“ROARING FIRES AND ACHING BONES AND ASHES LONG SINCE GONE”
--- “I’M CALLIN’ YOU OUT, ANDY ” ---
Another cold day it was, and even colder than expected, but no rain. Slim and Mike had gone into town for some of the supplies for the main sections of the barn. The rest of the supplies would have to wait until more money could be earned for more of the needed boards, nails and odds and ends. Slim was in no position to be making his own boards with the barn as bad off as it was, and winter coming.
“Well, my bones have been aching early this winter” Daisy said, as she walked in from the outside cold, “though I doubt if they’ve been aching as bad as yours Andy. She hung up her wraps, and then greeted him on the sofa. “How are you today? This is the third day now, how are your ribs doing now, bet they still ache.”
“Yes, ma’am…sometimes more than my leg did when it first got fixed up back east. Thought it would never stop aching. They said they thought it best for me to be with my family and had planned to let me have free time until they saw how bad I was aching. I sure turned into a real good actor for that week, and, well here I am! I sure wasn’t feeling so good on the train or stage either. Sure was a hard trip, but sure was worth it to end up here…” Andy looked over at Jess “…it was worth it so much, that I just had to add in these cracked ribs to go right along with the all the other aches.”
“ALL the other? Now what’s that supposed to mean Andy”, Jess had just noticed how Andy had given him the once-over as they talked and had made a note of it ‘Jess-Harper-style’. In fact, Jess and his ‘Jess-Harper-style’ note-taken had been keeping track of a lot of stuff concerning Andy lately.
Jess sat up from his night on the floor, and looked up and over at Daisy. She had by now sensed something was up. “Well, I guess you boys have some serious man sized business to tend to, and my aching bones will just have to wait their turn for this fire.”
“No, Daisy…you stay, and we’ll all have us a nice little talk. Why that’s how people get to know one another, right, Andy.” Jess said with a bit of sarcasm. “Now lets just suppose we didn’t know all there was to you, and you just happened in on the stage…and lets just suppose that this here nice lady, lets call her ‘Daisy’…was a mite curious as to what was ailing you.” Jess looked over at Daisy to see if she was catching on.
“Why, with a weary bone-worn traveler coming in off the stage with his leg obviously broken, I should say I would be curious as to what happened.” Miss Daisy played along, although not quite sure why.
“Well I for one sure am curious… I’m sure curious how a nice strong boy as yourself can hardly drag himself around on those crutches, and why he nearly fell quite a few times with them going from the stage to the house…and like wise as you fell in the barn. I sure would be more curious why your ribs are aching clear back to your back, and the Doc didn’t mention anything about that being part of your newfound aches. And last but not least,” Jess said sternly as he stood up and looked down on a very surprised Andy, “I’d say I would be even more curious than the noon sun is high, as to why we got a telegram from your school saying you shouldn’t have been traveling … in your condition.”
Jess was a bit worked up now and said loudly and defiantly “I’M CALLIN’ YOU OUT, ANDY…YOU HEAR ME?” Jess’ eyes glared at him, “now, just WHAT is your condition?”
With that last remark Andy teared up and looked up fearlessly to Jess. “I’m sorry Jess, but I’m not sorry…and I’d do it again if I could.” He settled back and looked down at himself in the bed. He was really feeling dejected now, he didn’t want Jess mad at him, but he had to have his say in the matter, just as he always did before he left to go east.
He always listened and obeyed as the younger brother should, but he was trying to be Andy too, he was needing to bust out and be man too. He wanted ‘a say’ in his life, and now, even though away at school it was still important to him and he was still going to do it. This was it, in the matter of his traveling home to be with family. He made the choice, even though he was advised not to. Now he was exposed and accountable. Slim always said a man is accountable for his actions, whether they are right or wrong, Andy remembered, and he was right.
Daisy knew she was a new presence to Andy and felt a bit awkward, but with Jess’ pressure on the boy, she didn’t feel she could just leave him without any support. She knew they had a special bond, but she also new that her presence would offer some much-needed tender loving care. She dared to go up to him and put her arm around him.
