The Writer's Corner
The Rifleman - Sharper: Part 1
Written by Duchess McCain
For miles in all directions the campfire could be seen, that is,
if anyone where there to see it. The land was dry and treeless.
A quick breeze made the small fire come alive as it danced from
side to side. The man was tall with golden hair and eyes so pure
they seemed to be made of the purest river known to man. He
stood by his horse, a muscular bay, unpacking the gear as night
set in around them. He began to unroll the blankets.
“Come on Mark. Time for you to be going to bed. We have a lot
more travelling we have to do tomorrow.”
Reluctantly the youth put down the knife and wood and went to
“How much longer will we have to go?”
“If we get an early start, we’ll be there tomorrow. A town
that’s booming as Buckville is sure to have a place where we can
sleep indoors,” Lucas said with a smile as he stood up from
laying out their beds. But Mark was not smiling.
“What’s it going to be like? You don’t have any cattle. And tell
me how we’re gonna remember Ma when we can’t visit her grave,
and plant flowers by it. You told me I’d feel better over time,
but I feel worse. We should’ve stayed Pa! I could have worked. I
know I’m only nine, but I know I could have got a job!”
“No you couldn’t,” Lucas said shortly. It was already hard on
him. Why did his son have to make it harder? He took a breath
and remembered that they had left the only home that Mark had
ever known. The place where Margaret was laid to rest. He sat
down on his saddle, which was set up as his pillow. He motioned
“Come here son,” he said. Mark came, and Lucas set him down on
his lap. “I know this is really hard. I didn’t want to have to
move, but things weren’t working out and we needed a new start.
Anyway, you need a place where you can get a good education.
After the school closed, I just didn’t have enough time to teach
He paused. Thoughts about leaving Margaret did hurt, but it
wasn’t something to be avoided.
“Mark, your Ma loved you very much and she always wanted the
best for you. And in this case, moving was the best thing. I
know we can’t visit her grave, but we’ll always plant marigolds,
just like we did there. And we have her picture, which will
always be with us to remember her by.”
Mark slowly nodded. He was trying desperately to fight back
tears. In the middle of his thoughts he faintly heard Lucas tell
him once more to go to bed. He gladly obeyed, hoping that sleep
would dispel his ache for a while.
It was late afternoon the next day when Lucas and Mark rode into
Buckville. The town was indeed booming. Building after building
lined the streets. Right in the front of the town something new
was being constructed. Next they rode by the General Store, a
Hotel and restaurant, the school, a blacksmith shop and livery
stable co-joined, the jail and marshal’s office. Another street
led to the doctor, a vet, the bank, a telegraph office that
double as newspaper printer, an attorney, several houses, and a
“Well, what do you think son?”
“It’s awful big, and . . .”
Suddenly Mark was interrupted by shouting the front of town.
“YEEHAW!!!!” shouted one of the men.
“Come on boys, drinks on me!!!” shouted the next. The 7 men were
mounted and riding into town before anyone had time to blink.
Lucas swung off his bay and pulled Mark and his horse to safety
just as the men stampeded through the streets shouting and
running into people who didn’t have time to clear out. A woman
stepped out of the doorway closest to where Lucas and Mark were
“I don’t suppose you came to town to join that lot, did you?”
she asked, looking at the dust they had left behind fiery
Lucas took off his hat. “Well ma’am, I came looking for work,
but that doesn’t seem to be the kind I’d be applying for. My
name’s Lucas McCain, and this is my boy Mark.” Lucas raised an
eyebrow at Mark and gave him a slight nudge. He quickly removed
his hat and said a quiet “How do you do?”
In the fast setting sun, her brown hair shone with a tint of
red. Her eyes softened at the newcomers, and she gave a warm
smile to Mark.
