Synopsis: Written to expand on what was broadcast in the episode Night of the Wolf, and to hopefully address the emotions behind Jarrod’s actions.
Category: The Big Valley
Word Count: 700
Others would have called it an accident, but it wasn’t really. It just happened. It had happened before and it would happen again; Mother Nature beckoning to a stallion who objected to his freedom being stolen. At least there were a few hands available to give chase after it jumped the corral fence and took off to the far hills.
The bellowing was to be expected, Nick racing from the bunk house yelling. What was startling was the rage contained in his voice and the way Nick struck Heath as he tried to explain. Having watched the drama play out, I hadn’t thought back to that time during my law school days in years. But it slammed to the front of my mind. Nick had been sixteen and I heard him calling for me. So urgent was his voice in my head that I rode all night to reach him. Every hour I rode was agony, wondering exactly what I would find. Would I be in time? Would Nick be alive?
That same worry has been gnawing at me. Something’s not right; hasn’t been right since my middle brothers came home from purchasing those horses. Both were strung tighter than a ship’s rigging, and the rope kept tightening, cords fraying until it had no choice but to snap.
It was understandable, the first time the two had come to blows the night Heath had spoken those words, “Your father’s bastard son”, and the subsequent anger Nick garnered towards Heath before the cattle drive to San Diego. With everything Heath had done to see the drive successfully completed, things had settled and the two were forging a true partnership and brotherhood.
But now, would their bond be enough to survive Nick’s words and actions, and this thing that was tearing them apart? Would Heath understand if I told him how I know Nick is in trouble? Would our newest brother open up and let me in?
I’d worried about the wrong brother leaving. I hadn’t realized that whatever happened on that trip would ultimately tear the family apart the way it did.
Each time I had inquired, Heath repeated what he had previously told me, there was nothing he could tell me. As a lawyer I wanted to pursue it, but as a brother I decided to let it go. But now, suffering through another meal bearing testimony to the anguish Nick’s abrupt departure has caused Mother and Audra… Tears and sorrow drowned the sunny disposition my sister always graced us with at meal time.
It ends now.
Almost predatorily I entered the room and took note of Heath sitting at the desk. Taking a deep breath I prayed our fledgling relationship was strong enough to withstand what I was about to do, what I needed to do.
In full lawyer mode and cross-examination prepared, I addressed the witness. Questions were asked. Guilt inferred. Answers demanded. As so many others had as I stood before them in a court of law, I expected my newest brother to succumb to my efforts.
‘Don’t ask the question unless you’re ready for the answer,’ echoed from my years in studying law and many a time while serving internships before receiving my credentials enabling me to practice law. I thought I was ready, but I wasn’t. The depths of those eyes that were so much like my….our father’s revealing his own worry and grief.
Maybe their bond is strong enough to survive whatever happened; something so intrinsically rooted in Heath that my ability as an orator will not break.
Through hurt feelings I finally remembered, family means everything – to both of us. And in turn I came to realize that if I continued to pressure, the price of possibly driving this brother away from his home was too high. Slipping past the lawyer, Pappy calmly took over and acquiesced, “You tell him to come on home. Tell him, Pappy said so.*” My words were honest and from the heart, and would hopefully let the healing begin.
*Dialog from the episode.