When You Dare To Believe (Meeting Juliana) by Laraine

Word Count 6,285

To My Lancer Friends:  There was a time in our early adolescence when we became fans of Lancer.  Some of us may not remember exactly when or how, but the impact Lancer made on our lives remains with us today.  So much so that thanks to the wonders of the Internet, we belong to a unique group that shares our love of the series, and its characters, with one another.  

In July of 2004, I had the privilege of attending the first Lancer convention held in Los Angeles.   I wanted to write a story about the experience; about the fun, adventures, and camaraderie that was had throughout that weekend, but I wanted it to be told through the eyes of Johnny Lancer—through his experiences. . . and his dreams.   So, this is the result. . . .

Hope you enjoy it. . . .

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REMEMBERING

July, 1887

The gentle rocking of the train relaxed Johnny Lancer as he leaned his head against the window and closed his eyes, remembering the last four days he spent in Los Angeles.   He had had  a wonderful time making new friends, seeing the sights, and meeting. . . .her.

His thoughts then turned to his family. . .and he realized how much he missed them.  Abby, his beautiful blonde wife of 15 years, and his four children; two strong, handsome sons, a beautiful daughter, and his precious baby son, his “bonus child.”  His sons, including the baby,  were blonde and blue-eyed like their mother; but his daughter was her daddy through and through: dark hair, dark complexion, sapphire  eyes, charm, and a smile that could warm the coldest of hearts.   And she had her daddy wrapped around her delicate fingers.

He had been away from them before, on cattle drives and business trips with his father Murdoch and brother Scott.  And  more recently, with his oldest son, Christopher, as well as Scott and his son, Garrett.  As Murdoch Lancer’s health began to decline, his sons became increasingly instrumental in the running of the ranch, now known as Lancer Three.

But this was the first time in a long time he had been on a trip just for himself; for reasons only he understood, that were important only to him.  For this trip had brought to reality a belief in a dream that had first been born in his soul as a 12-year old, some 28 years before.  A desire that was an integral part of his lost childhood innocence, and though buried deep in his heart, was never, ever forgotten. . . .

The idea for the trip had begun some nine months before.  Abby enjoyed reading The San Francisco Chronicle, particularly the arts and entertainment section.  An accomplished artist, she had sold many paintings and was beginning work on a painting of the entire Lancer clan to be given to the Lancer patriarch.

As he idly perused the Chronicle that cool, October afternoon, a name in a headline struck him dead center. . .a name he hadn’t seen in print for years, but welcomed  all the same—the name of Julianna Stanley.

With a hidden excitement, he read the accompanying article:  “A convention is being planned in the Los Angeles, California  area for fans of  former singer/actress Julianna Stanley.  Miss Stanley has been in contact with me and would consider attending if her schedule permits.  The convention would be an enjoyable get-together for anyone who was a fan of her songs and her plays.  If interested, please contact myself, Ben Hendricks, c/o Chapel Hills Horse Ranch, Chapel Hills, Virginia.  I would be glad to send you information and tentative plans.”

And I thought I was the only one. . .he thought after reading the article.  That there were others out there that knew of the once prominent actress, knew of her beauty, charm, and yes, her talent, pleased the handsome rancher.  He remembered how this lady had brought him through a period of his life that he’d just as soon forget.

 .

A long time ago. . . . . . .

It was April 1, 1859,  a pleasant day in the border town of El Paso, Texas, as twelve-year old Johnny Lancer waited patiently for his mother to purchase goods at the street market.  He knew he would have a long wait; he spied his mother chit-chatting with the other ladies, so he wandered over to the performance stage where a street festival was taking place.  The young boy enjoyed the various acts:  a magician, a young man who excelled at playing the harmonica, and an older lady who painted to music.  That one was interesting, he thought.

Johnny was about to seek out his mother, thinking the show was over, when the man who called himself an emcee announced one final act.  Some lady, direct from Los Angeles, California, was the featured performer, and would be presenting her singing and dancing act.  Johnny noticed his mother was still busy at the market, so he sat back down, sighed, and didn’t give the person who would soon grace the stage much thought.

But when the music started, he looked up and saw a young, pretty, energetic lady run to the center of the stage and begin to sing, dance, and joke with the audience.  Young Johnny was entranced by her.  He wasn’t sure what it was about her, she was just so. . . .perfect.  She had a tanned complexion and long, dark hair.   She smiled, displaying  perfect white teeth.  And she had sparkling blue eyes that were wide with excitement as she danced her way across the stage.

