It all began in a little mining town called Strawberry. A young man was called to come home, after his mother requested his presence. Sitting by her bedside, the young man says, “Mama, your going away, aren’t you?” With tears in his eyes, he asks again, “Aren’t you?
“Yes Heath, I am, there is something I need to tell you. I don’t have much time.” Leah tells him.
“What is it?” Heath wanted to know.
The dying woman says to him, “Heath, get the bible off of the dresser for me please.”
With tears going down his cheeks, Heath says, “Mama, I don’t want you to go.”
“Heath, please do as I ask; get the bible.” Leah tells him, a little more direct.
Nodding his head, “Yes, Mama.” Heath replies.
Getting up, doing as she asks, Heath goes over to retrieve it from the dresser where it is sitting and picks it up; just then a clipping falls out. Picking it up, he walks over to the bed, and just as he is about to hand it to her, her eyes close, and she stops breathing. Going over to her, and not seeing her moving, or breathing, Heath calls out, “Mama. Mama.” but she doesn’t answer; shaking her a little, Heath says again, “Mama. Mama.” in alarm; getting louder and more scared, Heath says, “Mama. Mama.” shaking her again.
Coming over to him and looking at her the woman says, “I’m sorry, Heath; she’s dead.”
Hearing her, but not listening, he tries one more time, and says, “Mama.” speaking in a louder tone.
The second woman, joining the first one says, “There’s nothing we could do for her, Heath; we’re sorry.”
But then realizing its no use, he kneels next to the bed, and places his head next to hers, and with tears in his eyes, he says, “Mama.” talking in a very low voice.
They have a brief burial for her, with a brief ceremony, with only Heath, and the two women at the grave site. The first woman says to Heath, “Heath, let’s go back to my place we need to talk.”
Nodding his head, Heath replies, “Okay, Aunt Rachel.” While still kneeling beside the grave; after it’s over with, they go back to Rachel’s.
Sitting at the table as she gives him something to drink, Heath asks of Rachel, “Aunt Rachel, what is this?”
Sitting at the table across from him, Rachel replies, as she takes her hand, and runs the palm across his forehead, she says, “It’s a clipping. A picture.”
As he takes sips of the drink, Heath asks, “Who is the man?”
The other woman says to Rachel, “You sure about this?’
“He needs to know, Hannah.” Rachel replies.
“Alright.” Hannah answers not too thrilled about it.
Rachel tells Heath, “The man in this picture is of Tom Barkley. He died six months ago.
“How come I never seen it, or Mama never mentioned it. Why did Mama have it to begin with, and why did she have it in the bible, and then ask me to get it for her?”
“Well there are reasons to it, but I could only tell you some of it. I think she was planning on telling you just before she died, and she always wanted to, but for some reason, never got around to it. She wanted to tell you her self, but seeing that she isn’t able to, I think you have a right to know.” Taking a deep breath, and looking over at Hannah, before looking at Heath, Rachel then says, placing her hand on top of his, “The man in this clipping, Tom Barkley, is not just a man, he was special to your mama.”
“Special? In what way?” Heath wanted to know.
“Special because she knew of him once, and because the man in this clipping, Tom Barkley, is or was your father.” still gripping his hand into hers.
With his mouth open, from what Rachel just told him, Heath is taken back with the information, and then says, “My father?”
“Yes. It tells of his home in Stockton. And that he has a ranch there and a family.” Rachel explains to him.
“A family?” Heath answers, in shock.
“Yes.” Rachel replies.
“How come I never knew? How come mother never told me? How come he never came to meet me? How come he never came to see me?” Heath getting up asks, very angry.
“I don’t know all of it, Heath. But your mama wanted to tell you, she did, she always wanted you to know, but for some reason she was afraid to tell you or tell him. Now she should have. I told her many times to tell you, but she just wouldn’t.” Rachel tries to tell him.
“How do I find Stockton?” Heath asks.
“Its in California here. It’s about 70 miles south and due east of here.” Rachel informs him.
“Excuse me.” Heath replies, getting up and is about to leave.
“Where you going?” Rachel asks.
“To go pack. And to find this here Stockton and meet this family of my father’s.”
Angrily, pointing to him self, he says, “I want what’s mine. I want to meet these Barkleys that have everything, while I had nothing.”
Hannah says, “Heath, don’t do anything rash.”
“Heath, please think about what you are doing before you do it.” Rachel says, adding her voice to Hannah’s.
“Think? I can’t think of anything right now. But I am going to this here Stockton I could tell you that. What I do when I get there, I don’t know yet. But right now I am so angry, that I can’t see straight. Excuse me.” He then storms out the door and doesn’t look back.
“Why did you tell him?” Hannah asks of Rachel.
“I had to. He had a right to know. Leah shouldn’t have kept that from him. I don’t know why she did, but she shouldn’t have. That boy could’ve used his father.”
“You do know why, don’t ya?” Hannah says.
“Some. She was afraid he would take him from her or that Matt would’ve did something.” Rachel admits.
“I think that’s who she feared more.” Hannah says.
“I think so too.” Rachel replies.” But if she told him long ago and Tom knew, then maybe Heath wouldn’t have had to grow up the way he did and could’ve grown up with the life he should’ve had instead.”
“I know. That part I am sorry about.” Hannah admits.
“Me too. I just hope this family is what Heath expects. I hope they aren’t a disappointment to him. Heath doesn’t need anymore of that now. He had enough of that already. He had all that he could take.” Rachel confides.
“I know. Let’s hope and pray this Barkley family are good to him.” Hannah says.
“Agreed.” Rachel responds.
