This is a cross-over story between "The Young Riders" and the book "Tuck Everlasting."
|Note of explanation:|
This is a crossover between Tuck Everlasting by Natalie Babbitt and “The Young Riders”
The Tuck family is a family that accidentally drank water that keeps them from aging. They are all the same age as they were when they drank the water in 1797. They can’t be killed or even seriously injured. There are four people in the family: Angus Tuck, father
Mae Tuck, mother
Miles Tuck, (22) oldest son
and Jesse Tuck, (17) youngest son.
The back of the book explains the story this way:
“Doomed to – or blessed with – eternal life after drinking from a magic spring, the Tuck family wanders about trying to live as inconspicuously and comfortable as they can. When ten-year-old Winnie Foster stumbles on their secret, the Tucks take her home and explain why living forever at one age is less a blessing than it might seem. Complications arise when Winnie is followed by a stranger who wants to market the spring water for a fortune.”
My story takes place approximately 20 years before the events in the book. I only borrowed the Tuck family, and their explanation of how they came to be the way they are.
The characters of Buck and Lou are from the television show “The Young Riders”. This story is set during the time of that show which dealt with the lives of a group of young men who worked for The Pony Express.
Some Secrets are Best Kept Secret
Disclaimer: Ed Spielman created the characters of The Young Riders for television. The series aired on ABC TELEVISION from 1989 - 1992. The part of the story where the Tucks are explaining their situation comes from the book Tuck Everlasting by Natalie Babbitt. Copyright 1975.
“You want to stop and camp before we hit town or after?” asked Buck as he and Lou neared Blue Creek.
“I want to stay in town,” said Lou. “We’ve got the hours to spare. We made good time yesterday and today. At this rate we’re going to get back early, and I don’t want to.”
“Still mad?” asked Buck.
“Yes,” said Lou. “I can’t believe he’d make a decision like that for me. He had no right to do that. I should get to decide when I want to trade runs, not him.”
“I agree with you,” said Buck. “Don’t get upset with me. I didn’t do anything. Wasn’t even there remember?”
Lou sighed, “I’m sorry. How about I treat you to dinner in town to make up for my horrible mood these past few days? We could get a room at the hotel and eat over at the boardinghouse diner.”
“I don’t know, Lou. You sure I can?” Buck asked still remembering the way he felt the last time he’d tried to go into a new eating establishment and been turned away.
“You’ve been there before and had trouble, haven’t you?” asked Lou.
Buck shook his head. “I never stay in town, causes less trouble that way.”
“Where do you stay?”
“There’s a little clearing in the woods just outside of town. I always camp there,” said Buck. “Besides, it’s close to where I grew up. Red Bear taught me how to fish there.”
“How come you never mentioned that before?”
“No one ever asked,” Buck replied.
“Let’s see if there’s some rooms in the hotel. Please?” pleaded Lou. “I’ll pay.”
“I can pay for my own room,” said Buck. “I just don’t want to go through the wonderful experience of being told I’m not welcome, or am just plain not wanted. I’ve had enough of that for a while.”
Lou nodded remembering the recent experience Buck had been through with Kathleen Devlin. She really wanted to make him feel better about himself, but she needed to be in town for her plan to work. “I’ll go check. If it looks like you won’t be able to stay, I’ll figure something out. Please.”
“Alright,” said Buck. “Let’s go to town, but if they don’t want me to stay at the hotel I’m not arguing. I’m tired of fighting this same old battle.”
“Fine,” said Lou.
A few minutes later, they were settling into the only available room in the hotel. “You sure you don’t want me to stay at the stable with the horses?” Buck asked.
“I’m sure. Why don’t you get us a bath sent up? I’d like to get cleaned up before dinner.”
“I’ll do that,” said Buck. “And while you’re cleaning up, I’ll go tend to the animals.”
Buck asked for a bath to be sent to the room and then went to the stable. He curried both their horses and stored their saddles in the tack room. Then, he went to find the local blacksmith to see about having his horse’s shoes checked.
That taken care of he headed back to the hotel. He couldn’t shake the feeling that he’d seen the blacksmith somewhere before. He decided not to worry about it and just enjoy the unexpected time off.
“It alright if I come in?” he asked as he cracked open the door.
