Word Count 9,645
Disclaimer: Only Truman and my other minor characters belong to me. The Lancers will be gently used and returned. No money is being made with these stories.
Thanks so much to my Magnificent Beta, Lacy!
Chapter 1: Good Friday
On Good Friday, the Lancer ranch was as quiet as a Sunday afternoon. Everybody had the day off. There weren’t any work crews out and only the most basic chores were being completed, such as routine care of the animals.
The Lancers had attended early church services that morning and would return to church Easter Sunday. Truman was singing in the choir. Johnny would attend church with the family then, but he had plans to attend midnight mass this evening.
Since it was Good Friday, lil Truman was out of school for the day and would have the following week off for Spring Holiday. At the moment, he was outside exploring. He spotted a frog and followed it to a stream, where it hopped away. Truman smiled as he watched the little amphibian hop from one lily pad to the next, then dive into the shallow water and swim away.
The little nature lover decided he better head back to the estancia before his Papa sent his brothers or Jelly after him. There were certain areas of the ranch where the boy was allowed to roam free as long as he told someone where he was going to be in case of an emergency. Other parts were off limits to him if he did not have adult supervision. This was a safety rule and it was enforced sternly. However, Truman had not broken this rule as of yet, so Murdoch trusted the boy to comply and let him explore freely in the designated areas.
True was walking back to the estancia, with the stable in sight, when he stepped in a hole and twisted his right ankle.
“Oh! OWWWWWWW!” True cried out.
He sat down on the grass and grabbed his ankle, still in his boot. While he was nursing his ankle, True heard a squeaking noise coming from the hole. It sounded like a scared animal of some sort. True rolled onto his tummy and looked into the hole. He saw something small and fuzzy.
Truman whispered to the frightened animal and coaxed it out of its hole. Once the animal was out, True saw that it was a tiny rabbit. It was trembling and squeaking in fear.
“Oh, little one. Why are you so scared? Where’s your mama?” Truman crooned to the frightened animal.
Since the rabbit wasn’t hopping away, Truman scooped him up gently and held it close. It was then that the boy noticed that one of the rabbit’s legs was broken.
“Oh, you poor thing. I bet they hopped off and left you alone cause you couldn’t hop. Let me fix ya up and I’ll take you to see my big brother Johnny. He takes good care of animals. Jelly will, too. I bet Jelly will make a nice little box for you so you can rest,” True said softly.
True pulled his blue bandana out and wrapped the little rabbit’s injured leg gently, securing it to the body for stability. By the time True had finished caring for the rabbit, his ankle had swelled and was throbbing. He tried to stand up and hobble, but fell to his knees with a grunt and moan. He had the rabbit tucked in the crook of one arm and broke his fall with his free hand.
“Well, I guess I hafta crawl,” the resourceful boy muttered to himself.
True started crawling towards the stable. It was slow going for the pain in his ankle and having the use of only one hand. Luckily, Jelly chose to look in his direction just then and saw Truman crawling towards the stable. He alerted Scott, who had just come outside to call his little brother in to wash for supper.
“Scott! I just saw Truman in the field over yonder. He’s crawling and using only one hand. Do’ye suppose he’s hurt?” Jelly asked.
“He could be. I’ll go check on him,” Scott replied.
He walked off at a brisk pace in the direction Jelly indicated. Scott caught up to the boy pretty quickly. He grew concerned as he neared the child. He could tell Truman was having difficulty moving his right foot, and he wasn’t using his left arm.
“True? Are you okay? What happened?” Scott asked.
Truman stopped and looked up. His face was etched in pain, but he grinned at his big brother anyway.
“Hey, Scott. I found a rabbit in a rabbit hole.”
“Oh, really?” Scott asked as he crouched down to take a look at his brother. “Are you hurt?”
“I hurt my right ankle. I stepped in the hole. That’s how I found the rabbit.”
“I see. Is your arm hurt?”
“No. I’m holding the rabbit. His right leg is hurt, too.”
“Will he hop away if you set him down?” Scott asked.
“I don’t think he can. He’s scared. I think his family left him cause he can’t hop.”
“Okay. You hold the rabbit and I’ll carry you. Papa will look after your ankle and I bet Jelly and Johnny can look after the rabbit,” Scott suggested.
“I wanna help look after him.”
“You can, but we need to take care of you, too, little buddy,” Scott appeased the boy.
Scott smiled and lifted Truman into his arms and carried the little guy back to the hacienda. True held tight to the little rabbit while Scott took him home. When they arrived at the estancia, Scott called for Jelly.
“Hey, Jelly! We need your help!”
“What is it? Are ya okay, True?” Jelly asked.
“I’ll live. The rabbit needs help, though. His right leg is broken. I tied it up best I could,” True replied.
“Give ‘em here, young’un. I’ll take a look-see at him,” Jelly said as he took the squealing rabbit from the security of True’s arms. He examined the tiny animal and nodded. “Ya did a real good job of wrapping his little leg here, True. I think you’ll turn into a fine veterinarian!”
True bowed his head and smiled shyly. “Thanks, Jelly,” True said quietly.
“You’re welcome. Ya better get him inside, Scott, so Murdoch can take a look at his ankle. I’ll make a nice bed for your little friend here. Ya got a name for him, yet?” Jelly asked.
“Nope, not yet. I’ll think of one.”
“Good. See ya at supper.”
“Okay, Jelly. Thanks. Bye, lil rabbit. Be good for Jelly.”
Truman pet the animal one last time before Scott took him inside.
Once they stepped through the door and Murdoch noticed that Scott was carrying Truman, things moved pretty fast.
“What happened? Why are you holding Truman?” Murdoch asked as he rushed to the door and took the boy from Scott.
Johnny came in the great room then, fresh from a bath and dressed in ranch clothes.
“Hey, what’s going on?” Johnny asked.
“It seems that our little nature lover here sprained his ankle after stepping into a rabbit hole,” Scott began to explain.
“Are you okay? Which ankle is it, son?” Murdoch asked.
“My right one. It hurts like the devil, Papa. I found a little rabbit who was hurt badly. Jelly is taking care of him now. Scott said I could help after you fix my ankle,” Truman spoke up.
“I see. Well, let’s see about your ankle, first, and we’ll look in on the rabbit after supper,” Murdoch suggested.
