The Rifleman
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Fan Fiction

Lucas Let's Go
 
by Donna Hume

SECOND EPISODE

1 –

The starkness of winter was making way for the freshness of spring. New life was abounding further than the eye could see. The sheep were lambing, cows were calving, the mares were foaling, and trees were budding. It had been a long hard winter, especially on Mark. Nightmares of his growing experience still haunted him, though now, not as often. Lucas had kept his promise of teaching Mark how to fight; it was a hard promise to keep. Lucas had spent most of his adult life protecting Mark, now he had to learn how to let Mark protect himself. They fabricated a sort of punching bag and hung it in the barn for Mark to practice; Micah was relieved since Lucas had first volunteered him as a sparing partner for Mark.

Mark had always been strong for his age, mentally, emotionally, and physically but he was always slight of build, more like his mother. Mark had developed quite a few muscles just from doing ranch work but Lucas thought of some other ideas to build up Marks body, he had Mark lifting railroad ties. At first, they both laughed when Mark could barley lift one end. “Well Pa, can you do it?” “Probably not son, we can keep practicing together.” Lucas was still worried about Mark because of his dreams. Mark was worried about Lucas because of his dreams. Neither talked to the other about it, they would just sit by the side of the other and say, “It’s OK, we’re back home now, it’s OK.” That seemed enough. That and the fact that each slept with their rifle next to them.

Micah came out at least once a week to see Mark. Mark had not left the ranch since his ordeal. “Mark, I swear your shoulders are gonna’ be bigger than your Pa’s.” “I think he may be stronger than me too, Micah.” “Pa, you know I’m not stronger than you, you’re just tryin’ to convince Micah not to spar with me.” “Mark, you know I wouldn’t spar with you anyhow, I’ve seen you hit that bag.” No one made any comments about his height; at 17 he now stood 5’11”. He would never be as tall as his Pa but he was now taller than Micah.

Micah asked Lucas when he thought he might send Mark back to school. “I don’t know Micah, probably this fall. I couldn’t make him go this past year, he was like a scared rabbit.” “He doesn’t seem to be scared now.” “That’s because he’s here at the ranch. He finally feels safe here, even when I go to town for supplies.” “Yea, people have been askin’ about the two of you, we had a barn dance and kinda’ missed you sweepin’ all the ladies off their feet.” “I don’t much care what people say or think, you oughta' know me better than that.” “Lucasboy, you know everyone cares about you, stop getting’ so riled whenever anyone shows concern.” “I can’t help it Micah, I still dream about it, so does Mark.” “What do I dream about, Pa?” Micah held his breath, he had not been around enough to know if Mark and Lucas had continued talking about the incident, he decided he would let Lucas answer the question. “About last year, we both do.” “Oh, that.” Micah felt safe enough asking, “How are the two of you coping with all that?” “We talk, don’t we Pa?” “Yes son, we do. You were right Micah, we did need to talk, we just never thought to thank you for butting in.” “Butting in…?” Mark and Lucas started laughing, Micah joined in. “Hey Micah, you wanna’ wrestle?” “You shouldn’t be wrestlin’ with your old Grandpa but I sure would like to see you wrestle with your Pa.” With that, Lucas backed up behind Micah and said, “No thanks, I know how much weight that boy can lift.” Micah and Mark laughed and Micah said, “Well, are we gonna’ stand out here all day or are you gonna’ invite me in for supper?” Mark said, “Sure Micah, I mean Grandpa, I’ll cook if you two do the dishes.” “Sounds like a good deal to me,” said Micah. “I’ll do the dishes myself, you two can play a game of checkers.” “Sounds even better to me,” said Micah.

When Lucas finished the dishes, he came over to the table and asked, “Well, which one of you two am I gonna’ play?” “I guess you’re gonna’ be playin’ Mark, he keeps winnin’. When Lucas sat down to play, he offered Micah a cigar, then he asked, “Mark, would you like one?” “Are you kiddin’ me? Don’t you remember that time when I was a kid and smoked one? I don’t think I’ve ever been that sick.” Chuckling, Lucas held the match over by Micah, to light his cigar, and then lit his own. “Well now, let’s just see if I can’t take that crown away from you.” “Lucasboy, when are you and Mark gonna’ have my room ready out here? I’m not lookin’ forward to that long ride home.” “Well Micah, it could have been done some time back if you had been out here for somethin’ other than eating and playing checkers.” “Yea Lucasboy, I guess maybe it would have. Guess I better head back to town, while there is still some light left, these old eyes don’t see as good as they used to.” Mark said, “Hey Micah, why not spend the night, you can sleep in my bed, if you think you can stand Pa’s snorin’.” “Where are you plannin’ on sleepin?” asked Lucas. “I can sleep out here, it’ll be fine.” “Well,” said Micah, “I do have Nils watchin’ over things while I’m out here, I guess it would be OK. I’ll just get up early and head back to town, after breakfast, of course.”