Over at the livery, getting his horse ready for the long journey ahead, Heath talks to the man who works and owns the livery, “Hi Henry.”
“Hi, there Heath. Are you going someplace?” Henry asks.
“Yup. Stockton, California.” Heath answers.
“What’s there?” Henry wanted to know.
“People. A family I need to see.” After a couple seconds, Heath says, “Henry.”
“Yes Heath.” Henry replies.
“Could I ask you a question?” Heath asks.
“Of course you could. Anytime.” Then he asks Heath, looking at him, “What’s the question?”
“Have you ever heard of a Thomas Barkley, in this town?” Heath inquires.
“Thomas Barkley.” Thinking, running his fingers along his chin, and after a couple seconds, says, “Yes, yes, I have.”
“What could you tell me about him?” Heath asks.
“Well, not much to tell. I think it was about 24 years ago, yup, that seems to be right, maybe it was a little sooner, but he came here, and bought a mine, I also remember him being with your mother for a spell.” Henry mentions, thinking as he is telling Heath.
“Is there anything else?” Heath asks, eagerly.
“No, no, I don’t think so. I do know shortly thereafter, a couple years later, no wait, I think it was several years later, I can’t recall the exact year or time, but he sold it, and after selling it, he never returned” Then looking up at Heath again, taking all the information in, he asks “Why? Why do you want to know about him?”
“Just wondered, is all. Thanks.” Heath mentions.
“No problem. You could ask old Henry any thing any time of the day or night. And if I have the answer I will be much obliged to give it to you.” Henry replies.
“I appreciate that.” Heath tells him.
“Well, have a safe trip. When will you be returning?” Henry asks.
“I don’t know, perhaps, soon, perhaps never. Right now, I just don’t rightly know.” Taking his horse, he says as he is leaving the stable, “Well, take care of yourself, will ya?”
Following him as he goes out the door, Henry says, “I will. But then again, I’ve been doing all that all this time so I won’t stop now.”
Taking a quick moment at the gravesite where he says “Bye, Mama” looking over at Hannah and Rachel standing there, and then giving them each a quick goodbye hug and kiss. Next, grabbing a hold of his beloved horse’s reins, he mounts up, with a bed roll, and a saddle bag filled with a change of clothing, his rifle, a few provisions, Rachel and Hannah were able to give to him, the clipping and a few other prized possessions that he owns, he says to his horse, “Come on, Gal.” and then he waves to Hannah and Rachel as they watch him leave.
Rachel and Hannah both say, “Bye Heath.
Rachel says, “Take care of yourself.”
Heath replies, “I’ve been doing that for all these years, I won’t stop now.”
Hannah says, “Be good.”
“I will. Bye Aunt Rachel. Bye Hannah.” And then he rides off.
Hannah says to Rachel, “Heath is such a good boy.”
“Yes. I just hope these Barkleys know that.” Rachel tells Hannah.
“I hope so too.” Hannah responds.
He begins riding faster as he leaves Strawberry behind.
Heath begins traveling the valleys and the towns of California on his way to find the town called Stockton. He travels by day and stops at night, to rest and eat and give his beloved Gal a break, removing her saddle and reins and bedroll; letting her drink from the lake. He makes a campsite where he is closest to a lake that carries fish. He catches fish, by removing his clothes and going in there with nothing on. After grabbing one or two of them, he takes a small black pan that Rachel gave him and cooks the fish on the open fire he made. He puts his clothes back on and then after he eats and had enough he cleans around the area that he is using. If as he travels, there is not any type of lake or water area, he camps where it’s best as he travels. And then he eats what he packed from whatever Hannah or Rachel gave him to take with him. Reaching some of the smaller towns, he asks anybody that he sees how to get to Stockton. Giving him the directions he needs he follows what they tell him.
Two weeks later after traveling through various towns and valleys, and talking to people in each of the towns that was able to help him, he finally arrived to Stockton. He stops for a moment to ask directions to the Barkley ranch. One of the good local townspeople gives him directions of how to get there. Then he tips his hat, says thank you and once again travels on.
From up on top of his beloved Gal, he takes in the entire scenery of the mountains and valleys of Stockton, turning to Gal, Heath says, “So, Gal, this is Stockton. Sure is a beautiful place.” Petting Gal and then seeing a train coming, he decides to run it. Inside the train, little did Heath know that there was a man in there, with several other men, on their way back to Stockton.
Meanwhile on a train to Stockton….
“Where’s the Swenson property?” one of the men asks.
Showing him on the map that is opened on the table, the second guy says, “These three sections. Hard tracks goes by it there.”
The first guy asks, “Did you serve them notice?”
The third guy, which is sitting near the window of the car, mentions, “Swenson, Sempleworth, the paperwork went out this morning.”
The attendant says to the 1st guy who is standing up, “Mr. Barkley will see you in his car now, Mr. Crown, at your convenience.”
The first guy (Crown) asks the two at the table, “How many people have you called in?”
The fourth guy answers, “About 200.”
Crown says, “Keep them chained, I mean that Mr. Hoak.”
4th man (Hoak) says, “How many men, you said? 200 hired guns.”
Crown says, “If and when needed.”
Hoak replies, “They’ll mop up their hastings in one day.”
Crown says, “And we’ll be ripped to shreds. Nothing like brave little men fighting a railroad to wind the public opinion. Tell Mr. Barkley two minutes.” Crown tells the train attendant.
Attendant responds, “Yes, sir.” And then he leaves.
Hoak says, “How are you gonna stop it?”
Crown says, “Stop it? The fight, I can’t. But maybe he will.”
