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Johnny and the Orphans by EJ

Word count 1,832

Johnny thought he was ready for this Christmas now that last year’s celebration was fully understood. Well, if he admitted it, he was more interested in the different kinds of foods the ladies were preparing. Definitely not the decorating and gift shopping

Another lesson he learned, stay out of the ladies way and don’t even think about snitching any of the desserts. Unconsciously he rubbed his backside at the memory of Maria catching him in her kitchen.

“Johnny, where are you?” Murdoch looked around the yard for his missing son.

“In the barn,” Johnny continued working on the broken rein. “What do you want?” He left off the ‘now’. Scott and Murdoch had been running him ragged with all the: ‘do this’, ‘check this’, ‘did you?’. He shook his head wondering if maybe he should consider hiding in one of the line shacks till Christmas was over.

Murdoch entered the barn and found Johnny in the tack room, he always marveled at his son’s dexterity working the leather. “Johnny, I need you to ride into Green River. Teresa needs some supplies.”

Johnny tossed the reins in a box, “Okay.” This was at least a chance to get away. He failed to hide the relief of escape showing on his face. “Maybe I’ll have time for a cold beer?” Hope now showing on his face.

Murdoch grinned at the transparent attempt, “I think that would be okay, but don’t take too long or we’ll both be in trouble.” Shaking his head at his younger son’s antics, Murdoch headed for the kitchen.

                                    L * A * N * C * E * R

Sunday finally arrived and Johnny made sure he was up early and out the door before Murdoch could ask again, “Go with us.”

Johnny saddled Barranca and was away from the hacienda before light. Just after daylight he arrived at the line-shack where he hitched a team to a buckboard. For weeks Johnny had been sneaking away after work to break and train the two horses he caught. Murdoch had scrapped an old buckboard which Johnny repaired and hid behind the shack. Finally everything was ready, he smiled as he loaded the packages. This was something he had been working on since October, but had kept hidden at the not presently in use line shack. Finally everything was loaded, he stood back, satisfied that everything was ready.

                                    L * A * N * C * E * R

There was no need to rush to his destination, since everyone was in church. Pulling into the yard he untied Barranca from the tailgate, then unhitched the horses. He rubbed them down, and turned them loose in the small corral.

Next he carried the packages into the building and placed them under the tree, he smiled at the various handmade ornaments the kids had made. 

He frowned as an unwelcome memory intruded, but pushed it away. Padre and Sister were good to the kids, there was always laughter here, something he never experienced when he was in the orphanage in Mexico. Shaking his head he again pushed the sad memories away. This is for the kids, and he was grateful for an orphanage where they were cared for and loved.

After one last look around the room, he smiled. He knew he had to get moving before church lets out and they came back. He couldn’t risk being caught.

The ride back to Lancer was slow and easy but he would get back in time for lunch. Not even Murdoch’s expression for missing church would dampen his mood. After having missed breakfast; he was looking forward to Maria’s lunch, the promised tamales.

                                    L * A * N * C * E * R

Murdoch and Scott were at the corral when he rode in, “Nice ride, little brother?”

Scott smirked at Johnny’s expression when he saw his father and brother waiting for him.

“Yep, real good ride, Barranca needed a good run.” He dismounted and led his horse into the barn, frowning when he heard them follow him. Without looking back he unsaddled Barranca and began brushing him down.

“Well, aren’t you going to tell us where you have been, son? Being gone all morning was more than just a ride.” Murdoch moved to sit on a hay bale while Scott leaned over the stall wall.

“Yes, brother, keeping secrets?”

Johnny turned to them grinning, “Well, aren’t you the one who is always saying Christmas is a time for secrets?”

That left Scott speechless for a few seconds. “Does that mean I should expect an extravagant gift come Christmas morning?”

Murdoch sat back and enjoyed listening to his sons. “Johnny, should I expect the same?” He chucked, not at all upset, when his younger son hid behind a non-threatening Madrid sneer.

Finally done with Barranca, Johnny headed for the hacienda and without stopping, called over his shoulder, “Hey y’all coming, I’m starved.”

Both men shook their heads and followed. No use trying for further information.

                                    L * A * N * C * E * R

At last Christmas morning arrived but brought with it a cold north wind. Johnny huddled deeper into his warm bed and frowned when the knock interrupted his plan for sleeping in longer.

