Word Count 4,959
Disclaimer: Usual-I don’t own them, except for Truman. I just like to take them out and play with them.
This story is unbeta-ed because it was a spontaneous thought. I know it’s out of story sequence, but I figured y’all would overlook that detail since it’s a seasonal thing. I hope you enjoy it. No warnings….we’ll just see how this flows. Okie doke? If I offend anybody, I apologize.
Truman’s First Thanksgiving
By: Boonie 11/23/06
Truman Lancer had settled in with his new family. He was a happy 7 year old boy. School and chores on the ranch kept him busy and out of trouble, most of the time. Sometimes, however, he got wrapped up in whatever trouble found his older brother, Johnny. The two of them had survived quite a few predicaments together over the past 7 months.
Today was the last day of school before Thanksgiving break. School would be closed for the next two days and resume on Monday. It was an easy school day, not much instruction was being delivered due to the fact that the children were all excited about the feasts they were going to have the next day and the extra time to spend with their families and friends without having to worry about schoolwork.
Miss May had read a book about the first Thanksgiving and the class discussed what the pilgrims had been thankful for. Then, Miss May assigned the students a short writing assignment-essays about what they were most thankful for and to draw pictures to go along with their essays. She was going to make a class book of the essays to share with the students’ families during Winter Family Night, which was held the Monday before Christmas vacation.
The rules had been relaxed and the children were allowed to chatter quietly as they worked, sharing ideas and their pictures. All of the children, save one, were working hard on their assignment.
Truman Lancer was sitting at his desk, quiet and withdrawn, staring out the window. He had celebrated his second birthday without his parents a couple of months previously. Even though he had his new family, it had been very hard on the boy to be happy about the occasion. Now, there was a big holiday to celebrate. Truman and his parents hadn’t celebrated Thanksgiving. It was an American holiday and his parents were Scottish. Truman knew the stories about the pilgrims and the Indians who helped them, he and his parents just hadn’t celebrated. He was becoming melancholy about the whole affair. It was a new holiday to him and his parents weren’t there to celebrate it with him for the first time. He wasn’t sure what to do or think about this holiday. The only person who could relate to Truman’s confusion was his brother, Johnny. Johnny had grown up along the border towns of Mexico, and he and his mother had not celebrated either. Johnny’s first Thanksgiving had been three years ago. Truman’s other older brother, Scott, approached the holiday from a historical perspective, spouting facts about the first Thanksgiving. The family had noticed the boy’s apprehension and reluctance to become excited and they tried to help by sharing some of their favorite Thanksgiving customs and memories with the youngest Lancer.
“Truman,” Miss May called to bring the boy out of his daydream. “Truman, you haven’t written anything. We need to complete these before the day is over so I can include them in the class book we’re making.”
Miss May had approached Truman’s desk and knelt next to the boy.
“I don’t know what to write, Miss May. People talk about the food they’re going to eat. Is that all Thanksgiving is about? The food? That’s all the pilgrims seemed to care about,” Truman whispered.
“You don’t know what Thanksgiving is about?” Chris Bailey asked scornfully.
“I’m Scottish. We didn’t celebrate when…” Truman began to answer.
“When what?” Chris pressed.
“Get back to work, Chris,” Miss May admonished, figuring out that Truman was about to say “when my parents were alive.” She wanted to spare him the hurt of having to explain it to a classmate who didn’t know the meaning of hardship and loss.
“You didn’t celebrate Thanksgiving with your parents?” Miss May asked.
“So this is all new to you.”
“You were born in America, weren’t you?”
“Yes, ma’am. In Virginia. Near the end of the Civil War. I know about the Civil War. My brother, Scott, fought in the Union Army.”
“He’s not your real brother!” Chris piped up. He had been eavesdropping.
“He is, too!” Truman replied angrily.
“Chris! Get back to work! If I have to speak to you again, you’ll be eating your Thanksgiving Dinner standing up! Is that clear?” Miss May corrected the other boy.
“Yes, ma’am,” Chris replied meekly and returned to his essay.
Miss May turned back to Truman and tried to explain the meaning of the holiday.
