Thanksgiving Story
         
by Lucas

Summer, spring, fall or winter, rain or shine, there was one thing a resident of Northfork could count on: When the Profit boys (Jess & Jim) came to town one of two things would happen, they'd wind up sleeping either in the jail or behind the blacksmith shop. The Profit "boys" were actually grown men, physically that is. They inherited a run down dirt farm from their departed father just a few miles outside of Northfork. Pouring his heart and soul into the farm with two wild youngsters to keep pace with is probably what made the elder Profit die at the early age of 57, ten years after his wife succumbed to the fever. Jess and Jim seemed to coax just enough from the dying farm year after year to keep in whiskey and one half step ahead of their bill at the general store. They weren't entirely bad men, just at times unrelenting and a bit overwhelming in their actions in town, especially if you crossed paths with them in the wrong way. Even so, last year it was enough to stop the deliberate tick-tock of the old regulator clock hanging over the doorway as the Profit boys strolled underneath it into church for Christmas services.  Despite the little specks of tissue paper strewn haphazardly across their freshly shaved faces there was no doubt it was them. Why, they even greeted the pastor outside after services, their sandpapery hands pumping his smooth clean soft hand. To this day no one knows why they choose that particular time to get religion, some of the towns folk speculated the Profit's lost a bet. But that was last year and on this day, Micah was out looking for the Profits over an unpaid debt to the blacksmith. They had eased into town, for some whiskey and didn't have the luxury of time today to get into trouble.

 

But at this particular time of year when a traditional Thanksgiving still meant a table spread with many of the fruits of your own rural labors it was also a time when one could say with pride, "I'm making my own mark in this world and I have the goodness of God and the strength of my back to thank for it". It was, and always is, a good feeling to see any task come to fruition. With the big migrations of people that were starting to leave rural America to the big cities after the Great War, all of them hoping to share in this great industrial revolution, something seemed to be missing in the hearts and souls of many of them. I believe it was that feeling of accomplishment they missed, of seeing an end result, good or bad, to their labors. In the city as partially completed work was sent along to the next person, that personal pride and touch was missing.

 

That was not so back at Lucas and Mark McCain's ranch. Luke had been to cities in his somewhat wilder younger days and also in his cavalry days. He knew the pitfalls of city life all too well. It was always his dream to find a good woman and settle down on small a ranch as he had now done. He wanted to be beholden to no one for his lot in life. As Thanksgiving approached and the crispy autumn air gave hints of the oncoming winter, Luke lifted his large frame up from ladder-back chair at the dining table where he was bookkeeping and "figuring" for next years budget. He decided to step out onto the porch for a little break. As he stepped out the door onto the porch he pulled one of those crooked stogies out of his shirt pocket and struck a stick match on the support post for the roof. As the pungent smoke curled away from the glowing end of the cigar Luke looked around, scanning the horizon and surveying his property. While watching Mark over near the barn hammering nails into a board that refused to stay in place, he couldn't help but allow himself just the slightest grin of accomplishment and satisfaction. Yes sir, Ol' Lucas Boy was proud, he had a roof over his head, food for the table, a healthy son to be proud of and enough of a grub stake to do it all over next year with some money to spare.

 

As Luke moved his eyes away from Mark he caught sight of the marigolds they planted together around the porch in the spring. Marigolds were Lucas' wife’s favorite flower and he couldn't help but think of her every time he saw them.  Glancing back at Mark and then again at the flowers Luke said quietly aloud, "you would be proud of him dear, I know you would". The marigolds were starting to curl a little now but they are hearty plants and will show color for a couple more weeks yet. As Luke stood gazing at the resilient little flowers his eyes watered over just a bit. Suddenly he was surprised by Mark who had made his way over to him unnoticed by an absorbed Lucas. As their eyes met Mark said, "Hey, your eyes Paw, are you okay"? Lucas replied "I'm fine son, just a little too smoky from this here ceegar". He washed his hand in Mark's unshorn hair as they walked into the house together. "We're going to have a good Thanksgiving, aren't we Paw", said Mark. "I don't know, son", replied Lucas, "remember last year"? "I ended up washing and drying all the dishes because you ended up falling asleep during our checkers game"!