“Well, I’m waiting Andy” Jess continued to stand there gritting his teeth as his hands were aching from his burns. He tried looking a bit menacing and hoped the teeth gritting would help, as he surely knew a pained expression as to his hurting hands, on his part, would be no good in getting a confession. He just didn’t know how much longer he could bear up. The pain was to be the winner. Jess finally turned his back on Andy, holstering up his emotions and walking off in disgust.
“Jess, I had to come here… I had to prove to myself, that I can make my own decisions.”
“I’m listening” Jess now stood off over to the side of the fireplace near the roaring crackling fire where his face wouldn’t be seen to betray his pain. He desperately hoped Daisy would notice his predicament and come to his rescue, as he stared into the fire, and waited. Fine time to be hurting …during a dad-gum lecture of all things…and I got him on the run, too… Jess thought, and he’s ready to confess. Dad-gum it!
“Jess” Daisy got up now, and walked up behind Jess and whispered “aren’t you being just a bit cruel Jess, why judging by his face, something is painfully bothering him and his conscience is trying to bear itself.”
“Miss Daisy, help me out here,” Jess desperately whispered in earnest, as he looked into her face with his plea. “I’m …” Jess bowed his head a bit and then looked back up and into her face, forcing himself to finish, “ I’m hurting mighty bad…and I need that pain killer, as I just can’t give in now…I know Andy, and your right. He does have a conscience, and its working for good right now … and I sure ain’t meaning to be cruel, Miss Daisy, but I’m hurting like all get-out.” Jess was getting agitated and started to roam the room, his arms were aching now too, but not as much as his hands. As Daisy’s face changed into one of understanding she quickly went to get help for Jess, as she kept the Doc’s medicine in the kitchen.
“Jess, please, don’t be mad with me. You don’t understand. When I fell, the Doc was afraid more was damaged than my leg. I wasn’t trying to move, so I never knew, but later when they took me back and were moving me, why I was in terrible pain. My back was aching, and I had sharp pains running down my legs, it was awful Jess. I couldn’t take it, and I don’t know what happened everything went dark, but next thing I remember, I was awake in the Doc’s office, and all my teachers were there wanting to visit me they looked mighty worried.”
Jess was listening against the far wall near the bedrooms with his arms up along the sides of his head and pressing his head against the wall. He just kept letting Andy’s river flow from his heart so it would make a nice little pool for him to go sift and pan through …hopefully to find gold. Knowing Andy, Jess knew it wouldn’t be fools gold he’d pull out of Andy’s waters either, which Jess was mighty glad for.
“Jess, they didn’t realize I could tell how worried they were from their faces.” Andy continued on, “All those years of people coming and going around here, I sure learned a lot about people Jess. Well, it turned out the Doc said I damaged my spine quite a lot Jess…nothing was paralyzed…well… not permanently…I was awful numb in the legs for a bit, and scared too. I could hardly move, but it wore off.”
“Paralyzed? …Not permanent …Andy, JUST HOW FAR DID YOU FALL? I didn’t know…I didn’t know it was that bad Andy…well, why didn’t you say so.” Jess was by his side anxiously checking him over, his face was wrought up in pain now, but Andy would never suspect … as there was a new pain overpowering him at the moment, it was his hurting pain for Andy. The two pains could both mix right fine now, Jess thought, all Andy needs to know now, is that I caught him, I got him to draw and its up to him to fix this now and confess. Sure don’t need no firmness now Harper, boy here needs some help now. Jess turned as he heard Daisy.
“Here Jess…take this now.” She helped him as Andy watched. “I’ll need you to eat something Jess, or you may feel sick from it again. I know you’ve said that you’d rather not eat from its effects, but it’s worse in the long run if you don’t eat…I’ll set up the table while you finish up here. Then you both can tell me all about it … later … when Slim gets back.” As she left, Andy started thinking. Her remark about Slim had worried him, but something else was worrying and upsetting him a lot more than thoughts of Slim bearing down on him. Jess was his concern now.