“Truman, the pilgrims gave thanks for the food because so many of them had starved to death. They gave thanks to the Indians who taught them how to farm and use the land to their advantage. They were thankful that they had their friends and family with them and they were thankful for being in a new land to begin new and better lives,” the teacher patiently explained.
“It didn’t seem better when so many died of hunger and sickness,” Truman replied.
“That’s another thing they were thankful for-their lives. They were grateful they made it to the new land and had a chance at a new life. The king in England was being difficult and wanted everyone to be the same religion he was, Catholic. Many people had to leave their home country to practice the religion they were born to,” Miss May continued her explanation.
“My brother, Johnny, is Catholic. Does that make him a bad person?”
“No, Truman. Johnny is different from the king. Does he try to make you be Catholic? Does he hurt you if you won’t change your religion?”
“No, ma’am. He doesn’t care what religion I am. He loves me for me. He does invite me to come to his church if I’m not singing in the choir at my church,” the boy replied.
“See ? Johnny wants you to be who you are. It’s okay to visit other churches. He’s reaching out to you so you can be comfortable with his religion. The King didn’t want to try that, so the people came to America to get away from him. It was a very hard journey that lasted many months on the sea in a cramped ship. People got very sick and died. The pilgrims who survived were very thankful and they celebrated with the friendly Indians at a feast. That’s why it is a tradition to have a big feast for Thanksgiving. Do you understand better, now?”
“Yes, ma’am. Thank you. I think I know what I want to write now.”
“Very good, Truman. I’m glad I can help.”
Truman smiled and nodded as he picked up his pencil, looked out the window as he thought, tapped his pencil against his bottom lip, then began writing his essay.
Truman had finished his essay and was just putting the finishing touches on his artwork when Miss May stood at the front of the class and clapped her hands to acquire the students’ attention.
“Students, we have one more hour to go. Who is not finished with their assignment?”
Nobody raised their hand.
“Great! Who would like to share their essay?”
Mary Lane raised her hand and was called to the front to read her essay and share her picture. She had written about her family, her home, and friends and shared her picture of her family.
Chris Bailey, who was also 7, but in lower reading and math groups, had written about his many horses on his big ranch and how many head of cattle they had. He sneered at Truman while stating that his family’s Thanksgiving Tradition involved going hunting for their turkey and that he had his own rifle. Chris knew Truman was not allowed a rifle until his 12th birthday. However, what Chris didn’t know was that Truman was still allowed to shoot and hunt with his brothers and that he had excellent aim.
Chris’ illustration depicted him with a rifle and blowing a turkey’s head off.
“Well, that’s a lovely picture,” Miss May had said while rolling her eyes. “We have time for one more and I’d like to hear from Truman Lancer.”
Truman sighed and made his way slowly to the front of the class.
“This is my first Thanksgiving. My parents are Scottish, so we didn’t celebrate. I am thankful to parents, even though they are in Heaven with my baby brother, for giving me life, love, and a good set of manners, morals, determination, and Scottish stubbornness. I have a new family now and we will celebrate tomorrow. I am thankful for my new family. They took me in when I was hurt badly, nursed me back to health, and helped me grieve for my losses.They adopted me and gave me a new home and a bright future. I am thankful for my Papa, who is strong as a mountain, can be fierce as a lion, and as gentle as a lamb. He keeps me in line, but is never unfair or harsh. I am thankful for my brother, Scott, who is as wise as an owl and as patient as Job. He helped me learn what I needed to know to be confirmed into the church and he teaches me big words, such as graciousness. I am thankful for my brother, Johnny, who is kind and loving and fiercely protective. He taught me how to rope cattle, gentle a horse, and appreciate the simple things in life, like a full rainbow after a sudden summer storm. I am thankful for Teresa, my sister, who drove me crazy at first by trying to be a new mother to me, but now she is a great sister. She mends my clothes, tends my fevers, and makes me eat my vegetables. I am thankful for Maria, Jelly, and Cipriano, who treat me with respect and love me and look after me when my Papa, brothers, and sister can’t. I am thankful for my new home, my own bed, and the opportunities before me to become a respectable and contributing member of my community. I am thankful for Mickey, my horse, who gets me where I need to go and saved my hide in the cattle drive in August. I am thankful for Trevor, my canine companion, whom I can tell anything and he will still love me. Finally, I am thankful for Miss May, who explains what I don’t understand and helps me make sense out of chaos.”