“My apologies, Mr. McCain. I regret to say that it’s been like
that every day since they started building that confounded
saloon.” She sighed and tucked a wisp of falling hair behind her
ear. “Things were a lot more peaceful when the last one shut
down. But the town began to grow, and Freeman bought the land to
make what he calls ‘the most lively entertainment west of the
Mississippi.’ Ever since then our peaceful town has been flooded
with people seeking the *entertainment.*”
Lucas smiled, and tried hard not to laugh at the way she spat
out ‘entertainment.’ Boy was she a feisty one. Feisty and
pretty. He glanced up at the sign over the door: House O’Neal:
Hotel and Restaurant.
“Is this your place, ma’am?”
“Yes, it is. My name is Eliza. Eliza O’Neal.”
“Well, Ms. O’Neal, do you have room for two tired travelers
looking for somewhere to sleep other than the ground?”
“Of course Mr. McCain. I’d be happy to treat you to supper as
well, if you don’t have previous engagements.”
“Well I’m sure your cooking is a sight better than mine over a
campfire,” Lucas said with a smile.
“Do you have any apple pie?” Mark added enthusiastically.
The young woman laughed. “It’s all right Mr. McCain. As a matter
of fact, I made one just this afternoon. I have another girl
that helps me with the cooking, but I like to make the dessert.
Come right in and I’ll show you your room.”
Mark put down his fork and smiled, having finished his gigantic
piece of pie.
“Take another small one Mark,” said Eliza. Lucas grabbed Mark’s
hand has he went for another.
“Oh no you don’t. A piece that big will suit you till next
week!” He lifted Mark out his chair and set him on the floor.
“Now it’s about time you went up stairs and did some studying. I
don’t want you getting behind in school,” Lucas said with a
Lucas got up from his seat.
“Yes sir,” said Mark quickly, and headed for the stairs. “Thanks
for the pie Ms. O’Neal.”
“You’re welcome Mark. Maybe we’ll save that piece for tomorrow
night,” she said with a sparkle in her eye.
Lucas began to pick up the plates and take them back to the
kitchen. Eliza started to protest, but was stopped short.
“I’m trying to teach my boy to act like a gentleman. But that’s
not something I limit to just teaching.” There was a smile
slowly creeping its way into the corners of his mouth. She
abandoned protest, and began to wash the dishes that he had
“You’ll be looking for a job tomorrow?”
“That’s right. I figured in a town this size there’s got to be
someone decent who needs a hand.” Lucas paused as he thought
about Mark. “I’ll leave Mark here; he shouldn’t cause any
trouble. If you would, just make sure he doesn’t decide to
explore the town. I want to be out with him for awhile, until he
and I both get the hang of things around here.”
“Don’t worry; I’ll keep him away from the apple pie.”
As Lucas walked into their room, he saw Mark’s books scattered
in a wide circle around him. He was frowning at them, but
immediately turned to address his pa.
“I like it here Pa! She was nice, and boy did she make some good
Lucas laughed as he sat down on his bed. “How’s the studying
Mark frowned again. “I’m having a hard time with the math, and
there are a few words in my reader I don’t know.”
“It’s getting late son, you had better start cleaning things up.
I’ll look at it tomorrow with you. First thing we do after I
find a job and get us a house is enroll you in school!”
“Oh, well I didn’t mean it’s not that hard! I’m sure I could
keep going without having to be in school.”
“Maybe son, if all I did was teach you. But with a job and
everything I’m just not going to have time.” Mark had finished
putting his books away, and Lucas motioned for him to sit down
on the other bed beside his. “I’m going out tomorrow to start
looking for a job. I know how badly you want to look at the
town, but I don’t want you leaving here tomorrow, not unless I’m
Mark looked down at his shoes. “You understand me?” asked Lucas
a little louder, demanding an answer.
“I’ll take you down to the General Store, day after tomorrow.
And there’s bound to be a good place to fish somewhere around
The sun was climbing in the sky, and the whole town was abuzz.
