The Rifleman
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Mark's Special Friend
Written by Donna Hume

“I was smaller than Mark when I first met him, with most kids that meant I would be in for trouble. Mark was different; at least that’s what my Ma said. She said that Mark had a gentle soul and that he would look out for me; she was right. It seemed like we knew each other from the day I was born. We hung around together a lot; we went through thick and thin together, we became the best of friends.”

“I can remember one time when we were out and there was this old tree near the fork in the road that his Pa said to stay away from but Mark was in one of his adventurous moods and wanted to see why he was not supposed to go near it. I tried to stop him, tried to tell him his Pa wasn’t gonna like it but you know Mark; and me, I went with him anyway; I usually did. I don’t know what I was thinking. I don’t know which he regretted most, the bee stings he got or the silent treatment he got from his Pa. I know I regretted the bee stings myself.”

“Then there was this time that we weren’t supposed to go to the old mine shaft. Mark had already gotten into trouble more than a few times before from playing around in old mines, he should have known better; but he has this insatiable appetite for adventure and I invariably trust him so we went caving, or mining. Didn’t matter what we called it, his Pa and half the town had to come and dig us out; we were in there for two days. I have to say, I handled myself pretty well; all I wanted when we got out was some food and water, Mark on the other hand was clinging to his Pa like a wet shirt. Would never say this to his face but sometimes he acted kind of like a sissy.”

“Hey Mark, do you remember when we went riding together out at old man Jensen’s’ place? He sure did have a big enough ranch for us to just ride and have fun didn’t he?” “I remember when we all rode out to old man Jensen’s’ place,” said Jake, “Everybody nearly got skinned for runnin’ his cattle just before a cattle drive.” They all had a good laugh over that memory all right, least now they did; it wasn’t so funny for some back then, some had trouble sitting after that.

“There was a couple years back, I thought Mark was gonna die, troubled me somethin awful. I didn’t know what I was gonna do without my best friend. He got some kind of fever; Doc said it was most likely from some bad water. Lucas tried selling the prize bull he just bought to get this fancy Canadian Doc from the next county over to come take care of Mark. Doc Burrage was out of town and Nells said he was only a vet and couldn’t take on that responsibility. Guess he knew if Mark would have died, Mr. McCain would have blamed him no matter how hard he had tried. Anyhow, this Doc came in and sniffed the air and diagnosed Mark, then had all of us riding up into the mountains for snow to reduce Marks fever. I was never so happy as to see him when he got better. I’ll tell you one thing; I sure gave him a piece of my mind, going around drinking bad water. What if he had made me sick too? Well, I was really worried about him, that’s all I can say. Gave him a little nudge against the shoulder when he was finally well enough that he that he could finally go outside, you know how friends do.”

‘Hey Mark, Mark; look at him pretending he can’t hear me. You wait until I get hold of you buddy, maybe if I give you another push now. Oh, you notice me now; guess all I had to do was get bigger than you, huh? Try to ignore me.” “Aw, c’mon. Why are you always trying to push me around?” Mark laughed at me. “Cause I like you, and I don’t shove you hard; not really. I just don’t like it when you try to ignore me.” “OK, I’ll ask Pa if I can go fishing this afternoon, after all my chores are done. Would you like to do that?” Mark asked. “I just nodded my head; he seems able to read my mind at times. Friends can do those things.”

“Talking about mind reading, Mark and me met a real mind reader one time. He was real good. There had just been a murder in town and this old man was able to tell us who the murder was. No, I’m not kidding you. They had this one guy in jail but it wasn’t him. This mind reader figured out who it was. For some reason he didn’t want to stay in town after that. We could not figure out why, he could have made a fortune. He said that reading peoples’ minds was a little too much like an invasion of privacy and he wanted to try a different field. Maybe he was right; I sure wouldn’t want to know what Marks’ Pa was thinking all the time.”

“Did you know that Mark and his Pa had a race one time? It was after Mark rode someone else’s horse in a race and won. He was so proud of his riding skills. He asked his Pa to race and they did. Those were sure exciting times; Lucas won if I remember right but Mark sure did like it anyhow.”

“There was another time, Mark found a hawk in one of his rabbit traps; he insisted that he keep it for a pet. Everybody kept telling him it wasn’t right keeping a hawk like that tied up; it needed to be free. I tried to give him my point of view, but he wasn’t even listening to his Pa, why would he listen to me? There was this old guy that was staying at the ranch, nice old guy; but he had some trouble with the law. Mark found out what freedom meant to him and finally decided to let the hawk go. I didn’t get to see it happen but Mark told me about it; he was sorry to have let the hawk go, because he was going to miss it but he was proud that he gave it back its’ freedom. My Ma sure was right about him, he sure does have a gentle soul.”

“I know, I jumping all over the place, telling you guys about me and Mark but we have been through so much together it is hard to keep it in order. You don’t mind do you?” No one moved. “Well, since no one seems to have any objections, I’ll just continue.”

