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Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Thin Shafts of Light

Tyler had done what his mother had told him and there he sat, down in that dark dirt, silent as a graveyard. For almost two days. Even long after the footsteps stopped he waited for his mother to come back from wherever her, pa and Seth had run off to.

He was worried that maybe the bad men were still waiting, trying to trick him. Last night had been the worse. The darkness and the silence had scared him so bad.

Finally though, in the late afternoon of that second day, he was so thirsty he just had to get out of the hole. He pushed up slowly on the trapdoor and hoped it wouldn’t squeak. His ma might be mad at him for coming up without her saying so but he just had to.

The rug was only half covering the trapdoor and the table had been knocked on its side. The scene that greeted him was so horrible that he couldn’t even cry. So unimaginable for him that his already scarred mind just shut down. He didn’t recognize things for what they really were.

He sat by his broken and battered mother for a while, patiently holding her stiff hand and hoping she might wake up. She just kept sleeping though. The only thing he could think of was to cover her up with a wool blanket because she felt cold.

His Pa’s bullet riddled body was still leaning against the wall and he wouldn’t get up or talk to Tyler, which meant he was just too tired or still mad at the bad men. He was stubborn that way, so Tyler left him alone.

He saw his brother Seth’s butchered body over in the corner but it didn’t matter. He sat a cup of cool well water next to him in case he got thirsty.

He paid no mind to the two other men that were lying sprawled on the cabin floor. He walked around them, never looked at them.

After trying everything he could think of, he thought he better go get help. His family must be sick and they weren’t getting any better. So, seven-year-old Tyler Parker had started off for the Battson ranch, the closest place there was to the Parker’s place. He didn’t know it, but it was at least eleven miles away.

He did know the way though. His family had taken the work wagon to visit them on occasion. Their horse, Rio, was nowhere to be found though so Tyler started off. He trudged up the low hill, the same one the three riders had first appeared on. Heading west into an already dropping sun, he only looked back once. At the top of the hill, he turned when he thought he heard something. But there was nothing and no one back there.

He made the Battson’s place that night. The last light had bled out of the sky over two hours earlier. It was an amazing feat by such a young boy, a third of it in the dark. Billy and Sarah never could quite imagine how he did it.

Tyler hadn’t said a word when they opened their door, but he did finally cry. A sad quiet cry, and one that didn’t stop. No words though. In fact, as it would turn out, Ty Parker would not say another single word for another full year.

Sarah Battson had just hugged and hugged Tyler that first night. It was the only thing she could think of to do. He wasn’t hurt on the outside as far as she could tell, but he was batty and empty headed.

She softly cried with him too and sang low and sweet to him. Songs she used to sing to her own children. At sunrise the next morning, Billy saddled up and rode over to the Parker ranch. He went alone and well-armed, expecting the worst but had no idea how bad it would really be.

Much later in the day, he returned pale and shaken. He talked to Sarah briefly and then walked to their small barn shaking his head slowly. Billy Battson didn’t return to the main house until very late that night.

Tyler would spend the next eight years with the Billy and Sarah. They were good, solid people who had cared for and raised him like a son of their own.

He went east towards Fort Worth and signed on as a hand at the Brazos Trail Ranch at sixteen. A month later, Tyler had chased down, shot and killed a rustler. The man had taken a shot at him while Ty was standing watch over the BTR herd.

Amory Bean, an older ranch hand was the first to gallop up on Ty who was still looking down at the man he’d shot out of the saddle.

“I seen him shadowin’ us earlier.” Amory looked over at Ty. “Looks like he missed, you didn’t.”

“Yessir.” He spat on the man. “Got no use for rustlers.” Ty said quietly. He nodded at Amory and rode slowly off. That was the last anyone saw of Ty Parker for a long time.