Word Count 1,747
Disclaimer: Going into the new year and I still don’t own anything Lancer. SIGH
Last disclaimer: This is a quick write and unbeta’ed.
When the rain began to fall, Scott Lancer was three hours away from home. The December clouds were fat and grey when he started out, giving him fair warning of what the ride would entail. He chose to ignore said warning and was going to pay the price for his frivolity. Vaguely, he felt his presence was required at the hacienda, yet Murdoch had told him the cattle contracts were of utmost importance, not the planned party. But he had the contracts in hand and couldn’t see another night at the Modesto hotel where the fleas outnumbered the guests by twenty-to-one. If Finn was willing, he would make it back to the ranch by late evening. It was an auspicious day after all, the turning of a new year.
He pulled his hat down lower when the wind picked up, sending the wet into his face.
He was not thirty minutes from home when he heard the soft nicker from a copse of trees beside the trail.
Murdoch did his best to ignore Flora Campbell. He did not have time to answer, or to argue with her. Flora was absolutely, unswervingly self-righteous. He concentrated on filling his own plate and tried not to listen to her go on about traditional Hogmanay traditions and how there were far too many tortillas at the buffet table for her liking while the neeps and tatties weren’t creamy enough. He threw a dark look across the table to Donald, her husband.
Johnny bumped his elbow. “She does go on, doesn’t she?”
“You might say that.”
“I’ll tell you something else. Those neeps and tatties are just right. It’s all in the turnips.”
The breath whooshed out of Murdoch.
Johnny looked down. “Teresa filled me in on what goes on around here for a…Hogmanay.” He had a grin on his face when he looked back up. “Did I pronounce that right?”
Murdoch found his voice. “You did.”
“Although I prefer the tortillas and beans, myself.”
“Honestly? So do I.” He finished filling his plate. “Frank told me you weren’t able to find the mare.”
Johnny thumped his fingers against his thigh in frustration. “No, not yet. We called off the search because of the rain. This storm won’t help much, either. She could be anywhere by now.”
Lightning arced outside the big window and a flash of rain pounded against the pane.
The mare was a new mother, Murdoch could only hope that her instincts would run true. “She’ll be fine. Horses have been giving birth outside in the rain and without our interference for a long time.” Still, he could see Johnny was troubled. Such a change from the angry young man who dropped off the stage and more than he could ever hope for.
Murdoch spared a glance around the joyful room. Neighbors rubbed elbows with vaqueros and ranch folk with city folk. Cipriano was holding a lively conversation with Aggie Conway by the fireplace while the Widow Hargis had cornered Jelly by the window. One person was missing, however, and that was his eldest. Knowing the ride from Modesto and the vagaries of contracting, he’d told Scott not to worry about the party, but the truth of the matter was he wanted both of his sons home to see in the new year. He pushed away the edge of a disappointment.
Time ticked away. Just a few minutes to midnight.
Johnny cleared his throat. “Murdoch, I’ll get us some drinks for the toast.”
Johnny and Teresa had something planned if he didn’t miss his guess. It was hard to ignore the assembled items hidden under a cloth on the kitchen table. A few nibs of coal. A loaf of Maria’s bread. Teresa must have filled Johnny in on all the Hogmanay traditions because he was quite sure his son was going to be the first foot. He shook his head, smiling. He’d have to get his own drink.
Johnny hot-footed it into the kitchen.
“You’ve got to hurry!” Teresa cried. She fussed over the checked cloth covering all the things he was supposed to carry through the doorway. His mother always made sure there was salt for some reason and swept out the house. He guessed these things made sense, too. Coal to stoke the fire, bread for making sure everyone had enough to eat in the new year, and the coins for….
“Teresa, where’s the money?”
“What? I thought you had some.”
He shook out his pockets and came up with nothing. She turned out her own empty pockets.
“Just come in without the coins,” she urged.
It didn’t seem right. Then he had an idea. “That twenty-dollar piece Murdoch gave us when we first got here. I’ve got it upstairs.”
“Well, go get it. It’s almost midnight!”
“Come and help me find it!”
They didn’t have a minute spare.
When the grandfather clock chimed out its deep notes signifying the turn of the new year, a loud ‘hurrah’ went up amidst smiles and laughter with glasses raised all around.
Murdoch looked expectedly towards the closed door. No knock, no…nothing.
Finally, there was a scraping sound and loud thunk. It wasn’t a knock, but good enough. He flung open the door.
Scott was picking up his full saddlebags from the ground. His son looked wet and bedraggled, with scratches along his neck and hands. Hatless, his hair was plastered to his head.
“Did I miss the celebration?” Scott asked, eyebrows raised. “I’d thought to make it home much earlier, but circumstances once again proved me wrong. You would think I’d learn at some point.”
“Difficulty along the way?”
“Well, lets get you in and dried off.”
More than a few of the partygoers raised their glass to his son who he acknowledged with a tip of his head.
Flora Campbell turned to her husband and whispered loud enough for the room to hear. “Ach, no. The fair hair. He’s bringing in bad luck!” She shook her head and clucked her tongue against her teeth. “Such a shame for sure.”