“Boys, I’m going to need your help. Johnny, go get a basin of cold water, a couple of towels, and some bindings, please.”
“Sure, Murdoch.” Johnny went to the kitchen to get the requested items. He rushed back, nearly spilling the basin of water and giving himself another bath, when he heard Truman cry out.
“What are you doing to him?” Johnny asked as he returned with the items.
The boy’s right boot and sock were off. The little foot was swollen and black and blue. True was sitting on Scott’s lap and crying into his big brother’s shoulder while Scott tried to comfort the boy by rubbing his back and speaking to him quietly.
“Shhhh, little buddy. I know it hurts. I know,” Scott crooned to the child.
“Okay, Son. I need you to sit up for me. We’re going to put your foot in the basin to let the swelling go down, then I need to wrap it up,” Murdoch explained.
Just then, Teresa came in from the garden, where she had been collecting vegetables for their supper. She became alarmed when she saw the men gathered on the couch, surrounding the youngest Lancer.
“What’s going on? What happened, True?” Teresa asked.
“I sprained my ankle while I was exploring,” the child answered.
“Oh, poor baby. What about church on Sunday? And the Easter egg hunt?” Teresa asked.
“We’ll take care of that later. Right now, we need to take care of this ankle. Put your foot in, Truman. It’ll be alright,” Murdoch coaxed.
True complied as Scott steadied him. He hissed when his foot first touched the bottom of the basin, then he sighed in relief as the cold water began to numb the pain a bit.
Scott held him securely while the foot was soaking. After about thirty minutes, the swelling had been reduced, though the foot was still black and blue. Murdoch bound the boy’s ankle after Johnny had dried it tenderly. Murdoch lifted Truman and hugged him close.
“You were a big boy while we took care of your ankle. That was very good. Let’s go wash up for supper,” Murdoch said.
“Thank you, Papa.”
“You’re welcome, Son.”
Murdoch took True to the kitchen to wash up while Scott and Johnny put the materials away. When they all convened at the table, Jelly came in, nodded to the family and went to wash up. When he returned, Murdoch said the blessing and the family dug in.
“How’s the rabbit, Jelly?” True asked.
“He’s hanging in there. Won’t eat much, but maybe when he feels better, he will,” Jelly replied.
“Johnny? Are you going to Mass tonight?” True asked.
“Yes, lil cowboy, I am. Why?”
“Will you say a prayer for the rabbit, please?” True asked sweetly.
Johnny looked at his father, Teresa, and Scott, who all looked at him expectantly.
“Um, sure, True. I’ll say a prayer for him. Does he have a name, yet?”
“No. Haven’t thought of one, yet.”
“You’ll be resting on the couch tomorrow, True, so you’ll have plenty of time to think of one,” Murdoch said.
Truman sighed. “Yes, Papa.”
After supper, Murdoch and Johnny took Truman out to see the rabbit. He was making low, frightened noises.
“Is he going to live, Papa?”
“I don’t know, son. We’ll have to take care of him and hope for the best,” Murdoch replied.
“Johnny?” Truman asked. The boy wanted his big brother’s opinion.
“Well, I agree with Papa, True. We just have to do our best and hope he’ll pull through,” Johnny replied.
“Good night, little one. Hang in there,” the boy said to the rabbit.
Murdoch and Johnny took Truman back inside where the rest of the family had moved to the living room for quiet pursuits. Murdoch carried his youngest and settled him gently on the couch. Scott moved to sit next to Truman and read the Easter story to him from the boy’s book of Bible stories while Johnny and Murdoch played chess. Teresa was working on a new needlepoint project. Jelly was dozing by the fire.
Truman was put to bed at eight-thirty, per his usual bedtime, by Scott. Johnny left for Mass shortly after ten-thirty. The rest of the family went to bed by eleven.
When Johnny returned from Mass, around two in the morning, he took his spurs off in the foyer and crept up to his room, checking on his little brother before turning in for the night.
Chapter 2: Where Do Easter Eggs and Easter Bunnies Come From?
Truman was settled on the couch in the living room to rest after breakfast Saturday morning. He had his right ankle propped on a pillow and everything he needed was within arm’s reach. Scott had brought a basket of toys over and set it on the ottoman next to the couch along with the boy’s drawing materials and a few books to read. Johnny had carried the child into the room and placed him gently on the couch. After he had been sufficiently fussed over, he was left to his own devices. Teresa and Maria checked on him often and Jelly sneaked the wounded rabbit in for a visit.
Truman held the rabbit gently and lovingly on his lap and crooned to him softly. The little rabbit was wrapped in a blanket, yet it still trembled in fear. After a while, the scared animal’s trembling diminished and he consumed a small amount of carrot bits.
“Why do we think about bunnies and eggs at Easter time?” the curious child asked.
“I’m not real sure, young’un. Best ta ask your papa or Scott that question,” Jelly replied.
“What about Johnny? Johnny would know, wouldn’t he?”
“I don’t doubt it. Johnny knows a lot of stuff.”
Murdoch came in to check on his youngest. When he spotted the rabbit, an eyebrow rose and he gave Jelly ‘the look.’
“How’s your little friend doing, Son?” Murdoch asked kindly, though he had told Jelly not to bring wild animals into the house.
Jelly bristled a bit in indignation, but actually managed to keep his mouth shut.
“He’s hanging in there, Papa. He even ate a little bit of carrot and I don’t think he’s so scared anymore,” True replied.
“Well, that’s good. I think it’s time the little rabbit went back to the barn for a nap,” Murdoch said pointedly.
“I get the hint, Boss. Come along, critter. It’s time ta go,” Jelly said as he gently lifted the rabbit out of Truman’s lap.
“Bye, little one. Have a good rest. Thanks for the visit, Jelly,” Truman said as he watched Jelly leave.
“You’re welcome, True. We’ll visit later,” Jelly replied as he walked out the front door.
“What about you, Son? Ready for a nap?” Murdoch asked kindly.
“Maybe, but I’ve been thinking.”
“Why do we have eggs and rabbits at Easter?”
“Hmmmm. I think I need to do some thinking about that. You get some rest and we’ll talk about it after supper, okay?”
“Okay, Papa. I am kinda tired.”
“Yes. Have a good siesta. I’ll check in with you later, big boy,” Murdoch said as he helped the boy settle down.
