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Too Many Rules by Ama

This story is an orphan – that is, the writer has not been active in the fandom for a long time, and the story has been rescued from the old, defunct Yahoo groups. So that we don’t lose the story entirely, we’re storing it here.

However the original author still owns this story. Should they reconnect with the fandom at some point, we will naturally respect whatever they want to do with their story.


Word Count 3,205

Here I am looking out the window of my room instead of enjoying a perfect spring day. Murdoch had given me a reminder as he called it, more like a painful one that made it uncomfortable to sit down. He send me up here and told me I was to remain in my room until dinner time.

Heavy foot steps were coming up the stairs and I knew my father would be opening the door soon. It was hard to imagine that this man scared me more than facing a gunfighter who wanted to test my speed with a gun. 

The heavy steps stopped outside my door and I watched the door knob slowly turn. My heart started beating faster as I froze in place. Murdoch came in and looked at me. “Son come and sit down. We need to get something clear and I expect you to obey my rules.” he ordered. 

I walked to the bed and moved around until he pulled a pillow and told me to sit on it. He walked to the window and replied, “Johnny you are my son and I am your father. I realize you have been on your own for a while but you are home now. When you first arrived you were disrespectful and rude but I let it pass because I wanted you to eventually see me as your father. I do not want you to fear me son but I will punish you if you forget who I am.”

“Murdoch that first day when we met, I hated you and wanted nothing but the listening money you had promised for an hour of my time. I had planned to take the money and leave but seeing you and Scott made me decide to take a chance and become a family. When you offered me an opportunity to become a member of this family, well to tell you in all honesty it frightened me.” 

“Why son? Were you afraid of me and my rules?” he asked with concern. “No sir, it was me and the reality that my dream had come true. You see sir, all of my life I had always wished for a father and a brother, but growing up in the border towns made it appear impossible. I was also afraid that you would not want me here.” 

“Johnny I wanted you the day your mother told me she was expecting a child. It broke my heart when she took you away and I spent years trying to locate and bring you home.”

“Then, why do you treat me like I do not belong here?” I asked as I looked into his eyes. “Johnny my boy, you are my world, my life, and my joy. I would gladly give up my life for you. I love you son.” he stated as he hugged me.   

I pulled away and walked to the window, “Murdoch I want to feel safe with you but I do not. I am trying to follow your rules and respect you but there have been too many incidents that assure me that I need to move on.” 

“Son you belong here with me at the ranch. Besides, you are under age and can not go away without my permission.” he firmly stated. “Forgive me Murdoch this is not meant to be disrespectful but I was better off by myself. I have brought anger and stress on you and I do not wish to cause you any more problems.” I turned my face away.

“Listen to me son, I am your legal guardian and you will not leave this ranch.” he softly said. I could not face him so I asked him to please leave me alone. I heard my door close and his heavy foot steps descend the stairs. 

Tears started to fall down my cheeks as I laid down on my bed. I must have fallen asleep because I noticed a tray of food on the dresser. I was not hungry so I changed into my night shirt and went back to sleep. 

My father knocked on my door and told me to get cleaned up and ready for breakfast. I turned around and faced the wall and replied, “No thank you sir, I am not hungry.” I heard my father clear his throat but left after a few minutes. I went back to sleep.

Murdoch must have felt some pity on me because he did not come back up and order me to go to work. I got up and dressed myself and descended the stairs. Murdoch was not in the house, so I went to continue my chores that he had previously assigned. I was too involved with the work that I had not noticed Murdoch standing near me.

“It looks good Johnny. You are a very hard worker.” he commented. “Thanks”, was my reply. I continued without looking around until I finally looked but he was gone. 

I arrived back at the ranch in time for dinner but asked if I could be excused. “No and I expect you to sit down with us. Go and get cleaned up.” Murdoch ordered. I nodded and left. I picked at the food and ate very little. I was not hungry. Again I asked to be excused. Murdoch told me to go wait for him at his study. I slowly got up, walked over, and sat myself down in the chair in front of his desk. 

“Johnny what is going on? I need an answer now!” he shouted. I was tempted to shout right back but I stopped myself. “I told you Murdoch I am not happy living here with you anymore.” 

His voice changed as he asked, “What is the problem son. Please let me know so I can fix it?” “I need some time alone so that I can decide if I should stay or not. I will return to let you know if I decide to leave.” 

