Read an Excerpt
Cry of the BloodThe Agony of Suffering, the Power of Forgiveness
By Patricia Nash-Williams
Abbott PressCopyright © 2012 Patricia Nash-Williams
All right reserved.
Chapter OneAustralia: The McCarrons
It was a hot, muggy, day in late December when Laird McCarron set down his sledge hammer and leaned it against the new fence post. He spat on the ground. He untied the kerchief from around his neck and began wiping the sweat from his face and the back of his neck. Looking skyward, Laird stood with legs slightly apart to brace himself against the strengthening wind. "Ah Da, looks like its a-blowin up a thunderstorm. A little wind and rain is good, but not what I'm a-feelin is a-comin'." A tight grin formed across Laird's mouth as he watched the clouds change, becoming dark then rolling faster and faster as though they were being chased by a giant leviathan in the midst of a swelling sea.
He looked down at the kerchief in his hand. "Ah Da," he sighed again, studying the kerchief. "Part of our flag, it is!" He caressed it fondly fingering it in his hand, remembering how he and his five men had been caught in the midst of a blowing sand storm while on patrol. The sand blowing and had whipped so hard they couldn't see, much less breathe. "Bring that flag over here, Bobby," he could hear himself saying like it was only yesterday.
"Yes Sir?" Bobby responded handing the pole to his commanding officer.
Laird knelt and laid the flag across his knee and began to tear the flag into six strips. He laughed to himself remembering the shocked look on his men's faces. "Now listen to me, men, we're in a serious situation here. We have to cover our nose and mouth. We're a-go'n to turn back. We'll make it to camp. Don't panic! I don't intend to lose a man out of ignorance." Remembering brought tears to Laird's eyes. How he had loved his men, and how he so loved his country. "Tearin' that flag was a mighty hard thing, but it saved our lives, it did," he said to himself. He wiped tears with the arm of his sleeve and re-tied the kerchief around his neck.
The wind felt good against his skin—skin tanned by Australia's hot summer's sun. It was already darker than most whites because of his aboriginal ancestry; even though it boasted only a slight amount of aboriginal, it was his and contributed to his good looks. He had held his age well and knew he was still a handsome man at the age of forty-eight. Thick hair, he had, and a full head of it, light brown in color with just the right amount of grey, all curly and wavy-like. His eyes were bright blue, set under thick eyebrows and long black eyelashes. Just short of six feet tall, his body was muscular with long, strong legs.
Laird turned and leaned against the fence on arms muscled from years of working the land. Raising his eyes once again to the rolling sky he smiled to himself, memories running freely as the increasing wind blew through his hair. He remembered how his father had worked hard, insisting that he and his older brother be schooled in the Jesuit school over in Bainey. It had been costly, but somehow he and Mum had handled it. He could still hear him, "Those Jesuits know how to teach about life the good God created. All any fool has to do is to look outside of himself, and look up and around with eyes open, and they could see th' handiwork of th' Almighty, in th' heavens, rivers and trees, th' sun, moon, and stars. Not only that, Son, but those Jesuits will keep you on th' straight and narrow, you won't get away with stuff and nonsense under their tutelage."
"But, Da," Laird had whined when his dad had taken him on that first day, "I want to stay with you. You can teach me."
"Now, never you mind, Laird, you have to trust your Da knows what's best for his boy. Times are a-changin', lad. You will need to be smarter than your Da. You'll see! Come on with you, now, and stop your whimperin'."
"Guess you were right, Da," Laird whispered against the whistling wind. Laird had learned well. He was smart. He knew how to deal with people as well as the land, and the horses. A good man, loving and kind, Laird's heart flowed through his hands making him known throughout the country for the compassionate treatment of his horses. He felt a warmth flow through him as he thought of his youngest son, Jordy. "Just a little tike, he was, always a- followin' after me, stretchin' out those little legs to keep up, tryin' to imitate his Da. I can still see him a-sittin' atop the corral fence never tirein', watchin' while I worked horse after horse, tenderly whisperin' into their ears, caressin' their neck and body. Ah Da, you'd be mighty proud. He learned well how those horses respond. He has your tenderness of heart and lovin' hands, he has." Laird brushed a tear of nostalgia with his same shirtsleeve, chuckling he interrupted his own thoughts, "I keep 'a-doin' this and it's a-goin' to be a different color than th' other."
