The Rifleman
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A Growing Up Time - part 2
by Donna Hume

10 –

Lucas was paying attention to all the tracks Mark was leaving for him, like a trail of breadcrumbs. His breadcrumbs were easier to follow than the horse tracks, no one needed to be walking, they could follow what Mark did right from their saddles.

It was mid-afternoon when Nils arrived with supplies. He had a couple of horses; Razor was one of them, loaded down. Sam forced Lucas to stop and eat something. Nils had brought beans, cornmeal, some bacon, coffee, and a lot more water. Lucas thanked Nils but really didn’t want to wait, they were so close. “Lucas, do you want to be able to help Mark when we find him or do you want him to have to watch you die before they kill him?” “What makes you think they didn’t kill him already?” “I don’t, but if he isn’t, you won’t be doing him any good by getting yourself killed.” “Without Mark, I don’t care if I get killed,” said Lucas as he pulled out of Sam’s grip. Micah looked directly into his eyes and said, “Lucasboy, you may not care if you are dead or not, but there a lot of good people here that don’t want to see that happen. You wanted our help to find Mark, now accept our help!” With his eyes cast downward, glazing over with tears, he sat down to have some coffee and beans, he actually felt a little better, physically. He was ready to push on and everyone knew it. Nils had already put the saddle on Razor for Lucas and took the stallion for himself. As they all finished saddling up, Lucas was already on his way, following a well-laid trail.

Harry heard some horses coming in, kind of slow; it had to be Bob, Joe, and Mark. He knew if it was Lucas, those horses would be riding fast, riding to find him.

11 –

Harry came out of the shed, he saw two riders coming closer. Had they already decided to let Mark go? That would probably be for the best. He never should have come up with this stupid plan.

As the riders came closer, he noticed one was of slight build, that had to be Mark. Why was he riding so stiffly, he was a good rider? Were was the other man? Maybe he could still send Mark back without Mark ever knowing who had him kidnapped.

Mark and Joe rode right up to the door of the shed. Harry didn’t notice how bad Mark looked, he asked Joe, “Where is Bob?” “I killed him.” “Why?” “Cause he didn’t like the way I played.” With that, Joe nodded his head towards Mark. Harry looked over at Mark; he couldn’t do anything but stare in disbelief. Joe said, “So you like my handiwork then? Bob didn’t have the stomach for it, now Bob doesn’t have a stomach.” Joe was laughing like a crazy man. Harry stepped back, having serious fears about Joe.

12 –

“I just told you to grab the boy, I never said to hurt him, especially not like that.” “Yea, well you had your agenda and I had mine. I got the boy here and we both hurt McCain.” Harry started to help Mark off the horse. Joe told him to step back, he killed Bob, it wouldn’t bother him any to kill Harry too. “I’m gonna’ help this boy, my God, he looks half dead.” “He will be in a minute.” Harry ignored Joe and helped Mark out of the saddle and said, “You’ve done enough already.” Harry laid Mark gently on the ground, covered him with a blanket and started to tend to his wounds. Joe was mad, real mad; he shot Harry in the back. That’s when Lucas and the posse showed up, Harry was laying over Mark, still alive but less so than Mark.

Before he could get close enough to do anything, Lucas shouted, “What the hell are you doing?” Joe shouted back, “I’m teachin’ you a lesson. I’m showin’ you what I had to endure in prison.” His voice was dripping in cynicism. “I’m showin’ you what 15 years in prison, 15 years, does to a man. The beat us every day, some days, when we couldn’t get up no more; they would throw us in the hole. Your kid, just about the age I was when you sent me there. “Me? I never sent you anywhere.” “It was you, you told the sheriff that I was the one who robbed the stagecoach, that I was the one who shot that old lady; and for that they sent me to prison. Your kid only got half of what I got my first week there.” “I didn’t send you to prison, you sent yourself by doing what you did.” “I was just a kid.” “So to get back at me you hurt my son?” “I’d have killed him, if you hadn’t got here when you did.” “I’m gonna’ kill you.” And with that, Lucas rushed at Joe, no one dared stop him and after looking at Mark, no one wanted to stop him.”