He rose from his chair and turned to face the huge window, “Johnny I do not want you to leave this ranch. You are a little boy who still needs a father.” “No Murdoch I have been taking care of myself since Mama passed away and I do not need you or anyone taking care of me. I learned to use this gun which has been my protector. You have been unable to let me be myself and have insisted for me to change and follow your rules without question. I tried and you tried but it has not worked for either of us. I need to move on if you will not allow me time to be alone.” I firmly stated.

Murdoch paced around and around. He suddenly stopped and said, ”Alright son but you must promise me that you will be back no later than a month and you will send me a wire letting me know you are fine.” I could not believe it as I smiled and replied, ”Yes sir, I can do that. Thank you.”

”When are you leaving?” Murdoch inquired. ”Tonight or maybe early tomorrow morning.” I replied. I waited for my father to say something else but he was silent. I slowly got up from my chair and went up stairs to pack my belongings. 

I rose up very early the next morning and knocked on Murdoch’s door but when I opened it, he was not there. I went down stairs and looked in the kitchen but I could not find him. I decided to just leave before the rest of the family got up for breakfast. As I opened the front door, I heard my father crying. I had never seen him cry before and it brought emotions that I had not experienced since the death of my mother.

I closed the door and went back inside. I was confused and did not know what to do. I wiped away tears that were starting to form and told myself that I needed to go and be alone for a while. 

I felt my father’s hand on my shoulder and turned around to face him. ”I am glad you are awake Murdoch because I wanted to let you know I was leaving.” Murdoch walked me out to my horse and placed several bills in my hand. ”Take care of yourself son and hurry back home to me.” He had a smile on his face but I knew he was hurting. I nodded and mounted my horse. 

I decided to head south and waved good-bye to my father. With each gallop I took I realized I was free from Murdoch’s constant glare and rules. I smiled as I placed miles between us. Finally as the sunset was approaching I stopped for the night.

I was awaken by a hooting owl and looked around and realized I was not sleeping in my bed. I was starting to feel a little bit hungry. Normally, I would have gone down to the kitchen and made myself a sandwich but here I settled for a dried piece of jerky. My mouth was feeling dry and I would have enjoyed a cold glass of butter milk but all I had was water from my canteen. 

At sunrise I was on the road again and decided to keep going until I found a town where I could order a hot meal. I rode in slowly and looked until I found one at the edge of town. I was enjoying my breakfast and had ordered a slice of apple pie when I saw a man with a boy about my age enter and sit down for breakfast. I over heard their conversation, “Pa can I go fishing this afternoon after my chores are done?” “No son, there is no time for foolishness when there is so much work to do in a ranch.” I thought back when I had asked Murdoch the same question and he had answered, ”Only if I can go too.” We had so much fun that day.

I walked outside and stretched my arms, it was time to get on the horse again. Night time came quickly and I stopped and bedded down for the night. I heard the sound of a howling coyote. I made sure the camp fire was lit and fell back to sleep after the howling ceased. 

I stopped and got a room at the next town. I had to keep my promise and went to send a telegram back home. 

Doing fine. Will let you know when I will return. Johnny

I walked back to the hotel and ordered a hot meal and a bottle of tequila. I smiled because the last time I had ordered tequila, Murdoch had ordered me home. My father insisted I was too young to be drinking hard liquor and allowed me to drink only beer. There had been at least twice that I had managed to sneak down stairs and pour myself a brandy. 

I finally arrived at my destination. I knocked on the door and heard, ”La puerta esta abierta.” (The door is opened.) I opened the door and walked inside. ”Hijo mio que alegria me has dado. Ven aqui.” (My son what joy you have brought me. Come here.”) 

I saw the man who understood and never judged me. He took care of me after mama passed away. I always felt loved and safe by his side. ”Vamos a comer nino y despues hablamos.” (We will eat first boy and then we will talk.) he stated as he pointed to a chair by the table. 

After dinner he turned to me and asked, ”¿Ahora nino que te preacupa?” (”Now boy tell me what has been troubling you?”) ”Papi ya conosi a mi padre Murdoch y no se que aser. Si lo quiero pero no puedo vivir con tandas reglas.” (”Papi I have met my father Murdoch and I love him but I cannot live with so many rules.”) ”¿Que hago?” (”What do I do?”) 

”¿Que sientes en tu corazon?” (”What do you feel in your heart?”) he asked me. ”Tristesa y dolor.” (”Sadness and pain.”) I replied and broke down and cried. He kissed my cheek and held me until the tears stopped falling. He softly whistled a soothing tune which made my eyes close. I woke up in the morning and went looking for him. I found him feeding the chickens. He finished and told me to sit down with him on a bench. 

