The next morning everyone is eating their breakfast without uttering a single sound but constantly looking over at the empty seat at the head of the table.
Going back in time Jarrod thinks back to Tom lying there in the casket asking “Why Father? Why did this have to happen?” with tears going down his cheek and Nick saying “Oh Father” with Gene standing beside him slightly also crying. Audra somberly looks at the casket crying “Father” very hard letting the tears fall with Victoria holding onto her with one hand wrapped around her and Jarrod on the other side running his hand up and down her arm while she rests her head against his chest. With tears flowing down Gene’s cheek, Nick’s left thumb soothes them away while leaning his head against his cheek while at the same time tears flow down his own cheeks looking somberly at the casket in front of the altar.
At the Burial Site of Thomas Barkley 1813-1870 is on the headstone of the grave.
With tears in their eyes Nick, Jarrod, Victoria, Gene and Audra all have solemn looks on their faces as they cry and stare at the casket containing the body of Thomas J. Barkley in it as the minister continues reciting as they take it out to the burial site and watch as it gets lowered into the ground.
Nicholas continues, “As we gather to mourn the passing of a man named Thomas Jonathan Barkley,” Victoria hears in her head and yells, “NO! NO! NO!”
Present day Nichols says, “As we gather to mourn the passing of a man named Francis Scott Sempleworth who has touched all of our lives, giving without stamina, warm of love and understanding ask for nothing but love in return.”
“Why?” Victoria cries asking, “Why? Why did this have to happen? Why?” with Nettie sobbing quietly, “He was a good man, he didn’t deserve to die, he was only doing what he thought was right.” Quickly Jarrod pulls Victoria into his arms while Nick calls out “Mother” as he quietly places his arms around her shoulders.
“Why Tom?” Victoria continues, “Why?” sobbing louder than before. Exchanging glances Audra and Gene both call out to her as they quickly go over to her with Gene asking, “Are you all right?” with Jarrod cutting in, “She’ll be okay,” and then says to Victoria, “Mother, come on,” escorting her out of the pew and whispers to Nick that he is taking her back to his office and to meet them there when it’s over with who quietly nods in response.
Walking out of the church, “It’s so unfair,” Victoria continues crying, “It’s so unfair. Tom was a good man, a good father, he was only doing what he thought was right,” with Heath sadly watching the scenario as well as the sadden faces on each of them standing there. Quietly looking over Audra takes his hand into hers and holds onto it as he tries to move away. Eventually he gives in and then after rubbing her fingers over his she places her head on his shoulder while he continues to look down at her but doesn’t move.
After reciting, “The great noble Francis Scott Sempleworth on this occasion” Nichols then asks “Will everyone please stand?” As everyone rises the organist plays and they all sing “Alleluia, alleluia, alleluia.” Nichols then recites “God loved the world so much, he gave us his only Son that all who believe in him might have eternal life” with all in room singing again “Alleluia, alleluia, alleluia.”
Then reciting the Rite of Peace with everyone getting up and offering each other a sign of peace Nichols goes to meet and greet the various hands extended out to him from Nettie to each of the Barkleys to the gatherers that come forward as he approaches. Returning to the altar Nichols then goes back to his podium and has everyone returning to their missilette to recite the Breaking of the bread followed by the final commendation and then the farewell in which everyone stands back up.
Placing his hand on his forehead, “May almighty God bless you in the name of the Father,” Nichols says with everyone following his lead, “And the son,” moving their hands down to their chest and then to the left, “And the Holy Spirit,” and then to the right. Nick, Duke, Ed and Bill quietly proceed to the altar.
Standing on the right side of the aisle Nichols then says, “Let’s bow our heads and take a couple minutes to pray” which everyone in the church does while saying a quiet prayer.
As Nichols says, “Go in the peace of Christ,” the pallbearers quietly lift the casket up and as they are going up the aisle Nichols continues, “The mass is ended. We will resume this at the Sempleworth Ranch. After we finish there and once the mass and burial services commence for Harry Anderson, Victoria Barkley has graciously opened her home to anyone who wishes to attend. It begins at 2:00 and you could stay as long as each of you desire. Go in peace to love and serve the Lord,” to which all in room respond, “Thanks be to God.”
Going out the door the Pallbearers carry the casket to the awaiting wagon with Nettie, each of her children walk behind them followed by Gene, Audra and Heath right behind them with Audra holding Heath’s hand, Jenny right behind them followed by everyone else taking their turn as they move up the aisle.
As two of the Pallbearers climb into the driver’s box of the waiting wagon one of them begin steering with Nick and Duke both on each side of them riding black horses. The rest of the church attenders proceed to their waiting buggies and wagons as the men folk assist the women folks into their seats. Each designated driver heads in the direction of the Sempleworth Ranch.
Bringing Victoria to his office Jarrod helps her over to one of the sofas and then gets her a drink from the cabinet while she continues crying, “It’s not fair, it’s not fair. Why Tom? Why?” as she sips a little of the drink Jarrod hands her who sits alongside of her running his hands up and down her back telling her “Sh Mother, sh” in a soothing voice “You’re going to be alright, sh! It’s okay, you just lie here.”
At the Sempleworth the casket has been placed next to the opening of where a headstone reading Frank Sr. and Frank Jr. Sempleworth engraved on it. With a date of August 13, 1815-January 17, 1871 for Frank Sr., and February 22, 1839-March 12, 1863 over Frank Jr.’s with everyone gathered on either side.
Standing before them Nichols recites, “Man who that is born,” Nettie in remorse holds a flower in her hand with each of the children standing together with Nick and Gene side by side, Audra next to Heath on one side and Patty on ther other with her mother Laura, brother Carl and Jessie on the other side of Carl standing with her parents, Duke and Jenny side by side, Gene and Irving side by side and all others gathered around Nichols as he continues, “And has but only a short time to live and is full of misery, he is cometh up and cut down like a flower, he flee it as it was his shadow and never continuous in one stay.” Nettie puts her hand around Chrissy comforting her silently.
