The Rifleman
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Mark Leaves the Ranch
by Donna Hume     
This is a continuing saga based on the TV series The Rifleman

43 –

Millie and Lee were busier than ever, trying to turn a bachelor’s ranch into a family home, that and the store. Lee got to running in circles, so she just sat down, “Millie, I don’t know if we can get all this done here and at the store. Could we, maybe, take turns here at the ranch, you know, like me one day and you the next?” Lucas walked in at that moment and went over to Millie, scooping her up into his arms, “I’m not sure if I like the idea of my wife being away from the ranch.” Millie gasped, “Are you trying to tell me I have to close my shop so I can be here at the ranch?” Lucas did not let her feet touch the floor as she was pushing away from him, “No, I am not telling you to close the shop, I’m just saying I finally got you in my bed and I’d kinda’ like to keep you there.” Millie threw her arms around Lucas as he started to spin her around again. Lee looked at them kind of sideways, “You two are just funnin’ at my expense, ain’t you?” “I’m afraid they are, my dear” said Micah as he put his arms around Lee. “Don’t you go gettin’ no fancy ideas there Micah, I’m too old to be spun around like some Kewpie Doll, and you’re too old to be spinin’ me.” Micah humphed and kissed her on her cheek. Mark walked in from washing up “Would all of you quit kissin’ each other, some of us are hungry.” Everyone had a good laugh at his remark.

During supper, all five of them discussed the concern. Lucas looked over at Millie, then to Lee, “I know the two of you are wearing yourselves out trying to do everything both here and at the shop. I think Lee had a very good idea, why not take turns at the shop? When Lee is here, working on hers’ and Micah’s rooms, Millie can take care of the store, Micah can help Lee, Mark and I can work around the ranch.” Lee looked at him, “Just how much work do you think you’ll be gettin’ done helping Millie when you are here alone with her?” Millie blushed and Lucas replied “Definitely not as much as we should be getting done.” “I think I should be the one to help whichever wife is staying here to get things straightened out while you and Micah work the ranch” said Mark “that way all the work will get done before summer is over and I have to go back to school.” “I think I could stay and help Lee” interjected Micah. Lee swatted at him, “I don’t think we would get much done either, Mark, I think your suggestion is the best, for getting things done. What do you say Mille?” Millie had to agree, she knew she would not be spending her time doing housework if she were alone with Lucas.

The next day, Micah drove Lee into town to open the store, assuring her that he would be there promptly at closing time to come and get her. Mark had to shove Lucas out the door, “Pa, we have work to do and so do you. The south pasture has a fence down, maybe you better check for cattle and repair the fence.” Millie tried to hide her smile as Lucas looked at his son, started to say something but then just turned to saddle Razor. “C’mon Ma, we have work to do” said Mark as he picked up Millie and spun her around. Lucas had just turned and saw what Mark did, his heart filled with pride but was it with Mark or for himself?

44 –

Beth spent much of her summer studying, under the guidance of her Uncle John. The rest she spent with Aunt Mary, planning for her wedding. “Aunt Mary, I really want to make my own dress, I don’t want one someone else made.” “Child, it is not easy to make a wedding dress, are you sure you will have the time and still have time to study?” “Aunt Mary, I can if you help me. I don’t want anything fancy. Mark had given me a photo of his parents on their wedding day, here, see? I want to make a dress like this one.” Studying the photo, Aunt Mary suggested they take the design to a dress shop and have them make the dress. “If we do this my way, you will have the dress you want and it will not interfere with you becoming a doctor.” Beth nodded, “Aunt Mary, I thought I wanted to practice medicine here, or back in Ohio but after seeing North Fork, well, I know it will be the right thing to do.” Fighting back her tears, Mary looked Beth in the eyes, “Wherever you go, you will always be in our hearts.” John had overheard much of this conversation while standing outside Beth’s door, “Don’t worry Mary, we will still see her. If she can’t find her way to come see us, we will just have to go visit her.” Beth jumped up off her chair to hug her uncle, “When mama died, you became my family. I know papa tried to do what he could but the two of you made it bearable for me. I will always keep you with me, if only in my heart.” The three of them embraced.

“Beth, you need to keep your mind on your studies. How do you think you will pass your exams?” asked Uncle John. “It is just so hard to keep my mind on my work, I miss Mark so much.” John stepped away from the table, “Beth, Mark wants you to become a doctor, you want to become a doctor, both your Aunt Mary and I want you to become a doctor; do you have any idea how to do that without learning? You will be facing new dilemmas every day of doctoring, you must learn to concentrate and think on your own. You won’t always have someone there to back you up and if that is really what you want, stop now and just become a nurse.” There was fire in Beth’s eyes and in her voice “I don’t want to be a nurse, I will be a doctor. I will be a good doctor. Why are you trying to discourage me now?” John glared at her, “I am not trying to discourage you, but if you are not willing to commit to this work, stop wasting everyone’s time.” Beth became louder, bringing Aunt Mary running into the room, “What is going on in here?” “Uncle John thinks I am not committed enough to become a doctor, I will show him” screamed Beth as she stomped out of the room.

“John, what are you trying to do? I thought you wanted her to see her dream come true.” “I do Mary, but she started questioning her abilities, I thought I would just make her change her mind about herself. She has the compassion she needs, she just needs to have the confidence. I think we will find her to be a little different for awhile.” Mary smiled at John, “I think you are right, she will be different, she won’t talk to you for a week of Sundays.” John put his arm around Mary “If that is what it takes to get her through all of this, I can stand it.”