Hoak says, “Barkley sure. Like his father did six years ago?”
Crown replies, “His father’s dead.”
Hoak mentions, “And they’re his sons. They still have his horns.”
Crown says, “Do they, Hoak? Are you so sure? Or is it just the name?” Leaving that car, Crown goes to the next one.
In the next car, Mr. Barkley, holding a cigar, greeting Crown, says, “May I offer you a bite of lunch?”
Crown replies, “I usually don’t eat.”
Sitting down at the table, nearest the window, the man, Mr. Barkley says, “No, not really?” Crown sits down, “That’s the market of an ambitious man; it could also lead to an ulcer. Eat lunch, Crown; it’s good for your health.” Not forcing the issue and lifting a glass he says, “Well, what should we drink to?”
Crown holding his glass, says, “To a new day.”
Mr. Barkley sitting down replies, “No, no, I think I have a better one. To the man, who won it, your Lord and master, Hannibal Jordan, who with one quick tug of his fat grubby little fist makes poppers out of two-thousand men. Think of it Crown; the genius, two-thousand farmers, living on land they settled, homesteaded, worked.”
Cutting him off, Crown says, “Railroad land.”
Mr. Barkley says, “Sold to them.”
Crown says, “Leased.”
Mr. Barkley says, “Sold to them ten years ago at auction and you know it.”
Crown says, “You took their case to the legislature. You got your bill out of the committee and onto the floor and passed.”
Mr. Barkley says, “And vetoed.”
Crown says, “It was illegal. The governor killed it.”
Mr. Barkley says (disputing it), “Jordan killed it and don’t tell me, I was there.”
Crown says, “Now you’re preparing a move to rescind.”
Mr. Barkley says, “I am.”
Crown says, “Meanwhile,” Holding his glass up as he takes a sip, “To peace.”
Mr. Barkley says to Crown, “Do you know, Crown,” as the train travels on its route through the valley, “over that hill there’s a town, land worked, and tilled, olives, figs, grapes, cattle, that’s an awful lot to ask a man to give up peacefully.”
Crown tells Mr. Barkley, “That’s what you’re gonna tell the men.”
Mr. Barkley says, “I, Crown?”
Crown adds, “Or you’re the one they’re gonna turn to, you or your brothers. Just like they always do. Just like they did to your father.”
Mr. Barkley says, “And you’d like to know how I’m gonna advise them, is that it?”
Crown says, “Well, let’s say, I’d like you to know what would happen if you advise them improperly. How many was it last time, Barkley? Ten dead? Twelve? Not even for openers.”
Barkley replies, “The day of the spike-n-iron is that it?”
Crown says, “No man can beat it.”
Seeing the fellow on his horse running, Barkley tells Crown, “Well, there’s one who is sure trying.”
Heath continues racing the train. Watching from the car’s window, Crown replies, “No, not a chance.”
Watching with amazement, Barkley says, “Fifty.”
Crown says, “Hundred.” Heath outside continues to run.
Barkley says, “Five hundred.”
Crown says, “Seven hundred fifty.” Heath continues racing it. As Barkley and Crown watch him, they move through the cars.
Standing outside, watching as Heath continues to run, Barkley says, “One thousand.”
Crown says, “Twelve fifty.” Other passengers are cheering the runner on.
Barkley and Crown continue watching him, as they pass through the various cars until they get to the last one, Barkley says to Crown, “Fifteen Hundred.”
Crown replies, “Done” as Heath reaching the finish line, goes over the tracks and beats the train.
Laughing and happily, Barkley says to Crown pleased that he won, “So, no man beats the iron, ay, Crown?”
As Crown gets out his wallet and begins paying Barkley the fifteen hundred he won he says, “Well, sometimes, maybe for awhile. But sooner or later, like all men, they die and all they leave behind is dust, and that’s from a man who doesn’t eat lunch.” paying Barkley off.
Once Heath has made it over the tracks and is a safe distance away, he stops several feet away and looks back as the train continues on its route he says, “Whew; that was a close call, Gal” looking back at the train one last time, Heath and Gal, then continue in the direction they were going in.
After traveling some more miles, Heath stumbles across a bridge, where he meets another person, with dark-hair, on the bridge coming his way, who says, “Afternoon.”
Heath replies, “Afternoon.”
The dark-haired fellow studies the horse and the rifle he is traveling with. The dark-haired man says, “Quite a pony you got there.”
Petting her, Heath replies, “Yes. This is Gal. She’s a runner.”
The dark-haired guy says, “Indian?”
Heath replies, “Modoc.”
Nodding his head the dark-haired fellow says, “Oh, they breed them right up there.”
Heath tells him, “Yup, they do. Except for one thing.”
Dark-haired fellow says, “Oh, what’s that?”
Heath replies, “They don’t know how to back up. So, if you’ll just pull that Crock off this here bridge.”
Dark-haired fellow says, “Well, now, I gladly do that for you, boy, except for one thing.”
Heath inquires, “What’s that?”
“This one’s a Modoc too.” Nick answers.
Heath says, “Is that a fact” Removing his hat and wiping the sweat from his forehead, he then says “Sure is hot today ain’t it?”
“Yeah, it sure is. You could really raise a sweat this time of year.” Nick tells him.
“I guess so.” Heath replies.
Admiring the rifle the dark-haired fellow says, “Fine looking blow pipe you got there.”
Heath replies, “Mexican.”
Dark-haired fellow says, “Is that a fact?”
Heath informs him, “Had to buy it to buy it to blow a head off of a grizzly.”
Dark-haired fellow says, “That is if you get to it in time.”