“Jess, say, you were hurting weren’t you … I mean your hands? And you just kept right on hurting just so’s I’d finish owing up to my secret, didn’t you. You should have told me Jess.” Andy was feeling remorseful now, and Jess looked at him squarely.
“Andy, you should have told Slim and me right out. You should have told us just how serious all this was. All the telegram said was that you were advised not to travel because of a serious injury, and that you’d inform us. Well, when you informed us as to the fact that this broken leg was all that was wrong with you, Slim and I were real confused to say the least. Well, you know me Andy…you must of knowed I’d make a note of it … if something don’t set right with me, well it just goes to reason I would…and now it seems that note is to be paid in full, and right now.”
“Jess, the Doc said I may never be the same, oh the leg will be just fine. He did an excellent job, he truly did. But he said I may have troubles with hard physical lifting and ranch work and all. He even said I shouldn’t be riding a horse, well, maybe if it’s walking. But he was serious as to the hard riding being out for good. He said if I over did it I could cause myself more permanent damage, and I was too young to ruin my life that way. I felt a bit depressed Jess. I wasn’t wrong to save my friend and I’d do it all over again, you know that. But I was looking forward to a future, a future of coming back here, and trying my hand at educated ranching.”
Jess started laughing. “Educated ranching…never heard of it!”
“What I meant was, coming back here and using my schooling for the educated part of me to be a success and all, and use the ranching part of me … well … you know.”
“No, I don’t know.”
“Well, using the ranching part of me to enjoy being uneducated once in a while, like you and Slim” Andy laughed back, and then got back to the seriousness at hand. “No, seriously Jess, the Doc said it was too soon to travel, as I may not be well inside yet, but I asked him right to his face to tell me when I would be. He just didn’t know what to say to me Jess. He then just said any stage traveling may never do me any good. It was obvious that I wouldn’t be at peace at school ‘til I got to come back home and see how I felt about this new change Jess. I just had to come back on my own, and face it on my own, like a man. You understand don’t you Jess. I just had to. I think I can handle it just fine, too Jess. I still feel happy here, and I still feel like my self, but maybe just different with the reins pulled in a bit tight, but I can manage.”
“Was Jonesy still ailing…is that why he didn’t go stop you …he did know, didn’t he?”
Jess, with a heavy frown weighing him down, still couldn’t figure how a boy could get away with such a thing. Of course Jess knew Andy was a young man now. But heck Jess thought, I was called a boy by any elder gent, cowpoke and who all, clear past thirty! …And danged if I just hated it too…aww dad-gum it all, anyways. Jess kicked at the floor and waited for an answer.
“Yes, he was…” Then Andy perked up a bit, “…but he has this GREAT GAL he’s been seeing, don’t you remember? I wrote you about it. She’s been taking care of him…he said now he can die a happy man when his time comes, as he found a good strong woman. And she ain’t built like a horse, neither, he said. That’s why he’s taken such a shine to her, strong, but built more like a good strong coffee pot, with a few pot holders in just the right places, or something like that he said.”
Jess couldn’t figure if it was the medicine again, or all Andy’s dangerous situations playing with his mind, or his concerns as to Andy’s permanent aches, but he just wanted to sit down and be left alone. This was too much heavy thinking this morning for him, and he sure missed his usual time at the breakfast table.
Andy looked at Jess now feeling a deep sorrow and said, “I’m awful sorry Jess, sorry that I didn’t tell you sooner. If I had maybe you’d of made sure I didn’t go off wandering alone the day of the storm, and you’d never of had to go into that fire…or face up to that quiet time that comes to haunt you after. I’m sorry Jess, really I am.” Andy hung his head and the silence hung in the room.
It was almost too much to bear up under, as he also began remembering Jess’ agony on the porch that day and the desperate but determined look on Miss Daisy’s face as she fought to help him. All because of me… It sure is hard being a man, and owing up, Andy thought, why it’s a whole lot harder than I ever thought before, or ever expected it to be.