The whole class clapped.
“That was very nice, Truman. May we see your picture?”
Truman held up his picture, a wonderful drawing of himself and his family, all smiling brilliantly, in the middle, with smaller pictures in the corners. Miss May was in one corner in front of the school house; Mickey and Trevor were together in another corner, Truman’s parents were in the top right corner, and the Lancer Arch was in the lower left corner.
“Truman! That is beautiful!”
The boy ducked his head and thanked his teacher shyly. Miss May gently lifted the boy’s chin and gasped when she saw the blue eyes, bright with unshed tears.
“You should be very proud of yourself, Truman. You did a great job. Enjoy your first Thanksgiving,”
“You’re welcome. All right, class. Clean up and you may be dismissed.”
“Yeah!!!!!,” the class shouted. There was instant chaos as desk tops slammed closed, lunch pails clanged against each other, and children shuffled to find their coats and put them on before leaving the warmth of the school house and stepping out into the crisp, cold November afternoon.
Once the last student left, Miss May gathered the essays and pictures, put her coat on and left the school, locking up before descending the steps. As she headed to the print shop to have the essays and illustrations bound, she passed an alley and heard some children having an seemingly unfriendly conversation. Distinct words could not be heard, but the tone was definitely hostile. Miss May crept down the alley to see if she needed to intervene. What she saw and heard shocked and angered her.
“Your brother is nothing but a filthy Catholic half-breed has been and he’s brought nothin’ but trouble to the valley! My pa says Johnny was in cahoots with Pardee, but when he saw the money hi pa had, he decided to turn against Pardee and take what was his!” Chris Bailey was taunting Truman while two of his brothers held the Lancer boy. Chris, despite being 7, was a large, strapping boy, of Irish descent. He had ginger colored hair with a ruddy complexion. All three Bailey boys were the spitting image of their father, in build and appearance.
“My brother tricked Pardee into the trap. He told Pardee who he was and to get off his land. Pardee could have left, but he was too stupid and selfish. Johnny would never turn against his family and don’t you ever call him a filthy Catholic half-breed again!” Truman staunchly defended his older brother.
For his efforts, Truman received a solid blow to his eye and another to his right rib, cracking it effortlessly. Truman gasped and tried to catch his breath.
“Stop that this instant!” Miss May yelled as she approached.
Fortunately, Sheriff Crawford was out on rounds and heard the confrontation from the other end of the alley, where he was checking the back door of the gunsmith’s shop while the proprietor was visiting family for the holiday.
“Hey you Bailey kids! I’ve told you enough to mind your own business. You just earned yourselves a night in my jail!”
“You can’t lock us up, we’re kids!” Sean Bailey protested.
“Wanna bet ? You three assaulted this boy and beat him. You’re goin’ ta jail!” Val insisted.
Val pulled his gun and herded the boys to jail. As he walked by Truman, who was now on the ground holding his rib and shaking with pain and anger, Val assured him that he would send some help.
Truman nodded. Miss May stayed with Truman until Mr. Lane came to carry him to Sam’s office.
“I’ve got him, Miss May. Thank you for staying with him,” Mr. Lane said. By this time, Truman had passed out.
“No problem. I’m just glad I looked into the situation. He could have been hurt much worse! Those Bailey boys have been nothing but trouble in school,” Miss May responded.
“Yes, ma’am. We’ll send someone to get the Lancers to town so they can take the boy home.”
“It’s a shame this had to happen today. It’s his first Thanksgiving tomorrow,” Miss May said.
“Well, I guess he’ll be thankful you came along when you did.”
When Mr. Lane approached Sam’s office door, he had to kick with his foot. The door opened almost immediately and Mr. Lane was directed to the treatment room with his precious cargo.
