Victoria Barkley could not accept what she had heard and she wasn’t going to let this stubborn young man out of the house without letting him know what she thought and in a loud exasperated tone she held forth. “Heath Barkley chari.. I never heard of anything so ridiculous in all my whole li.. charity? Why you are as much of a Barkley as I am. Now you listen to me. This family stands together, if we are not tied by blood then we are tied by sacrifice, work and love. Now you fought your way in here and by heaven you are going to have to fight your way out. I will not have that old history raked up again. It is done over with finished, you can leave Heath, oh you can leave but it won’t change a thing because no matter where you go, no matter what you do, what you call yourself, you’ll still be a Barkley.”
“But that’s just it I won’t be. With the best will in the world I will not be a Barkley. No ma’am I may want to be a Barkley but I am not a Barkley. For me to be a Barkley I need Barkley blood and that I do not have. The blood means too much to me.”
“I will always want to be a Barkley.” With leaden steps he made his way towards the front door then stopped and turned and spoke with his soft voice holding down the hard lump in his throat which threatened to overwhelm him. “Thanks for everything.” So saying Heath gave a quick glance at the family then turned the knob, opened the large front door and exited the Barkley mansion for the last time with Victoria Barkley’s voice ringing in his ears and her words swirling through his head. By way of possessions he was taking no more with him than he had brought the day he arrived. He was finding leaving a far harder affair this day than arriving had been a year earlier when he had nothing to lose and so much to gain. This day he was losing everything and gaining nothing. In the year he had acquired much but he knew that from this day forward it wouldn’t be the loss of the material possessions he was going to be grieving for.
“Why couldn’t you make this easy for me, for all of us? Why couldn’t you just tell me to leave like you did that first night? I can’t stay surely you must know and understand that. Why couldn’t you spurn me for what I have done and for what I am? I didn’t want to hurt you. That was not my intention. None of this has been my intention but surely you can understand where I am coming from and that my being here, living with you cannot be anymore. I am hurting and I don’t know whether the hurt will ever disappear but I do not want to leave you with hurt. I want to say how sorry I am, so very, very sorry. I never ever would want to hurt you, any of you. If I have then for that I have no excuses. I trust you will see in the long run that what I am doing now is for the best.”
Leaving was the way it had to be and his stubborn will would not consider any other course of action. His legs carried him reluctantly across the yard to where Charger was tied and had stood waiting patiently. In his mind he had reasoned that Charger had been a gift and therefore could remain his property until he could pay for him. He knew the family would not begrudge him that. And in his saddlebags he had placed a keep sake, snatched from Nick’s hands, the family photograph. Attaching the saddlebags to his saddle, he lifted his left foot into the stirrup and without his usual flair mounted. He touched his horse with his heels and loped off between the wrought iron gates and rode into the valley beyond.
There had been much he wanted to say to the family but at the time he couldn’t trust his own emotions from spilling forth. He dared not remain longer in the mansion that had been his home in case he betrayed himself and as he rode he continued to deliberate and ponder what had been said and what he had wanted to say.
“Mother, what do I call you now? I suppose I have to go back to Ma’am, you won’t like that but you won’t know because I don’t suppose we will meet again. I am going to take myself right away because I know I am not strong enough to chance seeing you, any of you. I can’t call you mother any more, as much as you have been a loving mother to me this last year and for that I am truly grateful you can no longer be my mother nor can any of you be my family. You are not and that is all there is to be said.
“Ma’am you say I am as much a Barkley as you are but that is not the case. You were married to Tom Barkley and therefore that makes you a Barkley. I do not have that connection and even Jarrod saying ‘if it’s a question of making the name legal?’ Then he can do that but that doesn’t make me a Barkley either. All that would do is give me a name that isn’t rightfully mine. That is not what I want. That is not what I wanted. I wanted Tom Barkley to be my father. And he was not. That’s all there is to that matter.