The rest of the week, Beth never even spoke about her wedding. She spent all her waking hours studying and mumbling “I’ll show him I can become a doctor and I don’t need anyone’s help.” By the end of the week, Mary suggested they take the photo to the dressmaker and this seemed to change Beth’s mood to a bit more enthusiastic. As soon as they stepped into the dress shop, Beth walked right up to the woman behind the counter, “I am going to be married at Christmas, can you make a dress like this one?” The lady behind the counter turned up her nose, “Why would you want something like that? We have many beautiful styles from which you can choose.” Aunt Mary took Beth by the arm, “Come child, we will go somewhere else, somewhere where they understand about tradition” and they walked out of the store, leaving the clerk standing, unaware that she was just criticized.

The next store they went into, was a small shop. As soon as they walked in the door, the dressmaker came to greet them, “Is there something I can help you with?” This time, Beth let Mary do the talking “Yes, my niece is going to be married at Christmas and she would like to have a dress like the one her future husbands mother wore on her wedding day.” “Oh, I am sure your mother-in-law will find that to be a wonderful compliment” stated the dressmaker. Beth looked up at this smiling lady, “She died a few years after Mark was born. I want to do this for him, and his father.” The dressmaker asked if they had a photo of the dress and Beth pulled it from her handbag. “Oh my, what a beautiful old dress. These days, young people seem to want the new styles, they don’t have an eye for what is really beautiful. Oh listen to me going on, yes, I can make that dress for you, and it would be my pleasure.” Beth squealed with joy, Mary put her hand up to her ear, trying to protect what little of her hearing she had left. “Does that mean you want me to make the dress?” asked the dressmaker. “Yes, oh yes” cried Beth. “Let me get a little better view so I get the right material. Looks like satin, lace and beading. My, those sleeves are so beautiful and they will be easy to duplicate. What did you plan for your veil.” They talked over everything they would need and how many times Beth would need to come in for fittings as well as to insure the dress was exactly what she wanted.

Beth was so excited and happy after they left the store, she didn’t notice when the clerk from the first store came out to stop them. “Well, now that you have found you can’t get an old rag like that made anywhere for you, would you like to re-examine the gowns we have in our shop?” Beth and Mary both glared at her, daggers dancing from their eyes, “We don’t need your dresses, we found someone who wants to duplicate a beautiful and unique dress. We will be recommending her to all of our friends” stated Mary, then she and Beth continued walking away. The clerk, indignant, said “Well, I never.” Beth shouted back, “And you never will.” She kept smiling, even through supper with Uncle John.

45 –

Mark kept teasing Millie while he was helping her arrange things. When he was moving a dresser into the bedroom, he grinned as he looked at the bed. Millie started blushing when she noticed where he was looking. “Ma, if I get scared at night, I guess there will be enough room in that bed for me to come in here and jump into bed with you and Pa.” “If you think your Pa will let you get away with that” chided Millie, “You just come on in.” Mark started snickering, “I don’t think Pa would look very favorably on me if I interrupted the two of you, especially while you were still honeymooning. I think I’ll just stay in my own room, if I get scared” said Mark as he ducked away from Millie slapping at him.

Mark asked Millie to sit with him during dinner, “You know, Pa has waited a long time to find a woman he could feel like he did for my mother. I sure am glad you came back to town.” “I am too, Mark.” “I was afraid Pa would never marry again, always afraid for me or too busy taking care of me. You brought a life to his eyes that I barely remember from before. I almost forgot that look, until the day he married you.” Lucas and Micah had come back to the ranch for dinner, overhearing the last part of the conversation, Lucas stood outside the door, hands to his eyes, Micah just patted him on the back.

Millie noticed them outside the door and jumped up to get them something to eat. “I guess you two have been working pretty hard, by the looks of you” Millie stated as she looked at Lucas and Micah. “Lucasboy, I think that is a hint that we should wash up before we sit down to dinner.” “I think you are right Micah, guess I have been a bachelor too long” said Lucas. “Pa, don’t be trying to use that excuse, not the way you always got on me about washing up. And don’t forget to wash behind your ears” chuckled Mark. Millie hid her smile behind her hand. Lucas and Micah went back outside to wash up, knowing they had been had by Mark. “It’s hard to believe how much I’ve missed that boy, especially when he turns my own words on me” said Lucas. “Your fault, Lucasboy, you’re the one who made him go to school.”

After cleaning up, all four sat at the table for the chicken dinner Mille made. “I’m not sure what to make for supper, I want Lee to have a good meal after working at the store all day” said Millie. Mark interjected his comment “I think chicken would be good, and some chocolate cake.” “Boy, you are going to turn into a chicken,” chortled Lucas. “I can’t help it Pa, no one makes chicken like Ma here.” Every time Mark referred to Millie as Ma, Lucas had to choke back a tear. If he had cheated Mark of a mother all those years ago, Millie would see that he never lacked for a mother again. “I do believe we are one big happy family, right down to a granny and grandpa,” said Lucas. “Yea, and soon there will be another member, as soon as I get married to Beth” sighed Mark. Four pairs of eyes looked heavenward, “Hey, where am I gonna’ live?” Lucas spoke right up, “In town, where every good doctor should live.” Millie slapped at Lucas, “Right here Mark, with the rest of your family.”

Mark Leaves the Ranch - part 4

These stories are based on the TV series The Rifleman
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