Nichols continues, “Uphold may we say for suffering thee O Lord who before our sins are justly displeased get oh God most holy, O Lord most mighty deliver us not into the bitter pains of eternal death as we withstand in the presence of our dead, we know that it is not defeat but victory help us to know that in thy good time our summeth year shall thy be reunited in the country of their hopes where thou shall make us fled and they abundance answer to our every humble prayer blessed are that these that mourn for they shall be comforted, be strong and in of good courage, fear not.” Sobbing loudly Nettie says, “NO! NO!”
“Mother” both Ed and Bill say as they take her into their arms. “Oh Ed” she sobs “Bill” as they continue comforting her. Heath not knowing what to say or do just looks solemnly down towards the ground. Audra quietly takes hold of his hand telling him, “It’s okay Heath,” as he looks over to her showing a little smile.
“Nor be afraid for the Lord thy God,” Nichols continues, “He has that go with thee he will not fail there nor worth saving thee. God is not a god of the dead but for the living. For all live unto him, with all thee O Lord is the foundation of life in thy life. Shall we see light unto all mighty God we commend the soul of our brother. Francis Scott Sempleworth departed and we commit his body to the ground. Earth to Earth, ashes to ashes, dust to dust! In firm and the mighty faith that as he has formed the image of the earthly so, also he does now bear the image of the heaven his dust returns to the Earth as it was. But the spirit has returned unto the God who gave him.” Nettie replies, “Amen.”
The little girl and her mother place flowers on the casket while various gatherers holding handkerchiefs are either crying quietly or just saddened. Closing the book Nichols walks away leaving the remaining gatherers who one by one go and say their sorry to each of them standing there bowing or saying a little prayer next to the casket some of them giving it a quick kiss as they silently walk away.
Following right behind the others Nick, Gene, Audra and Heath follow right behind and after returning to their buggy Nick drives back to town leaving the Sempleworths with those left still expressing their sorrow. Meanwhile back at the ranch, Silas is instructing his four helpers how to place glasses on each of the trays on the counter. Ron asks, “Will there be many coming?”
“Probably,” Silas answers, “The Barkleys usually get a large turnout. Just keep doing what you are doing. You’re all doing jus’ fine.”
At his office Jarrod goes over to Victoria asking, “Mother, you have a nice nap?” as her eyes open, “What happened?” she inquires. “You took a little nap,” he informs her. Victoria then says, “Oh Jarrod, I am so sorry, I don’t know what came over me.”
“Mother,” Jarrod replies, “I think you were acting normal under the circumstances.” Hearing the sound of the buggy pulling up, “It was much too soon, too early to be over it yet. It was only six months ago” he informs her as he peers out the window, “Mother the rest of the family is coming.”
“I better go and fix myself up a little,” Victoria says grabbing a handkerchief from her purse to wipe away the tears from her eyes and cheeks and then touching up her hair a bit with her fingers. Bringing the buggy to a stop the siblings climb out with Audra holding Heath’s hand. Walking in, “How is she?” Nick asks of Jarrod.
“Why don’t you ask her?” Jarrod suggests. Taking a seat on one side of her “Mother” Nick asks “How you holding up?” Placing her hand over her chest “I’m doing okay” she informs him as Gene sits on the opposite side of her and Audra kneels down before her running her hands down her arms asking “Mother, are you alright?”
Placing her hand on Audra’s “I’m alright” she replies as she takes hold of Gene’s hand next and glances up over at Jarrod and then finally at Heath who is standing there, “Sorry, for my little outburst.”
“Mother” Nick answers “It’s alright,” placing his hand on her shoulder “It has only been six months. It’s natural for you to have felt that way. Inside the church it bothered me a little.” Gene says “Me too. Every time I looked up at that casket sitting there I kept thinking and seeing Father instead and just wanted to run out of there.” Audra replies “Same here.” Nick says “It’s like reliving it all over again.”
“It does” Jarrod admits “I agree. I did wonder how we all were going to get through this today.” Victoria mentions “We’ll get through it. Just give me a minute or two to collect my thoughts and my composure.” Glancing over at Heath she says, “Heath, come here.”
Responding “Yes um” Heath quickly and obediently goes to sit in the seat next to her. She then asks “Are you okay?” Nodding his head “Yes um” he answers again.
Gene then asks, “Mother, are we gonna go back to the church?” Victoria replies, “We have to Gene. It’s our obligation to Laura.”
“Mother,” Nick says, “We could always excuse ourselves.” Victoria replies, “No, we have to. Come on, it’s almost time for it to begin.” Noticing the time, “We might be walking in late,” Jarrod brings up.
“If we do,” Victoria replies, “Then we will just stand in the back. At least we will be there,” finishing her drink and getting up, “Let’s get going,” she says showing a little assuring smile, “It’ll be alright.”
Quickly and quietly the family exits Jarrod’s office and returns to the church. Moving towards the door, “It’s already started,” Gene announces.
“We’ll stand right here,” Victoria mentions with them standing near the door listening to the remaining mass being said for Harold Dean Anderson. They pick up from Nichols reciting, “Peace be with those who have left us.”
Nichols then mentions, “For those of you who didn’t attend the first service I want to let you know that after the services at The Stockton Cemetery have concluded Victoria Barkley has graciously opened her home to anyone wishing to go there starting at 2 and you could stay for as long as you need to,” as the eight men selected lift the casket up, Nichols continues, “The mass is ended. Go in peace to love and serve the Lord. Amen,” with everyone replying, “Amen.” Quietly the pallbearers lead the casket up the aisle.
Seeing them coming, both Jarrod and Nick quietly hold the door open for them. While the pallbearers proceed to the waiting Hearst, Laura, her daughter Patty and son Carl come out. Victoria, Audra and Gene quietly console each of them with Victoria taking hold of Laura’s hand squeezing it lightly, Audra placing her hand on Patty’s shoulder and Gene observing them does the same with Carol as they pass by them. Once the designated driver climbs into the front he proceeds onto the Stockton Cemetery with each of the pallbearers following right behind.
Upon arriving “Mother” Jarrod inquires “How are you holding up?” as he assists her out of the buggy “I’m doing better” she informs him “I’ll be alright.”
Jarrod then asks, “You sure?” Victoria replies, “I’m sure.” Joining in, “If you don’t think you could handle it,” Nick says, “We could leave and go back to the house.” Taking his hand into hers, “No,” she replies, “I’ll be fine. I’ll be fine.”