Murdoch’s breath caught in his throat, but Scott strode to the center of the room. He placed his saddlebags onto the table and rummaged through them. The room was curiously silent, waiting to see what he was going to do. Out of the corner of his eye, he saw Johnny and Teresa watching.
The leather was wet and a sticky sort of warm. Scott couldn’t remember what he’d stuffed into them just a few hours ago at the beginning of his ride, but he hoped there was something for the Hogmanay. He’d learned of the tradition a long time ago from a childhood friend and often wondered how Murdoch had celebrated.
He pulled out a crumpled, somewhat dry newspaper and threw it on the fire. It caught the flame in a dramatic plume of red and yellow. “So the house will always be warm.”
He dug into his pants pocket, threw a few silver coins on the table next to his saddlebags. “For prosperity.”
Next, be brought forth a whiskey flask out of the bags, used for small injuries and the like. He unscrewed the cap and turned to the purse-lipped woman who had spoken. “Madam, I’m to understand that dark-hair is preferred, but I’m unable to do a thing about the color of my head. I offer these things for Hogmanay. To happiness and joy in the new year.” With that, he took a drink.
Johnny whooped loudly and set off a round of laughter and clapping.
Murdoch approached the woman and the man with a most chagrined expression standing beside her. Scott assumed he was her husband.
“Flora, this is enough. Having my son here is only the best of luck. Traditions will take you so far then new ones must be built.” The woman’s mouth tightened.
“I don’t feel a need to go on with one exception.” Murdoch came to full attention and towered over her. “My older brother, Rory, who Scott happens to resemble, had his own red-blond hair and was always the first-foot.” His face lost some of its hardness. “At the risk of being a poor host, you need to leave now. Donald?”
Flora gaped as she was led off by her husband.
“Murdoch, you didn’t need to send her off on my account,” Scott said.
“How about my account, then? I should have never invited the Campbells, they’re braggarts and blowhards for the most part. I felt an obligation since Donald’s family is from Inverness.”
“Rory?” Scott asked.
Murdoch nodded. “The firstborn of the Lancer clan and one of the very best.” He clapped his hand against Scott’s shoulder. “I’m happy to see you home, my son.”
“We even have some food left,” Johnny said. “What happened to you?”
Scott rubbed the back of his neck. “A palomino mare. With colt. She had gotten into a thicket a ways from the hacienda. Smart girl. There was a water-swollen stream next to it and if she had moved it might have been trouble for her. It took me a while to get her out. They’re both in the barn.”
“A gift for the new year,” Murdoch murmured.
A shiver went through Scott. “I think I’ll go get dry.”
Murdoch watched him and Johnny leave together, with blond and black heads together in deep conversation.
He didn’t know how Scott knew about Hogmanay. The odds were very good Harlan never told him about it. Regardless of fair hair or black, he felt untowardly lucky. He tipped his glass of whisky to the backs of his sons and found himself smiling. Yes, very lucky, indeed.
Happy New Year and thanks for reading!
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26 thoughts on “The Reluctant First Foot by Mellobee”
This was great
This was very good! It was good to see Murdoch standing up for Scott.
Hi there–I’m glad you liked Murdoch standing up for Scott! Thank-you!
This was great love it.thank you for writing it.
Hi Rita–thank you for reading! I really appreciate your comments.
Hi–thank you very much!
I enjoyed your story and the bit of First Foot tradition. The family has some exciting celebrations with the Mexican, New England, and Scottish heritages blended. Thanks for this lovely account.
Thank you, Sherry! It’s a very blended family and it’s fun to delve into the various aspects of it–even with a simple New Year’s Eve party.
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A lovely celebration at your capable hands. Scott’s arrival was perfect! Thanks for sharing.
Hi Chris–thank you very much! I’m glad you enjoyed it!
This was very nicely written. A good short story that was easy to picture as a small “Lancer” scene. In addition, I have learned a lot about Hogmanay from your descriptions. Good story – two thumbs up!
Hi–Thank you very much! I enjoy writing, but especially when it comes together in a story ;-). Lancer has spurred my imagination!
Thank you for a lovely Lancer Hogmanay story.
Hi–thank you for reading, I appreciate your comment!
Thanks to you I’ve learnt about that Scottish tradition!
Hi–I got a chuckle from your comment because I learned a lot about it myself! Thanks very much for reading!
What a lovely story, you captured the traditions of all so expertly. Thanks for sharing, and look forward to the next one.
Hi Susan–thank you very much for the sweet comments. I’m glad you liked it.
That was a lovely story.
Great little story,glad that Murdoch accepted a blond first footer and that the obnoxious couple was counseled to leave
Hi–I thought Murdoch’s bristles would flare up with Fiona after what she said. Thank-you!
Thank you for sharing this wonderful story. The Lancers are truly a blended family and their New Year celebration was made perfect when Scott came home and the Campbells left.
Hi Debra–I’m so glad you liked the story! Thank-you for reading and commenting!