The Writer's Corner
Written by Deanne Bertram
In this story I’ve borrowed several guest characters from The
Rifleman’s five year television run.
In Home Ranch (season one) we met Johnny Lehigh, a ranch hand
for one of the largest ranchers in the area, Oat Jackford (who
we also met), who owned property from New Mexico into Arizona.
In The Schoolmaster (season three) we met North Fork’s new
school teacher, Stevan Griswald; a man with strict expectations
of the children under his tutelage. However, he learned a lesson
that his eastern style of teaching did not work well with the
children of the west. And that some boys will defend their
fathers unquestioningly. Mark also learned the unfortunate
consequences of playing hooky from school.
In First Wages (season four) we met Dave Merar a fellow
rancher who lived the other side of the border pass.
In Death Never Rides Alone (season five), we’ were introduced
to Johnny Drako, a long-time friend of Lucas McCain. A known
gunslinger, who was always within the law when his reputation
was forged. Drako was looking for a nice, quiet place to live
and figured North Fork would suit him, just fine; specially
since his friend called the town home. However, events beyond
his control made him see the impact his arrival would have if he
stayed and he decided to leave town.
In my mind’s eye, I always believed that one day, Drako would
return to North Fork, after lying low and letting others gain
their reputations; his own would simply fade into history or
oblivion. Thus was the idea for my story The Return of Johnny
All other characters not recognized from The Rifleman are from
my own over active imagination.
This story takes place after the series ended its television
The Sound of Silence
Lucas and Mark McCain had finished lunch and were walking from
the house to the barn to saddle their horses before they headed
out to the range to check on this year’s calves in preparation
of weaning and moving them to a different pasture.
“Mark, you still plan to head over to Billy Lehigh’s this
afternoon?” Lucas asked as they saddled their horses.
“Sure Pa, you know his Mrs. Lehigh is due any time with their
second baby. Billy hasn’t strayed that far from their home for
the past week. He’s so nervous… what with Mrs. Lehigh’s mom
being there too. Thought I could help him out this afternoon for
a while. That and thought he might like having someone else
around to talk to.”
Looking to his Pa, Mark thought about what he was to say next,
“I don’t know a lot about having women folk around, but I kind
of feel sorry for him…”
“He’s still working at Jackford’s…” Lucas had quietly questioned
his son’s friendship with a man who was at least ten years older
than the boy.
“Sure, but the men over there… Well, I’ve heard them when we’ve
been in town…”
“And just what have you heard?” Lucas hesitantly asked.
“Well, it’s not so much what they say, but how they say it. It’s
sort of like their jealous of him and his wife, and now they’re
expecting their second child… Guess I’m not explaining is too
“Just what do you do when you’re over there?” Lucas asked. Deep
down he was proud of what his son was trying to do for his
“Pa, I just let him talk as I help him do chores around their
place… I’m just there to listen and to help him. I don’t make
jokes about his home life, I guess he… Pa, he told me once he
thought of me as his little brother.”
“Tell you what Mark. It won’t take both of us to check on the
calves. I think I can handle this. Why don’t you head on over to
“Really Pa,” Mark asked with an excited look on his face.
“Sure, go on, get out of here.” Lucas grinned to himself as he
watched his sixteen year son ride off.
When Mark arrived at the Lehigh’s homestead, he heard a woman
screaming as he knocked on the front door and waited on the
porch. He hesitated, but ultimately he entered the home.
“Billy, want me to go fetch Doc Burrage?” Mark asked as he saw
Billy running up the stairs, carrying a bunch of towels.
“Mark! I’d really appreciate it. It’s Julie! She’s been in labor
for an hour already. Her Ma’s upstairs helping. I…I…I don’t want
to leave her.”
Mark returned to BlueBoy and ran him the half hour to town,
jumping down in front of Doc Burrage’s office and began pounding
on the door, yelling for the doc.
Hearing the commotion, Micah stepped out of the hotel and
“Mark, what’s wrong? Something happen to your Pa?” Micah asked
with a concerned look on his face.
“No, Micah, Pa’s fine. Do you know where Doc is?”
“Sure Mark, he’s over at the Tillson’s. Adam Tillson came in
earlier this morning saying Old Man Tillson was having chest
“Thanks Micah!” Mark offered as he ran past Micah to get back to
“Hold on there boy,” Micah grabbed for Mark’s arm. “What’s
wrong?” Micah wasn’t about to let Mark go without more
“We need the doc at Billy Lehigh’s. His… His wife’s in labor.
They need doc to help Mrs. Lehigh give birth! Micah… I’ll head
to the Tillson’s, but if I miss him, Micah, will you tell him to
get out to Billy’s!”
“Mark, before you arrived at Doc’s, Dave Merar sent one of his
men in to fetch the doc too. Seems one of his men got hurt bad
after being bucked off a horse he was breaking. It’ll be a while
before he returns to town.”
Crestfallen that it appeared he had failed in getting help for
his friend, Mark scrunched his face and took a deep breath, his
decision made… He was not going to fail.
“Micah, can you get word to Pa? I think I’m going to be gone a
lot longer than I told Pa I would”
Concerned about the young man who stood in front of him as he
saw a look flash across Mark’s face, Micah asked, “Boy, what are
you planning on doing?” He still had not relinquished his hold
on Mark’s arm.
“Just getting help for Billy,” answered Mark in an bland tone of
voice. His mind wasn’t focusing on the question asked or his
answer, he was planning his route across range to theTillson’s
and then on to Dave Marar’s, the other side of the border pass.
“You stop thinking what you’re thinking. You’ll get help, but
you’ll stick to the main roads,” admonished Micah.
“Sure Micah, sure,” Mark absent-mindedly answered. “You get word
to Pa?” His eyes pleaded as he asked the question.
“Sure. I’ll get word to Lucas.” Seeing what he believed to be
Mark agreeing with him to stay on the main roads, Micah released
Mark’s arm. “Give Billy and Julie my regards once that little
“Thanks Micah! I gotta get going!”
Mark swung into the saddle and rode BlueBoy hard to the
Tillson’s; his mind was focused on getting Doc for his friends.
He didn’t regale at BlueBoy’s strength or surefootedness as he
would have had they just been riding for fun.
When he halted his horse in front of the Tillson’s home, Adam
Tillson met him out front.
“Mark, what’re you doing running your horse like this? I thought
you knew better!” the man scolded seeing how lathered and winded
“I wouldn’t be if it weren’t so important to find Doc. Micah
said he’d be here,” answered Mark.
“He was here earlier, Pa had an episode. But Doc’s already
“How is your Pa?” Mark asked, not wanting to seem rude.
“He’s doing fine Mark. Doc said it was a bad case of
indigestion, probably from his own cooking. Ma’s supposed to be
back from her sister’s in two more days,” Mr. Tillson replied
“And Doc Burrage, you said he already left? Did he head on over
to Dave Merar’s?” Mark asked.
“Sure did, left here about an hour and a half ago.” Curious to
why Mark was looking for Doc, he asked, “Is everything okay with
“Pa’s fine. I’m trying to get Doc for Billy Lehigh and his wife.
Their baby’s on the way. You tell your Pa I’m glad he’s okay. I
best get after Doc, see you later!” Mark called as he turned his
horse around and set out again to find the doctor.
“I will Mark, I will!” Adam Tillson called as he waved the boy
goodbye. As he walked back to his home, the man slipped his
hands into the front pockets of his pants and shook his head.
Mark wheeled BlueBoy around and headed to Dave Merar’s. He felt
guilty because how long it was taking him to find the doc. Also,
never had he remembered working BlueBoy so long or so hard, but
he had no choice in the matter.
“Sorry boy, but this is real important,” Mark said to his horse
as he gave him a pat on the neck. “Just a little while more.
Once we get Doc to Billy’s, I’ll give you a break, I promise.”
As Mark halted before he began to ride through the border pass,
he momentarily shivered, remembering just a few years before
when he had taken the route, against Nils orders, and
encountered an outlaw who stole the horse Mark was returning to
Dave Merar. Taking a deep breath, Mark prayed he wouldn’t
encounter any one as he urged his horse forward.
Mark arrived at Merar’s ranch and jumped down from BlueBoy in
front of the bunk house and ran inside without knocking.
Breathlessly he called out, “Doc, we need you at Billy Lehigh’s…
His Misses is in labor.”
Mark stated came to an abrupt stop upon seeing the splint
already on Rubin’s leg and Doc working to set the splint on the
man’s arm. Mark winced at the livid bruises already formed on
the side of the man’s chest and face.
“Mark, I’m almost done setting Rubin’s broken arm. Give me about
ten more minutes,” Doc Burrage replied.
“Gee Rubin, I’m real sorry to see you laid up like this,” Mark
“That old nag,” Rubin started to gripe, but sharply sucked in
his breath when Doc tightened the bandage around the splint. He
looked at Doc and decided to keep his mouth shut.
“He won’t be in the saddle for a while Mark.” Doc Burrage added
as an afterthought, “But he’ll live to ride again.” Doc
snickered to himself ‘Though how a cowboy ends up breaking
himself instead of the horse…’ as he packed his doctor’s kit.
While waiting for Doc Burrage to finish, Mark paced the floor
and fidgeted with his hat.
Turning to Mark, he asked, “Now Mark, you say Mrs. Lehigh’s in
“Yes sir, I was there about two and a half hours ago and Billy
said she’d been in labor for about an hour. Her ma’s there… but
I… I know Billy would feel a whole lot better if you were there
to help out.”
“Okay, Okay... Guess it’s going to be a long night.” Turning to
Merar, “Dave, keep Rubin in bed for about a week. Then bring him
to town. If he’s doing okay, we’ll figure a way to get him up
and around; going to be difficult for him using crutches with
that broken arm. Well, that’s all I can do here. Best get over
to the Lehigh’s. Come on Mark, let’s get going. I’m sure if this
baby is anything like its older brother it’s not going to want
Mark, Doc, and Merar stepped outside the bunkhouse together. The
rancher spied BlueBoy standing in the yard, head down, flanks
still heaving to fill with air.
“Doc, you head on over to Billy’s, I’m going to keep Mark here
for a while. His horse looks to use a break. I’ll send him on
when I feel he’s recovered,” Dave Merar stated while assisting
Doc Burrage to get into his buggy.
“Okay. See you next week,” Doc answered and rein slapped his
buggy horse and headed for the Lehigh’s.
Dave Merar called to Mark as he started to mount BlueBoy, “Where
all you been on BlueBoy? He looks plumb worn out, son.”
“Only trotted him from home to Billy’s, but once I got there and
found Mrs. Lehigh in labor, I ran him to town, then over to the
Tillson’s, and then I ran him here. I know I took a lot out of
him, Mr. Merar, but I had to get Doc for Billy and his wife,”
Mark pleaded. As he spoke he cast his eyes down, thinking Mr.
Merar was upset with him.
“Mark, I’m not chastising you in your treatment of your horse,
you had good reason. I’m just saying, he’s too good of a horse
to ask any more of him tonight, why don’t you leave him here for
the night and borrow one of my horses. You can come back for
your horse whenever it fits into your schedule,” Merar said as
he placed a hand on Mark’s shoulder and turned him to the barn.
They walked BlueBoy into Merar’s barn to unsaddle him. Mark took
time to sack and curry him out. He smiled as the rancher
personally tossed several large flakes of hay into the stall and
eventually returned with a bucket of water for the horse.