Standing before the casket which is placed in front of the headstone that reads ‘Harold Dean Anderson-August 15, 1813-January 17, 1871’ the Barkleys listen as Father Nichols opens his book up and begins addressing those that are gathered reciting the same sermon he gave for Frank Sempleworth swapping Harold Dean Anderson for Frank’s name with Laura, Patty and Carl all crying and looking over at the casket while Jarrod has tears going down his cheeks and Victoria maintaining her own self. Finishing Nichols ends the sermon with “Amen” and Laura replying “Amen.”
After Patty places flowers on the top everyone else begins going up to each of them and after giving them their regrets by hugging them or shaking their hands one by one they depart after saying a silent prayer and bowing before the casket. Walking up to Victoria Father Nichols greets her who in turn replies, “Hi Father! Sorry for what happened earlier.”
“Don’t be,” Nichols tells her, “It’s normal. Will you still be able to handle the guests coming over?”
“Oh yes,” Victoria answers, “I have everything all set up for it. Would you like to come?” Squeezing her hand, “I may stop over for a few minutes,” Nichols informs her. Victoria replies, “That’ll be fine. I’ll see you there.” Bidding each other goodbye Nichols walks away while she heads for the waiting buggy.
“I’ll see you at the house,” Audra informs Patty who nods her head. Taking hold of Heath’s hand she escorts him over to the buggy. Once everyone is seated Jarrod drives back to the ranch. While taking in the scenery along the way each member of the family minus Heath think back to everything that has happened to them reliving how things went six months ago to the present.
Six Months Ago
After the services and burial later on at night Victoria sitting in a chair watches the burning embers split up. Coming over to her, “Could I get you anything?” Silas asks. She tells him, “No, no, I don’t need anything. Just go!” Not saying another word he walks away.
Both Audra and Gene not being able to sleep get up and go down the hall with Audra going to Nick’s room while Gene goes to Jarrod’s.
As they both climb into their beds Nick soothes Audra’s cheeks while Jarrod does the same for Gene as they lie there under the covers and once they’ve closed their eyes and fallen asleep Jarrod and Nick do the same.
Reliving that day Victoria remembers after finally getting the courage to get up goes up the stairs to Nick’s room and upon seeing both Nick and Audra sound asleep she lets out a little smile as she goes over to them and adjust the blankets carefully enough so she doesn’t awaken them. Then after giving them each a kiss goodnight she goes down the hall to Jarrod’s doing the same for Jarrod and Gene. Walking back out and closing the door behind her, “Oh Tom,” she says, “You have four wonderful children. You would be all so proud of them; they are full of love and caring.
Returning to the present Victoria hears Jarrod asking of her, “What was that you just said?” She informs him, “I was looking back to six months ago and was saying your father had four wonderful children,” then glancing back at Heath sitting alongside of Audra reiterates, “Correction! Your father has five wonderful children, five beautiful children. He would be ever so proud of each one of you.”
“I would have to agree,” Jarrod notes, “He does and Father had one extraordinary woman for a wife. We wouldn’t be where we are today if it hadn’t been for either of you.” Reaching the archway, “No,” Victoria admits, “That is true.”
Bringing the buggy to a complete stop and climbing out, Victoria has Audra, Gene and Heath going inside to change their clothes. Upon walking in and after greeting Silas and informing him everything went well Gene says, “Glad it’s over. Mother fell apart though.”
“Is she alright?” Silas wanted to know. Audra answers, “She is; she’ll be right in. We have to go and change, Silas. We’ll be right down.”
Exiting the room Audra, Gene and Heath go up the stairs.
Seconds later Victoria walks in and after being greeted Silas asks, “How you doing? The children said you fell apart.” Victoria replies, “I did. But I am okay now. Is everything all set? Do you need any help with anything?” After Silas informs her everything is all set she excuses herself and goes up the stairs.
Seconds later Jarrod and Nick walk in greeting Silas and then head up the stairs to change out of the clothes they are wearing.
Minutes later wagons and buggies begin pulling up outside the house and alongside of the ranch. Peering out the window Audra calls out, “Mother! They’re coming.” Victoria says “Alright everyone. Get into position I want each of you to help out in anyway that is necessary.”
Opening the door Silas greets the many guests coming in saying “Won’t you all please come in” and upon walking in they reply “Thank you.”
As Bill walks in with his brother Henry and two sisters Mary and Rosie each of the Barkleys greet them accordingly with Victoria asking, “Where’s Nettie?”
Bill informs her “Oh, Ed is bringing her. She was very upset.” Victoria replies “Yes I should imagine.” Bill then asks of her “How are you doing?”
“Much better now” Victoria admits “I think it was just the sudden shock of being there and seeing the casket up front.” Bill replies, “That’s possible.”
While Audra and Gene invite Rosie, Mary and Henry up to their rooms, Nick takes Bill to the gunroom and after pouring them both a drink they go outside.
Seconds later, a tearful Nettie walks in with Ed, Jean and Chrissy. Quickly going to her, “Oh Nettie,” Victoria says, “I’m so sorry,” taking her into her arms with Nettie crying, “Oh Victoria, I don’t feel like talking right now. I’m sorry. It’s so unfair, it’s so unfair. Why did he have to die? Why did he have to be killed? He was only standing up for his home; our home.”
As some of the guests are watching her little outburst, Victoria calls out to her.
“Please Victoria” Nettie says “I know exactly what you are going to say so let me spare you alright?” looking over at Jarrod “Someone has to do it right? Is that what you are going to say? Yeah, that is what Frank always said. I think its part of being all you men” then to Heath she continues on “Anything happens just lay that line on who’s ever left behind. It’s not gonna work” she barks “Because I’m not gonna buy it. Frank was a good man, only defending his home; our home! Why did they have to come and kill him for? Why did they have to come and try to take our land from us? Our eldest boy is buried there. Doesn’t this town have any feelings for that? We have children without a father now. It’s just not fair!”
“Nettie,” Victoria suggests, “Let’s go on upstairs so you could collect your thoughts and get yourself together.” Snapping, “I don’t want to go upstairs, I don’t want anything,” she says as she is being led upstairs by Jarrod and Ed.