Murdoch covered True with a blanket and placed a gentle kiss on the boy’s head. True was asleep almost as soon as his head hit the pillow.
A couple of hours later, Truman woke up and stretched, crying out when his ankle popped.
Scott happened to be in the kitchen when he heard the boy’s cry and hurried in to see what was wrong.
“True? What’s wrong, little buddy?” Scott asked as he approached the sofa and saw the boy holding his ankle and whimpering.
Scott sat next to the boy and put an arm around his little shoulders.
“I woke up an’ stretched an’ my ankle popped,” True replied.
“Ohh. That must have hurt. Do you want me to rub it?” Scott asked.
“No, thanks. It hurts too much for anyone else to touch.”
“Maybe Papa should send for Uncle Sam. I think he should take a look at your ankle.”
“Probably not, little buddy,” Scott said, chuckling.
“Stay here and I’ll go talk to Papa. I’ll be right back.”
Scott squeezed the boy’s shoulder and went to find Murdoch. He found their father in the barn, talking to Jelly.
“Hey, Murdoch. Hello, Jelly.”
“Hi, Son. Hey, Scott,” Murdoch and Jelly replied.
“How’s the rabbit?” Scott asked.
“Not too good, Scott. He won’t eat and barely drinks. I’m not sure the little fella’s gonna make it,” Jelly replied.
“Well, do your best, please. True can’t handle another loss right now.”
“I know, I know,” Jelly replied.
“Um, Murdoch, I think True needs to be seen by Sam. His ankle is really hurting him,” Scott informed Murdoch.
“Okay. Jelly, would you mind asking one of our senior hands to go?” Murdoch asked.
“Sure, Boss,” Jelly replied.
“Thanks. Let’s go see Truman.”
Murdoch and Scott went back to the estancia while Jelly went to find Walt.
The boy was reclining on the couch and reading a book while holding his ankle with his other hand.
“Hey, big boy. How do you feel?” Murdoch asked.
“It hurts, Papa. Really bad,” True replied.
“I’m sorry, True. Come sit on Papa’s lap and let me take a look at it.”
“Noooo. Don’t touch it, please.”
“I’ll be gentle.”
Murdoch began to unwrap Truman’s ankle, and even though he did his best to be gentle, Truman squirmed and whimpered. Scott had been passively observant, but now stepped in and did his best to comfort his little brother.
When the bindings were off, the boy’s ankle was swollen to three times its normal size, puffy, and grossly discolored.
“Oh, dear. This is either a very bad sprain or a break. Let’s get some cold compresses on it and prop it up. Scott, could you please go ask Teresa for some compresses? I’m going to get some more pillows. Truman, you sit here and stay put. Scott and I will be right back.”
“Okay, Papa. Where’s Johnny ?”
“Johnny went to see the McDonalds to make sure they were doing okay and make any repairs they needed. He should be home for supper. I’ll be right back.”
Murdoch went upstairs and pulled a couple of pillows from the linen chest and brought them downstairs. Scott and Teresa came in from the kitchen with cold compresses and a towel. After much finagling, whimpering, wrapping, and comforting, Truman’s ankle was propped up on pillows and wrapped. The boy settled back on the couch and sighed. His face was pale, but beaded with perspiration from the stress of the ordeal.
“Easy there, Truman. You’ll be fine. Uncle Sam will be here, soon,” Murdoch reassured him.
“Okay, Papa. Papa?”
“Have you been thinking about the Easter eggs and the Easter bunny?”
“Yes, I have, and we’ll talk after supper, okay?”
“You’re welcome. Get some rest, son.”
“Okay.” Truman resumed reading his book, and dropped off to sleep a few sentences later.
When Sam showed up, the boy was sound asleep with the book resting on his stomach. Scott and Murdoch showed the doctor into the house and over to the couch. Scott smiled at the little boy and picked the book up off the child’s stomach and laid it on the ottoman. Sam felt the child’s head for fever and was pleased when he did not detect any excess heat.
“Truman, it’s Sam. Wake up, True,” Sam called to the boy softly.
True woke and smiled at Sam.
“I hear you’re taking after your big brother Johnny and finding rabbit holes with your right foot.”
Truman grinned at that and nodded. “But he didn’t find a little rabbit when he stepped in the rabbit hole,” the boy pointed out.
“You found a little rabbit?”
“Yes. He has a broken leg”
“Oh. Is Jelly looking after him for you?”
“Yes. Jelly brought him in to visit me after lunch.”
“How is he doing?”
“He ate a little bit for me.”
“That’s good. Let me see your ankle here. I promise to be gentle.”
Sam laughed. “No shots.”
Murdoch and Scott exchanged grins, then came close to comfort the boy when Sam checked him over.
The examination was painful for the little boy. Sam said it was a bad sprain, but the ankle was not broken.
“He can still attend church and sing, but he’ll have to do it sitting down. The Easter egg hunt will be difficult, but if Scott or Johnny are willing to help, he is allowed to participate,” Sam said. “I don’t want him on this foot at all for the week.”
“I’ll be happy to help him, and so will Johnny,” Scott said.
“So will Johnny what?” Johnny asked as he came in the front door.
“Help Truman find eggs in the Easter egg hunt,” Scott explained.
“Oh, sure. How ya doin’, lil cowboy?” Johnny asked as he leaned over the back of the couch to tweak the little boy’s nose.
“I hurt, Johnny.”
“I bet ya do. Don’t worry, we’ll take care of ya.”
“I know. Thanks.”
Johnny grinned and ruffled the boy’s hair gently.
“Time for my bath. See ya at supper, True.”
“Okay. Wash behind yer ears,” True said with a giggle.
Johnny grinned and winked at the little wise guy then went upstairs.
Sam stayed for supper and then left when Mr. Lane came to get him. His youngest girl was not feeling well. The Lancers gathered in the living room and Murdoch told Truman about Easter eggs and the Easter bunny.
Murdoch settled in his chair as the boys sat on the couch and Teresa perched on the footstool of the red leather chair that Jelly settled into.
Murdoch cleared his throat and began explaining the reason eggs were associated with Easter.