In the morning, Mark was up and cooking breakfast when Micah and Lucas came out of the bedroom. “You sure were right about your Pa’s snorin’, said Micah. “You weren’t exactly quiet yourself there Micah.” Mark looked at them both and said, “I slept just fine, nice and quiet out here. Are either of you ready for coffee? Breakfast is almost ready.” “What’s got you up and movin’ so quick this morning?” asked Lucas. “Well, I got to thinkin’, since Micah is already here and has Nils covering for him, why don’t we all go hunting together?” “What?” said Lucas. “Pa, you and I were gonna’ go hunting, why not take Micah with us? I mean, him bein’ like family and all, why not make this a family outing?” “Well Micah, what do you say, want to join us?” “I can’t think of anything else I would rather do but I really should go back to town, at least long enough to let Nils know what is going on. Do you think you can wait that long?” “Sure we can Micah. I’ll start getting some food and coffee packed up, we’ll be all ready to go when you get back.” “I’ll be back just as quick as I can.” “Mark, you OK if I go with Micah, try to hurry him along?” “That’ll be fine Pa, hurry back, I’m anxious to get going.” Lucas and Micah rode off together.

2 –

It didn’t take long for Lucas and Micah to get back to the ranch. Mark had everything ready, he was sitting on the porch, waiting for them. He stood up as they got closer. This was the first time Lucas noticed how tall he had gotten. His boy sure was growing up, too fast for his mind. “Lucasboy, I forgot to ask, where are we hunting?” “Thought we would head over to the western mountain range. Everybody else has been hunting south, figured that would be about hunted out.” Mark said, “Besides, it’s about time we see something new around here.” Micah and Lucas just stared at each other, finally Lucas said, “If you just wanted some different scenery, we could have gone to town.” “No Pa, not yet.” “Well I’m ready for something different”, said Micah. Mark got down off the porch and jumped up on Blueboy. “About how far is that mountain range you’re talkin’ about?” asked Micah. “I suspect it’ll take us 2 to 3 days to get there but I’m sure it will be worth it,” said Lucas. “I sure hope so, after ridin’ 3 days, I better to be able to bring somethin’ back besides a sore backside.” Mark had another horse along; he knew they would need some way to carry back the rewards of the hunt.

First night of camping, it was a little cooler than expected, Mark said not to worry, he brought along extra bedrolls. He already had coffee ready by the time Lucas and Micah had taken care of the horses and brought the rest of the supplies over. “Boy, you really planned ahead on this,” said Lucas. “I guess I’ve been learning from a lot of people all these years, figured I might as well start putting some of that learnin’ to use.” “I for one, am glad you have been such a good student,” said Micah as he reached for the coffee pot. Mark had gathered up a good supply of firewood, enough to keep the campfire blazing pretty good all-night and still have enough left for making breakfast in the morning. “Hey Pa, would you mind makin’ some of your flapjacks?” “I don’t see why not, if you brought the supplies.” “Oh, I brought them alright.” It took about an hour to eat and get all packed up and ready to go, Mark was the first to be ready, “Are you two old men ready yet?” “Old men…” Everyone started laughing again as Lucas and Micah finished with the rest of their gear and got up on their horses. “Ready whenever you are son,” said Lucas. Off they road, away from the sun and into the unknown.

The weather seemed a little warmer the further west they rode. This suited Micah right fine. Until now, he hadn’t realized how his old bones didn’t like the cold. By the end of the days’ ride, they began to see signs of antelope; Marks’ mouth was already watering, just thinking about a nice juicy piece of meat. Never the less, they camped again for the night, up in the morning, like before, and were on their way. By all the signs, this was going to prove to be an excellent hunt.