He was proud of his youngest son; the way Jordy had turned out. Oh, he was proud of Joey and Erwin, too, "but there's just somethin' about me youngest; that Jordy-boy especially touches me heart," he said to himself smiling, not feeling the least bit guilty.
Laird closed his eyes and leaned his head back, holding the memories. He saw Jordy again a-sittin' on top of the fence, his eyes alert as a hawks' watchin' him walk out into the pas- ture where the horses were a-grazin'. It always amazed him how Jordy would stand quietly no matter how long it took, patiently a-waitin' until one by one the horses came and followed him in, trustin'.
"Da," he could still hear that little eight-year old voice a-callin' out, jumpin' down off the fence and a-followin' him into the barn: he relished in the memory of the little voice: "When I'm all grown up, Da, I'm a-goin' to own a horse farm, and take care of the horses just like you." Laird smiled at the sweet remembrance.
A hard worker and good horse trader, over the years Laird had become a wealthy man—fair and honest. His two eldest sons, Joey and Erwin, also lived on the ranch with their families. They all worked alongside, sharing in the running of the family business. The McCarrons were a God-fearing family clan, living according to the Good Book, the Holy Bible, following the words of Christ, "Do unto others as you would have them do unto you." They attended mass together on a regular basis and tithed to their church, believing the words of the Bible: when one cast their bread upon the waters it would return to them in many ways.
Reaching down and picking up his sledge and putting his memories to rest, Laird had decided he had better get back to the ranch-house before the storm hit. He secured the sledge, packed the box of nails, and mounted his horse. Contemplating on which route he should take, he knew it would be shorter if he headed back by way of Whitewater creek. He realized that that way could be dangerous should the threatening rain begin; the water always rose fast in Whitewater during a downpour. "Hopefully I can beat th' storm," he told himself. He turned his horse around and headed east. He had just crossed the creek, made the turn to the north, and pulled in closer to the woods for safety when the biggest lightening strike he had ever seen cracked, seemingly splitting the sky in two. The light was so bright that it momentarily blinded him. The next thing he knew he was flat on his back on the ground with excruciating pain in his chest. It was hard to breathe. He opened his eyes. A tree had fallen and he was under it, or part of it; he could not distinguish which. His horse was standing close, nuzzling him with its nose. Laird attempted to raise an arm to take hold of the reins, but his arms would not move; he realized he was pinned.
Laird had been in predicaments before, some very close encounters with death, and he was not afraid. He knew someone would come looking for him when he didn't show up. He tried to relax; however, the pain was intense and he was concerned about his inability to breathe well. He looked up at his faithful horse. "How could I have ever been so blessed with such a horse?" he thought. About that time he heard a rider coming, his closed eyes and he went unconscious.
* * *
Jordy McCarron was working with the horses, rounding them toward the barn, keeping his eyes on the angry looking sky. Shuddering, he remembered the time they had lost a horse to lightening. He hurried, not wanting to lose another. His thoughts went to his father; he had an uneasy feeling. "Shouldn't he have had that fence mended by now? I wonder what's a-takin' him so long. Sure is a-gettin' dark for mid-day; looks like we're in for a big one." Just then a gigantic lightening bolt snapped across the sky. The horses whinnied and bolted, running the last hundred yards to the safety of the barn. Jordy followed them in, slid off his horse and shut the barn door. He began pitching hay into their feeder troughs, not being able to shake the uneasy feeling about his father. The feeling was so strong that Jordy stopped and leaned against the pitch fork, "Maybe I had better investigate." Come on, Johnny-O," he said to his horse, "maybe it's not the smartest thing we ever did, you and me, but we're a-goin' out again." As if he could understand what his master was saying, Johnny-O lifted his head, turned, and followed Jordy outside.