And she had a way about her. Whatever ‘it’ was that only certain people seem to have, this girl had ‘it.’  Johnny liked the way her peasant-styled, salmon-colored blouse fit, tightly, around her shoulders, and her. . .breasts.  And the way her colorful skirt twirled when she danced, revealing a very nice pair of legs.  Funny, he never noticed anything like that on a ‘girl’ before. . . .

As he watched the pretty lady in awe, twelve-year old Johnny Lancer felt a tickle in his stomach and a shake in his knees that he’d never known before.  And he had this sudden realization that girls were more than skinny things with long pigtails who screamed when being chased by  little boys with frogs and spiders.  Girls could be, well, kind of pretty to look at.  Especially this one. . .

One fine lookin’ filly, he thought. . . .

And although he didn’t realize it, Johnny Lancer had just entered the wonderful world of adolescence.  He had discovered his first love.    He was infatuated by this pretty girl, and he vowed that someday, he would marry her. . . . .

When she was finished with her performance and had left the stage, Johnny felt an emptiness through him.  He wondered who she was, and he wanted to keep her face and body forever in his mind.  He spied a paper on the ground and noticed it had the names and pictures of the people who had performed.  And there, with the biggest picture of them all, was his lady.  Julianna Stanley was her name.  From the short biography underneath her image, Johnny managed to read that she was born and raised in Los Angeles, had performed at various venues throughout the east coast and California, and had a two-year old son.  He folded the paper and placed it in his pocket.  He was going to keep Julianna’s picture with him forever. . . .

And he did. . . .for a few weeks, anyway.  But things happened to the twelve-year old little boy, and the picture, along with his innocence, were swept away with the brutal death of his mother, and with nothing more than the clothes on his back, Johnny Madrid began his dark, lonely journey to manhood.  But there was still an innocent  piece of his soul that felt all flushed and embarrassed when he thought of Julianna.  And once, at 14, young Madrid saw the object of his affection in person.

He was in Los Angeles one day in the spring of 1861.  He  wandered into the City of Angels, looking for work, when he  passed the Palace Hotel; the hotel where the rich and influential stayed.  A place he knew he would never stay in.  He dared to venture up to the fancy building and look in the windows, and stared in fascination at the elegant surroundings on the other side of the glass.  He was rudely asked to leave the premises by the hotel doorman, and as he did so, walked right into the sign listing the hotel’s entertainment for the week.  And there, right in front of him, were words that brought a pleasing, and unexpected, reaction from the young future gunfighter:  “The Palace is pleased to present the short play ‘Blind Girl’s Bluff’ starring Miss Julianna Stanley.  Show Times Nightly at 7:30 and 10:00.  Running Sunday through Friday.”

Johnny knew he had to see this play.  To see her.  He devised a plan and on Friday evening,  made his way  through the hotel kitchen (with the help of the Mexican cooking staff), and snuck his way to the back of the stage, where he had a birds-eye view of the performers.  And it was from this vantage point that young Madrid saw Miss Stanley at her best.

Her performance as Tammy, a young woman blinded by scarlet fever and her  involvement with a blind man who eventually regains his sight was powerful, sympathetic, and touching.  And it brought tears to the young boy; that he was actually seeing the true gift of this beautiful young woman, and the impact that she brought to those in the audience with her talent.

And he thought, although he was never really sure, that she smiled at him.  She had ducked back stage for just a second, took a breath and a drink of water, and looked right at him.  And smiled.  Or maybe she was smiling at someone, or something else.

But whatever.  All Johnny Lancer knew was that his heart was racing, and he felt a silly, confused excitement over a lady at least 20 years older than himself who didn’t even know he existed.   But when the play was over and his adrenalin slowed, he felt a profound emptiness in his soul, and he left the hotel with some sadness.  He had no time to relish in the feeling of excitement he had just felt, for a few minutes later, he  was back on the street.

Johnny Madrid had returned. . . . .

 .

The jerking of the train awakened Johnny, and it took a minute for him to remember where he was.  Oh yes, on the train home.  To my family, he softly sighed.  The thoughts of his gentle dozing left the rancher with mixed emotions:  to remember that time of his young life brought him sadness, but within that awful time, the bright spot of Julianna as part of his youthful infatuation brought him joy.  And amusement.