13 -

Lucas was still sleep and food deprived but no one even noticed him get off the horse or strike at Joe, they only saw what happened next. John was going to shoot Joe but Sam told him to wait. Lucas had to extinguish some of that rage before he could take care of his son, besides, John might miss with the way they were wrestling. Micah and Nils ran over to Mark. Micah pushed Harry off of Mark; he didn’t even try to find out if Harry was dead or alive. Mark looked real bad; if they didn’t know it was him they would not have been able to recognize him. Micah had a whiskey bottle, he knew Lucas wouldn’t approve but he gave some to Mark anyway. Mark had to be in such pain, Micah believed he needed something to help him survive these injuries. Nils took the whiskey away from Micah and started to use it to clean up Marks’ wounds. That eye looked bad. They needed to get him back to North Fork, to a doctor, and soon.

Lucas and Joe were hitting each other, Joe was stronger, he hadn’t been worrying himself sick over that brat of McCain’s. Every time he hit Lucas, he laughed like someone fresh out of an insane asylum. Joe may have been stronger, but Lucas had more resolve. Lucas didn’t know Mark was still alive; all he could think was that this animal killed his son. They kept hitting each other, over and over. Every time Lucas was knocked to the ground, it took him a little longer to get up. Joe wasn’t waiting for him to get on his feet any more; he was hitting Lucas with everything he had. Once Lucas was down, he couldn’t get up any more, Joe pulled his gun. Just then, Harry pulled his gun from his holster and killed Joe. Lucas heard him say, “I never meant for this to happen,” then he died.

Sam and John went over to help Lucas up, to bring him to his son. Lucas tried to fight them off; he didn’t want to see his son, he had seen too many of his loved ones dead, he didn’t want to see Mark that way too. “Lucas, Mark is alive, he needs you now more than ever.” Lucas dropped to his knees next to Mark, took him up in his arms and wept, “Son, I am so sorry, so sorry, so sorry!” as he rocked Mark in his arms. “Pa, what are you sorry for?” “Mark, I should have been there to protect you. This should never have had to happen to you. I’m so sorry!’ “Pa, you don’t need to be sorry, you found me.”

Nils found a wagon and hitched the two packhorses to it. He found some hay and put it in the back, making a softer pallet. He brought it around to Mark and Lucas. They lay a bedroll over the hay and then helped Lucas get Mark up into the wagon. It would have been easier if Lucas had let them do it themselves but there was no way Lucas was gonna’ let go of Mark. Lucas covered Mark with a few more bedrolls and they headed back to town. Lucas had thought it was a long journey to find Mark, this journey back seemed longer as he watched Mark slip in and out of consciousness.

14 -

Mark lay unconscious in the doc’s office; Doc Burrage had given him a good dose of Laudanum. Lucas asked, “Doc, is he gonna’ be OK?” “He’ll live but it will take some time for him to get over this trauma. He’ll probably get over the physical problems before he overcomes it emotionally.” “What about his eye?” “I don’t know Lucas, it is so swollen, I can’t get in there to see anything. Send somebody over to get that eye doctor.” Lucas turned away for a moment to call for someone to get the eye doctor, that was when Doc Burrage lanced the swelling over Marks’ eye. Lucas grabbed him by the collar, “What, he hasn’t been hurt enough, you have to hurt him more?” “Lucas, I had to do that.” “What do you mean, you had to do it?” “I had to get some of that pressure off of his eye or he would go blind for sure.” Lucas stepped back, blinded, how would Mark feel knowing that his father was at fault for his blindness?

The eye doctor arrived. He was looking into Marks’ right eye, looking for any damage to it; it was slightly injured but would definitely be OK. Then he started to look into the left eye. It was hard because the eye socket was so swollen. Mark started to groan and Lucas grabbed the back of the eye doctors’ shirt. “Mr. McCain, I realize you are concerned for your son but please do not accost me, especially when I am examining his eye. Do you want me to make it worse than it is?” Lucas glared at him, “I would never do anything to hurt my son.” “Then please leave me to examine him.” Lucas thought to himself, I’ve already done enough.

The eye doctor said, “There seems to be a break in the eye socket itself. I put it back into place but we will have to wait until the swelling goes down more before we can see if there is any permanent damage. What happened to this boy?” Doc Burrage pulled him away before Lucas could say anything. “Lucas, you just stay with Mark, I need to consult with this eye doctor.” Before he could leave the room, Mark woke up and started groaning loudly from the pain, Doc Burrage gave him some more Laudanum.