Merar turned to one of his hands, “Donaldson, go pick a horse
out of the remuda that’s close to BlueBoy’s size and get it in
the barn for Mark to use.” Then turning to Mark, “We’ll turn
BlueBoy out in the corral later and make sure he’s got plenty of
water in the trough and throw down some hay for him. He’ll be in
“I know sir,” Mark replied. “Mr. Merar, I really appreciate
this. I’m sure Pa will repay you for the hay and grain BlueBoy
eats when we come back for him.”
“Non-sense boy, I’d consider it an even swap. By the way, when
was the last time you ate? Seems you’ve been in the saddle for
quite a while tracking down Doc. And you look a little tuckered,
Embarrassed at his stomach’s betrayal as soon as the question
was asked, Mark replied, “Pa and I had lunch… before noon.”
“Come on to the house. Mrs. Merar will be putting dinner on the
table soon enough. I even think she baked an apple pie today.
And you know how upset my wife will be with me if she finds out
you were here and didn’t stay around long enough to sample her
“An apple pie, you said?” Mark grinned.
It was around six o’clock when Mark left Merar’s place. “I’m
going to head across country to get to Billy’s place, before I
head home. Save me some time instead of taking the roads. Pa’s
going to be mad enough as it is, guess it doesn’t really matter
how late I’ll be. Anyway, I did ask Micah to get word to Pa
earlier, but still…” Mark stated, feeling a little guilty about
the second piece of apple pie.
“Boy, you stick to the roads. It’ll be dark soon enough. You’ve
had good reasons for being gone so long. I think your Pa will
understand your being late.” Mr. Merar used the same tone his Pa
did when he wanted his orders obeyed.
“Yes sir, I promise,” Mark guiltily answered, knowing he had
disobeyed Micah’s instructions. But then, Mark hadn’t promised
Micah, he only said, ‘sure’.
Having lost the desire to race and the fact the horse was
unfamiliar to him, Mark casually rode the horse along the main
road that would take him from Dave Merar’s ranch to the
homestead the Billy and Julie Lehigh shared not too far away
from Oat Jackfods’s place.
As Mark rode up Craig’s Pass, he encountered a covered wagon
driven by a soldier cresting the hill in front of him. Since the
road through the pass wasn’t wide enough for him and the wagon
at the same time, Mark turned his horse around to head back to
the bottom to allow the wagon to pass him before he continued.
Mark was half way back down the hill when he heard the
unmistakable sounds of a run-away. He looked over his shoulder
to see the soldier struggling to stop the team, realizing he
couldn’t, the soldier jumped from the wagon, yelling “Run, get
out of the way!”
Mark kicked the unfamiliar horse hard in the flanks to get him
moving; the horse startled and began rearing as the run-away
wagon came closer. Mark finally brought the horse under control
and urged it to run. Just as Mark reached the flatlands, a wagon
wheel struck a bolder, causing the team to bolt sideway. The
sudden jerk of the horses and the weight of the load in the
wagon broke the singletree shaft. In their panicked fright, the
horses continued to bolt, ripping the harnesses from the chains
that attached them to the wagon. The out of control wagon
flipped and struck the ground, exploding.
The soldier landed on his feet, but dropped to the ground as he
watched the wagon flip. He sensed the explosion through the
ground and felt a blast of hot air pass over him. He covered his
head and waited for the debris to finish falling. As the soldier
stood to his feet, the rest of the patrol came up behind him,
reining their horses to a stop.
“Sergeant, what happened?” a man wearing lieutenant’s bars
yelled as he reined in his horse.
“The brake gave way, I…I… I couldn’t stop it. The wagon started
pushing the horses and they bolted. I tried, but…” the sergeant
The lieutenant led his patrol forward; as they reached the
bottom, the smoke was clearing for them to see what remained of
their totally obliterated wagon. Off in the clearing, one horse
from the team was struggling to get to its feet, obviously
suffering a broken leg. The other horse was struggling against
its teammate to get away.
The sergeant pulled out his gun as he ran to the down horse. He
pulled the trigger and the horse was still. Without having to be
ordered, a corporal ran and helped the sergeant restrain and
unharness the remaining horse.
“Oh my God!” The sergeant declared. “There was a boy riding up
the hill. He turned to let me finish getting down the hill.”
“WHAT?!” decried the lieutenant.
“There was a civilian…”
“Find him!” ordered the lieutenant.
Every cavalry officer knows the importance of a good horse and
each one cringed upon seeing the horse the boy was riding lying
dead, having been impaled by a piece of the wagon. Upon spotting
the crumpled body a short distance from the horse, the men
approached and observed the scorch marks on his clothing, his
singed hair, all indicating he had been close when the wagon
“My God!” the lieutenant exclaimed as he approached the boy.
“Corporal, bring me the first aid supplies and a canteen.”
The lieutenant ran the few steps to the boy. He knelt down and
slowly turned the boy over onto his back. The boy’s face bore
evidence of the explosion, darkened with soot and the sheen of
sweat from the heat of the explosion, and blood trickled from
The corporal handed his lieutenant the requested supplies. “Sir,
what do we do now?”
“If I remember, we’re close to North Fork. We need to get this
boy help. While I tend to the boy, the rest of you clear the
debris from the wagon and drag the carcasses out of sight from
The lieutenant continued to examine the boy for signs of other
injuries. He found the boy had broken his right arm, just above
the wrist, having been thrown from his horse.
“Sergeant Palmer, bring me a couple of short lengths of wood
from the wagon to use as a splint,” ordered the lieutenant.
The sergeant found a couple of pieces that weren’t too charred
and brought them to the lieutenant. Palmer held the boy’s arm as
the lieutenant set it and tied the splints around the arm.
“Lieutenant, we need to get him to a doctor,” Palmer quietly
“I know, but I don’t want to move him that far. Don’t know if he
took any internal injuries, or he could have injured his
back…and without a wagon, I don’t know how to get him to town, I
don’t want to carry him in the saddle,” lieutenant replied.
“Sir, let me ride. I’ll bring a doc and a wagon back here,”
offered Sergeant Palmer, feeling guilty for his role in causing
the boy’s injuries.
“No, I’m responsible for this detail, I’ll ride. Let’s get him
under the tree over there. We can start a fire to keep him warm,
won’t be long before the sun’s going to be completely down.”
Sergeant Palmer and the lieutenant gently carried the boy and
set him down under the tree. As they laid the boy down, Sergeant
Palmer yelled, “Corporal Mallen and Private O’Rily, get some of
that wood over here and start a fire.”
“Yes sir.” Both replied.
Sergeant Palmer held the lieutenant’s horse as he mounted.
“Lieutenant, we’ll be waiting for your return,” he stated as he
gaze stayed upon the still form of the unconscious youth lying
on the ground.
The lieutenant rode to North Fork and asked directions before
heading for the Marshal’s Office. He stepped down from his horse
and knocked before opening the door. He walked in to hear the
marshal and deputy talking, halting their conversation
“Good evening, I’m Marshal Micah Torrance and this here is my
deputy, Johnny Drako. What can we do for you Lieutenant?” Micah
asked when he saw the soldier enter.
Only giving a brief moment of questioning if he’d heard the
marshal’s introduction correctly, the lieutenant pushed his
thoughts aside and returned to why he was there.
“Sir, my name’s Lieutenant Crawford. My men and I were
transporting a load of dynamite and had an accident out at a
pass outside of town. Our wagon team… The brake failed and we
had a run away. At the bottom of the hill, it flipped and
“How bad are your men hurt?” Drako asked as he stood from the
chair behind his desk.
“None. We lost the wagon and one of our horse team.” Seeing the
perplexed look upon the men’s faces the lieutenant continued.
“Unfortunately, there was a civilian, a boy… Maybe fourteen or
fifteen years old, I think. My sergeant stated he was coming up
the pass as our wagon started down. The boy tired to get out of
the way… He’s been hurt. We need your doctor, if your town has
Knowing Doc was out of town and having been informed earlier in
the afternoon of what was happening, Johnny Drako stated,
“Micah, Doc Burrage hasn’t returned from Merar’s or Billy’s
places. You want me to ride out for him?”
“Yeah, Johnny, go get Doc, start first at Billy’s… He’s probably
there by now. I’ll get Nils to hitch a team to a buck board and
head out with the lieutenant and bring the boy to town. You just
get the doc here as soon as possible, but don’t go being fooling
enough to risk your own neck in the dark.”
Johnny left the Marshal’s office, stepped up into the saddle,
and headed for Billy’s. Micah and the lieutenant headed towards
the other end of town, to the livery and then to the pass.
Micah drove the team as he followed, as the lieutenant rode his
mount. Before they left town, Micah had offered for the
lieutenant to ride with him on the seat and leave his mount in
the livery. The officer declined.
Micah halted the team up and saw where the dead horses had been
dragged off, out of sight from those traveling along the road.
Passing carcasses, he looked at the chestnut saddle horse and
didn’t recognize it. Micah maneuvered the wagon along side the
fire. Before jumping down, he looked over at the soldiers caring
for the injured boy. They had pulled their bedrolls from their
horses and had wrapped the boy like a mummy.
“Lieutenant, I think he’s gone into shock. Even with all our
bedrolls… and… and the fire, he started shaking,” Corporal
“Sergeant, let’s get the boy in to the back of the wagon. I’ll
ride with him.” Looking away from the injured youth, he
continued, “Corporal, put out that fire. Private, get the
Johnny arrived at Billy Lehigh’s in time to hear a baby crying.
He entered the house and ran upstairs calling out for the
doctor. He paused outside the bedroom as he heard Doc Burrage
proclaim, “Well Billy, Julie, you’ve got yourself another fine,
Doc Burrage was handing the baby to Julie’s mother, who
carefully placed the baby in a blanket before she carried him to
the basin on the nightstand and started cleaning him, as Johnny
“Doc, hate to interrupt, but we got an emergency in town. Army
was transporting dynamite through one of the passes and it
exploded,” Johnny stated.
“How many are hurt and how bad?” Doc asked as he finished
tending to Mrs. Lehigh.
“Only one that we know of, but I don’t know how bad. They said
the explosion injured a boy that was on the trail.”
“Give us a few minutes to finish here.” Turning to Julie’s Ma,
Doc Burrage said, “Mrs. Miller, your daughter will probably
sleep through the rest of the night. You know what to do.”
When the older woman nodded, Doc turned to Drako, “Johnny, which
“They didn’t say,” Johnny admitted.
“Well, where’s the boy now?” Doc asked, upset at the lack of
“Micah rode out with a buckboard and was going to bring him back
at town, while I came to get you,” Johnny answered.
As they left the room, Billy was cuddling and cooing to his son.
Micah and the soldiers returned slowly to North Fork, careful to
prevent the uneven rode from jarring their passenger and
possibly injuring him further. Lieutenant Crawford rode in the
back, cradling the boy’s head in his lap. Without further
talking, the group went straight to Doc’s with the soldiers
unloading the boy and carrying him inside. Doc opened the door
as they approached and motioned for them to place the boy on the
Micah stopped at the door as Johnny came out.
“Well, do you know who the boy is?” Johnny asked.
