You've heard Lucas' story, now hear Mark's Story
written by Michelle Palmer
The Marshal — Episode 4
As I reflect back on this story, I can’t help but to say that the day I met Micah Torrance, my whole life changed for the better and forever! I can’t tell you exactly why Pa and I instantly became so close to him, but he was indeed a special man. He was a man that would become like a grandfather to me. He was my Pa’s best friend. And everyone who knew them knew that they were there for each other through thick and thin!
I remember that day! Pa was going into town, but I had to stay home. You see, I was given a job that morning to clean the floors in the house, but I hated doing it, so I put it off all morning. When Pa announced he was going to town, he also announced I could not go – I had to stay home and do the job he had told me to do that morning. And not only that, but I had a few other chores to do besides!
Well of course I did those few other chores first. So when Pa came home with Micah, I was just starting my dirty job. Pa laughed at me. He knew how much I hated to do it, and it was usually reserved as punishment, which I guess was right, since I had come home two hours late the night before! “It’s women’s work, and I don’t cotton to it!” I suddenly stated.
Pa introduced me to Micah Torrance. As I took his hand to shake it, there was something almost…magical. I looked into his eyes and saw the deepest, warmest smile that any stranger could give. That’s when I knew this was indeed one very special man! I was suddenly very happy that he would be staying with us for a spell, because I was looking forward to getting to know him.
Pa offered for him to stay in the house, but Micah stated something that stayed with me for a long time. “For the next for nights, I’m companion to owls and brother of the dragons.”
After they walked out of the house, I wondered about this. It must be some adult code or something, I thought. Then I returned to my disgusting task of mopping the floors.
Later we were outside working on the fence. Pa had me dragging big boards over for them to work on. I could tell Micah was having a really hard time. In fact, he looked like he didn’t feel very good. I felt sorry for him and wanted to help him. I came over to ask if I could help him when my father suddenly blurted out, “Do your own work, Mark!” I could tell by the look on his face that I wasn’t to ask any questions, but I couldn’t help but to think that my Pa was being awfully mean and unfair to poor Mr. Torrance!
That evening, Mr. Torrance was still having a lot of trouble. He could hardly eat his food. “I have visitors, Lucas,” he announced. I looked around and didn’t see anybody. He started telling me they were like monsters and they were on his shoulders. I didn’t understand what was going on. Suddenly, he told Pa he needed to get to town. Pa ignored him. “I can’t do it, I tell ya! I’ve got to leave!” I suddenly heard him say.
“Then start walking. You oughta make to town by sun up.” That’s what my own Pa said! I was appalled! I couldn’t believe my pa would say something so cruel! I stared at pa for a moment, then when Micah got up and waked out the door, I jumped up to run after him. Couldn’t Pa see that he was in dire need of help? If he wasn’t going to help him, then I certainly would try! But Pa grabbed my by the arm and ordered me to sit down. “You can’t help him,” he stated.
I had no choice but to obey, but I was mad, and I let him know it. Then my Pa did his best to explain what was going on.
“Micah used to be a peace officer, son. One of the best. When he got hurt, he went all the way to the bottom. Now he’s afraid. He’s afraid to carry a gun. He’s afraid to pin on a star. So he drinks too much.”
I knew what he was saying – that he drank whisky. Suddenly I understood that my father did care about this man and that he was helping him the only way he knew how – by making him help himself. Then I said, “I know just how he feels!”
Pa looked at me, and I knew I had to explain. I figured enough time went by that I could no longer get in trouble for what I did. It happened when we were in Claypool. Arch Quinn had dared me to take a drink of whisky. Sure enough, I didn’t get punished! I told him I was sick for an hour afterwards. “I hope that taught you a lesson,” Pa stated.
I told him it did. “It taught Arch too. He got sick just watching me.” Then I laughed it off, thinking that would be the best way to get away from the subject.
Suddenly, the door opened and Mr. Torrance walked back in. He sat down at the table and stated he was useless. I looked at my Pa. Now that I knew what Pa’s plan was, I decided to try it out for myself. “Whisky make you work better?” I asked as I started eating again. “Supper will.”