But his quiet thoughts took him to his later years, as the person that was Johnny Madrid began to grow and mature.  Along with the legend.

Madrid no longer had the need for childish thoughts, and his infatuation with the dynamic actress ceased, or so he thought.

But one November day in 1863, 16-year old Madrid had finished a job in Phoenix.  He was well paid for it, and rewarded himself with a room in one of them “fancy” hotels.  He  had a few hours before he had to leave, to move onto the next town and his next “job,” so he enjoyed the comfortable hotel room for as long as he could.  He read the newspaper; actually, glanced through it; he never was much of a reader.  But when he turned the page, his eyes fell upon a picture of a lady that looked familiar. It was her. . .Julianna Stanley.  He wondered what she had done to make the newspaper, and the story he read broke his heart.

The article stated that two months earlier, in September,  Julianna and her agent had been involved in a stagecoach accident as they were enroute to Kansas City for a performance.  The coach had somehow fallen down a steep incline,  throwing the driver and her agent from it, killing them instantly.

According to the article, Julianna laid pinned beneath the stagecoach for three days, enduring near freezing nights and scorching daytime sun.  When found, the young woman was barely alive, and the doctors were astounded that she had survived.   But she paid the price: the ordeal left her paralyzed from the waist down, and her left arm was badly damaged, leaving it useless as well.  

The article concluded discussing the young woman’s courage,  hope for the future, and  plans to resume her career.

The heart of the young gunfighter grew heavy as he read the article, and tears welled in his sapphire eyes as the remembered the beautiful, vibrant young woman whose very being brought him so much joy when he was a kid.

Hell, he was still a kid. . . . .

And he wondered why life was so unjust to some people.  To her.  And to him.  He knew who his father was; knew where he was and that he was still alive.  But because of the old man’s selfishness, his prejudice, the person that should have been Johnny Lancer, a privileged rancher’s son, was instead Johnny Madrid, a notorious, street-wise gunfighter.

And because of some strange set of  circumstances, his lady, his Julianna, was destined to spend the remainder of her life in a wheelchair.

He couldn’t bear the thought.  So he blocked her out, as he had blocked out so many things in his life.  And she found that special place in his heart, his soul, where she would sleep for years to come, only to re-emerge, to a happy, contented man. . . .

The man that would become Johnny Lancer. . . . . . .

THE CONVENTION

The convention was held the last weekend in July at the Palace Hotel in Los Angeles, and Johnny laughed at that ironic twist of fate.  Although old and not the showplace it had been years before, when a young gunfighter was made to leave its very premises,  the hotel was still very nice and adequate to serve the needs of the convention.  And being a successful cattle rancher, Mr. Lancer was certainly used to better accommodations.  But the organizers of the event were thoughtful in realizing the various backgrounds and financial circumstances of those attending, and managed to keep the cost down.

Johnny hadn’t planned on having a roommate, but when he was contacted by a fellow rancher from Oregon named Ken asking if he would consider having one, Johnny obliged.  In his letter, Ken told Johnny to be looking for ‘an average-sized fellow with brown hair and glasses, wearing a cream-colored shirt and black jacket.’

Johnny arrived on Thursday, the day before the actual convention was to start.  He checked into his room and staked out his area, ensuring he left enough room for his roommate.   He made his way outside the hotel and ventured to a fairly nice restaurant where excellent Mexican food was served.  He meandered around the different shops, picking up a few trinkets for his children.

He made his way back to the hotel and decided to check out the showroom where he had seen Julianna perform her magic so many years before.  But he was disappointed to learn that the showroom was now a storage facility and offices for the hotel staff, as a new, bigger showroom had been constructed a few years before.

When I meet Julianna, I’ll have to tell her about my backstage pass  in ’61, he jokingly said to himself.

He made his way back to the hotel lobby and made himself at home on the comfortable sofa.  He watched the people come and go, looking for someone he thought might be there for the convention.

As he perused a magazine, two men came down the stairs joking and laughing, and made their way to the chairs in the sitting area next to Johnny.   He chuckled at something one of them had said to the other, and eye contact was made.  It was as if they knew. . . . .

“Are you here for the Julianna Stanley convention?” one of them asked.

“Yes, I am. . .” Johnny smiled his response.

“Well, hi!  I’m Ben Hendricks, and this is Kyle Pickett, we’re from Virginia. . .”

