The Writer's Corner
Lincoln County Story: Part 2
Written by Duchess McCain
Lucas looked out over the plain at the cattle and sighed. 10
days in Lincoln on the Tunstall Ranch. In that time, there had
been three different attacks, 2 of them on his herd. 2 of the
cows were injured, and 1 was dead from the cross-fire. Lucas
reached up and rubbed his stubble; he hadn’t had time to shave
recently. Suddenly, out of the corner of his eye, he saw
something. Lucas cocked his rifle. As the figure neared, it
appeared to be Jason. Lucas didn’t relax, not until he was sure.
“Luke! Luke.” Jason reined his stallion to a stop. “I know that
you wrote a letter for Margaret that you were gonna mail. Could
you take mine for Jenny too?”
Lucas smiled, and took the white envelope. “By the time we’re
done here, maybe you’ll have enough to buy a house instead of
“I was thinking the same myself. I don’t know though. I mean,
it’s not really my money. If there’s something that Jenny would
rather have, like a fancy stove, than I might be inclined to get
Lucas put his hand on Jason’s shoulder. “You’ll make a fine
husband Jason, and Jenny knows it. I just hope we can get home
soon. Mark needs to see his Ma.”
“Is she home yet?”
“No, but she’s hoping to be in a just a few more weeks. And it
can’t come soon enough. I miss her so much! And you can’t
imagine how hard it is suddenly having to meet all the needs of
a going on seven-year-old boy.” Lucas paused, thinking about
Margaret. Finally he spoke again. “If you’re taking the next
shift, I’ll take this in to town right now.”
“Sure Lucas, that’s why I rode out. Say, maybe you should take
Mark with you. He’s been itching to do something.”
Lucas nodded. This had turned out to be more than just a cattle
drive. He wanted Mark to know that it was serious, but he didn’t
want to scare him. He turned Alcor, and urged him into a canter.
“I. . .please, I didn’t mean to!” Mark put his hand up to shield
his face, but the blow came anyway.
“What did you think you were doing you fool kid! Well look at
me! You ain’t ever gonna be doin it again.”
The man grabbed Mark by the shirt and shoved him hard to the
ground. Mark tried to scramble back, but there was no way that
he was going to get away. He began to sob, shedding huge tears.
His breathing got heavier and heavier as the man picked up a
stick, brandished it like a club, and advanced towards him.
“Get away from the boy!” a voice boomed. Jesse turned and saw
Lucas staring down his rifle straight at him. Silently, he
swore, that this was not part of the plan.
“McCain, I caught your boy trying to steal from me!”
Lucas took several steps closer. He gritted his teeth, and
glared at Jesse. “I don’t care what you thought my boy was
doing! I’d better never again see you lay a hand on him, or
you’ll wish you’d never seen New Mexico Territory. Never!”
Lucas thrust his rifle into his left hand and threw a right
before Jesse had time to blink. Stunned by the blow, he fell
backwards against a tree. Lucas hit him hard in the gut once,
twice. The rancher stretched out his long arm and grabbed the
outlaw’s shirt in a vice like grip. He jerked Jesse towards him,
until they were almost touching.
“Now you get out of here before I lose my temper, and forget
that the boy is watching.”
Mark had stopped crying to watch his Pa shove Jesse to the
ground. Mark held his breath, waiting. The smaller, battered man
glared with hate up at Lucas. He touched his bleeding face as he
backed away into the woods. Lucas turned to see Mark rushing
towards him. Lucas embraced him in a hug, and then pulled him
back to look at him.
“Did he hurt you son? Are you all right?”
“He hit me kind of hard Pa. I’m not bleeding, but it hurts.”
Lucas gently ran his hand through Mark’s hair as he hugged him
again. This was some kind of conflict. Waging war on defenseless
cattle and young children! He closed his eyes, wondering what
would be next and praying that whatever it was, that they would
be able to stop it.
“I just don’t understand John! Why would Evans take this so
seriously? And why on earth would he lure Mark out into the
woods like that, just so they could hurt him?” Lucas was trying
to work out the anger. He knew he needed to; keeping it bottled
up would have him acting like William, too fast with the gun.
“I don’t know Lucas. This ‘war’, if you can call it that, is
very strange. The longer it goes on the harder it is to see
who’s in the right.” Tunstall frowned as he paced his office. “I
don’t know why, but they’re trying to provoke us. Lucas, you’ve
got to help the men. They respect you for how good you are with
your rifle, some of them have even started calling you ‘The
Rifleman.’ No one on my ranch is going to be provoked into
murdering someone. We got to remember that the law isn’t on our
side! Sherriff Brady is working for Murphy. I already have a
lawyer, maybe I should see about getting some type of law in
“Well I’m riding into town, do you want me to ask Alex to come
out here and speak with you?”
Tunstall stroked his beard. “Yes, do that.” He paused. “Lucas, I
don’t want you going into to town alone. Too many things have
happened. Why don’t you take William with you?”