“What happened to him?” Sam asked, concerned and angry.
“The Bailey boys got a hold of him. They are in jail, now, and Val sent a deputy to get the Lancers.”
“What was it about?”
“Not sure. Miss May and Val broke it up before more damage could be done, though. They might have heard the argument, if there was one.”
“Okay. Thank you for bringing him to me. I’ll fix him up and put him to bed until his family arrives,” Sam said.
“If the Lancers need my buggy or buckboard to take him home, I’ll be happy to lend it,” Mr. Lane offered.
“That’s very kind of you. I’ll pass it along when they arrive. Where can we find you?”
“I’ll be at the diner.”
“Okay. See you later, maybe,” Sam said.
Mr. Lane left and Sam went to work on Truman. As he was dressing the boy in a nightshirt, his Papa and brothers arrived. He put the boy to bed, and went to talk to the concerned family.
“Sam? What happened?” Murdoch asked, panicked.
“The Bailey boys roughed him up some. Val and Miss May were able to break it up, but not until after Truman took a couple of blows. Apparently, he fought against the bondage and his left shoulder was dislocated. He has a cracked rib in the middle of the right ribcage and a shiner, too,” Sam explained.
Scott sighed in anguish. Johnny bowed his head and Murdoch stood to his full height.
“Nobody messes with my boys and gets away with it!”
“The boys are in jail. Let Val handle it.”
“Why would they do that to True?” Scott asked.
“Yeah, what was the fight about?” Johnny asked.
“You’ll have to ask Truman or Miss May or Val. I don’t know what started it. Truman was unconscious when Mr. Lane brought him in. I fixed him up and put him to bed. Did you bring a wagon or buckboard? He can’t ride a horse,” Sam said.
“I brought the surrey, Johnny rode Barranca. Teresa put some pillows and blankets in the back. Scott can hold him while I drive and Johnny can lead Mickey home,” Murdoch said. They had discussed the plan on the way to town.
“Good ideas. Here are his clothes. I left his socks on. You can wrap him in his coat and then the blankets. Let’s go check on him.”
Sam led the Lancers to the back room and raised the wick so they could see the youngest Lancer boy.
“Oh, dear God,” Murdoch said as he glimpsed the little boy.
“Mio Dios,” Johnny muttered.
“Oh, True,” Scott said.
The boy’s right eye was swollen almost closed and it was black and blue. His left arm was in a sling. Though they couldn’t see, the child’s middle was wrapped securely.
Murdoch sat on the bed and took his boy’s right hand in his.
“Truman, it’s Papa. Wake up, Big Boy.”
Truman shifted and moaned, then his left eye opened a fraction. He licked his lips and tried to focus on the large man sitting on the bed.
“Papa?” a small, raspy voice said.
“Yes, Papa’s here and so are Johnny and Scott.”
“ ‘m sowwy” Murdoch noticed the slurred speech and was worried, but he was thankful his boy was able to talk to him.
“Why are you sorry, son? You did nothing wrong.”
“ ‘spoiled Tanksgivin’”
“No, you didn’t. We’ll still have Thanksgiving, even if we have to bring the turkey to your room. You stay here with Johnny and Scott while Papa talks to Uncle Sam about getting you home, okay?”
“Good boy.” Murdoch stood and gestured to Sam to follow him.
Johnny and Scott sat on either side of their little brother and comforted him.
Out in the hall, in whispered voice, Murdoch asked Sam about Truman’s speech.
“It’s most likely caused by a blow to his head. The impact to his eye could have been severe enough to cause a mild concussion. Truman passed out before he arrived. We’ll have to keep an eye on him. I’ll check on him when I come for dinner tomorrow. It’s at 2 pm, right?”
“Right. What if it doesn’t clear up by tomorrow?”
“It may take time. We have to be patient and watchful. He may sit at the table with us if he feels up to it, but I want him resting most of the day tomorrow. He can be on the couch with pillows and blankets. He’s a lot like Johnny. He doesn’t like being out of the action. He’ll probably sleep most of the day, which is fine as long as we wake him every two hours through tonight and tomorrow. Let’s go wrap him up and you can take him home.”