“Hey!  Nice to meet you, I’m John. . .Johnny. . .  Lancer. . .from Morro Coyo.”

The threesome shook hands and were clearly glad to meet one another.

Throughout the day and early evening, the conventioneers arrived, including Ken, Johnny’s roommate.  Johnny showed him to their room, and they hit it off immediately.  At about 7:30 p.m., the group of men took over the hotel dining room, sliding tables together to make one large table where they could eat and get acquainted.  There were about 20 of them; between the ages of 40 to 45, from various parts of the country.  Some were married, some were not.  Some had children, others did not.   And they were varied in their talents and occupations, from ranchers to bankers, from teachers to writers.

Bet there’s no ex-gunhawks among us, Johnny mused to himself.

It was an enjoyable evening for everyone.

Friday, a few more attendees arrived, and that afternoon, a tour was taken of the City of Angels, along with a side trip to the various missions in the area.  The trip was nothing new to Johnny, who had grown up on the border and lived in this part of the country his entire life.   But it was a new experience to some, especially to the men who were from back east, and Johnny remembered another young easterner a long time ago who was fascinated the first time he visited the missions.

And he felt a tinge of loneliness for his family. . .

That Friday evening, the Julianna Stanley Convention officially began with a social.  A room was reserved for the 25 attendees, and an array of food and drinks were provided.  It kicked off with each person introducing themselves, followed by a gift exchange.  Each person was asked to bring a gift from their home city, or state, to be shared with their fellow conventioneers.   Colorful stories were exchanged among the men, and despite their differing backgrounds and lifestyles, all shared a common bond:  adolescent  memories of a pretty, dark-haired young woman who made growing up just a little more bearable for her boyhood fans. . . .

MEETING JULIANNA

Saturday morning finally arrived.  Johnny and Ken were up early, each anticipating the brunch with Julianna.  They spent a good part of the morning getting ready their  gifts they would present to her; and the rest of the morning “primping” for their meeting with the now 60-something former actress.

Johnny looked very handsome in his dark suit, white shirt, and string tie.  Never in my life did I  think I’d be so excited to dress like this, he mused.  Though 40, Mr. John Lancer was still a ‘looker,’ with his dark hair, sapphire eyes, and still boyish grin.  And his slight mid-life weight gain complimented his still lean, strong frame.

“You know, Ken, I didn’t spend this much time getting ready on my wedding day,” Johnny joked  to his roommate.

“I know. . . neither did I.  But then, we weren’t marrying Julianna,” Ken joked back.

 .

At about 9:45 a.m., Johnny and Ken made their way to the banquet room, and most of the other conventioneers were already there.  The room looked very nice, with four round tables set up in the center covered with white tablecloths.   Deep purple napkins were attractively arranged in fancy goblets, and the hotel’s finest china and silverware were used.   Pitchers of water  were placed on each table.  The buffet table was in the back of the room and consisted of hot trays of scrambled eggs, bacon, hashed brown potatoes, various fruits, rolls, bread and butter.  The head table was adorned with a white tablecloth  and a floral arrangement of pink and white carnations and baby’s breath, and behind the table on the wall a large sign  read WELCOME JULIANNA, and was covered with pictures from her performing days.

As the conventioneers mingled, Chairman Ben Hendricks entered the room, with Julianna and her companion/friend, a nice-looking man named Tim, following. Everyone hurried to their seats as she entered, and all eyes were on the woman they had dreamed about meeting almost their entire lives.

And as Johnny was sitting at the table next to the door, she passed right by him, and a feeling of pure joy swept through him.

“Hello, Gentlemen,” she cheerily greeted, and effortlessly wheeled her way to the head table.  She looked lovely; much younger than her  60 plus years.  Her hair was still long and silky, with attractive streaks of gray sprinkled throughout.  Her skin was tanned, her eyes sparkled, and she still possessed the girlish smile with perfect white teeth that found its way into many a young man’s heart.

She wore a simple beige skirt and white blouse, with turquoise beads around her neck, matching earrings, and a gold Indian feather pin.  A simple gold bracelet adorned her right wrist.  She joked with the organizers, who sat with Julianna and Tim at the head table, and the announcement was made that it was time to eat.

The brunch was delicious, and the hotel staff did a good job of keeping the food warm and everyone’s coffee or teacup full and hot.