3 –

About mid-day, you didn’t have to follow tracks, the antelope were all over the range. “I’ve never seen so many in one place before Pa”. “Neither have I son, let’s see if we can’t slim down that herd a little.” All three dismounted and started skirting around the antelope. Lucas, always the father, wanted Mark to stay around to the north; the terrain didn’t seem as treacherous there. If Mark noticed why his Pa wanted him there, he never let on, he just went around like his Pa said. Both Micah and Lucas stayed more to the south. The range was more treacherous than Lucas had thought. Micah reminded Lucas that he was an old man and couldn’t keep up at the pace Lucas had set. “That’s OK Micah, I’ll see if I can’t get out a little further in front, maybe we can circle around them.” “If you don’t mind, I’ll just stay holed up here for this section of that circle.” “Fine Micah, you catch your breath while I move around that other ridge, we’ll be having antelope steak for supper tonight.” Before he moved on, he looked over to the north side and saw Mark signal that he was ready. He had moved about 50 yards ahead when the rocks gave way and Lucas was tumbling down the side of the mountain.

Mark didn’t see it happen but Micah did. He shot off two rounds in the air to signal Mark to come over and then he headed for Lucas. Lucas was at the bottom of the gorge, a good hundred feet down and he looked pretty broken up. “Lucasboy, Lucasboy, are you OK?” Micah didn’t hear an answer. Lucas wanted to tell Micah he was alive, he wanted to warn Micah of the brittle rock but he couldn’t find enough air in his lungs to say anything. Micah went back to the horses; he knew they would need rope, and a lot of it, to get Lucas back up from the gorge. Mark got to the horses at the same time, “What’s the matter Micah, where’s my Pa?” “He fell into a gorge, now get your rope and follow me.” Micah stepped up his pace this time, there was more at stake than a steak. Mark was on his heels. When they got to the ledge, Mark looked down and saw his Pa, he had never seen him so vulnerable before, his body lay twisted and no sign of movement. Micah suggested that Mark be the one to climb down, said he would probably be of more use to help pull Lucas up. Mark looked around, seeking out the best way to climb down to his Pa. He looked up towards Micah to let him know when the brittle rock gave way again and Mark watched as Micah bounced off the side of the mountain, dropping more debris on his Pa. Both of them lay, twisted and unmoving, and Micah had the rope.

4 –

They were too far out from civilization for him to go anywhere for help, he was their only hope. There was no way to get a horse down there and the only way Mark could do anything to help either of them was to climb down, climb back up with the rope, and climb down again. He went back to the horses and grabbed a canteen and a bedroll for Micah and his Pa; he could at least try to make them comfortable once he got down to them.

It took about half an hour to get down to them; it seemed more like a day to Mark. He was being careful, he deliberately slowed his pace, he knew if he didn’t get to them, safely, none of them would have any chance of survival. . When he got to them he saw just how bad of shape they were in. Mark was afraid to move either of them but he had to find out just how badly they were hurt. Micah had a compound fracture of the arm and a broken leg; Lucas had two broken legs and a broken arm. They were both cut up pretty badly from the rocks. He wanted to help his Pa first but Micah was losing blood from the fracture. While tending to Micah, he kept saying, “It’s OK Pa, I’ll be there in a minute, it’s OK.” Lucas was wavering between awake and unconsciousness so the words sounded like they were off in the distance; still they brought a sense of comfort to him. Mark worked on cleaning up Micah’s’ arm, he had poured some of Micah’s’ whiskey on it, just to make sure it was clean when he set the bone. He helped Micah up some and gave him a little drink of the whiskey. It didn’t seem to help much with the pain, not the way Micah hollered when Mark set his arm. He took his clean shirt and ripped it into strips so he could wrap Micah’s arm; ordinarily his Pa would have a few words with him about ripping up a good shirt but this was for a good cause. Then Mark went about looking for some long straight heavy branches to use as splints for Micah and Lucas. When he got back, he saw that Micah also had a head wound so he cleaned that and wrapped Micah’s head. Mark whished Micah had passed out when he set his arm cause he knew he was gonna’ cause more pain when he set Micah’s leg. Either it didn’t hurt as much when Mark set the leg or Micah was kind of dazed from the pain. Once he was done putting on the splints, he went over to his Pa. Lucas was really twisted up, the way he was laying there. Mark was real careful as he straightened out his Pa. Mark set both legs and Lucas barely groaned. Then he put the splints on his Pa’s legs, he didn’t want the bones to re-break when he went to set the arm. Lucas started to groan some when Mark was putting the splint on his arm, Mark heard him say, “It’ll be OK son, I’m here, it’ll be OK.” Marks’ eyes filled with tears but he said, “I know it will Pa, as long as we’re together, we’ll both be just fine.”