Heath replies “Don’t need to; just figuring eyeball or button, right, I wanna pop and pow!” admiring the dark-haired fellow’s rifle he says “Nice piece you have there.”
“English.” The man tells him.
Heath replies, “Do tell.”
Dark-haired fellow says, “Core an apple at half a mile.”
Heath then says, “Haul on a tree or fall in?”
Dark-haired fellow says, “On horse back. Hurricane” then as they are about to reach for their guns, the bridge breaks and they both, as well as their mounts fall into the water. After going in the water they and their mounts, which they seem to be holding on for dear life quickly get out. Looking back at each other after getting out on dry land, they smile back at one another and then they continue on. While Heath continues in the direction he is headed the dark-haired fellow heads in the direction he was going in.
The dark-haired fellow rides into town, and picks up a horse from the livery, he then watches a fight break out in town near a saloon, and lets out a laugh, the sheriff going over to the doing the fighting says, “Alright, break it up”
The dark-haired fellow says, “Hey, Harry, your new deputies having themselves a day?” still laughing as he continues where he is going.
Climbing off his horse and over the railing, he goes inside the first car of the train, seeing a man sitting down he says, “Soong, you ugly mandarin.” greeting him, exchanging quick hugs.
Soong says, “Mr. Barkley.”
Barkley says, “Jarrod. Where’s my brother?”
Coming out of the next car, his brother says, “Nick.”
Greeting each other exchanging bear hugs, Nick says, “How you’ve been?”
Jarrod says, “Fine. Fine. Hey, hey. Say, where have you been?” noticing that his clothes and hair are wet “Looks like you’ve been through the mill stream.”
Nick replies, “No; a middle stream. I’ve been chasing the wind by and hollering at the breeze” glancing down at Jarrod’s stomach, Nick says “Hey, you’re getting fat.”
“What are you talking about? A mere pound.” Jarrod jokingly disputes him.
“How’s Frisco?” Nick asks.
“Cold.” Jarrod answers.
Nick tells him, “Well, if its heat you want you’ll get it here. The railroad is really bringing them in they must’ve turned up every rock in the hills. Now, come on, boy. I got your mount outside.” Jarrod leaves the train car with Nick.
While Heath is following in the direction he is going in, taking in all he could see, and admiring the scenery and the stream he passes by, until he catches sight of a lone gravestone. Going towards it, he climbs down off of Gal and goes over to it; kneeling down before it, he looks at it. Just then a young woman comes over on her horse. Starting to whip him, he grabs her and pulls her off her horse. Rolling around the ground, until he finally manages to pin her down, he grabs hold of the whip and looking at her, Heath says, “ Oh, for the love of-“
The girl says, “Get off of me.”
Heath continues, “She has blonde hair and blue eyes.”
Girl says, “You’re hurting.”
Heath says, “Drop it. I said drop it.” After a couple minutes, she gives in and he takes it away from her and tosses it aside.
Girl says, “I planted those flowers.”
Heath says, “So?”
Girl says, “You were trampling on them, I saw you.” She then asks of him, “Who are you?”
Heath replies, “I was about to ask you the same thing.”
“I don’t have to tell you anything.” She says.
“No, Ma’am, I guess you don’t.” Heath replies.
She then says, giving in, “Audra Barkley.”
Heath says, “Then-”
Audra replies, “He was my father.”
Heath says, “Then I am sorry.”
“Why? Who are you? What are you doing here? You’re not from around here?” Audra wanted to know.
“No Ma’am, I’m not. I was on my way to your place, looking for work and got fouled up in these woods there. And ran across this grave. Not a likely place for a grave.” Heath notes.
Audra tells him, “He died here. That’s where they shot him. A thousand people came from the valley to bury him. He was that kind of man.”
“I know.” Heath replies.
“What do you mean you know?” Audra asks of him.
“I mean I know what it’s like to be without a father. He must’ve been something special if all those people came to bury him.” Heath informs her.
“He was.” Audra states proudly.
“If you tell me the way, I’ll be off.” Heath says to her.
“There’s a trail about ten yards off of the woods. It’ll take you up to the road leading up to the ranch.” As Heath mounts his horse, Audra tells him, “Hey, see my brother, Nick. He runs the hiring.”
“I’ll do that. Thank you.” And then he is off. She watches him go off on his way.
Coming to the Ranch, and then arriving at the House, Jarrod and Nick stop when they reach the house. As they climb down off their mounts, a man comes over to them, and says, “Hey, Senor Jarrod.”
Jarrod replies, “Hey Ciego.”
Exchanging greetings and handshakes, Ciego says, “Haven’t seen you for months. How is San Francisco?”
Jarrod answers, “Cold.”
Ciego says, “Well, maybe you want heat?”
Jarrod says, “We got it here” finishing the sentence for Ciego.
Ciego replies, “Si, senor; we got it here.” He takes both Jarrod and Nick’s horses and walks away from the house with them.
Coming out to greet Jarrod next, the voice says, “Jarrod.”
Greeting the person, Jarrod says, “Hi-lo there, doctor is it or is it lawyer this week.” With his hand on the back of his neck and then holding his face in his hands, studying him, Jarrod says, “No, by George, Nick, it’s poet. He’s got that look in his eyes. No, it’s Gene. How you doing?”
“Fine.” Gene replies.
“Let me look at you.” Taking a better look at him, “I think you’ve grown three inches since I’ve seen you last.” Jarrod notices.
Nick says, “Well, they do that, Jarrod. They just sprout right up.”
Jarrod says, “Ha, ha, Nick. Very funny.”
Then noticing the wagons, Nick asks. ”What’s all this about, all the wagons.”
