The Lincoln County Story: Part
Written by Duchess McCain
The sun was high outside, and Lucas wished he could be out in
it. Instead, he was stuck inside, unpacking their belongings and
trying to make something that looked like home for him and Mark.
It had been two weeks since the shoot-out with the Jesse Evans
gang. He had enrolled Mark in the school and bought the house.
It was nice place just outside of the town. Even though he was a
deputy, Lucas didn’t want to be a city dweller. They owned 10
acres of land, complete with a barn, coral, a well, and the back
of their land was wooded with a small stream running through the
property. Lucas would have to make the chicken coop. The wood of
the house was light, and there were many windows. The inside was
bright and open, just like Margret would have wanted it.
“The bedroom is all clean. We can start moving stuff in.”
The young woman leaned a broom against the wall, and looked up
at Lucas. The woman . . . wasn’t Margret. Her laughter, her
smile- gone. The only other house he had moved into before was
the one they picked out together. They had raised little Mark
there. . .
“Luke, is everything all right?” Eliza’s green eyes were soft.
Lucas returned her gaze and smiled. The gentle care and concern,
that was the same.
“Everything is fine. I was just remembering back.”
Lucas regained his focus, picked up a leather bag, and walked
into the bedroom. There was one bed against the wall, and a
place for the other one. It had been Mark’s idea. After
staying together on the trail and then in the hotel, he wanted
to sleep next to Lucas. “I got used to it Pa. I always know
that you are there, with me.” Lucas set the bag on the bed, and
began to pull out the things that Mark had chosen to bring,
things he held dear.
“What’s this?” Eliza picked up a carving of a man with a rifle.
“It’s so pretty.”
Lucas smiled as he remembered. “That was made for him by a
friend. William McCarty was his name. Mark and I were in
Lincoln County doing a cattle deal. William was just a boy, and
that was his way of saying thanks to Mark and me both for
helping him stand up to Jesse Evans.”
Eliza sat down on the bed, waiting for more.
“Well I guess it’s only proper for me to start at the
beginning.” Lucas pushed his hat back, and once again got the
far off “remembering back” look.
~“Pa, Pa!!” Mark came panting up to his towering father. “Look
Pa! It’s a letter from Ma!”
Lucas stuck his ax in the block, and placed the letter next to
“That’s nice Mark, but aren’t you forgetting something,” he said
with a wink. Mark wrinkled his brow, and his lower lip stuck
out at an odd angle. Lucas choked down a laugh.
“Uhhhmmmm . . . “
Lucas pushed Mark’s hat down to cover his eyes, and swooped him
up in his arms.
“How about my big boy finishing his first year of school!”
Mark giggled, and then squirmed to look in his Pa’s eyes. “I
got a 100 on my words for the year! I only missed two all year
long! Pa, I bet I can read every word that Ma wrote!”
“Bet you can son. How about your numbers and figuring?” Mark
looked down and looked like he was going to cry. Lucas pulled
out the ax and stood Mark up where it had been. He got down on
a knee and put his hands on Mark’s arms.
“I . . . I tried real hard Pa!!! I promise!” Mark’s big eyes
were filling with tears.
“I know you did son, and that’s what counts. You remember that
verse we read the other day? God only wants us to do things as
hard as we can, to please Him. That’s all that your Ma and I
want, your best. If you did that, then I’m proud of you.”
“I got a 87.”
“That’s still pretty good Mark. Math isn’t so easy subject to
pick up. But you and me will work real hard, and next year
you’ll get a 92.” Lucas picked up the letter. “Why don’t you
show me how well you can read.”
Mark smiled and hopped off the block. Lucas grabbed his hand,
and they walked inside together to read the letter.
I’m sorry that Ma is feeling worse. Tell her that I am
praying for her. I’m sure she’s in better care now that you’re
there to help her.
Mark finished school today. When I asked him if he wanted to
tell you something, he said that he would write it. Our little
boy is growing up fast! He did very well in grammar and
spelling, but he’s after my own heart when it comes to Math. He
misses you a lot, and asks just about every day when you’re
going to come home or write. It wouldn’t be as hard except that
it just reminds me how much I miss you.