Lucas never left Marks’ side, he read different passages from the Bible to Mark; sometimes he thought maybe he was reading them more to himself. Micah came by to sit with Lucas and Mark as often as he could. Lucas didn’t want anyone else to see him or Mark this way. Lucas said, “I remember what you said about Mark being like your grandson, thanks.” “No need to thank me, I’m the one who needs to be thankin’ you. I wouldn’t have this way of thinking if it weren’t for the way you and Mark make me feel like I’m part of the family.” “Just the same, I remember.” Micah just nodded and held Marks’ hand. Meals were sent over for Lucas and Doc Burrage had an extra cot for Lucas so he could get some sleep too. “Lucas, I don’t need to have two patients, you just lay down there and get some sleep,” with that, he set the cot right next to Marks’. He knew the only way Lucas would sleep was if he had at least one hand on Mark. “I don’t need any sleep!” “And I say you do, now do as I say before I give you some Laudanum too.” With that, Lucas lay on the cot next to Mark, his left hand over his sons’ body and his right hand on his rifle. He tried to go to sleep but he just kept running it through his head; big man, big hero, The Rifleman; what good did that do him now, what good did it do for Mark?

15 –

Lucas finally fell asleep; he slept just a little over a day. When he woke, his arm was still across Mark but Micah had taken the rifle out of his other hand and lay in next to him on the cot. Micah was there when Lucas woke, “Where is my rifle?” “It’s right there next to you Lucas. We didn’t need you dreamin’ of all this and accidentally end up shootin’ somebody.” “And what was I supposed to do if somebody came after him again?” “Nobody was gonna’ come after him again.” “And just how do you know that? We didn’t think anyone was gonna’ come after him the first time.” “Lucasboy, there was no one else involved, but I figured you would be upset so I have had round the clock deputies standing outside Docs’ office, front and back.” “Thanks Micah, I just can’t stop thinking how I let him down, I’m not gonna’ let that ever happen again.” Micah knew Lucas would have to let Mark live his own life, without his Pa wrappin’ him up in some kind of cocoon to protect him; but he didn’t say anything then, Lucas would only get more riled.

The eye doctor came back to take a look at Marks’ eyes. His right eye was fine, nothing wrong with it at all. The left eye was a different story. The eye socket was healing but there looked to be some problems with the eye. Might have been cause it was swollen so badly for so long. “Doc, it’s a good thing you cut that eye when you did, I’m sure he would have been blind permanent if it had gone unchecked much longer.” Lucas just stood, looking at both doctors and his son, waiting for someone to tell him if Mark was gonna see out of that eye. He couldn’t wait any longer, “Well, what’s the prognosis?” “Mr. McCain, it is still difficult to say just how much damage was done, there is still a lot of swelling.” “So, you went to Medical School so you could tell me you don’t know?” “No, I am telling you I can not give you any real answers at this time.” Lucas wanted to strike out at him, he knew it wasn’t the doctors’ fault but this was his son and he needed some answers. Did he want to know how Mark would be because he loved him so or because he felt so guilty? Micah had just come in when both doctors’ were finishing up, he saw the look on Lucas’ face, “I know that look, you are worried for Mark and you have no reason to feel guilty. I don’t want to fight over this; there has been too much fightin’ already. Why don’t you sit down there next to Mark and read somethin’ outa’ that Bible there?” Lucas sat down and put his hand over Marks’ heart and started reading from the Bible, Micah sat and listened. When Lucas was through reading, he and Lucas started talking over what it meant and how it applied to this situation. Lucas finally started to feel some relief from his guilt, but only slightly.

After about two weeks, Doc Burrage finally told Lucas he could take Mark home. Doc said he would be out everyday to check on Mark and with that he handed Lucas about 4 packets of Laudanum with directions as to how and when to give it to Mark. He made sure Lucas understood, using too much was dangerous. He could have let Mark leave sooner but he wanted to make sure Lucas was just a tad more in control of himself. Doc knew that if Lucas hovered over Mark too much, it would be more harmful to both of them.