“No, didn’t recognize the horse he was riding except that it was
one of Dave Merar’s. Saw the brand. They wrapped the boy like
one of them Egyptian mummies, felt he was going into shock, so I
didn’t want to unwrap him. Figured best to get him here and let
the Doc tend to the boy.”
“Micah, why don’t you and Johnny take the soldiers to your
office and let me work on the boy. I’ll come by later when I’m
done,” Doc Burrage said as he started to unwrap the blankets
from around his patient.
It was an hour later when Doc Burrage walked in to Micah’s.
“Well, Doc? How’s the boy?” Johnny asked.
“I think one of you needs to ride and get Lucas?” Doc replied.
“Lucas?” Micah asked.
“Micah, the boy you brought in is Mark.” Grief was evident in
doc’s voice and face.
“Mark?!” Micah and Johnny exclaimed together. Then Micah
continued, “But the horse I saw wasn’t BlueBoy. How can it be
“Micah, all I know is that when I unwrapped and examined him and
finally cleaned the dirt off his face, I saw Mark.”
“I’ll go get Lucas,” Johnny left the office, mounted his horse
and rode hard.
Lucas set his coffee cup down on the table as he heard a rider
approach. Hoping it was Mark, eager to hear whether Billy and
Julie had a boy or a girl; surprised to see Johnny dismount from
“Johnny, what brings you out this way so late?” Lucas asked as
he stopped next to one of the porch posts and elevated his arms
as he rested against it. He stood up straight when he saw the
look on Johnny’s face as he stepped into the light of the
lantern on the front porch.
“Lucas, there’s been an accident. Mark’s been hurt. He’s at
Lucas didn’t let Johnny say anything more. After grabbing his
rifle, he ran to the barn, and saddled Razor. He mounted inside
the barn and rode for North Fork, with Johnny fast on his heels.
As they arrived at Doc’s, Lucas was torn between running to his
boy and fearing what had happened. Lucas took a deep breath
before he walked into the Doc’s office. Doc was the only one in
the room, sitting at his desk.
Doc Burrage didn’t look up as he spoke to Lucas. “Lucas, what
did Johnny tell you?
“Only that there’d been an accident and Mark was hurt. Doc? How
bad?” Lucas dreaded the answer.
“Lucas, I need you to sit down.”
“He’s…” gulped Lucas as his body began to quiver.
“He’s alive Lucas, he’s alive. Please… sit down.”
As Lucas sat down, he saw Micah and a lieutenant come from the
back room. Beyond them, he briefly saw his boy lying in the room
before Micah shut the door.
“Doc?!” Lucas felt the urgent desire to rise to go to his boy.
Before he could begin to stand, Doc was pushing him back down
into the chair.
“Lucas, this here is Lieutenant Dustin Crawford. He and a detail
were transporting a shipment of dynamite down Craig’s Pass. They
had a run away and the wagon broke loose from the team. It
flipped and exploded,” Micah stated.
“What happened to Mark?” Lucas angrily demanded.
“Mr. McCain, your boy was riding up the pass when my sergeant
lost control of the team. Your boy tried to get out of the way,
the horse he was on wasn’t quick enough. When the wagon flipped
and exploded, your boy was… too close. The horse was killed;
guess it took the brunt of the explosion saving your boy’s
Lucas looked from Micah to Doc to Johnny, no one said a word.
Lucas sat there, struggling to understand what he had heard,
fearing how badly his son was injured.
“Doc? How… How bad is he?” Lucas fearfully asked.
“He took some superficial burns to his left arm and leg, and his
back. His right arm is broken. Right now, he’s unconscious, has
been since the accident. I hazard to guess he also suffered a
concussion during the fall.”
“What else aren’t you…” Lucas stopped as he remembered back to
the time when the powder keg blew up in his face. He remembered
being blind for a week and was painfully aware of how he felt
while being visually cut off from the world he knew.*. “His… his
eyes. Is he… blind?” ‘But this wasn’t a keg of black powder,
this was a shipment of dynamite,’ Lucas mournfully thought to
(*Refers to incident in season three episode “Dark Day in North
“Lucas, I don’t think so. When I lifted his eyelids and moved a
lantern towards and away from him, his pupils reacted in
response to the light… Unfortunately, we won’t positively know
until he wakes. The blow to his head… I just don’t know Lucas,”
the doctor answered in defeat.
“Mr. McCain, if I may… My men and I, we’re sorry this happened
to your boy. The sergeant did everything he could… I don’t know
what else we could have done.” Watching the distraught father,
he continued. “We’ve requisitioned rooms at the hotel and plan
on staying until we know more about your boy’s condition,”
Lieutenant Crawford stated. He’d hoped to hear something from
the man sitting in front of him, but when he didn’t, he bid good
night, turned, and left the doctor’s office.
Johnny followed the lieutenant out as he walked over to the
“Lieutenant, wait up.”
As he stepped to the boardwalk in front of the hotel, Lieutenant
Crawford stopped, “You’re Drako?”
“Yes,” he answered, knowing exactly what the lieutenant was
asking, and it wasn’t to confirm his name.
“You’re a lawman now?” the lieutnant’s voice held a brief hint
“I’ve always been within the law. I got tired of every young gun
out to make a name for themselves… Too many lives destroyed.”
“So you’re hiding behind a badge,” his contempt was more
“Not hiding. I’m standing here in plain daylight, well… maybe
not right now. This town knows my past and that’s what it is… My
past. What matters now is that I try not to use this.” Johnny
patted the holstered gun hanging from his hip. “And if my badge
makes someone stop and think… so be it. I never asked for my
reputation. All I ever did was defend my own.”
“You believe that?”
“If I didn’t, I wouldn’t be standing here,” answered Drako.
Deciding to change the subject, he was too tired to continue,
the Crawford stated, “You called out to me.”
“Yeah, I did. I get the feeling you were disappointed that Lucas
didn’t say anything.” The soldiers lifted his shoulders as if to
say, ‘it didn’t matter’. Give Lucas a chance to come to terms
with what he just found out. His boy and him, they’re each
other’s life. He’s a good man. Give him time with his bible. Let
the boy wake in the morning and things will be all right.”
“Something about things looking better in the light of day?”
inquired Lieutenant Crawford.
“Something like that.”
Johnny bid the lieutenant goodnight, turned and walked towards
the Mallory Hotel.
Doc finally decided Lucas was enough in control and walked the
father into the back room. Before him, he saw his son lying
under the sheet. Pain etched his face in looking upon the splint
around the boy’s right arm as it was propped on top of a pillow
on the far side. Lucas pulled the sheet away to examine the
other injuries Doc had told him about. Lucas saw the sheen of
ointment on the back of Mark’s left arm and leg, presuming some
also ran down his boy’s back. Lucas covered his boy back up and
sat down on the edge of the bed.
As he looked at his boy’s face, Lucas pushed Mark’s hair back
and then ran his hand down the side of his boy’s face, turning
Mark’s head to the side, and exclaimed “Doc, his ear, it looks
like there’s blood coming from it.”
“I know Lucas. I’ve some cotton wadding inside the outer ear,
but I don’t know the extent of how much his hearing has been
compromised. Lucas as with his eyes, we won’t know anything
until he wakes.” Doc said as tears were brimming in his own eyes
as he placed a hand on Lucas’ shoulder. “Lucas, I can bring a
cot in here and let you sleep next to him tonight. Honestly, I
don’t want him left alone. I want someone in here when he
Micah brought in the cot, but Lucas never used it. He spent the
whole night sitting next to Mark, worrying and praying, fearing
when his son woke that he would face a world where there was
perpetual darkness and no sound. Lucas couldn’t imagine facing
such a world. How could he ever get through to his son?
The morning sun rose and still Mark remained unconscious. Lou
Mallory, owner of the Mallory House Hotel, carried in a tray
bearing breakfast for Lucas.
“Lucas, I’ve brought ye breakfast. Now don’t ye go giving me
that look. Ye need to keep up yer strength. Not eating won’t
help Mark. Please Lucas, for Mark, ye have to eat,” Lou pleaded
with her Irish accent.
She smiled that her word had convinced Lucas to eat something.
“I stopped over at the church. Thought this might bring ye some
comfort,” Lou stated as she handed him a bible before she left.
“Don’t you want to know how he is?” Lucas asked as he heard the
swishing of her skirt as she walked back to the door.
“Micah told me. Lucas, I’m praying for the both of ye.” With
that, she left the room.
Doc Burrage came in to examine Mark for the morning. Pleased,
the burn marks weren’t as angry looking and the swelling of the
boy’s arm was subsiding. Doc pulled the cotton wadding from
Mark’s ears, thankful that the bleeding had stopped. Doc looked
at Lucas and saw the pain in his face.
Regret was in Doc’s voice as he said, “I’m sorry Lucas. Give it
time.” He placed his hand to the grieved father’s shoulder
before he left the room.
“Time?” Lucas asked.
“Time to heal. Time to wake up.”
It was late morning when the lieutenant returned to the doctor’s
office. He quietly stepped into the back room, removed his hat,
and waited. He watched as Lucas sat next to his boy, bible in
hand, tears falling down his face. Realizing he had no right to
witness the silent exchange, the lieutenant turned to leave, but
in doing so, his foot hit the leg of a chair next to the door.
“Lieutenant?” Lucas asked as he turned at the sound and saw the
lieutenant standing there.
“I’m sorry Mr. McCain, I didn’t mean to intrude. I just wanted
to see how th… how your boy was doing. If he had woke?” Hesitant
to learn the answer.
“You’re not intruding. I appreciate your concern. Please forgive
me for not talking with you last night.”
“Sir, you had more important concerns on your mind. No
forgiveness is required.”
“I do owe you gratitude for bringing my boy to town,” Lucas
stated as he turned his attention back to Mark.
“Sir, it wouldn’t have been necessary had my detail not lost
control of the wagon. Please, Mr. McCain, we are sorry this
happened. I sent word back to the fort explaining what happened.
You should know… We’ve been relieved of our duties until the
Army can complete an investigation. The colonel was none too
pleased to hear what happened. Before we left, I tried to tell
him the dynamite was too old and should be exploded where it
sat, but the railroad was desperate for the dynamite.”
Lucas heard the contempt in the man’s voice. Lucas lowered his
head and voice as he said, “Lieutenant, accidents happen.”
“Sir, it still doesn’t ease my conscience. It should never have
happened. If’n there’s anything I can do...” With that said, the
Lieutenant turned and left.
As the Lieutenant returned to the hotel, he met his men in the
“Lieutenant, how’s the boy doing?” Sergeant Palmer asked.
“Not to good. He’s still out cold. As for us, we’ve been
relieved of all duties pending a full investigation. We’re to
wait here until the colonel arrives.”
“Full investigation?” Lou asked as she approached to take their
order. Her Irish brogue coming through loud and clear. “It was
an accident. How can the Army feel anyone was at fault?”
“Ma’am, it’s just the Army’s way. I do feel responsible for what
happened to the boy. I should have fought harder against moving
that damn dynamite,” the lieutenant declared as he slammed his
fist down onto the table, jarring the dishes upon it. “Forgive
“Well, just consider North Fork yer home for the time being.”
Lou turned and walked away.
It was mid-afternoon when Mark started to regain consciousness.
Lucas was sitting in the chair, intent on the bible.
Mark turned his head and looked to his Pa and quietly called,
“Pa?” When Lucas didn’t react, Mark tried speaking louder, “Pa?”