Marshal talked to me on Sunday. He said that I can have the
job as soon as I sell my cattle. I’ve been putting it off until
you came back; Mark’s still young to go on a drive. I don’t
think I can put off much longer. I corresponded with a
cattleman in Lincoln several months back. That’s not too far,
and I’ll get plenty of help. I’d been planning on 4 hands, I’ll
make it 5 plus Mark. We should be back in two weeks for sure.
I’m sure Mark will have lots to tell you when you come back. I
love you Margaret, and I can’t wait for you to get home.
Your devoted husband,
The clouds covered the sun like a blanket as Lucas plodded
through the mud. If they could have seen the sun, it would show
to be approaching evening. The wind started to pick up, and
Lucas pulled his denim jacket tighter around him.
“Lucas, how much further you reckon we have to go?” Jason
unbuckled the cinch on his saddle. A young man of 23, he had a
lot of respect for Lucas. He was hoping that after this job he
would have enough money. Enough money to marry his girl and
start a good home like Lucas’.
“Not too much further Jason. If the sun comes out tomorrow,
hopefully the ground will dry and the going will be easier. With
good time, we’ll be to Lincoln by 3 o’clock tomorrow.”
Lucas placed a hand on his horse, and reached into his pack.
Mark was running around inspecting various rocks, leaves,
sticks, and insects. Lucas called to him.
“Here Mark, put on your jacket. It’s getting cool from the
Mark ran up, and Lucas helped him wiggle into to it. Before he
fastened the buttons Mark started to dash off again. Lucas
stretched one of his long arms out and grabbed his sleeve.
Pulling Mark back, he gave him a mock stern look.
“Hold on mister, we’re not done.” He finished fastening the
buttons, and still held on to his sleeve. “Now before you go
running off again, how about helping me out some. If we need 10
pieces of kindling till midnight, and 12 more to make it to
morning how many do we need?”
Mark bit his lip. “Um, 24?”
Lucas picked up a stick and started to write in the mud. “Okay,
you have 10 +12. But we’re going to make it easier. We’re going
to split up 12, so now we have 10+10+2. So what is 10+10?”
Mark answered 20. Then Lucas told him to add 2.
“22!!!” Mark said loud enough that all the hands stopped and
looked over at them.
Then he added, “Isn’t that kind of like cheating Pa?”
“No Mark it’s not. That is called using your brain. Sometimes
there are simple ways to do good honest work. Cheating would be
asking someone else instead of using your own brain. How about
you and me go find those 22 pieces before it gets too dark to
“Lucas! Lucas!” Jason was riding as fast as his pinto would take
him. He pulled the reins quickly beside Lucas’ bay.
“I was scouting what would be the easiest way for us to cross
the Rio Hondo, when I came up on them. I’m real glad they didn’t
“Who is ‘they’ Jason?”
“It was a gang of rustlers. I know it was, and one of looked
like one called Jesse Evans. I’ve heard that they’re all over
the New Mexico Territory, and even raided the Mescalero Apache
Lucas frowned, and he slowed Alcor down to a walk. He glanced
at the herd as they sloshed through the mud that was slowly
drying. He leaned back in his saddle.
“Well, I’m not gonna stop the herd. I guess we’ll just push on.
I’ll ride ahead, and you spread the word about them. Oh, and
tell Mark to tie his pony to the wagon and to ride on it next to
Morris, no questions.”
Lucas urged Alcor on, and pulled his Winchester from his saddle.
He turned once, to check that his order to Mark had been obeyed.
Satisfied, he rode on, quietly begging God to keep them safe and
from harm. ‘Oh Please Lord! Don’t make me have to tell Margaret.
Mark’s so young. Don’t let anything happen to the boy.”
As he crested the hill, he got a glance of other horses. The
picture gradually came together. There were five of them; all
worn and ragged men. Three of them wore a brace of pistols, the
other two tied their gun belt down. Lucas considered the odds to
be in their favor: 5 men mounted who could shoot well, and just
as good a shot driving the wagon. A man with tanned skin and
dirty blonde hair rode out from the group. Lucas recognized him
as the leader of the gang.
Lucas nodded at him.
“Those your cattle?”
Once again Lucas nodded, as he reined his horse to a stop.
“Where you-all headin?”
Lucas shifted in his saddle and cocked his head. His patience
was already running low. “Look mister, you’re askin’ an awful
lot of questions that aren’t your business. My men and I are
just passin through and want to cross the Rio Hondo. I didn’t
know that called for interrogation.”
