The Writer's Corner
Written by Deanne Bertram
Lucas McCain took a sip from his cup of coffee as he stepped out
onto the porch of their home. He looked out over the horizon
expecting to see his young son riding BlueBoy up the road any
time. It was the last day of school before summer break and
Lucas had planned to surprise Mark with a weekend of fishing and
camping. Things had quieted on the ranch from all the activity
of spring calving and planting. He’d wanted to reward his boy
for bettering his grades the past few months and to spend a few
quiet days together before the work of summer started in
Lucas returned to the house, placed his coffee cup in the sink
before he headed to the barn. The farther the late afternoon sun
dipped in the sky without sign of Mark, the more concerned Lucas
became. At the latest, Mark knew he should be home no later than
four o’clock. Finally, Lucas saddled Razor and headed to North
Forth to track down his wayward son.
His first stop along the way was the boy’s favorite fishing
hole. As he rode, Lucas gave a chuckle; how many times had he
found Mark fishing with his friend Freddie when he should have
been at home to work on chores? His boy was so easily distracted
when it came to fish biting that he tended to lose all track of
time. As Lucas approached, he didn’t see anyone sitting along
the bank, so he rode on to North Fork. Upon his arrival, he
stopped at the school. He peered inside the window to find no
one in the building. As he absent-mindedly tried the closed
doors and realized they were locked, he looked perplexed. Lucas
returned to Razor and rode on to the Marshal’s Office.
“Afternoon Micah, you seen Mark lately?” inquired Lucas as he
entered the office.
“Afternoon LucasBoy, he was in town a few hours back. Saw him
stop by Hattie’s looking over her selection of hard candies,”
Marshal Micah Torrance answered with a smile as he poured
himself a cup of coffee. “Care for a cup?”
“What? No, not now,” Lucas distractedly answered. “That boy knew
he was supposed to be home some time ago. Well, when I find him,
we may just not take that camping trip I was planning this
“Now Lucas, you know you were planning to surprise him with the
trip. And boys will be boys. I’m sure he just lost track of
time, what with today being the last day of school. He and
Freddie Toomey are probably out at the fishing hole. Besides,
would you expect anything less from an eleven year old boy?”
“No. Their fishing hole was the first thing I thought about. No
one was fishing when I stopped there before heading into town.
Stopped by the school too, just in case he got himself into
trouble and was kept after, no one was there either,” Lucas
“Lucas, he’s just a boy.”
Pacing in front of the marshal’s desk, Lucas frowned. With a
growing irritation, Lucas continued, “Well, guess I’ll stop by
Hattie’s and see if she knows where he headed after he left her
Lucas turned and left the Marshal’s Office. He looked up and
down the street hoping to see Mark lurking around.
Lucas entered the general store and waited as the proprietor,
Hattie Denton, finished with a customer. Mrs. Porter was leaving
the store as Hattie greeted Lucas, “Evening Lucas, what brings
you to North Fork so late in the day?”
“I’m looking for that boy of mine. Micah said he saw him over
here a few hours ago,” answered Lucas. Hattie didn’t miss the
hint of irritation Lucas tried to hide in his voice.
“Lucas, he was here, I asked him to run an errand for me on his
way home. Nick Bennett received a special delivery letter two
days ago,” Hattie realized from Lucas’ expression that he didn’t
recognize the name. “Lucas, they moved into town about a month
ago. They purchased the McDougall’s place. Mark’s become friends
with Nick’s boy Marty. Since it wasn’t too far out of his way
home, I didn’t think you’d mind him running an errand for me.”
“McDougall’s place, well I had heard the place was bought, just
hadn’t met the family yet.” Lucas answered. “I was looking
forward to meeting them at the town social next weekend.”
“Quite a fine family, Nick and Mildred Bennett, they have two
children, Marty and a girl, Lilly. Oh, now Lucas, Mildred does a
lot of baking and Mark probably got to enjoying some of her
cakes or pies and lost track of time. I’m sure by now he’s
probably at home and wants to know where you are.” Hattie’s
voice had taken on a motherly tone with Lucas, letting him know
he was fretting over nothing.
“Maybe you’re right,” Lucas stated has he allowed Hattie to
continue to chastise him.
Lucas enjoyed these moments. Hattie had taken both Lucas and
Mark under her wings soon after they had arrived in North Fork.
Though she didn’t have children of her own, she treated Lucas as
if he were her son and Mark her only grandchild. And the feeling
Lucas walked out of the store and mounted Razor to ride home.
“You better be home, young man,” mused Lucas.
After Lucas left the general store, Hattie walked over to the
café for a bite to eat. Micah was already inside and asked
Hattie to have a seat with him. As they were eating, Eddie, the
town’s telegrapher, came into the cafe.
“Micah, got a wire here from the New Mexico Territorial Prison
for you. Seems there might be a storm brewing our way.”
Micah accepted the sheet of paper, read the wire, and shook his
“Micah, what’s wrong?” Hattie asked.
Micah showed the wire to Hattie, she gasped as she read the part
about Nick Bennett.
“Micah, Mark ran an errand for me to the Bennett’s this
afternoon. Lucas was looking for Mark…”
Micah stood and ran out of the café. He ran over to the saloon
to see who would be available for a posse. Inside were
liveryman/blacksmith Nils Swenson, rancher Frank Toomey, and
banker John Hamilton. Micah explained to them his fears. They
all ran for their horses and rode to the Bennett’s.
As Lucas returned to the ranch house, dusk was falling and from
the distance he stood, he could see no lit lamp evident on the
front porch or in the front room, if Mark had been home at least
one of the two lamps would have been lit.
Lucas kicked Razor and turned him to head over to the Bennett’s
place. Lucas was trying to keep his temper in check as he rode,
no sense losing it in front of a new family in town. He’d
reprimand Mark, in private, once he got his boy home. There
definitely would be no fishing trip this weekend.
As Lucas turned down the road to the Bennett’s he found Micah
and a posse standing at the crossroad. Micah was giving out
orders to those present; he stopped as he saw Lucas approach.
“Micah, what’s this all about?” Lucas asked.
“Lucas, did Mark get home?” Micah asked instead of answering
“Not yet. Micah you didn’t answer my question,” Lucas said
seeing the expressions on the faces of the men. No one would
look Lucas in the eye and he grew concerned.
“Lucas, after you left town, I received a wire from the New
Mexico Territorial Prison. Seems that Tom Rawlings and two
others broke out of prison a week ago.”
“Tom Rawlings, I don’t recall the name,” Lucas replied. “Sides,
what’s that have to do with why you’re here?”
“Lucas, he’s better known as the Rawhide Kid. Nick Bennett was
the key witness in testifying at the trial that sent the Kid to
prison for life. Took them a while to track down where Bennett
and his family had moved. That’s why it took so long in getting
the wire to us. The warden feels that I should put Bennett into
protective custody until they find Rawlings.”
“Mark!” Lucas wheeled Razor and rode as fast as he dared to the
Bennett’s home. The posse followed right behind Lucas.
As they stopped their horses in front of the house, each man
felt it was too quiet. Surely, it wasn’t too late in the evening
that the adults wouldn’t still be awake. The posse carefully
entered the house, with weapons drawn. The smell turned their
stomachs when they found Nick, Mildred, and Lilly shot dead in
the kitchen. The members of the posse gripped their weapons
tighter, praying the murderer was no longer in the house. Each
one saw Nick still had his shotgun in his hands. They averted
their eyes when they saw that Mildred and been sheltering their
daughter when they both were killed. The posse searched the rest
of the house to look for the Bennett’s boy. Adding more horror
to what they had already witnessed, Nils Swenson found Marty in
an upstairs bedroom, lying below the window, bleeding, but still
alive. Next to Marty, Nils picked up Mark McCain’s hat.
“Lucas, in here!” Nils yelled.
Lucas entered the room and saw the blacksmith holding his son’s
hat. Lucas started yelling Mark’s name, running from room to
room. Mark never answered.
“He’s still alive,” Nils stated to the others who crowded into
Gathering the child in his arms, Nils carried Marty downstairs
and out into the front yard. Micah came out of the house
carrying a lantern and bandages. They worked to bandage the boy
to stop his bleeding before taking him to town. Toomey and
Hamilton ran into the barn to search for Mark.
