The Rifleman
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Fulton's Fury

And Wedding Bells Will Chime — Chapter Twenty Seven
Written by Frank Charles aka weinerdawgy

“The sun rose to form another typically hot northern New Mexico summer day. Saturday morning chores could not be ignored after a long Friday night’s celebration. Will slept in the lodge in keeping with the custom of not seeing the bride before the wedding. Lucas was right by his side, many who attended the party were still asleep in their bunks. Lucas rolled over first and saw the bright sun already higher than his normal time of waking. He nudged Will and then Mark.

“Come on you two. This may be a special day, but the animals don’t know that. We have chores like any other day.”

“Ah Lucas….. Just once I wish you would go easy on the chores!” Will grumbled as he struggled to get the cobwebs out of his head.”

“No better way to shake off a night of drinkin’ than to sweat it out. And you, young man, just because you got an easy twenty bucks off of Masterson doesn’t make you privileged, this is your ranch and when you’re here they’re your chores too!

“I’ve been doing my chores Pa, I’m ready. Mark was used to waking early. He had the energy required to do his normal share. Not being a drinker had its advantages.

“Come on Will, the sooner we get it done, the sooner you can get married!” Lucas slapped him on the shoulder then helped him to sit up. “You do have a hangover, we better get some coffee into you quick.”

“Sorry Lucas, I guess I did me a little more drinking than usual. I’ll be alright in a few minutes. Let me take care of the chicken coup first and I’ll snap out of it.” Will stood up and wobbled.

“You’re coming with me, coffee is the first order of business. The chickens can wait.” Lucas knew it was more important to get the groom ready.

“I’ll get the coup Pa! You take care of Will.”

“Thanks Son. Do what you can, I was just rousting you guys. The hands will be up shortly and we’ll get it done soon enough.” Lucas helped the stumbling groom into the lodge kitchen and prepared an extra rich pot of coffee.

The ladies gathered at the Bard ranch house to get Ann ready and take her to the church well ahead of time. The ceremony was to take place at one o’clock. The final dress fitting was best performed at the church. Ann wanted her friends to take part in it. The garment had been fussed over for weeks and was ready days ago. But Ma Bard had other ideas!

“Mom! I like it the way it is. We can stitch a little more lace onto it at the church if we must!” Ann didn’t conform well to her wishes.

“No daughter of mine is going to wear a wedding dress unless I approve of it! Now put it back on for a minute and just let me add one more piece near the neckline.”

“Alright, you go ahead, but this is it. We have to go soon. Besides, I’ve been sewing most all of my life, and Emma knows costuming very well. I wanted a plain neckline.

“A little touch of class isn’t going to hurt, now sit still.” Emma and Aubrey stood back and let Mom do her thing not wanting to stir the pot any further. “Where on earth did you get this material daughter? This is nothing like what I can get back east.”

“I had Sarah help me pick it out while we were in Dallas. I think it’s wonderful. I was almost ready to let the shop make the dress for me, but I wanted it to be something we all could have a hand in making.”

“I can see where it has been designed by committee. But it will look nice, I’ll give you that. Just a few more stitches and we can be on our way.” Ann did her best to keep from being angry with her mother’s fussing.

Sarah and Turley were waiting with a carriage right outside. Finally, the ladies emerged from the house with boxes full of gowns and hats. It was after ten o’clock in the morning and it was already over ninety degrees. Turley guided the horses with ease so as not to upset the load!

The men worked hard to finish the chores, then got busy grooming and getting dressed in their suits or best duds. Many of the ranch hands had little need to own a suit proper and wore more casual clothing. Sam came around and passed out a tie to any man that didn’t have one. Most of them were black and would match whatever good shirt they happened to have. Will had a black tuxedo made in town, one that befit a man in charge. He took it to the Church in a box. Lucas wore the suit he had made in New York and Bat did the same. William had the derby that once belonged to Bat cleaned and looking new. Lucas wore his new Stetson and Mark wore his from Christmas. At eleven thirty a handsome bunch of men rode horseback the four miles or so to the North Fork Church. They went slow being careful not to kick up much dust. It looked like an army had descended on the town as people began to show up around noontime. The sun was blazing and shade was scarce. Some chose to wait a spell over at the saloon, but there was no liquor served. Sweeney was dressed up and only let them in for a glass of water and a cool place to wait. Micah made his usual rounds and then hung out with Bat and Lucas. Will was off by this time getting into his Tux. He still felt a tinge of the hangover, but he wasn’t nervous. The real anticipation was with those waiting and trying to stay cool in close to one hundred degree heat.