"Jordy, Jordy! Da! Hurry! Tree hit by lightenin'; pinned Da," Joey yelled, near panic.
Jordy grabbed his horse's reins and swung his leg up over the saddle, pulling himself up in one, swift motion. His heart was pounding. "Is he alright?" he yelled over the increasing shrillness of the blowing wind.
"All I know is that when that big bolt of lightenin' struck he must have been on his way back from a-fixin' that broken fence, the one on down a-ways south-west of Whitewater creek. It looks like he was a-passin' a tree that got hit by that big strike and it came a-crashin' down right on top of him."
"That was a big strike alright. Biggest I've ever seen," Jordy shouted. "I almost had the horses to the barn when it hit. It scared them and they ran the rest of the way in."
Jordy and Joey rode as fast as they could against a strong south wind, which was whipping up to gale proportion. "How did you find him?"
"I didn't, Uncle Charlie and his men did" Joey shouted, the wind whipping his face and filling his mouth making it almost impossible to talk. "Charlie found me out by the north-west gate and shouted somethin about Da being hurt and him a-goin' for the Doc. He gave me a short rundown then took off at a dead gallop. Erwin is with Da."
Oblivious of the rain that had begun to pour Jordy and Joey pulled up and literally flew off their horses. They ran to their father who was lying on the ground, pinned under a gigantic tree limb.
"Da, Da!" the boys shouted.
Their older brother, Erwin, had worked a rain poncho under Laird's shoulders and over his head forming a tent to protect his face and head from the rain. He was holding Laird's head as best he could without raising it too much. Laird looked up at his sons. He attempted a smile through gritted teeth. "Can't breathe too good, fellas; keep a-passin out."
"Tree was struck by lightenin'. See where it split off," Erwin pointed, shouting above the howling wind. "Uncle Bradley and I tried to lift that limb off of him, but we couldn't budge it. We're a-goin' to have to use ropes. It was that big lightenin' strike that hit about fifteen minutes ago. Uncle Charlie and Doc are a-goin' to meet us at the house. We need to get him moved out of here fast. With this torrential downpour, Whitewater is a-goin to crest pretty quick."
Moving fast, Joey had already grabbed his rope and was tying it to his saddle-horn. Without saying a word Jordy and the three other men did the same. Each then attached their ropes to the tree branch. Erwin remained, holding Laird's head and shoulders free from the accumulating water.
"That branch must be three feet in diameter," Jordy shouted.
"It'll be one heavy dude to lift," Joey shouted back through the pounding rain.
Securing their ropes the men signaled they were ready, fully realizing the importance of working in unison, the well-trained horses knew how to pull together. The ground was already water-soaked making the ground muddy and slippery. Joey and Jordy had only one thought, to get their father out as fast as possible. "Ok men! On the count of three, pull nice and steady," Joey shouted: "One—two—three!" The tree limb lifted and Jordy and Joey jumped off their horses, helping Erwin pull their father out from under, freeing him while the others kept the horses steady. Skidding to his knees, Jordy knelt in the mud and took his father's head and shoulders from Erwin; he held him in his lap as his father again went unconscious. Erwin jumped up and began giving orders to the men. Jordy was frightened for his Da; looking up he read the expression on his brothers' faces that mirrored his own feelings.
Following Erwin's and Uncle Bradley's instructions, the men quickly made a sled with blankets and tarps attached to tree limbs with ropes. They then attached it behind Laird's horse, securing the poles with ropes to either side of the saddle then carefully laid their unconscious father on it. They then tied their father to the sled so he wouldn't slide off and slowly began walking Laird's horse—pulling Laird in the direction of home. Laird's horse whinnied and stepped gingerly as though he understood what he was doing. Doc was waiting at the ranch-house when they arrived. Uncle Charlie was standing out front waiting with Calley. Charlie helped them lift Laird into the house. They set him on a pallet Calley had prepared on the floor in front of a roaring fire in the fireplace; the storm had brought a chill to the air, which was uncommon for December. Jordy and his brothers helped Doc and their mother working quickly to remove Laird's wet clothes, they then wrapped him in warm blankets, which Calley had heated by the fire. Jordy knelt over his father and untied the kerchief from Laird's neck and tied it respectfully and lovingly around his own. Calley prayed silently by her husband's side.