Taking her up the stairs Ed and Jarrod bring her to Victoria’s room where they help her onto the bed. Thanking Jarrod, Ed informs him “I think I’ll stay with her for awhile.” Walking out, “I’ll bring you both a drink” Jarrod replies “Maybe that will help. Comforting Nettie “Mother” Ed says “It’s going to be alright.”
Noticing Heath idly standing about in the front room Silas has him go with him into the kitchen. As Laura walks in with Patty and Carl, Victoria quickly makes her way to her and as she takes her into her arms telling her sorry Patty informs her “Mrs. Barkley, she hasn’t said anything all day.” Turning to Patty and Carl, Victoria asks, “How are you holding up?”
“I’m doing alright” comes from Patty and “I’m okay” from Carl.
Victoria then has them going up the stairs to join Audra and Gene while she escorts Laura upstairs. Walking in the kitchen Silas has Heath taking a tray of sandwiches out to the guests gathered in the other rooms with the hands who greet him accordingly.
Entering the parlor Bobby tells Heath, “Just follow along with what we do, you’ll get the idea of how it’s done.”
Ron asks of Bobby “You’ve done this kind of thing before?” Bobby replies “I have. I have many hidden talents that you probably don’t even know about.” Ron says “I guess not. One day you will have to tell me about them.” Bobby replies “One day I just might.”
Staying close to Bobby and Ron, Heath observes and follows along with what they do and saying “Ma’am” or “Sir, would you like to have one of these?” and then watches the guests take one and answer “Yes young man, thank you” or if they don’t “No thank you.”
Turning to Heath Bobby asks “Do you get the idea now?” Heath replies “Think so.” Bobby then says “Then continue on, oh, sometimes when one walks by they just might take one without asking but just go with it you’ll get the idea.” After thanking him Heath goes into the gunroom and begins passing by some of the guests asking them if they want one and for those who do take one and those that don’t tell him, “No, thank you” and then moves on.
As Jarrod is taking the two glasses up to Nettie Victoria is coming down informing him Laura has been brought to his room. While Jarrod continues on Victoria answers the door and greets the next set of visitors, Diane, Larry and their daughter Jessie.
Upon walking in, “Do you need any help with anything?” Diane asks of Victoria who replies, “No, we have it.” Diane then inquires about Nettie and Laura in which Victoria answers, “Well as expected under the circumstances.”
“Yes,” Diane replies, “I suppose.”
Jessie then asks “Mrs. Barkley is Audra around?” Victoria answers “She’s upstairs. Go right up.” Upon thanking her Jessie goes up. As the guests take what they want from the hands walking around Victoria brings Diane and Larry into the parlor where they see Heath passing out sandwiches. Calling him over he obediently complies in which Victoria introduces him to them who each exchange quick hellos.
“We met briefly outside the church” Diane brings up “Audra mentioned him being her brother.” Victoria replies “He is; yes.”
“Is he Tom’s son?” Larry inquires. Victoria replies, “Yes he is.” Larry then says, “I see it in him,” with Diane adding, “Yes he does have that look.”
Holding the tray out “Would you like to have one?” Heath asks of them. Diane replies “Why thank you Heath” taking one “I would.”
“Sir,” Heath then says, “Would you like one?” Taking one Larry thanks him. Victoria then politely excuses him who quietly walks away.
“He doesn’t say much” Larry notes. Victoria replies “No, but I think it’s just his being new here is all.” Diane says “Perhaps he’s shy.” Victoria replies “Could be.”
“How is the family getting along with his being here?” Diane wanted to know.
“Nick at the moment,” Victoria answers, “Is having a problem with it at the moment but the rest of the family is adjusting to it.”
“Did he just arrive today?” Larry asks. Victoria replies, “No, he came on Monday.”
Coming down the stairs, Gene informs Victoria that he, Carl and Henry will be riding around and upon going out the door they are met by Irving coming with his family who goes with them up to the barn to get four horses saddled up.
Returning to the kitchen with empty trays, “All clean,” Jim announces.
As Silas loads up the trays again, “Boy!” Johnny says, “Those people could eat.”
Silas replies, “Yes they could. That is why we made a lot.” Responding, “I could see why,” Johnny and Jim go back out to serve the guests again who help themselves as the trays come by.
Greeting Father Nichols next as he walks in, “Father,” Victoria calls out, “You made it.” Father Nichols asks, “How’s it going?”
“So far,” Victoria replies, “Running smoothly. Laura and Nettie are both upstairs but will be alright,” inviting him in Nichols says, “I’m sure they will. I don’t need to be shown around. I could only stay for a little bit.” Victoria replies, “Be my guest,” as he begins walking and mingling around.
Walking around the yard, “Bill,” Nick asks, “What have you been doing with yourself? I really miss you around here. It hasn’t been the same since you left.”
“Well,” Bill replies, “I’ve missed you too.” Nick then says, “There’s no possibility of you moving back here?” Shaking his head, “Sorry Nick,” Bill replies, “I’d like to but I also like it where I am. I have a little spread of my own and hopefully will one day add a wife and children to it.” Nick tells him, “I envy you.”
“Envy me?” Bill says, “You have what I have. Only difference is you didn’t have to move out of the city to have it and one day you will get yourself a wife and children too.” Nick confides, “I’d like that. What about your mother” he asks “How she taking everything?”
“As good as she could,” Bill admits, “This is a big blow to her Nick. She lost her husband; our father while trying to protect his homeland from that railroad.”
Snickering, “Yeah I know,” Nick says, “That railroad. That railroad is the blame for many things.”
“It sure is” Bill replies “However I want to thank you and your brother for what you did though.” Nick says “Well I sure wish we could’ve done more.” Bill notes “You both did what you could. And Mother still has her home, so only time will tell what happens down the road.”
Joining Bill and Nick, “Hey Nick,” comes from Ed and upon returning the greeting Nick asks, “How’s your mother doing?”
“She’s lying down right now” Ed replies “Your mother is with her.” Glancing over at Bill “Bill” he asks “Did you tell Nick what we are about to do?” Bill answers “Not yet.”
“What’s this?” Nick asks. Bill mentions, “Well, Ed and I were talking and we thought that maybe Mother staying in Stockton and at the ranch will be too much for her due to what happened here.”