“Look here now Andy…sometimes a man just has to do what he has to do. When he does, why then somehow it all works out in the end. You had to learn something about your back and your aching bones, and I had to learn something about those roaring fires. The way I see it, is…” Jess cocked his head, and said with a bit of a wry smile, “we’re a couple of educated men now, as sure as Miss Daisy’s good cooking taste as good as it smells. Now you best be seeing it that way too, you here me BOY?” Jess said as he gave him a half-serious and half-joking smile and a light hit on the shoulder with his elbow.
Jess reached to tussle-up Andy’s hair, until he saw his bandaged hand, and decided to use his elbow again, instead.
“Hey, you know what Andy, I ain’t hurting so bad now, that stuff sure works fast, course it sure can make a mans head tired and a bit heavy.” Jess marveled at how he could be so relaxed now, and thought back to how he was pacing the floors cause he hurt so bad. What seemed like a never ending trial and battling of the wits between man and boy was soon over, and Jess was pleased and proud that Andy owed up.
He looked over at Andy, with admiration but then winced a bit as he realized that Andy still was in some discomfort. He was trying to stretch out on the sofa and get more comfortable and he sure looked like he was having a hard time of it. He did have some medicine earlier, before Jess woke up, but Jess knew now that Andy had other aching bones to be dealing with from now on. He had seen Andy’s discomfort since he first got off the stage, it all came back to mind again real fresh now. Jess knew that when his hands and arms were well, and Andy’s ribs and leg were mended, that Andy would still have a hard road to travel, and Jess hurt for Andy. Oddly, though Andy was laughing.
“NOW what’s so funny?” Jess couldn’t figure out what he’d done, “WELL?”
“You are Jess, that face you’re making, you look so worried and a bit upset…why I just bet your wondering what new trick you can come up with this time, as for eating with out Daisy seeing you get spoon-fed.” Andy laughed, and Jess felt like shrinking into a corner.
“Shhhh…it ain’t funny, Andy, and be quiet or she’ll hear you.”
Daisy came in and watched the two educated kids goofing off on the sofa for a few minutes and then called them to the table. Jess let Andy slowly move over and lean on him as Daisy helped Andy up slowly from the sofa. He wasn’t aching to bad to try walking and felt he could slowly make it with their help to the table. He sat there waiting for Jess to join him. Jess felt all eyes on him.
“Jess, I was dreaming last night,” Daisy announced “and you know what I was dreaming about?”
“Daisy, now you know I’d never be forward enough to ask a woman about her dreams,” Jess said feeling mighty embarrassed.
“Jess Harper, women can have all kinds of dreams, about all kinds of things just like you men folk.” Daisy replied.
With that remark Jess became twice as embarrassed, and was soon ready to walk the floor a bit, and Daisy grabbed him and stopped him.
“Jess, now forget I said that! …you obviously don’t understand…I dreamed about how I was helping some of my patients during the war. It was a HELPFUL dream, Jess. I remembered a young man that had burnt hands from an explosion…he was too ashamed to eat spoon-fed with his men around…not like someone we know, right?”
“Uh… right, Miss Daisy…yeah…right…I follow you…so?” Jess wished to high heaven that she’d just get to the point, but he was getting a bit curious by now, and his mind was trying to roll ahead and figure out just what her point was sharpening up to be.
“Well, the next day, with the help of some medicine for pain, and a clever trick I came up with, well he was eating just fine Jess!” Daisy said with a smile and a quick glance over to Andy.
“Well lets hear it Daisy, dad-burn-it, lets hear it! …why I’ve been…I mean, let’s hear how clever you were and all, Miss Daisy,” Jess said as he composed himself, and looked over a bit anxiously at Andy, who was snickering a bit and trying not to laugh at him.
“Here, Jess, sit down right here, and watch.” Daisy reached into her apron and took out some scissors, and bandages. Jess keep peering up at her and watched her, as she bandaged a spoon to one of his hands, and a fork to the other. She did it at such angles, as they would need to be, to be used to shovel up food just fine. Jess was so amazed at her handy work. He wondered just why he and Andy, as educated up as they now were in the fire and bone department just hadn’t ever educated themselves up enough to have come to the same answer that Daisy had. Jess looked up at her, and just stared. Daisy smiled down at his, and kissed him on the head.
