Cry Freedom

by Virginia

Story Outline: – Written words often replace things we can never find the way to say.

The tracker sat balanced on the back legs of his chair. His mind wandered as he glanced at the words on the paper he held.

Mrs. Travis would be proud of him. For so long, she had worked to make him understand the letters. Through frustrating failures and stubborn pride, that lady had pushed him till they were both content with his progress. She accepted that Vin would never write perfect English and never required it of him. Student and teacher were equal winners in the whole secret... the way all confidences should be...

He was thankful everyday for her tenacity. Help he had asked of her in the only way he could. Now, thanks to Mary, he had another means to relay his feelings. She'd surely have mixed emotions at how he was using her teachings this time… never guessed how it would be his salvation… Vin's only means of saying goodbye…

"You alright there, Son?"

The wiry young man glanced up to see the boarding house proprietor standing over him. "Oh… yes, sir, Mr. Thomlinson," Tanner answered as he set the chair back on its legs and folded the letter. "Just thinkin' some, is all," he got to his feet and smiled at the elderly owner.

The gray-haired gentleman narrowed his eyes, "Mighty hard pondering, if you ask me. Especially since you been doing it for two days now."

Vin smirked and nodded. "Ya noticed?" he queried sarcastically as he met the man's stare. He already knew the answer. In this business, Jake Thomlinson survived on studying his guests. Just too many 'rough' types out here not to. A man had the right to keep his wife and himself safe… not to mention his property in one piece. If staring into another man's soul was the means Jake chose to do that, then Tanner wasn't the man to argue. He'd done it more than once himself…

The older man suddenly became quiet as he studied the younger. "Whatever your trouble is, Vin… I know you didn't earn it," he said earnestly.

Sucking in his bottom lip, the tracker let his expression dissolve into a deadpan stare that even Ezra would be proud of. "Maybe," was Vin's only reply. He tipped his hat courteously and headed toward the livery.

The boarding house owner turned to follow his newest resident with curious eyes. He knew people, more so than his later years and frail appearance let on. And, what he saw in Tanner was a confused bundle of reserved emotions and guarded secrets he could only imagine the depth of. Cocking his head as the younger man disappeared into the stables, Jake took a deep breath and let it out real slow. "Don't think on it too much, son," Thomlinson whispered to the wind. "Guilt is a painful burden to carry…"

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"Whatever your trouble is, Vin… I know you didn't earn it."

Tanner wasn't much for getting stuck on other people's words but these ones just didn't seem to want to go away. Pulling his horse to a stop at the stream, he dismounted and let the animal drink. He stared off at the distant mountains and wondered how long he was going to keep riding… heading away from the dusty little town, he'd called home for so long…

Taking up the reins, he guided the horse towards the tree line and tied it to a nearby sapling. Settling against a large shady trunk, the tracker pulled at a grass reed and placed it between his lips. He relaxed for a while… took in the cool spring air and reveled in the silence that was the wilderness he loved so much. The only place he should truly ever call home.

"Damn," he cussed under his breath. Forcing back the turmoil that had plagued him for weeks now, Tanner dug into his pocket and retrieved the paper he's held earlier. His eyes closed briefly as his hands unfolded the letter. He'd never get it right… He knew that too well. It just bothered him something awful to know that he'd never be able to explain things properly. Of course, that statement belied the idea that he understood what he was trying to explain, and that he knew he never really would…

Pushing off his hat, the tracker ran a frustrated hand through long, sandy brown locks. Where things had gone wrong, he wasn't sure either. Maybe men just weren't supposed to be that close. He'd never meant their friendship to be anything more than that. He knew, too well, what sticking your nose into another man's business usually meant. Perhaps that was his downfall. He cared too much to ever stay… 'Just friends?'

"Damn," he cussed again. This time the words were clearly audible. Adjusting his position, Tanner leaned his head back against the tree and banged it slowly. 'Friends!' he thought. What a contradiction in terms that very word was. Ezra used the word 'associate'. The memory brought a brief smile to Vin's lips. He knew he was going to miss the gambler more than he'd ever admit.