“Fine,” said Lou. “I’m all finished and decent and everything. I was just getting ready to come looking for you.”
Buck stepped inside. “I had them send up fresh towels and water for you,” Lou said.
Buck looked at her. “How am I supposed to do this with you here?”
“I’ll meet you outside the general store at dinner time,” Lou answered. “I want to do some shopping before we go back anyway.”
“Fine,” said Buck. “You sure you don’t want to just wait downstairs so I can go with you?”
“I’m sure. You look tired and you definitely need to wash up,” said Lou. “Just don’t be late, alright?”
“Yes, Ma’am,” said Buck with a smile.
Louise McCloud stood looking at her reflection in the shop window. She was wearing a newly bought dress. It was the palest shade of lavender. It was somehow elegant and simple at the same time, so that she didn’t feel overdressed for an evening out yet she still felt ladylike. She couldn’t get over how much of a difference there was when she dressed like this. She felt almost beautiful, especially when the boys made such a fuss over her. She was glad Buck had agreed to stay overnight in town instead of camping outside the city. This special errand had been a hard run, but they had made such good time that they were ahead of schedule. Lou didn’t want to get back early; she didn’t want to see Kid right now. She was still too mad at him for trying to run her life.
She hadn’t told Buck she planned to get dressed up; she wanted to surprise him. Her plan for making him feel better depended on the element of surprise when he saw her this way, besides it was always fun to see the other riders’ reaction to a new dress. Lou turned again to check the street and see if Buck was coming. Still no sign of him, she turned back to her reflection. She stood waiting, wondering where he was. It wasn’t like him to be late. That’s why she hadn’t been looking for anyone else, that’s why she’d gone and gotten herself in this mess – it was all Buck’s fault. If he’d been on time, she wouldn’t have thought the boy who tapped her on the shoulder was he. That’s why she’d acted the way she did – when she let go and realized it wasn’t Buck it was too late – she’d already kissed him.
“I. . . I’m sorry,” she stammered as she dropped her eyes to the ground in front of her.
“I’m not,” said the stranger with a slight laugh. “You always greet people that way?”
“No, I thought you were someone else,” Lou explained daring to lift her face and look at the young man standing before her. He was a thin boy. Living outside had made him strong and solid. His brown hair fell in loose curls that framed his sunburned face. He was dressed in a once white shirt, trouser that had seen better days and a pair of green suspenders. All in all, he was one of the most beautiful people Lou had ever seen.
“Pity,” the boy replied.
Just then, Buck joined them. He looked at the stranger in such a way that Lou began to feel uncomfortable. “You alright?” Buck asked as he stepped onto the sidewalk next to her placing his arm around her shoulders.
“I’m fine,” she said. “Really. We were just talking. This is . . . " she paused.
“Jesse Tuck,” came the reply along with an offered hand.
Buck took the hand, but Lou noticed the look in his eyes. Buck didn’t trust this boy. “Buck Cross,” he answered. “This is my good friend, Louise.”
“Nice to meet you both,” Jesse said with an easy grin. “You live here?”
“No, why?” asked Buck.
“I’m new here myself and I’m supposed to be meeting my brother. That’s why I came over. I was wondering if the lady knew where the blacksmith lived,” Jesse explained.
Lou noticed that he kept looking at Buck like he was trying to place him. The same as Buck was looking at him. She wondered why they’d both pretended not to know each other.
“I don’t know where he lives, but I know where his shop is,” Buck answered. “It’s on our way. Why don’t I show you?”
“That would be wonderful,” said Jesse. “As long as it’s no trouble.”
“No trouble,” said Buck. They turned to go. They walked towards the town’s diner. At they crossed the second street Buck pointed out the blacksmith’s shop.
“Thank you,” said Jesse. “Miss Louise, maybe I’ll see you again sometime. I hear there’s a town dance next week. Perhaps you will be there?”
“Perhaps,” said Lou with a smile. She watched him leave and then turned to Buck, “Care to explain?”
“I fell asleep reading,” Buck responded.
“Not that,” said Lou.
“Then what?” asked Buck.
“Why you were acting all over protective,” Lou said. “You know I can’t stand that.”
