The sound of revile played on a trumpet woke up the nine-year old boy who had been sound asleep, lying on one of the bunks in the bunkhouse. The dark-haired boy sat up and rubbed the sleep out of his eyes.
"Come on son, time to rise and shine if you want some breakfast," a man in around 30 instructed from the next bunk.
The boy immediately reached for a dark shirt and a pair of pants and began changed out of his nightshirt. "Yes sir. I don't want to miss breakfast."
The father finished putting on his trousers and sat down on the bunk behind him. "You don't want to miss any meal. I'm glad you got a healthy appetite. You'll grow up big and strong" the man remarked with a smile.
"Uh huh, like you sir," responded the boy as he pulled his suspenders over his shoulders.
The soldier knelt down in front of his son and help the child put on his boots. The boy, dressed in a sized-down version of an army uniform, now looked like a miniature version of his father. The man stood up and studied his young son for a few moments. "Private Canaday, you past inspection."
The son smiled with pride as he looked up at his father. Moments later the bugler sounded to call to assemble. All of the soldiers left the bunkhouse and lined up with the rest of the troops in the middle of the compound. Once the commanding officer had finished the inspection, the soldiers were dismissed.
Father and son waited in the bunkhouse until the bugler sounded the call to breakfast. Father and son walked over to the mess hall. Inside the mess hall, the duo filed through line of men getting their food. The boy bounced on his toes, impatiently waiting in line to get his breakfast.
"Private Canaday, a good soldier waits patiently," the older man sternly reminded.
The little private immediately stood still, casting a glance down at his boots. "Yes Sergeant."
"Good morning Canaday," a large sergeant in his 30s greeted as he approached the father and son.
"Morning Sergeant," Canaday replied with a polite smile.
The older sergeant offered the boy a warm smile. "Ready for breakfast Candy?"
Candy nodded his head enthusiastically. "I sure am Sergeant Ordy.
Sergeant Ordy reached a hand down and briefly ruffled the boy's hair before returning his attention to the boy's father. "So Canaday, did you hear we're due to get some new replacements?"
"Uh huh, I heard the rumors," Canaday replied. "I just hope they aren't some wet behind the ears kids like our last replacements."
Ordy nodded his head in agreement. "I couldn't agree with you more."
The threesome got their food and sat down together at one of the tables. The two sergeants talked among themselves while Candy occupied himself with the waffle in front of him. As the soldiers finished eating, the sound of sick call played in the background.
After breakfast, Sergeants Ordy and Canaday took Candy to watch the horses being watered. Candy got permission to help and enthusiastically went about his duties. The 9-year-old felt almost like an adult, having some minor work to do around the fort.
In the middle of helping water the horses, Candy paused and looked up at his father with an earnest expression. "Sergeant, when can I join the Army?"
"When you're old enough son," Canaday answered, sounding as if he had been asked the same question many times before.
"When will that be?"
Sergeant Canaday frowned at the boy. "When I say you're old enough. Now finish up with your work."
Candy quickly went back to watering the horses, under the guidance of his father and several other troopers. Once he was finished with his first chore of the day, Candy and his father went out to the compound.
The dark-haired youth watched his father and the rest of the soldiers of Fort Delaney go about their daily routine. Candy smiled as he observed how they held their rifles, rode their horses, and marched. Since Candy was the only boy at Fort Delaney, most of the soldiers good-naturedly showed Candy how to do some of the simpler tasks.
Sergeant Ordy was a particular favorite of Candy's. The sergeant patiently put Candy through one of the drill, explaining to the boy how to hold a properly move his feet and hold a wooden rifle. The 9 year-old face beamed with prided when the drill was over. "I got it right didn't I Sergeant Ordy?"
Ordy grinned and patted the boy on the shoulder. "Yup, that was fine Candy. You're getting real good at drillin'"
"Do ya think I'm ready to sign up for the Army yet?" the boy questioned.