“It’s because of past experiences, Jess, that’s all,” she said with a slight song in her voice “remember, my dream reminded me. I have experience in so many many things Jess, dear. I really do, dear. Oh you’d be surprised. Why you never know, Jess… If you had asked for help, instead of sneaking off into every nook and cranny you could find, and eating like a poor lost pup, why I just might have thought of this a whole lot sooner and never needed a dream to stir me into action, dear.” Daisy sauntered off to the kitchen and by now Andy was laughing so hard he was starting to tear-up from his ribs getting too much action.
“Aw, knock it off and eat, will ya’!” Jess hollered … snickered … and then laughed as he thought of all his misadventures with trying to eat, AND his midnight feedings with Andy, AND his new found success.
“Wait ‘til Slim sees you now, Jess… I bet he’ll wonder if you’ll be ready to try bandaging on a SAW and HAMMER next!”
--- THE REPORTER AND MR. TALL TALES---
It was now about a week later since Andy and Jess had their squaring-off turned show down. Slim had Marcus, the young man that helped Mose out with the stage, all worn out from helping Slim with the barn. Slim himself felt more worn out, as a good consciences hard working man should be, as Slim had taken on most of the hardest work himself. Marcus just left with the last stage into town with Mose and a few passengers, they had a great time of it at that thanks to some action Jess had sent their way. There was enough work done on the barn to ease up a bit, no more rain either, but the roof and sides had to be done and done right, as snows may be next on the list. Knowing that they were done up just right, Slim was finally content.
Andy would be with them for another week, then would take off by stage, and then go by train back to his schooling before any early snows could hit and leave him missing more school that intended.
Slim and Andy had come to terms with Andy’s decision to come home against the Doc’s advice. Oddly, it wasn’t as hard as Andy was afraid it would be. Either I’m too old to go to the woodshed, or Slim is taking pity on my poor aching bones. OR he finally see’s I’m becoming a man in my own right, Andy thought, and just maybe, as Jess did, Slim guessed all along there was more to the note from the Doc than I let on. Slim and Jess just handle things a bit different, Andy remembered.
Andy began to take in account all his dealing with his brother, and then added their adopted Sherman Ranch drifter and his style into the accounts. Mighty interesting, Andy thought. Slim likes to stir the pot a bit and wait for it to boil up a bit on its own, see if it will follow its proper recipe. And maybe that’s it, maybe Slim just prepared himself all along, as to this note from the Doc, as he knew it had to come out of me sooner or later. He was waiting to let me do it as a man. Well, if that didn’t work, and I didn’t boil all this up on my own, I wonder if Slim knew Jess would get things started for him then.
Yep, Jess sure handles things a bit different. He sure fires that pot up and gets it burning right quick…sure don’t waste time…trouble is he can get it a mite too hot sometimes before things are ready to be served up. He sure seems to like his own recipes better than anybody else’s, too…and before you know it, his recipe is working on your innards ... and your choking on a bunch of tough burnt biscuits and just aching to start all over. Sure does get results though…sure not in the cooking department though…guess that’s why Jess never made a good cook.
Andy relaxed with his last thoughts and was lost a bit in his memories of this week just gone by:
Daisy had been taking care of Jess’ hands and arms, but the Doc was coming out to see for himself how the healing was coming about. He had only checked on Jess twice, and it had been about a week and a half now since the fire, but the healing seemed to be progressing as well as could be expected. His arms were not as badly burned as his hands, but near about, and it was mostly the inner area of his forearms. From previous visits the Doc informed him there wouldn’t be any permanent damage, and he was lucky there was no infection.
The whole painful process was just dragging on too long for Jess, but he was bearing up for Mike and Andy, and well, for himself too and for good reason. The ‘good reason’, so being, that Andy was turning Jess into a school project.
Andy realized when he was away at school back east that he had a hankering to write, as he had been thinking on the time Samuel Clemens stopped by for a visit. But Andy much rather decided with all the people that came and went at the Sherman Ranch, in the past, that reporting on his own past would teach him the skills to be a fine reporter some day. Why they just might need a good reporter in Cheyenne, or Denver, and he’d be ready…ready, and near home. Sure can’t let Slim and Jess turn old with out me, Andy thought. Even though Mike was sure to be around, Andy didn’t have any desire to be left out. Especially since he had lent a hand in getting Jess to stay in the first place.