I guess I said something right because Mr. Torrance started eating again.
The next afternoon, Pa had me inside working on my lessons. I hadn’t started school yet, but I was getting plenty of studying in! Suddenly, we heard a horse quickly approaching the house. Pa looked outside and saw a stranger riding up. “Stay inside, Mark,” he ordered.
I hurried to the window and saw them talking. Then I saw Pa’s head lower. I could tell the news wasn’t good. He looked back towards the house and saw me looking through the window. With slumped shoulders, he walked toward me. I opened the door. He bent down so he could be eye level with me. “Mark,” he swallowed. Then he put a hand on both my shoulders and squeezed them. “Son, Marshall Thomlinson’s been shot.”
I started at Pa and slowly shook my head. “No!” I said. “No!”
“I’m afraid he’s…” Pa swallowed hard. “I’m afraid he’s dead, son.” I suddenly clung to my father. Why was it that everywhere we went people died? I had to watch a good friend of my Pa’s die in Claypool just recently, and now the North Fork Marshall.
“I have to go,” Pa pushed me away and stood up as he walked out the door.
I hurried after him. “No, pa! Please!” I begged. But he kept walking, not looking back. Suddenly the stranger, Lloyd, pulled me back and sat down with me. He handed me a kerchief to cry with and began comforting me. I suddenly burst into tears. I didn’t think I would ever stop crying!
“Mark, where’s your dad?” Micah suddenly asked when he saw me crying.
I couldn’t answer. I was too upset and confused. I was sad the Marshall was dead, but I was scared for my Pa. I didn’t want him to go. Lloyd told Micah that Pa was in the barn getting saddled up. I vaguely heard Lloyd saying that the whole town was scared of two bad men that had taken it over after shooting the Marshall. If these two could take the Marshall then-I couldn’t think that way! I continued crying.
Soon, my Pa came out of the barn. “Micah will stay with you, son.” Pa stated. I watched them ride off. I could tell Micah was mad. It didn’t take me very long to figure out why.
“Your pa’s riding in on more then he can handle. He’s a fool going in blind like that.”
He had voiced what I was thinking. This brought my fears to the surface. They were no longer easy to keep down. I didn’t understand why he was here. After all, he used to be a Marshall! Why wasn’t he there helping my Pa! I suddenly had to yell at him, to let some of this boiling anger out. “So, who are you to talk? You aren’t a marshal anymore! Who are you to tell my father what to do?”
I saw a look cross Micah’s face. Then, I thought it was a look of hurt that my words had caused, but now I think maybe it was a look of realization that he suddenly wanted to be a lawman again. He suddenly wanted to do his duty, and no longer be afraid.
He rushed into the barn and I hurried in after him. I was terrified for my Pa, but that was no reason to take my fears out on him. I found him in the barn. He was putting slugs in a shotgun. It didn’t take long for me to realize that he was going to go in to help my Pa. “Saddle me a horse, boy!” he ordered.
Before he left, Micah told me to stay put until he or my Pa came back for me. I didn’t want to stay there, but he gave me no choice. He pointed straight at me and said, “You stay here, and that’s an order!” Then he quickly raced off. I stood frozen in my spot and watched him race until he disappeared. Then I walked around the yard. I couldn’t stay still. I couldn’t concentrate on chores. I couldn’t do anything! I found myself pacing back and forth around the yard. I scanned the land all around the house every two minutes, hoping I’d see some sign of a rider.
Minutes passed. Then an hour and another hour. Suddenly, I heard a horse from far off. I raced to the edge of the yard and shaded my eyes. My heart almost leapt from my chest as I saw Micah returning. My Pa wasn’t with him. Micah came up to me and jumped form the horse. He came and knelt down in front of me. “Your pa’s going to be okay,” he stated firmly.
“Going to be?” I suddenly asked. “What do you mean going to be?”
“He was shot. Twice. “ Tears filled my eyes. “But the doctor said he’ll be okay in a few days.”
I looked down then and saw that he was wearing the Marshal’s star. “You Marshal?”
