“Dad, are you going to write something about Mr. Malachi?” my oldest son asked as he and his brother walked into my office.
I leaned back in my chair while staring out the window at a doe and its fawn. I turned my attention to my twin sons as my mind raced back through time.
“Well, are you?”
“I should, huh?”
“Ya think,” Amos, the younger twin and the middle son, said with a chuckle.
“You’re the only one who can write his story,” Malachi, the older twin, said. “After all, you knew him for how many years?”
I rubbed my jaw and thought about my dear friend Malachi Amos.
“I met him in 1958 when I was twelve, so if my math is correct, I’ve known him for forty-two years. Knew him for that long, I mean.”
“He always said he’d live to be a hundred, and he made it.”
“Yeah! And three extra years to boot,” I replied nodding to my Malachi and Amos. I heard my daughter, Sarah, talking to her younger brother in the hallway.
“Elijah, you can’t bother Daddy now. He’s talking to Mal and Amos about Mr. Malachi. It’s not the right time.”
“It’s okay,” I replied. “You can both come in.”
Five-year-old Elijah made a face at his sister, entered my office, stood on my left and gaped at the wildlife. Sarah, now a teenager and taller than her mother, stood behind my chair and hugged me.
“I’m glad I had a chance to meet him,” Sarah said.
I thought about the previous summer when Sarah convinced me and her mother she should be allowed to join the men on our trip to Iuka Falls. I chuckled recalling how the twins tried to convince her the Yukon was no place for a twelve-year-old girl. She ignored their pleas.
“He treated you like one of the boys,” I mentioned then realized something. “He didn’t know how to treat a daughter any differently than a son. You were probably the first female he spent time with in over thirty years.”
“He spoiled her is what you mean,” Amos replied. “He never made her chop firewood or do any chores.”
“I cleaned the cabin and cooked meals for you,” Sarah answered with a glare. “You never complained about what you ate.”
“Because Dad ordered us not to,” Amos said poking his sister’s shoulder.
She put her hands on her hips and glared at him. “Is that why you always asked for seconds? There were never any leftovers.”
“She’s got you there,” Mal said with a laugh.
“Fine,” Amos sighed. “So she can cook rabbit stew and make pancakes without always burning them to a crisp. Doesn’t mean she’s a real pioneer woman.”
After a moment of silence as we watched the deer, Sarah asked, “Will there be a service? Did he have any family at all?”
I shook my head. “No, to both questions. Well, kinda.”
“What do you mean, Daddy?” Sarah asked.
“He did have a family when he was a young man, but he lost his wife and both kids to the Spanish flu back in 1920 or ’21. He didn’t talk about his early days much, but once in a while he would reminisce a bit. I remember one night. We were sitting around a campfire, and he told us about his days as a soldier in the war.”
“Which war?” Elijah asked. “Did he shoot a real machine gun?”
I explained about the Great War, and the friends he lost.
“He never remarried, huh?” Amos asked.
“Nope! He said no woman could ever replace his Rachel.”
“What will happen to the cabin? There aren’t many people in town who know it’s there, and even fewer who care about its preservation.”
“Several years ago he mentioned willing the property to me. He didn’t trust anyone else to take care of it. He knew how much the place meant to me, and you guys.”
“We aren’t going to move there, are we, Daddy?” Elijah asked with a look of alarm.
“No, we will keep living in Waskatenau, and stay in the cabin in the summer.”
“Good! I don’t think I could give up watching Bob the Builder.”
“You spend too much time watching shows,” Amos admonished his younger brother. He waved his arms and pointed out the window. “You should spend your time outdoors. You need to learn how to chop wood, start a fire, trap game and learn to fish. You need to learn how to survive on your own.”
I smiled because of how much my older children had been influenced by Ol’ Malachi.