But now, since the fire, Andy had been reporting on every detail as to Jess Harper, that fast-gun turned rancher and now hero of the Sherman Relay Station barn fire. Andy had decided to use this all for his practice as to being that future reporter. He had assured Jess that it would only contain the new and recent incidents, and Jess would be free to read it before it would go to print and circulation in his school. Jess wasn’t quite sure he liked the idea of a bunch of city slicks studying up on him, but if it was for Andy’s credit marks, he would yield.
“Sure.” It was about the only thing Jess could say.
Jess was making sure as best he could that he was behaving real high quality, as he was going to be read-up-on, by who knows who. But it was sure hard with Slim funning at him and his bandages.
“Make sure and tell everyone about him having to walk around with his hands up all the time, like he was under arrest, Andy.” Slim had teased. “ Seems Jess’ a real natural at it. Heard tell he was ‘wanted’, and not in a desirable way … or for his social skills either, mind you. Why, we keep wondering where the sheriff is that’s got him covered.”
As Andy wasn’t free to move around, Jess would quite often make his escape as he saw fit from the reporter and his stool pigeon informer. He had to walk off some frustrations as to getting through this healing… as he was just plain tired of sitting around with nothing to do. This last week had been very hard on Jess.
Jess did have some great fun with Mose though, talking and funning a bit, but Mose had to keep taking off with the dad-burn stage. And then all the while Slim would sneak up behind him jabbing his finger in his back, with the words: “You just keep them hands up real high mister, right where I can see them, now you won’t be robbing any of our stages as long as I’m working here.” Jess finally had enough of that one day, and turned around and rewarded Slim with a good kick in the pants as Slim walked away from funning with him, and that ended that.
Some of this week’s actions Andy didn’t always see, as he was in the house, and Jess was on the loose getting shuck of the four walls. He was frustrated as to keeping his arms up to help keep the swelling down, and the pain less intense. Sitting down, or laying down wasn’t so bad, but walking around that way made him feel a bit stupid, especial if there was a group of gawking stage passengers. But as he had this bad case of ‘four wall-ite-tis’ and wasn’t about to hide in the house.
Deciding he just couldn’t take it anymore, sometime around the middle of that hard week, Jess started in on some tall tales, it sure helped the boredom lift, and soon Jess was wondering why he hadn’t thought if it sooner! Why he couldn’t wait now until the next sitting audience would come and get out to gawk.
One day he told some passengers his hands and arms got that way, from a wild knife fight with the former stage driver that had attacked him and he right near died on the spot. But if they wanted, he’d risk his life again and fight Mose off too, if he didn’t drive nice for them.
Another time he told a young married ‘fancy citified’ couple and their snooty friends from back east that his hands and arms got that way from wrestling with a bear, AND it had been seen in this area not more than half an hour ago. And as he followed them and their hasty retreat back into the coach, he threw back at them “why it still had a piece of my shirt in its mouth, best shirt I ever owned too.”
Then just today, when two older women and a little girl got off the stage, his tender heart just couldn’t bear to frighten them. So he told them his hands and arms got that way from Miss Daisy forcing him to do her wash, and him and lyes…as in soap…didn’t get on too good at times. It was hard times and a crying shame for him too, as Miss Daisy had won him as a prize in a poker game, he was dang near being her prisoner ‘til he OWED up, and he couldn’t run off or they’d sic the sheriff after him. The women felt so bad, they gave him their homemade scones, and the little girl tried to give him one of her toys. Just as Jess was about to cry, Slim threw a bucket of water on him, and a very shocked Jess Harper stood there drenched, and cold…
“OOO, YOUR JUST LUCKY YOU DIDN’T GET MY BANDAGES ALL WET,” Jess hollered. “Why Miss Daisy’d just get you for sure! What’d you do THAT for anyways.”