"Not yet, you need to grow a bit still," Sergeant Ordy answered.
"That's what everybody keeps telling' me," Candy replied dejectedly.
The sergeant knelt down and put both hand on Candy's shoulders. "Now listen Candy, being a soldier is important work. A soldier has to be able to be big and strong enough to do the job. You'll make a fine soldier when you're old enough Candy, but ya gotta be patient. That's part of being a good soldier too."
The boy studied Ordy for a few moments before replying, "Okay, I'll be patient."
"That's a good boy," the sergeant replied as he stood back up.
Candy perked up as soon as he heard the sound of a call playing on the bugle. Sergeant Ordy and the youth rushed out of the barracks. Ordy went to the Colonel's office along with the other sergeants to get their instructions.
Candy stayed behind to watch the troopers go about their duties. A few minutes later Sergeants Canaday and Ordy emerged from the building housing Colonel Purcell's office. Canaday quickly began gather a few of the soldiers while Ordy did the same.
The boy watched until the troopers mounted their horses. Candy ran up to Sergeant Canaday, stopping in front of his father's horse.
"Is there trouble pa?" Candy hastily asked, forgoing his usual formality when addressing his father.
"We don't know yet. We're just goin' on a patrol. Now be a good little soldier and move out of the way," Canaday instructed.
Candy let out a quiet sigh before reluctantly turning around and heading towards the bunkhouse. The boy turned around and watched small group of mounted soldiers maneuver their horses into formation. Candy waited while Captain Marshall sat on his horse in front of the men and gave the soldiers their orders.
As the cavalrymen rode past Candy's position in front of the bunkhouse, Sergeant Ordy stepped up next to the boy. "Candy, your father will be back soon. You know you gotta mind us other soldiers while he's gone."
"Yes Sergeant Ordy," Candy agreed. "My pa's a good soldier."
"That's right he is, Candy," Ordy reassured as the patrol rode out of the fort. Sergeant Ordy left the boy and went about his duties.
Candy headed over to the building that housed Colonel Purcell's office and met the Colonel's wife, Ellen, who gave the two children some rudimentary school lessons. Candy had a quick mind for a child; he had memorized the manual of arms at age seven. The lad just didn't care for being told what to learn and when to learn it.
Ann, on the other hand, had no trouble sitting through her mother's lessons. Mrs. Purcell had the two children go through some math drills, writing down answers on their own individual slate tablets.
When the school lessons were over Candy went off to help the troopers practice his horse riding. Colonel Purcell walked into the waiting room outside his office where the lessons were held, and stood in the doorway.
"Are the lesson finished for the day?" The colonel asked his wife.
"Yes and both children are doing well with their lessons," Mrs. Purcell informed proudly.
Colonel Purcell smiled as he stroked his daughter's hair. "That's good to hear. The Canaday boy didn't give you any trouble did he Ellen?"
"No none at all. I think the talk his father had with Candy worked," Ellen informed before turning to her daughter. "Ann, why don't you go and write a letter to your aunt Millie."
"Okay mother," Ann replied before leaving the building.
The colonel sat down on a bench next to his wife and leaned back, looking tired. "It's a shame there aren't any children Ann's age for her to socialize with, other than the Canaday boy."
"It would be nice if there was another young girl for Ann to play with," Ann announced.
Colonel Purcell nodded his head in agreement. "Yes, and Candy is too wild for Ann to be around."
Ellen had a look of concentration as she studied her husband. "I don't think he's a wild boy. Candy is a quick learner and has been doing well with his lessons. He's just tends to be restless."
"I'd call it more than restless when the boy constantly shadows my men," Purcell countered. "He also convinced Ann to join in a game of Soldiers and Indians."
"Candy's father talked to him about that," Ellen defended. "Since then Candy has behaved and I have no complaints."
Colonel Purcell let out a sigh. "I just can't shake the feeling that something is wrong with that boy; he's too preoccupied with being a soldier. All Candy does is learn the Army manuals and drills. All he talks about is soldiering. It's not healthy Ellen."