“And so” Ed continues “Mother and the children will move down to Bentley and stay at my place while Jean, Chrissy and I come and stay at the ranch so it could still remain in the family and won’t be that much of a strain on her.” Listening, “Not a bad idea” Nick says.
Overhearing and joining the conversation, “When are you planning on doing all this?” Jarrod asks. Ed replies, “Tomorrow morning. We already purchased the train ticket for Mother and the children. While they take the train to Bill’s, Bill and I will be taking the wagons we have loaded up already down to there and while we are gone, Jean and Chrissy will stay at the house.” Nick says, “Sounds like a plan.” Jarrod asks, “Could you use another hand or driver?” Ed replies, “We sure could. We already have Kenny going with us.”
“It will be great having you back here,” Jarrod informs Ed who replies, “Once we get settled in we’ll have to spend some time together. Catch up on what we’ve missed out on.” Jarrod quips, “Yes we do.”
“Well I better start mingling about,” Bill says, “Talk to you both in a little bit.” Nick replies, “We need to be doing the same.” Jarrod then says, “Come on Ed,” and going in separate directions Jarrod and Ed head for the house.
The girls are seated in a circle underneath a tree overlooking a lake intensely quiet up at South Meadows. Breaking the silence “Audra” Jessie says “You have such a lovely ranch here. Everything is just so beautiful. I could never get enough of being out here.” Audra replies, “Thank you.”
“So” Jessie then says “What could we talk about?” Patty replies “I don’t feel like talking.” Mary says “Neither do I.” Audra then says “Well you should at least try to talk. It’s the only way you could heal by talking and telling of how you feel.”
“I don’t know how or what I feel,” Rosie answers, “I just feel so numb inside.” Audra mentions, “I felt like that when my father passed away; didn’t want to do anything.” Patty says, “Sounds like me.”
“I must say,” Jessie states, “I’ve never been faced with losing my father and I hope I never have to experience it.” Audra mentions, “It’s an awful experience, Jessie I could tell you that.” Rosie says, “Yes it is.”
“How have your brothers been with you (Rosie)?” Audra asks, “Mary?”
“They are good,” Mary says. Jessie replies, “Your mother doesn’t seem to be taking it all that well though.” Rosie says “No, not really. Bill and Ed told us that Mother and us will be moving in with Bill at his place and Ed, Jean and Chrissy will be moving into our house.” Jessie asks, “You are?”
“You’re moving down there?” Audra inquires. Mary answers, “Tomorrow morning.” Audra says, “This is so sudden.”
“It is,” Rosie mentions, “But it’s Ed and Bill’s idea and figure it would be better on Mother if she got away from here for awhile.” Audra says, “I guess it would.”
“And this way,” Mary brings up, “We won’t be losing the ranch completely.” Audra says, “That’s true. But I don’t like the idea of you leaving.”
Replying “Me either” Jessie then asks of Patty, “How you doing?” Patty answers, “Okay.” Jessie then says, “You’re not saying anything.” Patty replies, “Don’t know what to say.” Mary asks, “Do you want to talk about your father?”
“No,” Patty replies. Audra asks, “Do you want to walk around a bit.” Patty says, “No, I just rather sit here.” Audra replies, “Well, if you feel like talking, we’re all here for you okay?” Patty says, “I know you are. You’re all such good friends.”
While the girls are up at South Meadows the boys are seated underneath a tree overlooking a lake over at Sky Meadows.
Watching the ducks floating pass them, “Carl, Henry,” Irving asks, “How are you both feeling?”
Shrugging his shoulders, “Fine I guess,” Carl replies. Henry answers, “I don’t know what I feel.” Irving then says, “I sure wish I knew what to say to help you feel better but I don’t.” Gene replies, “Me either. It’s not easy losing your father. I hate it that I lost mine.” Carl then says, “I try walking around the house but everywhere I go I expect to see Father there and I know he won’t ever be coming home again.”
“Same here” Henry replies. Gene says “That’s how I felt and still feel. Every time I go around the house I still expect to see him coming through the door when I know he won’t and that was six months ago. To this day, I still haven’t gone to his gravesite yet.” Henry asks, “Not at all Gene?” Gene says, “No; just that one time. Audra has but I haven’t. I don’t know about the rest. If they have they never said.”
Carl asks, “How long does it take for you to be yourself?” Gene replies, “Not sure. But it did take awhile that I know,” each boy gathered listens quietly as he talks, “I mean when it happened Nick ran out and got drunk, Jarrod went into the study and threw everything around, I ran out into the barn and started beating up the stacks of hay in there making a real mess.”
“What about your mother and sister?” Henry wanted to know. Gene replies, “They mostly just cried but Mother wasn’t herself either.” Irving asks, “What do you mean?”
“Well,” Gene replies, “For a little while Mother didn’t want anybody around. I remember she would go into her room and one night I heard her coming up the stairs and it was late,” going back in time Eugene looks back when it occurred.
Six Months Ago
As Victoria is opening the door to her room and hearing footsteps but being lost in thought shouts, “OH GENE!” startled by his presence, “You scared the living daylights out of me.” Gene replies, “I’m sorry.” She then asks “What are you doing up at this late hour?”
“I heard you coming up the stairs,” he replies, “Wanted to see if you are alright.”
“Yes, I’m fine,” she tells him, “Why don’t you go to bed? It’s late!”
“I’m not sleepy,” he answers. She asks of him, “Is something wrong?”
“No,” he replies, “Just can’t sleep.” She tells him, “Well then go to bed anyway. It’s late,” seeing him just standing there in the doorway, “Gene!” she says.
“Mother,” Gene replies, “I can’t sleep.”
She says, “Well go back to bed anyway and try closing your eyes.”
Protesting, “I tried that, but it didn’t work. Could I sleep in here with you?” he asks “Or at least stay with you for a little while?” Sternly she replies “No you cannot!” Gene persistently says, “I am not going to bother you.” Raising her voice “Go back to bed Gene” snapping “NOW!” she barks and quickly running out of the room he runs down the hall to his bed.
Going after him, “I’m sorry Gene,” Victoria says joining him on the bed, “I just got a lot on my mind,” placing her hand on his shoulder. Quickly going into her arms, “Oh Mother,” hugging her, “I love you,” Gene tells her who returns the hug and replies, “Oh Gene, I love you and I know it hurts but it will ease up.”