“They got notices from the railroad, pay or vacate.” Gene tells him.
Jarrod inquires, “What do you mean they?”
Gene answers, “Swenson, Sempleworth, they’re inside.” Jarrod, followed by Nick then Gene go inside.
Entering the main room of the house, Jarrod asks of Gene, “Where’s Audra?”
“I think she’s out.” Gene replies.
Jarrod then says, “Silas.” seeing a man coming in the room.
Silas replies, “Mr. Barkley.”
As they exchange handshakes, Jarrod says, “My, you’re getting younger every day.”
Silas tells him, “Shh! Your mother, she is asleep. You look fine, Mr. Barkley, just fine.”
Looking him over, he then asks, “How’s San Francisco?”
Jarrod responds, “Fair. Balmy and balmy.”
Entering the room to the left of the stairwell, Jarrod is approached by one of the men in there waiting to see him. The first man says, “Jarrod.”
Jarrod replies, “Sig, how are you?” shaking their hands. Turning to the second one, Jarrod says, extending his hand out, “Frank.” Exchanging handshakes and then turning to the third guy, Jarrod says, “Abe.” doing the same with him.
Abe says, “Jarrod.”
Sig says, “Ain’t you something to see.”
Abe says, “You really gave it to them up there.”
Sig replies, answering for Jarrod, “Sure, he did. I told you that.” Turning to Jarrod, he says, “Hey, these papers. They’re bluffing, ah, 25.00 an acre, from my own land. Pay or they sell it out from under me. Who is that railroad thinking they’re trying to bluff?”
Taking the notice from Sig and looking at it, Jarrod says, “By midnight tonight.”
Sig says, “Hey, ain’t that the note of it, though.”
Turning to the next man, Jarrod says, “Frank yours?”
Frank replies, “Til 8 in the morning.”
Abe adds, “Noon tomorrow.”
Sig tells Jarrod, “I was gonna feed this thing to my goat. But, hey, I figured I show it to you first for a laugh.”
“So, that’s how they are hitting you. One at a time.” Jarrod blurts out.
Sig replies, “Yeah, they think they can-” Stopping in mid sentence.
Frank asks, “What do you mean hitting us?”
Jarrod replies, “I thought you knew.”
Abe asks, “What?”
Frank mentions, “You saw the governor?”
Abe mentions, “You said you were gonna meet with him.”
Nodding his head, Jarrod replies, “I saw the governor.”
Shaking his head in disbelief, Sig says, “Oh, my god, no.”
With a frown, and saddened, Jarrod replies, “He vetoed it. I’m sorry.”
Abe says, “Well, it ain’t legal. It can’t be.”
Jarrod tells him, straight out, “Well, not by any moral stand is I know; but it’s legal.”
Abe says with worry, “Twenty- five dollar an acre. How am I gonna ever raise that much money?”
Frank asks, “How many men do you have on the hire?”
Nick joining in asks, “Why?”
Frank replies, “Thirty-five? Forty? We could match that out, right Sig? Right Abe?”
Glancing over at Frank, Jarrod says, “For what, Frank?”
Answering for Frank, Sig replies,” To fight them, Jarrod. He’s right; just like we did before with your daddy.”
Looking at Sig, Jarrod asks,” And who do you think you’ll be fighting, Sig? A half-dozen mud-hogs off a flat car? No! Go into town. Take a look. It’s crawling with them. They’ve hired themselves an army.”
Looking at Jarrod, uptight, Frank says to him, “Are you asking us to give into it? Is that what you’re asking us to do? We’re supposed to give all this up, Jarrod? Is that what you are asking? Asking us to give up all we own? Lose my fields? My oldest boy is buried up by that house. I give that up?”
Looking at Frank, Jarrod says, “Frank, I think you know me better than that.”
Frank returning the glance, says to Jarrod, “Do we?”
Glancing back at Nick, Jarrod informs them, “Well, the courthouse opens at nine. First thing in the morning,” Nodding his head, “I’ll initiate an adjunctive procedure that will give us time to weigh our move. Now, don’t worry, boys, nothing is gonna happen tonight anyway. Let’s talk to morrow.” Turning to Frank, Jarrod asks, “Frank, can you be here?”
Looking down at the floor, worried, Frank replies, “Yeah, if you say so.”
Pleased to hear Frank say he could, Jarrod then says, “Good. Suppose we make it at this time, six o’clock.” Turning to Abe, Jarrod says, “Abe?”
Abe replies, “Alright, Jarrod.”
Turning to Sig, Jarrod asks, “Sig?”
Sig replies, “Yeah.”
Trying to cheer them up, Jarrod suggests, “Now, let’s have a drink, before you go.”
Shaking his head, Sig replies, “Drink? Oh, no. I got to wet a field down.”
Following Sig’s lead, Abe replies, “I have to go and trim Schmidt. Maybe I could bring them in.”
Walking the men out, Jarrod says, “They’re good men.” Turning to Frank, who is also leaving with Sig and Abe, Jarrod says, “Frank suppose you talk to them.”
Going over to the liquor cabinet, and taking out a bottle, Nick says, “Drink?”
Eugene is a little stunned, stands there with his hands crossed. Nick holding the bottle up again, repeating himself says again, “Drink?”
A little surprised, Eugene replies, “Yeah.” Nick hands him a glass with a little liquor in it. Eugene says, “Thanks.”
Turning to Jarrod, who has just reentered the room, Nick says, “Whiskey or scotch?”
Jarrod looking at Nick, replies, “Well, it’s always been scotch.”
