"Welcome to The McCain Ranch"
8 Hours to Die
(an alternate ending)
by Michelle Palmer
There are a lot of
questions left unanswered at the end of this episode. We saw Mark so
lovingly care for this wicked judge when he fell off his horse, having no
idea that there was anything evil about him. Then we see Lucas try to choke
this man to death. Then Mark is confused, wondering what happened. We can
leave this just the way it is, with Lucas saying “I don’t know rather to
kill you, or thank you.” But did you ever wonder how much of a part Lucas’s
rough treatment played in contributing to this man’s death? What if there
was dialogue between Lucas’s question and the man’s death. Only a slight
variation would have to occur in this ending. So, with that said, now the
rest of the story:
Lucas, still holding
Mark walked toward the ailing judge. “I don’t know rather to kill you or
thank you!” Lucas stated with a relieved expression on his face. Just
moments before, he was sure he had watched his little boy die. Now he was
holding him in his arms and staring into the eyes of the man who wanted to
kill both him and his son.
“You can help him, pa.”
Mark stated as he laid a gentle hand on his father’s face. “I don’t
understand what’s going on here, pa. This man fell off his horse. He’s hurt
“Help him?” Lucas allowed
Mark to slide out of his arms, but he couldn’t let go of such a precious
gift, so he kept his arm around his shoulders. Mark grabbed his free hand
and led him over to the judge. Lucas stared at the man for only a minute
before his senses came back and he bent down to help the man.
began gasping as another pain shot through his head. “Just relax, judge.
I’ll help you.” Lucas stated. “Mark, go get me some water.”
Mark obeyed his father and brought some
water. Lucas helped Judge Zephaniah take a long drink. Finally, exhausted,
the judge laid his head back against the tree and closed his eyes. Lucas
didn’t know if the judge would make it or not. “Son, ride it for the doc.
While he waited for Mark to get back with Dr.
Burge, Lucas continued to wipe his forehead. Neither man said anything. The
judge managed to open his eyes back up, and the men only stared at each
other. There was so much unspoken. Finally, the judge stated, “I didn’t used
to be a bad man.”
Lucas looked away. Too
much anger lay in his heart to forgive this man. “I tried to teach my son
the difference between transgressions and blessings. I preached to him
everyday of his life. In the end, though, they grow up to have a mind of
“Maybe you were too strict with him. Treated him as one you were judging.”
Lucas stated as he angrily shook the kerchief free of excess water and wiped
the man’s brow again. “Maybe all he needed was a little love.”
The judge closed his
eyes. “Yes, I guess judging these transgressors day in and day out just
hardened my heart. I forgot how to love my son and I lost him. I’m a killer
and I deserve to die.”
Lucas remained silent, knowing he didn’t have to tell the man he would die –
either now, or at the end of a rope. “You love your son,” the judge stated.
“Why did you save
him?” Lucas suddenly asked, needing to know the answer.
“I saved him because he is an innocent soul. I saw in him everything my own
son wasn’t. That’s when I knew…my son got what he deserved. And now, I’m
getting what I deserved.” Lucas occupied himself with rewetting the kerchief
and wiping the judge’s forehead with it. “You have a well-mannered,
God-fearing child, McCain. Don’t ever stop teaching – your way. I wish I was
half the man you are.”
Lucas couldn’t stop a smile. Before, the man had spoken in an educated,
reserved voice with a peculiar way of using words. Now, he spoke like a man.
“What about the others you killed?”
The judge shook his head. “I was wrong.” That’s all he said. Lucas heard Dr.
Burge coming in the wagon they had no doubt borrowed from the livery. “The
doc’s here.” Lucas looked down, but the judge was no longer with them. Lucas
took off his hat and stood up. Mark and Dr. Burge walked up and stood in
silence as they honored this man’s passing.
Mark watched Dr.
Burge leave with the Judge’s body in the buckboard. “I don’t understand
what’s happening here, pa.”
Lucas bent down and picked up his son. “That judge came here to kill us,
Mark.” Lucas quickly told Mark what had happened, only telling him the
details he needed to know. “He was filled with hate – not for us, but for
himself. You see son, he didn’t show his son that he loved him. He ruled his
son like a…well, like we train a horse. He tried to control him with words
on everything he wanted his son to do. When his son grew up, he resented him
for it. Now, I may be stern with you…and strict at times, but I try to be
fare and show you I love you.”
Mark sighed. “So he was coming to…kill me?”
Lucas nodded. “In
the end he knew he was wrong, son. In the end, he knew that he couldn’t
control his son like you can control a horse. You are different from me in
some ways, and I have to allow for that. Judge Zephaniah realized that in
the end. He said he knew you were a good boy and I was a good father.”
Lucas sat Mark down as they started for home. “Oh by the way, what’s this
about you pitching spit balls today, son?” Lucas looked down at his son and
Mark shrugged and grinned up at his father. “Sometimes it pays to be
mischievous, don’t it, pa?”
Lucas stopped walking and looked down and raised his eyebrows at his son.
Then he shook his head and laughed as he mounted Razor, and lifted Mark
behind him. “Let’s go get your horse, mischievous one!”
This is a story based on the TV series
Here are some other great stories. Enjoy!