“The egg is nature’s perfect package. Before the egg became closely connected with the Christian Easter, it was honored during many rite-of-Spring festivals. The Romans, Gauls, Chinese, Egyptians and Persians all cherished the egg as a symbol of the universe. From ancient times eggs were dyed, exchanged and shown reverence,” Murdoch began.
“I know about reverence,” True said.
“I know you do, son. May I continue?” Murdoch asked.
Johnny and Scott exchanged amused grins.
“In Pagan times the egg represented the rebirth of the earth. The long, hard winter was over; the earth burst forth and was reborn just as the egg miraculously burst forth with life. So the egg was believed to have special powers. It was buried under the foundations of buildings to ward off evil; pregnant young Roman women carried an egg on their persons to predict if they were going to have a boy or girl. French brides stepped upon an egg before crossing the threshold of their new homes.”
“What’s Pagan? What‘s a thresh old? Is it an old bird?” True asked.
“Pagan means someone who does not have a religion. Threshold is the plank, stone, or piece of wood that lies under the door,” Scott explained.
“With the advent of Christianity the symbolism of the egg changed to represent, not nature’s rebirth, but the rebirth of man. Christians embraced the egg symbol and likened it to the tomb from which Christ rose,” Murdoch continued.
“So the tomb was like an egg and Jesus hatched and rose to God,” Truman paraphrased.
“That’s right, True,” Johnny said.
“Old Polish legends blended folklore and Christian beliefs and firmly attached the egg to the Easter celebration. One legend is about the Virgin Mary. It tells of the time Mary gave eggs to the soldiers at the cross. She begged them to be less cruel and she cried. The tears of Mary fell upon the eggs, spotting them with dots of brilliant color.”
“So the Virgin Mary’s tears were magical?” The boy asked.
“Yes,” Scott confirmed.
“Another Polish legend tells of when Mary Magdalene went to the sepulchre to anoint the body of Jesus,” Murdoch continued.
“What’s a sepulcher?” Truman asked.
“Sepulchre,” Scott corrected the boy. “It’s a tomb, Truman.”
“She had with her a basket of eggs to serve as a meal. When she arrived at the sepulchre and uncovered the eggs, the pure white shells had miraculously taken on a rainbow of colors.”
“Decorating and coloring eggs for Easter was the custom in England during the middle ages. The household accounts of Edward I, for the year 1290, recorded the amount of eighteen pence had been set aside for four hundred and fifty eggs to be gold-leafed and colored for Easter gifts.”
“Really?” True asked.
“Yes,” Murdoch said.
“Okay. Well, where do Easter bunnies come from?”
“The origins of the Easter Bunny aren’t really clear; the first recorded references to him are generally agreed to have come from Germany in the 1500s. In ancient times the rabbit was a symbol of fertility…“
“It’s the ability to make new life,” Scott explained.
“Oh. Making babies?”
“Yes,” Teresa replied.
“It has to do with springtime and renewal of life. The hare was also associated with the moon, whose cycles determine the precise date of Easter each year. Over time these traditions apparently merged with the annual celebration of Easter itself, and now the Bunny is associated with Easter in much the same way that Santa Claus is the secular symbol of Christmas.”
“What’s secular?” Truman asked.
“It’s not religious,” Scott explained.
“Like the pagan?” True asked.
“No, it’s not religious in a good sense. Pagans were not religious in a bad sense,” Johnny explained.
“Pagans were selfish. Santa Claus and the Easter bunny are not selfish,” Teresa explained.
“Ohh. I get it. Pagans did for themselves and Santa and the Easter bunny do for others, right?” True asked.
“Perfect,” Murdoch praised.
“You have an hour before bedtime, Truman. Would you like to color some eggs?” Teresa offered.
“Let’s go!” Teresa said, leading the way into the kitchen.
Johnny picked up the tyke and carried him to the kitchen. Scott, Murdoch and Jelly followed. The family took part in dyeing the eggs and by the time they were all colored, the little boy was yawning and rubbing his eyes.
“Come on, lil cowboy. I’ll put ya to bed. I didn’t get to be with ya much today,” Johnny said as he scooped the sleepy boy into his arms.
After Truman had said his goodnights and asked Jelly to look after the rabbit, Johnny carried him upstairs.
“It’ll be a miracle if that lil critter makes it through the night, boss,” Jelly warned Murdoch.
“Well, just do the best you can for him, Jelly.”
Johnny undressed and put a nightshirt on Truman, listened to his prayers, and tucked the boy into bed with a hug and gentle kiss on the boy’s forehead. He turned down the lamp and joined the adults in the living room for the rest of the evening.
Chapter 3: Church and The Great Green River Easter Egg Hunt
Truman Lancer woke to the sound of the bantering his older brothers often engaged in. Johnny must have been looking for something because he was yanking drawers open and banging them closed.
“Johnny!” True called.
Johnny appeared in the doorway that connected their rooms.
“You okay, True?” He asked.
“I’d be better if y’all would be quiet! Some of us are tryin’ to sleep!” the boy fussed.
Murdoch came in then, having heard the youngster call out for his brother.
“Everything okay, boys?” the patriarch asked.
“No! They’re too loud, Papa. Banging around and makin’ a ruckus,” True replied petulantly.
Johnny smirked at the boy, but received a glare from the child in return.
“Whoa! Sounds like someone needs to go back to sleep and try again,” Johnny teased the boy.
“John, leave Truman alone. Are you ready for church?” Murdoch asked.
“Do I look ready for church?” Johnny replied.
Johnny was attired in black pants and boot socks. His hair was mussed and his face was scruffy looking.
Scott came into Truman’s room and sat on the bed next to the child. Scott was immaculately groomed and attired in suit pants, polished shoes, shirt, and tie.
“Go get ready, Johnny. I’ll get Truman dressed and we’ll meet in the kitchen for breakfast,” Murdoch directed.
“Okay, Murdoch,” Johnny sighed. “I wouldn’t get too close ta True, Boston. He’s liable to bite yer head off,” Johnny warned.
“I’ll take my chances, thanks.”
Johnny felt a bit put out when True allowed Scott to hug him.
“Don’t you like me anymore, Truman?” Johnny asked, partially serious.
“Of course I do, Johnny. It’s just that the slamming scared me till I knew what it was and my ankle hurts,” Truman replied. “And I’m worried about the rabbit.”
Murdoch felt the boy’s forehead to see if the child had a fever for any reason, but True was cool.