“I couldn’t take Jarrod up on the county records either because I wouldn’t have the strength of courage to wait only to find out again that everything Charlie Sawyer said was true. I have no doubt that he was speaking the truth. Although I wish with all my heart that it is anything but.
“Now I used charity but it might not have been the right word to use. All I wanted you to know was, I could never accept from you that which is not rightfully mine by reason of my birth. I could not live with myself under those circumstances and I feel as though I have forced my way in, on your family. Forcing you to be obliged to give me what I have no right to take.
“Yes the family does stand together and I would gladly stand with you except for the fact that I am not family. There is a little question of my blood. My blood is Sawyer cross Thomson. Nowhere does Barkley flow into it. I only wish that it does. The connection by blood, Barkley blood is as important to me as the six hundred years of pure blood that Don Alfredo Montero was all hung up about. Hell I can understand him now.
“And, yes that’s right I did fight my way in. I fought with a will and a passion and a determination because at the time I believed I was the son of Tom Barkley and I had a right to everything that was Barkley. It might not have been easy for me or any of us but at the time being Tom Barkley’s son made fighting right. Now I do not have to fight since there is nothing to fight for because right is not on my side. I am not Tom Barkley’s son. I am leaving because I am not a Barkley. And I reckon I must have floored you all there ’cause as yet I haven’t had to fight my way out. That isn’t even funny Heath, nope, this hurts more than the bullet that Evan Miles gave me to ever be slightly funny.
“Yes the family stands together and if not tied by blood then tied by sacrifice. Even now knowing I am not a Barkley I will gladly sacrifice my life for any of you but that will still not make me family. I love you dearly but that still does not make me family and I could carry on working for you but that still would not make me family. I cannot remain living with you knowing that I am not a Barkley. Surely you must be able to see that and understand what I was trying to say. I have pride. And my pride will not allow me to remain with you as part of your family if I am not a Barkley. Can’t you understand I cannot live with that? I couldn’t live with myself knowing that.
“No ma’am, no matter where I go, no matter what I do, no matter what I call myself I will always want to be a Barkley but I will not be a Barkley.
“When I came to you more than a year ago and demanded what was rightfully mine I guess in my mind I was thinking of wealth, riches, property and land. I never considered anything more. The most I expected was a payoff like Jarrod offered. I never dreamt in my wildest dreams that you would take me in and accept me as family. Becoming part of a family was not what I was after at least at the time I didn’t think that was what I was after. But I accepted your offer and I moved in and I became part of your family and I soon realized that all the worldly goods that you shared with me were not what I had really been after. They meant nothing to me. What I had truly been after and what I wanted was a home, somewhere to belong and a family to become a part of. I quickly grew to realize that. And with the belonging, the home and the family came love freely given and I in turn learned to return that love a hundred times over. I have learned that if you have family then in this life you are a rich man and from now on I will be the poorer for not having a family even more so for not having you as my family.
“I am leaving today and I will not be taking any material goods with me, I will go to the bank in Stockton and ensure that the money from my bank account is transferred back to the Barkley Holdings. The clothing that I am taking with me and my personal effects are no more than I had when I arrived. Charger was a present from a brother to another but seeing as I have no brothers now I shall keep him until I can afford to pay his cost. I’m sure you, the Barkley family will hold with that. He would be a present I do not deserve.
“What I will be taking with me is a heart near to pieces. It pains me so. I love each and every one of you dearly. For what you are to me, for what you have done for me and for what you mean to me. You will always be in my heart. I hope I will for ever be in yours. Not as a cheap opportunist or a fraudster nor may be as a son or brother but as someone who happened by one day and left you with special memories. That is all I can ever hope for and all I deserve.
“Cherished memories of you will be with me always.”
