoch were given a tour of the ranch. But the stables were the highlight and the horses were everything Johnny wanted to breed with their own horses. Mr. Adams insisted they spend a week then they all went into town where Murdoch had wired Scott to transfer the money to Mr. Adam’s account. The deal was final and it was time to come home.

Mark Adams had his men take the mares to Denver where they were loaded on to the train which would take them to Sacramento. Scott and Cipriano would meet the train with other Lancer hands and bring the mares home to Lancer. This was a new arrangement suggested by Adams so Murdoch and Johnny could see the beauty of Wyoming and spend time together before they headed back to Lancer. Murdoch had told Mark Adams that this was their first trip together and that they had only been reunited after Johnny’s mother had left with him. Murdoch decided not to go into the whole story of Johnny’s past as that was private and in the past.

The weather was beautiful and they packed warm clothing and supplies they’d purchased in a store in Cheyenne. Mark Adams lent them 2 horses to ride and the Lancers would leave them at the town of Carr which was their destination as it was about 20 miles or so from the Adams’ ranch hands to pick up. They left early in the morning and went by the route Adams had told them about which would take them the long way around to Carr.

Johnny and Murdoch rode slow and talked about how wonderful their trip had been . “Son I cannot tell you how proud I am of you” Murdoch said to his young son, “you had the whole thing planned out better than I could have done, you handled the negotiations and got us fine horses at a great price. Mark Adams told me he never saw anyone handle a horse like you did and I guess he told you what he said to me, he would like to continue to do business with my son”.

Johnny was beaming with pride and as they rode on they talked about how much things have changed for the 20 year old since his Pa brought him back to Lancer.. He had a big brother who was his best friend and a father who gave him the love he always wanted. They were almost letting the horses led the way to Denver as they talked and laughed about how Scott was doing all the work while they were gone.

When the talk stopped Johnny had a feeling that something was not right. “Pa, do you hear anything?” Murdoch looked around and answered that he heard nothing. “That’s the problem, it is deathly quiet, not even the birds are making any noise. And there is something else the sun is gone and the sky is gray, and getting darker by the minute:. Sir, do you think this means snow is coming?”

Murdoch now realized this as well. “Johnny, Mark Adams said they never got major snow this time of year. It will be May tomorrow and what we may get is just a dusting, nothing to worry about I’m sure but let’s find a good place to make camp and get a fire going before it gets darker”.

At midnight the wind started blowing and again they made sure their horses were protected and tied tightly to the trees, which also gave them some protection from the cold wind. Finally they went back to sleep hoping the next day there would be sun not snow.

Johnny was shivering from the cold when he woke up at 6am and realized he was covered in snow as was Murdoch. He reached over to shake his father awake and saw he too was covered in snow as well. They both sat up and looked around. It was not a light snow, it was a blizzard and over 4 inches had already fallen and it was still coming down. Neither of them had been in snow like this and while Johnny knew how to survive in the desert he had no idea what to do in a snow storm.

They ate their breakfast fast and then started out for Carr but the snow was still coming down. The wind gusting again and neither Lancer man could see anything in front of them. They were in a white out condition and would be snow blind if they continued. Riding by the tree line Johnny was able to see something in the forest and realized it was a large cave. They headed for the cave and realized it was very deep and would be a good place for both them and their horses to get out of the blizzard.

After unloading their supplies they settled the horses down and used branches to give them a place to lay down.

“Pa, we have lots of food, we can make a fire to melt the snow.” Johnny suddenly stopped talking and looked down.

Murdoch sat down next to his boy and reached for his hand .“Son, I know what you are thinking and you need to stop it now. This is not your fault John, you always blame yourself when something goes wrong but you have to stop it.”

Johnny looked at his father. “Pa this is my fault, I just had to come up here to get the horses and I should’ve waited another month before we set off.”

“Johnny, Mark Adams even said this never happens at this time of year didn’t he? I would not trade this time with you for anything and we are together and will survive to go home and breed those mares”.

Johnny smiled and Murdoch tousled his boy’s hair and got the smile that he loved.

Mark Adams stood in his living room looking out as the blizzard continued. He kicked the couch and cursed a blue streak. Just then his wife Margaret came into the room “Mr. Adams I do not want that kind of talk in my home do you hear me.”