“What’s wrong with your mind now boy? …Can’t you STOP LYING to the customers for five minutes! Now, TAKE A HIKE … GO ON… GIT!” Slim hollered back at Jess.
Then real polite-like Slim said to the woman “He’s my cousin, far-removed…quite a far off removed at that” …Slim just shook his head in disbelief “and he does right good with some kinds of “lies”, especially this week. Oh, and I don’t know what he’s been dishing out to you, but his hands and arms got that way, as he fell off the roof, sure didn’t do his head much good either, as you can see, he’s a little OFF right now.”
As this was the stage that Marcus left on, Mose and Marcus had the best fun watching all this, and as Marcus sat up with Mose, he was treated to the tall tales he had missed earlier that week. (He had been busy working on the barn during the times when the other stages were greeted by a weary Slim… and a very spunky Jess.)
As the older woman and the little girl left on the stage, they made a point in yelling out the window that they’d be praying for Jess’ hands, head injury and that terrible lying streak it was causing him. And just before they left, poor Slim had his hands full trying to convince the little girl that Jess would heal up fine, and that he had some toys of his own so she need not be crying over him. Why he was so very sure of his far-removed cousin getting well that if they came back in about a week and a half, or so, they good see for themselves. That ought to keep Mr. Tall Tales in check for awhile after that visit takes place, Slim thought, trying to imagine Jess having to face up to it all.
Slim was getting a bit exasperated from it all…a bored Jess Harper on the loose with a big mouth…but as he picked up the toy that the little girl left near the water trough, Slim had second thoughts as to putting Jess in his place. The toy was a little circus man made of wood, and it was attached to strings to make him jump up and around. On closer look, the wooden man had been burnt and salvaged and repainted. His hands were wrapped with some kind of sticky bandages so he could still swing up and around. It had been cared for and fixed up, all to make a special someone very happy…that special someone cared to give it away to poor hurting Jess.
Slim just stood there with the toy in his hand and looked at the house. He knew Daisy would be inside cleaning Jess up, as the Doc was due in soon. Slim looked back at the toy and remembered the price Jess paid for Andy…Slim took the toy and put it in his pocket and took a walk up the hill a ways and then sat down. He looked down over his place and the newly worked on barn. He remembered the hard ride they took to get to the burning barn, never dreaming Andy was inside. Slim Sherman took out the toy, and held it in his hands as he thanked God that his pard, alias Mr. Tall Tales had been salvaged from yet another fire with hands intact, and he thanked God that Jess had used those hands to save poor hurting Andy.
--- ‘THERE ARE SOME THINGS THAT DOCTORS DON’T KNOW’ ---
It was towards the end of the day now. Slim had since come down from the hill and bathed, leaving behind in the bedroom a small gift for Jess on Jess’ dresser. A gift that could only be opened when his hands were well enough to be used. A gift to make up for a very cold bath on a very cold day given to a very ‘tall tale teller’ by his very exasperated pard. A gift that was won from his tall tale telling that touched a tender hearted child…a gift that would witness to a tender hearted man, that he was salvaged from a fire just as the gift itself had been …and was a gift himself, to those that loved him.
Jess was still recovering from his unexpected bath earlier at the hands of Slim Sherman, and the best place to do it was in front of a roaring fire. They were still waiting on the Doc, and supper! Mike was the first one to hear the Doc’s buggy arriving, as he was on the sofa near Andy playing checkers with him.
The fire was roaring and snapping and the house was warm and inviting. There was the smell of popcorn in the air to pacify her boys, as Daisy was in the kitchen cooking. Slim was laying in Jess’ spot on the floor, and Jess was in the rocking chair. Before she took off to the kitchen Daisy had been rubbing Slim’s aching shoulder bones, left in such a state, from the rush to finish the major parts of the barn. She left him with the warm rags and liniment to soak in, so she could spend time in the kitchen, so she wasn’t aware of the Doc’s arrival.