 

Mark took it upon himself to set the menu for their Thanksgiving feast. There would be corn from their own field, walnuts from the grove in the valley, (if the squirrels didn't get them all by now), fresh squash, baked potatoes, home made bread and butter, pole beans from behind the shed, and milk for himself and hot coffee for Paw. For dessert, only the best. The last trip into town before the big day, Mark would personally take the time to examine each one of Millie’s apple pies, being careful to select 'the best" one! As mark headed back to the buckboard with the best pie in all of Northfork, Lucas rounded the corner from the harness shop. Examining his mended plow rein Lucas bumped straight into Jim Profit who was exiting the saloon. "Watch where you're going big man" sneered Jim. Lucas fixed his eyes squarely onto Jim's and replied, "you're right,  I wasn't watching where I was going, I'm sorry Jim, Happy Thanksgiving".  With that Luke went on his way as Jim's older brother Jess moseyed out of the bar and took up a lean on the post next to him, both staring at Lucas as he ambled away towards the buckboard.

 

Thanksgiving was a day away now and the only thing missing from Marks menu was a freshly killed turkey. Sitting around the table at breakfast that morning Luke could tell Mark was ready to bust. As Lucas eyed Mark from over his coffee cup he said "I'm going out today and get us that turkey, son". A look of relief came across Marks face, and then Luke added "you wash and dry these dishes boy, I'll be home before evening". With that said Lucas grabbed his double barrel rabbit eared shotgun from over the fireplace and headed out the door. Luke had his eye on a particular group of turkeys he had been seeing over near the rocky outcroppings due east of the ranch. He had seen some bigger Toms there as well as some smaller "Jakes" strutting around and jousting with each other trying to prove their stead.

 

Luke took up a low spot behind some rocks near where two mule deer paths crossed, he hunkered down, and waited. To Luke’s right was a stand pf pines circling nearly halfway behind him, their stark greenness and pleasant fragrance filled the air around him as they stood in contrast to the scrub brush and wilting fall foliage.to his left. It was days like this that Lucas enjoyed, just being out there. This is the type of treat a city dweller just can't appreciate. As the day passed and Luke was watching a pair of chipmunks playfully chasing each other not even noticing him, he began to wonder and second guess his selection of hunting spots. An occasional shotgun blast would thunder through the countryside from time to time as other hunters bagged, or missed their Thanksgiving prize.

 

Just as Luke was starting to doze, a little a rustling started to take place near the scrub brush off to Lucas' side. As the commotion became more pronounced, Luke quietly pulled back the two "rabbit ear" hammers on his old shotgun engaging the triggers. They locked into place with a muted "tic-tic" sound. Out into the open came two younger Jake turkeys raising a ruckus to beat the band, both of them obviously laying claim to this miniscule plot of land they occupied at this moment in time. Just as Lucas was ready to silently release the hammers on his gun back to their resting position, out of the bushes came 3 hen turkeys to watch the action. Following them, came the old Tom that Luke was waiting for. The old Tom obviously was watching to see which of the two Jakes would win the contest and possibly challenge him next year for mating rights with the hens. He was very big Tom with a near 8 inch beard just what Luke was hoping for!  Luke again slowly raised his shotgun and fixed the end bead on barrel on the large Tom. Ka-Blam!!! The old weapon discharged its shell with a thunderous echoing noise which was followed by a stream of barrel smoke. The turkeys scattered like marbles dropped on the floor.

