The Writer's Corner
Written by Deanne Bertram
Throughout the five-year run of The Rifleman, we never learned
much about Lucas’ family, so I took the liberty of creating a
Mark McCain had spent the day in North Fork helping Lou Mallory
at the Malloy House Hotel. Lou was in one of those moods, and
the Irish in her was anxious to get the cleaning and
redecorating done in time to celebrate her anniversary in North
Fork. ‘Could it really be three years that I’ve been in North
Fork,’ she thought to herself.
“Mark ye can’t leave now, I want to get finished with this last
room,” Lou pleaded with Mark in her rich, Irish brogue, after
hearing Mark indicate he needed to return home.
“Lou, I’ve already been here all day and every day for the past
three days. Now I don’t mind helping you, but how many times
does each room need to be moved around? I swear we’ve moved each
room at least four times before you’re satisfied,” Mark teased.
“Lou, I promise, I’ll return in the morning once I finish my
chores at the ranch.”
Mark gave Lou a kiss on the cheek, turned and walked down the
Lou couldn’t help the smile on her face as she thought, ‘Mark
has grown up over the past three years and he sure is his
father’s son. At sixteen, he’s still slender and handsome, but
it’s evident he’s never going to be as tall as his pa. He’s
going to be a catch for some young lady, someday.’ She counted
herself lucky to have Lucas and Mark McCain as good friends.
Mark had walked down the stairs and reached the front desk, he
stopped to collect his hat from the countertop and picked up his
rifle from where he’d set it behind the counter when he arrived
earlier in the day. Shaking his head, he looked back up the
stairs and thought, ‘Don’t understand how a woman can’t make up
her mind and change the placement of furniture all the time.’
Mark reached the front door and almost collided with Eddie, the
telegraph operator and mail sorter, who declared, “Mark, this
here letter came in on the stage today, it’s for your Pa.”
“Thanks Eddie, I’ll take it home.”
Mark grew curious when he saw the return address “Enid,
Oklahoma” and stuffed the envelope in his pocket, mounted
BlueBoy and headed home.
After arriving at the ranch, he took BlueBoy into the barn,
untacked him, brushed out the saddle marks, put him in his
stall, and gave him a good helping of oats and hay, as well as
feeding Razor, his Pa’s horse and the team horses.
“Mark?” he heard his Pa call as he entered the barn. “Thought I
heard you get home. How’s Lou’s project coming?”
“Pa, if I ever get to understand women… Why can’t each room look
like the other? She’s got me changing everything and is never
“Mark, if you ever get to understand women, you can fill me in
on ALL the details. Come up to the house son, I’ve got supper
“Supper! Pa I forgot, tonight was my night to cook!”
“That’s okay, I figured Lou was keeping you longer.” Father and
son walked to the house. Lucas looked over to Mark, and took a
measure of pride in the young man his son was becoming. ‘Well,
he’ll be seventeen in just a few months,’ Lucas thought.
As they sat down to eat, Mark remembered the letter. “Pa, Eddie
stopped me on my way out of Lou’s and handed me a letter that
came for you.” He handed the envelope to his Pa.
“It’s from Enid,” Mark replied.
“Enid?” Lucas took the letter from Mark and contemplated opening
it. Lucas carefully opened the envelope and pulled out the
letter; he had immediately recognized the cursive penmanship of
his older sister.
August 1, 1887
Hope this letter finds you and Mark well. I have good news!
Martin has accepted employment in southern California and we’ll
be traveling through Santa Fe, New Mexico the end of month.
We’re taking the train West. The boys will be with us. Would
really love to see you and Mark; I have sorely missed my baby
Please send wire, if possible. Looking forward to hearing from
Your sister, Ruth
“Ruth,” Lucas quietly said.
“Ruth?” Mark had watched his father read the letter and saw his
eyes grow brighter as he read.
“Yes Mark, Ruth, my sister, your aunt. Seems her husband’s
accepted employment in California and they’ll be traveling west
and would like for us to meet them in Santa Fe.”
“Aunt Ruth and Uncle Martin?” Mark queried.
“Yes, their two boys will also be traveling with them. I haven’t
seen Ruth or Martin since we left Oklahoma.” Sadness appeared in
Lucas’ eyes; sadness that brought back memories his dear
Margaret. Sadness that he felt he couldn’t live in Enid with
everything reminding him of her and he felt he couldn’t continue
to live there without his wife. Sadness that he hadn’t seen his
sister and her family in such a long time.
“Mark, how would you feel about a trip to Santa Fe?” Lucas asked
as he hand holding the letter dropped to the top of the table.
“Not if we have to ride the stage all the way through. Why can’t
we head out like an extended hunting trip? We can take the team
as pack horses? It would be a lot more fun than sitting in a
stuffy stage coach. And on the way home, we could even do some
Lucas laughed at the expression on Mark’s face. “Okay, son. I’ll
go into town with you tomorrow and wire Ruth to get the details
for when she and Martin expect to reach Santa Fe so we can plan
Lucas folded the letter, placed it back in the envelope and set
it down on the table, leaning it against the lantern in the
middle of the table. Supper continued in silence as Lucas kept
glancing at the envelope.
Saturday morning dawned and after a quick breakfast, Lucas and
Mark finished their chores around the homestead, saddled up and
headed into North Fork.
Mark stopped at the Mallory House and Lucas continued to the
“Morning Eddie, would like to send a wire to Enid, Oklahoma,”
Lucas informed Eddie.
“The letter?” Eddie inquired.
“Yes, it was from my sister.”
“Sure Lucas, here,” as he handed a writing pad to Lucas, “just
write out what you want to send.”
Martin and Ruth Donaldson
“Looking forward to meeting you in Santa Fe.” /Stop
“Wire back date of arrival.” /Stop
North Fork, New Mexico
Eddie sent the telegram while Lucas waited.
“Lucas, I’ll send word once I receive a reply.”
Lucas left the telegraph office and walked over to the livery,
if he and Mark were to make the trip, he needed to arrange for
Nils Swenson, owner of the livery, to look after their place
while they were gone.
“Sure Lucas. How long you thinking to be gone?” the good
natured, slightly burly man asked.
“Well it’s about 100 miles to Santa Fe, figure to take about
five days to get there. Spend a few days visiting with family.
Then another five days to get home and do some hunting. Give or
take, maybe two weeks at the most.”
“No problem Lucas, I’ll take care of looking after your place
while you and Mark are gone.”
Lucas left the livery and walked to the Marshal’s Office where
he planned to notify his best friend and town marshal, Micah
Torrance, of their plans.
“Well LucasBoy, going over to help Mark at Lou’s? She sure has
him working hard. Me, I’m steering clear. That Irish temper of
hers…” teased the older man.
“Hadn’t really thought about helping out.” Lucas stated as he
entered the office and looked out the door towards the hotel
upon hearing Micah’s comments. “Micah, I received a letter from
family back in Enid, they’ll be traveling through Santa Fe and
asked us to meet them. Nils is going to take care of our place
while we’re gone. Just wanted to let you know Mark and I’ll be
gone for awhile. I’ve wired for more details on when exactly
they plan to arrive in Santa Fe.”
“Don’t recollect hearing you talk too much about your side of
the family before?” Micah queried as he stood from his desk,
walked to the pot bellied stove and pour himself a cup of
coffee. He offered to pour a cup for Lucas, who declined.
“Nothing to talk about. I love my sister dearly… Just didn’t
seem to come up in conversation. They live back in Enid.”
Micah let Lucas leave it at that.
“Taking the stage?”
“No, Mark wants to make it an expedition. But between you and
me, I didn’t want to sit in a stuffy stage either.”
Micah grinned upon hearing the inflection in Lucas’ voice and
the expression of his face.