The blonde woman intently eyed her husband. "I think you're being too harsh on Candy. He was raised here surrounded by soldiers. The Army life is all he knows. You can't expect him to be like Ann."
Purcell ran a hand through his hair. "You're right Ellen. I keep telling Canaday he should send his boy away from here but the man is stubborn."
"You can't really blame Sergeant Canaday. I couldn't ship Ann off to be raised by somebody else," Ellen remarked with sympathy.
The colonel reached out and pulled Ellen into an embrace. "You are an understanding woman."
After three days of waiting for his father, Candy slowly walked around the Fort Delaney compound, lost in thought. He didn't hear when Ann Purcell, the colonel's eight-year-old daughter, came up next to him. Ann grabbed the Candy's arm. "Candy, why don't you answer me?"
The boy stopped and flashed Ann an embarrassed look. "I didn't year ya Ann. Whadya want?"
"I'm having a tea and you're invited," the brunette girl informed.
Candy shot Ann an annoyed look. "Teas are for girls."
"That's not so. Men in England go to teas all the time," the girl countered.
Candy shrugged his shoulders dismissively. "This ain't England so thank but I'm not goin' to your tea."
Ann's lips began to pout. "But Lieutenant Beeman will be at my tea. Won't you come? You're the only person that's my age."
Candy looked at Ann and immediately felt sorry for the girl. He was one of the few people at Fort Delaney who understood the importance of being around kids their own age. "Okay, but I'm not dressin' up for a tea."
"That's okay, I just want you to come," Ann replied with a smile as she herded the boy towards her father's office.
After the tea, Ann went to her room and played with her dolls while Candy went outside to play. Candy was in the middle of a drill, using his wooden rifle, when the gate to the fort opened. Captain Marshall rode through the gate on his horse. Behind the captain was a corporal leading a string of horses with the bodies of soldiers lying across the saddles.
Candy's heard jumped when he didn't see his father sitting up on one of the horses. The boy rushed around to the side of Canaday's horse and walked alongside. Tears welled up in Candy's eyes as he kept a hand on his father's lifeless body.
Lieutenant Miller appeared at Candy's side and put an arm around the boy. "I'm sorry Candy. Come along with me." The soldier tried to steer Candy away from his father's body. The boy struggled and ran from the Lieutenant, tears streaming down Candy's cheeks.
Candy felt another set of arms grab him and the orphan made an attempt to get free of the strong grip on his arms. "Lemme go!" he shouted while continuing his attempt to pull free.
"Candy, it's me, Sergeant Ordy. Look at me," the sergeant said, forcing Candy too look him in the eyes.
The boy sniffled and hiccupped, trying to keep from crying. Sergeant Ordy pulled Candy into chest and the boy began sobbing uncontrollably. The burly sergeant knelt down and allowed Candy to cry until the boy could no longer continue.
Sergeant Ordy carried Candy to his bed in the bunkhouse and sat the child down. Candy sat on the edge of his bunk with his legs hanging over the edge. The nine-year-old stared straight ahead as Ordy silently sat next to him.
"Candy, I know you hurt now and I'd do anything to take away that hurt," Ordy finally spoke up.
"I want my pa back," the boy announced in a horse voice.
The sergeant's lower lip trembled slightly while jaw tensed. "So do I Candy, but that won't happen. Now you have to be brave like your pa would want and not sad for long."
Candy merely shrugged his shoulders in response. Ordy put his right hand under the boy's chin, gently moving head around to face the sergeant. "Listen to me Candy, I can't replace your father but your pa and me talked about what would who would take care of you if anything happened to him. I promised your pa I'd see to it that you were raised proper."
The child blinked several times before offering a faint smile. "You promised my pa you'd raise me up like I was your own son?"
"I promised you'd be raised right and I don't aim to break my promise," the sergeant vowed.