Nick pours a glass of scotch and hands it to Jarrod, and then says, “Well, I didn’t know what other taste you might’ve changed.”
Taking the glass from Nick, Jarrod says to him, “Whatever that’s supposed to mean.”
Nick says, “Injunctive procedures, who do you think you’re kidding? There isn’t a court order around here that the railroad doesn’t own. It’s fight or nothing.”
Jarrod says to Nick, “Well, that’s fine, Nick. That’s just great. You go ahead; you go on a tear, that’s the way you’ve always done it. Well, those tactics may work in a barroom brawl, but they won’t work here, this is the higher stakes, you’re swinging on, boy, or maybe, you think you’re up to it, now. Eugene, you tell him.” turning to Eugene.
Placing the glass he has in his hand on the table and sizing up what Nick and Jarrod said, Eugene replies, “Well, there’s right to what both of you say. I don’t know. I just got to think about it.”
Walking over to Eugene, Nick says to him, “That’s right, kid, you go ahead and think about it. You think while the barn is burning down.”
Eugene replies, “Now, just hold on there a minute.”
Just then, a woman in her early 50’s strolls in. Walking over and giving Jarrod, a big welcome home hug and kiss, the woman Victoria says, “Jarrod. Jarrod, darling, how nice to see you.”
Jarrod returning the greeting, says, “Hello, Mother.”
Feeling a little down, Victoria says, “I’m ashamed of myself. I should’ve gotten down to visit you.” Looking him over and noticing his stomach, says, “Oh, you’re putting on weight.”
Jarrod replies, “Well, now.” Not knowing what else to say.
Glancing over at Nick, Victoria says, “Nick, dear, must you shout at the top of your lungs while I’m trying to take my afternoon nap?” and then looking around, she asks, “And where’s Audra? She knows enough to be in before dark. Jarrod, I do wish you would speak to her. I’m afraid she has her father’s flare for rebellion” as she goes over to the glass door to see if she could see Audra.
Eugene says, “Mother, I’m sure Audra will be in. She likes to go and ride around.”
Jarrod adds, “Eugene’s right, Mother. She does like to go and ride around, but I will talk to her.”
“Thank you, Jarrod.” Victoria replies. Spotting someone coming on horseback and turning to the family, Victoria says, “Oh, kindly see to your visitor. I’ll enjoy your company at dinner.”
Going out the door and watching the fellow on the horse coming up to the house, they greet him, outside.
Recognizing Heath on the horse Nick has a grin on his face. From on top of his Modoc with an impish grin, Heath says to Nick, “Small world ain’t it.”
Looking at Nick, then at Heath, Gene says, “You know each other?”
Ignoring Gene, Nick says to Heath, “Something for you?”
Heath says, “Mr. Barkley, if you know where I could find him?”
“Take your choice.” Nick tells him.
From atop his horse Heath looks over at Jarrod, Nick and Eugene, not knowing which one he wants he looks at Nick and says, “Well, I was told Nick does the hiring.”
Nick asks curiously, “Of what?”
Heath says, “You name it, I’ve done it. Line Ball, hay stacking, hay balling, cow jingling, cow-prodding, branding, mining, horse gentling-“
Cutting him off, but impressed, Jarrod says, “What’s your name?”
“Heath.” Heath answers.
“I was on that train this afternoon. That was quite a race.” Jarrod tells him.
“No contest. Not the way those cabbies drive.”
“Where you from?” Nick asks.
“West of Nevada.” Heath answers.
“How far west?” Nick wanted to know.
“Pretty much all over.” Heath tells Nick.
“Last place you worked?” Nick asks.
“Corning.” Heath answers.
Jarrod tells Nick, “Sign him on, Nick.”
“To what, we’re full.” Nick tells Jarrod.
“He did me a little favor this afternoon, sign him on.” Jarrod tells Nick.
“Uh, take your gear over to the bunkhouse, see McCall, tell him to sign you on.” And with that Heath heads to the bunkhouse. Jarrod and Gene go inside and Nick just watches Heath as he heads over to the bunkhouse, thinking about Heath’s answer of Corning of being his last place of work.
Heath is lying on a bunk staring up at the bunk above him. Not hearing anybody coming, Heath jumps slightly when he sees a hand covering his mouth. Looking over and seeing that it’s Nick, Nick hands him his shirt and tells him, “Get dressed.” sitting up and taking it, Heath begins to get dressed. Once he is dressed, he goes with Nick.
As soon as they enter the barn, Nick says,” Alright, let’s hear it.”
Still buttoning the shirt and fixing the collar, Heath replies, “Well, you just name the tune and I’ll try to see if I could hum it.”
Nick says, “Corning.”
Nodding his head, Heath replies, “Nice town.”
Nick a little suspicious, says, “Last place you worked?”
“That’s right.” Heath answers, straight at Nick.
Nick mentions, “That’s about a 100 miles from here.”
Heath says, “So?”
Nick says, “You usually travel 100 miles between jobs with half a dozen likely spreads on the way, eh?” Heath starts to leave. Nick grabbing hold of him and turning him around says, “I asked you a question, boy.”
Not answering, Heath tries to pull away from Nick and leave. But Nick retaining his hold on Heath and punches him in the face. Nick then says, “Alright, you’re no more than a traveler than a Modoc. Al right, let’s hear it, boy. The truth.” Nick hitting him again “I want to know what you are doing here.” Heath fights back.
Heath pins Nick down; then, Nick overturns Heath and pins him down. Nick asks again, “Who sent you here, boy? The railroad? Crown?” punching him again. Hitting him four times. After hitting him four more time, Nick says, “Jordan? They sent you, didn’t they?”