“I’ll do that.” Lucas nodded.
They rode for a mile in complete silence. William slouched in
his saddle. Lucas glanced at him.
“Mark sure thinks an awful lot of you.”
The boy didn’t acknowledge Lucas’s statement. He kept staring
off at the horizon.
“I don’t understand McCain. I just don’t get it! If Mark were my
boy, I swear I would have beat Evans dead right then and there.
How come you have a soft spot for people that mistreat you?”
Lucas looked over again. “Suppose I had killed him. The Bible
says the pleasures of sin are only for a season. That’s exactly
what would have happened to me. Now you look at me boy, and you
get this. Whatever you do in selfishness to please yourself,
it’s gonna hurt somebody. If I had killed Evans, I would be dead
in less than 5 days, for sure. That means I would leave behind a
widow, a fatherless boy, and town without a deputy. I would have
hurt Mark more than helped him. You can’t go through life just
thinking about what you want.”
William shot a look at him. “What are you trying to say McCain?”
Lucas exhaled and spoke a little softer. “I’m trying to say that
life is a lot better when you’re living for something other than
William didn’t say much the rest of the trip. The more he
thought about Lucas, and what he said, the more it seemed his
conclusions had been wrong. He remembered John. John Henry
Tunstall had taken in the boy that nobody wanted, and given him
a chance when everybody else dismissed him. He had said,
“William, you are young, but that doesn’t bother me. I am
looking for a man to do a man’s job. You prove that you can do
your work, then you’ve earned my respect.” He had always
believed the mark of a man was being able to stand up for
yourself, and let no one push you around. But as he looked at
all the real men around, they were all distinguished by
“I’ve got an awful lot to learn,” he said to himself, as they
rode back to the ranch.
“Please Pa!! I want to do it with you.” Mark looked up longingly
into his father’s face.
“Mark, I’m sorry. I need to go check on Jason, give him a break
from watching the herd.” Lucas saw the dejected look on his
“Mark, I have tomorrow off. We can spend it together.”
“I’ll go fishing with him McCain.”
Lucas turned to see William standing in the doorway. Mark
instantly warmed to the idea.
“Can I go with him Pa, please? I’ll be careful.”
“Yes Mark, you can go with him, but one condition. You know that
sometimes it’s not always safe. You better listen and obey
William, you understand?”
“Yes sir.” Mark ran to the doorway. “Come on William! Let me go
get my pole!”
As he saddled his horse, Lucas could hear Mark’s voice slowing
fading away as they headed toward the stream. He thought of
Margaret, and the letter he’d sent. The idea of being home
again, with his wife, where his son would be safe. . . Lucas had
been deep in thought. Now as he was half way across the range
something jumped out him. Everything was so quiet. No birds, no
cattle to hear, even the crickets were silent. Lucas urged his
horse on; something was wrong.
Jason had tried to draw, but it was too late. Now he lay
wincing, and breathing heavily. Jesse had 7 men with him, two of
them Jason recognized. Jesse called to one.
“Hey Tom! Who’d you and Will get?”
“We got Dick Brewer and one of the Coe boys.” Tom spotted Jason.
“Hey, he was with that sodbuster that licked you.”
Jesse backhanded Tom. “That sodbuster jumped me from behind!!
And he’s gettin what he asked for. You just keep your mouth
shut.” Jesse walked over to Jason. He picked him up by his hair,
and looked him in the eye.
“Now you tell me, is that sodbuster the only one coming out
Jesse didn’t like the silence that he received for an answer. He
screamed the question in Jason’s face once more. Again, he was
given no answer. Jesse stalked away in anger, telling his men to
have some fun. The one named Tom told some to saddle a horse. He
instructed two others to take Jason’s boots and his shirt. Jason
felt the rope start to burn against his bare chest. He clinched
his jaw shut as the horse and rider drug him over the rough
His head was still throbbing. One of his eyes was swollen shut.
Although his hands were tied behind him, he could still feel the
blood that oozed down his face and chest. He closed his eyes
momentarily. But suddenly there was chaos. He heard a horse
whinny, a rifle shot ring out. He heard a scream. As he turned
to look on the scene, an intense pain filled his side. The
feeling of fire spread throughout his right side and began to
overtake his whole body. He gasped, and instantly felt very
parched. The pain stole him away into a bitter sleep.
Will watched through the trees and they wrestled Lucas off his
horse. His rifle was taken. Jesse instructed his men to hold
Lucas as he returned the punches he had received. Lucas took
several, and then pulling himself together, he landed a kick
square in Jesse’s gut. Will didn’t wait to see their response.
He turned his horse, and rode back to the ranch.
Lucas lay on the ground, beaten, and trying to regain as much
strength as possible. He leaned down, and spoke to his friend.
“Jason. Jason are you all right?”
