Chapter 1

The McFadden boys had always stuck together. When times got tough, they leaned heavily on each other. Adam and Brian had been dealt a complicated hand in life. Adam had not turned eighteen and Brian was just sixteen when their parents were killed. They had five younger brothers who were suddenly without parents and in need of raising. Crane was twelve, Daniel almost nine, Evan not quite seven years old, Ford was five and just starting school and their baby brother Guthrie had been only two years old. Adam had fought for the right to gain custody of the brood. He couldn't leave them behind to go off to college. If he did, they'd likely be split up. Adam couldn't bear the thought of his family, scattered to the winds.

That had all happened about eight years earlier. Adam and Brian had done the best they knew how to keep the boys in line and the ranch running. It had been hard, their needs many and their have's very few. The boys were all doing well in school, while Crane was away at college, working on a degree in Business and Animal Husbandry, Daniel was just finishing up his sophomore year in high school, and Evan would soon be starting high school that fall. There were only a few days left for the school aged boys then they'd be out for the summer. Crane would be home to visit, which, pleased Adam very much. They sure missed his help and Daniel was a handful without Crane around. He was really close to Crane and being separated from him had been nearly as hard on him as when their parents' were killed.

Adam did as much as he could to keep Daniel busy, hoping to keep his impetuous, high spirited little brother out of mischief. That's why today, when Adam and Brian had announced that they would need to spend the day in Sonora handling business, Adam had kept Daniel out of school to look after Guthrie who was sick with a cold. Daniel didn't appreciate babysitting and had balked at the idea first, but, he loved little Guthrie and he'd decided that it was better to sit with him than to go to school anyway.

Adam and Brian left home around ten that morning and announced that they hoped to be back before dark. Adam left Daniel with instructions for him regarding chores and having supper ready. Brian was the cook, and in his absence, Adam had suggested that Daniel heat up canned soup and make sandwiches. The soup would be just what Guth needed, besides Evan and Ford wouldn't be coming home. They had a campout planned with a couple of their buddies from school and their dads. Adam looked in on a sleeping Guthrie then said his goodbyes and he and Brian left in the family truck.

Daniel was enjoying the quiet. He used the free time to work on music. Daniel had a special love for music and his brothers' had quickly realized that he was quite talented. Daniel was constantly buying Country Music magazines, reading them cover to cover over and over again, dreaming of one day landing in between their covers himself some day. The rest of the morning passed by uneventfully. Daniel had taken soup up to Guthrie, who was resting in Adam and Brian's bed. He could tell that his little brother was feeling lousy and upon taking his temperature, had decided it was time for more tylenol. "Your fever is back up to one hundred and one. That's why you're feeling bad again." Daniel explained to Guthrie. He wet a cloth with some cold water and placed it on the little guy's forehead.

"Hey Daniel?" Guthrie asked

"Yeah, Guth...what is it?" Daniel answered.

"I was just wondering. Could you tell me about our mom? I mean, what was she like when you were sick? Did she take good care of you?" Daniel studied his little brother sadly.

Guthrie couldn't remember their mother at all. He'd been too young. It hurt Daniels' heart to think of how this little guy hadn't had a mother figure to nurture and take care of him since he was two...especially when he was sick.

"Oh Guthrie. She was beautiful. Her hair was a just little lighter than mine. In the summer, it had strands in it that almost look golden. But it was a cross between brown and dark auburn I guess. She used to sing to me when I was sick. She was always humming or singing little songs. Sometimes she made them up, I think."

"And she took good care of you, right? Like Adam and Bri takes care of us?" The inquisitive ten year old asked his big brother.

"Yeah, she took care of all of us all the time..."Daniel's voice trailed off as he thought of their mom. He missed her so much. The little guy just didn't realize that he was tearing Daniel's heart to pieces with this line of questioning. Daniel felt tears welling up in his eyes and he quickly looked away from Guthrie's gaze.

"So, when was the last time she took care of you...I mean, when you were sick. Tell me the story, please Daniel?" Guthrie pleased.

Daniel stretched out on the bed next to Guthrie and got comfortable. He knew the little guy felt bad...Knew that he was likely missing Adam. The kid clung to Adam always. He was Adams' little shadow. Daniel guessed it was because Adam had been the one to tend to him since the tender age of two. Adam had been the only brother to not still be in school when their parents were killed. He had stepped in and been both mother and father to little Guthrie. Daniel knew right now that he had to be there for Guthrie. He laid there and told him about how sick he'd been with the chicken pox when he was seven. How their mom had sat up with him, night after night, singing to him and telling him stories. In fact, he told Guthrie of every time he could remember being sick and how their mom took care of him. He knew that Guthrie never having had that, would be curious. Finally the little guy began to yawn and Daniel figured it was time to end the storytelling session.

"Ok, time for you to get some more rest. I'm gonna take your soup bowl downstairs and wash it. Adam'll kill me if I let those dishes stack up while he's gone." Daniel made his excuse quickly then rushed out the door.

At about three that afternoon Daniel had looked in on a sleeping Guthrie, then decided to head on outside and feed up. He was a high energy teenager. He could never be still and was always going at one hundred ten miles an hour. He hated being couped up inside with a sick kid. He relished in the outdoors. It was a quarter til four when he came back inside. He could hear Guthrie coughing upstairs. Time for more cough medicine Daniel thought to himself. He went upstairs to Adam's and Brian's room to bring cough medicine to Guthrie. He looked at his sleeping form and immediately became worried.

"Guth? You ok?" Daniel noticed that he was very flushed and sweaty. He placed his hand on Guthrie's forehead and was shocked! The kid was burning up. Daniel fumbled over the night stand to get his hands on the thermometer. He roused Guthrie enough to have him hold it under his tongue. Daniel could see the mercury rising and after a few minutes, he read the results. One hundred three point six. "Oh Guth. I've gotta get you to a doctor!"

Daniel thought and thought. He couldn't remember where Dr. Mayer's number was. Where had Adam told him he'd find it? Where is that damned phone book? Screw it! He's going to the hospital! Daniel had thought to himself.

He could hear crackles in Guthrie's chest and there was a wheezing noise when he breathed. Daniel picked him up, leaving a sheet wrapped around the little boy then carried him out to the jeep. He sped down the narrow driveway and onto the roadway, hellbent for the County Hospital.

to be continued...