At twelve thirty the bell rang and the pianist began to play hymns. The soft music wafted along putting everyone into a joyful mood. Shortly before the ceremony, the pump organ began to play along. Guests started to gather in order to get the best seats. Before long it was standing room only, and there was less than ten minutes until the one o’clock hour. The front rows were partially empty and awaiting their occupants. The procession was almost due to come down the aisle. Lucas, Mark, and Will were waiting with 3 Groomsmen, Sam was alone opposite them. Will and Mark walked forward first to take their place in front of Reverend Jamison. Lucas peeled off and took his seat next to Aubrey up front. It was now getting very close to time and still no Ann or Maid of Honor. Suddenly the door to the back room opened and Momma Bard made a dash to her seat up front. Behind her came the Maid of Honor, Ann’s friend, Julie. Then Ann came forth in her stunning wedding dress with three bride’s maids carrying the train behind her. There was more lace than Ann wanted not only on her neckline, but mother had to have it up and down and all around. Nonetheless, it was wonderful and Ann’s beauty was gorgeously framed within. She stood alongside her father and gave him a huge smile. The Groomsmen joined each of the Bride’s Maids as they came into line.

With a nod from Sam, the organ player got the signal and the Wedding March began. Sam led with Ann on his arm as they timed their steps with the music. Momma Bard stood waiting in the front row. Mark was very nervous fidgeting with the ring and almost dropped it. He wised up and put it on his little finger. It seemed like forever until Sam brought the procession to a stop before Reverend Jamison.

There were many standing outside having to make due with only hearing what was happening. One man looking in from the back door gave details to the unfortunates unable to see.

Once Ann was brought forth Reverend Jamison offered an opening prayer.

“Our Heavenly Father, Bless all who attend here to take part and witness to the marriage we are about to perform. Thank you for this beautiful day and for granting us the time to be part in your creation.” It was short and sweet as he knew it was hot. “Who gives this woman to be wed to this man?” His voice was strong and firm.

“I do!” Sam announced as he let go so Ann could take Will’s arm. Sam faded backwards and joined his wife in the front row. He looked across to the other side to give Lucas a quick thumbs up.

“Before we have the ceremony, we have a special presentation. You may all be seated.” The congregation sat leaving only the procession standing in front. “I would like to ask Emma Walters to come forth.

Emma came to the podium in a choir robe to sing. Her voice was sweet and perfect as she gave the most amazing rendition of “Love Lifted Me”. When she finished the room remained silently mesmerized. Emma then began her opening remarks.

“Ladies and Gentlemen, before we join these two wonderful friends of ours, I want to say a few words to express what I think we all feel for them on this most meaningful day. William and Ann, you represent everything that we live for in this world. Your love bonds the warmth and commitment that holds promise for a better tomorrow. We know and pray that you will work hard to fulfill that which you devote to each other on this glorious occasion. In turn, we promise to support you with our love and devotion in all things. It takes an entire community woven together to survive in this world. And together we form the finest fabric. No one thread can do all of the work, but when brought into formation the strength in unison overcomes all. It is with this thought that we are here today to witness your marriage, not just to each other, but into all of our hearts.

Emma paused for a moment then sang once again. Will asked her to perform his favorite hymn, Rock of Ages.

Emma returned to her place next to Bat in the front row with Lucas and Aubrey. Reverend Jamison came back to the podium and took up his Bible. He moved to stand in front of the procession and made ready to begin the vows.

“Dearly beloved, we gather here today to join these two, William Fulton and Ann Bard into the bond of Holy Matrimony. If there is anyone here that can give reason that they should not be joined in sacred union, let them speak now or forever hold their peace.” The room stood silent without so much as a cough. “Very well. I want for both of you to understand the serious nature of the sacred promise that you make to each other before God and these witnesses on this day. We join you to be one together in all things, to stand strong by each other in sickness and health, whether rich or poor, happy or sad. Life and its struggles are a test of your faith and you are to seek strength in each other never to find doubt in your pursuits. Your union is blessed by God and you are to obey his commandments and follow his word for all the days of your lives. Let us pray.”

“Our Father which art in heaven, Hallowed be thy name. Thy kingdom come. Thy will be done in earth, as it is in heaven. Give us this day our daily bread. And forgive us our debts as we forgive our debtors. And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil: For thine is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory forever. Amen.”

“Heavenly Father, we ask your blessing today in the holy union of your children, William Fulton and Ann Bard. They come before you humble and willing to receive your word. May their lives be long and fruitful. Keep them safe and deliver them from fear for all the days of their lives. Thank you for the gift of love and for the miracle of life with which to celebrate it. We present unto you this faithful man and woman to become one in your eyes and among those that witness this day. Amen.”

“Do you, William Fulton, promise to have and to hold, to protect and to honor, and to hold sacred for the rest of your life this woman, Ann Bard?

Will looked longingly into Ann’s eyes but didn’t hesitate. “I sure do!”