It was about another 3 weeks of Doc coming out everyday, he told Lucas to bring Mark into town for the eye doctor to check his eye. “Did you find something wrong?” “No, but then I don’t know all there is to know about eyes. I just want him to confirm that everything is OK.” “Doc, is he OK to ride the horse or should I bring him in on the wagon?” “Lucas, stop babying that boy, he is doing fine, at this point I am more worried about you.” “Me, why me?” “Because you’re holding onto him so tight, he’s not gonna’ be able to breathe. You’re treating him like he’s 6, he’s 16. Let him grow up, trust him to come to you if he is having trouble readjusting from this trauma.” Lucas knew Doc was right but he almost lost his son, he couldn’t let that happen again. Something was different between Mark and him, Lucas believed that Mark blamed him for everything that happened.

16 –

Mark was afraid every time Lucas walked out the door. Yeah, he had his strength back and he could see pretty good; heck, he didn’t even hurt anymore. The way Lucas was always around, Mark began to think that his Pa thought Mark could have handled things better, he felt like he let his Pa down.

When they were in town, Micah met them at the Docs’ office, he wanted to be there for Mark and Lucas. He wanted them both to know that he really cared about both of them, like they were his family. The Doc told Mark his eye had healed right nicely, he shouldn’t have any problems, maybe need some glasses when he got older but everything was good now. The beatings had not injured the optic nerve as he had suspected, he finally told them what he had been worried about. “Why didn’t you tell us sooner?” “Why, so you could worry more? He is fine and you can thank the Lord for that.” “We have been, we have been.” Micah looked over at them both and said, “Well, how about dinner on me, you know, to celebrate?” Mark wanted to know if he could have the big steak and some apple pie. “What’s the matter son, don’t you like my cookin’?” “It ain’ t that exactly Pa.” “That’s OK son, I’m a little tired of it myself.” All three started to laugh, it was the first time any of them had laughed since this whole ordeal started. It felt good, like some of the pain was going away. Mark said, “We have to do this more often.” Micah said, “What, laugh or have me buy dinner?” They all laughed again.

17 -

After they had dinner, Micah rode back to the ranch with Lucas and Mark. They took the horses to the barn and Micah offered to help Mark with unsaddling his horse, Mark said thanks but he was feeling pretty good now and it felt good to be able to do this. Lucas said, “Well, if it feels so good, you wanna’ unsaddle Razor too?” “It doesn’t feel that good.” After the horses were taken care of, Micah and Lucas stayed in the barn to talk, Mark didn’t seem to want to leave. “Mark, why don’t you go into the house son, we’ll be right along?” “No sir, I think I’d rather stay with you.” At that, the three of them went into the house and Mark headed straight for the bedroom.

“Lucas, you and Mark need to talk, anyone around you can feel the tension between you. Have either of you really talked about this whole thing?” “No, Micah, we haven’t. What am I supposed to say, sorry son, I wasn’t there for you? Sorry Mark, I let someone beat you half to death?” “No, but you do need to let him know what is running around in that head of yours and he needs to tell you how he feels. You are both holding back and it is causing a rift between you. Both of you believe you let the other one down.” “I did let him down.” “No you didn’t, but you are letting him down now.” “What are you sayin’?” “I’m sayin’ that by not talking to each other about this, you are both hurting and blaming yourselves instead of the men who did it.” Lucas looked at Micah, just staring, not knowing what to say.

Lucas and Micah were talking and not really paying attention to the time when about an hour later, Mark came out of the bedroom. “Mark, what have you been doing in there all this time?” asked Micah. “Nothing, not really.” “Mark, is there something you want to say to me?” asked Lucas. Micah kept silent, this is the conversation he had told Lucas he needed to have with Mark. “No Pa, not really.” “You know Mark, we have always been able to work through things because we told each other what was going on, we were truthful with each other.” “I know Pa, there isn’t anything I have to say.” Lucas just cast his eyes downward; he believed Mark just couldn’t find a way to say that Lucas let him down. “OK, I can’t just sit by and watch you two destroy yourselves. Both of you are either too stubborn or too stupid to lay it out there so I will.” “Micah, you stay out of this.” Mark looked at both of them, did they know how he felt? “Lucas, I will not stay out of this. You told me on many occasions that I gave sound advice, well now you both are gonna’ listen to what I have to say.” “Micah, now is not the time.” Mark looked up with tears streaming down his face, “I’m sorry Pa. I should have been stronger. I never should have let them take me away. If only…” “Mark, what are you talking about, this was not your fault. I’m your father, I was supposed to be there for you, I let this happen to you.” “No Pa, I should have been able to do something…” This back and forth of taking blame continued until Micah couldn’t stand it anymore. “Will both of you quit trying to take the credit for hurting each other?” “Micah, what do you mean, taking credit, neither one of us is trying to take credit for anything.” “Yes you are. Lucas, you keep blaming yourself because someone came in and took Mark. You blame yourself that you didn’t force him to fight. You blame yourself because you didn’t get to him fast enough.” “Micah, that’s right, I do blame myself, who else is to blame?” Mark looked at Lucas and said, “Me Pa, that’s who you should blame.” “Mark, you didn’t do anything.” “That’s right Pa, I didn’t do anything. I let those men come in here and take me away. I let them beat on me. I didn’t get away. I put you through all of this because I’m not man enough to take care of myself.”