As the tears threatened Heath continued to ride at a lope along the track until he came to the dip where it veered off to the left. Here he reined in his mount because he knew this would be his last opportunity to see the Barkley mansion before it disappeared from sight. He needed one last look at the large white pillared house which epitomized everything that was Barkley, strong, upright, bold, wholesome impenetrable, forthright, where he had lived for the last year, where he had learned what being part of a family meant. It wasn’t just a house it was a home. It had been his home and no more would he be returning; no more would he experience the array of feelings he had at his many different homecomings; no more would he sit at the dining table sharing banter and jokes; no more would he climb the majestic staircase at the end of a hard tiring day to sleep in his room; no more would he sit and reflect on his life in front of the large open fire in the sitting room and no more would he experience fun and laughter when playing games of cards, checkers or chess.
“I feel as if my life is coming to an end and in many ways it is at least this part of my life. This part of my life which should never have been mine in the first place.”
Recollected thoughts with emotions now cascaded his brain.
“Just thinking on the first time I came home, not came to the house but actually came home. That would be the following morning after I had been invited to join the family. The night before I’d had something I’d never had before. My very own room with a clean and comfortable bed and even so I couldn’t sleep. Throughout the night I tossed and turned, but I wasn’t being troubled by the usual nightmares, oh no I just could not believe what was happening. My guts were in turmoil, a full scale civil war was waging inside of me. The first stage of my belonging to the Barkley family had begun. I was petrified that I would not be able to live up to the Barkley name. I wasn’t sure what I had done in accepting the invitation. In fact I can hardly remember accepting. I think Moth.. rather Mrs. Barkley laid it on the line and accepted for me. I wasn’t given much choice in the matter.
“Well before the cock crowed and the first signs of sunrise graced the morning I was up washed, shaved, dressed and escaping from the house. I needed freedom and I took my little mare for a ride up the valley to the bridge which Nick and I had all but demolished two days earlier. I needed time to think and this was the best time for me, quiet and peaceful before the nature of the daylight awakened. The dawn sun was just starting to show from behind the Sierras. Its’ rays faintly lighting the sky with a profusion of morning colors as I made my way towards the river. The black timber of the ruined bridge spiking up from the rushing white water beneath and silhouetted against the rising sun was a stark reminder to me of how fragile human relationships could be and I was frightened to let myself get involved now.
“I sat for a while and watched as the foaming river water splashed and gurgled around the ruined bridge supports sending white froth along its course to calmer waters. Was I like this river? When would I reach calmer waters? Had I reached them now? Did I have the guts to find out? At the time my mind was in as much of a mess as the bridge. This moving in and becoming a part of the family had all happened far too quickly. Still looking at the stark, wooden remains I now found myself laughing at the thoughts of Nick and myself on the bridge threatening each other before taking a dip. For starters I couldn’t honestly see either of us ever getting along.
“Breakfast wasn’t until seven so having made up my mind what I was gonna do I decided to slowly make my way back towards the house and think on how I was gonna make my excuses and leave. After all this wasn’t for me. Don’t get me wrong because working on a ranch like this was my idea of heaven but living in that posh mansion with folks and being so close to them even as kin an’ all would be stifling for me. I had already had one night and was already frazzled and was finding difficulty in breathing. I could liken myself to an eagle needing to be on the edge of a crag readying for flight able to take off at will. I was a loner and a free spirit not used to being caged in. Coming up to the back of the house I noted a fence which needed repair and I came across a patch of mesquite and instinctively dismounted to start working on clearing it. I needed to be doing something and by almost breakfast time I had a good sweat on. I’m not sure whether it was all to do with working or more from worrying about what I had let myself in for. It would have been far easier to have said no the night before. Needless to say I didn’t much feel like breakfast.
“Anyhow I quickly made my way back to the house and entered through the rear entrance into the kitchen and went towards the dining-room where I stood outside the door hidden from sight and waited. My heart was pounding caused by downright fear for there was no question about it, I was dirt scared. I could hear Nick sounding off in there. I didn’t reckon I could listen to that noise for any length of time and hell he wasn’t even shouting. Who’d have thought then that his voice would end up becoming music to my ears even when it was off key. Well I listened to him spouting.