Micah nodded. “Let’s hitch up the wagon. You can drive it in for when he comes home.”
With Micah’s help, the wagon was hitched up. “Can he talk?” I asked. I wanted to know how bad off he really was.
Micah nodded. “The first thing he asked is ‘Where’s Mark?’”
I smiled. “Then he really is okay?”
“He will be as soon as he see’s you, son. I told him you were here and okay, but he said he wanted to see for himself.”
“Let’s go then!” I said. Micah tied his horse to the back of the wagon and drove the team in.
The ride into town was a long ride. I didn’t think we’d ever get there! “He’s at the jail,” Micah told me.
I jumped from the wagon and raced inside. The doc was still tending him, wrapping up the last bandages. People stood outside the cell, staring in. “Pa!” I shouted as I raced into the cell.
Pa raised a weak arm to me. He was sitting up on the cot, but I could tell he was in a lot of pain. I was afraid to touch him, afraid I would hurt him even more. “Well, aren’t you gonna give me a hug?” he asked.
“I…I don’t want to hurt you,” I stated.
Pa gave me one of his special smiles. “The only way you’ll hurt me is if you refuse to give me a hug!” he declared.
I hugged him. Then I broke the embrace and laid my hand gently on his cheek. I looked into his eyes. “You’ll be okay?” I asked.
Pa smiled and nodded. “Yes. My mule headed pride didn’t get me killed. I told Micah here that he just had to take the Marshal’s job so he could keep me in check. Hopefully I won’t put myself in a situation like that again.”
“I’m glad he’s going to be Marshal,” I smiled at Micah.
Suddenly, I heard Micah state my Pa should stay in town a few days.
But I wouldn’t hear of that! I wanted Pa home with me where I could keep a close eye on him and take care of him myself. That’s the way it should be! “No, I’m taking him home with me!” I declared.
Pa smiled. I could tell Micah wanted to protect Pa, but he finally agreed and said, “All right, son. But I’ll ride out every few days just to keep an eye on things.” I was happy to hear that. I’d be busy taking care of my Pa, making sure he stayed in bed. It was nice to know I’d have someone to help me out with the chores.
My next words were deliberate. “All right, Marshal.” I stated. We all smiled at that. Micah held a look of pride on his face.
Micah and I helped pa off the cot. Pa’s steps were painfully slow. But we were finally able to make him as comfortable as possible in the back of the wagon. I took it slow and easy all the way home. When we got to the ranch, I ordered Pa to go to straight to be. “Now Mark, I’m fine!” he started to insist, but I would hear nothing of it! He finally went to bed.
I warmed up the stew Hattie sent home with us. At first, Pa was afraid to try it, but then he heard Hattie had made it and not me. I sat quietly at the foot of my bed and watched him eat. Finally, Pa sat the bowl down and patted the bed beside him. “Commere, son.”
I scooted up to sit beside him. “Now, tell me what’s wrong.”
I lowered my head. “I was so scared, Pa. I was afraid that-“
“I’m here now, and everything’s okay.”
I nodded. I knew that, but I had lost so many people already! I couldn’t stand to loose anymore!
“Mark, I promise you that I’m going to be around for you to see you get married. I’m going to raise you. We’re gonna be together for a long time! I’ll always be here to take care of you.”
I looked into his eyes and nodded. “Yes, Pa. But-“
Pa patted my hand. “Go on, Mark.”
I smiled. “But for the next few days, I’ll be taking care of you!”
Pa took his good arm and gently whacked me on the bottom. As he grinned, he said, “Go bed down the stock…Master!”
*A special thanks goes out to Michelle Palmer for her insight on how Mark had seen these episodes.
Did you ever wonder what happen to Nancy Moore? Where did she go, what did she do? Here is a great story based on this episode when Nancy returns to North Fork, it's called Saving Vernon by Michelle Palmer. What a great story, I know you will really enjoy this!
Mark's Memories ― Table of Contents
You've heard Lucas' story, now hear Mark's Story
End of a Young Gun
around The McCain Ranch