“To each their own LucasBoy, to each their own.”
Micah walked back to sit down at his desk, he blew across the
top of the cup of coffee in an effort to cool it before taking a
Lucas realized there was more he needed to do before they headed
out and bid the marshal good day, and headed over to Lou’s,
‘Let’s see what she has the boy doing,’ he mused.
“Pa! Lookout!” Mark yelled, seeing his Pa walk up, knowing Lou
was in motion to throw out a bucket of dirty water. Lucas was
able to jump back and only received a little splash on his boots
and the bottom on his jeans.
“Lucas!” the surprised, apologetic look on Lou’s face said it
all. “I’m sorry!” she continued, turning a little coy; pulling
her hand to her mouth to hide her embarrassed grin.
“No problem Lou, just wanted to see how the redecorating is
coming along, seeing as how you’re keeping my boy here all day
long, keeping him from his responsibilities at the ranch.”
“Well, Cowboy, ye’ve not stopped by to help the entire week and
I’ve only had the assistance of a small boy…” Lou had a wicked
gleam in her eye, true Irish, as she looked back and forth from
Lucas to Mark.
“Boy?! I’m almost seventeen!” Mark exclaimed.
Everyone laughed at the whole scenario. Entering the hotel,
Lucas helped Mark arrange the final additions to the lobby area,
under Lou’s watchful eye.
“Now don’t ye go breaking anything Cowboy! Ye break it, ye
“And what if I break my back while helping?” Lucas deadpanned.
“We’ll talk about that, IF it happens.” Lou snapped back.
The usual banter continued between Lucas and Lou until Lou was
finally satisfied with the placement of everything.
Lucas flopped his tall frame down in an overstuffed chair and
asked, “So, are you going to feed us or do I have to take my
half-starved son back home and force food into his frail body?”
“Oh, ye! Come on into the restaurant. Dinner’s on me,” answered
Dinner conversation ranged from many different subjects. Casting
a wary eye around the room, Lucas spoke, “Mark between you and
me, things in the lobby looks the same as before we moved it
“Pa, don’t let Lou hear you say that. It’s the same in all the
rooms upstairs. The only different being the new bedcoverings
and curtains. The furniture ended up exactly where it started,”
grinned Mark. He tilted his head to indicate to his father that
Lou was returning to the dining room.
After Lou came to take their order for any dessert, finally,
Mark asked, “Pa, when do you expect to hear back from Aunt
“Not sure son. I sent the wire this morning when we arrived.
It’s been a long time since we were in Enid and I’m not sure how
far she and Martin live from the telegraph office, or even if
they would have been at their home when it was delivered…”
Shortly thereafter, Eddie came into the dining room.
“Lucas, got a return wire.”
Lucas handed a few coins to Eddie and read the wire aloud:
North Fork, New Mexico Territory
Lucas, wonderful to hear from you. /Stop
Arrive Santa Fe on 30th. /Stop
Staying at Hotel Santa Fe. /Stop
“The 30th, that’s just 10 days away, Pa,” Mark spoke.
After paying their bill, Lucas and Mark returned home and
started organizing their plans for the trip to Santa Fe.
Finally, it was the day to depart North Fork; Lucas on Razor,
leading one pack horse and Mark on BlueBoy leading the other;
stood in front of the hotel. Micah, Nils, and Lou were there to
see them off. “See you when you get back! Don’t worry about
anything!” they each said in turn.
Lucas could see that Lou wanted to say more, but in the company
of others she only closed her eyes and nodded in an effort to
keep her emotions under control.
Mark eagerly set out, envisioning this was what it was like as
trappers and hunters set out across the landscape, heading from
one town to the next. On many occasions father and son slept out
under the starry blanket of the night time sky during their
hunting trips, but this time it felt different to Mark; his
daydreams made the trip more of an adventure. Each day, Mark and
Lucas broke camp in the morning and rode until lunch time;
stopped to rest the horses, eat, and then were on their way
again. Stopping each day before the sun started to disappear in
the sky, they set up camp, Mark picketing and taking care of the
horses while Lucas set up the camp fire and began to cook
For a little over five days they rode until they reached Santa
Fe. Both Mark and Lucas were overwhelmed with the size of the
town, much larger than either of them had ever thought or
As they rode through the main street; they stopped and asked
directions to the Hotel Santa Fe and if there was a livery
“Yes sir, they have their own livery right behind the building,”
a young boy informed them as he was looking for more customers
for his shoe-shine stand. “It’s the fanciest hotel we got round
Father and son looked at their dust caked boots and asked the
boy if he wouldn’t mind helping them out. Once their shoes were
shining, they continued deeper into the heart of Santa Fe. They
crossed the railroad tracks and soon found themselves in front
of The Hotel Santa Fe.
“Son, you stay here with the horses, I’ll check us in and see
about stabling the horses.”
“Sure Pa.” Mark watched his father dismount from Razor, pulled
his rifle out of the scabbard, and disappeared into the massive
entrance of the hotel. Mark gazed at the multi story buildings
standing so tall around him. From his reverie Mark heard a voice
inside the hotel yell, “McCAIN! DON’T MOVE!”
Mark grabbed his own rifle as he jumped down from BlueBoy and
ran into the hotel. He was in such a rush to save his Pa that he
couldn’t stop his momentum and ran into a man, almost as tall as
his Pa, sending both of them sprawling down the two steps
further into the lobby.
Before Mark hit the floor he heard a woman’s voice yell,
Next thing Mark knew, his Pa had him by the arm and was pulling
him to his feet. “Mark, just look what you’ve done. How many
times have I warned you about rushing in?”
“Pa, I heard someone yell your name and it didn’t sound none too
friendly,” Mark defended.
By that time, the man that Mark had knocked down had regained
his own feet and was laughing hard. “Lucas, don’t be angry at
the boy.” Taking a good look at the boy Lucas had by the arm,
the man continued, “Is this really Mark? Didn’t realize he would
be a staunch defender of you. I’ll have to remember that in the
future.” The man straightened his jacket as he spoke.
“Martin, I’m sorry for my son’s actions. Are you okay? How have
you been?” The two men shook hands and slapped each other on the
back, right there in the middle of the lobby. When they finally
stepped back from each other, Lucas turned and motioned Mark to
approach. “Mark, this is your Uncle Martin.”
“Pleased to meet you… again, sir. I really am sorry,” Mark said
as he shook hands with his uncle.
“No need to call me sir and apology accepted. Guess I shouldn’t
have ‘called’ your Pa out. I forgot how a little joke like that
could be misconstrued.”
The woman who had been standing on the staircase approached
Lucas and gave him a big hug around the neck, “Ruth, it’s been
so long. How have you been?” As he noticed the two young boys
behind her, Lucas asked, “These can’t be Matthew and John?”
As hearty welcomes were made in the middle of the lobby, Ruth
introduced her eleven year old son Matthew and her seven year
old son John to her brother and nephew, all other visitors were
forced to move around them to get to their own destinations.
“Lucas, how did you get here so early the stage isn’t due in
until later tonight?” Martin asked.
“We rode in from North Fork. Neither Mark nor I were up to a
ride on the stage, so we packed it. The horses are out front.”
Lucas replied, then turned to Mark, “Son, get the horses and
take them around back, I’ve already made arrangements. When
you’re done seeing to them, we’re in room 315.
“Oh, Lucas, please forgive our manners, you and Mark must be
tired from your trip. We didn’t realize you weren’t taking the
stage. Martin, help the Mark with the horses.” Ruth tried to
push her husband after Mark.
“No ma’am, I can handle ‘em. Thank you for the offer.” Mark
tipped his hat, turned, and left.