“........and let’s make one thing very clear. This is a working ranch and Heath pulls his weight and that means up in the morning every morning with the rest of the crowd at five o’clock and sweat. Just let him come to me just one time with a dry shirt on his back.” He went on.
“Now when he started on about me I felt the challenge had been given, the dice had been cast and I wasn’t gonna run, no way. Well I raised my ruff up real good and I had taken the bait and said to myself, “You don’t know me Nick Barkley but you surely will.”
“I then pulled myself together, nonchalantly entering the dining room as if it had been something I had done every day of my life and said. “Got a section of fence out and a patch of mesquite to clear just begging for fire and that bridge has got to be fixed before my Modoc breaks a leg.””
“When Nick saw me his jaw all but hit the floor. “Where the devil have you been?””
““You start with the bridge or the mesquite, take your choice.” I then took my place at the table, tucked the napkin under my chin and stabbed the steak with my fork at the same time as Nick stabbed his fork into it neither of us backing off. As Jarrod cut the steak in half Nick and I glared at each other but not for long because I guess we could both see ourselves in the other and started to smile at the idea of it. We were two of a kind. It wasn’t gonna be the first time that we would cross each other nor was it gonna be easy but this was gonna be a new beginning for Nick, for me and the family.
“Thinking on it now, if only I had done what I had decided instead of taking up the challenge this wouldn’t be happening now. Like Nick I could be a hot head and couldn’t back down from the challenge. If I had just run that first morning. If only I could turn the clock back. So many ifs don’t do you any good Heath. Don’t I know it.
“Come on Charger we have things to do, and aways to go before nightfall. I guess you and me both are gonna miss this place, you’ll miss your pals and I’ll miss the family only I reckon you’ll find new pals whereas I.....
“Anyhow I was a loner before I came here so I guess I can be a loner again.
“The next time I returned home would be after that fateful cattle drive. I’d been with the family for a little over five weeks at this time, three of which had been spent on the cattle drive away from home, so we’d only kinda been together for two weeks. I could tell the family were glad to have me back and I could feel their joy and combining that with my pleasure at being home I guess I was beside myself. My excitement was overflowing. I figure a little like a child with a new toy not ever having one myself. I reckon this was the first time I knew what family was and what it meant. I was no longer alone there was someone who was pleased to share in my excitement, listen to my exaggerated stories, laugh when I laughed, happy to see me and had so obviously missed me while I was away.
“The cattle drive had been a great milestone for me too ’cause it was when I first gained the respect of the men and proved that I was worthy of being called Barkley. Nick had undertaken to combine the herds of neighboring ranchers with the Barkley herd for the first time. For that reason Nick was anxious that it should be a successful drive. I was already having problems with my clout and Nick wasn’t helping me none. The men could not take to the fact that I was a Barkley and one morning while rounding up steers I had another dispute with the men, Barrett in particular, him pointing out that the Barkley brand on the horse stood for what I was. I couldn’t take it. I’d had it thrown at me too often and I wasn’t gonna to have it here, now that I was a Barkley. I saw the seat of my pants and fired him. By the time I had returned to the ranch Nick had rehired him. Well for the second time in the day I saw the seat of my pants. Was Nick ever gonna see me as a Barkley? I guess I was hurting too and I reckon I was more mad with Nick than with Barrett when I provoked the fight in the bunkhouse. If I couldn’t get Nick’s respect then what hope had I with the men. For every punch I gave Barrett it was Nick’s face that I was seeing. Well the upshot of it all was I beat Barrett and so doing left the bunkhouse in flames, literally.