Jesse let out a small laugh and a smile lingered on his lip. “So
quick to judge, stranger. The Boys and I are movin’ out here to
find a job. Our last one was on a ranch, surely you could use
some extra hands.”
“I got all I need.”
By that time the herd was near the water, and even the wagon had
crested the hill. Mark looked down anxiously on the scene. He
saw the man’s hand drop to his side.
“How bout I straighten out your thinking.”
Lucas swung his rifle and fired a shot that was a mere inch from
Jesse’s hand. His tanned face was turning pale. He remembered
hearing about a rancher that wielded a rifle. His eyes suddenly
flashed with the realization that he’d been stood up by a
rancher. He backed his horse up.
“I won’t be forgetting you stranger! I’ll be seein’ ya.” He
waved the rest of him men to ride on. Just before disappearing,
he turned back to see that a boy had jumped off the wagon and
was running toward the rancher. He began to sneer, and his sneer
turned into a smile, and finally low chuckle.
Lucas lit a cigar as he sat at the desk and waited. The man in
the mercantile had told him he could find Tunstall in the bank.
There was a frown on Lucas’ brow as he observed the town.
Everything looked so tense, the people hardly even looked at
each other. Presently a taller man stepped into the room. He
looked to be only a few years older than Lucas, his hair dark, a
curved pipe in his mouth. Lucas stood, and turned to him.
“Are you Mr. McCain?”
“Yes, and I presume that you’re Mr. Tunstall.”
“Call me John, or John Henry.” Tunstall sat, and indicated for
Lucas to do the same. He rested his chin on his hands. Finally
he spoke. “I thought I sent you a letter Lucas. I don’t know
what to do now. Since our first correspondence, things have
gotten increasingly violent. My cattle have been constantly
harassed, to the point I hired gunmen to protect them. I’m not
sure if I can take on any more.”
Lucas sighed, and rubbed his head.
John Henry continued “You see that bank and store over there?
That’s owned by Murphy and Dolan. When I first met my lawyer,
Alexander McSween, he encouraged me to move out here because of
the potential this county has. My business has done remarkably
well, and that is where the conflict began. Murphy has the
Sherriff on his side, and on top of that hired the Jesse Evans
gang to rustle my cattle.”
Lucas jerked up. “Jesse Evans? We ran into him when we were
crossing the Rio Hondo. He only had a few men with him.”
Tunstall stood, and lamented that they were probably new
“Did he get you into a gunfight?”
“No, he wanted to though. I made it clear that we weren’t going
to have that, and that if he wanted it the odds were against
“You should have shot him while you had the chance.” Lucas
turned to see who spoke and saw a young man, who looked about
16. His hair was dark and wavy, and he had eyes like clear blue
water. His smooth face was set like stone as he stood up from
where he slouched against the wall. Lucas frowned, such hard
words from only a boy!
“I know him. He won’t give you a second chance. I’m not fast to
draw the gun, I’m not like them. But when it comes to Jesse, the
scum doesn’t deserve any better.”
Lucas took a step closer to him. “Look boy, I don’t like the way
you’re talking. I especially don’t like using my gun. I only do
it to protect my family and to get us food. Seems like there’s a
thing or two you could learn about using a gun.”
The boy slammed his fist on the table and spat at the ground.
Tunstall quickly stepped between them.
“William, this is Lucas McCain. He’s here to sell cattle. Lucas,
this is William Bonney. I hired him and some others to watch
after the herd. He is good with the gun, however not everybody
who hired him in the past had noble purposes. William, will you
please go ask Alex McSween to join us at the ranch this
William threw Lucas a look of contempt then returned his gaze to
Tunstall. “Sure Mr. Tunstall, whatever you say.”
Tunstall sighed as he sat back down. “William is a good boy at
heart, but he’s been on his own since he was 14. He’s been in
gangs and with rustlers most of that time. I’ve never been the
type to settle down and have a family, but if I can help that
boy, I’ll feel that I’ve done some good. He’s eighteen, and most
boys that age are ready to start making something of their own
life. But he never had a father to show what the right path to
Tunstall paused, and then returned to the problem at hand. “I’m
not going to say that I can’t buy your cattle McCain. I want to
talk it over with John and Alex.”