18 –

“Mark, what are you talking about? Two men came and did this to you, while I was here. If I had been paying attention, this never would have happened.” “That’s only partly true Pa, I’ve seen you take on more than two men and you never let them do this to you.” By now, Mark and Lucas were yelling their hurt at each other, each still claiming the blame for themselves. Again, Micah interrupted, “Enough!” Lucas and Mark looked at him. “Why don’t you two stop for a minute and see how much you both hurt? Look at you, standing across the room from each other, shouting at each other. This is the time that you should be coming together, for each other; this is the time when you should reach down deep inside yourselves and remember you are family and family works together.” Again, stares from Mark and Lucas. “Why can’t both of you be man enough to walk across that floor and hold on to each other like you did when every other crisis came along?” With that being said, Micah walked behind Lucas and shoved him toward Mark. He knew, at this point in time, it would not have been a good idea to push Mark, not even for this. As Lucas got closer to Mark there seemed to be a magnet, drawing each closer to the other until they were hugging, just like when Mark was a little boy. Lucas realized that Mark wasn’t a little boy anymore, he didn’t fit in his arms the way he used to. Mark didn’t seem to notice, all he cared about at that moment was that his Pa didn’t blame him.

Micah was about ready to walk out the door, he wanted them to have time to finish their talk, take the time they needed to mend. Lucas saw him walking away, “Micah, where do you think you are going?” “Well Lucasboy, I thought I would just head back to town and so’s you two could finish talking and start healing.” “You’re not going anywhere, Mark, I want to introduce you to your Grandpa.” Micah looked thunderstruck, so did Mark. “Why don’t we all sit down and I’ll tell you why Micah is your Grandpa?” Micah said, “I’d kinda’ like to hear that story myself.” Lucas started telling Mark about how Micah was there, all the way while trying to find Mark. Micah told Mark how hard it was to keep his Pa calmed down enough to make sense of what he was doing. “Lucas, how does all this make me his Grandpa?” “I remember what you said Micah, Mark you need to hear this, Micah you said you couldn’t love Mark anymore than if he were your own Grandson.” “Did you really say that Micah?” “Yes, I did, and I meant it too.” Lucas looked at Micah and said, “I guess that makes you my Pa.” That got a hearty laugh from all three of them. Mark started to tell them about his ordeal, and how he finally remembered the things that Lucas had taught him about trackin’ and walkin’ away. It was morning before they were through talking and Lucas said, “How about I make some coffee?” “Can I have some too Pa?” asked Mark. “Mark, I think you’re a little too young… Never mind, if you want coffee, you can certainly have some coffee.” After the coffee was ready, Micah poured a cup for all three of them, after the first taste Mark said, “Ugh, how can you drink this stuff?” Mark got up from the table and was getting ready to go out to the barn for some milk. “Mark, do you want me to come with you?” “Yes Pa, I do, but I have to do this by myself.” “Yea, I guess you do.” The whole time Mark was gone, Micah practically had to sit on him to keep from going after Mark. When Mark did return, there was relief on everyone’s faces. “While I was out in the barn, I got us some fresh eggs, who wants breakfast?” Lucas and Micah practically ran each other over trying to get to the kitchen.

After breakfast, Mark looked at Lucas and asked, “Pa, would you teach me how to fight? I mean, really teach me!” “Sure I will son, you can practice on your Grandpa!”

THE END

These stories are based on the TV series The Rifleman
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