Mark climbed back up the mountain with the rope, then he rigged up a couple of trams he would be able to hook up to the horses, if he got his Pa and Micah back up to the top. He wrapped his bedroll into the first tram, tied the rope to a tree and climbed back down the mountainside. A hundred feet didn’t seem like much until you were trying to pull someone uphill, especially over rocky terrain. Because Micah was closer to the best climbing area, Mark tied him to the tram; he wasn’t sure how he would get to the top but he had to try. He had tied the rope from up top, now he wrapped it around himself and the tram that held Micah. He started the climb back up; he thought it was difficult when he climbed up alone, now every step was literally an uphill struggle. The tram kept getting stuck on the rocks and Micah was moaning so that Mark began to question his decision to try to bring them up. Two hours later, Mark finally had Micah laying flat on the ground. He gave Micah a little more of the whiskey, Micah wanted more but Mark knew he would be needing it later for both his Pa and Micah. He started a fire, had some beef jerky and water, offered some to Micah and then headed back down to his Pa with the other tram, wrapped in another bedroll. “Pa, you have to help me.” Lucas just kept repeating, “It’ll be OK Mark, I’m here, I’m here son.” Lucas was not as heavy as one of those railroad ties but he bent and they didn’t. He drank some more water, tried to give some to his Pa but he wasn’t conscious enough to drink any so Mark just wet his Pa’s lips with it. It took him close to an hour just to get Lucas tied to the tram, now he had to make that climb to the top. After another drink of water, he started upward. He knew he had to get to the top before nightfall; it was hard enough to climb with light. It was taking longer to get to the top this time, the tram kept getting caught more, was his Pa really that much taller and heavier than Micah or was he that weak? “Don’t worry Pa, I won’t let you down, we are a team, you and I, we are partners and I won’t let you down.” Mark knew Lucas couldn’t hear him, he was saying it for his own benefit. Just after twilight, Mark pulled Lucas over the edge of the mountainside. The tram started to slip away from him; he grabbed after it and caught it. It was still trying to slide, the branches from the tram were ripping the skin from his hands but he did not let go, he managed to pull his Pa to safety. As he looked around, Mark realized that he just did the easy part, now he had to keep them alive until they could get back to town.

5 –

It was cooler than Mark would have hoped, he didn’t seem to mind while he was pulling Micah and his Pa up that mountainside, but now he could feel the chill and he knew if he could, so did they. Mark made the fire a little bigger, brought his two patients closer to the fire and covered them both with the last bedroll. Mark remembered he sat through a colder night but this one was worse. The two people he loved most in the world were in danger and he was their only chance, was he man enough for the job? Tonight, he had to keep them warm, tomorrow he would climb down one more time, he had to get his Pa’s rifle.

Morning finally arrived and the coolness of the evening was waning to the heat of the sun. After checking his patients, Mark climbed down for the rifle. It would be an easier climb up, though more dangerous to him, that rifle could go off. Nearly at the top, Mark slung the rifle over the edge, then he lost his footing and slid halfway down. He could feel the blood oozing from his leg but he forced himself to keep climbing. His leg hurt more than it should but there was no time to worry now, he was responsible for two other lives. He relied more on the rope to pull himself upwards, finally victory was his. He lay on the side of the ledge to catch his breath and say a quick prayer, thinking he wouldn’t have had such a rough time if he had bothered to say a prayer first place. After catching his breath, he started to get up and realized why his leg hurt so much, he had a compound fracture and would have to clean it and set it by himself. Mark muttered, “I sure must have done something to anger you Lord, I sure am sorry for whatever it was.”

Mark poured some of the whiskey over his open wound, tied one end of the rope around a tree and the other end to his leg, then he got behind another tree and braced himself for the pain that was about to come. “Maybe I should have a drink of the whiskey,” he thought before he gave one really hard tug. Mark had no way of knowing how long he had been unconscious, only that it was still daylight. He had set his leg, now he needed to finish wrapping it and put splints on it. He was going to have to do some walking so he found another branch and made it into a crutch. “Pa, you once told Micah to raise me right, I sure hope I learned enough from you to save us all.”