As the group watched Mark walk out the front door, Ruth
commented, “May never have your height and build, Lucas, but my
Lord, how can the boy take after his Ma that way in his looks?
Must be hard seeing Margaret in him each day.”
“Ruth, that boy is my reason for living. If it hadn’t been for
him, I don’t know if I could have survived Margaret’s death. I’m
glad he takes after his Ma, makes missing her a little easier,
knowing she lives on in him. ”
“He sure has grown up,” Martin commented as he remembered the
small boy, forlornly sitting next to his father on the bench
seat, all their possessions under a tarp in the back of the
wagon as father and son left their town to find someplace to
live without all the reminders.
Ruth replied, “Why don’t we all go to our rooms and plan to meet
for dinner around six o’clock. It would be easier to talk over
dinner rather than in the middle of the lobby. Besides, it would
give Lucas and Mark a chance to get clean and rest up.”
Mark returned to the hotel lobby and stopped short upon hearing
a man speak to him.
“You can take the stairs or you can go to your floor using the
“Excuse me, sir?” Mark asked, not knowing what the man meant.
Understanding the boy’s confusion, the man continued. “I’m the
concierge of the hotel and it’s my job to help our guests
understand the amenities we offer. This hotel is four stories
tall, and we can’t expect all our guests to climb the stairs, so
there’s a conveyance room. It works on a pulley system to lift
the small room to the appropriate floor.”
The man escorted Mark to the location of conveyance room, where
he watched as the small room lowered to just the other side of
the closed metal gate in front of him. Watching as the man
pushed open the gate, he stepped back. After the passengers
alighted, the man showed him inside.
“If I didn’t want to ride the stage coach here, I don’t think I
want to ride in that,” commented Mark.
“Oh, it’s totally safe. No need to worry about masked gunmen
holding you up, and no dust,” teased the man.
“I think I’ll take the stairs.”
“As you wish. I do hope you enjoy your stay.” The man bowed
slightly forward before he turned to talk away.
Entering their hotel room, Mark found a note from his Pa
indicating was already down the hall taking a bath.
Taking a clean set of clothes from his carpet bag, Mark set out
to find the bath room down the hall.
“Ah, you must be young master McCain,” stated the elderly negro
porter as Mark entered the small room. “Your father indicated
you would be here shortly. I’ve already drawn hot water for your
bath and I’ll show you to your tub.”
Following the man to a small room he set his clothes down on a
bench next to the wall and listened as the man explained the
workings of the tub.
“If the water’s too hot, just turn this handle like so, and cold
water pours from this spicket. If’n it’s too cool, just turn
this here knob and hot water comes out. We’ve a number of scents
in the vials on the containers on the counter if you like
fragranced water. Most men don’t but the women do.”
“Women?!” gulped Mark.
“They won’t be coming in here while you’re inside. I shut the
door when I’s leave and make sure no one enters until ye’re
done. And when ye’re done, just pull the plug there in the
bottom o’the tub and all the dirty water runs down the pipe so I
can come in and clean the tub for the use by our next guest.”
“You do this for all the guests?” inquired Mark.
“Only the menfolk, my wife tends to the womenfolk. It’s
difficult enough being colored...”
Mark heard something in the man’s voice that he didn’t
understand. “I’m sorry, I didn’t mean that… We have a hotel back
where I’m from and it sure doesn’t have a room all its own for
bathing and we lug buckets into tubs.”
“Oh, no need to apologize, guess I’s still a little sensitive is
all. Being a free man and working for a fine establishment like
this… I didn’t mean to take offense to your question.”
“Thank you,” Mark stated as the man turned to leave.
The man hesitated before he left; looking at Mark’s outstretched
hand. He smiled as he accepted the handshake.
After returning to their room, Mark noticed the bind of the
window and the curtains drawn closed. He saw the figure of his
father lying on one of the two beds in the room. Placing his
dirty clothes on the chair he faintly heard, “Enjoy your bath?”
“Try to grab some sleep. The beds are comfortable.”
Mark smiled when he realized his Pa was too close to sleep to
carry on any kind of a conversation. Pulling off his boots, Mark
lay down on top of the covers on the bed and was soon asleep.
Hours later, they were awakened by someone knocking at the door
and then hearing a small argument the other side of the door.
“Ma said I could wake them.”
“All I did was knock.”
“Don’t you think knocking’s gonna wake them up.”
Mark opened the door, looked down, and saw his two cousins
“Hi Mark, you and Uncle Lucas ready for dinner? Ma sent us,” the
older of the two brothers stated.
“Sure boys, come on in, I think Pa’s still asleep. Why don’t you
see if you can wake him.” Mark watch both boys go and jump on
the bed where Lucas feigned sleep.
“Well now, what do we have here?” Lucas asked as he swung his
legs from the bed and sat up.
“Come on Uncle Lucas, Ma said we’re to get ya up and down to the
restrunt so’s we can eat,” the younger brother spoke.
“Alright, alright boys,” Lucas answered as he pulled on his
boots. Seeing his son fully dressed he stated, “Let’s go.”
Lucas invited Matthew to ride piggy-back, so it was only natural
that Mark hefted John up onto his back. All four were laughing
as they went down the stairs for dinner.
Conversation at dinner ventured from the ranch in North Fork, to
the trips to Santa Fe, both boys were excited to tell their
cousin Mark about their first ride on a train, the adults were
talking about Martin’s upcoming employment in California.
During the next few days, Lucas, Ruth and Martin caught up on
old friends; acquaintances, and events that had happened since
Lucas and Mark left Enid, knowing it wouldn’t be fair to the
boys to talk about people they didn’t know or remember, while
the boys were present. During the day, while the adults talked,
Mark enjoyed taking the boys out to ride around Santa Fe on the
It was much too soon when Ruth and her family were required to
catch the train to continue on to California. Lucas and Mark
packed their horses in anticipation of their return to North
Fork. It was a tearful farewell as the families started to go
their separate ways.
Lucas and Mark were two days out from Santa Fe when they heard
gunfire not too far off in the distance. Both reined in their
horses to watch as a solitary rider attempted to outrun a small
band of Indians. Realizing the Indians were gaining ground on
the rider, Lucas pulled out his rifle and told Mark to stay put,
as he dropped the lead rope to the packhorse and kicked Razor
into a gallop. When Lucas figured he was in range, he reined
Razor in and took as careful aim as he could, firing at the
Indians, wounding one in the leg, but doing no more damage. The
Indians broke off their chase when they realized their quarry
was no longer alone.
The lone rider slowed his horse and waited for Lucas to catch up
“Mister, I don’t know how to thank you, sure thought I was a
gonner,” he struggled to say as he gasped for breath.
“Come on, let’s head back to the ridge, my boy’s waiting for me
over there,” Lucas replied as he looked over his shoulder to
make sure the Indians were still in retreat.
Both riders returned to where Mark waited with the packhorses.
The lone rider introduced himself as Rorie Washington, a scout
for the Tenth Cavalry Regiment out of Fort Stanton. “You mind if
I tag along with you two for a spell? Been mighty lonely out
here and right now, with the Indian uprising getting out of
hand, I should probably take you along until I reach my unit,
let my Captain decide what to do with you.”
“Indian uprising?” Mark asked.
“When did this Indian uprising start? I thought we were at peace
with the Indians,” Lucas worriedly stated.
“Oh, we were until some of the young bucks started defying their
elders. I’ve been out here trying to keep an eye on where
they’re heading in order to report back. Guess they got their
eye on me this time,” Rorie answered.
All three rode in silence until time to make camp for the night.
After eating, Rorie said, “Mr. McCain, I think we better mount a
watch for the night, no telling how far back or away that band
“Good idea, I’ll take first watch, I’ll wake you around
“Pa, I can help, let me take midnight watch that way Rorie can
get some real sleep, earlier he was sleeping in the saddle.”