Johnny walked over to Truman and held his arms out for the boy and True reached out to him. Johnny lifted the little tyke into his arms and hugged him close, careful not to jostle the boy’s ankle.
“I’m sorry, Johnny,” True said.
“It’s okay, lil cowboy. I know you’re hurting. I wish I could make you feel better.”
“You are making me feel better by hugging me.”
Johnny smiled and rubbed the little boy’s head and back.
“Are you ready to get dressed?” Johnny asked the boy quietly.
“Are you gonna let Papa and Scott help you?”
“Yeah. Are you gonna shave?”
Johnny chuckled and squeezed the boy close.
“Yeah, lil wise guy.”
Johnny handed the boy over to Scott and went to shave and finish dressing. Scott and Murdoch helped Truman get ready for church and took the child down to the kitchen for breakfast.
When they were all seated at the table, Murdoch said the blessing. When he finished, the family began filling their plates.
“Hey!” Truman said.
“What, True?” Scott asked.
“Happy Easter!” the boy exclaimed with a grin.
“Happy Easter, Son,” Murdoch replied.
The other family members replied similarly and they all ate their breakfast. A bowl of colored eggs was placed in the middle of the table and Truman reached for one.
Jelly came in to join the family for breakfast. He didn’t look very happy, though.
“Good morning, Jelly,” Murdoch said.
“Happy Easter, Jelly. How’s the rabbit?” Truman asked.
“He’s not doing too good, young’un. I’m sorry. I done ev’ry thing I can,” Jelly replied sadly.
“I wanna see him before we go to church,” Truman declared.
“Okay, Son. Eat your breakfast and I’ll take you out there,” Murdoch said.
“Okay, Papa. Thanks.”
Murdoch nodded and smiled at his youngest.
After breakfast, Murdoch kept his promise and took Truman to the barn to see the rabbit. The boy gently held the rabbit close and spoke to him softly. Murdoch had put his son down on a bale of hay and the child sat there quietly, holding the wounded rabbit. Murdoch and Johnny hitched up the surrey while Scott sat with Truman.
“Can we take the rabbit to church?” Truman asked.
“No, True. The rabbit needs to stay here. Jelly will look after him,” Scott replied.
“But he needs to go. Maybe the reverend can bless him and make him better with God’s love,” True said, making a good point.
“That’s a good idea, True, but the ride to town might be too hard on him. Jelly will look after him and we can pray for him in church. We need to put him back in his box so he can rest, ok?” Scott asked.
“Okay…good-bye little one. Be strong. I’ll see you later,” Truman said.
Scott picked Truman up and carried him to the workbench, where Jelly had the box fixed for the rabbit. Truman gently placed the rabbit inside the box and tucked it in. The boy caressed the rabbit’s fur gently and whispered to it reassuringly.
“Time to go, boys. Johnny, go get Teresa, please,” Murdoch asked.
“Okay.” Johnny left the barn and headed to the estancia and hurried Teresa along.
When the family was in the surrey, Murdoch whistled to the team and the Lancers headed to town.
When the family arrived in town, Murdoch parked the surrey at the livery and hopped off. He lifted Truman down as Scott helped Teresa. Scott and Johnny unhitched the surrey and stabled the team in the livery, then the family walked to the church. Murdoch carried Truman to the altar and told Mr. Peabody about Truman’s accident on Friday afternoon. Mr. Peabody was understanding and sympathetic. He invited Truman to sit in the choir pews to wait for the service to begin.
“I bet Simon will come keep you company while you wait,” Mr. Peabody said.
“I’ll go ask him for you, Truman. Stay put,” Murdoch instructed.
Murdoch went to find Simon. He found the blond boy quickly and explained the situation to him. Simon came up to the altar and sat with Truman. The boys talked about the Easter egg hunt and True told Simon about the little rabbit he had found.
Murdoch and the rest of the family found a place to sit in the quickly filling sanctuary.
The choirs finally entered, followed by the reverend and organist. Simon returned to his seat as the organist warmed up. The opening hymn began, sung by both choirs. Laura Lane helped Truman stand and supported him as they sang. Mr. Peabody had asked her to be Truman’s helper during the service and she had readily agreed. Laura was one of True’s best friends, even though she wasn’t a Musketeer.
The service ran smoothly, and during the prayer session, True sent up a prayer for the rabbit. He planned to ask the reverend to visit the ranch and bless the rabbit after the egg hunt.
After the offering and Doxology, the reverend made some community announcements.
“There will be a cookout on Main Street immediately following services. Be careful where you step.”
This statement was followed by a ripple of laughter.
“The cost for the cookout is a dollar a person. Half of the proceeds will go to Claire’s Café for the food and the other half will go to Green River Schools to purchase new books and supplies,” the reverend continued.
“The Easter egg hunt will begin at 1pm for ages 1 to 4. The hunt for ages 5 to 8 will begin at 2:30 pm, and the hunt for ages 9 to 12 will begin at 3:30. We decided to stagger the times so parents could participate with their children. I have already spoken with the older children of the congregation and I have made assignments for hiders and helpers. Each participant may purchase a basket in which to collect their eggs for twenty-five cents or use your own. All eggs found are to be kept by those who found them. Let’s use our best sportsmanlike conduct and not fight over the eggs. Participants can pick up their baskets fifteen minutes prior to the beginning of their group‘s hunt. The baskets will be in the back of Mr. Carter‘s buckboard.”
When Truman heard that, he looked at Murdoch with a questioning expression. Murdoch caught the boy’s eye and winked at him. This gesture eased the boy’s mind. He had wondered if he would get a basket for his eggs.
When the service ended, the Lancers remained in their pew to wait for the church to clear. Johnny went up to the altar and picked up his brother. The family filed out together and walked down Main Street to join the cookout. Murdoch paid for his family and they found a table with the Lanes and a few of the Carters. Johnny set his brother down next to Simon, then went to fix a plate for the boy and one for himself. He had to explain to Claire that the second plate was for Truman and not himself. When he returned to the table, Johnny placed the plate in front of the boy and his own next to it, then he went to the barrels and poured glasses of lemonade for Truman and himself. The Lancers enjoyed socializing with the Lanes and the Carters during the meal.