Micah and Lucas were conscious now, both were too banged up to move so Mark had to bring food and water to both of them. “Mark, what did you do with that whiskey, I sure could use some now, boy”, came from Micah’s lips. “I know you could Micah, but I think you will be needing it more once we get moving.” Lucas called to Mark, “Son, where are you? Are you alright? What happened?” Mark was grateful for the chance to sit and tell them what happened, he silently thanked the Lord for keeping them all alive. Lucas started to get up, “Pa, stop, you’re gonna’ hurt yourself more. You and Micah have got to stay on those stretchers until we get back to town.” Silently he added, “If we get back to town.”

Mark told them he thought they should stay one more night, then start fresh in the morning. They would have to be satisfied with beans for now, they could eat the jerky while they were on the move. “Maybe that is for the best son. Neither Micah or me are going to be of much help to you.” “That’s right Mark, all we’re gonna’ be for you is trouble, why don’t you just leave us here with some food and water and go for help?” The words were out of Micah’s mouth before he remembered whom he was talking to. “Micah, you know I’m not gonna’ leave you two out here alone, neither one of you are gonna’ even be able to go to the bathroom without my help.” Micah and Lucas just looked at each other, they never thought of what they wouldn’t be able to do on their own. Mark added, “What would you do if a big old grizzly bear came along, climb a tree?” “Mark, you know climbing a tree won’t save you from a grizzly”, retorted Lucas. “The point is the same, you two are pretty much helpless and I can’t leave you alone, I won’t and for once you’re gonna have to do as I say.” Micah started laughing, as silently as he could, he knew Mark was right but the look on Lucas’ face just made this whole situation worthwhile. “He’s got us on that note”, said Micah. Lucas glared at Micah and as he looked at Mark he uttered, “Just because I can’t move boy, don’t mean you can talk to me like that.” “Pa, for right now, I am in charge, you can be angry with me all you want. You can punish me later, if you feel the need, but for now I am in charge and that is that.” Mark set about heating up the beans and making the coffee, Micah kept smirking and Lucas kept glaring. Mark didn’t pay any attention to either of them. He knew what he had to do, he just didn’t know if he had the fortitude.

Mark was getting around with his makeshift crutch but not very easily. He just kept thinking that if his leg hurt that much, his Pa and Micah must be feeling worse. It took him sometime before he was able to hitch both trams up to the horses. Micah was asking for whiskey but Mark knew he had to limit how much he gave, Micah had only brought one bottle and they had at least a three day ride back to town, they couldn’t ride back as quick as the rode in. With every jostle they took on those trams, Mark could see the pain in their faces yet there was nothing he could do to ease their pain.

They traveled the whole day, stopping long enough to eat a bite and drink some water. Mark kept imagining how much pain they were in, based on the pain in his leg. Traveling at this pace, it might take more than the three days he anticipated. Once night started falling around them, Mark decided it was time to camp for the night. Again he found firewood, enough for a large fire for the entire evening. He cooked up more beans and made another pot of coffee. Micah spoke up first, “Hey Mark, you mind puttin’ a little of that whiskey in that coffee?” “Son, I don’t usually drink hard liquor but I have to agree with Micah, that might just ease the pain a mite.” Mark felt a little guilty, here he was thinkin’ how much his leg hurt him when he was so much better off than them. After supper while Mark was cleaning up, Lucas and Micah were talking about how stupid they felt, falling off the side of a mountain, however small it was. “Been out here most my life” said Micah, “Ain’t never took a spill like that in my life.” “Micah, I never thought my role would be reversed like this with Mark. I’m supposed to be taking care of him.” “Sometimes, Pa, you just have to let other people help you, this is one of those times”, Mark looked at his Pa as he spoke the words. “Maybe so son, but I’m just not used to it.” Micah started to laugh, “What are you laughing at?” asked Lucas. “You Lucasboy, I guess you have forgotten about when you were shot or blinded and Mark was just a tadpole takin’ care of you.” “Guess I did. I guess I count on that boy more than I realized.” Again Micah stared at him. “What?” Lucas said in surprise. “That boy means everything to you, you wouldn’t know what to do without him, ever.” “I wouldn’t know what to do without Pa either, or you anymore Micah.” “I always heard it was the family that prayed together, stayed together; what are we, the family that gets hurt together?’ inquired Micah, with just a wee bit of an Irish tone. Mark finally suggested they all get some sleep, tomorrow was going to be another long day, “I don’t know about you two, but I need to get some sleep.”