Seeing Lucas’ expression, Rorie interrupted, “Mr. McCain,
midnight watch is the easiest of all watches. They won’t attack
during the middle of the night, especially with no moon out.”
“Why not?” inquired Mark.
“They feel if they were to die, their spirits would get lost in
the darkness and not make it to the land of their ancestors,”
Rorie answered. “It might be different with a full moon, but
“Okay son, I’ll wake you around midnight,” Lucas agreed as he
set out to a small ledge in the rock outcropping towering over
As Lucas left to take first watch, Rorie pulled his bedroll and
saddle down from his horse and prepared to make a bed out of
them. “Mighty pleased to have met up with you and your Pa, Mark.
Been wanting to get some real sleep for a long time. Learn to
sleep in the saddle, but it’s not the same as stretching out and
laying down. Sleeping with your ears open all the time sure is
As Mark retrieved his and his Pa’s gear down and laid it out
next to the fire, Rorie stated, “You sure seem comfortable with
talking to a person like me.”
“Like you? I don’t understand, you’re a Scout for the U.S.
Army…” Mark replied.
“I don’t mean what I do, I mean, me, as a colored person.”
There was confusion on Mark’s face as he replied. “I’ve
encountered people of color before. Met up with a gunslinger,
Tip Corey, a few years back. He turned outlaw because the law
didn’t protect his Pa and some cowboys who had been taunting an
Indian girl killed his Pa. He wanted revenge on the law, but my
Pa stood up to him. Guess I did too, kind of. He wanted my Pa to
throw the Marshal’s badge in the dirt. Corey said no one would
pick it up. No one cared. But I did. Told him so. Told him if he
killed my Pa, because my Pa’s belief wouldn’t let him dishonor
the badge, then someday I’d come after him. He went for his gun,
but Pa was faster. I think maybe he saw a little bit of himself
in me, maybe he was tired of running, tired of killing. He was
so fast with the gun…” Not knowing why he was telling the man so
many, Mark stopped talking as if seeing that scene play out in
front of his eyes again. “Pa’s hired colored people to work our
ranch and I met a man of color who worked at the Hotel Santa Fe.
People are people. Some good, some bad. Color of one’s skin
shouldn’t matter,” Mark finished.
“I wish everyone believed as you do. Make my life a whole lot
easier. Too many people still want to see my people as slaves.”
Mark interrupted, “But the War was over a long time ago. The
Emancipation Proclamation gave all slaves their freedom.”
“I know Mark, but some people refuse to accept it, especially
those back east in the south and those who came west to get away
from the War. My Pa was born into slavery as was his Pa and his
before him. It’s difficult to change that long of a history.”
Rorie’s eyes held a far off look to them. Remembering something
only he could see. “When all slaves were proclaimed free, my
Pappy finally took a wife, before that he said he’d never born a
child into slavery.” Feeling he needed to explain, Rorie
continued, “Pappy’s owner at least didn’t force he slaves into
marriage or force the women to have children they could sell.
But still, it was a few years before I came into being. Pappy
was so proud his son was born free.”
Mark quietly stated, “My Pa fought in the War for the Union. He
was with the 45th Indiana Regiment. He doesn’t talk about it a
whole lot. I’ve read books about some of the battles and I can’t
imagine being there.”
“Where did you grow up?” Rorie asked.
“I was born in Enid, Oklahoma. My Ma died when I was six. We
moved around a lot after that. We finally settled in North Fork,
when I was ten. Guess you can say that’s where I really grew up.
Whenever Pa had to leave to assist the Marshal or for business,
seems the whole town helped raise me. There was Miss Hattie who
owned the General Store, but after she had to leave to take care
of her sister, Miss Millie bought the store and always kept a
watchful eye on me. Can’t forget Micah… oh Marshal Torrance. He
and Pa are best friends. Then there’s Lou Mallory, she owns the
hotel in North Fork, but by then, I was getting old enough that
I didn’t need all that watching after by the time she came to
town. How about you? Where did you grow up?”
“I was born and spent my early years in Alabama. Things were
tough. Many former slave owners were hesitant to give up what
they felt was their property, people I mean, and for those who
were given their freedom, others didn’t want to give former
slaves the time of day. Luckily, my Pappy was given his freedom.
Earning a living to support a young family was tough on my Pa.
So he packed up what little we had and headed to Texas with Ma
The Mark asked, “How long have you been a scout for the
“Oh, about five years now, I started when I was sixteen. I was
small and rode lighter than any of the other scouts, I could get
in and out of places most couldn’t or didn’t want to.”
“How’d your Pa feel about you scouting so young?”
“My Pappy passed on before I joined the Army, he was older when
he and Ma had me. After Pappy died, Ma went back to her folks
and I headed west. I didn’t want to be a burden on ‘em. I’d
heard Ma and Pappy talking when they thought I was asleep. Even
though we’s free, we weren’t free to do everything and I knew
how much harder colored people had to work just to make a barely
enough to survive.”
Soon the conversation waned, and both Mark and Rorie were asleep
next to the fire. Lucas kept a watchful eye on the camp, he was
proud of his son as he listened to the two young men talking.
Finally it was midnight, Lucas returned to camp and knelt beside
Mark and shook his shoulder. “Mark, wake up, your watch.”
“Yes, Pa,” Mark stretched his arms and yawned.
“Mark, drink some coffee before you head up, and I want you to
keep my rifle. I don’t think you’ll need it, but just in case.
I’d feel better you had it with you.”
Feeling more alert after drinking the coffee, Mark carried his
Pa’s rifle and went to where he had been told was the best
observation point, yet out of sight to prying eyes. Soon it was
close to three o’clock and Mark went to wake Rorie.
“Mark, you don’t know how much I appreciate the chance to really
sleep. I’ll wake you and your Pa before sunrise.”
Mark crawled back into his bedroll while Rorie went to the
vantage point to stand his watch.
Soon Rorie was back in camp waking the McCains, “Quiet night all
around,” he commented.
Camp was packed up after breakfast. Rorie made sure to do his
best to obliterate any sign that a camp had been made.
“Mr. McCain, I appreciate your understanding my not wanting you
to proceed on your own back to North Fork. My Captain would skin
me alive if he found out later that something happened to you
after I had met up with you and let you go.”
“I understand Rorie, no sense taking any chances.” Lucas
replied, tying his bedroll to the back of his saddle.
All three mounted and rode off. Each one keeping a watchful eye
on the horizon for any signs that the Indians might be close.
The threesome eventually came to a small ranch, as they
approached the owner stepped off his front porch lifting his
rifle, as if to shoot, as they halted.
“You just get on out of here, we don’t want no trouble,” the man
yelled looking straight at Rorie.
“Mister, I’m a scout for the cavalry and I got orders to alert
all settlers that a band of young Apache’s have gone rogue from
the reservation. They’ve been causing problems around this
territory. We need you to pack up and come with us to the fort.”
“I ain’t doing nuthin’ no black says,” yelled the man.
“Sir,” Lucas interrupted, “I don’t care about the color of this
man’s skin, but I have witnessed the renegades and I think it
best for you and your family to come with us.”
“Well, now if it’s you saying so. Martha, get our stuff packed
up, we’re heading to the fort.”
Sitting in disbelief, Mark couldn’t believe this man’s attitude.
He believed his Pa, but not Rorie? Mark was about to say
something when gunfire erupted behind him. “Get them horses to
the barn!” the man yelled as he ran to open the doors.
Lucas, Mark, and Rorie wheeled their horses to the barn. Mark
took control of all the horses once inside, as his Pa and Rorie
grabbed their rifles, ran to the windows, and waited. Mark saw
the old man run back towards the house, yelling as he ran,
“Martha, get my rifle, get the shells!”