After everyone had eaten, Chairman Hendricks asked if each person would stand and introduce themselves to Julianna.  When it was Johnny’s turn, he  gave his name, hometown, occupation, and stated that he was married with four children.  He sounded confident, but inside, he was shaking like a lovesick puppy.  Geez, I never felt this nervous  in front of an opponent. . .or  my father, he thought.  He remembered to tell her about sneaking backstage and watching her in “Blind Girl’s Bluff” all those years ago.  

“You were wonderful as Tammy,” Johnny softly told her.  She smiled that perfect smile, right at him, and thanked him.  And she expressed amazement that someone would go through the trouble to sneak backstage just to see her.

If you only knew, Johnny sighed as he sat down.

After the introductions were made, Julianna began to tell her story, and for the next 2 1/2 hours, 25 men from all walks of life, including a former gunfighter, were entranced at the tales she told.

As she talked about her early days as a walk-on actress, to some of her more mischievous moments, to the time she acted in her favorite play, “Revenge,” Julianna proved to be everything Johnny, and the others, hoped she would be.  Smart and articulate, but soft spoken, with a silky drawl that was as natural as her smile.   Gracious and down to earth, she patiently, and often humorously, answered the questions asked of her.  And sensitive.  When she was presented with the gift of a hand-made quilt signed by the convention members, she became teary-eyed.  And tears welled in her still beautiful blue eyes as she talked about her departed Golden Retriever,  Sampson, that appeared in many of her plays and was an integral part of her life after her accident.

After the discussion and question and answer time was over, Julianna happily signed pictures, shirts, stuffed animals (for their children, of course) and anything else presented to her.   Johnny presented her with his small gift, and received a hug in return.  They spoke for a few moments, and he made it a point to look into her eyes.  Yep, they’re still that blue, he sighed.

Julianna’s companion, Tim, was just as gracious, talking and laughing with everybody, and his devotion to Julianna was obvious.

All too soon, it was time for Julianna to leave, but she had another appointment, something about going to a rodeo, she explained. 

After her departure, a feeling of emptiness filled Johnny’s soul, and he remembered this is how he felt, that night as a 14-year old hiding backstage, when the play was over and she had been swept away to her awaiting carriage. But that time, he couldn’t relish in the excitement of seeing her; for once he left the safety of backstage and returned to the streets,  Madrid had to take over.  For that’s who he was. . .

But not now.  He allowed himself to relish in the excitement of seeing her, of talking to her,  to allow his adrenalin to slowly come down, and to really feel the joy of meeting this wonderful woman.

And although she was gone, the room was still filled with her presence, and Johnny, along with the others, knew that the past few hours had been a special time, a wonderful time, that would bond them through time and distance.

And they would never forget it. . . .

THE CONVENTION CONTINUES

Saturday afternoon saw the group of happy conventioneers going in different directions.  Most of the men, including Johnny, opted for horseback riding on the mountainous trails outside of the city.  Always an accomplished rider, Johnny was surprised, and pleased, that so many of the group shared his expertise at riding.  The less adventurous members toured the various museums, while others delighted in learning about the financial section of the city.  But no matter what activity was chosen, a great time was had by all.

That evening, the social continued, with food, beer, and of course, tequila.  While the evening before had been a get-to-know you gathering,  with everyone showing their best side, this evening was different.  Having spent the day together, plus meeting Julianna, bonded the group, and everyone was relaxed and comfortable with each other.

The food and drinks, particularly the tequila, flowed freely, and many ‘very colorful’ jokes and stories were shared among the men, usually in groups of four or five, scattered throughout the room.

One of the fellas brought his guitar and began to sing, and a slightly ‘lit-up-like-a-candle’  Johnny Lancer couldn’t help but get into the act.   A fair guitar player, he sat down on a chair in the front of the room, and began to sing an old song from his gunfighter days. . .

    ‘Blood on the saddle.
    Blood on my spurs
    Oh, what I wouldn’t do
    For a woman  . . .’

“Hey Lancer!  You a good rancher, ‘cause you ain’t no singer!” one of them teased, with popcorn and peanut shells good-naturedly tossed at the respected rancher.   Johnny didn’t care, though, the way he was feeling at that particular moment, nothing could bother him.

And for a fleeting second, he realized how good it felt, knowing that nothing, or no one, had bothered him for years . . . . .