As a wife in the outback, Calley knew the seriousness of the situation. She also knew this was not the time for hysterics or even tears. Praying now, her heart suffering for her husband, the words of Solomon in Ecclesiastes from the Bible went through her mind, "There is a time for every purpose under heaven, a time to be born, a time to die ... a time to weep, and a time to laugh; a time to mourn, and a time to dance ... a time to keep silence, and a time to speak...." She hardened herself against the fear that was ripping at her; tears of joy or tears of sorrow would be shed later.
Doc stood up, straightening his back with some effort. Putting his arm around Calley he helped her up and walked to the front door. "I'm a-gettin' old, Calley-girl. Me body tells me it is so."
Calley looked up at Doc, whom she had known all her life, and smiled, trying to hide the terror she felt within. Standing at the door Doc looked at Calley full in the face. "You're a brave woman, Calley-girl. You've always been the bravest of the bunch. Now, you will have to be the bravest once again. Laird—well now, he's been hurt real bad, he has. I can't stand here, me darlin', and tell you everythin' is a-goin to be alright. I wish with all that's in me that I could, but I can't."
"I know," she choked a whisper, her voice catching in her throat.
Doc leaned down and kissed her on her cheek, a cheek that was moist with tears. "I'll be back in the early morn, I will, when the sun breaks over Bainey. There isn't anythin' else I can do for him tonight. Try and get a little soup down him when he awakens. It's all in the Almighty's hands now. When you lift your prayers to the Blessed Virgin and her Son, might you sneak a little one in there for me? I feel so helpless, and I'm not supposed to be a feelin' that. But Laird's been me best friend all me life, you know."
"Oh, Doc, I know! I know!" Calley broke into sobs, throwing her arms around Doc's neck and hugging him hard.
Doc gently and firmly held Calley. "Jordy me boy, here, take hold of your Mum; see to her now."
Jordy moved quickly and took his mother back to the chair beside his Da. "She'll be alright, Doc. She's probably stronger than any of us. Take care, now. We'll be seein' you in the mornin'. And blessin's be unto you."
During the night pneumonia began to fill Laird's lungs. The next morning by the time Doc arrived Laird's laborious breathing had greatly increased. After examining him Doc stood and shook his head. He, himself, was losing the best friend he ever had, and he couldn't bring himself to speak the words he needed to say to the family, so he stood silently with head lowered and eyes closed. In those few seconds while standing with his eyes closed he heard the fatal silence fill the room. Opening his eyes, he turned and knelt over his friend, putting his ear to Laird's nostrils—Laird was gone.
Calley knew, for her husband's hand had gone limp in hers. She collapsed on his chest sobbing. "Oh Blessed Jesus, Mary, and Joseph! Please help! No! No! Oh God, don't take him. Please don't take him. I love him so," she cried, clinging to his body. Jordy reached over and forcefully, but gently and lovingly, lifted his mother and held her as she cried, his own heart breaking and ripping apart.
The three brothers, their wives and children, along with the other family members, Doc, hired hands, and close friends, stood silent at Laird's graveside. The brothers didn't even hear the words of the Priest; tears flowed unashamedly. They stood with arms around each other, each feeling as though a part of them had died along with their father. With her husband's death, Calley had collapsed and gone into a state of bewilderment, so much so that she had not been able to attend the funeral. Doc had told them she was in a state of shock, but that her condition was temporary. He believed in time she would recover, to what extent and when he could not say.
Excerpted from Cry of the Blood by Patricia Nash-Williams Copyright © 2012 by Patricia Nash-Williams. Excerpted by permission of Abbott Press. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.