They continued to search the property for any other signs of
Mark. Toomey returned to the front yard, having found BlueBoy
grazing behind the smoke house; he looped the reins around the
Despair was growing in Lucas’ heart, ‘Where is Mark?’
As the men milled about, having exhausted ideas on where to
look, Toomey called out, “What about the cold cellar? The
McDougalls had a cold cellar on the back side of barn!”
Toomey arrived at the cellar, a half step ahead of Lucas. Both
reached for the cellar door handles only to find them barred
from the inside. John Hamilton ran to the workbench in the barn
in search of an ax.
“Mark! Are you in there? Mark!” Lucas yelled, pounding on the
doors. “Mark, answer me son!”
Panic welled inside Lucas when received no response. Lucas saw
John run up to them; he grabbed the ax and started swinging away
at the cellar doors. Micah arrived as the third swing shattered
the bar blocking the door from the inside. Lucas immediately
dropped the ax and pulled open the doors. He walked down the
ladder, John and Micah followed with lanterns.
“Mark! Mark, where are you?” Lucas yelled, searching for his
John and Micah lifted their lanterns high above their heads as
they searched around the cellar, looking behind boxes and
shelving. Soon Micah spied a small figure sitting in a corner,
knees pulled up to his chest, arms wrapped around his knees,
head bent down.
“Lucas, over here!” Micah hollered.
Lucas raced to where Micah stood. He threw the boxes out of his
way to reach his boy.
“Mark! Mark!” Lucas knelt down in front of Mark, grabbed him by
the arms to try to pick him up. Mark, frozen in place wouldn’t
budge, he wouldn’t look up, and his arms had a death grip around
his knees. In between hearing Lucas calling his son’s name, the
men heard the ragged gasps of the boy’s breathing.
“Mark! Please! It’s Pa!” Lucas gently pleaded. Mark never looked
up, never gave any indication that he knew his Pa was in front
“Lucas, stay here with the boy, I’ll head back to town and bring
the Doc,” John offered.
John set the lantern he’d held on one of the overturned boxes
before he headed for the ladder.
After exiting the cellar, John told Toomey of the scene below,
he knew he needed to get Doc Burrage for Marty and Mark, before
taking both the boys back to North Fork.
Micah left the cellar shortly after John; upset that he didn’t
know how to help Lucas or Mark. As he made his way out of the
cellar, he asked Toomey to help hitch the team, they’d need it
to get the boys to town. They also needed to prepare the bodies
of the slain Bennetts to be taken to the undertaker in town.
It was sad work and no one spoke as they went about doing what
needed to be done. Tears streamed down Nils’ face as he cradled
the still unconscious Marty in his arms, trying to talk soothing
words to the boy, begging him to hold on until Doc arrived.
Micah and Toomey struggled through their own emotions as they
began covering the bodies of Nick and Mildred Bennett, but it
was devastating to cover the body of their young daughter and to
carry the three to the back of the wagon.
John rode as hard as he dared with the light that was offered by
the full moon. He pulled up in front of Doc’s house and jumped
down from his horse. He pounded on the door until Doc answered.
“Doc, we need you… out at the Bennett’s place.”
“What happened?” Doc asked seeing panic in John’s face.
“We don’t rightly know… The family was murdered… And the
Bennett’s boy was shot and Mark McCain, he’s just sitting in the
corner of the cellar… He won’t budge, he won’t move… He wouldn’t
even acknowledge that Lucas was in front of him.”
Doc turned and packed a few medicines in his bag as John
hurriedly hitched Doc’s horse and buggy. Doc left his home, and
jogged to the livery, and followed John out of town.
From the porch of the General Store Hattie witnessed John and
the Doc leave town, she clasped her hands together and closed
her eyes as she feared the worse.
John and Doc arrived at the Bennett’s to find Nils still
cradling Marty in the front yard. Micah and Toomey had loaded
the bodies of the deceased in the back of the wagon to take back
to town. Doc gave Marty a brief examination, his pulse was weak
and his breathing shallow, but the bleeding had stopped. With
Toomey steadying him, Nils climbed to the front seat of the
buckboard, still cradling Marty.
After seeing Marty settled and comfortable with Nils’
ministrations, Doc allowed himself to be led by Micah and John
to the back of the barn and down into the cellar. While John was
gone, Micah had found more lanterns and brought them down to the
cellar. Doc stopped halfway down the ladder as he saw Lucas and
Mark in the corner. He watched as Lucas kept trying to get
Mark’s attention and to pry the boy’s arms from around his legs.
“Lucas, stop!” Doc Burrage called.
Grief stricken, Lucas looked over his shoulder towards the Doc.
“Lucas it’s evident he’s in shock. Let me give him some
medication to make him relax and hopefully sleep. Once he’s
asleep, we can move him back to town.” Walking to where Lucas
knelt, Doc set his medical bag on a box next to a lamp. He
pulled out a syringe and a bottle of medicine; he turned the
bottle upside down, stuck the syringe into the cork cap, and
drew out the liquid.
It was awkward, but Doc was able to reach a vein in Mark’s arm
and administer the medication. It took longer than he expected
but soon, Mark’s grip on his legs lessened and his arms fell
limply to his sides. Doc was pleased to hear the boy’s breathing
“Go on Lucas, pick ‘em up. Let’s get him back to town where I
can properly examine him and take are of young Marty,” stated
Lucas picked up a sleeping Mark, resting the boy’s head on his
shoulder, the father’s arms under his son’s back and knees, and
carried him out. As the banker held Razor, Micah helped Lucas
mount his horse, still holding Mark in his arms. Doc had offered
to take Mark in his buggy, but Lucas wouldn’t let Mark go.
Toomey tied his and Nils’ horses to the back of the wagon before
he climbed to the seat and sat next to Nils. Once John and Micah
mounted their own horses, with Micah leading BlueBoy, the group
rode quietly back to North Fork.
Hattie ran towards the clinic when she saw the solemn procession
ride to the doctor’s office, arriving as the boys were carried
Doc was lighting the lanterns in his office as Hattie stepped
inside to see Nils place Marty on the examination table and
Lucas sit down in a chair, still cradling Mark in his lap.
Hattie slowly walked to Lucas’ side as he was brushing Mark’s
hair back from his forehead. Tears streamed down the tall
rancher’s face. He felt relief in finding his son alive, but was
shattered for his child lying in his arms; he’d not been there
to protect his boy.
From one of the cabinets, Hattie pulled out a light-weight
blanket to wrap around the boy sleeping in Lucas’ arms.
Doc diligently worked to remove the bullet from the front of
Marty’s shoulder, and after suturing the wound closed, he
bandaged it, wrapping the gauze around the boy’s torso and
ultimately, bound the child’s arm to his side. Many times the
doctor had worked to bandage a man after being shot, but never
had he thought about having to bandage a child for that reason.
The wide bandage only made Marty Bennett appear even smaller
than he was. With resignation, he asked Nils to take Marty to
the back room and place him in a bed. Comfortable that the boy
was settled under the covers, Doc returned to the front office.
Before he turned his attention to Lucas and to Mark, the doctor
cleaned the blood off the examination table and his instruments.
He threw the bloody rags he’d used in his effort to save a young
boy’s life into the potbellied stove; wiping his hands on the
apron he wore as the rags caught fire. Now came the hardest
part, looking after the young son of a man he well respected.
After Doc motioned to the rancher, Lucas carried Mark over and
laid him down on the examination table. Hattie stood in the
corner and watched everything unfold. As Lucas stepped back,
Hattie walked to his side and placed what she hoped would be a
comforting hand on Lucas’ arm. Doc unwrapped the child and
removed Mark’s shirt, just to make sure he hadn’t taken a bullet
or bullet fragment. He positioned his stethoscope over the boy’s
chest and listened to Mark’s heart and lungs; to his experienced
ear they sounded strong. He next opened Mark’s eyes, one at a
time and held a lantern close to look into them. Both pupils
reacted to the light.
Doc Burrage finished his examination and stepped back to say, “I
don’t know what more I can do for him. It doesn’t appear he took
any physical injury. But the emotional injury in what he saw; to
a small child can be far worse than a physical trauma. However,
I do believe I was right with my original assessment… The boy’s
Lucas couldn’t speak; he didn’t know what to say, if anything.