The party broke up around midnight, when Johnny declared to Ken that he was hungry.  So the two of them went to the small cantina down the street, where they ate  breakfast, and just talked through the night.  Ken was such a nice person, and interesting, and the two of them shared stories and laughed all night.  It was close to dawn when they finally returned to their hotel room.

Sunday was a free day, and Johnny and most of the others, including Ken, decided to hike up the mountains.  Not a good idea when you’re hung over and half dead from lack of sleep, Johnny sighed.   But  the sky was blue and clear, the air cool, and the lake at the top of the mountain was peaceful.  The beautiful surroundings reminded Johnny of his home, and once again, a tinge of loneliness for his family swept through him.

After they returned to town,  Johnny, Ken, and two other conventioneers, Ed and Larry, had a late  lunch in the hotel restaurant, and caused quite a stir with their laughing and teasing of one another, and they didn’t miss the looks they received from the other customers.  But did they care?  No, not really.   The young lady that was their waitress was teased unmercifully, but all in fun, and she was a good sport and went along with their nonsense.  She was rewarded for her patience, and excellent service, with a sizeable tip from the fun-loving group of men.

Sunday evening, Johnny told Ken he couldn’t leave Los Angeles without visiting the newly incorporated  Hollywood district.  He heard it was a wild place, and there was a bit of Madrid in him still; the part that craved some danger and excitement.  And he knew if he ever came to Los Angeles with his wife and children, there was no way that still wild craving would be tamed.

So, Ken agreed, and they had a grand time as they toured the district that was touted to become an entertainment mecca.  It was a beautiful place, with palm trees lining the streets, and Johnny was glad he and Ken had taken the time to see it.

It was just before 11:30 p.m. when they returned to the hotel, and Johnny began to pack as he was leaving the next morning.   Ken would be staying through Monday, and Johnny asked him to say good-bye to everyone, as he wouldn’t have a chance to.

Monday morning came much too quickly, and after an exchange of addresses and a promise to visit each other at their respective ranches, Johnny and Ken shook hands. . .which turned into a brotherly hug between friends.   As he walked out the door, Johnny noticed Kyle leaving as well, with at least 25 suitcases  being loaded up by the bellman.  Johnny had two bags; he learned early on to travel light.  He bid Kyle good-bye and made his way to the train station on the way to his home.

 .

To Lancer. . . . .

As the train moved along, Johnny opened up his travel bag and pulled out the autographed photograph of Julianna he had received at the convention brunch.  He stared at the image of the young, vibrant,  woman that once was.    God, she was a beautiful woman. . . .he sighed.  And she still is. . . .he smiled to himself.

The group also had a picture taken by a professional photographer with them  surrounding Julianna.  Johnny made sure he stood right next to her in the picture.  Hell, I waited 28  years to meet her, I sure wasn’t gonna stand in the back row, he mused to himself.  When developed, each attendee would be sent a copy of the picture.  They were told it would take a few months, but they all agreed the wait would be worth it.  

He also pulled out of his bag the souvenirs he had picked up for his family, and the pearl necklace he had bought for Abby.  The one she had worn on her wedding day had recently broken, and he thought this would be a nice surprise for her.

The train finally arrived in Morro Coyo at the new station that the Lancers were instrumental in building.  The once sleepy town had become a bustling little city, thanks to the contributions of the ranchers in the area, most specifically, Murdoch Lancer and his sons.

As he stepped off the train, his mind went back to the day a long time ago, when he arrived by stagecoach in the dusty, sleepy little town, annoyed at the “dandy” that he shared the coach with.   And he remembered the pretty, dark-haired girl, who was now a beautiful dark-haired mother of two, and the simple words she uttered that changed his life:  “Uh, Mr. Lancer?.. . . .”

He spied his family waiting for him:  Abby; his daughter, Mariah; his second son, Steven; and Colton, or Colt as he was known, the baby.  And of course, the grinning face of his blonde/gray-haired older brother could not be ignored.

“Hey! I’ve missed you!” Johnny declared, running to his family.  Hugging 12-year old Steven and 10-year old Mariah, he laughed, “I think you’ve grown an inch!”  Then, “Where’s Christopher?”  as he kissed his wife, took the baby in his arms, and slapped Scott on the back.

“He’s engrossed in a game of chess with your father,” Abby announced.  “He said he’d see you later. . .”

Figures, Johnny mumbled, amused.

