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Previous Challenge Entry (Level 1 – Beginner)
Topic: Childhood (09/03/09)

TITLE: Father like son
By Joni Andrews


The ranch-house was filling with cowhands preparing to make their annual fall trip to the highlands for the cattle round up.

Kenny sprang out of bed and ran downstairs. It was his ninth birthday and Pappa had promised him he could go, too. "Yipeeee!" Kenny cried, when he saw his father.

Nathaniel Bishop knelt down and gripped Kenny's shoulders. “Calm down, now. It won't be easy, son. September cold that gnaws at your insides. Riding for hours until your bones get pounded to dust. Tiredness that makes a grown man want to cry. We can't be stopping for you because you're tired or hungry or gotta go to the privy”

“I can do it, Pappa.”

Sarah Bishop stood by the sink, looking at her 9 year old son...holding her breath--hoping and praying...Lord, Kenny's so young...but Nathaniel is firm in his decision and it's not my place to change his mind. Please. Watch over them.

Sarah walked to the door to hug Kenny goodbye. He stiffened slightly. She could read the signs.

Please Mamma, no kissin' and fussin' in front of the men.

She stopped in front of Kenny, wiped her palms on her apron and gave him a pack sack of clothes. She held out her hand and said, “You mind your Pappa and do a good job rounding up those cows, son.” Kenny took her hand, and shook firmly.

“Yes, Mamma,” he said absently, one eye looking out the door at the line of ready horses.

Sarah bit her lip. O Lord. Sarah pleaded. Don't let me cry... don't let me cry.

Nathaniel saw her struggle and walked 3 full strides across the room, swooping Sarah backwards into his arms to kiss her. “I'll never be too old to kiss,” he teased.

Kenny got a peculiar, happy ache as he watched them. The way they looked at each other.

“We're off!” shouted Nathan, and pointing to Kenny, “You ride by me, son.”

All the horses were pawing and snorting--anxious to go. The party rode hard for several hours, covering many miles before the horses slowed to a steadier pace. Kenny's seat was starting to hurt and his legs throbbed...but he pushed on, remembering his dad's words.

As they crested another hilltop, Nathaniel dismounted. He called to the foreman. "Get your men organized, and let's get some heat into our bones. Fire us up some coffee and grub.”

Kenny ate with the men and like the men. Baked beans with thick slabs of meat washed down with hot, bitter coffee.

“Go easy on that, son.” Nathan warned. “Your mother would skin me if she saw you drinking that slop.”

Too late.

The coffee sat unsettled in Kenny's stomach--bubbling and frothing--and before he knew it, he was heaving up his lunch. Nathaniel pressed a hand on his shoulder as Kenny leaned against a tree. He turned his face so his father wouldn't see him cry and when he turned, he saw it--a large mountain cat ready to spring at one of the horses.

Kenny charged towards the campfire, grabbed the coffee pot and threw it at the lion. There was the crack of a rifle. The lion staggered and fell.

“Shucks, kid.” It was Martin, one of the young cowhands. “Fast thinking. You gave that cat some distraction and me time enough to drop him. Nice work. She's a beaut, too.”

“Hold your tongue, Martin.” demanded Nathan.

Kenny stood staring--his balled fists pressed against his open mouth. He was gaping at the mountain lion. Dead.

Nathaniel came over quickly. “Son, there ain't no shame in crying. You did a brave thing, but there is no shame in crying over a beautiful animal. He was just following his instinct. It's a manly thing to care about all of God's creatures”

There was a long pause.

“You okay, son?”

“Pappa. Is it okay for me to be just a kid a while longer? Maybe grow a few more years before I come out here again?”

“I think that's wise, son.”

“And Daddy?”

Nathan smiled. It had been many years since Kenny had used that endearment.
He held his son close. “Yes, son?”

“I want Mamma!”

Nathan let out a bellow of laughter. “Me too, son. Me too!”

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This article has been read 529 times
Member Comments
Member Date
Jennifer Azantian09/10/09
Aw I really liked this story! =)
Chelsie May09/11/09
LOL...that was so sweet!
Carol Slider 09/13/09
This is a sweet story, and SO true... often children think they're ready to do things, and then discover (through experience) that they're not. I really liked how the father handled this realization. I also appreciated the hints about the deep love between the father and mother. Great job!
Jan Ackerson 09/13/09
This is a very good story--outstanding for beginners level. Very good job with showing, not telling, and with characterization. You also did a great job with the setting.

There are a few minor mechanical errors--write out numerals like "three", and the spelling of "papa"...but none of those interfered in the least with your very well-written story.
Chely Roach09/13/09
This is an incredibly well written piece, especially for this level. Fantastic story line, with well developed characters; hard to do with the word count. Exceptional!
Catrina Bradley 09/13/09
So many things I like about this story - and it has it all, too: excitement, adventure, danger, romance... wonderful entry.
Kimberly Russell09/13/09
This was really very good. I enjoyed the fact that several different things went on all at once- kept the reader engaged to see what happened next. Well done.
Sarah Elisabeth 09/13/09
Please Mamma, no kissin' and fussin' in front of the men...loved this line Joni! So typical little boyish.
A few minor errors, and might could use a little stronger sentence to start off with.
Really enjoyed the cowboy/ranch theme, right up my alley in reading! :-) Well written to topic as well.
Gregory Kane09/14/09
Good use of italics to imply inner thoughts and on the whole your dialogue flowed smoothly.
I wasn't convinced by the line "The way they looked at each other" namely, that a child of this age would understand the look or that he would recognise it as something unusual.
And although I read a good deal about the boy's actions on the prairie, I didn't really feel that I got inside his head.
So there you have three dollops of red ink. But your story really is good and I look forward to seeing how it ranks at the end of the week.
Liz Beal09/14/09
What a great job. I really felt like I was there.
Shilo Goodson09/16/09
This was a great story. I love your use of italics. It helped seperate what was actually being said from what the mother was only thinking. The story feels so true.
Lisa Johnson09/17/09
Congratulations for your second place win on your level. I thoroughly enjoyed reading this story. I was drawn into the story, and felt like I was right there with your MC.
Charla Diehl 09/17/09
I found this interesting and believable as a "rite of passage" type story--except Kenny wasn't quite ready for that just yet. Hats off to you with your 2nd place ranking with this cute story.
Carol Penhorwood 06/21/11
Absolutely lived this realistic story! The dialogue and emotions came through loud and clear!