Mike went to the door to let him in. The Doc looked around, it sure was a happy inviting home. He remembered back when he came out for an emergency, when Slim was finally able to leave the fire and fetch him. He remembered Jess was passed out on in the bedroom, and woke up in agony when he began to try to check on Daisy’s doctoring. He remembered Andy on the sofa then also, and how he was fighting two kinds of pain, his own, and Jess’ as he felt to blame for Jess’ wounds.
He remembered how Slim was just about on his last legs…a tired dirty mess…and too concerned with others to care about himself. Having finally to go out side alone, into the early start of evening, too choked up knowing he nearly lost Andy, or even Jess, or both…to choked up knowing that he was lucky enough to have a friend that cared to lay his life on the line. But also, unknown to the Doc, Slim was too choked up knowing that God above saw to it that Jess Harper and his horse didn’t like “ruts a foot deep” and had preferred traveling on the Sherman Ranch property one day long ago. And…too choked up to the fact that Jess Harper had accepted an invitation to stay, after having FIRST been run off.
During that crisis, the Doc and Daisy were the pillars, and Mike was their little student, watching and learning all he could about how to rise above adversity, and how to offer comfort and aid. He later that during that night, heard Daisy boast on him: “Children learn so much from watching us, don’t they doctor. Just look at Mike, here he is doing all he can for his family here, all because Slim and Jess have been such good examples for him.”
When it was then over, Mike had sought safe shelter and comfort in the loving arms of Daisy. It was his place to rid himself of his worries, he had already lost loved ones, his own parents. He has held onto her tightly with quiet trust, as she quietly cried and wiped her tears, tears that he never saw. After their late supper, she had tucked him in for the night, and spent her night talking with Slim and much later checking on Jess and Andy as they slept in the front room.
Now this evening, the Doc was rewarded with the results of his work, a visit to a home in recovery, warming his heart. He had been gone all day, and on the road to visit some other patients his thoughts had reminded him that his house would be cold with no cheery food awaiting him with its warm aromas. He was getting on in years, just a bit, and this sure felt good at the end of the day.
“You’re welcome to stay!” Daisy called out from the kitchen just as the Doc had finished hanging up his coat.
He answered back with a hearty “I just might take you up on that Daisy.”
The Doc made his rounds between Jess and Andy and their wounds and finished up with Slim’s shoulders. In the process he talked a bit to Andy, and learned of his back injuries, as he mentioned: “There are SOME things that Doctors don’t know.” He told him, “we have to continually be learning, maybe someday we will understand more of the mysteries of the human body and all the things it is able to pull itself through. Only time will tell, Andy.”
“Pull up a chair Doc,” Slim invited, “we got a nice roaring fire here, and the more the merrier.” He kindly captured the Doc’s attention.
“Thank you kindly, Slim, don’t mind if I do.” He took a chair and sat near the fire. “Think I’ll take you all up on your invitations, and stay for supper as well.”
The Doc then looked over at Andy, and then at Jess, “so what have you two patients been up to as to gettting through this recovery time?” He then turned back to the fire, it sure felt good as he declared: “Roaring fires… aching bones…great combination…at my house…ashes are long since gone.”
Jess looked over at Andy with an all seeing all knowing expression. “Well Doc…that just about says it all, as to what we been doin’to get through our recovery…and if I never hear them words again…it’ll be none too soon.” Jess winked at Andy.
“Why I don’t think I understand Jess” the Doc was polite, but confused with this answer, and sought to understand his friend, “what just about says it all?”
“Roaring fires and aching bones and ashes long since gone.” Jess said emphatically in deep thoughtful voice, as he remembered all of the talks he and Andy had just come through during their healing.
As these words: roaring fires, aching bones, and ashes long since gone, slipped through his mind again, as quick as a wisp of smoke, Jess said “Well now, seems it’s truly so, and well said… ‘There are SOME things that Doctors don’t know’…and that’s for sure, right Andy?”
“And … like I said,” Jess continued, as he stole another knowing look with Andy, and then, with just a hint of sadness looked into the fire, he finished with, “if I never hear them words again, it’ll be none too soon for me.”
“What words, Jess” the Doc asked him… again, still a bit perplexed.
“Roaring fires and aching bones and ashes long since gone.”
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