Grabbing hold of a heavy rope attached to a tack, Heath answers, “No man sends me anywhere. “ Throwing it at Nick, it goes over him; Heath hits Nick twice. Nick grabs him and pulls him over the other side of the wall hitting him again, Heath retaliates by kicking him, and then Nick punches him three times more. Heath drops to the floor, near the wall of the stall.
Nick asks again, catching his breath, “Who then? Who are you? I wanna hear.”
As Heath stands up; coughing once with blood coming out from his nose and a little from his mouth, Nick asks again, “I said, who are you?”
Looking directly at Nick, Heath answers, “Your father’s bastard son.”
In a state of shock and disbelief, not knowing what to make of what he just said, just looks at him, with mixed emotions, running through his head. And Heath stands there, just looking at Nick.
Yelling out at the top of his lungs, Nick calls out, “Jarrod! Jarrod! Jarrod, get down here.”
Coming out of his room quickly, he runs down the steps. Eugene coming out of his room follows. Audra hearing the commotion comes out of her room. Jarrod not knowing what is going on just yet; says to Nick, “Nick, what in the name of-?”
Seeing Eugene coming in the room, Nick tells Gene, “Gene, go back to bed.”
Gene just stands there.
On his way in the room Heath breaks a bottle and holds the sharp edge; Audra stands near the landing listening to what is going on, Jarrod stops when he sees Heath with the bottle in his hand, Heath says, “Alright. I’ve had me a day; a fight and dumped in a stream and nearly killed by a train. This one is gonna be peaceful, you hear?
Jarrod, Nick and Gene watch as Heath starts walking around the room taking it all in, looking at the fine room he is standing in. Heath then says, “So, this is what it is. Well, I wondered; oh, the old-stud himself.”
Gene is about to move towards Heath, but Jarrod pulls him back, taking hold of his arm. Heath continues, “Boy, howdy. Doesn’t he look proper, you know, I bet they buried him in those clothes with his buttons all shined and hair all spitting ends, slickered and a rose in his teeth and the honey bees buzzing.”
As Nick is about to move towards Heath, Nick says, “Oh, now, that’s all.”
Holding Nick back, grabbing hold of his arm, Jarrod says, “Nick!”
Still walking around the room as he talks taking it all in, as he moves along he continues, “I bet a band was playing and they were singing and wailing and having a ever so good, a time and some parcel reading, but they buried my mama, but it wasn’t in refinement and no thousand people crying over her grave, but in a potters field like she was nothing. And the night I was born she was alone in a tent in a rotten rat hole of a mining camp, up at Stanislaus and the rain drained down until it turned the stream into mud. But you know what she was, she was warm and gentle and fair and left to her own when her husband got lickered up and drowned in a stinking creek, until he came.”
Looking down at the floor then back at Heath, Jarrod says, “How long ago was this?”
Heath replies, “24 years.”
Jarrod asks, “Where?”
Heath replies, “In a mining camp.”
Nick standing next to the fireplace mantel, moving a little bit, says, “You told us that.”
Jarrod asks, “What mining camp?”
Heath answers, “Strawberry.” Gene looks to Jarrod, and then looks over at Nick.
Nick says, “Oh, come on. You know there were a lot of men in those camps. You know the kinds of women.”
Jarrod says, “Nick.”
Heath tells them “There was only one of my mother.”
“Just the simple sweet innocent little-“Nick says, but is cut off.
Jarrod cutting Nick off, says to Heath, “What my brother is clumsily trying to determine is when you came to hear?”
Heath replies, “A short time ago.”
Nick not believing him, says, “Oh, yeah, yeah, sure.”
Ignoring Nick, Jarrod keeping his attention on Heath, asks, “What happened a short time ago?”
“My mother died.” Heath tells them with tears in his eyes.
“Confessions from a death bed.” Nick retorts.
“Nick; that will be enough.” Jarrod tells him forcefully. Turning his attention back to Heath, he says, “Well?”
Heath explains, “I’ve been up at the Klammoth, they called for me, said she was sick; said that she was dying. She never talked about it, about who he was, not in all these years. There was something she couldn’t take to her grave, there was a bible on her dresser, she told me to get it, she said ‘turn to the last page’ I started to, and this fell out.” holding up a clipping from a newspaper “I picked it up and looked at it and then I looked at her and she was gone” showing them the picture.
The picture says ’Tom Barkley shot to Death’ Jarrod looks at it, ‘While valley mourns.’
Taking the clipping Nick says, “Is this it?” looking at it “All of it, this one piece of paper.”
Heath says, “He was my father.”
Taking the clipping Nick takes it and folds it up and says to Heath, “All right, Boy!”
Heath looking at Nick, says, “You don’t believe me.”
“Get his horse, Eugene.” Nick tells Gene.
“You’re not dumping me the way he dumped her.” Heath tells Nick.
Nick tells him in a loud voice, “Keep your voice down.”
Jarrod tells Heath, “You put together a very touching story. Not convincing, but touching. However, considering what it might help even though it is a lie. I’m willing to pay. Three hundred? Four hundred? What will you take?” Jarrod asks him taking out some money from his pocket.
Heath tells him “What I am entitled to; a name, a heritage, a part of it all; what’s mine!”
Nick says to him, “Alright, boy, you listen to me” taking the money and shoving it into his pocket, Nick says, “I want you out of this house, off this place and out of this valley, and know this, if I ever lay eyes on you again I’m gonna finish what I started here tonight.”