Hattie had briefly left the clinic and returned; in her hands
she carried a nightshirt from the store for Mark. Hattie
assisted Lucas in removing Mark’s boots and pants. Even asleep
from the medication, Lucas could see and feel his boy’s body
trembling. Together, they slipped the nightshirt over Mark’s
head and worked to get his arms in the sleeves. Lucas laid him
back down and pulled a cover over him, then waited.
The medication kept Mark asleep for the rest of the night. Doc
pulled a cot into the room so Lucas could be near his son. Doc
and Hattie left the office when they realized that Lucas
intended to spend the night sitting beside his son. Constantly
the worried father swept his hand over his son’s forehead or
lifted the small hand and held it between his own calloused
While Doc Burrage was working on the boys, Toomey and Hamilton
took the bodies of Marty’s parents and sister over to the
As the sun rose over North Fork, news of the tragedy at the
Bennett’s place began to spread throughout the town. People
quietly spoke of their disbelief that something so horrible
could happen in their town.
As Micah arrived at Doc’s in the morning, people were gathering
nearby, hoping for more news surrounding Mark and Marty. Doc
came out and tried to shoo everyone away, saying, “If you want
to help, please, just pray for these boys. Go about your daily
work. You’ll know soon enough if there’s any change.” With that,
the Doc turned back to his office and closed the door as he went
Hattie arrived with breakfast for those inside Doc’s office. As
she entered, Doc was just coming in from the back room after
examining Marty. She could see Lucas’ face was even more
strained this morning than it had been the night before; it was
quite evident he had not slept at all.
Hattie set the tray with the food on a table and tried to
encourage Lucas to eat, without much luck, all she was able to
do was to encourage him to drink some coffee, but he didn’t
“Doc, how is he?” Lucas asked as Doc finished checking Mark for
“I’m not sure, he’s probably still in shock,” Doc replied.
“How long before it wears off? How long before he wakes up?”
“Lucas, I don’t know. He’s just an eleven year old boy and I
can’t imagine what he saw out there last night. All I can do is
make him comfortable and wait.”
When Micah walked into Doc’s office, there wasn’t a spring in
his step, he felt older than his years. He knew the question he
had to ask would not be an easy question for Lucas to answer.
They needed to return to the Bennett’s homestead and track down
the killers. And until the U.S. Marshal arrived in response to
the wire Micah had sent, Lucas was the best person Micah knew to
track down the killers.
“LucasBoy,” Micah said as he walked up next to Lucas. “We need
“Not now Micah,” Lucas answered without caring about the tone of
voice he used.
“Yes Lucas, now. Please...” Micah stepped outside; as Lucas
followed he picked up his rifle from beside the door. Outside
Micah explained the need to track the killers and see that they
were brought to justice; said he owed it to the Bennetts.
“I never met the family. How do I owe it to them when my son is
lying in the doctor’s office?” Lucas’ voice rose as he spoke.
Micah placed a hand on Lucas’s forearm, “Lucas, if not for the
Bennetts then do it for Mark and his friend.”
“I can best help Mark by staying here!”
“Lucas, there are killers on the loose. They murdered a family
in cold blood last night and I thank God that Mark was spared,
but the next time, he might not be.”
“Next time? What do you mean, next time?” Lucas demanded, his
temples throbbing in anger.
“Lucas, use your common sense, boy. This town is finding out
what happened and people talk. They’ve heard the news of the
Rawhide Kid’s escape and putting two and two together, they’ll
figure out that he might be the person responsible. If he’s
anywhere near, he’ll hear the talk that there were survivors.”
“That just goes to prove my point. I need to stay here with my
boy. I have to protect him. I wasn’t able to last night, but I’m
damn sure not going to let anyone get to him now,” Lucas
“Lucas, I need you to help protect this town. We have to track
the killers, let’s stop them before they can come back to North
Fork and kill again.” Seeing that Lucas was not listening to
reason, Micah continued, “Lucas, can you live with yourself if
those murderers kill another family because you did nothing? Or
can you accept it because it wasn’t your family?”
Lucas and Micah continued to argue for another ten minutes,
neither letting the other have the final word, until Doc came
“Lucas, he’s awake,” Doc Burrage quietly said.
Lucas turned, hope burned in his heart. From the doorway, he saw
Hattie sitting on the side of the examination table, hugging
Mark, rocking him in her arms. Mark’s eyes were open, but
weren’t focusing on anything.
With his rifle still in his hand, Lucas walked into the room.
The closer he walked to Mark, the wider Mark’s eyes opened.
Lucas saw fear in his boy’s eyes. With Mark’s eyes focused on
Lucas’ rifle, he started screaming, “No, NO! Don’t kill them!”
He tried pulling away from Hattie, to get farther away from the
rifle. His eyes didn’t see those in the room with him, his mind
was replaying Mark’s memory from the night before. Tears
streamed down Mark’s face as he continued to scream, “NO!”
“Mark?!” Lucas called as he reached out to his son. But the
closer Lucas stepped, the louder Mark screamed, “NO! NO!” Lucas
stopped as he saw his boy’s reaction become more violent.
Pushing Hattie’s arms away, swinging his fisted hands in the
air, and kicking out with his feet.
“Mark, it’s me, Pa,” Lucas plaintively stated. He looked over
his shoulder towards the doctor.
“Lucas, he’s trembling something fiercely, I can’t calm him
down,” Hattie stated with tears falling from her eyes as she
struggled to hold Mark in her arms, hurt that all was not right
once the boy woke.
Doc Burrage was there again, grabbing for Mark’s arm to
administer another shot. Lucas watched as the medication took
effect with Mark whimpering and ultimately collapsing in
Lucas was devastated. ‘What happened to my boy?’ Not knowing how
to reach his son, last night or now, he turned to face Micah and
asked, “When do we leave for the Bennett’s?”
“We’re planning to leave from the livery in half an hour,”
“I’ll be there.” A crestfallen Lucas turned and stepped to
Hattie. “Hattie, please…, Take care of my boy. I’ll be back when
Closing her eyes at the sight in front of her, Hattie nodded.
John Hamilton and Frank Toomey were deputized to stand watch
over North Fork, especially the boys. Micah deputized other
citizens to ride with the posse as they began their trek to find
the Rawhide Kid and his gang.
The duly deputized posse left the livery and headed for the
Bennett’s. The mood of the group was somber. Upon their arrival
at the Bennett’s, Lucas and Micah realized just how difficult it
was going to be to track the killers. In their search for Mark
the night before and all the horses moving about as they had
prepared to returned to North Fork, the tracks were
As Micah examined the scene within the house, he picked up Nick
Bennett’s shotgun and found one empty shell inside the breech.
He saw a blood trail that had not been visible in the dim room
the night before leading out the back door from the kitchen.
Someone had been injured by Nick Bennett’s shotgun.
Outside, Lucas spent a long time studying which tracks belonged
to the searchers and which tracks didn’t. Micah hollered for
Lucas from the back door of the house. Finally, Lucas found the
tracks he had been looking for, ones that led off over the
hills, away from North Fork.
Before they headed out, Micah sent Andy Miller back to town with
instructions to have Eddie send wires out to towns South of
North Fork, to be on the lookout for any unknown person
suffering a gunshot wound from a shotgun.
Without any further word, the posse rode.
In light of everything that had happened, the town council
decided to post pone the town social that had been scheduled for
the following weekend. No one felt like having fun in the
aftermath of the tragedy involving the Bennett and the McCain
Lucas McCain sat apart from the rest of the posse their first
night out, his thoughts were back in North Fork; his mind
relived the terror in his son’s eyes and kept it playing over
“Hey McCain!” one of the men yelled over. “How far behind the
Rawhide Kid are we?”
Lucas stared over the rim of the tin coffee cup he held in his
hands, his gaze settled on the fire on the other side of camp.
“McCain, I’m talking to you,” the man hollered.
“Leave him be, Gamble,” Micah ordered.
“I got a right to know! We all do!” Gamble continued.
“Leave it,” Micah replied.