Mark turned to face his wife and had a vacant look in his eye. “Margaret do you know what I have done. I was so busy bragging about our beautiful countryside that I didn’t stop to consider that snow was possible even in May and I have sent the Lancers out into a blizzard. As if that’s not bad enough they are in a place they have never been in before which means there are no known landmarks for them to get their bearings. That is exactly what I’ve done Margaret and God help them”.

Adams’ foremen came in from his ride into town to tell him there was a telegram from his men in Denver that the mares were loaded unto the train in time and were on their way to Sacramento. However the foreman in charge of the horses also reported they were going to have to stay in Denver till the weather was better. It was getting dark outside so he would have another telegram sent tomorrow telling Scott Lancer that his father and brother would be late coming back as they were held up by the weather. Until he could send his men out to find them he was not going to scare Scott with news that Murdoch’s oldest son couldn’t do anything about down in CA.

Murdoch and Johnny were trying to keep warm in the cave as well as trying to provide food for the horses. There was grass on the ground but was frozen and covered by snow. The snow did not seem to be coming down as much in the last feel hours. Johnny went out into the snow to find smoothing to feed the horses while Murdoch stoked the fire. Johnny was coming back into the cave when the fire crackled and hot embers exploded from the fire. In that second one of the horses reared up hitting Johnny in the head and when Murdoch jumped up to help his son the other horse trampled his leg.

Just like that the Lancers went from waiting out a storm to waiting out a storm with critical injures. Johnny was unconscious and Murdoch crawled over to help him. The father dragged his son into the cave and tried to see how badly he was hurt. Murdoch’s leg was not broken but it had a bad cut on it. Wrapping a blanket around his leg he took another blanket and covered Johnny with it. After maybe 5 minutes Johnny started to moan and then came to.

“Pa, what happened, are you OK?”

“No son my leg has been trampled but it does not seem to be broken. How does your head feel, can you try to sit up.”

Johnny was able to sit up after a few minutes but his head was still bleeding. Murdoch tore some blanket and tied iti around Johnny’s head. He put his hands around Johnny’s face and looked into his eyes and saw one of his eyes was dilated while the other was not. That meant the boy had a concussion. Murdoch knew he needed to keep his son awake while Johnny was worried about his father’s leg.

Both father and son were hurt but since they were alone they tried as best they could to help each other. With his head pounding Johnny was barely able to keep the fire going as all he wanted to do was sleep. Johnny found laudanum in their saddle bags that they always packed for emergencies and this time it was his father’s turn to take the medicine for the pain.

Murdoch refused, “If I fail asleep how am I going to watch over you John?”

Johnny told his father to drink just enough to take the edge off the pain and Murdoch agreed.

They both sat up next to each other until they could not stay awake and after many hours they finally fell asleep. Johnny woke up early and realized the headache he had was much better though he was still dizzy. The snow had stopped and it was getting warmer. He was putting more wood on the fire when his father woke up.

“Pa, do you think you can ride? . I can make us something to eat then tend to your leg and we can try to find our way back to Carr”.

“Son, I can’t ride, my leg is worse and now I think it may be broken. But you can ride for help while I stay here. I will be safe here and you will make better time without me.”

Johnny stood up and leaned against the cave wall and was hugging himself to hold his anger in. “Pa, I will not leave you alone here. If a pack of wolves show up you cannot hold them off by yourself and if you start getting sick I need to be here. We came here together and we leave together.”

Johnny melted the snow for them to drink and also for the horses. Afterward he took the horses to a near pasture where the snow was starting to melt already. He was there about 30 minutes and when he came back to the cave his father was gone. Johnny followed his Pa’s trail and found him about 300 yards away.

“What in the hell are you doing? When are you going to realize that I need you in my life. I love you and even though I have my brother Scott, Teresa and everyone at the ranch, I need you more. How in the hell am I supposed to live knowing I left you behind so I could live? We wait here till we can see where the trail is and your leg gets better and no more trying to be a martyr. Understand?”

Johnny could barely get his father back into the cave. He was so cold and tired he just wanted to lay down and sleep. Murdoch was also spent but he realized that his actions fatal for the son he had just tried to save. He shook Johnny awake and together they got back to the cave and collapsed.

Johnny put more wood on the fire but would not speak to Murdoch for an hour. Murdoch was also quiet then finally spoke to Johnny and apologized for what happened. “Son, please forgive me for what I did, it was wrong and I realize how unfair it was to you. I acted like a fool but to be honest I was scared.”