“Oh Luke. I wanted her. I was going to give . . .give her a nice
home.” He breathed heavily. “Like the, the home you made for
Margaret and little Mark.”
“What are talking about Jason?”
“I’m spent Lucas. They shot me when you rode up.”
Lucas could hear him struggling. “You’ll pull through. Just keep
Jason made an effort, and shook his head. “Not this time. Tell
her I love her. And Lucas, give her my share of the pay. Maybe
it’ll take care of her for a while.” He took several breaths.
“though I walk . . .through the valley of death, I will fear no
evil. Father, I have no fear. You’ll take care of my girl. I am
“All right, you boys get that sodbuster back up.”
“Jesse, what are you doing?”
“I intend to get full satisfaction. I want to hear him scream
louder and longer than his son was. He’s gonna suddenly
understand the meaning of the word fear.” Jesse spat on the
ground and smiled, humored by what was about to take place.
Since it was his idea, William chose to be the rider. He trotted
him horse us the grassy slope and stopped. The more time he gave
the others, the better this would come off. He started moving
again, this time no faster than a walk. Once again in the cover
of the trees, he saw the gang relaxing. Finally he spotted
Lucas, motionless on the ground. William took a deep breath and
rode into plain view towards the gang.
Tom noticed him first. At once the bullets started to fly
towards him. William hesitated to draw. He saw the signal. With
a smile he drew his gun out of its holster. A volley of shots
rained down on the Jesse Evan’s gang, only it was from behind.
Mass confusion took over. Several of them started shooting
wildly; one of the shots took another gang member. Others took
cover and tried to put up a fight, only to realize they were
outnumbered and beat. As they began to flee into the forest, one
stopped and looked down as Lucas. He sneered, figuring that
Jesse would be proud of him. He lifted his gun slowly. . . but
never got to fire. William jumped down from his horse, and
kneeled down by the half-dead man.
Mark had seen the men ride off. No one would tell him what they
went for. Alex McSween, and his wife Susan had come in suddenly.
When the men did come back, he was told to stay in his room. He
put his hands in his head. Pa had been gone too long. He looked
up quickly. He could hear William outside his door. He’d said
something about Lucas! Mark burst through his door, and ran
straight into a startled William.
“Oh William, please tell me where my Pa is!!! What’s happened?”
William looked up at Alex for guidance. Finally he spoke. “Your
Pa had a lot of action today. He’s very worn out and tired.
You’d better let him rest Mark.”
“No! I want to see him!” Mark ran for the door next to his. He
felt two strong arms quickly reach to stop him. They picked him
up and set him back away from the door. Mark started to pound
his fists in opposition. The hands gripped him harder, and
William set him down in his room. Mark fell on his bed crying,
accepting defeat. Susan McSween came up softly, and began to rub
“There. It’ll be all right son.”
Upon hearing her voice, Mark turned and threw himself into her
arms. She sat down in the rocking chair, and held him until his
sobbing gave way to sleep.
Lucas was staring out the window of their brand new house. Two
years later, and yet it seemed like yesterday. Eliza fingered
the carving once more. She looked up at Lucas.
“It took weeks for the burns on my back to heal. They had heated
up a metal rod, and then hit me with it. I was unconscious for
several days, which is why William didn’t want Mark to see me.
When I did come to, first thing I asked was for William. I had
him write a letter for me. Then I asked him to take Mark into
town, put him on a stage going home, and tell the driver to give
the letter and Mark to the Miller family. I didn’t want to send
Mark away, but Lincoln was no place for a boy. We hugged and
cried a lot before he left, but I knew that soon his Ma would be
home, and everything would be okay again. William gave this to
Mark just before he got on the stage.” Lucas fingered it, and
then handed it back to Eliza. He crossed the room, and faced out
the window again.
“In the month it took me to heal, a lot happened in Lincoln.
Tunstall was looking into getting law, but then tragedy struck.
Tunstall was murdered in cold blood. William was never the same
again. Anger and hate just piled up inside of the boy. But I
didn’t have a chance to help him, I was needed at back in my
home town. When I got there, I found our ranch was empty.
Margaret wasn’t there. I found her and Mark in town at the
Miller’s place. Margaret had taken sick, and so Mrs. Miller had
them stay there. We went back to the house. Margaret never got
better. I never quite got around to telling Mark about the
things that had taken place in Lincoln. He had so much to deal
Eliza looked at him. “But Luke, is that going to be a problem?
Shouldn’t you tell him?’
Lucas sighed. “It’s big problem. William grew so full of hate,
that now he has the name Billy the Kid. You know, Billy said
once that Tunstall was the only person that had treated him like
a free-born and white. That doesn’t seem right. Why couldn’t
someone else with a Christian heart like John’s reach out and
“I don’t Lucas. People don’t usually think about how they’re
“They should though. Billy has a price on his head. Someone
taking time for him could have saved his life.”
The Lincoln County Story —
These stories are based on the TV series
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