With the pain in his head, Mark couldn’t understand why he
couldn’t hear his own voice. He felt fear growing inside as the
pain intensified when he started to sit up. “PA!” Mark cried and
tried to lift his right hand to his head as he fell back to the
Lucas saw movement out of the corner of his eye. “Mark, I’m here
son, just lie still,” Lucas said quietly. “Welcome back boy.
How’re you feeling?”
Mark’s eyes were scrunched closed as he fought against the pain
in his head. Taking deeper breaths, and lying flat, helped ease
his pain. When he finally opened his eyes, he saw his Pa, but
somehow he knew things weren’t right. He saw his Pa’s lips
moving but couldn’t hear the words. ‘Is my brain that muddled?’
Mark thought to himself. He tried talking to his Pa, but
realized he couldn’t hear his voice.
Worriedly, Lucas stood up and walked to the door in order to
call for Doc Burrage. “Doc, Mark’s awake, but something’s
wrong.” Lucas returned to his stand at his son’s side.
Doc entered the room and walked to Mark and was pleased to see
the boy follow his progress across the floor. “How do you feel
Mark?” Concern grew as Doc saw the perplexed look Mark held on
his face as he looked between his Pa and the Doc. “Mark?”
“What’s wrong?” asked Lucas.
Ignoring the father, “Mark, can you hear me?” Doc asked as Mark
was looking at his Pa.
“Doc?” Lucas pleaded as he sat down on the edge of the bed.
Placing his hands on both sides of Mark’s face, Doc moved the
boy’s head so he looked at him. “Mark can you hear me?” Again,
no verbal answer only a look of fear spreading across the boy’s
With his hand, Doc pointed to Mark, and then to his own mouth,
before moving his hands to Mark’s ears, while at the same time
he again asked, “Mark can you hear me?”
Even with his mind muddled, Mark figured out what the doc must
be asking and shook his head left and right, immediately
regretting the movement as the pain returned and he tightly
closed his eyes.
“Lucas, I fear that Mark sustained damage to his ears and he
can’t hear. Lucas, I’m sorry.”
“Doc, how long?” Lucas tried to hug his boy, but quickly laid
him back down when Mark moaned. Doc quickly retrieved a basin
from the nightstand and shoved the father aside as he heard the
tale-tell signs that indicated the boy would soon heave any
contents from his stomach.
Helping the boy to lay back down a few moments later, Doc placed
a cool, damp cloth to the boy’s forehead.
“What’s wrong?” inquired Lucas.
“It’s the concussion. He’ll need to lie flat for a while longer
and then slowly we can get him used to sitting up again. When
you pulled him into your arms, his brain didn’t have time to
adjust and that’s what caused the nausea,” answered the doctor.
“But his hearing?”
“Lucas, as with your eyes, I just don’t know. You were lucky.
Mark got you to my office quickly and I was able to get ointment
into your eyes and get them bandaged. But ears, we just don’t
know that much about how they work. It could be temporary or it
could be permanent. We’ll just have to wait and pray for the
“Wait and pray, is that all you’re good for?” Lucas caustically
“Lucas, I know you’re hurting, we’ll see what happens when he
“Doc… for now, please keep this between us. Don’t to tell anyone
that Mark can’t hear. I remember how uneasy he felt towards the
town’s folks when I was blind, and right now, that’s the last
thing he needs. When can I take him home?”
“Lucas, I’ll do as you ask, but you need to understand, this
could be permanent. You need to think about what’s best for
“I am!” declared Lucas. “When can I take him home.”
“Let’s see how the next few days go. I won’t release him until
he can sit up without throwing up.”
“Okay, but no one…”
“Okay Lucas. If you want to keep this a secret for a while, best
to take him home when most everyone else is at church tomorrow.
That is, IF he no longer feels any nausea.”
As the doctor left the room, Lucas gave thanks that his son’s
eyesight had been spared, but mourned the loss of his son’s
Later that evening, Mark opened his eyes and watched the silent
conversation his Pa was having with the doctor. Trying to
understand what was happening, why he couldn’t hear. His eyes
grew wide with fear as his head began to hurt again, he felt his
heart start racing. He grabbed for his father’s arm, and watched
as Doc Burrage left the room and returned a few minutes with
paper and pencils.
Doc returned to the room to hear Lucas trying to calm his son.
“Lucas, use these… Write out and ask Mark if he remembers what
happened,” as he handed paper and pencil to Lucas and another to
They watched as Mark tried to hold the pencil in his hand and
couldn’t because of the splint and the pain of his broken arm.
“Lucas, write out yes and no questions,” as he wrote Yes and No
on a piece of paper and placed it in front of Mark.
Before Lucas wrote his questions, he wrote, ‘Mark, point to yes
or no to answer our questions. Do you understand?’
Using his left hand, Mark pointed to yes.
‘Do you remember what happened?’
Mark pointed to yes.
‘The solders and the wagon?’
Mark pointed to yes.
‘Do you remember the explosion?’
Again Mark pointed to yes.
‘Have you heard anything we’ve said, no matter how faint?”
Mark pointed to no.
“Are your ears ringing, do they ache?” Doc wrote.
Mark pointed to yes.
“Do you have a headache?” Doc wrote.
Mark pointed to yes, but then wavered his left hand to indicate
“How bad?” Lucas asked.
“Lucas,” admonished the doctor.
While Doc continued to write his questions for Mark, Lucas wrote
a note to his boy, regretfully telling Mark that BlueBoy was
dead. Mark pointed to No. Lucas nodded. Mark shook his head. He
picked up the pencil in his left hand and attempted to write,
‘Merar horse.’ Lucas grimaced at the uneven strokes and varying
size of each letter.
Lucas wrote, ‘You weren’t riding BlueBoy?’
Mark pointed to no.
‘Where did you leave BlueBoy?’
Mark pointed to Merar.
“Lucas, I want the boy to sleep some more,” stated Doc. He
stepped to the table, picked up a glass jar and mixed some of
its contents into a glass of water handed it to Lucas. Lucas
slightly elevated his son’s head from the pillows and held the
glass of water for his son to drink.
Setting the glass aside, Lucas wrote, “Mark, try to sleep. I’ll
be back as soon as I can. Going to Merar’s.”
Mark slightly nodded, trying to keep the tears from falling.
Lucas patted his boy’s shoulder as he stood up to leave.
“Doc, I don’t want anyone in here and that means Micah and Lou.
You do that for me?”
“Sure Lucas. If they stop by I’ll tell them Mark woke up, but I
gave him something for the pain and he fell asleep.”
“Thanks,” Lucas stated as he left the room.
Lucas rode out to Dave Merar’s ranch. As Lucas arrived, he met
Dave coming out of the barn raising his hand as he called out,
“Dave, can we talk somewhere?”
“Sure Lucas, what’s up? I hope Mark got home okay last night.”
“Dave, there was an accident last night involving Mark;
“An accident? Is Mark okay?” the rancher interrupted.
“He will be. He said he left BlueBoy here.”
“Yes, I insisted he leave his horse here last night. He looked
worn out after chasing the doc down for the Lehighs like he
did.” Turning to yell to one of his ranch hands, “Donaldson, get
BlueBoy bridled and bring him to Lucas.” Upon turning back to
Lucas, “Lucas, how did the accident happen?”
“Army was heading down Craig’s Pass with a load of dynamite.
They lost control and it exploded. From what the lieutenant
said, your horse, the one you loaned Mark, took the brunt of the
explosion and saved Mark’s life. I’ll repay you the cost of the
“Lucas, that won’t be necessary. It wasn’t Mark’s fault. You get
back to town and take care of Mark.”
Donaldson brought BlueBoy out of the barn and handed the reins
to Lucas. Lucas turned and rode back to North Fork. He left
Razor and BlueBoy at the livery.
Mark had been home for five days and if anyone had stopped by,
they could tell things weren’t going well between him and his
Pa; he was growing frustrated. Any time his Pa came up behind
him, whether in the house or the barn or just sitting on the
porch, it startled him because he couldn’t hear him coming.
Evenings were the worst; he missed the talks he used to have
with his Pa. He couldn’t even hold a written conversation
because of the splint on his arm. He missed quietly sitting on
the porch, looking out over the horizon and just listening to
the owls hoot or a wolf calling to its pack.
Lucas was out in the barn tending to the stock while Mark was
struggling to finish the dishes; washing and drying with only
one good arm was difficult. Tears were streaming down Mark’s
face as he grew angrier with himself and the situation he found
Stevan Griswald stepped to the front porch of the McCain hom and
saw Mark through the door window and knocked. When Mark didn’t
turn around Mr. Griswald knocked again and entered the house,
calling for Mark. A little annoyed when Mark didn’t acknowledge
his presence, he walked over and placed a hand on Mark’s
shoulder and turned him around.
Not realizing anyone else was in the house; Mark startled, as he
spun around, his face angry, dropping the metal dishpan from his
hands and he clinched them into fists. As the dishpan hit the
floor, Mr. Griswald automatically placed his hands to his ears
to block out the noise and watched as Mark just stared at the
pan spinning around in a circle, making quite a racket. When the
pan stopped spinning, Mr. Griswald bent over to pick it up. He
placed the pan on the counter and watched as Mark ran from the
house, out the back door.
Mr. Griswald turned as he heard the front door open and watched
Lucas enter, “Lucas, Mark didn’t seem to realize I was here. I
knocked and when he didn’t respond I came in. I think I startled
him and….. Lucas he ran out the back.”
Lucas ran out the back door, yelling after Mark. He watched as
Mark led BlueBoy from the barn, hopped on him bareback, and rode
away. “MARK!” Lucas yelled. “MARK!”
Mr. Griswald came up behind Lucas. “Lucas, I’m sorry. I don’t
know why Mark reacted so… He looked mad…”
“It’s not your fault, Stevan…” Being torn between going after
his son and find out why the school teacher was standing beside
him, Lucas asked. “What brings you out here today?”
“Micah told me about the accident and since Mark hadn’t been in
school all week, I thought I would drop by and bring his lessons
Lucas placed both hands in his front pockets and slumped his
shoulders as he returned to the house and sat down at the table,
motioning for the man to take a seat. “Stevan, since the
accident, Mark can’t hear,” Lucas replied.
“Deaf? Lucas, I didn’t know,” Stevan’s eyes held sorrow.
“Stevan, it’s not your fault. But the expression on your face is
just why I asked Doc not to tell anyone, I wanted to protect my
“Beside Doc, does anyone else know? I can’t say that I’ve heard
anyone say anything other than the Army board of inquiry
declared it was an accident. During the investigation I heard
them say Mark was going to be okay.”
“Physically, yes. His arm will heal as will the burns. But as
for his hearing... Stevan, I’ve not even talked to Micah about
this. I haven’t left the ranch because I didn’t want to leave
Mark at home alone. But of late, Stevan, he’s just become so
tense... angry” Lucas rested his head in his hands. It felt good
to talk to someone. “I’ve seen it in his eyes. I’ve seen the
hurt and at times I’ve seen anger. I don’t know how to help my
boy.” Tears were finally streaming down Lucas’ face.
“Lucas, there are schools that can teach Mark. I know of a very
good school in Albuquerque. I’d be honored to send a wire of
“School? What kind of school?” Lucas hesitantly asked as he
raised his head from his hands.