In the midst of everything else, Lucas could constantly hear the
“Bam, Bam, Bam BAM!” of the construction of the saloon. It
seemed to bore its way into him as he went through town. The
Blacksmith/Livery Stable owner had been very nice. Clarence
Martin was his name. “I’m sorry Mr. McCain. I just hired someone
last week,” he had said. Lucas was making his way to the
Marshal’s office. Two men looked up at him as he walked through
“Howdy gentlemen,” he said tipping his hat. “My name is Lucas
McCain. I just came into town yesterday and I’m looking for a
job. I was wondering if I could speak with the Marshal.”
The taller of the two men took off his brown leather jacket to
reveal a star pinned on his shirt. He stepped forward.
“I’m Marshal Jake Adams, and this is Louis Baxter, our banker.
What can I do for you?”
“Pleasure to meet you Marshal Adams, Mr. Baxter. Like I said I’m
looking for a job. I served almost a year as a deputy back in
the New Mexico Territory. I thought you might be looking for
one, with the town growing as much as it is.”
“Well nothing personal Mr. McCain, but I just don’t need the
help right now. On occasion I have to swear in some deputies.
I’ll keep you in mind for it. You have any family with you Mr.
“An independent minded 9 year-old boy,” Lucas smiled.
“I know what you mean,” said the Baxter. “I have two boys
myself. One’s 12 and the other is 9. They always are getting
into something, or coming up with some new idea. I’m sure they’d
be happy to meet your son.”
“Thank you. I’m sure Mark will be happy. I promised him that I’d
take him to the General Store tomorrow. Maybe we’ll stop by the
“Thanks for the help Marshal, Mr. Baxter.” Lucas once again
tipped his hat, turned, and ducked out the door.
Mark gazed out the window. The sun was shining bright outside,
and the town was so busy with activity. He looked over at the
construction sight. It was so fascinating! He couldn’t
understand why his Pa didn’t want a job there. It seemed like
good hard work. The men working were all sweating, and a few
had taken off their shirts. He remembered Pa working on some
buildings before, so this just didn’t make sense. The sound of
the hammers almost seemed to be calling him: Bam, Bam, Bam, Bam,
“Ms. O’Neal.” Mark went into the next room. “Ms. O’Neal, I
finished folding the table clothes liked you asked me to.”
“Thank you Mark. And you can call me Ms. Eliza.”
“All right.” He paused. He could still hear the hammers boring
their way into his mind. “Uh, is there, um, anything else you
want me to do?”
Eliza didn’t look up from the laundry she was folding. “Oh no
Mark, nothing else. You’ve been very helpful though.”
“Well, I think I’ll go up to our room now.” And with that he
went into the main lobby. He glanced back once more to make sure
she was occupied . . . and quickly slipped out the door into the
fresh air of the town.
The sun was still hot, but sinking when Lucas went back to the
hotel. He had talked to many different people, but all to no
avail. He sauntered down the boarded side walk. He knew it would
be a big deal moving. Surely there would be a good job he could
get, he told himself. Being teacher, Ma, and Pa to Mark was
rough. He knew he had to get a job, and then Mark could go to
school. He exhaled and started to shake his head. He couldn’t
let himself think this way. Things are going to work out. They
would make it, he just had to find the right place. He pushed
his hat back and walked into the Hotel. Hearing the door, Eliza
left her folding and came to the lobby.
“No, I’m afraid not. Did Mark behave okay today?” He mentally
reminded himself that it was hard on the boy too. Not only hard
on him, but hard for him to understand.
“He was good as gold. He even helped me with laundry. It is a
lot washing, drying, and folding sheet, blankets, tablecloths,
napkins, and everything else. He’s up in your room now.”
“Thank you Ms. O’Neal.” He turned to go, but was stopped by her
“Call me Eliza.”
“Thank you, Eliza.”
Lucas trudged up the stairs. He would be happy to see Mark
again. Something about the boy’s boundless energy kept him going
when things were rough. They would make it . . . they had to!
Suddenly he stopped. He couldn’t see him in the room. “Mark?” he
called, but no answer came. Bam Bam BAM! He went to close the
window, to shut out the constant noise. Gazing out the window he
saw a young boy standing near the construction site, very near.