Fond memories returned as I recalled the wooden bench we had build together. ”¿Te acuerdas lo que paso ese dia?” (”Do you recall what happened that day?”) he asked as he pointed to the bench. ”Yes, I do Papi. Thank God I have you.” I smiled. 

We sat and talked and he listened. I told him about the ranch, its lovely rolling hills and all about the wild horses. When I had finished describing the ranch, he asked me to describe Murdoch. 

I felt uncomfortable and told him he was my father. He recalled our conversation yesterday when I had stated that I loved him. He told me to say why I loved him. I began to say that I did not know and was suddenly faced with the familiar look that he always gave me right before he would tell me to think again and then answer.

”Murdoch is a good man. He is fair and often tells me I am a good hard worker. He provides a home with plenty of food and protects me from any harm.” I said. He looked at me and questioned, ”What is it that troubles you about your father? I want a direct answer.” I nodded my head, cleared my throat and proceeded, ”He tells me that he loves me but he does not show it. I know I have been difficult to deal with and I have been disrespectful.” I said and noticed a frown appearing on his face. My mouth was feeling dry and he told me to go in the house and drink some water.

Walking back to the bench I was distracted by a hawk chasing a small sparrow. The poor little fellow kept flying as fast as he could in circles and back tracking in an attempt to survive. I pulled my gun out and fired a shot that scared the hawk away. I gazed at the sky but my shot must have frightened the little fellow. 

Papi was waiting and I saw his frown deepen as he stared at me. He told me to explain why I frightened the hawk away. I said because the little fellow needed help to get away. ”No son tell me why you felt he needed help?” he asked. ”He is a little fellow with a lack of experience….and he needed my help.” I replied and understood what he wanted me to know. ”Papi I know I still need some more growing up to do but it is hard to live with all those rules.” 

”If you were that bird’s father, what would you have done?” he asked. I thought for a moment and replied, ”Given him a firm lecture about leaving without permission and maybe punish him to protect him in the future. He should have listened and followed the rules.” I looked at Papi’s face and noticed a smile, ”¿Hijo ahora si comprendes lo que es el amor te un padre?” (”Son now you understand the love of a father?”) I nodded and smiled. ”I guess it is time for me to go home.”

We talked well into the night. I told him about Scott and the friendship we had as brothers. Just before we went to bed I promised him that I would try to be more respectful and follow my father’s rules. 

I got up early ready to leave but the old man insisted that I sit down and eat breakfast. Just like before when I was ten, I obeyed his commands because I knew he loved me. He blessed me and kissed my cheek. ”Antes que te vayas a tu casa, ve visita a tu mama. Ellya te quieria muncho.” (”Before you go home go and visit your mama. She loved you very much.”) I nodded and mounted my horse. 

I saw my mother’s grave site coming into view and I recalled the day Papi and I had built the bench. I was ten and Mama had just passed away. I found myself alone looking for food and shelter from the hard winter that was approaching. I was hungry and trying to keep myself warm when this man picked me up, wrapped me in his coat, and took me home. I remained at his side until I left and became Madrid to go find the man who had abandoned me. Papi had asked me to listen to Murdoch’s side of the story and get to know him as my father. That was the only reason that had prevented me from killing him that first day at the ranch. 

I dismounted and kneeled down and touched mama’s grave stone. ”I miss you mama. I went back to Murdoch. I know you wanted me to stay away but even now I miss him and know that I love and belong at the ranch. I was having trouble adjusting to his rules. He is very strict with me and I left but today with Papi’s blessing I am going home.” 

I rode into town and wired a message letting my family know I was coming home. 

I saw the Lancer arch and smiled. I was home where I belonged. Dismounting I saw the patio door open, Murdoch came out and opened his arms. I ran to him and felt him embrace and kiss my face over and over. He finally released me and ushered me in the house. ”Let me get you something to eat and drink and then we can talk.” he said and went to the kitchen. My father had said the same words Papi had used when he saw me. 

Murdoch returned with a plate of my favorite food. He just sat and watched me eat with a huge grin on his face. He took the napkin from my hand and wiped off a bit of food from my mouth when I had finished eating. 

”Son how was your trip? Did you make a decision?” he cautiously asked. ”Papa I went to visit an old friend who showed me what a father’s love is. He also told me to mind my manners and be more respectful. I am sorry for causing you so much pain.”

”Johnny I have also learned a lesson. I know now that you are perfect the way you are. I love you son and I will always let you know it.”

We talked about our future together and both agreed to understand each other. My father became more lenient and even though I was still punished I knew he truly loved me. I have kept in contact with Papi and hope my father and I can go and visit him.  

Sept. 2014 



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