Taking the money out of his pocket and shoving it into a glass, Heath looks at Nick, and says, “This isn’t over. You haven’t seen the last of me.” Going to the doorway, he takes one more look back at Nick, Jarrod and Gene standing there, before he leaves. From up on the stairwell watching him leave, Audra goes up the stairs and Victoria, hearing what was going on, shuts her bedroom door.
In the Gunroom-Eugene says to Nick and Jarrod still standing there, “You don’t suppose there is something to what he says, do you?”
“No, of course not,” Nick replies, “And 24 years, he doesn’t even look 24; it’s a bunch of lies” Then he says “Eugene, go to bed.”
“Yes, go to bed, Gene.” Jarrod says.
After Gene leaves the room, Nick and Jarrod stand there thinking about what is going on, Jarrod then says to Nick, “Nick, Father did have a mine over there in Strawberry about 24 years ago, and sold it maybe 12 years ago.”
“So? What does that have to do with him?” Nick says, referring to Heath.
“Nothing; it’s just a fact to keep in mind.” Jarrod, finishing his drink tells Nick, “I think I’ll be turning in now. Goodnight.”
“Goodnight.” Nick says.
As Jarrod goes up the stairs on his way to his room, Victoria coming out of her room, stops him as he is coming in her direction, and says, “Jarrod, who was that man?”
“Oh, some drifter. We got rid of him.” Jarrod tells Victoria.
“I heard some of what he said; about a town called Strawberry. Your father had a mine there.”
“I know.” Jarrod replies.
“And it’s in the time frame that young man mentioned. Twenty-four years.”
“I know that too. But, he’s gone now. Nick got rid of him.” Jarrod says.
“I do hope he returns I would like to speak with him, find out more about him.” Victoria replies.
“You believe what you heard?” Jarrod asks in doubt.
“I don’t know. I mean it’s so overwhelming, mind-boggling, and yet it’s quite possible that there is some truth and speculation to what he said. Did he mention his name or anything else?” Victoria wanted to know.
“Only that he came from Strawberry 24 yrs ago, I think his first name was Heath.” Jarrod tells her.
“Heath what?” Victoria asks.
“We didn’t ask.” Jarrod says. “But he didn’t look 24.”
“You know, your father was there 24 yrs ago and stopped going there about 19.” Victoria mentions.
“I remember some of that.” Jarrod admits.
“I remember about 19 years ago your father was gone for four months, and didn’t return until close to my birthday. He said that he got hurt and a nice young woman took him in, and helped him get well.” Victoria adds.
“Do you remember if he mentioned the woman’s name?” Jarrod asks.
“I believe it was something like Lee, Lee, Leah. Leah something. Leah-” thinking and thinking she then says, “Leah Thom-, Thomson. Leah Thomson.” finally getting it all out.
“Is there anything else?” Jarrod asks.
“No, only that she was nice, and was very sweet, and saw that she and him were getting along too well, and that he had to go and come back home to his family. And when he came home, we talked about it some and stopped. And he never went back to Strawberry, not even to see how she was doing. And he sold the mine about 6 years later.” Victoria continues explaining.
“It does account for some of what that young man said then. Mother, what happens if there should be some truth to what he says? What if that young man turns out to be Father’s son and our brother? What then?” Jarrod asks.
“Well, the first thing would be to get to know him, and then, if there is truth to what he says and if he is,” Stopping for a moment, she then resumes, “If he is your brother, I would hope all of you would welcome your arms out to him.”
“What about Father, what does that say about him?” Jarrod asks.
“What can it say? It’ll say he was imperfect.”
“How do you feel knowing about any of this?” Jarrod asks.
“What can I say, Jarrod? If your father is responsible we owe it to that young man that came here this evening. I’m not happy about any of this, but I’ll live and I’ll survive.” Victoria informs him.
“If there is truth to what he says and if the people should find out, we may have some troubles ahead of us.” Jarrod mentions.
“As I said, I’ll live and I’ll survive and so will the rest of you, as a family we’ll survive. Jarrod, something tells me from the anger I got from his speaking was that he may not have had it so easy. You know of the kinds of stories that have been heard about children born illegitimately. They are shunned by people and they don’t have too many rights.” Victoria reiterates.
“Yes, I know. You forget I am the lawyer, I do know about them. I read the stories and heard about them too.” Jarrod says.
“Jarrod, I think we need to put his needs before our own. We are adults, we are big enough to take what is dished out, that young man may need us. And his needs should come first.” Victoria mentions.
“What about Gene and Audra, they are not adults; they still have to deal with the kids in school and such.” Jarrod tells her.
“I’m sure they will get through it and survive just like the rest of us. It won’t be easy at first, but with time things will get better.” Victoria replies.
“You know I could look into his story, have someone investigate his claim. How does that sound?” Jarrod asks.
“That is a good idea. At least we’ll get to know more about the young man from what we find out.” Victoria says.
“What do you want to do in the meantime?” Jarrod asks.
“Well, I would still like to talk to him, meet him; get to know him better for myself.” Victoria tells him.
“I suppose I could go into town and see if he is listed with one of the hotels, and see if he’ll come back here and then you could meet him, and talk with him.” Jarrod suggests.
“I like that, Jarrod. Will you please?” Victoria asks.
“Sure. How about in the morning, I go into town and see if I could find him and bring him back?” Jarrod says.
“That is fine. It could wait until morning. It’ll give me more time to think.” Victoria replies.
“Well, I better be turning in. Goodnight, Mother.” giving her a kiss on the cheek.
“Good night, Jarrod.” Jarrod continues on towards his bedroom
Returning to her room and closing the door, Victoria standing against the door, closes her eyes and says to herself, “Oh, Tom, how could you? How could you have done this?”