“It’s a school for the deaf. They’ll teach Mark how to
communicate using his hands, its called sign language, and the
speaker uses their hands to create letters, and gestures with
their hands and facial expression to create words. The teachers
work with the student and the family, so they can learn to
communicate with each other.”
“I don’t know Stevan, I appreciate the offer, it’s just that I
was hoping Mark’s inability to hear would be temporary.” Stevan
saw the pain in Lucas’ eye as he was beginning to accept that
the longer Mark went without hearing, that his son’s condition
might be permanent.
“Lucas, this isn’t like when you were blind. At least then, you
both could still talk to each other. You could get your fears
out in the open. You, yourself, said how tense Mark’s becoming…
the longer you let this simmer, ultimately, it’s going to
explode.” Stevan realized the word he used probably wasn’t the
best one when he heard Lucas’ sharp intake of breath.
“I can’t see sending him away… to school.”
“Lucas I have friends who I’m sure would be willing to come
here, at least to start helping Mark, and you.”
“Thanks Stevan.” As Lucas looked out the front window, he
commented, “Mark needs someone and I’m not that person.”
“Lucas, he needs you now more than ever. You’re going to have to
work just as hard to learn this new language as he will.”
It was well after nightfall when Mark returned BlueBoy to the
barn and walked to the house. Lucas was in his chair reading
from his bible as Mark entered. Lucas started to rise when he
saw the tear stains on his boy’s face. Mark didn’t even look to
his Pa as he walked straight to the bedroom they shared.
Mark sat down on the side of his bed in the dark. Grieving for
his loss; wanting desperately to talk to his Pa, to get his
feelings out in the open. To hear his Pa tell him that
everything would return to normal soon.
Lucas went to follow Mark to the bedroom, as he passed the
table, he picked up a piece of paper. He wanted, needed, Mark to
read what he had written. As he entered the bedroom, Lucas
walked over to the nightstand and lit the lantern. Mark was
sitting on the edge of his bed; the fingers of his hands
interlaced and held between his thighs, his head and shoulders
slumped as in defeat. Lucas was taken back by what he witnessed.
He saw hurt and fear, a whole gamut of emotions held in his
son’s face. Lucas walked to Mark and sat down next to him. Mark
started to get up, but Lucas grabbed his left forearm, his eyes
pleading for Mark to sit. He handed Mark the note he had written
I want you to know how much I love you. I know you’re hurting,
I’m hurting too. I miss our talks. Mr. Griswald is wiring a
friend whom he feels can help us learn to talk to teach other.
He told me of a school in Albuquerque for people who are deaf.
Please Mark, I don’t know how else to help us.
Mark sat and cried as Lucas wrapped him in his arms; cried
because he felt his Pa was sending him away. Oh, how he wanted
to talk to his Pa, beg him not to send him away. His mind raced
in confusion at all that had happened. It just wasn’t fair.
As the days passed, Mark withdrew into himself even more. He
felt if his Pa didn’t want him around, then he might as well
stay away from the house as much as possible. He felt it would
make it easier when the time came to say goodbye; when he had to
leave for Albuquerque.
Four days after Mr. Griswald sent the wire, the stage arrived in
North Fork and Mr. Griswald was there to meet it. He helped a
couple step down and collected their bags and led them to his
“Thomas, Maria, I really appreciate you coming all the way to
North Fork,” Stevan Griswald spoke as he greeted his friends.
“Stevan, we were intrigued by your wire. How are the boy and his
father handling the situation?” Maria asked.
“From what I heard and saw, the boy’s taking it hard. He can’t
hear and because of that, he won’t talk. He can’t even hold a
pencil to write because of the splint on his broken arm. His
relationship with his Pa is something special. It’s been just
the two of them. I’ve seen them go through ordeals that would
have driven anyone else apart. They’ve always worked their
problems out together and talked through their anguish, but now,
their relationship is strained to a point I feel it’s about
ready to break.”
“Well, Thomas and I talked on the way out here. We feel that it
would be better if Thomas worked with the father and for me to
work with the boy,” Maria stated.
“Good, I already have a room reserved for you at the hotel. Just
so you know, no one else in the town knows about the boy’s
hearing loss. Things happened in the past and Lucas felt it
better, at least in the beginning, to not tell anyone else,”
“Stevan, why don’t you get me settled in the hotel and then you
can take Maria out to their place,” Thomas replied.
Once Thomas was settled at the hotel, Stevan drove Maria to the
“Lucas, good to see you!” Stevan called as they arrived at the
McCain home. “I’d like you to meet Maria Christensen. She’s here
to teach you and Mark how to communicate again. Maria, this is
“Welcome to our home Miss Christensen,” Lucas said as he
assisted Maria down from the wagon.
“Please, Mr. McCain, it’s Mrs. Christensen, but call me Maria,”
she said as she took Lucas’ hand.
“Fine, if you’ll call me Lucas.”
Lucas led Maria and Stevan into the house, he asked, “Can I get
either of you a cup of coffee?”
“No thank you. Where’s Mark?” Stevan asked.
“Ever since I told him about the school for the deaf in
Albuquerque, he rises early, does his chores in the barn and
rides out of here and comes home just before it gets dark,”
Lucas answered. “He eats and then goes to bed. He won’t even
join me out on the porch like he used to.”
Maria saw the desperation in Lucas’ eyes and heard it in his
voice. “Lucas, tell me what happened, how did Mark lose his
hearing? I need to know exactly what has happened between you
and your son since the accident in order to help.”
Lucas proceeded to tell Maria how the accident happened. How and
why he had asked Doc Burrage to not tell anyone that Mark was
deaf. How Mark tended to keep things inside, but in the end,
Mark always came and talked, to work out any problems. How their
relationship was built on them being able to talk and help each
“I heard how Mark reacted when Stevan surprised him a few days
back. As hard as it’s going to be for your boy, it’s going to be
harder on you. Lucas, I need to do this without you here. His
running off avoiding people and you, he’s scared.”
“But he needs me. This is still wild country and I won’t have my
boy out here by himself!” Lucas declared.
“Lucas, right now, he needs to gain confidence that he can do
this on his own. Once he does that, then he’ll need you. Right
now, I believe you are making the situation harder on him.”
Sensing the concerned father was growing frustrated with her,
she explained, “Unfortunately, with your continued presence
here, you remind of what he’s lost. All I’m asking is for you to
give him some time alone, with me.”
“Maria, I want to do what’s best for my boy...” With a breaking
heart, Lucas stated, “Tell me what to do.”
“You can spend the next few days in town. I’ll come get you when
I feel your son is ready for you to come home. But first, I want
you to write Mark a note,” Maria replied.
“I don’t like the idea of you out here alone,” Stevan Griswald
“Stevan, I have to do this here. We can’t do this in town. This
is where the boy feels safe and won’t have ‘prying’ eyes on him
all the time. Please let me do this my way?”
Lucas wrote exactly what Maria said, realizing the last letter
to his son hadn’t been worded so there would be no confusion.
Lucas felt guilty when Maria explained the wording of the letter
was probably the reason why Mark stayed away from their
homestead so much.
A teacher from the school for the deaf in Albuquerque, Maria
Christensen, is here to help us. At first, she needs to work
with you alone, here at the house. She’s asked me to stay in
town for a few days. She’ll stay in our room. I’ve set up the
cot in the front room for your use.
I pray that you’ll accept why I’m going to stay in town; I can’t
wait until I can rejoin you in our home.
I look forward to seeing you soon.
After placing the note on the table, next to the lamp, Lucas
asked, “So what am I supposed to do in town while you’re out
here with my boy?”
“Lucas, my husband, Thomas, is at the hotel, waiting for you.
You need to learn to talk using sign language too. For right
now, it’s best that you learn separately. We know this from
experience, we learned the hard way. Our son was about your
boy’s age when he lost his hearing, complication from Scarlet
Fever. Please trust us to do what’s right for you and your boy,”
Lucas packed a bag before he saddled Razor to return to town.
Led his horse from the barn and tied him to the back of Stevan’s
buggy and they rode back to North Fork.
It was late when Mark returned to the house; he’d seen that
Razor was missing from the barn and thought it was just as well
as he couldn’t bring himself to face his Pa. As he entered the
house, he saw his father’s rifle was missing, too. He found the
note placed on the table, against the lantern. Mark set his hat
on the table as he read. He walked to the bedroom and found the
door was braced closed from the other side. As he turned, he saw
the cot set up on the far side of the table. He walked to the
cot, removed his boots, belt and shirt before he lay down.
Before long, he was asleep with tears still streaming down his
Stevan stopped in front of the livery. He returned his horse and
buggy to Nils as Lucas settled Razor in for the night. They left
the livery and headed to the hotel.
Thomas Christensen was sitting in the restaurant when they
arrived. After introducing the two men, Stevan Griswald bid both
Lucas and Thomas sat and talked. Thomas stated that he
understood Lucas’ hopes that his boy would ultimately recover
some of his hearing if not all, but right now, it wasn’t
practical not to treat Mark as if his hearing loss wasn’t
permanent. Lucas needed to face the possible reality that Mark
could be deaf for the rest of his life. And, that keeping that
fact from others in town would only make matters worse later on.
“Lucas, honestly, it’s best that I teach you and a few others
who mean the most to the boy to sign. That way, when you’re not
around, he’ll still be able to ‘talk’ with someone else. You
need to tell your friends.”
“Thanks Thomas… I guess I should talk to Micah and Johnny, our
Marshal and Deputy, then there’s Lou, she owns the hotel, and of
“Lucas, Stevan was quite proficient a number of years back in
signing, but a refresher course would do him some good,” Thomas
“If you don’t mind, I’ll be back in a few minutes.” Lucas stood
up and placed his hat on his head before reaching for his rifle.
Lucas stepped from the hotel with a heavy heart; he was finally
coming to realize there was a good possibility that Mark
wouldn’t regain his hearing. First, Lucas walked to Doc
Burrage’s and asked him to meet him in the restaurant in about
fifteen minutes. Next, Lucas walked to the Marshal’s office.
“LucasBoy, glad to see you. How’s Mark recovering?” Micah asked
as he sat down at his desk.
“That’s what I’ve come here to talk to you about. There’s some
news about Mark and I didn’t let Doc tell to anyone. And now… I
find that I need your help,” Lucas sighed as he sat down on the
edge of Micah’s desk.
“Anything Lucas, you know how I feel about the boy,” Micah
stated as he sat forward in his chair.
“Micah, Mark’s deaf. He lost his hearing in the accident.” From
the doorway, Lucas heard a gasp and an ‘Oh No!’ He turned to see
both Lou and Johnny had walked into the Marshal’s Office
together. Lou had her hand covering her mouth. Johnny had both
hands on Lou’s shoulders trying to steady her as he escorted her
to a chair.
“Lucas, I’m sorry. We didn’t know.” Johnny stated after getting
a cup of coffee and handing it to Lou.
Lucas continued, “I asked Doc Burrage to keep it quiet. I was
hoping and praying his hearing would return. But it’s not.”
Lucas sat back down on the edge of the desk.
“Lucas, you said you needed our help,” Micah said.
“Friends of Stevan Griswald arrived in town today. They work
with people, and their families, who have lost their hearing.
They teach them how to talk using sign language,” Lucas replied.
“Is that Thomas Christensen?” Lou asked.