Sitting up on his arms, “That is what Nick and Jarrod both told me,” Gene mentions. Brushing the top of his hair with her hand, “It will,” she tells him.
“Do you hurt?” Gene asks. Victoria replies, “I do yes; very much. Now I know it’s not an answer you want to hear but the hurt will go away.”
Asking, “It will?” Gene says, “It’s been several days and it still hurts inside.”
“I know,” Victoria replies “But honestly it will I promise.” Watching as Gene turns away she asks “Gene, what’s the matter?” Looking down at the mattress “I don’t know” he says. Victoria replies, “Gene, talk to me. I’m ready to listen now if you want to talk.”
“Well” he says “What if happens, if, well, if say something, suppose…”
“Suppose what?” she asks. Gene replies, “I don’t know.” Urging him to talk and finally giving in swallows hard saying “Well what happens if” pausing “If you should die?”
Kissing the side of his head, “Oh baby,” Victoria says, “I’m not going to die. Not for a very long, long time.” Embracing her again, “Oh Mother,” Gene cries, “I’ve been so scared.” Holding him tight, “Oh Gene,” she says, “I’m scared too.”
Returning to the present “And that was the beginning,” Gene mentions, “There would be times when she would snap at any one of us, there would be times when she was quiet, times when she would cry or just sit and cry, she’d be walking around and crying or just walking around and doing nothing.”
Listening to Gene, “Oh wow,” Henry says. Irving brings up, “And your mother doesn’t usually snap at you.” Gene replies, “No she doesn’t. So when that happened I didn’t know what to expect.” Carl then asks, “You’re all doing better now?” Gene answers, “Much! Not completely but we’re getting there.”
As Henry informs them about his moving away to Brentwood Gene asks, “When did this all come about?” Henry answers, “The other day when Ed and Bill came. They thought it would be best for Mother and us.” Irving asks, “When are you leaving?” Henry answers, “Tomorrow morning.”
“I don’t want you to leave,” Gene says. Henry replies, “I don’t either. But they already have it set up and everything is loaded up on the wagon ready to go.”
Gene barks “That is great; just great!” Irving says “That means we may never see each other again.” Henry replies “Not necessarily. They did say it would be just for a short time depending on how well we all adjust. However until we are able to see each other again we could still write and once we get settled in maybe we’ll come by for visits or you could come visit me.”
Outside in the yard in another area of the ranch a small group of guests are clustered together talking amongst themselves. One guest says, “I guess you heard.” Jenny replies, “I don’t think anyone hasn’t,” shaking her head, “It’s so unbelievable.” Lynn Drumm says, “If this happened to you (Jamie Drumm)I think I would’ve come unglued right now,” with Jenny saying, “Like Nettie and Laura.” Lynn replies, “Exactly.”
Mrs. Swenson says “Me too. I would feel so helpless if I lost you (to Sig)” who is standing there replying “No, you would go on.” Jenny says “I don’t think I could.”
Wally mentions, “This kind of thing is hard on anyone. But it’s the kind of thing that brings families and communities together,” seeing Jarrod approaching says, “Isn’t that right Jarrod?” with Jarrod asking, “What’s that?”
“We were discussing the tragedies of Frank and Harry” Wally notes “How hard this is on anyone and how something like this brings families and communities together.”
“Yes, you’re right,” Jarrod replies, “That is what helped us get through it when our father passed away. We had each other and the people of the valley also helped us.” Jenny asks, “How are Nettie and Laura, Jarrod?”
“Nettie is coming around,” he mentions, “But Laura is still holding it in.” Jenny asks, “Where is she?” Jarrod responds, “Upstairs in my room. She doesn’t say anything.” Jamie then says, “That is not good.”
“Indeed it is not,” Wally replies, “A little falling apart will do her some good. She’s never gonna get over this until she grieves. Right now, she’s like trying to keep a lid on top of a smoldering keg.” Jamie says, “Yes, about to explode.”
Lynn inquiring about the children Jarrod mentions they went off with Audra and Gene. Mrs. Swenson brings up “It’s so wonderful that your mother opened her home to everyone like she did.” Jenny adds, “Yes, your mother always has a kind and generous heart.” Jarrod replies, “She wouldn’t be her if she wasn’t.” Wally says, “No she wouldn’t.”
Still seated around in a circle in South Meadows watching various birds fly overhead; finally breaking the bout of silence Patty says, “Audra, can I ask you something?” Audra replies, “Of course. What is it?”
“Am I acting normal?” Patty wanted to know. Audra replies, “I’d say you are; we all grieve differently.” Jessie brings up, “Audra, I remember you being quiet when your father passed away.” Audra says, “I was.”
“Did the feeling go away?” Rosie inquires. Audra asks, “What feeling?” Rosie says, “The emptiness; your father not being here.” Audra replies, “No; that’s still there and I think it will always be there.” Patty asks, “How about your mother? How did she handle his dying?” Audra states, “Not easy; I could tell you that. And even when we were all beginning to adjust, Mother took a little longer. I remember…”
Going back in time six months ago.
In the kitchen having a sandwich and glass of milk at the table noticing something bothering Gene Audra asks, “Gene, are you alright?”
Shrugging his shoulders, “I don’t know,” he replies, “I mean I am but I don’t think Mother is. One minute she seems fine and the next she is snapping at me.”
Audra says, “I know. Jarrod and Nick both told me to leave her alone and that she will come around.” Gene mentions, “That’s what they told me. But sometimes I just can’t take it. One minute she is quiet and the next is sitting staring at the fireplace and the next she is snapping at me. It’s like she’s a different person. Why doesn’t she just get it out of her system?”
“I don’t know,” Audra replies, “I’ve asked myself that question. But maybe she can’t tell us how she feels. Maybe it’s too much for her. We all hurt and grieve differently and the way Mother is acting is normal for her.”
“What about us?” Gene asks, “How we hurt? If she won’t talk to us then how are we suppose to?” Audra replies, “Gene, I wish I knew the answer to that but I don’t. We just need to give her a little more time and then when she’s ready I am sure she will talk to us.” Gene asks, “You think so?”