“High and mighty McCain, he’s the one supposed to be leading us
to them outlaws and all he does is sit over there as if he’s
better ‘an us. We got a right to know if we’re close to them, we
got a right to protect ourselves if they’s close.”
“The trail’s leading south, if we were close, we’d know.
Rawlings wouldn’t be fool enough to be here, just outside the
camp if we were too close,” Micah ordered.
“That’s what I’m getting at! This posse is going like a church
social. He could be out there waiting to pick any one of us
“Rawlings has a wounded man to deal with. If he thinks he got
away, he’ll make a mistake. And when he does, we’ll get him,”
“Still don’t make no sense, him sitting over there,” Gamble
threw his hand out in frustration in the direction of Lucas.
“I’ve ridden with a posse before and we never…”
“You never what? Used your brains in order to out think a
criminal? All you think about is using your guns, you’re nothing
better than thugs. This isn’t gonna be no lynching posse.”
“I ain’t said nothing about lynching. I just want answers from
McCain!” Gamble declared.
“Leave him be. The man’s son was traumatized by what the Rawhide
Kid done to the Bennett family.” Micah turned away in disgust.
The other members of the posse had long settled in their
bedrolls for the night. Micah stood watch from the edge of the
camp, facing away from the camp fire to keep his night vision
sharp. His gaze kept returning to the tall rancher, sitting
alone. Standing up to stretch his legs, Micah walked over to his
“Lucas?” Micah called as he neared. “You best turn in; we’ll
need you rested in the morning when we take after Rawlings
again. You won’t be able to see the trail if your eyes are
bloodshot from lack of sleep.”
“Did you see his eyes?” inquired Lucas.
“He was more than scared.”
“Scared of what?”
“Me? My rifle? He was struggling so hard against Hattie to get
Hoping to alleviate the grief his friend was experiencing, Micah
leaned against a boulder, his scattergun crooked in his elbow
and said, “It wasn’t you or your rifle, it’s what he remembered
LucasBoy. I’m sure he didn’t even realize he was in Doc’s
clinic. I bet when he saw your rifle, he thought he was still at
the Bennett’s place. Thinking Rawlings was walking towards him.”
“He shouldn’t have been there! He shouldn’t have seen what he
saw!” cursed Lucas.
“No, no child should be exposed to that. But he’s seen you kill
“But that’s just it, when he’s seen me kill it was because I was
forced to kill, it wasn’t wanton murder; especially not a woman
or a child! And I wasn’t there… there to protect him, to hold
him, and comfort him afterwards… He didn’t know me!”
“So, are you seeking vengeance against Rawlings?”
“I’m seeking justice, that’s what you’re always preaching
about!” Lucas declared. “Isn’t that why you dragged me away from
‘So there still is some fire in there,’ mused Micah as he walked
The posse was two days of out of North Fork and just an hour
from Jarilla Junction, New Mexico when they met up with U.S.
Marshal Trip Corydan and a small posse of his own.
Jarilla Junction was a small town that grew up on the outskirts
of several mining camps in the area. The town blossomed
overnight with the promise of gold as men arrived to make their
fortunes quick; however, the big strike of the yellow mineral
proved elusive at best.
To the surprise of the posse from North Fork, the marshal
informed them that the Rawhide Kid and two others were holed up
in one of the local mines. They had made the mistake of taking
Jarilla’s doctor to tend to a shotgun wound. Having received
Micah’s wire two days prior, Marshal Corydan had posted one of
his men outside the doctor’s office as a precaution.
“Abrams will wish he hadn’t left his post when I get back to
town,” Corydan proclaimed. “If anything happens to Doc, I’ll
string him up myself.”
“But now we know where Rawlings and the others are,” Micah
“The only thing saving his hide is that he was able to sort of
follow them out to the mines,” the marshal dolefully stated as
he glared at his deputy.
“You said, mines,” Lucas stated. “How many mines are out this
“There’s three major mines they could have gone to, two
ultimately connected when they blasted a side tunnel.”
“Three mines. Three mines…” Lucas mumbled in frustration.
“Those are the major mines,” Corydan stated. “There are
countless smaller mines around this area.”
“What kind of a mine is Rawlings holed up in?” Micah asked.
“Not exactly sure, my deputy only followed him to this general
The posse from North Fork joined Marshal Corydan and headed for
the mines. As they reached the first site, they observed several
men already standing behind mine carts and wagons.
“Is Rawlings in there?” Corydan asked of the deputy in charge.
“Don’t know for sure, but we were fired upon as we arrived.”
“Which mine is this one?” Corydan asked.
“Jake Dundee’s mine?” the marshal inquired.
“Yeah, old man Dundee’s been working this claim.”
“Dundee! Jake Dundee!” Corydan yelled. “This is Marshal Corydan,
are you in there?”
“You ain’t driving me out of here!” came the nervous voice of an
elderly man from within the mine. “I got papers saying this is
“Jake! Come out of there! No one’s trying to drive you from your
claim! We’re looking for Tom Rawlings and his gang!”
“Ain’t no one here but me an Jezzebelle!” the old man called.
The men in the posse ducked when they saw movement from the
front of the mine; Dundee walked from his mine, rifle in hand,
leading a mule.
“Nothing but wasted time!” Lucas declared as he clutched his
rifle and headed back to his horse. As he mounted Razor he
watched the animated conversation the young lawman was having
with the older prospector.
When the posse arrived at the next two mines they found guards
posted well outside their openings, but no one else around who
would be considered an outlaw. The guards both stated the mines
were closed until Tom Rawlings and his gang were apprehended.
“That was three mines!” Lucas vehemently declared. “You said
“I said three major mines,” Corydan corrected. “There’s one
more, smaller stake mine about three miles from here.”
“You really think Tom Rawlings would kidnap your town’s doctor
and drag him all the way out here?!” demanded Lucas.
Scratching at the back of his neck, Corydan answered, “Now that
you put it that way…” Snapping his fingers he declared,
“What’s Honeymoon Creek?” Micah asked.
“It’s a creek that many men have tried to mine, they pan for a
while, until the ‘honeymoon’ wears off. There’s a small cave
that was dug out into a deeper mine a long time ago. Even still
has tracks and a few carts. Why last time I was there as a kid,
I was surprised with how we could fit several horses inside and
still have plenty of room to play,” Corydan answered.
“Why it’s no more than three quarters of a mile from town, only
the opposite side of town than we are.”
“You said your deputy followed the man to this area,” declared
“That doesn’t mean Rawlings couldn’t have backtracked and laid a
false trail for my stupid deputy,” Corydon stated with disgust.
The posse fell in behind the marshal as he rode towards Jarilla
The posse arrived at Honeymoon Creek and spread out, taking
cover; handguns and rifles pointed towards the mine opening.
“Rawlings, Tom Rawlings. I’m U.S. Marshal Trip Corydan. You’re
surrounded! Give yourselves up!”
The posse waited in silence.
“Rawlings! We know you’re in there!” Corydon yelled. “Give it
“Like hell I will!” was yelled from inside the mine.
“We can stay out here as long as this takes! You can’t. You
don’t have provisions to stay holed up! Give the doctor your
guns and send him out. We’ll see that you get transported back
to the territorial prison, alive!” Marshal Corydan yelled to
those in the mine.
“I ain’t going back! You ain’t taking me alive!”
Then to the amazement of both posses; the doctor came running
out of the mine. He took cover behind the nearest mine cart
before making his way to where both marshals were waiting.
“Marshal… the one that was gunshot… is dead. The other two are
arguing… I was able to sneak out,” the doctor said as he gasped
for breath from running to save his own life. His limbs were
shaking as he tried to support himself by holding onto the wheel
of an overturned wagon.
“Thanks Doc, just take cover, we’ll handle it from here,”
Marshal Corydan replied.
Gunfire erupted from the opening of the mine; the two outlaws
were trying to make a run for it on horseback. For the most
part, they fired their shots wildly. One of their bullets struck
their intended target or unfortunately ricocheted to strike the
man. Men from the combined posse returned fired. The rider in
back was the first to fall from his horse. Most of the men
pulled their handguns realizing that Rawlings was out of range;
Lucas sited his rifle and took one last shot causing Tom
Rawlings to fall from his horse.