Other definitions appeared at random in his consciousness. 'Familiar person… companion… acquaintance… confidant… partner…' Vin's eyes closed again. A deep sigh escaped tight lips as he sat forward and slowly began to read the words on the paper…


Don't quite know where to begin, pard. Reckon I can't never tell ya how sorry I am for… well, for whatever it was I done wrong. Can't quite figure it out though… just exactly what it was. Not that I don't have an idea a' course. I ain't never said I was quick about these things but I done enough thinkin' ta come up with an idea or two.

Reckon I just pushed ya too much, cowboy. Don’t worry none though. I ain’t never gonna let on ‘bout the things you’s afraid of. Funny, ya know! You always told me that's what ya liked about us. The fact that I never once lied to ya and you understood I weren't gonna. Together we can fend off the world… that's what ya agreed we could do. Just too bad you ain’t never gonna find that kind ‘a courage.

I see now there's just some things that should never be said. Things you ain’t never gonna be ready fer. Should 'a listened ta ol' Buck when he warned me about ya. Ah hell, Chris. You know me… I ain't never done things the easy way.

Ya know, at first I thought it was me talkin' ta Buck that bothered ya. Gotta admit, them things he told me… he shouldn 'a… Maybe Buck's always had yer best interests in mind. Like the big brother ya never had. Maybe ya like havin’ him around. Gotta tell ya though… I can't believe what you put him through in all the years you know'd him. Man's a damn fool ta put up with yer moods, Larabee. He's a better friend to ya than you'll ever admit. You make sure you thank him. He deserves to hear it from yer lips at least once in his lifetime. Even if he don’t realize what you really are…

Course, I'm thinkin' by now the two of ya have done a little talkin' of yer own. Happened real quick like but I reckon we was about as close as two friends can get. I know what ya told me was yer private thoughts. I ain't never shared them with nobody but Buck and that's only 'cause he already knew about that stuff. The stuff you ain't shared with him, I didn't neither. Ya gotta believe me on that, pard. I made sure I didn't talk about things he didn't know. Reckon you ain't done me the same courtesy…

Them things I shared with you was private too, Chris. Reckon there’s about three folks who know but I ain’t never told nobody the details. I know fer sure I ain't never gonna be that stupid again. I trusted you with my soul, pard. Gotta cuss maself fer doin' that now. There's a reason you and Buck is friends. That's 'cause he puts up with yer crap. I reckon by now ya told him all my most private secrets… all them things that happened to me when I was a kid. I told him too… didn't mean to but I did. Not the details though. Ya know, I even threatened ta kill him later. Don't suppose none of that matters now. I'm thinkin' maybe the two of ya had a good laugh over it. Maybe ya don't even believe them things can happen. But they did, Chris. I ain't never lied to ya, pard. What makes ya believe that I did?

When I told ya all that stuff, Chris, it set me free… made me live. Tastin' freedom ain't right unless it's gonna last. It didn't and now I'm more stuck than ever before. I know you understand what I mean. You been locked away just like me. When Sarah and Adam died they took a part 'a ya that you ain't never got back. I'm real sorry that I tried ta get ya ta talk ta me about them. I ain't never gonna be able to put inta words what ya gave me when I told ma secret but I wanted ya ta know that I was just tryin 'a give ya a little of that freedom back. I just didn't see what I was doin' is all. Didn’t see yer act…

Buck's right, ya know, but he just don't understand ya the way I do. I know that scares ya. I’m sorry for that too. I know now that you ain't never gonna let go of yer pain and anger and guilt. Ain't none 'a my business ta guess but I reckon maybe that's 'cause ya like all them feelin's. 'Cause maybe them's the only feelin's you know anymore. I was wrong ta try 'n make ya feel somethin' else. I am truly sorry, pard. I'd take it back if I could. Guess freedom ain't really worth the price I paid…