A voice followed the knock, “Get up Johnny, I think Santa has been here.” Another deeper voice announced, “But only after breakfast.”

Sighing, Johnny weighed his chances of getting out of bed and dressed before freezing to death. At least the kitchen will be warm so he crawled out of bed and dressed at record speed.

As expected the kitchen was warm and breakfast really hit the spot. With a coffee cup in hard he followed his family into the great room. He didn’t remember so many packages under the tree last night.

“So, Scott, all these extra presents are from this Santa fellow you’ve been harping about?” Johnny, holding onto his cup for warmth, took the left end of the sofa.

Scott smiled, “I do believe so, little brother.” He moved to the right side of the sofa.

Teresa followed them, carrying a tray with more coffee and some cookies. Then at Murdoch’s nod she went to the tree. “Well, it seems Santa did leave something for Johnny.”

                                    L * A * N * C * E * R

All the gifts were opened, thanks were offered, but that was not the end of the morning activities.

Murdoch rose and announced, “It’s time to head to the orphanage with the food and gifts. Johnny, you aren’t used to this cold weather so it’s a good thing Santa brought you a heavy coat.” Two snickers accompanied the remark.

Not to be bested, “Yeah, good thing, wonder who told him my size?” Johnny’s thanks showed in the affectionate expression aimed at his father.

                                    L * A * N * C * E * R

The wagon was loaded and heavy blankets covered the special cargo. Murdoch and Teresa were on the wagon and Scott and Johnny followed on horseback.

When they rode into the yard they were greeted by excited children hopping up and down and clapping in anticipation.

Pulling Barranca to a halt Johnny dismounted only to be immediately surrounded by a hoard of excited children. Murdoch, Scott, and Teresa, smiled watching the orphans. Padre Miguel waved a welcome to the Lancers. All of the observers understood the connection between Johnny and the orphans.

“Okay, okay, just a minute.” He waded through the small hands reaching for him.

Padre Miguel stood back enjoying the scene playing out before him, it cheered his heart to see the children react to Johnny. Some of the older ones from Mexico knew he was Madrid, but he was El Campeón to them and not a gunfighter to fear.

With his arms open and waving, Padre Miguel called, “Welcome friends, come in and warm yourselves next to the fire.”

“First we have to unload the wagon.” Scott called for volunteers. The older boys help carry the food and packages into the building and the older girls unpacked the food and put it away. Except the food they would share with the Lancers for lunch, that went to the cook.

Murdoch stood by the small tree and looked at all the open gifts, “Looks like Santa has been here already.”

“Sí, he has been generous.” The Padre smiled but his eyes drifted to Johnny then back immediately to Murdoch. “And not only to the children with all these gifts, each one is appropriate for the child receiving it.” Padre Miguel grinned at the surprise on his old friend’s face.

Pulling Murdoch aside, “Patrón, he also gave us a wagon and two horses.” Miguel tapped his chin appearing to ponder the situation, “I wonder how he knew our old wagon is no longer functioning? Also our horses are fine for the children to ride but too old to pull the heavy wagon.”

“Hmm,” Murdoch rubbed his chin, “one does wonder.

Padre Miguel nodded and patted Murdoch’s arm. “I’m sure there are angels who   keep him informed. God has many messengers and many servants.”

“In deed He does.” A proud Murdoch nodded toward his younger son. “I believe I may know one of them.”

“You may, my friend.” Padre Miguel smiled and ushered his friend to a chair by the fire. They relaxed and enjoyed watching Scott, Johnny, and Teresa play with the children.

It had been a wonderful day for the Lancers and the children but it was getting late and time for the Lancers to leave. As they prepared to leave the children clung onto Johnny. “Hey y’all, Scott and me will be back, remember we have some repair work around here and we can’t do it alone.”

Finally they were mounted up and ready to head home. With waves and shouts from the children, the grateful Lancers rode away from the orphanage.

                                    L * A * N * C * E *

It had been a good day for Johnny. His memories of the orphanage were very different from Padre Miguel’s, but maybe that wasn’t a bad thing. Just maybe it was so he could make it better for another orphan. Sighing in contentment, he knew he had done exactly that, and for more than just one orphan. Yep, he snuggled into his warm bed, it had been a very good day.

The End

Merry Christmas, y’all are so special and I’m grateful you are part of my life.




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