Warily, the Marshal, Micah, and Lucas headed towards the fallen
outlaws. Once given the okay, the doctor joined the small group
and declared both outlaws dead.
“If that’s all, I’ve a good man back there in need of my
services,” the doctor stated, wanting to be done with the
Marshal Corydon quickly tilted his head, motioning for the
doctor to see to his patient within the posse.
Pulling the third outlaw from the cave, the posse draped the
bodies of the three outlaws across the saddles of their horses;
the posses were ready to head out once the injured member of the
posse was situated astride his horse.
The posse from North Fork headed into Jarilla Junction and
stocked up on supplies as they prepared to return home. Micah
had to delay his departure long enough to provide his report to
Marshal Corydan, so it could be properly filed. Before Micah
left, he said he’d file the remainder of his report once he’d
had a chance to talk with both of the boys who survived the
attack back in North Fork.
Lucas refused to wait for Micah; he wanted to get home to his
boy. Worried, what would his boy be like when he returned home?
The image of Mark screaming in fear started to flood his mind.
As long as he had kept his mind focused on tracking down the
killers, he’d been able to block out the image. Now he had
nothing to keep his mind occupied, other than getting home and
holding his precious boy in his arms.
It was later in the evening, after the posse left North Fork in
search of Tom Rawlings that Marty Bennett woke up. Nils was
sitting in a chair at the side of the bed as he watched tears
start to form in the boy’s eyes and slowly run down the sides of
his face. Nils moved to sit on the bed, grabbed the boy in his
arms, and just held him. He continued to talk soothingly to the
boy. Rubbing the boy’s back as he held him and rocked him in his
Doc Burrage entered the room to check on Marty, the scene would
have been so touching to watch, if he knew the news he had to
tell the boy wasn’t so heartbreaking. Doc sat down in the chair
that had previously been occupied by Nils.
“Good Evening Marty. How do you feel?” Doc asked.
“My shoulder hurts,” he said through sobs. “My folks…, those
men…, they killed them?”
“Yes Marty. I’m so sorry,” Doc replied.
Nils spoke to Marty, “Marty, Doc sent a wire to your father’s
family in Kansas City; they’re on their way out here to take you
home with them.”
“But this is my home…” Marty whispered.
“If your folks were still alive, but a young ‘en like you, you
need adults to look after you. You need an established home,
full of love,” Nils whispered.
Doc excused himself from the room when he heard a buggy arrive
out front. Aldred and Lucy McAdams stopped by the doctor’s
office; they had agreed to open their home to Marty until his
family arrived. Aldred carried Marty out to their buggy and
headed home, with instructions on how to keep the wound clean.
Doc also gave instructions on not asking the boy any questions
about what had happened. “Give the boy time to grieve, but be
there to comfort him.” Doc had hoped the boy could wait until
the Marshal returned.
Nils knew it was for the best that Marty be placed with people
who had children, but it didn’t stop the hurt he felt as the boy
rode away in the buggy.
After Marty left the clinic with the McAdams, Doc moved Mark
into the bed in his back room to sleep. It was the following
morning when Mark finally opened his eyes again. Hattie was
there to greet him, a big smile on her face, “Good Morning Mark!
How do you feel today?”
Mark gave no response. He gave no reaction that he knew Hattie
was in the room with him. Hattie pulled Mark into a sitting
position and swung his legs over the side of the bed. She moved
the water pitcher and basin over to the nightstand beside the
bed. She removed his nightshirt and proceeded to wash Mark. She
fervently hoped that the gentle touch of a woman’s hands would
soothe the boy. As she finished bathing Mark, Doc Burrage came
in to check on his patient. When the boy gave no response to any
of his questions, he helped as Hattie dressed Mark in his pants
and shirt. Both looked at each other, not knowing how to get
through to Mark.
When the posse didn’t return by nightfall, they decided to move
Mark to Hattie’s home, feeling it would be kinder to the boy
versus staying in the doctor’s office. Before settling the boy
at her home, Hattie requested that Mrs. Donner tend to things at
the general store so she could devote herself to Mark, until
For almost four more days, Lucas’ friends took turns watching
over Mark. Each day was the same; Hattie would bathe and dress
Mark in the morning. Force him to eat what little she could get
him to eat, oatmeal for breakfast and soups or stews for lunch
and supper being the easiest. John Hamilton, Nils Swenson, and
even Ms. Adams, the school teacher, would stop by and try to
draw him out of the shell into which he had withdrawn. During
the day, he’d just sit in a chair or curl up on the couch when
people would stop by to talk to him. Of a night, whoever was
there would help Hattie change him back into his sleeping
clothes and put him to bed.
Hattie stepped from the kitchen when she heard the sound of
pounding hooves and walked to look out the window in her front
room. Light from the lantern beside her front door showed Lucas
running up to her porch. Before he could knock, Hattie had the
door opened. Lucas removed his hat as he stepped inside and saw
his son curled up on the couch in the front room, eyes open.
Setting his rifle against the inside door frame, Lucas asked,
“How is he Hattie?” The concern Lucas felt caused his voice to
crack as he spoke, Mark didn’t move when his father entered the
“I’m sorry Lucas, since you left he either sleeps or when he’s
awake, he just sits there and stares. He doesn’t say anything,
he just...” Tears streamed down Hattie’s face as she watched
Lucas stride over and sit down next to his boy. Gently he picked
Mark up in his arms and sat him in his lap, arms securely around
his boy. Lucas lovingly swept a large strand of Mark’s hair from
his forehead and replaced it with a kiss.
“Mark, I’m home. You don’t need to be scared. Those men can’t
harm you any more.” Lucas continued to talk to Mark, hoping his
words would make their way through to his boy. As Lucas spoke,
he tried to bring back happier memories to his boy. After a
while he felt his boy stop trembling and realized he had fallen
Lucas saw the bible sitting on the end table, it wasn’t his
family bible, but he knew the words inside would offer him the
same comfort. Lucas picked it up and started to read, still
holding Mark in his arms.
Later that evening, Hattie carried a blanket and placed it over
Mark, wrapping Lucas in some of its comfort. As she turned to
leave, she softly heard, “Thank you Hattie.” She left the room
to go to bed for the night.
Hattie woke in the morning to find Lucas and Mark sitting where
she had left them the night before; Lucas was still reading from
the bible. She proceeded into the kitchen to make breakfast for
She was just setting the table when she heard Mark screaming,
“Pa! Please! Help Me! Pa!”
Hattie ran to her front room to see Lucas trying to restrain his
boy. Mark’s eyes were wide with fear. Though he still sat upon
Lucas’ lap, the boy was kicking his legs, his hands were balled
up in fists, and striking out at someone only he could see; as
if he was trying to fend off an assailant.
“Mark, I’m here, you’re safe. Please God! Help me understand!
Lord, help me help my boy!” Lucas called.
“PA!” Mark continued to scream.
“Mark, please… Please come back to me!” Lucas pleaded as his boy
continued to fight.
Lucas grabbed Mark by the shoulders and turned him around to
face him. Lucas shook Mark harder than he had intended, but he
was desperate to get through to his boy, to have his boy back.
“Mark! See me! Please! Mark!” Again he urgently shook his son.
Mark stopped fighting, his body relaxed a little, and Lucas saw
his eyes soften.
“Pa?” Mark called plaintively as his eyes locked onto Lucas’
eyes. “Oh Pa!” he cried. He wrapped his arms around his father’s
neck and buried his face into his father’s chest. Sobs wracked
his body and the more he cried the stronger his sobs became.
“Hattie, go get the doctor,” Lucas begged after seeing Hattie
standing across the room from him, hands clasped as she
witnessed Mark coming back to Lucas.
Hattie nodded and ran from her home; she didn’t have far to go.
Doc Burrage was already on his way over to her home to check on
Mark for the morning. He started to run towards Hattie when he
saw the expression on her face after she yelled towards him,
“Doc, it’s Mark, we need you now!”