Mark didn’t really sleep, his leg hurt awful bad; he wondered again how Micah and his Pa could stand the pain. He tried everything he could think of to fall asleep, including drinking some of that whiskey himself. All that did was make him want to throw up. Finally, morning came and with it the thought that they would soon be getting closer to home.

6 –

It was getting harder for Mark to move about. Lucas noticed how much he was struggling. “Mark, are you OK?” “Sure Pa, guess my leg is just a little stiff, it’ll be fine once we get moving.” With that he gathered up the supplies and put them on the packhorse, then he started to connect the litters to the horses. Once done, he agonized over the thought of climbing up on Blueboy but he had to in order to get all three of them home.

Around mid-day, he stopped again to make sure both Micah and his Pa were OK. He gave them more water and more jerky. He decided it would be better to leave them each with a canteen, he didn’t relish the idea of climbing on and off the horse. Sundown was again surrounding them when Lucas yelled up to him, “Son, I think we need to stop for the night. I don’t think I can take much more of this jostling today.” Mark was all for that, he didn’t think he could stand much more either. Again he preformed the whole routine of setting up the campfire and cooking and making coffee. For Mark, it was another night of not being able to sleep. Lucas was aware of Mark but didn’t want to discourage him, he knew Mark was doing the best he could, and probably just worrying over getting them all back to safety.

As the sun brought a bright light into his eyes, Lucas noticed that Mark was having even more trouble with his leg. Micah whispered to Lucas, “Have you noticed the smell coming from his leg? I think he has a real problem going on there.” “I haven’t really noticed the smell but I have never been down wind of him. He sure does seem to be having some real trouble there.” Lucas called Mark over to him, “Son, can you come here a minute?” “Sure Pa, what do you need”, he had a noticeable a look of tension on his face; was his Pa worse? “Mark, let me take a look at your leg son.” “Pa, don’t worry about me, I’ll get the two of back OK, you just take it easy.” Micah grabbed Marks arm saying, “Son, it smells like you have a bad infection there, we need to take a look.” “It’s fine, really; you two are the ones that are really hurt, don’t worry about me.” Lucas looked him in the eye, “Son, if you do have an infection like Micah thinks and we don’t do anything about it, you could loose your leg. Now let me see your leg.” “Yes sir, it just hurts a little”, alleged Mark as he winced in pain. Mark took the bandage off and Lucas’ face went white. “What’s wrong Pa?” Lucas knew what was wrong, the wound was starting to become gangrenous; he knew what would have to be done but did not know how he would be able to inflict that type of pain on his own son. Finally, Micah spoke up, “Mark, we’re gonna’ have to cut away that infection, and hope that is all we’ll have to do.” Mark didn’t really consider the prospect of more pain, the only thought running through his mind was “How am I gonna’ get them home?”

As hard as it was, Mark had to align Micah and Lucas so they could help him; that meant aligning their litters so each could use their good arms. Micah looked at Lucas, then told Mark to drink the rest of the whiskey. Mark looked at his Pa, Lucas just nodded at him. “But Pa, I don’t like whiskey.” “Son, believe me, you will be glad you drank it before we are done.” What exactly were they going to do, he wondered.

It sure didn’t take long before he felt the effects of the whiskey. Lucas would have laughed if the situation had not been so serious. Micah had taken both of their knives and slid them into the fire, they waited until the steel was blazing red, then they took turns cutting away the infection from Marks’ leg. Lucas almost vomited, not so much from the smell of burning flesh, rather from the fact of what they were doing to his son.

7 –

Mark lay unconscious between them, Lucas kept saying “I’m sorry son, it’s gonna’ be OK, this is all my fault.” Micah tried telling Lucas that it was no ones’ fault but Lucas didn’t pay any attention. The words seemed off in the distance to Mark and he thought he kept saying, “It’s OK Pa, it’s not your fault, we’re all here, family, we will all be OK” but no words were coming from his mouth. Between Lucas and Micah, they kept a good watch on him the rest of the day and through the night. They had lightly covered the wound, not wanting it to become infected yet again but they didn’t want to wrap it tightly either. This was not the way to practice any kind of medicine.

Again morning came upon them. Wondering what they were going to do, Lucas just looked at his son. Surely they didn’t survive everything they had been through together just so they could die here. Micah was trying to get up so that he could take over the role of rescuer. It might have worked, if he had been able to get up. Lucas looked at his legs helplessly, knowing there was no way he would be able to walk. They seemed to be trapped in the middle of nowhere. The effects of the whiskey wearing off, Mark started to wake. Though his leg really hurt, he thought the headache and upset stomach were worse than his leg. One thing for sure, whether they got out of this or not, he would never drink whiskey again.