“That’s when Nick’s ex commanding officer appeared from nowhere and rescued Barrett from the fire. Of course General Wallant as he was called became a house guest which gave me chance to observe him. And then later in the evening Nick did sorta make to apologize to me saying as he wanted my help on the drive. I smiled and acknowledged him and said, “Okay Nick,” then tried to make reference to Wallant’s horse ’cause I couldn’t quite put my finger on it but something wasn’t quite right with the general. He had a big white horse, the type you don’t forget and I’d seen it before. I thought I could try and tell Nick of my suspicions but from the onset it was obvious that Nick worshipped the fella and was not gonna take it from me so for fear of upsetting him I let it drop although I did tell Mo.... rather Mrs. Barkley later, when it suddenly came to me where I had seen the horse before. This is when she told me to be careful. I was kinda pleased to hear that ’cause it actually showed that she believed and cared for me, there being no real reason why she should, considering what I was.
“Well we were only a few days into the drive when things started heating up. Nick was shot, and the general who had come with us then killed the Mexican who had shot Nick. I reckon so the Mexican couldn’t spill the beans as to why Nick was shot. Now this meant that Nick needed doctoring and so he was packed off to Bakersfield but before he left he made sure I understood that I was in charge and he expected the herd to get to its destination. He could have put McCall in charge but he was actually trusting me and I wasn’t gonna let him down not if I could help it.
“Finally I had the chance to prove myself and Nick had given it to me. This is when things went from bad to worse. I didn’t trust Wallant and I kept a close watch on him and followed him the first night when he left the camp. He led me to a stash of weapons and ammunition. I had to wait it out then to find out what he was up to. It wasn’t long before he incited the crew to desert the drive and go off with him and fight for some revolutionary extremists in Mexico. That’s obviously what the arms were for. There was no way I could stop the men they were not gonna listen to me. When they left I made a run for my horse and took out after them. I knew where he was heading and my only chance was to overtake him and plant myself in the shack with the ammunition.
“So this is what I did and when Wallant arrived I was there waiting and ready. My only intention now was to stop the general from getting to the ammunition even if it meant me blowing up with it. I didn’t see as I had anything to lose, except my life may be? What the hell was I thinking? I reckon I should have had my head examined. Anyhow I staked my stand-off. I guess I must have been in that shack for a couple of hours. Fortunately the bullets were being aimed high obviously so they didn’t hit the ammunition, luckily for me. I know I shot one of the men not seriously and I knocked another one out when he stormed the door but then out of the blue for some reason the general came marching towards the shack making as if he was leading an army. I didn’t know what was going on but he was on his own so I ventured out of the shack and confronted him. Somewhere along the way he had lost it and wasn’t gonna back down and it ended up with me shooting him dead. This is when the men came forward, they weren’t attacking me. They were coming forward to apologize and for the first time they addressed me as Mr. Barkley. At this point I had no idea as to what had gone wrong with the general but for some reason I had gained the respect of the men and I wasn’t gonna question it.
“From that day on the drive was easy, the men would do anything I asked. The cattle were delivered and sold. The men were paid their due and had time to spend some of their hard earned cash bathing, drinking and whoring before we returned home. I banked the money and I sent a telegram to Stockton to let the ranchers know that the drive had been successful and that we were on our way home. Returning we even had time to stop off for some swimming, fooling around and fishing in the mountain lake which Wallent had said didn’t exist.
“I had learnt something on that drive. Well, going back to that first night when I confronted my brothers in the study and stated that I wanted a name which could be respected I hadn’t realized that it was the person behind that name that was respected and not the name. Nick wanted me to find that out for myself and Nick was probably right the way he had treated me although I wasn’t gonna let him know that, no way not then anyway. I did later. I reckon now that if things had gotten out of hand he would have stepped in and done something, at least I’m sure he would. But he was right I had to find out for myself and Nick had faith in me because it seems Nick already had a respect for me. Even if you don’t realize it family are always there for you. That’s something I learnt about family too and Nick was there for me.
“Well as I said before I was excited to be home. Boy Howdy I was as high as Benjamin Franklin’s kite and the tales I was telling were as long as the feelings I was having were high. The fish we caught were as long as my arm so you can imagine what I was feeling like.
“There won’t be any feelings like that again. The joy at returning home after completing a successful cattle drive and gaining the respect of the men and knowing that the family were rooting for me and were glad to have me back. I never thought I’d say it but I was glad to be home too.