“I don’t know what you mean,” Buck said. “I came out of the hotel and saw two people kissing across the street. They were standing where I was supposed to meet my friend Lou, who wasn’t there. Just then this couple quit kissing and turned into you and some stranger. I would have thought he was trying to hurt you, but you didn’t seem frightened. I figured you knew him so I came over to see what you wanted me to do – I figured you might have decided you didn’t want to spend the evening in my company, but I didn’t want to leave you waiting any longer then I already had, so . . .”
“You came over and behaved almost rudely, but not quite,” said Lou. “Why?”
“Because of him,” Buck replied indicating Jesse.
“That brings me back to my original question. Care to explain?”
“He kissed you,” said Buck. “You didn’t know him. . .”
“Oh,” said Lou. “He didn’t kiss me.”
“I saw you,” said Buck.
“No, I mean, he didn’t start that. I did,” Lou said in a rush. “I thought he was you, and I was going to surprise you.”
“What?” said Buck.
Lou sighed. “I was going to surprise you,” she repeated. “I wasn’t planning on doing anything more then this,” she said as she reached up and kissed his cheek. “I wanted to make you feel better and help you realize that you deserve to be happy. He’s shorter than you are, so I missed.”
Buck relaxed a little as they turned to continue on their way to the diner. “Sorry if I messed something up for you,” he said.
“That’s alright,” Lou answered. They continued walking in silence. After a few seconds Lou said, “There’s still more though. Something about his name upset you. Do you know him?”
“Not personally,” said Buck. “I’ve just heard stories.”
“You sure? He kept looking at you like he was trying to remember where you’d met before,” Lou said.
“I’m sure,” said Buck. “Besides he’d be much. . . “
“Much what?” asked Lou.
“Nothing,” said Buck as he opened the door to the diner. “It’s just an old story my mother used to tell me. It can’t be true. He’d have to be over eighty years old if it were.”
“Who would be over eighty?” Lou asked as they made their way to a table and sat down.
Buck looked at her for a second before answering, “Jesse Tuck.”
“You’re kidding,” laughed Lou. “He can’t be any older than we are, if that.”
“I know that’s what it looks like,” Buck agreed. “It must be someone he’s named after, unless . . .” Buck let the sentence drop and stared off into space.
Lou waited a few minutes before prompting, “Unless. . .”
Buck shook his head, “Unless the story my mother told me really was true. Unless there really is a family that doesn’t age.”
“When I was younger, a man rescued me from the older boys who were teaching me how to swim,” Buck paused. He shook his head. It couldn’t be the same man, that had been almost ten years ago.
“And?” Lou asked.
Buck took up his story once more, “He brought me home. He knew sign and a little of our language. He knew my mother - called her by name.
“After the man left, my mother explained to me that he had known her mother a long time ago, and that she’d met him once before around the time of my grandmother’s death.
“I pointed out that he was too young to have been alive when Grandmother was living since Grandmother had died about a year before I was born. She agreed, and then she told me this amazing story about this family that never grows older,” Buck said.
“Do you remember the story?” Lou asked.
Buck nodded as the waitress brought them dinner.
“Tell me,” said Lou.
Buck waited for the waitress to leave, and then began his tale . . .
Before I was born, there was a man and his family that moved through the area where our village stands. The story goes that this family was unchanging. They didn’t age and couldn’t die. The family never stayed in one place too long and if it hadn’t been for the fact that the oldest son, Miles, had saved the chief’s daughter from trappers no one would have noticed them. They weren’t a particularly noticeable family.
Each time they came back through the area they visited the village. That’s how it became evident that something was different about them. It was decided after much deliberation that they were honorable people and could be trusted despite their enchantment – their changelessness.
On one of their visits, the youngest son and one of the young women of the tribe became close. They snuck away from the camp to be alone. They didn’t do anything but talk. He told her that if she came away with him, he could make her the same as he was. He could cause her to become unchanging He could take her to the place where it happened. It wasn’t that far away. All she had to do was drink some water.
She told him no, and was preparing to return to the village. That’s when her family discovered them. Her father was an important man in the village and he was greatly dishonored by her behavior. It was inappropriate behavior for her to sneak away. They had spent the evening together unsupervised. She was sent away from the village and the family was asked never to return.
The young lady was taken in by another village of our people and adopted into a family there. She was accepted without question and soon took a husband from one of the more prestigious families.