Johnny sat next to Murdoch and they put their arms around each other and just sat with each other quietly until they feel asleep.

They were woken by the sound of voices calling for them. Johnny answered and saw Mark Adams and his men had found them at their cave. When the snow started to melt and the weather warmed Adams put a search and rescue party together and searched for days until one of his men remembered a cave that had offered protection to him when he was caught in a storm. Mark Adams could not stop apologizing for what happened.

“Stop blaming yourself Mark,” Murdoch said, “you cannot control the weather. You went by what you knew from living here for years.”

They brought a covered wagon with them and Murdoch was placed in the back of the wagon with Johnny next to him. Back at the Adams’ ranch a doctor from Cheyenne rode to the ranch to check out Johnny and his Pa. Murdoch had suffered a severe leg wound but there were no broken bones. The wound was infected and the doctor cleaned it out and treated it. Murdoch needed to rest for a week before he could travel. Johnny was treated for a bad concussion and needed stitches for the cut on his head. Both men were exhausted and needed food and rest.

After a good dinner Johnny and Murdoch went to bed in the room they were sharing. Johnny fell asleep as soon as his head hit the pillow. Murdoch sat on the bed next to him and gently brushed his hair from his forehead then leaned over and kissed his forehead near where the head wound was.

‘Oh, Johnny,” he said, “despite the snow I am so happy we took this trip together.”

Mark Adams had sent a telegram to Scott telling him there would be a delay in his father and brother ’s homecoming due to the snow storm . Murdoch and Johnny asked him not to mention the injuries they had sustained to Scott and just to tell him the snow had held them up. Once they had an exact date to take the stagecoach to Denver they will let him know.

By the end of the week the Lancers were ready to go home. The day before they left Murdoch and Mark talked about the trip and about Johnny. Adams said he had four grown daughters but no sons, however his daughters had given him and his wife 16 grandchildren .Ten girls and 6 boys.

“Murdoch” he said, “I have seen how close you and Johnny are and I envy you. Johnny is the son I always wanted and you are one lucky man to have him and his older brother as well”

Mr. and Mrs. Adams and some of his men went with Johnny and Murdoch to the stagecoach that would take them to Denver and then take the train home. They said their goodbyes and Mark told Johnny and Murdoch that he would keep in touch and that he would continue to supply them with quarter horses from his ranch.

When they arrived in Denver the Lancers checked into a hotel for the night and after dinner stayed up and talked before calling it a night. Johnny was still hurting from his head wound but feeling better each day while Murdoch’s leg was sore but he was able to walk on it using a cane.

“Well Johnny we head for home tomorrow and while I will be glad to get home I will miss our time together, just the two of us. From now on let’s do this more often, just the two of us, Ok son?”

Johnny smiled and stood up to give his father a hug but Murdoch had pulled him in and held on tight to his youngest boy. Johnny finally felt loved and needed by his Pa and looked forward to being back at Lancer and building on the closeness they had found on their trip.

Homecoming was wonderful and seeing his little brother with a bandage on his head and his father using a cane made Scott wonder what they had been up top on their trip. Maria had made all of Johnny’s favorite and while they ate Johnny and Murdoch told Scott and Teresa all about the snow storm and how lucky they were to be safe and sound. After dinner all the Lancers went out to the corral to see the new mares that had been a big hit on the Lancer ranch.

Just before bed Johnny went outside and stared at the stars shining above him. Murdoch came up and put his arm around his youngest boy’s shoulder.

“Let’s get to bed son, neither of us are 100% yet and I think you are as tired as I am.”

Johnny turned to face his Pa and quietly said “I love you Papa, and I always have”.

Then Murdoch and his boy that was once lost came into the house that Johnny felt would always be his forever home.




September, 2021


Thank you for reading! The authors listed on this site spend many hours writing stories for your enjoyment, and their only reward is the feedback you leave. So please take a moment to leave a comment.  Even the simplest ‘I liked this!” can make all the difference to an author and encourage them to keep writing and posting their stories here.  You can comment in the ‘reply’ box below or email Ruthie W. directly.

4 thoughts on “The Trip by Ruthie W.

  1. Your stories are a blessing to read. Thank you so much for sharing this one; it is wonderful that Murdoch and Johnny found each other after so many years.


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