For the remainder of the evening and the next several days, Johnny relayed stories about the convention to anyone who happened to ask, or to anyone who would listen.  His adjective to describe the event was “Wonderful!”  And when asked about Julianna, he simply said, “She was wonderful!”

But he knew she was so much more. . . . . .

EPILOGUE

Thanksgiving Night, 1887.   As he sat in his study in the home he shared with Abby and their children on Lancer,  the scent of pumpkin pies that Abby and Mariah had baked that morning still filled the air.  Their home, though not as large as the main hacienda, was beautiful—with Abby’s special touch seen throughout.  Pictures of their children adorned the home, as well as pictures of family.

But this room, the study, was Johnny’s, decorated his way.  And although pictures of his wife and children were on his desk, there were two other pictures that had a special place there as well: the autographed picture of Julianna, and the picture from the convention of Julianna surrounded by her fans.  It had arrived a few days before Thanksgiving, and as expected, was worth the wait.

The Thanksgiving celebration  had been heartwarming, with the entire Lancer clan gathering at the home of the Patriarch, where Scott and his wife Katherine and their children resided as well.  Murdoch had gone through a bad time in the fall, and they thought the mighty giant would leave them, but he prevailed, and this evening, Abby had presented him with the exquisite painting of him surrounded by his family.  . . . .all of them.   From Scott and Johnny and Teresa, to their spouses, children, pets, and even an image of Jelly, the old handyman who was no longer with them physically, but would remain with them forever in spirit.  And love.

As Johnny recalled the day’s happy and loving events, a feeling of humbleness warmed his heart, for he had so much, and was so content.  He had so much to be thankful for. . .

But it hadn’t always been that way.   He remembered how, as a child, he had such big dreams, but it seemed like they would never come true.  His mother, whom despite everything he loved,  had told him to believe; that if he believed hard enough, his dreams might just come true.

But could he believe?  Did the young, half-breed child whose very existence he himself questioned, dare to believe in anything?  

Yes, he had to believe in his dreams. . .for they were all he had. . . .

So the young boy dared to believe that someday, his life would mean something. . . .

He dared to believe that he would make it to the age of 18.  And when he did, he dared to believe he would make it to the age of 21.

With that milestone accomplished, he dared to believe he would make it to the age of 25.  But when circumstances found him in front of a firing squad at age 22, he dared to believe a miracle would happen.

And it did. . . .

The miracle in the form of a Pinkerton agent who took him to his father.  And once home, he dared to believe things could work.

It was rough, but with maturity on his part, acceptance on the part of his father, and the patience and guidance of his brother, he dared to believe that he could be the son he knew his father always wanted. .

If only he knew that he always was. . . .

And he dared to believe he could fall in love and be married.  But he did.  Abigail Sarah Burton Lancer was the most beautiful, wonderful woman ever.  His savior.

And he dared to believe they would have a family.  But they did.  Not once, not twice, but four times.  And he dared to believe his wife would be strong enough to endure the part of life that is childbirth, and that his children would be strong and healthy.

She did, and they were. . . .

And at age 40, with everything a man could possibly want, Johnny Lancer dared to believe he was actually. . . .happy.  

And damn it, he was. . .

Oh, there were everyday problems that go along with being married, raising a family, and running a successful cattle ranch with your brother, and he knew life couldn’t be perfect, but it was darn-well close to it.

And there was the one thing he had dared to believe, but it seemed so unobtainable he thought it would never happen.

For a young boy, and later a young man,  dared to believe that someday, he would meet the special lady that, although she could never know it,  helped him live through the hardest, most difficult part of  his life. . .

That he would meet Julianna Stanley.

And because he dared to believe, that final dream became a reality.  For he had met her.  And she had been just as beautiful as the first time he saw her all those years ago.

And because he believed, friendships were formed and a bond created with a really great group of his peers that he never would of met.  . . . .If not for the belief in his dream that he would meet her. . someday. . . .

He would continue to dream.  And he would tell his children to dream, to reach for the stars, to never give up.

To believe in your dreams. . . .

Because Johnny Madrid Lancer knew that when you dare to believe, your dreams, no matter how big they may be, can come true.

After all, his did. . . . . . . . .

(And so did mine). . . .

~end~
By Laraine—September 2005
A Lancer (and JS) Fan Since April 1, 1969
This was written, in friendship,  for the Ladies of the 2004 Lancer Convention. . . .

And for James. . . . .   

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