No one knows for sure what happened to the family that never changes, but it was believed that they stayed in the general area, always moving, never settling down all together. The boys would go away on their own and do various things, but every ten years they would come back together for a few weeks before moving on and separating again.
Lou sat thinking. “You think one of the boys is Jesse?” she asked.
“I’m not sure,” Buck answered. “His name fits the name I was told when I asked questions about the family, and, if it’s true, it explains the fact that the blacksmith here in town seems familiar to me too. I think he’s the man who rescued me.”
“Keep explaining,” said Lou.
“When my mother finished telling me this story, I asked her what that had to do with her mother. She told me that the young lady in the story was her mother.”
“Oh,” said Lou. “You sure they didn’t do anything. I mean he couldn’t be your grandfather could he?”
“No,” said Buck. “My mother wasn’t a half-breed. She was Kiowa. My grandfather was a man from the village we lived in.”
“Any idea how they came to be that way?” asked Lou.
“I thought it was just a made up story,” said Buck. “I didn’t question how they came to be. I wasn’t sure I believed they existed.”
“Maybe we should go find Jesse,” said Lou. “We could ask him if he knew your grandmother.”
“I’m sure he’d be more then willing to admit to a total stranger that he’s really over 80 years old,” said Buck. “Wouldn’t you?”
Lou nodded. “I see your point. So, how about if we come back for the dance? You don’t have to attend if you don’t want. Just ride back with me so I don’t have to make the trip alone. You can stay over at the hotel. I’ll go to the dance, find Jesse, and see if I can get him to tempt me to join him.”
“I couldn’t ask you to do that,” said Buck. “What if he’s not an honorable person? Stories have a tendency to make characters out to be more than they are.”
“I can take care of myself,” said Lou. “I’m going dancing whether you come or not. I need to know if this story is true or not. I’ll go crazy if I don’t find out.”
“Why? You want to live forever?” Buck asked.
“I don’t know,” said Lou, “But it would be nice to know I had the choice.”
“They know,” said an older man sitting at the next table. “We need to explain so they don’t go looking. If he’s anything like his grandmother, this boy will figure out where it is. We need to make them understand why they can’t. We need to stop them telling that story to anyone else.”
“How are we going to do that, Tuck? Just walk up and tell them we’re the people they were talking about?” asked Mae.
“Exactly,” said Tuck as he stood up and moved to the table next to him.
“Excuse me,” he said. “I don’t normally interrupt people during their dinner, but I couldn’t help but over hear your fascinating story.” He smiled and looked from Lou to Buck. “Anyone ever tell you that you favor your grandmother?”
Buck nodded. “My grandfather,” he answered.
“When you met Jesse earlier, I’m surprised he didn’t say something about it.”
“He did keep looking at him like he should know him from somewhere,” said Lou.
“May I ask who you are?” Buck said.
“My name is Angus Tuck. Folks call me Tuck. Jesse is my youngest son. The story your mother told you is true. Mind if we go somewhere else to talk? I’m sure I don’t want lots of people hearing this. Would only cause problems, and folks have enough of those without my helping.”
Buck nodded. He paid for their meal and they followed the older gentleman to a room upstairs in the boardinghouse. There they met Mae, Miles, and were reacquainted with Jesse.
Mae looked at Buck a long time before speaking, “You are the spitting image of your grandmother. I was so sad to hear about her passing.”
Buck smiled. “Thank you,” he said. “You wanted to talk to us?”
“Yes,” said Tuck. “I need to try and make you both understand why you can’t go looking for what caused us to be this way. It shouldn’t be. We ain’t right the way we are. It’s like we’ve fallen by the side of the path of life, and can’t get back on.”
“Maybe we should start at the beginning,” said Mae. “I think that might make more sense, don’t you?”
Tuck nodded. “It was around seventy years ago. We headed west, looking for a place to settle down. We came to a forest. We decided that we would build once we got out of the forest, but it just kept going, and going, and going. We finally reached a clearing in the middle of the trees. There was a spring. . .”
“It was real nice,” said Jesse. “It was a clearing with lots of sunshine, a big tree with knobby roots, and as Pa said a spring. We stopped and everyone took a drink, even the horse.”
“No,” cut in Mae, “the cat didn’t drink. That’s important.”
“Yes,” said Miles “don’t leave that out. We all had a drink, except for the cat.”