Candy wiped his nose with his right sleeve. "I don't want you to break your promise Sergeant Ordy. If I can't be with my pa then you're the one I'd wanna be with."
"Thank you Candy, that means a lot to me," Ordy replied. "Now you wait here. I gotta go talk to Colonel Purcell and ask his permission for you to stay here."
Sergeant Ordy walked over to Colonel Purcell's office and waited for the colonel's secretary to announce that Purcell would see him. The colonel had a somber expression as he sat behind his desk. "At ease Sergeant Ordy."
The sergeant immediately stood at ease in front of Purcell's desk. "You mentioned to my secretary that you wished to speak to me about Sergeant Canaday's son," Colonel Purcell remarked.
"Yes sir Colonel. I promised Sergeant Canaday that if anything happened to him I would look after Candy," Ordy began. "I'm requesting permission for Candy to be put into my care."
Colonel Purcell took in a deep breath. "I'll take your request under advisement Sergeant Ordy."
"Thank you sir."
"If that is all then you're dismissed, Sergeant," Purcell announced, ending the conversation.
Sergeant Ordy quickly answered, "Thank you sir for considering my request and I have nothing else to add Colonel." Ordy immediately saluted the colonel who promptly returned the salute.
Ordy returned quickly returned to check on Candy and found that the boy hadn't moved from his bunk.
"Did Colonel Purcell say I could stay here?" Candy quickly asked.
Sergeant Ordy stood in front of the boy and answered, "The colonel didn't give me his answer yet."
"I don't wanna go to an orphanage," Candy immediately shot back.
Ordy looked down at Candy with a concerned expression. "Hold on now. Nobody said anything about an orphanage."
Candy frowned as he stared at the barracks floorboards. "Okay Sergeant Ordy, but I'm not gonna go to a orphanage."
"I'm not going to let that happen. I promised your pa I'd look after ya," the sergeant reminded. The boy offered Ordy a weak smile before giving the big man an impromptu hug.
The following Sunday there was a funeral service for Sergeant Canaday and the other soldiers who died on the same patrol. Candy sat next between Sergeant Ordy and Ann Purcell. During the service Ann gently put a hand on Candy's before the chaplain dismissed those in attendance.
Once Candy had a chance to say a few last words over his father's grave, he and Sergeant Ordy went straight to Colonel Purcell's office as instructed by the colonel himself. Sergeant Ordy and Candy stood came to a halt in front of Purcell's desk. Candy looked over at Ordy standing at attention, saluting the colonel, and imitated the sergeant. Purcell raised an eyebrow as stood up behind his desk before returning the salutes.
"At ease," Colonel Purcell instructed. "I imagine you both are wondering why I called you here."
"You're gonna tell us whether I can stay here at Fort Delaney with Sergeant Ordy and the rest of the soldiers," Candy quickly spoke up. After noticing stern looks from the two men, Candy immediately closed his mouth.
Colonel Purcell took a breath before stating, "I brought you both here to let you know that the decision has been made to allow young Canaday to remain here at Fort Delaney. However, there are certain conditions."
Sergeant Ordy and Candy exchanged grins. "I'll do anything you say Colonel."
"Very very well," Purcell replied. "Candy, since you will the be the responsibility of the soldiers of Fort Delaney then you will follow their orders. Do you understand?"
Candy stiffened his posture before answering, "Yes sir Colonel Purcell. I'll be a good soldier, I promise."
Colonel Purcell offered the boy a satisfied smile. "Good." Purcell turned to face the sergeant. "Sergeant Ordy, you will be young Canaday's primary guardian while you are here at the fort."
"Yes sir," Ordy promptly responded.
"You are both dismissed," Purcell announced.
Ordy and Candy crisply saluted the Colonel, who returned the twin salutes. As he approached the door, Candy put his hand in the sergeant's. Ordy grinned at the boy before stealing a look back at Colonel Purcell with an expression of gratitude.