“I think so,” Audra replies, “Mother is a very strong woman and both Jarrod and Nick feel she will come around. We just need to give her more time to get over it.”
“Well,” Gene says, “I hope you’re right because I hate seeing her the way she is.”
Replying “I do too,” Audra watches as Victoria comes into the kitchen and going over to the icebox asks, “Mother, are you alright?”
“Yes,” she answers sharply, “I’m fine.” Whispering, “See?” Gene says to Audra. Audra replies, “You don’t sound it Mother, I think we need to talk.”
“Talk?” Victoria says, “Okay talk!” Audra not liking the tone in her voice just looks at her, “Well Audra,” Victoria asks, “What about?” sternly.
“Oh,” Audra replies, “Nevermind,” and runs up the stairs. Calling out to her Victoria runs after her leaving Gene at the table eating his sandwich alone.
Seeing Audra crying on her bed and quickly sitting alongside of her “Audra” Victoria says “I’m so sorry” brushing her long hair with her fingers “I didn’t mean to snap at you.” Sitting up “I know Mother” Audra cries “But I hate seeing you like this. We all hate seeing you like this. What’s happening to us and to you?”
“I don’t know Audra,” Victoria replies. Audra says, “I know Father’s death is bad but you have to go on. You don’t stop living because of it; you learn something and go on. We’re a family Mother, we’re supposed to be helping each other through it, not avoiding one another or snapping at each other.”
“You’re right Audra,” she then asks, “Were you talking to Jarrod or Nick?”
“Both and Gene too” Audra replies “Mother, you can’t keep shutting us out or snapping at us.”
Replying “I know, come here” Victoria holds her arms out to her. Going into them and sharing a tight embrace “Oh Mother” Audra says “I missed you so much” with tears going down her face “I know you’ve been here but it’s like looking at someone else in the house and not you.”
“I’m sorry” Victoria replies “Thank you for coming and talking to me and helping me get through this. Come on” she urges “Let’s go back downstairs.”
Responding “I’d like that,” Audra goes with her back down to the kitchen.
Walking over to Gene Victoria gives him a bear hug from the backside and tells him she is sorry. Gene then asks, “Mother, are you alright?”
“Not completely,” she mentions, “But I will. How about if I join the both of you in a sandwich?” With smiles popping out, “That’ll be great,” Gene replies as they share another round of hugs and kisses.
Returning to the present Audra says, “And that is when Mother started to come around for each of us.” Mary asks, “How long did it take?”
“I don’t remember exactly” Audra says “It took days, many days that I remember.” Patty says “So you think it’ll be days before Mother is normal again?”
“I can’t say for sure,” Audra states, “Everyone is different. But just give her some time and space to be along but also be there when she needs you to be. You know what I mean?” Nodding, “I think so,” Patty replies.
At the house Victoria goes to check on Nettie. After calling out to her a couple of times she sits up and says, “Oh hi Victoria,” who joins her at the edge of the bed, “Please forgive me for that little outburst earlier.”
“I will do no such thing,” Victoria tells her, “You are entitled to your feelings and you needed to get that off your chest. What happened was just awful and you have every right to feel the way you do.” Smiling, “Thank you,” Nettie replies, “I just wonder how many wives or women feel the way I do.”
“You can’t really compare your feelings towards someone else,” Victoria says, “Everyone is different. I cried myself when Tom died.”
“I guess it does depend on each person going through it,” Nettie surmises.
“Indeed yes,” Victoria notes, “And I think it’s roughest on those that are left behind whether it to be a husband, a wife, a mother, a brother, a sister, a son or a daughter or even a close friend.” With tears in her eyes, “I just loved him so much,” Nettie confides. Running her hand up and down her back, “I know the feeling,” Victoria soothingly replies “Hey, it’s going to be alright.”
“What’s worse than a mourning wife?” Nettie asks of Victoria who responds, “A wife who doesn’t care. How do you feel?” Nettie replies, “Tired.” Victoria says, “Well, you’ve been through a lot.” Nettie states, “I put you through a lot.”
“Nonsense” Victoria then tells her “Oh I was talking to the boys earlier and they mentioned you moving to Bill’s ranch in the morning with the children, while Ed moves back here with Jean and Chrissy.” Nettie replies “Yes, I don’t think I could take living there anymore but I also don’t want to give it up either. Frank and my oldest son Frank are both buried there; I can’t just give that up.”
“I think that to be a wise solution,” Victoria notes, “And maybe one day when you are ready you could always return or come back just for visits.”
“Maybe” Nettie says “We will have to see. Right now I can’t think that far ahead.”
“Take your time,” Victoria replies, “When you’re ready to do whatever you decide I am sure you will know. I understand Jarrod will be going along with Bill and Ed in the morning to help them with the driving.” Nettie asks, “He is?”
“How would you like it if I accompanied you on the train,” Victoria offers, “And helped you with getting settled into the house while waiting for them to arrive?”
“I’d like that Victoria,” Nettie admits, “Thank you. I would really appreciate it.” Victoria says, “Then it’s settled. I will inform the family,” getting up, “Now why don’t you continue to rest up here and when you are ready come down stairs? I need to go check on Laura.” Nettie replies “Go ahead. I’ll be down in a bit.”
Going out the door Victoria heads across the hall to check on Laura in which she finds sound asleep. Covering her up with a blanket and planting a kiss on the side of her head she walks back out.
Returning again with more empty trays, “Are you boys finished?” Silas asks them.
“I think we are,” Ron answers, “Never seen people eat so much. Every time we go in they grab one and some take two at a time.” Jim retorts, “I know it.”
Offering the boys a plate Silas helps them fix each one with sandwiches, pastries, fruit and celery and tells them, “If you should want more, come and let me know.”
“I think this is plenty,” Bobby comments, “Thank you, Silas.” Jim adds, “Yes, you are more than generous and this will be fine.” Silas tells them, “Be sure to thank Mrs. Barkley, this was her idea.”
Walking out, “We sure will,” Ron replies. Calling them back Silas hands them each a drink in which they each graciously accept and then continue on.
Going outside, “Where should we sit?” Johnny asks. Ron answers “How about out on the deck?” Jim replies “Sounds good” and they go towards the deck which is located on the side of the house.
