The Next Step…
Chapter 5 - Doctor Burrage
Written by Deanne Bertram
Sunday dawned a cold, blustery day. Mark shivered as he woke in Micah’s. He rubbed his hands together as he waited for the logs to take in the pot belly stove and provide some warmth. As he stepped outside to start his morning rounds, he turned his coat collar up and stuck his left hand in his pocket, wishing he’d remembered his gloves, especially for his right hand holding his rifle.
He was just about to head back to the Marshal’s office when he heard the morning training entering town. Mark walked to the platform to see if anyone might be departing. There was only one person exiting the train today, a young man with several bags. Mark approached and inquired if he could offer any assistance.
“I’d be really pleased, deputy. I’m supposed to meet my uncle here, but I don’t see him,” the man replied as he turned up his collar to the cold wind blowing.
“If you tell me you’re uncle’s name I’d be happy to take you to his home, sir,” Mark replied.
“Oh, please don’t call me sir, my name’s Thaddeus Burrage.”
“Doc Burrage is your uncle?” Mark asked.
“Guess you would know him, seeing as how you’re the deputy.”
“Come along Mr. Burrage, I’ll take you to Doc’s.” Mark picked up two of the bags and led the way to Doc’s place. They arrived just as Doc was exiting his home.
“Uncle Jay,” Thaddeus called.
“Oh, my, I’m late,” Doc declared.
“That’s okay uncle. Your town deputy showed me the way.” Then turning to Mark, “Could you come inside, just to warm up a little?”
“No sir, but thanks for the offer.”
“Thank you so much Deputy, hope I didn’t keep you from your rounds.”
“You’re welcome. And you didn’t keep me from my rounds, I was just finishing when the train arrived.” Then turning to Doc, “We’ll see you at services Doc?”
“You will Mark, you will.”
Mark returned to Micah’s to find his father anxiously waiting inside, relief showed on his face as Mark shut the door. He set his rifle down on the desk and walked to the stove, regaling in its warmth.
“Fine deputy, I forgot my gloves Pa.”
“Sorry, Mark, I got concerned when Milly said you didn’t meet her and Hope to bring them to the hotel for breakfast?”
“I’m sorry to worry you, Pa. Doc Burrage’s nephew came in on the morning train today. Doc wasn’t there, so I took Mr. Burrage over to Doc’s.”
“Well, if you’re warm enough, think you can survive heading across the street to Lou’s for breakfast and then to church?”
Towards the end of services, Doc Burrage had asked Reverend McCafferty for a few minutes to address the congregation.
“Folks, as you all are aware, I’m getting up in years, and don’t get around quite as good. These late night calls for babies and such are hard on my body. I’m announcing today that I’m planning my retirement.”
A murmur went up from the congregation. Most people couldn’t believe it.
“Now folks, I’m not leaving you without a doctor. I’ve already made arrangements and it will probably be two months before I fully retire, but during that time, I aim to see that my replacement meets all his patients. I’ll still call North Fork my home, and you’ll be in good hands.
"Now you might take to thinking that he might be a tad bit young to be a doctor, but then you have to consider how old I am. And you don’t have to worry about remembering his name, just keep calling for Doc Burrage. I’d like to introduce to you, Doctor Thaddeus Burrage. He's my youngest brother's son.”
After they left the church, Amos came up, “Mark, or should I say Deputy McCain?”
“Amos, just call me Mark.”
“I got that return wire you were waiting for.” Amos handed a piece of paper to Mark.
He folded it and placed it in his pocket. “Thanks Amos.”
Later that night as Mark was lying in the jail, he remembered the wire. He pulled it from his pocket, unfolded it and read,
North Fork, New Mexico Territory
Mark, we are pleased to hear Hope is doing well. /stop/
We miss her too. /stop/
Hope’s birthday is December 10th, she’ll be 17 this year. /stop/
Seth & Ethan Lane
Fort Sam Houston, Texas
“December 10th? I can’t believe it. We’re really the same age,” Mark said to himself.
Mark fell asleep with a smile on his face.
The following morning, after Mark finished his rounds, he stopped in at the hotel where Lou surprised him.
“Mark, Amos told me about the wire you receive yesterday. I can’t wait! I’ll plan a big birthday celebration for both of you.”
“Lou, you put on a big shin-dig for my graduation a few weeks back… Please, for Hope, could we keep the number small?” His brown eye’s pleaded. “Besides, Thanksgiving is just a few days away, she’s not used to all this yet. Please Lou? For me?”
“Oh, Mark, but I want to,” Lou pouted.
“Lou I know, but this is all still so new to Hope. Maybe next year.”
Lou agreed, “But Mark, next year, when you both turn eighteen, I will put on the biggest party North Fork has ever seen.”
Mark shook his head as he left the lobby. Hoping that Lou would keep her word to not make any plans for a party, this year.
It was the day before Thanksgiving when Micah and Johnny returned to North Fork, practically at the same time. The entered the Marshal’s office, looked around and saw everything appeared to be in order. Shortly Nils came running into the office.
“Micah, Johnny, thank goodness you’re back. There’s trouble at Sweeney’s.” No sooner had Nils spoken than a rifle shot was heard.
Micah and Johnny, followed by Nils, ran to Sweeney’s. As they approached they saw John Hamilton running with his rifle in hand. As they entered, they saw Mark kneeling on the back of one man, his rifle pointed at two others. John had stopped just inside the door, amazed at what he was seeing.
“Okay, so which one of you wants to be next.”
“Come on kid! We’s only funning.”
“It isn’t fun when you’re threatening someone and throwing a full glass of beer at them. Now you’ll drop your gun belts and come with me. You’re going to be staying in our jail until you sober up.”
“Mark,” Micah stated as he walked up behind Mark. “You got everything under control?”
“Micah, glad to see you’re back. I could use some help getting these three to the jail.”
“You want us to walk with you?”
“I’d appreciate it Micah.”
Micah stepped back to the door way. He saw the grin on Johnny’s face and knew it was mirrored in his own.
After putting the drovers in the cell, they stepped to the office.
“Mark,” Johnny commented. “You best get to the hotel and…”
Johnny couldn’t finish his sentence as Lucas came rushing in the door. “Mark?”
“I’m fine Pa. Just some drunken drovers. They didn’t take me seriously at first. I think I need to take a bath, this beer stinks, glad I brought one more change of clothes into town.”
Mark collected his overnight bag and headed to the hotel.
Lucas, Micah and Johnny stood in the office, speechless as Mark left. One of the drovers started yelling, “It ain’t fair! He’s just a lousy kid. If he’d been a man, he wouldn’t have gotten the drop on us with that rifle.”
“He might be a kid, but he ain’t lousy,” Johnny stated.
Lucas couldn’t help the small laugh that came from his lips and soon Micah and Johnny followed suit.
The Next Step —