“Thank you, Sam.”
“My pleasure. You know I love your boys as my own.”
When Sam and Murdoch entered the room, Johnny and Scott stood so their father and doctor could check on their brother. The boy hadn’t said anything while they had been waiting for Murdoch’s return, but his brothers had succeeded in getting some water into the boy.
“Truman, son, we’re going to cuddle you up in blankets and Scott is going to hold you while I drive the surrey home.”
“Johnny is going to bring Mickey home.” Murdoch turned to Johnny and said, “ Why don’t you go to the livery and get Mickey? We’ll meet you at the front door.”
“Sure, Pa. I’m going to get Mickey, True. I’ll see ya soon. Mind Papa, Sam, ‘n Scott.”
“You’re welcome.” Johnny left. He was also concerned about his brother’s slurred speech, but he figured Murdoch had spoken to Sam about it and would share the information with them later.
Scott walked out with Johnny and grabbed his little brother’s clothes. He stuffed them in Johnny’s saddlebags and retrieved the bag of blankets from the surrey. When he returned to his brother’s side, the boy had been uncovered.
Murdoch lifted the boy gently and held him close while Sam and Scott spread the blankets on the bed. Murdoch put his boy on top of the blankets and the three men worked together to wrap the child snugly to stabilize his injuries and to keep him warm.
Once the boy was wrapped, Murdoch lifted him again and carried his youngest to the surrey. Scott climbed aboard first and Murdoch handed the child to his older brother. Scott took his brother carefully and cradled him gently. Johnny helped his father climb aboard, then took Mickey’s reins and mounted Barranca. The Lancers made their way to the sheriff’s office. Murdoch made a decision and stopped the surrey.
“Stay here, boys. I’ll be right back.” Murdoch entered the office and found Val at work writing a report.
“Murdoch. How’s Truman?”
“Banged up. Seems I’ve got you and Miss May to think for preventing further injury. I’d like to press formal charges.”
“It’s been taken care of.”
“Thanks. Still coming to dinner tomorrow at 2?”
“You’re still having dinner?”
“It’s Truman’s first Thanksgiving. He’s going to eat as much as he feels up to eating. We need to celebrate and help him cope with this.”
“Sure, I’ll be there.”
“We’ll talk about this incident later, okay? I just want to get my boy home.”
“I understand. I’ll see you tomorrow. Thanks for coming by. Give my best to Truman.”
“I will. Thanks. Good night.”
Murdoch left and the Lancers made their way home. By the time they reached the estancia, Truman was sound asleep. Ranch hands came over and helped the family down from the surrey and took care of the team and the brothers’ horses.
Teresa, Jelly, and Maria were waiting anxiously inside. They surrounded the Lancer men almost as soon as they entered the door. Murdoch was now holding the boy.
Teresa gasped at the sight of her little brother’s eye.
“What happened?” she asked.
“The Bailey boys held him and beat him up. We’re not sure over what, yet. Val and Sam will be here tomorrow for dinner. True has a concussion and his speech is slurred. One of his ribs on his right side is cracked, his left shoulder was dislocated, and, as you can see, his eye is nearly completely swollen shut. Sam said he could eat down here with us and rest on the couch. We need to wake him every two hours and pay attention to his speech. Hopefully, it will clear up over the next few days. I’m not sure he’s going to school next week,” Murdoch explained.
The others nodded their concern and understanding during Murdoch’s spiel.
“Right now, I want to put him to bed. After he’s settled, we’ll have supper and see if he’ll eat anything.”
“I’ll fix some soup for him,” Teresa volunteered.
“I have some biscuits leftover, too,” Maria added.
“That sounds good. Thank you,” Murdoch answered.
Murdoch, Scott, and Johnny walked up the steps with their precious cargo. When they reached Truman’s bedroom, Scott entered first and pulled down the linens. Murdoch laid his son on the bed and unwrapped the child. Scott and Johnny worked together to make a nest of pillows to support the boy’s upper body, especially his shoulder. Sam had wrapped Truman’s arm to his body after the dislocation had been reduced and stabilized. Once he was settled, covers were pulled up to the child’s chest. A lamp was lit as the sun sank in the west. Johnny volunteered to take first watch over his brother.
