IT WAS THE LATE 1800s in the deep wooded mountains of Virginia. Charles was eighteen and lived on a small ranch, with his Parents and kid brother Seth who was sixteen. They were hard working boys who had been helping their Pa on the ranch since they were two and four.
Their father was a middle class man, a good provider, a good father and husband. Their mother was great, always baking, gardening, mending clothes, and making sure they all looked their very best for the Sunday rides into town.
The boys would hitch up the team, Pa would wear his best clothes and shoes, and Ma would bring all the eggs she gathered all week and kept in the dirt cellar. She would sell them to the women at church. She would carefully layer them in cotton in her biggest weaved basket, and would hold them in her lap the whole ride to town. Every Sunday one less egg would be broken, she would joke and say,
“Either I’m getting better at layering these eggs, or your Pa’s treatin’ these horses a little gentler.”
Charles would help ma off the wagon, and Seth would carry her prize eggs into church. It’s hot and crowded and boring in church, but I go for one reason and one reason only, Charles thought, Lisa. There she is, sitting with her parents and kid sisters. Charles was mesmerized by Lisa; he’d had his eye on her since they were twelve. Charles was older now, and seemed to have different feelings towards Lisa now. He stared at her in church and noticed the way her hair fell over one of her green eyes. Lisa looked different to Charles, more like a woman. Her white cotton dress clung to her body, showing every curve.
“Up and Adam!” Ma shouted from the kitchen, “breakfast!” Charles and Seth slapped on their weekday clothes, snapped their suspenders and into the kitchen they went. It was almost sunrise Pa had already eaten and was out feeding the cattle. “Now eat up boys, your Paw will be in soon, we need to talk.”
Charles’ mind starting racing. Talk? About what? He wondered. I’m too old for the belt, aren’t I? My god does ma and Pa know what I do out in the outhouse when I think of Lisa?
Just then Pa walked in he hung his hat, sat down, rolled a cigarette, and took a deep breath.
Ma poured him coffee, “boys,” he said. “There’s gold out west of here, and I want some. I don’t want to uproot our family, but I’m going, alone.” He continued, “This ranch, our cattle, our cotton, feeds the family. You Charles are a man now, and Seth ain’t too far behind.”
Ma got up and fiddled by the stove her back was to them, but they heard her sniffling.
“I need you boys to run the ranch.” Pa said. He continued, “Sell the cattle when the bids are up, tend to the cotton, and feed. You boys know this ranch up and down. That is why I taught y’all since you were youngins. So that if anything was to happen to me…you could take care of your ma.
“I’m taking the best horse and going west. Looking for gold, treasure if you will. You are both done with schoolin’, and can care for ma and the ranch. I’ll send mail so y’all know I’m okay. I’m counting on you boys. This is so we can have it better, and your kids to follow. Pa lit another cigarette, gulped his last sip of coffee, stood up and grabbed his hat, “l’ll be leaving in the a.m.” he said. “You boys finish up, we have a lot of work to do today.”
“How long will he be gone, Mama?” Seth asked.
She replied,” I don’t know sugar, but I do know he will be back as soon as he can.” Mama cleared the table and the boys went out to help Pa.
Well Pa never did come back, but he wrote and sent money.