Lucas, seeing him awake, said, “Mark, I’m so sorry son, if I had been paying attention none of this would have happened.” With his head aching, Mark didn’t feel like being very respectful to his father but he tried, “Pa, it’s not your fault, we have gone over this before. You didn’t cause me to fall and break my leg, I did that myself. I didn’t tell you how bad it hurt, I just thought I was over-reacting. You are a great Pa and I’m tired of you blamin’ yourself for everything that happens to me, I’m old enough to accept some of the responsibility myself.” “Mark, your Pa ain’t tryin’ to ridicule you or make you feel like a child. It’s a natural instinct for a parent to blame himself for anything goes wrong with this son. He’s gonna worry about you until the day one of you dies.” Mark apologized to his Pa and asked them to wrap his leg so he could get them moving back to town. “With any luck, we might be back there before noon tomorrow” Mark said as he was sitting up. Neither Lucas nor Micah wanted to admit it but Mark was the only person who could rescue all of them.

Traveling throughout the day, Lucas insisted Mark let him check the leg. “Pa, I know now that it’s not supposed to feel that way, believe me, I will tell you if it gets worse.” That didn’t make any difference to Lucas or Micah, they still wanted to check for themselves. Although Mark kept telling them that this procedure was just holding them up, it didn’t seem to matter, they still looked at his leg. That night, while Mark was gathering more firewood, Lucas and Micah worked together to prepare supper. When Mark returned, he was told to sit down and relax. Mark looked around at the three of them, thinking, “We really are a family.” Micah asked him what he was smiling about. Mark just shook his head and said, “You know, just being kin by blood doesn’t mean that’s the only way you are family, I wouldn’t trade you two for anyone or anything.” With his eyes all watery, Lucas said, “I have to agree but we’ll see how you feel about that in a few years, after you’ve decided to get married.” As much pain as they all felt, they also thought this was funny enough to warrant the pain of laughter. Micah looked down, “I could never have asked for a better family.”

8 –

Mark figured they had enough water for one more day, if nothing else happened. He looked to the heavens’ and said a prayer, “Lord, me and my Pa, and Micah too, we all try to live by your word. We try to help our neighbors and we never steal. If you could, while you are looking down on us, please see us home safely.” Mark had not realized that Micah and Lucas were listening; he thought they were asleep on their litters so it kind of shocked him when he heard them both say “Amen.” “Boy, you have a way with words, you plannin’ on becomin’ a preacher?” asked Micah. “No sir, me and my Pa are partners at the ranch, I plan on stayin’ right there.” “Mark, you know you don’t have to stay at the ranch with me if you have a mind set to do something else.” “I know Pa, we’ve been workin’ that ranch since we came to North Fork, that’s home, where else would I go, where else would I want to go?” Mark turned in his saddle just in time to see Micah and his Pa looking at each other. “What, I’m looking forward to Micah coming out to stay at the ranch with us, he really is like my grandpa.” “Nothing son, I’m looking forward to Micah staying out at the ranch with us too.” With a twinkle in his eye, Micah interjected, “Well, if this is gonna’ be what it’s like whenever we’re together, maybe I’d be safer stayin’ in town as the Marshall.” Mark was going to say something but then he noticed Micah grinning. They journeyed onward, getting closer to North Fork, and real medical care. While Lucas and Micah were still concerned about Marks’ leg, he was more concerned for them. They might be a crippled bunch but they were still family.

Mark got really excited when he spotted the edge of town. He had not been paying attention to notice how near to town they were. He wanted to just ride ahead and get help but he didn’t want to leave them on the trail alone. He paid closer attention to the pace he was setting, knowing each step of the horse meant more pain for his patients. Sweeney was standing outside of the bar, sweeping up, when he saw them coming into town. As he ran over to Mark he shouted at Nils to go get Doc Burrage. Doc was getting older so he didn’t do much running anymore but he started out of his office with his medical bag, when he saw what was coming toward him he went back into his office to set up a triage and patient care space.