They waited; each wanting to know who was firing on them? Shots
were heard striking the front of the barn and other shots were
heard striking the house. Whoever was firing, was keeping their
distance, not showing themselves. Soon the gunfire came more
frequently, yelling and whooping was also heard.
“Guess we have our answer Mr. McCain. That band of Indians
followed us here and now they’re gonna have some fun,” Rorie
stated as he broke out a window and slipped his rifle through,
taking careful aim so as to not waste ammunition.
“Fun?” Mark asked. “How can this be fun?”
“Mark, quiet! Get back in one of those stalls or better yet, get
up in the hayloft,” Lucas ordered.
“Pa, I can handle a rifle. Let me help,” pleaded Mark.
“Mark this isn’t the time to argue. Your twenty-two won’t be
much help. I need to know you’re safe so I can focus. Now, up in
the loft!” ordered Lucas.
Mark slowly resigned himself to climb up into the loft. When he
reached the top, he saw there was a board missing from the
hayloft door and he could see the Indians approaching from his
“Pa, they’re coming, I can see them from here. There’s two the
other side of the wagon, trying to get to the water well.”
Lucas looked to where his son told him the Indians were, but
couldn’t see anything yet. “Mark, just keep an eye out and tell
us where they are.”
“Sure Pa!” Mark sounded much more upbeat now that he realized he
Mark kept his Pa and Rorie informed as the Indians approached
the barn, he also yelled to the house to let them know a few
were approaching from the gully that ran next to the house.
Without warning, the fight began in earnest. Most of the time,
no one in the house or the barn had a clear shot at any of their
attackers. The fight was almost fifteen minutes old when the
unmistakable sound of a bugle horn calling charge was heard.
The Indians broke off their attack and left before the Cavalry
Regiment arrived in the yard.
Lucas, Mark, and Rorie slowly exited the barn. George and Martha
came out of the house. All stood and waited for the Captain to
dismount his horse. Rorie approached his Captain first, to
report on the situation.
“Thank you Mr. Washington, you’ve done an admirable job.” Then
the Captain turned his attention to the others. “I’m Captain
Adamson, with the 10th Cavalry out of Fort Stanton.
George introduced himself, “My name’s George Graves and this
here’s my Misses, Martha Graves.”
“Folks, I need you to get your belongings together and accompany
my unit back to the fort.”
Mr. Graves started to sputter, “I’ll not go in the likes of
them!” The man pointed at the soldiers, the first
African-American Cavalry Regiment.
“Sir, I’ll not have that kind of talk in the presence of my
men!” Captain Adamson demanded.
“Men! They’re slaves, they got no business protecting good,
decent folk. We came out here to get away from their kind. All
high and mighty, just because the President signed a piece of
“Mr. Graves, if I had my way, I would leave your bigoted kind to
the Indians, but my orders are to bring ALL settlers back to the
fort. This country is being torn apart by your kind; closed
minded, sniveling...” Mark could see how much control the
Captain was exerting to keep his temper close to civil.
Taking a deep breath, the captain continued, “The 10th Cavalry
Regiment has distinguished themselves on many occasions and I
will not hear you talk of them in such a manner. Either you keep
your tongue civil or I will gag you for the trip to the fort. Do
I make myself clear?! Now, get your belongings loaded.”
Turning to Lucas, “Mr. McCain, Rorie told me that I have you to
thank for saving the ‘hide’ of my scout. He’s quick and fast,
“Glad help out. Thankful that I was there when I was. My boy and
I were heading back to North Fork from Santa Fe, what’s the
chance we can finish our trip?”
“Right now, none. I have my orders and that includes any
travelers this regiment encounters. This unit is smaller than
when we left the fort. We’ve been picking up settlers and
travelers, and when we get so many, I break out part of a
company and send them on to the fort.”
“Well, if it matters, I was with the 45th Indiana in the War and
would be happy to lend my gun during the trip, if needed.”
“Thank you. What of your boy? Can he handle himself with a
rifle?” Captain Adamson regretfully asked.
“Hunting game only. I’d prefer he never know what it’s like to
take the life of another, for as long as possible.”
“Mr. McCain, he may have no choice if it comes down to it. I see
he carries a twenty-two, not much use against Indians at
distance, I’ll have one of my men provide him with a stronger
rifle.” Seeing Lucas’ expression change, “Mr. McCain, I respect
your desire, however, I need every able bodied person to shoot,
when the time comes. I’m afraid it is a matter of when, not if.
I am sorry.”
The sounds of the Graves getting their wagon packed was broken
by Martha’s scream. “George! Able’s place! There’s smoke coming
from Able’s place! My Boy! My Boy!”
Every man turned to look in the direction of the smoke; less
than a mile away over flat terrain. Captain Adamson yelled for
Company A to form up. Lucas and Rorie mounted as well, “Mark,
you stay here and help the Graves, I’ll be back as soon as
possible.” With that, Mark was alone with the Graves and a few
men from Company B.
Upon arrival at the younger Graves’ place, the barn was already
fully engulfed in fire. In front of the house, a young woman was
cradling the head of a young man in her lap; she was screaming,
“My girls! My girls! They took my girls!”
Adamson ordered some of his men to search the property and
report back. He ordered others to harness up the wagon team and
get them hitched. They weren’t going to wait to load anything
other than the younger Graves and food stuff, and herd their
Able Graves suffered a scalp laceration and regained
consciousness half way back to his parent’s place. During the
return trip, Captain Adamson discussed with his lieutenant the
need to go after the girls.
Soon, Lucas, Rorie, the younger Graves, and the rest of the 10th
arrived back at the elder Graves home. They all left the place
together, never looking back. Just the other side of a hill,
they met up with the rest of Company B and a larger group of
“Mr. McCain, I think at this point, I need to send Company B and
all these settlers back to the fort, I was all set to send them
on earlier, only I heard the gun fire and came to your aide.
It’s up to you if you wish to accompany me in search for these
girls or go to the fort with your son. The decision is yours.”
“Captain, if you could use my rifle, I’ll stay. Just let me have
a few minutes with my son.”
Captain Adamson watched the discussion between Lucas and Mark.
He could tell the younger man wanted to stay with his Pa, but
his Pa was adamant, he wanted his boy safe. Adamson admired the
younger man and was thankful he gave in to his Pa’s wishes. No
telling how the boy would react when it came time to fire at a
living being, even if they were Indians.
Mark watched as his father, Rorie, and the 10th headed out to
track the Indians to recover Molly and Mikaela Graves. Then it
was time for Mark to leave with Company B and the settlers.
At the pace the settlers were moving, they were a full two days
out from the fort; having to travel slowly due to many of the
settlers only having Oxen or mules to pull their wagons.
Mark rode next to Sergeant Booker and struck up a conversation
to help pass the time. Booker was only too happy to talk to
‘Real knowledgeable boy,’ he thought, ’Not too many people ever
taken an interest in what it was like to grow up just after the
War. Wanting to see it from the side of a people who been
Soon Booker’s thoughts turned to something more serious.
“Boy, you any good with a rifle?” Booker asked.
“Yes sir, just to hunt game. Only used it once on a person;
tagged him in the shoulder.” Mark remembered when the Ortega
Gang had struck their homestead.
“How did that make you feel?”
“Sick to my stomach.” Mark then recounted part of the story from
his experience with the Ortega Gang; having left him and his Pa
for dead. “Don’t know how I felt afterwards about the shooting,
I only wanted revenge. See I thought they’d killed my Pa. I
couldn’t think straight. Later, when I had the chance to kill
the outlaw leader, the U.S. Marshal was quicker than me.”