When the time had arrived for Truman to get his basket for the egg hunt, Scott gave the boy a piggy-back ride to the Carters’ wagon and bought a basket for True to collect his found eggs in. The other participants gradually arrived and paid for their baskets. Some had brought baskets from home.
The reverend was standing on the bottom step and called for attention.
“Okay, kids, it’s time to go find those eggs. Come back to that table when time is called and have your eggs counted,” the reverend instructed, gesturing to the table under the willow tree. We will reveal the prizes then. Have a great time and be respectful of the other participants. Go have fun!”
Johnny arrived just in time to help Truman. He and Scott took turns carrying the tyke on their shoulders and picking up the eggs Truman pointed out. Most of the eggs had been hidden in low branches of trees and around bushes and rocks. When the forty-minutes were up, time was called with a drum roll and the participants lined up at the table to have their eggs counted. Simon got first place in the five to eight age group with his forty-two eggs. Truman came in second with thirty-seven eggs and Sandy came in third with thirty-two eggs. Surprisingly, nobody had objected to Truman having help from his brothers because they noticed the child had a swollen foot and they did not want the boy to miss out on his first Easter egg hunt due to an injury. Simon received a new book. Truman received a big bag of marbles, and Sandy received a small doll with a red calico dress.
When the family returned from town, Jelly hustled out to meet them.
“Hey, y’all! How was the Easter egg hunt?” Jelly asked.
“It was fun, Jelly! I won second place,” reported Truman.
“Good for you!”
“How’s the rabbit?” True asked as Johnny lifted him from the surrey.
“Come see fer yerself,” replied Jelly.
Johnny carried the boy into the barn and to the workbench, where the box was. Truman peeked into the box and gasped at the sight.
Chapter 4: The Miracle
Truman was sitting on the workbench and staring into the box with a wide-eyed expression of wonder.
“Jelly! Wh-what happened? Where did those tiny things come from?” Truman asked.
“They came from the rabbit, boy.”
“What are they? They’re tiny and moving, but they’re not real furry,” the child observed.
“They’re baby bunnies, True,” Jelly replied.
By now, the other family members had joined Johnny, True, and Jelly in the barn and were equally surprised to see the new inhabitants of the box. There were five tiny rabbits sleeping in the box with the bigger rabbit.
“When were they born?” Truman asked curiously.
“They were born around eleven this morning,” Jelly replied.
Truman looked at Johnny and asked, “did you pray for the rabbit, Johnny?”
“Yep, I sure did.”
“So did I. I was hoping he would make it, but I never expected this!” True stated.
“Well, I think we should stop calling the rabbit a ‘him,’” Murdoch said.
“Why?” Truman asked.
Johnny and Scott exchanged amused and somewhat embarrassed grins.
“Well, because girl rabbits have babies, Truman. Not the boy rabbits,” Murdoch explained.
“Oh.. Well, don’t you think it’s a miracle that he made it and had babies?” the boy asked.
“Yes, Son, but it’s a girl rabbit.”
“Oh, yeah. I think I’ll name her ‘Miracle.’ How is her little leg? Is it better?” True asked. “Is she eating now? Does she feel better?”
“That’s a wonderful name, son. I think she feels a lot better now, and I bet her leg will be just fine,” Murdoch replied. “Do you think Miracle and her babies would like some peace and quiet now? I think they need to rest.”
“Yeah. Miracle looks pretty tired. Is it hard to have babies?” True asked.
“Um, yes, Son. It is very tiring, so let’s go inside and let Miracle get some rest. We can check on the little family later, okay?” Murdoch suggested.
“Okay, Papa. See ya later, Miracle. Get some rest. I love you,” Truman said sweetly.
Murdoch lifted his boy and hugged him, then the family went to the hacienda. On the dining room table, there was a basket with goodies in it for Truman. There were two finely carved wooden horses, a chocolate bunny, some peppermint sticks, jelly beans, a few dyed eggs, and a small pouch with three dollars in it.
“Wow! Where did this come from?”
“The Easter Bunny,” Teresa replied.
Truman gave her a funny look.
“Miracle didn’t bring this,” Truman stated.
Murdoch had placed the boy in a chair and True was now holding his basket in his lap and perusing the contents closely.
Murdoch sighed and scratched his head, wondering how he was going to explain Easter baskets to the boy. Luckily, he didn’t have to because Truman started yawning and rubbing his eyes.
“Miracle and her babies are resting and I think a certain little Lancer needs to rest, too,” Murdoch said as he picked up the basket and placed it on the table.
He picked up the boy and hugged him. Truman nodded and laid his head on Murdoch’s shoulder. Pretty soon, the boy was sound asleep. Murdoch carried the boy to his room and gently undressed the child. He put a sleep shirt on Truman and tucked the boy into bed.
While the boy slept the family took care of the horses and other livestock, then settled in the living room and rested. Johnny and Scott fell asleep in chairs, tired from the egg hunt, yet relaxed after a fun family day. Murdoch settled in his chair to read and Teresa excused herself to do some sewing.
Murdoch was trying to find out how filled baskets found their way into the Easter tradition. His inquisitive son wanted to know, so Murdoch decided to research the subject so he could satisfy the child’s curiosity.
True was raised a Christian, but due to their nomadic lifestyle when True and his parents were with the circus, the boy did not get to experience a lot of the secular traditions associated with Christmas and Easter. Therefore, the Lancer family had been required to explain things to the boy. Truman was naturally curious and asked many questions, so the family had to be ready with the right answers.
A couple of hours flew by. Teresa crept into the living room and took in the scene. Her “brothers” were sound asleep on the loveseat and red leather chair and her guardian-father figure was asleep in his favorite armchair. Teresa smiled and went to start supper.
Upstairs, the youngest Lancer was waking up from his nap. He had been exhausted from the day’s events and slept deeply. True sat up and rubbed his eyes. He stretched, but was very careful not to stretch his ankle. The boy looked down at his clothes and noticed he had been put in a nightshirt for his nap.
‘Papa didn’t want me ta sleep in my suit,’ the boy thought to himself.
He pulled his nightshirt off and laid it on his bed, then eased to the floor. True hopped on one foot to his dresser and opened a drawer. He pulled out a red shirt with little blue flowers on it and pulled it on, then buttoned it up. He pulled out his favorite and nearly threadbare denim overalls and pulled them on, wincing as the fabric brushed his ankle.