The sobs wracking Mark’s body were very uncontrollable, the more
he tried to stop crying, the harder the sobs became, causing him
to gasp deeply for breath. Upon a quick survey of what was
happening, Doc took out a syringe and administered some
medication to the boy as Lucas held on to him. A few moments
later, the sobs seemed to lessen; Mark began whimpering, but
didn’t fall asleep this time. He pulled himself harder into his
father’s chest, holding tighter to his Pa, as his hands went
under Lucas’ arms and then up to the back of his shoulders,
taking comfort in hearing his father’s heart beating.
Doc Burrage gently pulled one of the boy’s arms from around
Lucas in order to take his pulse before pulling out his
stethoscope and listening to the boy’s heart. A faint smiled
graced the physicians face as he returned the instrument to his
“There, there now Mark...You’ll be okay,” Doc said as he patted
Mark on the back of his shoulder. Talking to Lucas, “Luke, just
hold him and let him know you love him. The medicine I gave him
was just to relax the spasms. I didn’t give him enough to put
him to sleep this time. He needs to be awake. The boy can’t heal
if I keep him asleep all the time.” Doc stood and returned his
instruments and medications to his bag.
“Hattie, I think the boy could eat some oatmeal for breakfast
and your soup stock for lunch today. Still, nothing more than
that, until after I check him later.” Doc turned and left
As Doc walked along the boardwalk and returned to his office,
Micah and the rest of those who served on the posse were slowly
returning to town. The group wasn’t as solemn as it was when
they left, but it wasn’t a joyous home coming either. Micah
stopped in front of the jail and stepped from his horse.
“Well Doc, how are the boys doing?” Micah asked as Doc Burrage
“Marty will recover nicely. We’ve sent word to his father’s
family and they should be here any day to take him back to
Kansas City. The McAdams are tending to him. I’m hoping in a day
or two he’ll be able to answer the questions I’m sure you have,”
Doc stated as he followed Micah into the Marshal’s office.
“What about Mark?” the question was hard for Micah to ask. He’d
grown to think of Mark as the grandson he’d never had. He
couldn’t bear to see Mark as he had seen him the day they left.
“Had a rough go of it this morning; he came out of his shock,
quite traumatic for the boy and for Lucas from what Hattie told
me. They’re both over at Hattie’s if you’d like to check in on
“Thanks, I might just do that.”
Micah left his office a few minutes after the Doc, and walked to
Hattie’s. He entered the house to see Lucas sitting on the
couch, holding Mark in his arms, wrapped in a blanket. Lucas was
feeding the boy some oatmeal and the boy was willingly eating.
Hattie looked on; a small smile on her face. Lucas looked up and
gave a brief smile to Micah. The look in Lucas’ eyes was one of
relief and appreciation.
Within a few minutes, the bowl was empty and Lucas set it aside,
and before he could turn back to Mark, his boy was asleep,
“How are you doing Lucas?” Micah knowingly asked.
“He called me Pa. And he actually looked at me. He’s still not
talking. But at least I see life in his eyes and he’ll look at
me and wrap his arms around me. Doc says it’s probably going to
take a while.”
“Micah, care to join Lucas and me for a bite to eat? I’ve some
breakfast already made,” Hattie offered.
“I’d be real pleased to take you up on your offer. Eating
Toomey’s cooking is almost as bad as eating my own.” Micah’s
comment brought a little bit of laughter to the group.
Lucas laid his boy down on the couch and followed Micah and
Hattie into her kitchen.
Micah pushed his chair back from the table as he finished eating
and said, “Mighty fine breakfast there Hattie.”
“You’re welcome,” Hattie answered.
After a few moments of silence, Lucas spoke. “Micah, I owe you
“No you don’t,” Micah replied.
“Yes I do. I had no right you speak to you as I did, before we
left, as well as what I said out on the trail. I guess in a way
I blamed part of what happened to Mark on you.”
“You were lashing out because of something beyond your control.
I know if Mark had been fine when we left, you would have been
first to volunteer. If we had any earlier warning of Tom
Rawlings escape, we might have prevented this whole tragedy. And
“He’s my life Micah,” Lucas quietly spoke.
“I know Lucas. We all know,” Micah quietly answered. “Maybe I
shouldn’t have asked you to go with us, but I needed you and
your abilities to track.”
“I know you did Micah. And who knows… If I had stayed here,
maybe… I don’t know…”
They talked through the rest of the morning and through lunch
and into the early afternoon. They talked over the events of the
past week. More importantly, they discussed how best to talk to
the boys to find out what had happened that evening at the
“With Rawlings dead, does it really matter?” inquired Hattie.
“I’m afraid it does. It will give credence to why we were forced
into a shootout that killed the outlaws,” answered Micah.
“But he was an escaped prisoner,” Hattie insisted. “And he
killed a family!”
Before they knew it, they heard a small voice calling, “Pa?!”
Lucas hurried to the front room and to his boy’s side. As he
approached, he saw the start of a smile on his boy’s face.
“Mark... How are you feeling?”
“Not so scared… now that you’re here,” Mark answered his father,
never letting his eyes drift from his father’s face.
“Come here,” Lucas said has he grabbed Mark up to carry him on
his hip into Hattie’s kitchen.
“Well hello Mark, you’re sure looking better than the last time
I saw you boy,” Micah said with a big smile on his face.
“Thanks Micah,” the boy answered before he quieted again and
Lucas could feel his boy grab hold tighter around his neck.
“Mark? Want to talk about it?” Lucas asked. “It’s okay if you
don’t. We can talk, but only when you’re ready.”
All Mark could do was nod his head and bury it against his
“Tell you what, I want the doctor here before you say anything.
Okay?” Lucas stated.
Again, Mark nodded. Micah stood up to go get Doc Burrage. Hattie
brought a bowl of soup over to Lucas for Mark.
“Pa, I think I can feed myself,” Mark stated as his Pa started
to pick up the spoon.
As Doc and Micah entered, Doc was quite pleased to see Mark up,
sitting in his Pa’s lap, eating and looking around; even more
pleased when he realized the bowl was almost empty. Hattie took
the bowl once Mark was finished eating.
“Doc, thanks for coming. I want you here just in case…” Lucas’
Before Mark started, Lucas turned him around and sat him on top
of the table so that he could look his boy straight in the eye,
hoping that by their keeping eye contact, he could keep his boy
calm. Lucas placed his hand under Mark’s chin and lifted his
head so that he could see into his boy’s eye. “Okay Mark, just
tell me what happened. Take your time. Stop when you need to, if
you need a drink of water or milk just let me know.” Lucas
nodded his head as he spoke, hoping to encourage his boy. He
kept both of Mark’s hands in his, squeezing them to let him know
he was there.
Looking over his shoulder to Hattie, Mark began, “Hattie asked
that I take a letter to Marty’s father, it had come in special
delivery.” He turned his face to see his father’s eyes before he
continued. “I handed the letter to Mrs. Bennett and she wanted
to thank me for taking the time to bring the letter to them, she
was going to set out some milk and cookies for Marty and me.
Lilly… she’s Marty’s sister, was at the table already. Mr.
Bennett came in and read the letter. Mrs. Bennett asked me to go
get Marty from his room upstairs, but first asked me to help
Marty put away a few of the books he’d been reading in his
bedroom. He wasn’t at school that day because he had a tummy
ache earlier… Pa, I did as Mrs. Bennett asked in helping Marty,
before we…” Mark stopped speaking.
“You’re doing find Mark… Take your time,” Micah stated hoping to
encourage the boy to continue.
“Before we headed back… downstairs.” Mark’s voice was barely
above a whisper. “Marty and I started down the stairs, we heard
voices from men in the kitchen. They were… were… yelling…
loudly. Marty and I stopped halfway down, then…” Mark stopped
speaking; his breathing started coming a little quicker. Lucas
could tell his boy was struggling.
“It’s okay Mark. Deep, slow breaths,” Lucas said as he started
breathing loudly and slowly, in, then out, hoping it would guide
his son to follow his lead. Mark took a few deep breaths and
then closed his eyes. His grip on his Pa’s hands tightened.
With his eyes closed, Mark continued, “Marty and I heard
gunshots and heard Mr. Bennett yell. I… I… I can’t repeat those
words. We heard something fall to the floor and then something
fall to the table, because we… we… heard the dishes breaking on
the floor.” Again Mark stopped, he didn’t open his eyes, he just
closed them tighter. He took another deep breath and licked his
lips before continuing. “I heard… a scatter gun go off… and one
more… gunshot. And something… fell to the floor. Marty and I… We
ran back upstairs.”