Doc couldn’t believe what he saw when he examined his patients. After examining Lucas and Micah, he looked at Mark and said, “Mark, you did an excellent job with these two, I don’t think I could have done any better myself.” Looking at Micah and Lucas he said, “You two sure were lucky you had that boy there for you. If he hadn’t set your bones Lucas, you would have been crippled for the rest of your life. And Micah, you could have lost that arm if he hadn’t taken care of it like he did.” Both Lucas and Micah remarked at the same time, “We know Doc but what about his leg?” “Why, I haven’t even looked at it yet, he said it wasn’t much of anything, that I should take care of you two first.”

Lucas called out to Mark, “Son, you come on over here and let the Doc check out that leg. You know you were in worse shape than we were.” “Pa, my leg will heal fine, I was worried about you two, I didn’t know if I helped or hurt you.” Doc looked over his glasses at Mark, “Well boy, let’s see what we’ve got.”

After doing a thorough examination of Marks’ leg, Doc looked at Lucas and Micah and said, “You two ought to be horsewhipped for what you did to that boy, it was just plain unconscionable.” Doc, by the time we were aware enough to notice him limping, it was already bad infected”, said Micah. Lucas looked up at Doc saying, “Did we make it worse? Is he gonna’ keep his leg?” “Yes, he’ll keep his leg but you took quite a bit of muscle out of it. Who set it for him?” “I did it myself Doc”, and then Mark explained how he went about cleaning and setting his leg, he also told how Micah and his Pa got him drunk when they cleaned up his leg. “I think it would have been better to just have them cut it out, in the morning my leg still hurt real bad and my head felt like a herd of horses were stomping around in it.” Laughing a little Doc said “Whiskey will do that to you.” Doc told them they were all gonna’ have to stay with him, at least until they could get around on their own. “I’m gonna’ need to get a bigger office if I have to keep putting up all my patients,” Doc laughed.

Two weeks passed before Doc told them they could all go out to the ranch. He had Nils make a couple of wheel chairs, one for Micah and one for Lucas. Sweeney and John Hamilton helped Micah and Lucas out and onto the buckboard. This was their first glimpse at the chairs. They looked kind of funny, Nils used wagon wheels. Lucas looked at the chairs and asked Doc how he expected them to get in and out of the house with those chairs. Sweeney looked at Lucas and said, “Lucas, I know I wasn’t much help to you when you were looking for Mark, but I was able to help you now. I’m not good on the trail but I’ve had to fix up the bar so many times, I’m good with fixing things. You won’t have any problems at the ranch; I built a ramp for you at both doors. You might need a little help but you should be able to get around pretty good.” Nils looked over at Micah and said, “We finished up the room Lucas started for you and we rearranged the house so it would be easier to get around.” “I guess we’ll find out when we get there, nothing against you Doc but I sure would feel better getting home.” “I’ll second that”, said Micah. “I’ll be out in a couple days, to check on your injuries.” John told Lucas that the town folk said someone would come out at least once a day to see if they needed anything.

When Doc came out to check on his patients, Mark told him they were getting along just fine, “Why, between Pa and Micah, they have two hands so by cooperating; they’ve been able to do the dishes.” “Very funny Mark, you wait until I can walk again, you may be doin’ dishes for a long time young man.” “Well, right now you can’t so I’m still in charge” Mark said laughingly.

Mark looked at Doc Burrage and asked “You remember that time when you asked me if I might want to become a doctor?” Doc looked quizzically and Mark and said “No, can’t say that I do.” “Sure you do, back when you had to give me that shot for Anthrax, you gotta’ remember.” “Yea, I think maybe I do” said Doc. Lucas wanted to know why Mark was asking. “After this whole experience and no doctor around, I thought I might want to go ahead and become a doctor. We need more than we’ve got and Doc said he’s gettin’ ready to retire. I was just thinkin” Mark sort of muttered at the end. Doc looked at Mark with a very serious look “Mark, you seem to be a natural, you’ve taken care of your Pa through many a predicament, and with what you just came through, if you’re serious, I’ll write a letter of recommendation for you.” “Thanks Doc, you don’t mind, do you Pa? I wouldn’t be there at the ranch like we planned.” “Just because we are partners Mark, doesn’t mean you have to stay at the ranch. It will always be there for you. Besides, I would have Micah to keep me company and I think you would make a fine doctor.” Micah said, “I think he is already.” Mark hugged his Pa, possibly harder than he ever had before, knowing he was still gonna’ have his home but that he was going away to medical school.

THE END

These stories are based on the TV series The Rifleman
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