“Yes, he’s at the restaurant right now. He’s here to teach me
how to talk with Mark again and said it would be best to teach
others, for when I’m not around. You three mean the most to
Mark, and to me, I wanted to ask you if you’d agree to learn how
to talk with Mark.”
All three stated there was never a need to ask, just tell them
when and where.
“Thomas would like to meet with the four of us tonight and then
he can work with us as a group or individually for the next few
Johnny asked, “So while we’re here in town, who’s looking after
“Thomas’ wife, Maria, is out at the ranch. Don’t much like the
thought of the two of them out there alone, but she said Mark
needed to do this on his own, without me around.” If anyone in
the room saw the tears welling in Lucas’ eyes, no one acted as
if they noticed or minded.
The sun wasn’t up and Mark felt a strong vibration coming
through the cot from the floor. He startled awake and looked
around. After wiping the sleep from his eyes, he saw a woman
walking around the kitchen. As she stood in front of the stove,
he saw her long, dark hair tied into a pony tail, she was
wearing jeans and a shirt. At first Mark thought Millie Scott
has returned to town. As the woman turned from the stove to walk
to the sink, he felt disheartened. Mark soon realize she was the
reason for the vibrations he was sensing, she was stomping
around and her footfalls coincided with the vibrations he was
feeling through the cot. She turned from the sink and saw that
Mark was awake.
She signed and spoke, ‘Good Morning’.
Mark stared at her. As she walked towards Mark, she said and
repeated the sign again, only this time, she stopped at the
table and picked up a card with ‘Good Morning’ written on it and
showed it to Mark. Again, she repeated the sign and picked up
the card. As she set the card down, she pointed to Mark and
repeated the sign.
Mark made an effort to imitate what Maria had done, as best he
could with his broken arm. Maria walked the rest of the way to
where Mark sat and made a minor correction as Mark repeated the
sign. Maria smiled at Mark and nodded approval.
She made a different gesture with her hands and picked up a card
that read, “My name is Maria.” Again she repeated the gesture
and picked up the card and handed Mark the note that Lucas had
She pointed to Mark’s clothes then signed, ‘get washed and
dressed’. Again, she picked up a card from the table, showed it
to Mark, then repeated the sign. Before getting dressed, Mark
tried to mimic the sign.
Maria set breakfast on the table as Mark came in from washing up
at the back porch. As they ate, Maria set out a set of
specialized cards in front of Mark. Mark spread the cards out on
the table and saw each card contained an alphabet letter and a
picture of a hand in various poses.
After breakfast, Maria assisted Mark in doing the dishes and
chores in the barn. They returned to the house to start their
study for the day. Maria walked Mark through his alphabet.
Seeing the difficulty Mark was having using his right hand with
the splint, she worked with him to use his left hand, for the
time being. Eventually, she pulled out the cards that spelled
out her name as well as the cards that would spell out his name.
By lunch time, Mark could competently sign his name as well as
names of various people living in North Fork. Since it was so
close to lunch, on a pad of paper Maria wrote out, ‘Are you
hungry?’ then signed the phrase. Mark nodded his head. Maria
shook her head, then slowly signed, ‘I’m hungry’, and wrote out
the statement as the proper response. Maria signed, ‘Are you
hungry?’ to which Mark signed, ‘Yes, I’m hungry.’ Maria smiled
at the initiative for Mark to spell the word ‘yes’.
After lunch, Maria continued to teach Mark how to sign. Finally,
it was time to feed the stock for the afternoon. As Mark left
the house, Maria noticed a smile on his face. ‘Probably the
first smile since his accident,’ she thought.
It had been a week that Maria worked diligently with Mark,
impressed in how quick he was to pick up his new language.
Stevan Griswald stopped by one afternoon, looking through the
open door, he saw Mark working on his studies. Maria was coming
from the bedroom and saw Stevan standing in the doorway, and
gave him a nod. As Stevan entered, he started stomping his feet,
Mark looked up to Maria and saw her pointing to the door. As he
turned around in his chair, Mr. Griswald signed, “Good Day
Mark”, a huge grin beamed across Mark’s face as he signed back
“Good Day Teacher”.
Mark felt Maria stomp for his attention; he turned back to her
to watch her sign, “Mark break time, you did well today.” Mark
got up from his chair at the table and went to the barn where he
curried BlueBoy for a while.
“Well Maria,” Stevan started. “How’s Mark doing?”
“He’s a real bright boy, Stevan. Picks up everything quicker
than I imagined he would. He’s also been doing his regular
studying. He’s doing quite admirable in working to write with
his left hand. By the way, I saw the look on his face when he
realized you were entering, he’s no longer scared. How are his
father and the others doing?”
“They’re really trying and coming along okay. The boy’s father
is really pushing himself to learn. Do you think he can come
“I was planning to come into town this afternoon to talk with
Thomas to see if he feels they’re ready. Thought it might be a
nice surprise for Mark. He’s actually been smiling the past
couple of days.”
“Lucas will be pleased to see that. Maria, as for Mark’s future
education, do you think it best that he goes to school in
“Stevan, you know signing almost as well as Thomas and I. He
said all you needed was a refresher course. I don’t see why you
can’t continue teaching him and let him stay here. The school is
more for younger children who need the full education
curriculum.” With a gleam in her eyes, Maria stated, “Tell you
what, why don’t you stay here with Mark, give him some practice
with someone new. I’ll ride your horse back to town and bring
his father home.”
As word spread of Mark’s true condition and the fact that there
were teachers in town instructing Lucas and others in how to
communicate with Mark, numerous people from the town showed a
keen interest in learning how they too could talk with Mark.
During the day, the children had school with Mr. Griswald, but
of an evening, the school was full of people wanting to learn
how to sign. Stevan Griswald worked with the children, while
Thomas Christensen worked with the adults. One afternoon Lucas
was surprised and concerned to see Maria enter the schoolhouse
as class was getting ready to start.
“Maria, is Mark okay?” as he ran to where Maria stood.
“Lucas, Mark’s doing just fine. Don’t worry, Stevan is at the
ranch with Mark, so he’s not there alone. But… I needed to talk
to Thomas for a few minutes.”
Lucas stood aside and allowed Maria to walk to the front of the
classroom to hold a conversation with her husband. Soon enough,
a smile played across Thomas’ face.
“Class, I want to thank everyone for coming for the past week
and you’ve all worked so hard. But there are times, when a break
is called for. If you want, you can practice with each other,
I’ll walk around and observe. Call it practical conversation.”
Thomas and Maria walked to the back of the classroom. “Lucas, we
have a surprise for you. Go get your bag from the hotel, and
your horse. You’re going home tonight,” Thomas stated.
Lucas walked with Maria to the hotel where he collected his bag
and prepared to go home. Happy that he was going home, yet
worried about how Mark would react.
As they arrived, Maria was pleased with their surprise for Mark.
“Lucas, Mark didn’t know I was planning to ride into town nor
that I was bringing you home. Stevan and I thought that Mark
could use some time signing with someone else, so he’s inside
right now. Why don’t you put your horse away, then when you come
to the house, remember to stomp your feet as you near the door,
it’ll give him warning that someone’s coming.” Seeing the
question in Lucas’ face, “Lucas he can’t hear you stomping, but
he’ll feel the vibrations. You’ll do fine.”
Maria left Lucas to tend to Razor and the stock as she returned
to the house. When she entered the front room, she saw Mark
standing at the stove cooking dinner; he turned as he felt her
approach. Stevan had set three places at the table. Mark brought
dinner to the table, Maria made sure he sat with his back to the
Soon, Mark felt the vibrations at his feet, as he looked up to
Maria and Mr. Griswald, his curiosity show on his face when he
saw they both had smiles on their faces larger than the Cheshire
Cat. Mr. Griswald pointed towards the door. Mark turned around
to see his father standing there.
Lucas signed, ‘Son’ as Mark signed, ‘Pa’. Mark stood up so
quickly, he knocked his chair over, as he ran to give his Pa a
hug. Lucas returned the hug in earnest and patted his boy on the
back. After a few moments, Mark pushed himself away from his Pa,
turned to Maria and signed ‘thank you’.
As Lucas joined them for dinner, between bites, Mark kept up a
litany of questions. His Pa admonished him to slow down. Then
said to Maria and Stevan, “Seems he signs quicker than he
Mark watched his Pa and then looked to Maria, who signed what
Lucas had said. They all laughed as a smile played across Mark’s
Mark slowed his signing down so that his Pa could understand. A
couple of times Maria or Stevan had to interpret for one of them
as they either couldn’t come up with the proper sign or
understand what the other was trying to say. Soon it was time
for Mr. Griswald to return to town. As Lucas and Maria were
saying goodnight to Stevan, Mark went to the barn and returned
with another cot. He set it up in the front room, right next to
Maria headed for the bedroom for the night, leaving Lucas and
Mark alone in the front room. They continued to sign for quite
some time. When one or the other had trouble with a word, they
pulled out the cards and spelled out the words for the other.
Neither wanted to give into writing, both accepted they needed
to learn how to continuing talking in their new language.
It was close to dawn, when Mark finally fell asleep. Lucas just
watched over his boy who had a smile on his face as he slept.
Maria entered the kitchen to find Lucas up and making coffee.
“Good Morning Lucas.”
“Good Morning Maria. I want to thank you for all you’ve done for
us. My heart about burst last night when I saw the smile on his
face.” Trying to stifle a yawn, “Care for a cup of coffee.”
“Yes please. Just how late did the two of you stay up talking
last night?” Maria asked.
“Well, Mark’s only been asleep for about an hour or so,” Lucas
said as he tried to stifle another yawn.
“And you’ve not? Should have known. Here, you go sit down and
let me get you some coffee, black I presume?”
Lucas nodded as he slipped his tall frame into one of the chairs
at the table.
It had been six weeks since the accident that had robbed Mark of
his ability to hear, though Lucas was pleased that he had a way
in which to communicate with his son, it was still difficult
having to think about the signs instead of just talking. But the
smile upon his son’s face and Mark’s willingness to sit out on
the front porch of an evening was a vast improvement.
But still…Lucas worried. People without a disability took for
granted the warnings their ears gave them of impending danger…
Lucas realized that this would be something that would have to
be taken into consideration in how Mark would manage to make his
way around town or even to and from school. There were just so
many unforeseen dangers as wagons and the stage lines entered
and exited their town, or even trail or ranch hands racing into
town to spend an evening in the saloon, and not everyone would
know or remember to be aware of one deaf person.
Theodore and Maria Christensen had left the day before in order
to return to their home and their school. Lucas and Mark
realized that from this point forward, they would have to rely
solely upon themselves, with no one to help interpret what the
other meant say or should have signed instead. It was a scary
thought for both, but one they would willing accept.
Father and son rode into town for Doc Burrage to re-examine
Mark’s arm; hoping he would remove the splint for good. Lucas
could see the worried expression on Mark’s face as they entered
town. Thankfully, it was early enough in the day that not many
people were out and about. This was Mark’s first trip into town
since the doctor had released him to originally go home.
While they were in with Doc, quietly word was spread that Mark
was in town. Micah had asked that only a few people greet Mark,
the rest should wait a respectable distance until they knew how
Mark was going to react.