The boy was talking to a man that was dressed too well to be
working. The boy looked incredibly like Mark. Lucas crossed the
room in 4 strides and slammed the door shut behind him.
“Where did you say you were from boy?”
“New Mexico Territory. My Pa worked awful hard there, but he
decided we should move to somewhere with more opportunity. He
went out looking for a job today.”
“Funny, he never came by here. Seems like that would be the
first place a man would look, where there’s money, cheap
whiskey, and girls,” the man said with a smirk.
Mark frowned, he didn’t see any women. He shrugged it off, the
man was pretty nice. “Well, my Pa doesn’t drink wh. . .”
Mark spun around to see Lucas advancing towards him at a fast
pace. Mark mentally groaned. He hadn’t meant to be out more than
a few minutes. He bit the inside of his lip.
“Is that your Pa, boy?”
Mark meant to speak, but he couldn’t even manage a ‘yes sir.’ He
swallowed once, and figured he needed to start talking, and
“Uh, Pa this here is Mr. Freeman. He’s owns this place that
their building. He’s real nice, and he said. . .”
Lucas barely even glanced at the man; instead he focused on his
son. “Mark, what did I tell you?”
“I’m sorry Pa,” said Mark wincing a little. “I didn’t mean to be
gone this long. I was gonna go straight back, honest!”
Lucas was exasperated with his son’s response. He paused, not
wanting to hurt Mark with an angry response. “All right get
inside. Go to the room, and I’ll be up in a while to talk about
Mark heard the shortness in his father’s response. Without delay
he made his way back to the hotel. Eliza was by the door, and
Mark looked down, not wanting to face her. Lucas turned to
“Ahem, Mister McCain! Your boy says that you’re looking for a
job. I’m always hiring, and of course,” he said with a
disturbing smile “it does have its ‘benefits.’”
Lucas raised his eyebrow at the man. “I’m not interested in the
kind of work you have to offer.” With that he walked back into
Lucas waited awhile before he went upstairs. He found Mark
sitting on the edge of his bed, staring out the window. He
walked to the end of Mark’s bed and leaned against the dresser
opposite of Mark.
“All right son, start talking. What happened?”
Mark licked his lips, and forced himself to look at Lucas. “It
was just such a pretty day, and, well I wanted to see them
build. You never let me watch you and the men build the new barn
because you said I was too little and I would get hurt.”
“And you’re still too young, Mark. Builders are too busy to take
time to look out for curious boys. I told you then and I’ll tell
you now, you’re lucky you didn’t get hurt. But that’s not the
point son. Why did you disobey me?”
“I just . . . I just wanted to go outside.”
“Anything else?” Mark just looked down at the floor. “Mark,
“I, I told Ms. Eliza that I would be up here, and that’s when I
Lucas crossed his arms, and looked sternly at Mark. “Mark, you
have never lied to me and I’m thankful for that. But lying to
other people is just as bad. I left you here with her in
watching over you. You should listen to her like you listen to
me, you understand?” Mark nodded. “First thing you do is go down
stairs and apologize to her. When you come back, you’re going to
straight to bed. I’ll still take you out tomorrow like I
promised, but we won’t be getting anything other than what we
At this point Mark bit his lip again. He knew he’d disappointed
his Pa, and he hated to think what kind of stress he caused.
Lucas put hand under Marks chin and gently lifted it until his
now soft eyes met Mark’s.
“And son, even when you disobey, I love you more than anything
“I know Pa. I love you too.”
Lucas stilled leaned against the dresser as Mark went to find
Eliza. The worry was still there, but now in the silent cool of
evening he felt that they could make it. He and Mark together,
as iron sharpens iron, could make a new life for themselves here
Sharper - part 2
These stories are based on the TV series
Here are some other great stories. Enjoy!
The Writer's Corner
Table of Contents
around The McCain Ranch