 

The afternoon was getting long and Mark was growing both impatient and concerned for "Paw". As Mark walked to the little cabin window for what seemed like the hundredth time to scan the horizon for his dad he saw two figures riding in from the east at a slow but deliberate pace. As they drew closer, the sun that was now radiating from the west cast a light onto their shadowy faces. It was the Profit boys! Mark, reaching for his father’s legendary rifle, never once took his eyes of the riders. As they drew even closer he noticed the figure of a man draped over the back of Jess Profit's horse….it was Lucas! Mark was now in a state of panic and rage, "those good for nothing Profits", beside himself, Mark threw open the door and cracked off two shots at the Profits! The Profits dismounted and holding their hands up in the air Jess shouted, "hold on there son"!  At that point, Lucas raised his head slightly and raising as much a shout as he could hollered, "I’m all right son", "they helped me"! The Profits walked their horses by the reins up to the cabin and helped Luke slide off the horse and into the cabin and onto the chair by the window. Seems after Luke took his shot at the turkey he started to raise up to find out if his hit was successful and his leather soled cowboy boots slipped on some lose stones causing Luke to lose his footing out from under him and fall forward and strike his head on the rocks he was hiding behind. The profits admitted they too were out hunting, rabbit that is, since as Jim put it, "ain't one of us that can do a bird right since Paw died". They had heard the shot and followed the sound hoping it had frightened up some rabbits into running from their cover. Mark thanked the Profits and gave them some coffee. Jess walked out the door to his horse and retrieved Lucas' shotgun. Laying it across the table he said "here's your gun Luke", and then swinging up the bag in his other hand and landing it with a large "plop" on the table, he added, "and here's your turkey". "Happy Thanksgiving folks, from the Profit's" Jim said. As they rode away, a stringer of scrawny rabbits swinging to and fro on Jim's horse, Jess turned his head looking back at Mark in the doorway. "Good thing your Paw has a hard head son" he said with a chuckle. After closing the door Mark walked over to his dad and posed a question, I thought the Profit's were bad men Paw, yet they helped you when they could have just as easily left you there unconscious, how come"? Luke eyed Mark and replied, "son, there's usually some good in all men and it comes out from time to time”.” When or where or how that “good” happens to come out, well, no one has been able to figure that out yet".

 

The next day, there came a knock at the Profits weathered door. Jim instinctively pulled his pistol from it's cradle on his waist and Jess rose up muttering aloud, "that hound dog Micah never rests, does he"?  As Jess skewed open the door a crack and glanced outward from the beside the jamb he saw Lucas at the door and Mark sitting in the buckboard wagon in front of the porch. "What do you want Luke"? Jess asked. "Nothing special" replied Lucas, "just a social call". With that the door was opened and in came Lucas followed by Mark who had leapt off the buckboard as soon as the door opened all the way. Back and forth the McCain’s went, in and out of the cabin until their entire Thanksgiving dinner, dishes and all were resting on the spindly table in the Profit boys kitchen. "It was Marks idea boys", said Lucas as he carved the turkey he had shot. Mark piped up, "well, this is Thanksgiving and I have a lot to be thankful for, what with you helping my Paw and all". "Our Paw would have been right pleased with this bird Lucas" said Jess reaching for another helping from the big platter. "Maw too" added Jim, looking almost comical as he munched a big drumstick with his pinky finger extended as if he were high society. "You know Jess", Jim added as he set the drumstick down on his plate, "I think even more to Maw's liking would be the fact that we said grace together before we ate, we should do This is a story based on the TV series The Rifleman that more often brother". That reference to “Maw” suddenly caused Lucas to remember once again the marigolds surrounding his porch step, "A good woman has those lasting positive effects on a family, boys", injected Lucas, his eyes moistening up once again. "Paw", started Mark as he noticed his Paw's eyes, "Yes son?" replied Lucas, "Oh, nothin" said Mark, "Happy Thanksgiving Paw". "Happy Thanksgiving, Son".   ….and Happy Thanksgiving to you all from Ol' Lucas Boy.


These stories are based on the TV series The Rifleman
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