Lucas continued to squeeze Marks hands, telling Mark to breathe
deeply and slowly. “Take your time son, we’re in no hurry. Do
you want something to drink?”
Mark stiffened his body and shook his head no.
Speaking a little louder, Mark continued, “When we reached
Marty’s room… he started pushing me out the window… down the
rose fence. I lost my hat as I tried climbing out the window. I
was halfway down, when… I looked up to see Marty climbing out
the window, feet first like I’d done... I heard him yell… and I
saw he was being pulled back into the window…” Speaking a
faster, Mark said, “I kept climbing down and jumped the rest of
the way and hid behind one of the big bushes next to the house.”
Mark paused and spoke slower. “I heard Marty screaming, then….”
Mark stopped again and reached for his Pa, he slipped from the
table top into his Lucas’ lap, placed the side of his head
against his Pa’s chest. Mark took comfort in hearing his Pa’s
heartbeat; it gave him courage to continue, only quieter. “I
heard another gunshot and… Marty stopped screaming. I heard the
men yelling and running down the stairs and I remembered the
cold cellar on the backside of the McDougall’s, I mean the
Bennett’s barn. I ran and bolted the doors closed behind me. I
hid in the corner. I tried to be so small so they wouldn’t find
me. I just kept praying they’d just leave. But they kept
rattling the cellar door. Oh Pa! I wanted it to be just a dream,
I wanted to wake up and it be okay! I was so scared! They killed
them all!” Mark started crying again, holding tight to his Pa.
Mark was crying, but his body wasn’t wracked with sobs this
time; the tears were a release. He finally had told everyone
what he had been reliving in his mind since before his Pa had
found him in the cold cellar.
“Pa, I just kept seeing it play over and over again in my head.
I heard you, and Hattie, and Mr. Hamilton, and Mr. Swenson, even
Ms. Adams, but I couldn’t get those memories out of my head,”
Mark said as he continued to cry.
Lucas allowed the tears to fall from his own eyes. He looked up
from his boy to see that Hattie, Micah and Doc Burrage also had
tears in their eyes. He rocked Mark while they were sitting
there. He stroked his boy’s back, hoping it would comfort
himself as much as comfort his son.
Lucas had seen his share of death throughout his life. However,
he’d always tried to shield his boy from the harsh cruelties
that one man could force upon another, until he would be old
enough to understand. There were some things that an eleven year
old child didn’t need to know and seeing his friend’s family
senselessly murdered was one of those things.
“Mark,” Lucas spoke, lifting his boy’s chin up to look into his
eyes. “Mark, Marty survived the attack. Hattie says that Marty’s
uncle and family will be here in a few days and they’re going to
take Marty back to Kansas City.”
“Marty’s okay?” Mark’s eyes seemed to lighten when he heard the
news. He tried hard to stop the tears from falling down his
face. Hattie handed him a dishtowel to dry his eyes.
“He’ll be okay in time. Right now the McAdams are caring for him
until his family arrives,” Doc said to confirm what Lucas had
“Has he said anything?” Mark asked as he looked to Micah.
“No boy, I haven’t been over there yet. You’re family to me, so
I wanted to make sure you were doing okay before I spoke with
Marty. Guess I should head over to the McAdams’ place and see
how Marty is doing. You going to be okay Mark?”
“Yes sir, as long as I have my Pa,” Mark tentatively replied,
“Best we be going,” Micah stated as he saw the doctor move
towards the door.
Lucas sat Mark down in the chair, “Now son, I’m just going to
see Micah and Doc out the door, I’ll be right back. You okay
“Yes sir,” Mark quietly answered, his eyes never leaving his Pa.
Hattie had busied herself earlier in the day by cooking a simple
stew for them to eat that evening. A lot of broth, with some
vegetables and beef cubes. Lucas sat opposite from Hattie at the
table and Mark sat next to his Pa. He couldn’t get any closer
than if he was sitting in Lucas’ lap.
After dinner, Hattie stood up to clear the table and much to her
and Lucas’ surprise, Mark began helping to clear the table, he
even offered to dry the dishes, if Hattie washed them, he added.
“Pa, why don’t you go outside and have your evening cigar? I
know you probably haven’t had a smoke since you got back,” Mark
“Think I will, if you’re sure you’ll be okay.”
Mark nodded. Lucas stood up and walked out the kitchen door.
Happy things were starting to get back to normal, but just how
normal would they be once he took Mark home. Lucas returned to
the kitchen ten minutes later to hear Hattie request Mark go
upstairs and get ready for bed.
“Yes ma’am.” Mark turned to leave the kitchen, “Hattie, will you
come up with Pa and be with me while I say my evening prayers
and help tuck me into bed?”
“Why yes Mark, I’d love to.”
Mark left the kitchen, leaving Lucas and Hattie alone.
“Hattie, thank you for everything you’ve done for me and Mark. I
don’t know how I would have pulled through all this if it
weren’t for you.”
“Lucas you know that you and Mark are like part of my family. I
couldn’t turn Mark away and seeing the pain in your eyes when
you left. I’m just bursting at the seams because all’s going to
be okay. We have our Mark back.”
Lucas walked over and gave Hattie a big hug.
“I think Mark and I’ll be heading home tomorrow,” Lucas informed
the store owner.
Hattie nodded; she knew she couldn’t keep them there.
Lucas and Hattie walked up the stairs to the room Mark had been
sleeping in while his Pa had been with the posse. He was on his
knees at the side of the bed with his hands folded in prayer. He
asked God to watch over Marty and his new family in Kansas City
and to watch over all the people of North Fork, “Especially my
family… my Pa, my Grandma Hattie, and my Grandpa Micah. Amen.”
Mark stood up and climbed into bed. Lucas pulled the covers up
over his boy and gave him a kiss on this forehead before wishing
him goodnight. Hattie was there too and gave him a kiss. They
both turned to leave the room.
“Pa, where you going to sleep tonight?” Mark asked.
“Probably on the couch, son.”
“Don’t you think the bed’s big enough for the two of us?” Mark
“Go ahead Lucas, I think you’ll enjoy sharing the bed with Mark
more than sleeping on the couch.”
Hattie left the room and closed the door behind her.
Through the night, Mark was restless, continually in motion and
never really settling down to sleep. Amused that he had actually
fallen asleep, Lucas woke to find Mark clinging to him. He tried
to get out of bed without waking his boy, but it wasn’t to be.
Mark woke and got out of bed as well. Standing next to each
other, they washed up at the basin before getting dressed. The
whole time, Mark made himself Lucas’ shadow, mirroring
everything Lucas did.
They walked downstairs together and ate breakfast with Hattie.
After Mark had helped Hattie wash and dry the dishes, Lucas and
Mark prepared to head to the livery to get their horses.
Lucas hesitated as they walked towards the door, he feared how
his son would react to seeing his rifle. Taking a deep breath,
Lucas strode forward, opened the door and reached for his rifle.
Looking over his shoulder, he saw the frozen look upon his son’s
“Mark? Come along son,” Lucas called and reached his hand out.
Mark quickly went to his Pa’s side, opposite of the rifle.
Mark walked so close to his Pa that Lucas almost tripped over
him a few times. Lucas understood his son’s need and accepted
it. They arrived at Nils’ and saddled their horses. They waved
goodbye as they headed for home.
As they rode, Mark kept looking around; as if to search to see
if anyone was following them. As they reached the turn off to
their ranch, Lucas stopped and asked, “Mark, who are you looking
“Just making sure those men aren’t following me?” Mark stated.
Lucas heard a tremble in his boy’s voice.
Lucas reached over to turn Mark’s face to his, “Mark, those men
who killed the Bennetts are dead. They were killed in a shootout
down in Jarilla Junction. You’re safe. You’ll soon be home.”
Lucas smiled at his boy and then motioned for him to ride on.
The father was thankful the nightmares hadn’t happened while at
Hattie’s but still he wondered, ‘What will tonight bring?’