As they exited the Doc’s, Mark was intent on his wrist; working
the rubber ball Doc had given him to strengthen his grip. After
six weeks of being splinted, the muscles had stiffened and his
hand didn’t have a lot of strength. Mark almost walked right
into Nils, startled as he stepped back and saw Nils sign ‘Good
Morning Mark’ and he nodded and walked on past father and son.
Mark turned to look at Lucas, who only raised his eyebrows. They
walked on to the General Store. Mark stayed close to the door as
his Pa walked in. Soon Mark felt a vibration through his feet;
he turned to see Micah, Johnny, and Lou coming towards him. They
stopped and signed, ‘Good Morning Mark’.
Mark stood there with his mouth a little agape. Lou reached over
and gently pushed his chin up to close his mouth. She then
smiled and signed, ‘Surprised?’
Mark nodded, ‘Yes’. Mark looked across the street and realized
the number of people standing, watching and as his eyes looked
towards them, he saw them signing good morning and before they
went about their business.
Emotions starting confusing Mark; feeling he was a ‘freak show’
as others signed at him in greeting, he turned and ran away. As
he ran, Lou called out, “Lucas, I think Mark needs you.” As
Lucas came to the door, he looked in the direction that Lou was
pointing. He saw Mark running towards BlueBoy, then mount and
ride off. Lucas followed Mark home at a more sedate pace.
As he entered the barn, he saw Mark sitting on a hay bale,
crying. He walked to Mark and sat down next to him. Before he
could decide how to proceed, Mark signed, ‘Pa, why? Do they
think I’m a freak?’
Lucas signed, ‘No Mark, this town loves you.’ Lucas went on to
sign to Mark that once people heard they could learn to talk
with him, they were eager to attend. So many people came to the
first class that they had to open the school of an evening so
everyone who wanted to could learn. Lucas did chastise Mark,
‘Not everyone is as good as you at signing, so don’t show off.’
He was happy to see the tears stop falling from his son’s face.
Mark eventually returned to school, Mr. Griswald would sign for
Mark while speaking to the rest of the class. During recess and
lunch periods, Mr. Griswald spent extra time with Mark, making
sure he was keeping up with and understanding his lessons and
growing in his knowledge of signing.
‘Who knows, maybe when you’ll want to be a teacher at the school
for the deaf when you grow up,’ Stevan signed one afternoon when
Mark had stayed after school and asked about his future.
Mark signed back, ‘Guess I can’t be a rancher anymore…’
Stevan sensed a longing in the young man while he was still
trying to come to terms with the realities of what his future
life would entail.
‘Mark,’ Stevan signed, making sure his student saw the sincerity
in his face before continuing. ‘There’s still a chance you could
get your hearing back…’
‘No… It’s been almost three months… Let’s face it, I’ll never
hear again. Mr. Griswald, I’ll see you Monday.’
Several weeks later, Fall had made itself known by the crispness
in the afternoon air and the leaves were beginning to turn to
yellows and oranges. After lunch, Mark asked Mr. Griswald if he
could be excused from class stating he started feeling ill. Mr.
Griswald signed, ‘Get father?’ Mark replied, ‘No, just need to
lie down.’ Mr. Griswald excused Mark, but signed he should just
go outside and lie down under the shade tree, he’d check on him
in a while.
By mid-afternoon, Mr. Griswald decided to let school out early,
he was concerned for Mark. He found Mark still sleeping under
the shade tree. He took off his jacket as he knelt down to place
it over the boy; he saw tears streaming from Mark’s face.
Knowing that Lucas would want to know, he ran to the Marshal’s
Office, hoping that Micah or Johnny would ride out to the McCain
ranch to bring Lucas back, pleased to see that Lucas was there.
Mark woke and still felt ill, his head really hurt and even with
his eyes closed he felt the world was spinning around him and
things weren’t making a whole lot of sense. He decided to head
to the pond, not too far from the school, just on the outskirts
of town. As he arrived, he pulled out his handkerchief and
swished it around in the water. He ran the wet cloth over the
back of his neck and around his face. The coolness of the water
made him feel a little bit better, so Mark decided to lie down
and dunk his whole head in the pond. As he raised himself to his
knees, he felt a hand grab his upper arm and pull him to his
feet. Mark stared into the face of the unknown man holding him.
The man had a scar from just in front of his left ear, down to
below his jaw line. Mark watched as the man’s lips moved, not
comprehending what the man was saying.
“Boy, how long you been here? What did you hear us saying?” the
man was demanding of Mark.
“Wyman, look at his face, he’s too scared to talk. Let him go,”
Gus Hooper replied.
“Hooper, he’s just playing scared. He heard us,” the man called
Wyman said as he spat out a wad of chew. “Best take him with us,
can’t risk him going to the marshal in town.”
Wyman and Hooper drug a fighting Mark to where their horses were
tethered. As they neared the animals, Frank Donovan drew his gun
and pointed it at Mark, motioned for the boy to mount up. They
rode to an abandoned mine shack, quite a distance out of town.
As Mark’s body reacted to the movements of the horse’s back, he
fought down the nauseous feeling that continued to make its
presence know. Donovan pulled Mark from the back of the horse
Hooper was riding and pushed him forward.
Mark had no control over his stomach as the tilting of his body
and the sudden feeling of falling forced him to wretch until
there was nothing left to come up; afterwards Mark felt
incomprehensibly weak. He groaned as he felt himself being
pulled to his feet and thrust towards the open doorway.
Inside the shack, he was offered a tin cup containing water. He
swished the water around his mouth before spitting it out on the
“Take a drink, kid,” one of the men said.
Mark didn’t respond, he just held the cup out as he slowly sank
to his knees and finally to where he found himself sitting on
the floor. Fighting the sensation in his stomach and the pain in
his head, Mark was oblivious to his hands being bound in front
“Lucas, glad you’re here,” Stevan stated as he entered the
Marshal’s Office. “Mark took ill this afternoon. Said he wanted
to lie down. I kept an eye on him from the window, but as the
afternoon progressed, I became more concerned and let school out
early. I went to check on him and he was still asleep, yet
crying, so I came here. I thought it best to advise you.” After
all the years he had resided in North Fork, Stevan still spoke
with his proper English east coast mannerisms.
Lucas ran to the school with Stevan following; while Micah ran
to get Doc Burrage. Stevan indicated where he last saw Mark,
only to find Mark was no longer there, he picked his jacket from
“Lucas I swear, he was right here. This is my jacket, I placed
it over his shoulders before I left to come get you,” Stevan
said. They started looking around, both wondering where Mark had
A few minutes later Micah and Doc arrived to hear Stevan
proclaim, “I don’t know where he could be, he was asleep.”
As he stopped, Micah stated, “Lucas, BlueBoy’s still tied out
back. Boy couldn’t have gone too far.”
Lucas looked around the ground where Mark had been sleeping. He
spiraled out looking for Mark’s boot prints, after finding them,
Lucas and Micah followed. Concern grew in Lucas as he realized
how unsteady Mark’s gait was; it was obvious the boy couldn’t
walk a straight line. They walked until they came to the small
pond just outside of town. Saw where Mark had knelt next to the
pond and ultimately lay down to drink, Lucas assumed. Lucas
found other boot prints next to and some on top of Mark’s. He
deciphered at least four other boot prints. He recognized signs
of a struggle, signs that indicated Mark was enough aware and
trying to resist whoever belonged to the other boot prints.
Mark’s head was hurting even more and his ears were to aching,
the pain and ringing was getting irritating, to the point he
couldn’t stop crying. He curled up as he lay on the floor,
ignoring those who had taken him, at that point he no longer
“Wyman, that boy, I don’t think we have anything to worry about
him going to the Marshal.”
“What do you mean Barley, he was there at the pond when we were
talking and he’s right there across the room from us,” Wyman
stated. “How can you be so damn stupid?”
“Wyman, I think that’s the deaf boy from North Fork. If he is,
he ain’t heard a word we been saying,” Barley started laughing.
“What?!” Donovan stated in surprise. “Of all the damn, lousy
luck. Barley if you’re right, he’s more trouble than he’s worth.
His Pa’s the Rifleman.”
“Why don’t we take him with us when we hit the bank? I’m sure
the town will be out looking for the boy once they realize he’s
missing. And those that are left in town won’t risk us hurting
him. They’ll be real cooperative,” Barley smiled, he like the
sound of his plan.
“And if they find us while riding with him into town, before we
hit the bank? Then what? No Barley, you stay here and watch the
boy. We’ll use him to get away once the job is done,” Wyman
The men sat around, finishing their plan for robbing the Bank of
North Fork. Including, if it meant killing someone in town to
get away, no one had a problem.
Lucas and Micah ran back to town and mounting their horses as
they began trailing whoever had taken Mark; Johnny joined them
as they rode out.
Wyman, Hooper, and Donovan left the shack and rode towards North
Fork. Unbeknownst to them, Lucas, Micah, and Johnny were
following the trail they had originally left while leaving the
pond. The small posse continued to follow the tracks that led
them to a shack. Quietly making his way to around the building,
Johnny peered through the dirty window. He saw Mark bound and
lying on his side on the floor. Johnny signed to Lucas and Micah
there was only one person inside and Mark was on the floor along
the west wall, out of harm’s way.
Micah signed back that they would enter the front door after
Johnny broke the window as a distraction. Johnny found a good
sized rock and threw it at the window, as the glass shattered,
it had the desired effect. The outlaw’s back was too them as
Lucas and Micah stormed the door; the outlaw’s gun was drawn as
he turned and fired wildly at those who broke through the door.
Lucas fired rapidly by instinct and the man fell to the ground.
Micah ran to Barley, feeling under the man’s jaw, he pronounced
the man dead.
Ignoring the acrid smell of the smoke from their weapons, Lucas
ran to Mark and sat his boy up, saw tears streaming down his
boy’s face, and without thinking he asked, “Mark, are you
Mark opened his eyes and saw his Pa looking into his eyes. Lucas
turned and asked Johnny for his knife, he knelt in front of Mark
as he cut the rope from around Mark’s wrists.
“Pa, they were going to rob the bank and kill someone,” Mark
Lucas stopped mid-cut. Hope welled in Lucas; did he really just
hear his boy’s voice? Lucas finished cutting Mark’s binding.
Mark looked at his Pa. He stared, trying to remember, did he
really hear or did he think he heard his Pa. Did Mark really
hear his own voice or did he want to speak so badly that he
thought he had spoken. He raised his hands to his head, shook
his head and closed his eyes to the pain. He tried hard to
remember, but his head hurt, and he couldn’t remember. All he
wanted to do was cry against the hurt. His head was just a
jumble of thoughts.
“Micah, stay here with Mark. Keep him safe. Johnny and I’ll ride
to North Fork and stop them.”
Johnny and Lucas arrived back in North Fork to see the three
horses tied in front of the bank. They left their own horses in
front of the General Store and crept to the bank, they signed
for people to get off of the street as the moved along the
boardwalk. Stopping on either side of the bank doorway, they
signed their plan to each other.
Two robbers exited the bank and ran for their horses; while the
third stayed in the bank, pointing his gun towards the bank’s
president, John Hamilton. Lucas quietly walked into the bank and
placed the barrel of this rifle against the ear of Frank Donovan
and cocked the weapon. He motioned for the man to step aside and
told him to drop his gun.