Thanksgiving Day dawned crisp and cold, yet bright and sunny. The family had eaten supper the night before and retired early to bed. Murdoch came up with a tray for Truman and fed his son as Johnny stood by to assist. The boy managed half the bowl, a biscuit, and a full mug of milk before succumbing to exhaustion again. Johnny returned the tray to the kitchen and Murdoch had taken over the watch. Scott relieved him at midnight and Jelly came in to relieve Scott at 4 am. Truman woke fairly easily every time they needed to check on him, but his speech had not improved.
Murdoch entered his youngest son’s room and checked him for fever. Thankfully, the boy was not feverish. Truman woke on his own and moaned in pain as he shifted in bed.
“Take it easy, son. What can I help you do?”
“Oh, okay.” Murdoch helped his son take care of his personal needs, then carried him downstairs to be with the family as they prepared for the big meal.
Truman rested on the couch, napping on and off, and had his needs taken care of by his Papa, his brothers, or Jelly. Each time he was wakened, his family talked to him and tried to get him to talk to them. Truman’s speech was still slurred and his family was deeply concerned, wondering about permanent damage.
When Sam and Val arrived for dinner, Sam examined the boy and was pleased that he had eaten well and had been resting. Sam reassured the family, away from the child, that they needed to be patient concerning Truman’s speech.
“Don’t show that you’re upset about his speech. He’ll get upset and worry and will not get the rest he desperately needs to heal,” Sam explained.
“Just give it some more time.”
The Lancers nodded.
“Val, do you know why they beat up Truman?” Murdoch asked.
“I heard some of it before I could get there and stop the assault. They were picking on him and saying cruel things to him about Johnny. He defended his big brother. You’d be proud of him. Miss May came to see me this morning and gave me her report. Apparently, the trouble started at school and escalated in the alley. Chris was taunting Truman by saying Johnny was a Catholic half-breed has-been and that he was in cahoots with Pardee to take over the valley. I’m sorry, Johnny,” Val explained.
“Not your fault. Once again, misinformed people spread lies and it got my little brother hurt,” Johnny said, whispering.
“Let’s be thankful Val and Miss May arrived before he was more seriously injured. Also, since Val and Miss May heard what was said and Miss May gave a statement, we can get an indictment against them,” Scott said to Johnny, trying to calm his brother’s frayed nerves.
Jelly came into the kitchen, then.
“Boss, Truman is askin’ for ya.”
“I’m coming, Jelly. Thank you.”
The family and their guests went back to the living room to see what the child needed.
“What is it, Truman?” Murdoch asked gently.
“Whe’ is dinner? ‘m hungry.”
Murdoch smiled at his boy.
“Soon, son. Would you like a small snack?”
Delighted to hear a clear word from his injured boy, Murdoch beamed.
“I’ll get some milk and a biscuit or two for you, okay??”
Even though the last word was slightly slurred, Murdoch and the others had noticed a big improvement and spirits were lifted all around.
Truman enjoyed his snack and was ready to share the feast when the time came. Murdoch held Truman on his lap during grace and the telling of each person’s blessings.
“I’m thankful for my new fam’ly, friendsh, and home,” the boy shared.
“And we are thankful for you coming into our lives and brightening every corner of it,” Murdoch told the boy lovingly.
Truman recuperated over a few weeks and was present and testified at the trial of the Bailey boys. They each received two years in a reformatory school. Their father was forced to pay restitution to Truman. He didn’t want their money, so he donated half of it to his school and the other half to the orphanage. The older Lancers were very proud of the youngest Lancer.
The Winter Family Night at Green River School was a huge success. The children’s work was shared and everyone was impressed with the Thanksgiving Essay book, especially with Truman’s picture.
Truman decided that even though his first Thanksgiving wasn’t exactly what he expected, he learned that he was most grateful for the holiday and the opportunity to express his gratitude for the blessings he had.
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