Over the next two weeks, Lucas rose early each morning, trying
to get some work done around the ranch before Mark woke. He
continued to let Mark sleep in as long as he needed. He knew
that Mark was still scared from his experience; the nightmares
Lucas had feared woke them their first night home, coming
numerous times through the night. Whenever Mark was awake he
didn’t want to be too far from his Pa’s side. Lucas didn’t push
Mark, if his boy wanted to talk, he would there to listen. He
prayed the memories would fade or as sometimes happened the
memories would lock themselves away in a place never to be
For such a happy child that his son had been, it pained Lucas to
see his son withdraw from the pleasures he previously took in
life…riding his horse, fishing with friends; anything that
allowed him to step away from his father’s side.
The one time they did venture to town, Mark refused to ride
BlueBoy, he insisted they take the buckboard. Once underway,
Lucas found it difficult to manage the reins to the team for his
son sitting so close on the bench seat.
Halting the buckboard in front of the Marshal’s Office, Lucas
suggested, “Mark why don’t you head on over to Hattie’s,” and
have him the list of supplied they needed.
Seeing the uncertainty in his young son’s eyes, Lucas encouraged
him, “It’s okay son, I’ll be right here and watch you cross the
Mark’s eyes implored his fear of straying so far from his
“Lucas,” Micah stated. “Why don’t you go ahead and take the boy
“I think… Nils!” Lucas called upon seeing the blacksmith walk
past the window to the Marshal’s Office.
“Lucas, how are you?” the burly man stated upon entering.
“Fine, would you do me a favor?” Lucas beseeched.
“Would you take Mark to Hattie’s, I need to talk to Micah for a
few minutes, and if Mark could give Hattie our list…”
Turning to the young boy standing close to Lucas’ side, Nils
stated, “Mark why don’t you come with me to Hattie’s, I heard
she received a shipment of new candies yesterday.”
Nodding, Lucas stated, “Go with Nils, I’ll join you in a few
With tears in his eyes, Mark took the liveryman’s hand and
walked across the street.
“It’s not getting any better is it?” Micah asked.
“No, I’d hoped things would have gotten easier as time went by,”
Lucas answered with a defeated tone to his voice. “He’s scared
to do anything on his own. He’s leary of my rifle.”
“What’s Doc said?”
“Same as always, ‘Give the boy time.’ Well, I’m running out of
time,” a frustrated Lucas answered, as he punched the desk top
with the heel of his hand. “Neither of us are sleeping, his
nightmares just won’t stop.”
“Can Doc give you medication to make him sleep?”
“He’s done that, but the dreams still break through.”
Feeling for his friend, the marshal handed him a cup of coffee.
“Has he said anything more about it, other than what he said at
“No, not a word. I thought after that last night at Hattie’s
everything would be fine. But it’s not… He’s just so scared. You
saw him… Damn it! I’ve failed him as a father!”
“Failed him?! How can you say that?” Micah asked. “You’ve been
there for that boy, time and time again.”
“But I wasn’t there to protect him!” Lucas bitterly retorted.
“My God! He was in danger and I couldn’t do a damn thing to
“Lucas, you can’t be there every second of that child’s life,
you can’t keep him in a glass jar… If you did, you’d smother
him.” Seeing Lucas about to speak Micah spoke louder in order to
continue to get his point across. “You didn’t fail that child!
None of us knew Tom Rawlings had broke prison and was coming
“No child, especially not my child, should have to witness what
my boy saw!” bellowed Lucas. “I don’t know how to get through to
“Lucas, just keep loving the boy, in time, he’ll come to see he
has nothing to fear. And for Heaven’s sake, keep him interacting
with people. Sending him to the store with Nils was probably a
good idea, that way he’ll learn to trust other people. Lead by
example. Give him time, and take things one step at a time,
“I can’t lose him,” pleaded Lucas. “I just want my boy back.”
Unbeknownst to Lucas and Micah, Mark couldn’t stand to be alone
at the General Store; Nils returned to the livery and Hattie
waited on another customer. The boy ran across the street, his
progress halted upon hearing his father declare, “I’ve failed
him as a father!”
Upon hearing his father’s final plea, Mark leaned against the
wall. ‘Lose me?’ Mark thought.
That night, after supper, Mark stood looking out the open
“What’re you looking at Mark?” Lucas inquired as he put the last
“The barn…” the boy answered. “Can I…”
“Can you, what, son?” Lucas answered, striding over to stand
behind his son, placing his hand’s upon the boys shoulders.
Taking a quick breath and closing his eyes, Mark timidly asked,
“C-Can I go see… BlueBoy?”
“Sure, you know you can,” Lucas answered, giving his son’s
shoulders a gentle, loving squeeze before he pulled his hands
away and slipped them into the front pockets of his pants.
Mark took a hesitant step forward, and paused. Lucas watched as
his son took a deep breath, and then another step. A few more
steps and his son was standing on the ground, head down and
‘Go on, Mark. You can do this,’ Lucas silently encouraged.
Mark thought of the words he’d heard Micah say earlier in the
day, ‘One step at a time.’ Talking only so he could hear, Mark
encouraged himself, “One step at a time… One foot in front of
the other… One step at a time… One step…”
Lucas finally exhaled the breath he didn’t realize he was
holding as his son entered the barn.
Fifteen minutes later, Lucas walked across the yard between
their home and the barn to check on his son. He was pleased to
find his son in BlueBoy’s stall grooming the horse.
“Time to get ready for bed, son,” Lucas quietly called.
“Okay, Pa,” Lucas heard his son answer, but the boy turned back
to his horse and quietly spoke to the animal so that Lucas
couldn’t hear what he said. Lucas patiently waited as the boy
continue to talk to his horse.
“In the morning, I got to do this for Pa, BlueBoy. And you gotta
help me. Okay?” Mark spoke. “I can’t do this alone.”
As if in understanding, the horse tossed his head up and down.
Mark closed the stall door behind him and with effort walked to
his Pa, this time, stopping next to the hand holding his rifle.
Lucas woke, surprised to find the sun faintly teasing the
morning sky and that both of them had slept through the night.
Lovingly he looked upon the sleeping body of his young son in
his bunk across the room, so innocent.
“Best get up and get to work, so I can be back before he wakes,”
Lucas said to himself.
Lucas had been out moving a few cattle from the corral behind
the barn to the northern pasture when he returned to the ranch.
He had planned to be back before his boy woke; however, the task
took longer than expected. As he stepped inside the house and
stepped to the bedroom, he found Mark’s bed empty. Panicking,
Lucas returned to the front room and saw a note next to the lamp
by the front door.
I’m sorry, but I have to know.
‘Know? Know what?’ Lucas stepped back onto the porch and grabbed
for Razor’s reins. He walked to the barn and didn’t see BlueBoy
in the stall; he turned to check the hoof prints to see which
direction Mark and BlueBoy had gone. Lucas was barely in the
saddle before he heard a horse running. Lucas rode to the side
of the barn to see Mark and BlueBoy racing down the road with
Micah following at a distance.
As Mark pulled up into the front yard he yelled at his Pa, “I
did it! I did it!”
Lucas and Mark jumped down from their horses and ran to each
other. As Mark jumped up in his Pa’s arms, Lucas saw the huge
smile on his boy’s face and asked, “Did what?”
“I got over my fear. I rode into town by myself. I’m sorry Pa.
Did you miss me?” The words came out in a rush.
Lucas looked to Micah as he arrived in the yard.
“Yep Lucas, I found him riding into town so early this morning,
whooping and a hollering. I think I should arrest him for
disturbing the peace… Sure made everyone in town add a spring to
their step seeing Mark becoming his old self.” Micah couldn’t
help the smile spreading on his face; seeing Lucas smile as he
held his boy in his arms. It didn’t help that Mark’s smile was
so infectious. “I decided to make sure he got home safe and
sound. Also to let you know that we’ve rescheduled the town
social for this Saturday night. Town council thinks maybe we’re
“We’ll be there Micah. Oh, and thanks for seeing Mark home. I’ll
see to it that he stays under ‘house arrest’ for a while.”
Oh, Pa.” was all Mark could say as he saw the big grin on his
Pa's face and the gleam in his eyes.
This is a story based on the TV
series The Rifleman
Here are some other great stories. Enjoy!
around The McCain Ranch