Outside with another group of guests gathered in a circle enjoying a sandwich and a drink talk amongst themselves. “This is so hard” Jackie Jenkins brings up “I mean I want to help them but I just don’t know what to do for them.” Sally Ward blurts out “Yes it’s tough to know how.” Jackie replies “Yes it is.”
“Maybe” Maggie Jackson suggests “We should just let them come to us when they’re ready.” John Jenkins says “Perhaps.” Kenny Ward replies, “Yeah, that just might be best.” Jackie asks “But what if they can’t or won’t?”
“Why don’t we just give them some time” Diane Spindle suggests “To deal and adjust to it?” Larry Spindle replies, “That might be a good idea.”
“You know what I think we should do?” Jackie says. John asks, “What’s that?” Jackie replies, “I think we should take them both out to lunch sometime next week.” Kenny says, “That might not be a bad idea either.”
“No,” Sally replies, “It’s actually a good one.” Jackie says, “So we’ll work on doing that then.” Maggie replies, “Just let us know when and we’ll be right there with you.” Jackie responds, “I will.”
With another group of guests mingling amongst themselves enjoying the pastries and a drink guest Doug Jackson asks of Bill how his mother is doing.
“Not sure,” Bill replies, “Last I knew Aunt Victoria was up ther with her. Excuse me,” walking away. John Jenkins says, “The poor dear, she must be really taking it hard. I heard her screaming at the top of her lungs.”
“You can’t blame her,” Hal replies. Mrs. Stevens says, “I should say not. This has been rough on her and on Laura too.” Doug replies, “Yes, it has.”
“Of course they are upset,” Jackie joins in, “I mean who wouldn’t be? I would be if it was my husband who was killed.” Sally Ward says, “Me too.”
“Perhaps they do need someone to talk to,” Bob’s wife suggests.
“From what I understand,” Hal’s wife says, “Victoria is up with her. If anyone could talk to her it’s her.” Mrs. Stevens replies, “So true. Victoria has a way of getting you to listen.” Doug Jackson says, “It does help that she has a good head on her shoulders.”
“Indeed yes” Maggie comments “However if it doesn’t work I think the best thing we could do for her is to let her be and let her deal with it in her own way, I really do.”
Returning to the kitchen with an empty tray Silas asks of Heath if everyone has been served. Responding “Believe so, sir” Heath is then given a plate that Silas fixes for him telling him “Why don’t you take this?” placing a sandwich, couple of pastries, some sliced fruit and veggies on it, “And go and sit down in one of the other rooms and enjoy yourself?” Taking the plate, “Yes sir,” Heath replies.
As he is leaving Silas hands him a glass of juice as well. Thanking him, Heath takes the glass with him and goes into the empty study and after occupying a chair he places the plate and glass on the nearest table and begins eating.
Minutes later little Chrissy walks in and upon seeing Heath all alone she goes up to him and after saying hello to him he looks up and returns the hello. After she introduces herself she asks “What’s your name?” to which he responds “Heath.”
“That’s a nice name” she tells him “I got myself a sandwich and some of these” showing off the pastries on her plate “I’ll sit here with you. Is that okay?”
“It’s okay,” he answers. As she sits across from him she places her plate alongside of his and begins eating what she has telling him, “This is good. How do you like yours?” Heath replies, “I like it fine.”
From the doorway Jean watching Chrissy with Heath calls out to Victoria asking her, “Who is that young man talking with Chrissy?” Coming over and looking on “Oh,” she replies, “That’s Heath.”
Joining them in the doorway, Helen, Maddie, Lynn Drumms and a few others look on to Heath sitting with Chrissy. As Helen says “Heath?” Victoria replies, “Yes, that’s Heath,” proudly. Maddie mentions, “He sure looks just like Tom. I noticed it when he came into the store yesterday with Jarrod.”
As Helen asks where he comes from Victoria informs them all listening about his living in Strawberry, of Tom being his father and how he came to join the family on Tuesday. One onlooker asks, “He’s not one of yours?” Victoria replies, “He is now.” Lynn says, “Do you know you’re a saint for taking him in like that?”
“Not a saint,” Victoria notes, “Just a mother who loves her children and loved her husband. I can’t fault Heath for what his mother and Tom did.”
“True” Maddie replies “But some wouldn’t be so gracious or so open to take him in like that.” Victoria says “I am not one of them.” Jean replies “No, you’re not.”
“That,” Jenny says, “Must’ve been the four months Tom was gone and you were wondering if you would ever see him again.”
“Yes” Louise adds “He showed up just before your birthday if I am not mistaken.” Victoria says “You’re right Louise. Tom was my birthday present; his returning home became the happiest day of my life and when we had time alone he told me some of what transpired in Strawberry and how he came to meet Leah.” Jean asks “Leah? That’s Heath’s mother?” Victoria replies, “Yes.”
She then goes on to tell them the story of Tom not knowing about Heath or Heath knowing about Tom being his father until a short time ago and of Nick not taking to him as of yet, but is sure he will come around and would like to see them become friends.
Walking in the front door “Look at whom I found outside trying to find his way inside” Nick calls out. Chuckling “Funny Nick” Howard says as he comes in behind him who tells him “I try.”
“Oh Howard” Victoria says “Glad you were able to make it.” Howard replies “I came as soon as I was able. But when someone is in need of a doctor what am I to do?” Victoria says “I understand.”
After exchanging greetings and welcoming kisses Howard asks how Nettie and Laura are doing with Helen answering, “As well as can be expected.”
“I must say” Victoria says “Nettie is doing much better than Laura at the moment.” Scanning the immediate area and not seeing neither one of them around he asks where they are in which Victoria tells him they’re both upstairs and Nettie will be down shortly.
“Sometimes,” Howard quotes, “Time can be the best medicine.” Victoria says, “That’s what I think too.”
Noticing everyone gathered in the doorway looking towards the study, “What’s going on?” Nick asks with Howard adding, “Yes, what are you all looking at?”
Helen informs Howard about the newest member of the family while Nick listening quietly stands there rolling his eyes up while Lynn adds her voice to Helen’s. Baffled “The newest member?” Howard says.
“Right in there” Helen motions. Looking on, “Who’s that?” Howard asks with Victoria replying “Heath.”