“Boy, I hope you never have to find out what it is to take the
life of another.”
“My Pa feels the same way.”
“But if it comes down to it, can you do it again? Can you shoot
another person? I’m not asking you to outright kill, but can you
shoot to wound, to incapacitate?”
“If I have to in order to save another’s life, I hope I can.”
They continued to ride in silence; each keeping a sharp eye on
When the procession of settlers reached a river, it was decided
the location afforded enough protection for camp to be made for
the night. The eight wagons were positioned to afford the best
protection should they be attacked. Soldiers mounted guard to
keep an eye out for any signs of Indians approaching and soon
all the settlers turned in for the night.
It was some time after midnight when Mark was awakened by a
noise. He couldn’t tell what the noise was, but something didn’t
feel right. Mark got out of his bedroll and went to have a look.
He scanned the wagons and all looked in order, then he looked
around outside the camp. Mark saw two young boys, not even in
their teens, walking along the river. He decided to follow and
get them back to camp; he knew they should be in their parents’
wagons asleep. Mark followed their voices and footprints until
he came to a small stand of trees, when he felt a sharp stab of
pain in his leg and fell to the ground. As he looked down, he
saw both ends of an arrow protruding from his upper leg. He
hadn’t heard the Indians when he looked up to see they had the
young boys in their arms. Both boys were too scared to struggle.
One of the Indians came over to Mark and through broken English
he said, “We take. You … quiet or …die.” The brave broke the
arrow and pulled the ends from Mark’s leg, then hauled Mark to
his feet and led him to where their ponies were waiting.
As they rode in silence, Mark wondered how he could have been so
stupid. He should have alerted one of the soldiers when he saw
the two boys wandering off, honestly he wondered where the
soldier was who was supposed to be on guard. He rubbed at his
throbbing leg and he felt his blood running down the front and
back of his leg, ‘Pa, how do I get myself and these boys out of
It was still dark when they arrived at the Indians’ camp, in
front of a cave almost hidden from view. Mark only realized it
was a cave when he saw others come out and greet his captors.
The younger boys were pulled from the horses they were riding
and carried into the cave. Another Indian, who carried himself
as the leader of the band of renegades, came up to Mark. With
steely eyes he looked directly at Mark, as if trying to size him
up, trying to sense if he was going to be more trouble than he
was worth or was there something else….
“My name is Cochae,” he said in perfect English as he pulled
Mark from the pony. “What do they call you?”
“My name’s Mark McCain,” as he leaned against the pony to steady
“Those two, are they your brothers?”
“If you’re asking if we have the same parents, no. They were
part of a group of settlers the Army was taking back to the
fort. Pa and I met up with them a ways back.”
Cochae made a motion for him to walk to the cave. Mark started
to take a step forward when his leg gave out and he fell to the
“My leg, one of the others put an arrow through it,” Mark tried
Cochae looked towards Mark’s leg and from the light from the
full moon he could see the wet of blood on Mark’s pant leg.
Cochae started yelling at the others. Mark couldn’t understand
what was being said, but by the tone he could tell Cochae wasn’t
too pleased. Two of the renegades picked Mark up, holding him by
his upper arms, and carried him into the cave. He was set down
near a fire before Cochae walked over, carrying a knife, and cut
Mark’s pant leg. He watched as Cochae placed the blade of his
knife in the flame and watched as it turned red/white. Mark
started to squirm; he felt something being forced in his mouth
as two renegades pushed and held his back down against the
ground. Mark did his best not to scream, he bit down hard on the
object in his mouth, closed his eyes as tight as they could be
shut, hoping it would prevent tears from rolling down his face.
His fists clinched as tight as he could make them, his nails
drawing blood from the palms of his hand, wanting to strike out
but couldn’t as his arms were held down. He tried to block out
everything as the heat of the knife seared through his leg. Mark
was soon lost to the pain as the darkness of oblivion overtook
Mark was fighting against the fog as he brain sought to regain
consciousness, having dreamed he was back home in Enid in his
bed, he only wanted to stay in the warmth of his dream. In time,
he became aware of crying, someone was crying. ‘Why’s Ma
crying?’ Mark struggled to open his eyes, wanting to comfort his
ma, everything was blurred. He wiped his eyes and blinked a few
more times allowing his vision to come back into focus. He
realized he wasn’t home; it had only been a dream. Sitting on
the ground next to him were two young girls. As he looked around
the cave, he saw the two boys sitting against the wall. Mark
moved his arms to prop himself up into a sitting position.
Mark softly called, “Molly, Mikaela?” Both girls turned around
at the sound of their names. They scooted ever closer to Mark.
The boys, realizing Mark was awake, quickly crawled over to him.
The boys were Jacob Miller and Tyler Tate.
Soon Cochae entered the cave, “So you are awake. Pleased to hear
you did not scream like a woman,” as he pointed to Mark’s leg.
“If you are hungry, I will send in breakfast.”
“Cochae, you’re wrong in keeping us,” Mark stated.
“Wrong am I? What would you know about wrong?” Cochae demanded.
“Keeping these children from their parents, it’s just not
right,” Mark replied.
“Right! All my life the white man has said he was doing right by
the Indians. Taking care of the Indians. Forcing the ways of the
white man on the young. Taking our land. Killing the buffalo.
The only one who did right was the man of your God at the
reservation. Yes, he taught us the white man’s words, but he
asked us to teach him our language, our heritage.
“Right?!” Cochae spat on the ground, next to the fire. “The
soldier’s in charge of the reservation taunted us. We get the
poorest of food, the oldest of white man medicines, the thinnest
of blankets, grains infested with..” Hatred burned in the
Indian’s eyes. “I watched my wife die with my child as she tried
to give birth. They would not allow the birthing woman to come.
They stood outside our hut and laughed at her cries and screams
of pain. I still hear those screams when my eyes close at night.
Right? You talk of Right?
“The man of your God came, he had heard, he called the army
doctor, but it was too late. My wife andmy child died that
night. The white man must pay!”
“But there are better ways than to attack innocent settlers. It
was members of the Army who did this, not these children, nor
their parents. You’ve been educated. You know there are laws!
Let the law punish these men,” Mark pleaded.
“Would the white man punish their own for actions against a red
man? I think not, we must claim our own vengeance. You are too
young to understand,” Cochae turned his back to Mark.
“My Pa always says that vengeance can eat a man alive. Turn what
was once good into something wrong. Vengeance can burn through
one’s soul. Your hatred might be just, but you’re directing it
against the wrong people. There are better ways to help your
people. There are other ways.
“Please, Cochae?” Mark’s tone of voice was taking on a maturity
beyond his years. “It’s not right to keep these children, nor is
it right to put your own people into such jeopardy by your
actions. Don’t let your hatred win, be bigger than those
soldiers at the reservation. Think of your people back on the
reservation. You’re looking for ‘an eye for an eye’, and then
those who retaliate will seek ‘an eye for an eye’. How long does
it continue? When does it stop?”
Cochae walked out the front of the cave, confused in his
thoughts. ‘This boy, his words are not the words of a child. I
need time alone.’
Rorie was happy to have Lucas along. He was impressed with
Lucas’ ability to track and read the subtle signs left by the
They traveled for two days before the signs were totally lost.
After searching for more than two hours to try to pick up any
signs, they reluctantly returned to meet up with the Calvary
“I’m sorry Captain, but that storm last night totally erased any
and all sign, we tried,” Rorie’s voice intoned how sorry he was
to declare his defeat.
“Well Mr. McCain,” Captain Adamson was saying, “I appreciate all
your assistance, but it looks like we should head back to the
fort ourselves. Get you reunited with your son. Don’t relish the
thought of telling the Graves family that we lost their girls.”