Murdoch had taken the dressy socks off and left the bindings on the sprained ankle. True found a pair of boot socks and put them on, then brushed his hair. The boy hopped into the hall, holding the wall for support. He reached the top of the main staircase and was at a loss as to what to do next.
‘Should I sit and try to get down or call for help?’ the boy asked himself.
Being a cautious lad, True made his decision quickly.
“Papa!” he hollered from the top of the stairs.
The three older Lancer men jerked awake and looked at each other in alarm.
“Did you hear something?” Johnny asked.
“I think I heard True call,” Scott replied.
“I think I did, too,” Murdoch agreed.
“Yep, that’s my boy,” Murdoch said as he went to the bottom of the stairs and looked up.
The youngest Lancer son was standing on one leg and was holding on to the wall for support. Murdoch walked to the top of the stairs and gathered the child into his arms.
“Hi, Son. Have a good nap?” Murdoch asked.
“Yes, Papa. I was really tired, but I feel better, now. I’m hungry, too.”
“Would you like to eat one of your eggs?”
“I want some candy.”
“You may have an egg and one piece of candy. I don’t want you to fill up on sugar, big boy.”
“Okaaaaaaaay,” the boy replied.
Murdoch chuckled and carried his boy downstairs, where he deposited True in his chair at the dining room table. He left to get a plate and a mug of milk for Truman and set the items in front of his boy. True took an egg from his basket and tapped it on the plate to crack the shell, then peeled and salted the egg. As Truman had his snack, Johnny and Scott came by and ruffled the child’s hair, then sat down with their little brother.
“What do you want to do till suppertime, True?” Johnny asked.
“Um, I wanna check on Miracle and her babies. I wish I could go for a ride, but I don’t think Papa and Uncle Sam would let me,” True replied.
“Well, we can check on Miracle and maybe go for a gentle ride around here,” Scott suggested.
“You hafta ask Papa,” Truman reminded Scott.
“I will. Enjoy your snack.”
“You’re welcome,” Scott replied as he went outside to find Murdoch.
Truman had finished his egg and was now peering into his basket, deciding which piece of candy he would have. Johnny was watching him with a small smile on his face. Truman shifted his eyes and looked at Johnny, then smiled and chose an egg. He held the egg out to Johnny and grinned when his brother accepted the offering.
“Thanks, lil cowboy.”
“You’re welcome. I’m going to try a jelly-bean.”
As Johnny peeled and ate his egg, True nibbled a red jelly-bean. This was another new food and the boy wasn’t sure what to think of it.
“How is it?” Johnny asked.
“It’s smooth and hard on the outside, but squishy on the inside,” True replied.
“Mm-hmm. How does it taste?”
“Fruity. Want one?”
True slid his basket to Johnny and allowed his brother to choose his own jelly-bean.
“Thanks, True,” Johnny said as he chose a black bean.
Johnny chuckled and squeezed True’s shoulder affectionately.
“What does your bean taste like, Johnny?”
“Oh, I’ll try one later. I wonder if Papa knows why we have Easter baskets. You, Scott, and Teresa didn’t get one. That’s not fair,” True said.
“I think Easter baskets are for kids under eighteen years old. You’ll share, won’t you?” Johnny asked with a mischievous gleam in his eyes.
“Everything but the chocolate bunny and my money!” True replied.
“Truman!” Johnny exclaimed, surprised and amused.
The boy took his money pouch and the wrapped chocolate bunny out and held them close to his chest.
Just then, Murdoch and Scott came in and took in the scene at the table.
“You’re not going to eat that chocolate rabbit at one time, are you?” Murdoch asked.
“No, Papa. I had an egg and jelly bean already and I shared an egg and jelly bean with Johnny cause he didn’t get an Easter basket. But I’m not sharing my money or the chocolate bunny,” Truman replied seriously.
Murdoch and Scott laughed.
“You don’t have to, son. Put your things back in the basket. Johnny won’t bother them. Right, John?”
“Sure, Murdoch,” Johnny replied innocently.
“Uh huh,” Scott said. “Are you finished, True? Papa said you could ride that little pony, Marcus, around the corral if you like.”
“Okay! I just need to finish my milk,” Truman said as he put his money pouch and chocolate bunny back into his basket.
The boy darted a suspicious glance at Johnny. Johnny caught the look and grinned.
“Don’t you trust me, True?” Johnny asked with a fake look of hurt.
Truman glared at his big brother, then narrowed his eyes.
“Not when it comes to chocolate, Johnny.”
Scott and Murdoch howled with laughter. Johnny pouted for a few seconds, then grinned and joined the laughter. Murdoch stepped in and lifted the basket. He took it to the kitchen and asked Teresa to hide it. He also instructed Teresa not to eat the boy’s chocolate rabbit and that True was allowed to have only two pieces of candy a day. Teresa agreed and put the basket in a secret place.
Murdoch returned to the great room and was pleased to see his three boys cleaning up the snack dishes together. Scott took the dishes back to the kitchen and set them in the sink, then returned to the dining room to round up his brothers. Scott picked up Truman and carried him to the barn with Johnny and Murdoch trailing behind. They peeked at Miracle and her family and were happy to see that the rabbits were resting. Johnny saddled Marcus as Murdoch helped Truman get his boot on. Murdoch had picked up the boy’s boot on the way out the door.
Scott put Truman on the pony and led them out of the barn and into the corral. Johnny went to fuss over Barranca and Murdoch joined Scott and Truman outside. Johnny came out a few minutes later and watched as True rode the pony around the corral. Murdoch noticed his youngest wincing a bit and called him over.
“Are you okay, Truman?”
“My ankle hurts a little, especially when Marcus wants to trot. He doesn’t want to just walk in circles,” True replied.
“I’ll walk him around, Murdoch,” Johnny said as he climbed through the rails and grabbed hold of the reins.
Johnny talked to Marcus and winked at Truman.
“Hold on to the pommel, lil cowboy. I’ll walk Marcus slowly.”
“I wish I could ride faster, but it hurts when my ankle bounces,” Truman said.
“Yeah, I know. You’ll just have to be patient and take this slow,” Johnny said.
Johnny led Marcus around the corral slowly and gradually increased the speed until Truman asked him not to go any faster.