“John Chisum, I’m sure you’ve heard of him. You and your men
come out to the ranch and join me for dinner. We can sort things
Mark was awed at the scene around him as he rode. Just about
everywhere he turned there were cattle! His Pa was ahead having
‘adult’ conversation with Jason and Tunstall. The rider on
Mark’s left looked a little younger. He slouched in the saddle,
and looked like he had something on his mind.
“Wow! Who owns all these cattle?”
He looked over at Mark as if he were a fly buzzing around his
“These are Mr. Tunstall’s.” He looked away again.
“Well he’s done a real good job! My name is Mark, Mark McCain.
“That gun is nice. I bet you’ve been using it awhile. My Pa says
I’m gonna have to wait a long time til I get one. When did your
Pa give you one Mr. William?”
He rolled his eyes at Mark. “No, just William. And my Pa never
gave me gun. I don’t even know who my Pa is. I learned to shoot
when I was 10, bought my own gun at 13. Nobody owns my gun
expect for me, and I’ll do whatever I see fit with it.”
Mark looked at William quizzically. “How come you don’t know who
your Pa is?”
Lucas turned Alcor around and rode back towards them. “Mark!
I’ve told you that some things aren’t nice to ask people, and
that’s one of them.”
Mark turned a little pink and hung his head. Somewhere under his
breath he muttered a ‘sorry.’ William raised one of his
“No McCain, I’ll tell him why. I don’t know my Pa cause he’s the
scum of the earth. He’s a filthy, no-good. . .“ He stopped when
he saw the looks Lucas was giving him. “The only person I’ve met
that’d I want to hurt more than him is Evans. It’s a pity your
Pa didn’t shoot him when he had the chance.”
William smiled inwardly, knowing that it would bother McCain
that he’d said it in front of Mark. Lucas took a deep breath,
realizing that the boy was testing him. He thought on it for a
“William you said that you’re not like them.”
“That’s right. For awhile I was with them because I had nothing
better to do. But I ain’t ever gonna do anything for Evans
again! He’s cruel, and only does something for his own gain or
pleasure, including killing. I ain’t like him, and never plan to
“When you’re thinking things like wanting to kill people, you’re
settin’ yourself up to be like him. Nobody should be proud to
kill. Life is a gift from God, and it’s not yours, or anybody’s
William rolled his eyes once more, and pushed forward to join
“He’s real nice, ain’t he Pa?”
Dinner was finished, and the men stayed in the large dining room
talking and smoking. The walls were bright with wallpaper, and
the floor had red and black patterned carpet, on the wall hung a
painting of the Enlish countryside. McSween asserted that
Tunstall was definitely in the financial position to buy more
cattle, and that it would be a good investment. Chisum agreed
that it would help the business, but he didn’t like the
attention that it would draw to their herds. Finally Tunstall
“I’m not against the business, but I’m worried about the danger
that will pose to my herd as a whole. We barely have enough men
to guard the herd as it is, and he just got more men. The only
way I could take on 30 more cattle is if I had more men to
guard. I’ll try to hire some more, but what to do right now?”
Chisum replied, “I’ll send over two of my men.”
Lucas leaned back in his chair and crossed his arms. “I’ll talk
to my guys, see if any of them want to stay. I guess Mark and I
will stay until your new recruits come in John Henry.”
When Lucas had finished all of the deals for the evening, he
suddenly began to wonder about Mark. He smiled knowing that he
could probably find him in the barn. The ‘barn’ was more like a
large house! After wandering around for a while, he finally
found him talking to William, who was bedding the animals down.
Lucas crossed his arms and looked down at Mark.
“Isn’t it about you headed to bed young man?”
“Oh but Pa, we’re not gonna be here very long and William has
some of the coolest stories! He told me about one time that he
escaped from a jail through the chimney, and he’s worked in a
cheese factory, and . . .”
Lucas reached down and picked Mark up. “I’ve got something to
tell you son. We’re going to be here a little longer than we
planned. We’re going to stay and help Mr. Tunstall look after
his herd until he can hire more men.”
Mark wrapped his arms around Lucas. “Oh Pa that’s so exciting!!!
Tell me about what you and Mr. Tunstall talked about.”
Lucas started to describe the meeting as he walked out of the
barn. By the time he reached the house, Mark had leaned his head
against Lucas’s chest and fallen fast asleep. Lucas held his
son, wondering if he would regret bringing to Lincoln, the
county where everything was solved by the bullet.
The Lincoln County Story —
These stories are based on the TV series
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around The McCain Ranch