Adamson asked his sergeant to turn the unit around and head back
to the fort.
The rest of the 10th Cavalry returned to the fort, the soldiers
rode straight ahead and waited for orders to dismount as they
watched Lt. Colonel Wesley Musgrave take Captain Adamson’s
report. Lucas was looking around for Mark; surely he heard the
Regiment return. The order to dismount was given. Lt. Colonel
Musgrave motioned for the Captain, Rorie, and Lucas to follow
him into his office.
“Mr. McCain, I thank you for all the assistance you have given
my soldiers. However, I have some distressing news for you.”
“My son? Where is he?” Lucas felt fear start to rise within.
“Mr. McCain, your son and two other boys disappeared from the
group their first night after you separated. My soldiers
followed their footprints, it appears that maybe the two
youngest took off together and your son might have tracked them.
It’s unfortunate, but my men found signs of blood on the trail.
They tracked them until they lost all sign in the river. Company
B thought it best to get the rest of the settlers back to the
fort. They did return with your horses.”
“Lt. Colonel Musgrave, I have to go after my son. If you’ll
pardon me,” Lucas turned to leave.
“Mr. McCain, I cannot let you go out there on your own.”
“Sir, he won’t be alone, I’m going with him. Mr. McCain’s a good
tracker. He and his boy saved my skin, so I’m going with him,”
Rorie told the Lt. Colonel.
Both men proceeded to the door and were gone.
“Fools, the children are probably already dead!” as the Lt.
Colonel slapped his gloves to his thigh and walked back to his
“Sir,” Captain Adamson interrupted, “Sir, he served with the
Indiana during the War.”
“So you want to go with him too?”
“And part of Company A.”
It was several days later when Cochae returned to the cave. He
observed that Mark had quieted the girls from crying and the
boys sat on either side of the girls. There was a new boldness
in the two younger boys; their eyes no longer had the look of
“Mark, you spoke of other ways. Would the white man really
believe the word of a red man?” Cochae asked.
“If, your words are true. I know a red man who’s a U.S. Marshal,
Sam Buckhart. The white man believes his words and gave him a
badge and a duty to protect all and capture those who have
broken the law, whether they are white or red. You said the man
of my God witnessed the treatment of your people back at the
reservation. Would he speak for you, I mean confirm what you say
“We left him so long ago. He saw my anger. His words were kind,
but….” Cochae paused, “His words were as yours are now. You’ve
given me cause to think. Wisdom from a boy, no, a young man, one
so wise beyond his years. You believe?” Cochae asked.
“Yes, I believe. Because it’s the way my Pa raised me.” Mark
struggled to get to his feet. His leg still hurt, but at least
he could stand on it. “You might still be punished for the
wrong’s you’ve inflicted upon the settlers.”
“We’ve killed no one; all I’ve allowed my braves to do is
torment, steal, and burn. I was waiting. My anger wanted one big
battle, at the fort, anger against the soldiers and those they
protected.” Cochae fell quiet, then he continued, “But my anger
has lessened… since I met you.”
Cochae motioned for Mark to join him outside. Mark limped to
“Mark, if I were to let you take the children back to the fort,
would you carry my words to the white man’s law? Would you make
them see as you’ve made me see?”
“All I can do is try. I can’t guarantee they’ll believe me, in
their eyes I’m still a child. But if I were to bring my Pa back
here, have him listen to you, I’m sure my Pa could make them see
“In the morning you will take the children to the fort, return
them to their parents. I will wait and welcome in to my camp the
father of the young man who talks so wise.”
Before the sun has risen above the surrounding hills, Cochae had
three ponies readied. Molly and Jacob were put on one and
Mikaela and Trevor on the other. Cochae assisted Mark to mount
the pony given to him. Cochae led Mark to the path that would
eventually lead them back to the fort.
“Mark, ride safe, my braves will wait at the cave. We will cause
no more trouble. That is my promise to you.”
“I’m not exactly sure how to get to the fort,” Mark stated.
“Follow this trail until you come to a stream, turn east and
follow. You should come to a watering hole before noon today.
And if you follow the stream, you should arrive at the fort
tomorrow by nightfall.”
Mark left Cochae and led the children back to their parents and
he, hopefully, to his Pa.
It was shortly before noon when Mark noticed a dust cloud on the
horizon. He and the children had stopped at a water hole to rest
the horses and satisfy their own thirst.
The younger children were hiding behind some boulders, fearing
other Indians were coming for them. Mark was leaning behind a
tree, thankful for its support, his leg still pained him. Slowly
the group of riders drew near. Mark waited and worried, ‘Who are
they?’ Finally, he saw that the travelers were his Pa, Rorie,
Captain Adamson and a few soldiers.
“Pa!” Mark yelled as he limped out into the open.
Lucas reined in Razor, jumped down from the saddle, and ran to
hold his boy in his arms.
“Mark, what happened?” Looking down at the dried blood and
seeing the bandage showing from under the tear of Mark’s pant
leg. “Son, have a seat, sit down. Let me look at it.”
“I’m fine Pa, really.”
As the others dismounted, Molly, Mikaela, Jacob, and Trevor came
out from where they were hiding.
“Mark,” a look of disbelief was on his Pa’s face as he saw all
four children were safe. “You found them. How?”
“Actually it wasn’t me who found them. That first night after
you headed out after the girls, I followed Jacob and Trevor down
to the river. I knew it wasn’t safe for them to leave the wagon
“How did the three of you get away from the wagons?” Captain
“I don’t’ know where the guard was,” replied Mark.
“What happened after you left the camp?” Rorie asked.
“Once I caught up with the boys… well… the Indians caught up
with me. They took us to Cochae.”
“Cochae?” queried Captain Adamson, “He’s the one who’s been
causing all this trouble?”
“Yes sir, but he’s ready to stop, he’s promised me he would. He
let us go if I took his story to the fort.” Turning back to his
Pa, “Pa, he told me of how the soldiers at the reservation
mistreated his people, how because of their actions, his wife
and child died during childbirth. His anger, his hatred, his
grief drove him. Pa, I told him you would listen to his story
and take his words to the Army.”
“Mark, I’m just happy you’re safe. We need to get you back to
the fort to have the doctor take a look at your leg.”
“Pa, No! I promised. I promised Cochae that I would do my best
to make sure the white man knew why this happened so those
responsible could be brought to trial. He said he wanted peace
for his people. Please Pa, just listen to Cochae. I don’t think
the Army would listen to me, they’d think I’m just a kid, but if
you were to….” The look in Mark’s eyes pleaded with his Pa.
Lucas turned to Captain Adamson, “Well, what am I supposed to
“Mr. McCain, I think I can entrust the safe return of the
children to the fort with Company A, but I think your son should
take us back to Cochae.” Turning to Mark, “Boy, are you up to
“Yes sir,” Mark replied with more enthusiasm than he felt.
Captain Adamson ordered his men to take the other children back
to the fort and report the turn of events to Lt. Colonel
Musgrave, then to wait for their return.
Lucas and Rorie helped Mark get back on his horse. Then they
rode. Returning to the cave and hopefully, Cochae.
It was early evening when they arrived back at the cave. Cochae
and his braves were standing around the fire, watching the
riders approach. No one had a weapon in hand. They waited. Had
the boy kept his word or had he brought death back with him?
Mark stayed on his horse and rode forward, leaving the others
behind him, he began to speak. “Cochae, as promised I brought my
Father, I also brought Rorie Washington who’s a scout for the
Army, and his captain, Captain Adamson. They wanted to hear your
words. So you know they come in peace to listen, they gave their
weapson to me. This is my pa’s rifle, and the guns belong to the
captain and his scout. The captain says if your words are true,
he too will speak on your behalf in front of the white man’s
“Return the weapons to their owners,” Cochae stated as he
motioned for the others to come closer and join Mark McCain near
So it was that Lucas and Rorie assisted Mark down from his horse
and to the camp fire. They sat and listened to the horrors that
Cochae said were inflicted upon his people on the reservation.