“Well Charger I reckon the next lesson I learnt was about heritage. That would be the time I returned home and came storming into the study throwing outrageous accusations about Father, sorry no, Tom Barkley to the family after being away investigating trouble in the Barkley Sierra mines up at Lonesome Camp. Thinking on it now at the time I reckon I must have been still pretty bitter about my father and what I had learnt at Lonesome camp had only helped to fuel my bitterness, giving me proof of further imperfections in the man whom I thought had fathered me. It felt kind of good to get evidence from another source about the great Tom Barkley. I’m sorry now for the way I behaved I never really had the right to pass judgment on him as Mrs. Barkley later pointed out.
“I had been down to Lonesome Camp to check on the trouble they were having with striking miners. Well I’d volunteered to go and investigate the strike at Lonesome camp ’cause I felt it was about time I took on some more responsibility me being a part of the Barkley family an’ all ’cause I understood mining and miners. As I told them I had ‘seen the elephant and heard the owl’. The family put their trust in me and allowed me to go and I was determined I was gonna to do a proper job. They wouldn’t be sorry they sent me. I can remember Jarrod telling me to be careful and that this was a job for management and I would be representing the Barkleys and management were none too popular at this time in Lonesome. Other than working a ranch this was the first kind of responsibility I had had since becoming a Barkley and I wasn’t quite sure how to handle it or rather handle myself. I guess the thoughts of being a Barkley and management kinda went to my head. It was hard for me to get the balance right. I kinda acted at first as though I was better than most of the folks there. Well that was another lesson I would learn alongside of heritage.
“While at Lonesome being on my way to the mine on the first day, I threw some pennies to begging kids, and then when I met with Murdoch I kinda talked down to him I reckon I was kinda feeling full of myself with being a Barkley an’ all. I also enjoyed the fact that I could use money to buy information, I was feeling mighty important. It wasn’t until I met up with the leader of the Molly Maguires, O’Doule, himself turning out to be the chief trouble maker in Lonesome and an old mining buddy of mine, later in my room that I realized the way I had been acting. O’Doule said I’d changed. I didn’t realize I had but it set me to thinking. He was right ’cause in some ways I had changed, the old Heath would not have thrown pennies to the kids he’d have put them into their hands nor would he have spoken down to Murdoch he’d have discussed the mining problems with him civilly as I would now. Mind you as I remember now I was never disrespectful towards an old miner’s daughter name of Bridie who worked in the saloon and she was right helpful to me, saving my life and all and making it so I could get the information I needed from her father.
“Once I had this information I made my way back home to confront the family with the broken promises of Tom Barkley. I guess what I had learnt struck too near to my bones and I was mad. I had grown up in conditions no better than these miners. Until I had become a Barkley my life was no better than theirs’. Who the hell did I think I was when I first arrived in Lonesome? Even though now I was a Barkley I was still the same Heath only my circumstances had changed. I could relate to those miners and their lives and their experiences but I was about to learn something else from this family of mine. I now was in a position where I could do something about the miners lives and working conditions, not ’cause I was any better than them but because I now had a heritage to uphold. A heritage left to me by a man I believed to be my father and given to me by the Barkley family and with heritage comes responsibility.
“So, anyhow, I stormed into the study, madder than I’ve ever seen Nick when has a grouse about something like when he thought I was working for the railroad and attacked me in the barn, just as Mo.... Mrs. Barkley said, “I wonder what he would say?”
“I’ll tell you what he would say.” I fumed out taking the family by surprise.
“I told them I hadn’t expected to be back so soon but I’d been chased out by men carrying ropes. I then told them about the Molly Maguires, one of those secret societies, a violent one, that have the strange notion that it’s better to die fighting than wait like sheep and that they were a very strange and an unrealistic people and how the miners had reached the limits of their endurance. I told them that they wouldn’t like the Molly Maguires and then I went on to say carefully putting a sting in the tale, “Funny thing is they don’t hate the company management nearly as much as they hate the Barkleys.”