After about thirty minutes of riding, Truman decided he’d had enough and wanted to go back to see Miracle.
When they were back in the barn, Johnny set the boy up on the workbench with Murdoch and Scott standing by and they watched the babies suckle.
“Papa? What are the little rabbits doing?”
“They’re sucking milk from their mother.”
“Ummm, from her, umm, nipples,” Murdoch replied hesitantly.
“What are those?” Truman asked.
Johnny was amused at Murdoch’s embarrassment. Nevertheless, he decided to save his father and help out.
“True, you know how foals get milk from their mommas, right?” Johnny asked, drawing on the boy’s prior knowledge to explain how baby animals feed.
Truman had witnessed the birth of several foals during last summer and he knew that as soon as the foals rose to their feet and became steady that they went to their mothers and nursed.
“Well, that’s how bunnies feed, too,” Johnny concluded.
Murdoch released a sigh of relief and cast a grateful glance at Johnny. Johnny caught his eye and winked.
“Well, where do Easter baskets come from?” Truman asked.
“The Easter Bunny,” Murdoch replied.
“We’ll talk about it after supper. Let’s go in and wash up,” Murdoch said.
“Okay. Bye, Miracle. By little bunnies,” Truman said.
“Are you going to name the baby rabbits, True?” Scott asked.
“Yes, but I gotta think on it and find out if the babies are boys or girls. Papa? Can I keep Miracle and her babies?”
“I think so, son.”
“Thanks, Papa! What are rabbits good for?” True asked.
“Rabbit stew,” Johnny muttered.
“Johnny! Papa, please don‘t let Johnny put Miracle in a stew,” True pleaded.
Murdoch glared at Johnny and appeased his youngest.
“Johnny won’t hurt Miracle, son. He’s just teasing you.”
Scott shoved Johnny and they wrestled for a minute, laughing and scuffling in the hay.
“Boys! It’s time to go in. You two could do with a bath, now,” Murdoch admonished Scott and Johnny.
“Do I hafta have a bath, too, Papa?”
“No, you can wait till tomorrow evening for your bath. Let’s go.”
Murdoch picked up his youngest and walked out of the barn with Scott and Johnny trailing after him and picking bits of hay out of their hair and off their clothes.
When they entered, Teresa heard and came out from the kitchen. She gave Scott and Johnny a look of disdain.
“Supper will be ready in about forty-five minutes. You two are not allowed at the table till you bathe,” Teresa announced, warning Scott and Johnny.
“I told you so,” Murdoch said.
Teresa hugged Murdoch and gave True a peck on the cheek. He was perched on Murdoch’s left hip.
“Teresa, Papa said I can keep Miracle and Johnny’s not allowed ta put her in a stew,” the boy informed his sister.
“Don’t you worry about it, honey. I’ll keep an eye on Johnny.”
“Why don’t you go play while Johnny and Scott have their baths, then we’ll wash our hands when supper is ready,” Murdoch suggested to Truman.
“Okay, Papa. I’m gonna draw my horses.”
Murdoch put Truman on the floor by the hearth and took the boy’s horses out of his toy box and set them on the floor.
“You’re welcome, son,” Murdoch replied as he gently squeezed True’s shoulder.
Murdoch sat in his chair and read his book. When supper was ready, he helped Truman pick up his toys and took him to the kitchen to wash his hands. Johnny and Scott came down, clean and well-groomed. The family enjoyed their Easter supper together.
After supper, Murdoch took Truman to the living room and sat in his chair again, with the boy snuggled against him. Scott and Johnny followed and Teresa joined them soon after.
“So, you want to know about Easter Baskets, huh?” Murdoch asked True.
“Okay. I did some reading today. Easter Baskets – Now why would a rabbit have eggs in an Easter basket? Well, there was a legend about how Eastre, the goddess of spring, changed an Eagle into a hare, which is another name for a rabbit. The rabbit could not forget his old habits, however, and the changed rabbit kept on building nests and filling them with eggs.”
“So the Easter bunny used ta be an eagle?” True asked.
“Well, when did the Easter Bunny start putting candy, toys, and money in baskets and why do only kids get Easter baskets?” True asked.
“About the same time Santa started filling stockings with goodies and Easter baskets are for kids,” Murdoch answered.
Truman frowned and looked up at his Papa.
“What kind of answer is that, Papa?”
“It’s the only answer I have, son. I’m sorry, but it’s the best I can do,” Murdoch replied.
“Okay. Thanks for telling me about the eagle and baskets. May I get down and play?”
“You’re welcome, big boy. Yes, you have a couple of hours to play before bedtime.”
Murdoch laughed and put the boy on the floor gently. True played with his horses and covered wagon while Scott and Johnny played Chess. Teresa was reading and Murdoch sat back and watched his family with a smile.
When the clock struck eight-thirty, Murdoch helped Truman put his toys away and held the boy while he said his goodnights to Johnny, Scott, and Teresa. Murdoch took his boy upstairs and put the child to bed.
Once True was tucked in, had said his prayers and Mr. Bear was close by, Murdoch sat on the bed and rubbed the boy’s head tenderly.
“Did you have a good Easter, son?”
“Yes, Papa. It was great. Miracle is alive and had babies, I got to spend time with my friends and family, I got ta find eggs in my first ever egg hunt, and the Easter bunny left a basket for me. It was very nice.”
“That’s great, Son. Don’t forget the real meaning of Easter, though. Promise?”
“You mean that God gave us his only son and Jesus died on the cross for us?”
“I won’t forget, Papa. I love you, Papa. I feel like when you took me in and adopted me, I was like Jesus when he went to Heaven to be with his daddy, God.”
“I love you, too, Son. Very much. I fell like I was given a new chance, too, when you came to us and I thank God or sending you to us. You’ve been a real blessing, Son. Good night, my boy. Sleep well.”
“I will, Papa. Good night.”
The rest of Truman’s spring holiday went smoothly. His family took good care of him and helped him get around. Truman visited his animals everyday and took good care of them. Once the baby bunnies were big enough to be handled, Jelly and Johnny identified their genders. There were four boys and one girl. Truman named the girl bunny ‘Hope’ and the boy bunnies were ‘Matthew’, ‘Mark’, ‘Luke’, and ‘John.’
Happy Easter, Lanccerettes!
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