This short series of character studies wouldn’t be complete without a look at the star of the cast – Johnny Sinclair, our conflicted anti-hero. Anyone familiar with the books will realize that, as a result of his upbringing and lack of any formal education, he is not a person who would write letters. So, in the light of that, and to give an insight into his thoughts, I thought Johnny could be asked to mail all of these letters on his next trip to Cimarron.
He could smell the first signs of fall in the air as he rode toward the town. Since coming home he’d decided that it was his favorite season. And that was strange because in the past he’d always dreaded the approach of winter. But now he found he looked forward to the splashes of gold on the mountainsides as the aspens faded from their vivid summer colors into softer tones. He enjoyed the first whiff of wood smoke in the air, and the promise of cozy evenings by a roaring fire.
Maybe that was the key to this change within him. He finally had a refuge – somewhere warm and safe. He’d spent too many years without anywhere to call home. Too many years where he hadn’t even had anyone to call a friend. He’d spent his life watching his own back and trusting no-one. Always moving on to the next job, the next town. The next gunfight. God only knew what his family would think if they knew about some of the things he’d done. They were like babes in arms and wouldn’t last a day in the world he came from.
He didn’t want them to know about his world either. No way would he be spilling his secrets. Because if he did, they wouldn’t want anything to do with him. And much as he hated to admit it, that would hurt. A lot. Over these past months they’d all kind of gotten under his skin and he couldn’t figure out how he’d let that happen. He’d never let anyone get close to him before, and he sure as hell hadn’t cared what people thought of him. But now, he found he didn’t want to disappoint this family he’d suddenly acquired. It was like he was changing into someone he didn’t recognize. And while that was worrying in a way, he found he didn’t mind as much as he would have expected. At times it felt like he’d been dead and buried in a dark place for a very long time and was slowly coming back to life.
He was never quite sure what they expected or wanted of him. He certainly didn’t understand the strange unwritten rules of their way of life. But he felt a loss when they weren’t around. On the rare occasion when they were all out, and he had the house to himself, he missed them. He missed the grumpy old devil who was his father, he missed Peggy’s cheerfulness and even her silly chattering, and he missed Guy.
It was kind of funny, because he reckoned Guy had changed too over the past few months. Guy was toughening up and losing some of his odd Eastern habits. He no longer seemed like someone Johnny needed to protect. One of these days Guy would turn into someone that strangers should maybe walk wary around – provided Johnny could keep him alive that long.
He chuffed out a laugh. Yeah, his life sure had changed.
He patted the pocket of his jacket to double-check that he had the envelopes. His old man, Peggy, and Guy had all given him letters at breakfast that morning with strict instructions not to forget to mail them when he went into town. Strict? That was a joke, they’d gone on and on about how important their damn letters were. The old man had said his letter to his brother was long overdue. Guy had said much the same thing about his letter to some old friend, William, from Boston. And Peggy . . . Hell, she’d bored them all to death saying how much she missed her friend Clara, and how vital it was that Clara was kept abreast of all the news. And how Clara should come for a visit. And how they should have some sort of party for Clara.
He shook his head. If even the thought of her friend visiting made Peggy this silly, he reckoned he’d make himself scarce if the girl ever actually came to stay. The thought of two giggling girls was too much to handle. Maybe he could go and check the fence lines on the eastern-most stretches of the ranch. That would keep him busy for a week or two.
And if all the droning on about their letters over breakfast wasn’t bad enough, they’d all descended on him when he was saddling Pistol, and reminded him yet again not to forget them. He rolled his eyes at the memory. They must think he was dumb or something. And to think that he actually missed them when they weren’t around!
Even so, he couldn’t help but wonder what on earth they could all think of to write about. Although, come to think of it, Peggy could probably write pages about absolutely nothing. She always seemed able to talk non-stop about pretty much nothing.
But what would Guy write about? It wasn’t like life on the ranch was exciting. It was a never-ending cycle of damned hard work. Surely Guy’s old friend didn’t want to hear that they’d repaired the roof on a line shack, or moved a herd to have better access to water? He couldn’t imagine Guy telling his friend about the family. After all, Peggy was just a kid, Guthrie was usually as grouchy as a bear with a headache, and as for Johnny . . . Well, Guy was hardly likely to tell this fellow William about his no-good gun-hawk brother. Having a gunfighter for a brother was not the sort of thing to brag about, especially as his old friend was a reverend judging from what Guy had written on the envelope.
He couldn’t figure what the old man would write to his brother about either. Maybe highland cattle? Or those Aberdeen Angus cattle? Guthrie was always going on about them and how he wanted to bring some over to the ranch. He said they were real gentle and very hardy, and would do well in the area around Cimarron. One thing was for sure, the old man wouldn’t be telling his brother that he’d got a gun-hawk for a son.
And if it wasn’t strange enough to have acquired a family, it was even odder to think he’d got relations in England and Scotland. Quite a few of them by all accounts. Even so, he’d noticed that the old man never spoke about his elder brother – the one who was some sort of a lord. There was something wrong there. When Guy has asked about the fellow one time, Guthrie had gotten all tight-lipped. Yeah, there was definitely some history between those two. Johnny grinned. If the old man’s elder brother had the same short fuse, no wonder they’d fallen out.
Still, leastways he’d probably never have to meet all these people. England and Scotland were a hell of a long ways off so it wasn’t likely that any of them would come visiting, and that was probably just as well. The old man’s family was rich by all accounts, so they probably wouldn’t think much of his part-Apache son. Hell, they wouldn’t like the color of his skin or the way he talked. And judging from what the old man had said in the past, they wouldn’t think too much of him going whoring neither. What was it Guthrie had said? Something about it not being socially acceptable, that was it. Well, tough, he’d take the girls at the bordello anytime over the local girls. And it seemed this was one area where having a murky past was a good thing – none of the local ranchers wanted him anywhere near their daughters so he was spared the matchmaking which Guy had to endure. Yeah, at times having a past like his worked out real well.
He reined in outside the general store, and stepped from the saddle. He tethered Pistol and stepped onto the boardwalk, tipping his hat to Widow Brooks. He hesitated at the door of the store and then shook his head. No, if he went in there first he’d probably forget to mail their damn letters. It wouldn’t be the first time . . . He snorted with laughter. Come to think of it, maybe that was why they’d all nagged him so much at breakfast.