Mark could no longer keep his eyes open and was soon asleep.
Lucas noticed his son drifting off to sleep and started to wake
him, when he heard Cochae say, “Let your son sleep. I am sorry
for his injury. That was not the plan. Taking children captive
was never part of our plan. I have punished my braves who did
this. Your son is wise beyond his years. He made me believe that
there are good white men, not just the man of your God.”
The conversation continued late into the evening. At its
conclusion, Cochae promised that his braves would return to the
reservation and return to the ways of the elders. He, Cochae,
would go to the fort and tell his story, and he would also
accept his punishment for the wrong he had done.
It was a few days later, when the fort opened their doors to
allow entrance to a tired group of riders. Captain Adamson
pointed Lucas in the direction of the fort infirmary to have
Mark’s leg looked at, and then he and Rorie rode on either side
of Cochae to Lt. Colonel Musgrave’s office.
This was the second time in as many days that Musgrave looked on
in disbelief when he saw the group return. In his office, he
listened to Adamson’s report and then intently listened to
Cochae’s story. “Cochae, this country was torn apart not so long
ago by the white man fighting brother against brother, father
against son, to end slavery. We’re still trying to recover.
We’re not perfect. It takes time for people to change.
“I don’t wish to see war come between our people. I am well
aware of what happened on the reservation, the Father wrote to
this fort of the treatment you received at the hands of the
soldiers. I sent a Company there to investigate, and should have
a full report by the end of the week. I promise I’ll have most
of those responsible behind bars and they will stand trial for
their cruelties. White, black or red, no one deserves to be
treated as your people were.” Musgrave paused, looking at the
man in front of him, a proud man. “It takes courage to fight an
injustice, but it takes strength to choose a different path, the
right path to seek justice,” he said.
“I am ready to accept whatever punishment the white man says for
the wrongs I have committed.” Cochae stood in front of Lt.
Colonel Musgrave and hung his head.
Musgrave continued, “Cochae, since you didn’t murder any
settlers and the children were returned safely, I’m fixing to be
lenient with you. This country needs to heal, ALL people of this
country need to heal, and maybe with this first step, it can
start. I’m sending you back to the reservation, any punishment
will be passed down by your elders.”
“Sir, then the boy was right?” Cochae incredulously asked. “Mark
McCain, he said if my words were true, the white man’s law would
“Cochae, the law is the law. I already knew the story and the
horrors before you rode through those doors this morning. Things
have changed and are changing at the reservation. I hope someday
you will come to trust all white men and consider us brothers.
Times are changing and this country is growing. We need to learn
to settle our differences in ways other than the gun and
violence. I’m tired of fighting, been doing it for too long a
time.” His attention drifted to a vision in the future when all
men were equal.
Lucas assisted Mark into the Army infirmary to have the doctor
look at Mark’s leg. The doctor slowly removed the bandages in
order to evaluate the injury. Pain showed in Lucas’ face as he
saw the burn marks left from the knife after cauterizing the
injury caused by the arrow.
“If I do say so, this leg should heal up nicely, in time. Don’t
see any signs of infection. Whoever cauterized it knew what they
were doing. Son, your leg muscle is going to be stiff and sore
for quite a while longer, but you need to continue to use it;
get the muscle moving again. Try not to favor it too much. If
need be, use a crutch for balance, but use the leg. I’ll give
you some medication to prevent any infection, just in case. And
an ointment to soften the tissue and keep it pliable.”
Turning to Lucas, “Just get him home, he’ll recover.” The doctor
turned back to rub a salve on Mark’s leg and re-bandage it.
Lucas and Mark exited the hospital to see Rorie and Cochae leave
the Lt. Colonel’s office. “Well?” Lucas asked as they
“The Colonel already knew the story.” Rorie replied, “Right
pleased that Cochae came in on his own. I’m to take him back to
the reservation, his elders will see to his punishment.”
A smile came over Mark’s face.
Cochae approached Mark and placed his hands on Mark’s shoulders.
“Mark, it takes a wise person to challenge another’s heart and
make it change to see the truth. I, Cochae, am honored to have
you as a friend.”
Then turning to Lucas, “Mr. McCain, you’ve raised a good son, a
son who understands all men are brothers, a son who sees beyond
the color of one’s skin and sees into one’s soul. If my child
had lived and been male, I hope he would have grown up to be as
your son is.”
Cochae and Rorie walked away to return to the reservation.
Lucas turned his attention to Mark, “Well son, seems you have
been listening to me when I’ve been reading from the bible. You
did a mighty fine thing. I’m really proud of you. Now, seeing as
how this uprising is over with, what say we head for home?”
“Yes Pa, I can’t wait to sleep in my own bed for a change.”
“I thought you wanted to spend a little time hunting on our
return trip?” Lucas asked.
“Hunting those two boys is all the hunting I want to do for a
while,” replied Mark. “It was too much trouble.”
Lucas could see his son was growing up and he was honored by the
words Cochae had spoken of Mark. ‘I’ve done my best to raise him
in accordance with the Good Book.’
As they rode home, Lucas didn’t know exactly how to answer the
questions his son asked.
“Pa, do you think, someday, that maybe…”
“Maybe, what?” Lucas asked.
“Can we really be brothers? Will we truly accept people for who
they are and not care about the color of their skin?”
Taking a deep breath, Lucas thought for a moment. “I don’t know
son. But maybe through your experiences you can help show others
what it means to live as brothers…”
“How do you get through to people like the Graves, they’d never
met Rorie and were set against him. And then there were the
soldiers at the reservation…”
“Mark, any journey starts with one step. You can be that one
step, and I’ll be right beside you.”
“I think I understand what you’re saying.”
Several days later, father and son arrived back in North Fork.
Knowing his son was a lot more tired than he let on, Lucas
asked, “Mark, how about we spend the night at the hotel and head
to the ranch in the morning? Right now I think we deserve to
sleep in the fruit of your labors from helping Lou.”
“Sure Pa. Right now any bed sounds good, as long as it’s soft
and has a big feather pillow. I’m tired of sleeping in my
bedroll on the ground.” Then as if the little boy in him took
over, Mark asked “Pa, next time we go on a trip, let’s take the
stage or the train, please?”
They pulled up in front of the livery. Lucas steadied Mark as he
stepped down from BlueBoy.
“Nils, you mind taking care of our horses for the night?” Lucas
“No problem. What happened? We expected you back days ago?” Nils
queried as he took the lead ropes to the pack horses while Mark
and Lucas led their mounts into the livery.
“I’ll tell you in the morning, right now, both Mark and I are
heading for the hotel.”
Nils watched father and won walk across the dirt street of the
town they called home.
They walked over to the hotel and into the lobby. Lou was
nowhere to be seen, ‘Just as well, I’m too tired,’ Lucas
thought. He signed their name and grabbed a key from one of the
bins behind the counter and went up to their room and soon, both
father and son were fast asleep.
Sammy David, Jr. portrayed Tip Corey who was introduced in the
episode, Two Ounces of Tin.
Michael Ansara portrayed an Indian who was a U.S. Marshal in the
episodes, The Indian and
The Raid. Michael Ansara reprised
the role of U.S. Marshal Sam Buckhart when his character was
spun off for its own series, Law of the Plainsman.
The events surrounding The Ortega Gang reference is from my
story, The Return of Johnny
This is a story based on the TV
series The Rifleman
Here are some other great stories. Enjoy!
around The McCain Ranch