“Then I really got into their craw with my scathing speech. “He’d say sell out wipe your hands of the whole dirty mess. He’d say take your money and run. Do you think those men at Lonesome camp are striking at Hummel’s management, the wage cut, working conditions in the mine? Oh you are so wrong. They’re striking against him.” I said glaring up at the painting of Tom Barkley.
“Jarrod perplexed then bade me to explain so I continued holding forth much as I had done that first night in the study when I thought they were my brothers.
“You explain to me his promises that were never kept? Good housing, safe working conditions, decent wages, schools for the children and a company store selling at cost. Security for the old and the injured. What did they get? Leaking roofs, rotten timbering in the mines, dirty children playing in the streets and begging pennies and a company store that charges full prices for everything. Do you know what they eat up there? Potatoes, potatoes three times a day, seven days a week and praise the Lord when a miracle put a bit of meat on their plates once in a blue moon and as far as the old and the crippled. They’ve got it fine and easy if they have a daughter who works in a saloon to keep the company roof over their heads and enough food from the company store to keep them alive. What he promised them was hope,” and I glared up at him again “and what they got was a kick in the teeth that is why they hated him.” I felt as though I was on a crusade.
“But this was when I learnt my lesson about what a heritage meant. Mrs. Barkley wasn’t gonna leave it there and she responded with.
““I don’t believe it. I don’t believe it.” I knew I was gonna get a right chin wagging now but what I got was not what I expected. Mrs. Barkley handled it very well. “You are very young and the young are very intolerant. You couldn’t understand a man like your father. You couldn’t understand how a man might make promises in good faith and then not be able to keep them. You only heard one side of the story. Don’t pass judgment on a man you never knew until you hear both sides. I’ve always had faith in my husband and I still do but if he was at fault in this instance then we are all at fault. Your father left us a heritage of wealth and power and land and he also left us his obligation.” She then turned to Jarrod and finished with, “Jarrod fight Sam Hummel with everything we’ve got.”
“I now understood the real meaning of having a heritage. It wasn’t just having his money his wealth, his property, his lands it was having the power to be able to make things right, to do things which can affect the lives of others for better or for worse. And that day the family decided and set to, myself included to fulfil and keep the promises made by Tom Barkley. With his money, his wealth, his land and his property came an obligation. This obligation was the true meaning of having my heritage and with it came a responsibility of being a Barkley.
“The heritage was a part of it all and I had that in a family who cared and not just for me.
“Well I may be the poorer for no longer having the Barkleys as family but I still have their legacy even though I may have lost their respect.
“Yes Charger, I may no longer be a Barkley, indeed I guess I never really have been, but the lessons I have learnt are still with me and the memories I hold are dear. Well Charlie Sawyer you may have taken my family from me and I may no longer be a part of them but you cannot erase what I hold inside of me nor change what I have become. I am what I am and there are many more memories that I can call on and I only hope that all I now hold dear will be enough to sustain me as I continue in this life as just plain Heath. The Barkleys are a family that I will always want to be a part of and here in my heart I always will be.
“I will hold all that they have taught me and given to me as precious and from now on with each and every one of them having a special place in my heart I will live as they would want and expect me to, like a Barkley.
“The last year has been the best time of my life and the last few days have been the most wretched and I’ve seen some and been through some life in my short time on earth, believe me . Nick I only wish you could throw a bucket of sand over me and I could recover and the last few days would cease to have been and the worst nightmares I’ve ever suffered would be over.”
Heath loped along the track when he noticed the crooked Barkley Ranch direction sign and reined in Charger. He then dismounted and made his way to the sign where he promptly started to straighten it, all the time looking at the words and almost lovingly running his fingers over the coarse wood. His thoughts were suddenly interrupted by the sound of guns being fired a short distance away and swiftly making his way to his horse he remounted and headed in the direction of the shooting.
And the rest is history.