I heard it said that only a fool can see what he already done wrong! Well, I reckon I'm about as big a fool as ever got born. My wishin' ta give ya back a little of the freedom that you gave me… well, it just blinded me ta the fact that ya ain’t got the courage. I'm real sorry about that. Yer my friend… I only ever wanted ta help…

So there it is. I was stupid. Weren't no reason. Reckon there weren't no thinkin' neither. It just happened, is all. Kind ‘a like me callin’ ya a coward. Truth hurts don’t it? But Ya know I'd take it all back if I ever had the chance. I never meant ta hurt ya, Chris. Never! Too many secrets by too many people in too short a time. You and Buck’s been friends fer a long time, pard. I feel like a got mixed up in some sort 'a game? Sure do wish you'd 'plained the rules ta me before we got ta playin'. But maybe Buck just didn't wanna share you with nobody else. Or maybe he really was try ‘n ta protect ya. ‘Cause deep down… he knows too. I ain't like him, Chris. I can't play games.

Don't know what I can do ta ever make it up ta ya so I'm out here and yer back with the rest 'a the boys. Take good care 'a yerself, cowboy… ya deserve the best. I know that too well. Just wish ya’d face reality one day, is all. I really am yer friend. If I can face down my demons… you can too.

If 'n ya ever get the idea that ya wanna talk… ya know I’d welcome it. We’d probably mix words fer a while… don’t reckon we’d mean it though.

Reckon you know where ta reach me. I ain't never gonna be stupid again but I know I wanna talk ‘cause yer still the only person I can ever trust. Ya just don't throw away what we had. Least wise, I don't think we should.

Don't know where we go from here… just know I'm willin' ta try. Together we can fend off the world… ya just gotta find the courage, pard… I’m here…


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"Jake," Millie Thomlinson called as she came back into the kitchen.

The elderly gentleman looked up from his paper and smiled at his wife. "Thought you were cleaning out the back bedroom," he asked. "Vin didn't like you cleaning while he was here. You're probably welcoming the opportunity by now."

Millie nodded her concurrence as she set a tangled pile of sheets of the counter and joined her husband at the table. "I was, Jake, and I am. But I found this in the dresser," she handed him a crumpled piece of paper, concern written all over her face. "You did say Mr. Tanner was troubled by something, didn't you?"

Pursing his lips, Jake's chin slowly dipped as he unfolded the page and laid it out the table. "Young man's got more than his fair share of secrets, Millie…" he looked into her eyes and smiled bravely. "Wasn't able to get him to talk to me though… I'm thinking maybe he's trusted too many folks in his time…"

Looking thoughtfully at her husband, Millie's expression faded. "Read the poem, Jake," the lady indicated the paper and then turned back to the linen. "There's more there than just the words on the page…"

Watching his wife gather the bedding, Jake's face lit up as she threw him a small smile and left him to the wrinkled piece of paper. Slowly, he began to read…


Freedom’s got lots ‘a meanings
‘specially ta different folks
Liberty and Independence
Some get born with it
Some lose it along the way

Ain’t nothin' nobody will ever see
Most can't even tell
They’s all the defense I ever had
Them walls were so high
I’ve always cried for freedom

Finally met a man who knew
Understood the pain too well
Didn’t take long for him to hear my cry
Freedom was sweet for a while
I wasn't alone anymore

Guess I weren't ready
Never tasted freedom like that
Or let anyone inside before
Suppose it was doomed ta fail
Weren’t supposed ta happen like this

Ya Cry Freedom fer so long and it finally comes
All ya wanna do is share
Give back that overwhelming feelin’
Can't imagine not wantin’ it
But he was afraid ta try

My freedom cry was heard
Somehow I lost the friend who answered
God knows I wanna make this right
But he lacks the courage he gave ta me
We’re both back inside again

Cry Freedom

Words of Wisdom -