Hey, there was this time when some old man came to the school and asked for Mark; told him that his Pa was hurt bad and asking for Mark. Everybody thought it a little strange, Mark praying with a horse about his Pa, but Mark, he never saw anything strange about praying anytime. Mr. McCain taught him that God would listen to him praying anytime, anywhere; but that God could hear better if there was more than one person praying. Mark just never considered animals weren’t the same as people.

Oh, you know how I told you that sometimes Mark kind of seemed like a sissy? Well, there was this one time that he had me totally confused. He was taking care of this pony from some old man in town who was real sick. When the man died, he asked Mr. McCain if they could keep the pony, well it was really a horse; a really handsome golden palomino. He was trying to comfort the pony when it bit him on the hand. Later he overheard Mr. McCain telling someone that the horse had anthrax. Yea, I said anthrax; it is deadly. He heard Mr. McCain telling this guy how he was going to die from this disease; his head swelling, all kinds of pain, and there not being a cure; all because this man was bit by the horse. The man thought Mr. McCain was just trying to outsmart him because he was an outlaw so he forced Mr. McCain to take him out to the barn to see the horse. There was the palomino, laying down and foaming at the mouth. There was some sort of scuffle: Mark said it was too much of a blur to remember exactly how it happened but the pony was put out of its’ misery and Mark through the rifle to his Pa and his Pa killed the outlaw. Mark was not going to tell his Pa about the bite, there was no cure so why make him worry? See, this is where I thought; Wow, how brave can he be? He knows he is going to die an extremely painful death and he is not saying a word. Well, Mr. McCain knew something was wrong and forced Mark to tell him. Then the sissy came out again, not that I blame him all that much, I think I would have been crying my eyes out too if I thought I was going to die like that palomino did. Mr. McCain told him there was a new cure, the doctor had just told him about it that very day. Mark was still crying as Mr. McCain carried him into the doctor’s office. When the doctor assured him he would be fine after he was given the shot, Mark stopped crying. I saw the size of that needle they used on him, that thing was so big that it could have made a horse faint but he just sat there and let them give it to him without so much as a whimper. So, what do you think? Sissy or Hero? Yea, that’s why I’m confused too.

Hey, any of you guys seem to notice the way Mark climbs up onto a horse? He tugs at the saddle and kind of does a hop to boost himself up into it. Well, that was the way he used to do it when he was younger; guess we all do things differently as we get older and bigger. He sure was cute when he did that. Heck, the back of most horses were taller than he was. Always nice to the animals thought; like I said before, most of the time he treated them like they were humans.

Mark was supposed to go into town one time, right after school, to meet his Pa in the general store. That was when Miss Hattie still owned it. I always liked Miss Hattie, even when she wore those bloomer things, they sure were funny looking. Anyway, he was supposed to meet Mr. McCain there at the store and he went into the store alright; he just didn’t stay there. Miss Hattie gave him some jelly beans and he left the store to go over to the marshals office, said he got tired of waiting for his Pa. He waited all of a minute, just long enough for Miss Hattie to get busy with a customer; then he hightailed it out of there. When Mr. McCain went into the store to get him, poor Miss Hattie blamed herself for Mark not being there. Mr. McCain assured her that it was not her fault, that Mark understood his instructions and it was up to Mark to have obeyed them, not her to have enforced them. She felt better, at least until all heck broke loose. Mark had walked into the marshal’s office just as some outlaws were breaking a prisoner out of jail. Now then not only had Micah as a hostage, they also had Mark. Mark sure did have a penchant for getting us into trouble. Well not me this time, but there were plenty of others. Anyhow, Mr. McCain waited for a few minutes in the store, just in case Mark might come back but when he didn’t, Mr. McCain had to go out and start looking for him. He looked into the saloon as he passed by, he didn’t really think Mark would be in there but when you are looking for someone; you just naturally look everyplace. The hotel doors were open so he asked Eddie if he had seen Mark and Eddie directed him to the Marshalls office; just about the same time as the outlaws were making their way to the street, with Micah and Mark in tow. The look on Mr. McCain’s face said that this can’t be happening, not now, not to my boy. But it was, to his boy and his best friend. You know, he thinks pretty quick on his feet and Mark knows how to read his face real good. He knew this situation was trouble but he also knew he was in trouble with his Pa; best thing he had going for him was that his Pa could usually get him out of things like this. On the other hand, if his Pa did get him out of this, he was going to face the consequences with his Pa. I don’t think he knew which one would be his best option but Mr. McCain used his rifle and shot all the outlaws and Mark went running up to him, crying, and Mr. McCain just scooped him up and hugged him. Come to think of it, maybe all that sissy stuff was a way to get out of trouble. You know, that Mark really is a pretty smart kid.

By the way, I know you’re new here and I never properly introduced myself. The name’s Blueboy, it’s nice to meet you.

These stories are based on the TV series The Rifleman
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