“Anyway,” continued Jesse, “the water tasted – sort of strange. But we camped there overnight. And Pa carved a “T” on the tree trunk, to mark where we’d been. And then we went on.”
“We came out of the forest, many miles west, and found a valley that had a few people living in it. We started a farm. While we were building a house, we noticed that there was something strange. Jesse fell out of a tree. . .”
“I was way up in the middle,” Jesse interrupted, “trying to saw off some of the big branches before we cut her down. I lost my balance and I fell. . .”
“Landed plum on his head,” said Mae with a shudder. “We thought for sure he’d broke his neck. But come to find out, it didn’t hurt him a bit!”
“Other things happened,” Miles continued the story. “Hunters shot the horse, Pa got snake bit, Jesse ate poison toadstools, and Ma cut herself.”
“True,” said Mae, “but it was the fact that time was passing and we weren’t changing. It had been almost twenty years and we weren’t any older.”
Miles started again, “I was more then forty by then. I was married and had two children. I still looked twenty-two. My wife decided that I had made a deal with the devil. She took my children and moved away.”
Mae sighed, “It was the same with our friends. People started to pull away from us. There was talk of witches and black magic. We decided to leave the farm. We started back towards the home we’d left before.”
“We ended back up at that same spring. It was the same as it had been the last time we’d been there. It looked like the “T” Pa had carved there was put there the day before. We sat and talked about the strangeness of it. We remembered that we’d all drank from that spring, all of us except the cat. The cat had died years ago after living a long, happy life on the farm,” said Miles.
“I decided to check and see if it was true,” said Tuck. “I took the shotgun and shot myself in the heart. Didn’t do nothing to me. It was like shooting water.”
Jesse grinned, “We sort of went crazy. We was going to live forever. Can you imagine what it’s like to know that?”
“That’s when we met up with the Kiowa. We stayed with them until we were asked to leave,” Miles picked up the story. “That’s where the story you know comes in. Jesse was trying to convince your grandmother to go with us and drink some water so she and I could be together. He wasn’t even trying to get her to run away with him. He was trying to help me get a family back.”
“After we were asked to leave the village, we started talking. We figured it would be bad if everyone knowed about the spring. Do you understand? That water – it stops you right where you are. If you drink it, you stay just like you are,” Mae said.
“How?” asked Lou.
“I figure it’s something left over from some other plan for the world,” said Tuck. “The important thing is that it be kept secret.” He paused before asking, “You both been to a river?”
Buck and Lou nodded.
“You understand what a river represents? It’s life. Moving, growing, changing, never the same two minutes together. It looks the same, but the water is always moving – old water moving on, new water coming in. Some goes back up in the sky and returns again as rain. It’s all part of a wheel.”
Buck smiled thinking of Teaspoon and his explanations of life.
“I think I understand what you’re trying to tell us,” he said. “Life is change; it’s always moving, growing, being new.”
Tuck nodded. “That’s the way it’s supposed to be. Our problem is we no longer are. We’ve dropped off. Life goes on around us every day, but we just are, we just be, like rocks beside the road.”
He sighed. “Do you two understand why you can’t go looking? If you start, others will find out and they’ll look. Eventually someone will find it and then people will come and drink it before they think it through. They’ll not know how wrong it is until it’s too late.”
Lou sighed, “I guess that’s true. It must be hard knowing that if you get close to anyone, you’re definitely going to lose them. I can’t imagine not knowing the joys of having a family, growing old together, raising kids.”
“There’s lots of heart ache in those things too,” pointed out Jesse with a careful glance at Miles. “Sometimes it causes you to make mistakes you can’t undo.”
Miles shot Jesse a look that warned him to be quiet.
“True,” said Lou, “but that just makes the good times so much better.” She smiled realizing that she really wanted to get back to Sweetwater, and Kid.
Buck saw the smile. “Everything’s forgiven?” he asked.
“I guess we should go back to the hotel and get some rest then,” said Buck, standing to leave. “I have a feeling we’re going to get an early start in the morning. You’re going to want that extra time with Kid after all.”
Lou blushed and nodded again.
Buck turned and shook Tuck’s hand, “Don’t worry, Mr. Tuck. We won’t tell anyone about you or your magic water. Some secrets are best kept secret.”