Lucas heard the gunshots outside but didn’t turn his attention
from the outlaw walking away from him as ordered. Instinct took
over for Lucas as the outlaw turned, bringing his weapon to bear
on Lucas, and fired. Lucas’ first shot caught the man in the
middle of his chest. The outlaw’s bullet struck the doorframe
over Lucas’ shoulder.
Lucas stepped outside to see Johnny had the two outlaws covered;
with the one known as Tate Wyman sitting crooked in his saddle,
cradling his shoulder. The outlaws’ guns and the saddlebags with
the money were at the feet of their horses. Motioning to the men
to dismount, Lucas and Johnny walked their prisoners to jail,
while John Hamilton ran for the undertaker to remove the body
from the bank lobby.
After seeing that their prisoners were safely behind bars, Lucas
ran to Doc Burrage’s office. Inside he saw Billy Lehigh, his
wife, and their two sons just getting ready to leave.
“Well Billy, nice to see you and Julie. How’s the newest little
one?” Lucas courteously asked.
“Little Mark? Why he’s doing just fine,” Billy smiled as he
looked towards his youngest son in his wife’s arms; happily
holding his eldest son on his hip.
“Little Mark?” inquired Lucas.
“It was Matthew’s idea. He wanted to call his brother Mark. I
hope I get the chance to learn to sign so we can talk with Mark.
Been too busy at home and out at Jackford’s place since Little
Mark arrived. You’ll let him know, won’t you?” Billy said.
“You just might get the chance to tell him yourself,” Lucas held
the door open for the family. After the family left, Lucas told
Doc, “We found Mark.”
Before Lucas could continued, Doc asked, “Is he okay?”
“I’m not sure. Doc, when we found him, he was being held by men
who were planning on robbing the bank.”
“Well, that explains the gunshots I heard a few minutes ago.
“Doc, as I was freeing his hands, he told us the men were going
to rob the bank and maybe kill someone. Doc, he spoke. I know I
wasn’t hearing things. When I left him, he was holding his head
and crying. I saw pain in his eyes.”
Doc Burrage grabbed his medical bag and followed Lucas out the
door, down the boardwalk to the livery. They were getting ready
to head out to the shack where Micah was waiting with Mark, when
they saw Micah riding into town, leading the dead man’s horse
with Mark sitting in the saddle. Mark looked exhausted and in
pain as they rode in; his shoulders slumped while his hands held
tight onto the saddle horn. The closer Lucas strode to Mark, he
saw the strain in his boy’s face. Lucas ran to Mark and arrived
in time to assist his son as he slipped from the saddle. With
his arm around his son’s waist and bearing most of his son’s
weight, he helped Mark walk into Doc’s, with Doc Burrage right
Nils took Doc’s horse and buggy back inside the livery and
unhitched them, while Micah and Johnny, with Lou joining them a
few minute later, waited outside Doc’s office. The threesome
looked up as Nils entered.
“How’s Mark?” the liveryman asked.
“We don’t know. Doc’s still in there with him and Lucas,” Micah
“Oh… Well… You tell Lucas I hope everything turns out okay.”
“We will Nils,” Johnny Drako replied as Nils left the clinic and
the three looked to the still closed door.
Doc stepped from his examination room and told those waiting it
would be some time before he finished with Mark and suggested
they head to the hotel restaurant. When no one moved, he
strongly stated, “Get! You aren’t doing any one any good sitting
Reluctantly, the threesome left the clinic.
In the examination room, Lucas sat on the edge of Doc’s desk.
Mark was lying on the examination table. Upon re-entering the
room, Doc checked Mark’s eyes before listening to his heart and
lungs. Lastly, Doc was standing beside Mark, looking through one
of his instruments into Mark’s ears. As Mark was looking towards
his Pa, Lucas signed and asked Mark, if his head hurt.
Mark signed ‘Yes’.
‘Your ears, do they ache?’
As Doc finished examining Mark, he accidentally bumped a metal
tray off the table. As it hit the ground, Mark quickly sat up
and looked in the direction of the noise, away from his Pa.
“Mark?!” Lucas declared.
Mark quickly turned to look at his Pa. Doc came up behind Mark
and snapped his fingers next to Mark’s ear. Mark startled and
turned towards the sound of the snap.
Doc stood behind Mark and spoke into his ear, “Mark if you can
hear me, tell me… What is the name of your favorite dessert?”
Lucas waited with eager anticipation; hoping to hear his son’s
voice again. Mark looked at his hands for a moment. He raised
his left hand to his ear and snapped his fingers. He raised his
right hand and snapped his fingers.
“Mark?!” Lucas yelled.
Mark turned to look at his Pa as he opened his mouth as if to
speak, waited a few more seconds, unable to believe, but yet he
quietly whispered, “Apple pie”.
Mark looked from Doc to his Pa and whispered, as if his
acknowledging the return of his hearing would make it go away
again. “Pa, I can hear.”
Lucas stood up and walked to his boy and took him into his arms
and hugged him.
“Mark, do you have any head ache or ear ached?” Doc asked.
“A little, it hurt a lot more, earlier,” Mark replied. “It
doesn’t seem so bad right now.”
“Mark I want you to drink this,” as Doc handed him a glass of
water with some medicine. “It should help reduce your headache.”
Mark took the glass and drank about half of it before making a
sour expression with his face and proclaimed, “ugh”.
“All of if boy,” Doc said.
Mark obeyed Doc and drank the rest. The men tried to hide the
smiles on their faces as Mark continued to grimace at the taste.
“Doc, can I take him home?” Lucas asked.
“How about waiting until morning? Let him get a good night’s
sleep at the hotel, let me see how he’s doing in the morning and
then we’ll see about you taking him home,” Doc replied.
Lucas and Mark left Doc’s and encountered Micah, Johnny, Lou,
and Nils as they entered the hotel. All had anxious expressions
on their faces as they looked to Lucas.
“Doc ordered Mark to sleep for a few hours at the hotel, Lou. Do
you have a room for us?”
“Sure Lucas,” she answered while rushed to the front desk to get
a key for their room.
A few minutes after settling Mark into bed, Lucas turned upon
hearing a knock on the door. He wasn’t surprised to see Doc
standing in the hallway.
“Come in, Doc.”
“I take it he managed the walk from my office to here okay?” Doc
“A little tired, but he did okay,” Lucas offered. “Doc, how…?”
“How did the boy get his hearing back?” Upon seeing the tall
rancher nod, Doc continued. “I haven’t the faintest clue. It’s
possible that the explosion might have ruptured something inside
his ear and it’s taken all this time for it to heal, much like
his arm. If he’s asleep, I’d like to examine his ears once
Lucas watched while the doctor looked through one of his
instruments into his son’s ears, and soon after inserting a tiny
swap into the ear canal, he extracted it. Lucas was startled to
see the tip of the swap covered with what he presumed was his
“Nothing to be too concerned with; most of this is dried blood,
probably some residual bleeding that clotted after the accident
and finally worked its way into the canal.”
Placing his instruments into his black bag, Doc stated, “My
prescription is to get some food into the boy when he wakes. If
he doesn’t have a headache in the morning, you can take him
home. But I still want to see him.”
Later that evening, Lucas and Mark greeted Micah, Johnny, and
Lou in the hotel lobby, “We’re going to the restaurant for
dinner, any one care to join us?” He continued to walk with his
arm across Mark’s shoulders. There was a mischievous twinkle in
Mark’s eye as he listened to the sound of his father’s voice as
he talked to their friends. From outside, he heard the hustle
and bustle of people, horses, and wagons traveling along the
boardwalk and street.
As they sat down, Alice brought in coffee for everyone, except
for Mark, for whom she brought in a large glass of milk. Alice
proceeded around the table and took everyone’s order. When she
came to Mark, she turned to Lucas and asked if he thought Mark
would like some steak and potatoes, too.
Mark quietly answered, “Only if I can have some apple pie
afterwards.” Much to everyone else’s surprise.
Lucas grinned, looking over his coffee cup, as he saw the
astonished looks on their friends’ faces. Before Lucas could
explain, Stevan Griswald came into the restaurant, relieved when
he had learned that Mark was found and safe, but he wanted to
see for himself. He arrived at the table and stopped dead in his
stride when he heard Mark say, “Yeah, it’s still a little
muffled at times. But I can hear.”
As he stood behind Mark, Mr. Griswald asked, “Just when did this
Mark turned around to see Mr. Griswald standing behind him. Mark
started to grab another chair and motioned for Mr. Griswald to
“I guess earlier today. When my head started hurting in class
and my ears really started to ache. I’m sorry about needing to
leave class, but I just felt ill and all I could think about
doing was sleeping, to get away from the pain.”
“I guess that’s a good enough reason, but Mark, just don’t make
it a habit in trying to get out of class,” Mr. Griswald pointed
his finger at Mark.
Throughout the evening, as word spread of the return of Mark’s
hearing, numerous town folks stopped by and said hello to Mark
and to congratulate him on recovering. Finally, Lucas and Mark
bid goodnight to their friends and walked to their hotel room.
Mark was already under the covers when Lucas sat down on the
edge of the bed next to him.
“Yes Pa?” Mark answered as he rose up on his elbow.
“You know how much I love you and how proud I am to have you as
“Pa, I think those are the most precious words I’ve heard in a
“I’m glad you can hear them. Mind if I tuck you in for the
“Thanks Pa.” Mark lay back down on the bed as Lucas pulled the
covers up to his son’s chest.
Lucas gave his son a kiss on the forehead and turned down the
lantern in their room. He walked to the other bed and lay down.
Soon, both were asleep.
Morning came and Lucas woke to see Mark still sprawled out a
sleep in his bed, blankets twisted around his legs and torso. As
Lucas was getting dressed, he called out to Mark, “Hey, sleepy
head, time to rise and shine if you want to eat breakfast.”
He saw Mark pull the pillow over his head as he answered, “Just
a few more minutes, Pa.”
“Now!” Lucas said.
He watched as Mark pulled the pillow from his head as he sat up.
Lucas feeling happier than he had in quite a while, had a
devilish grin on his face as he picked up the pillow from the
bed he had slept in and tossed it at the yawning Mark.
After eating breakfast, Lucas and Mark returned to Doc Burrage’s
for him to examine Mark over one last time before they headed
“Mark, take it easy, no galloping BlueBoy across the country
side, and yes, Lucas, he’s well enough that he can still do most
of his chores. I’d hold off for a few more days before you ask
him to chop any wood, but I think he’ll be okay to do anything
“Gee, thanks Doc,” Mark toned.
“I think it’s time we head for home, son.”
“Yes, Pa,” Mark answered.
While they rode home, Mark kept up a constant conversation,
barely allowing Lucas to answer a question before Mark was
talking of something else. Lucas could only smile to himself,
realizing his boy was making up for lost time. By the time they
reached the barn, Lucas felt as if his ears were going to fall
off from Mark talking so much.
“Boy, you do know they say, silence is golden?” Lucas asked with
a smile on his face as he brushed Razor down.
“Golden for who?” Mark replied, with a slightly shocked tone to
“Guess neither of us.” Lucas said as he came around Razor and
leaned over BlueBoy’s back to look at Mark. “Come on, I’ve got
wood to chop and you have a chicken coop that needs cleaning.”
“What?” Mark asked, “Didn’t quite hear what you said Pa.”
Their laughter filled the air as father and son walked out the
This is a story based on the TV
series The Rifleman
Here are some other great stories. Enjoy!
around The McCain Ranch