“And do you, Ann Bard, promise to have and to hold, to protect and to honor, and to hold sacred for the rest of your life this man, William Fulton?”

Ann still held her gaze into Will’s eyes. “Forever I do!”

Reverend Jamison motioned to Mark and Julie and they both stepped forward to hand him the rings. “With these rings we symbolize the seamless union of two souls. Upon their fingers they shall humbly radiate the love that holds them in Holy Matrimony.” The Reverend held the rings up for the congregation to see. “Let us pray.”

“Our Heavenly Father, bless these rings with which we are about to symbolize the marriage of William Fulton and Ann Bard. May they represent to everyone the devotion and love that makes them one, an endless circle of commitment, a covenant between them and with you. Amen.”

“Our couple has chosen to recite their vows as they place their rings. William Fulton, this ring is your binding symbol of love for Ann.” William received the ring and smiled as he held it facing Ann.

“Ann Bard, with this ring I express to you my unending devotion, my soul is now complete. No longer do I think on my own, no more to roam. I am humble and thankful to be your husband and I receive you as my wife for eternity. Your heart is my home. I am faithful to you, forsaking all others.” Ann held out her hand for Will to place the ring. The warm sunlight lit upon it as it streamed through a window from the side.

“Ann Bard, this ring is your binding symbol of love for William. Ann eagerly took the ring and gazed upon it with delight, she held it up to Will.

“William Fulton, with this ring I express to you my eternal devotion. No longer do I think alone. You are my guiding light as we travel together through eternity. I am humble and thankful to be your wife. I receive you as my husband and soul mate, forsaking all others to be by you side. Our souls are now one.” Will held out his hand for Ann to place the ring. They then held both hands together and remained silent for a moment, taking in the vision that they now put forth in their new life.

“What God has now united in Holy Matrimony let no man put asunder. With the power invested in me by the Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost, I now pronounce you Man and Wife!” You may now kiss the Bride!”

Mister Fulton took Misses Fulton into his steady arms, he peeled back the veil, and they kissed with more passion than ever before. Ann’s Mother could be heard crying first, it didn’t take long before others joined in. A camera sparked a flash before the kiss ended. Reverend Jamison said the last words before the congregation would erupt.

“Ladies and Gentlemen! I give unto you to cherish forever, Mister and Misses William Fulton!” They turned to face a church full of cheering friends and family. Hats were still in mid air and many were hugging and bowing towards them. Will’s eyes fixed on Lucas, who was clapping and looking with affirmation right back at him. Aubrey grabbed his arm and they hugged. The music started and most regained their composure enough to watch the procession start out towards the front doors. A long line twisted way into the street. Rice pelted the newlyweds as they ran the gauntlet of well wishers and took their place to greet people as they exited the church. Sam and Vanessa came out arm in arm with huge smiles on their faces. They held tight and stood by Ann’s side with Julie. Lucas, Aubrey, and Mark stood next to Will. Dillon, Ruth, and the kids, Bat and Emma, Sarah and Turley, Micah, and Walt Donaldson all stood nearby as well. It took a long time to shake everyone’s hand, hug, kiss, and exchange greetings. A number of Mark’s friends stopped to ask how he was doing. He didn’t quite realize how much hugging and kissing he was in for!

Many asked Lucas and Aubrey when they planned to wed. All they could do was ask for a little patience. Bat and Emma were very popular guests. North Fork would soon be enjoying their talents. Emma was asked to perform and Bat said he would be happy to have a gun show with Lucas. Many happy days were in store for North Fork’s shinning stars.

It took a long time to satisfy all that came past for a greeting. Reverend Jamison finally made the announcement that everyone should make their way to the McCain ranch for the reception. The photographer took even more time as he had a number of requests for pictures to satisfy. Finally, a brand new four horse wagon was brought up front from the livery. Nils, the blacksmith, joined with Bat, Lucas, Walt, and many others to buy them this most useful gift. Four of Sam’s best quarter horses were in the lead. Will picked Ann off of her feet and carried her to the wagon. Once on board, Will stood up and gave one last tip of his derby.

“Thank you everyone for this wonderful occasion. I want all of you to join us for the greatest party of all time! Follow me!” The wagon left quickly as the tin cans tied behind rattled the news. North Fork’s newest couple was on their way home!

Wagons lined the road behind the newlyweds. It was not easy to find a place for all of them to park. It was a lot of work just to look after the many horses. A corral was available for those staying a long time. The lodge could not hold everyone in attendance but the main tables in front served as a receiving line for guests to pass by and pay their respects. Guests of honor were seated inside, but most sat outside on benches and tables. It was a very large party and many brought dishes to share. North Fork had not seen such a large gathering for a very long time. Once the formalities were complete, the steaks hit the grill. Walt supervised and a crew of men took turns cooking and passing out the meat.

The meal was well underway when William found it proper to get up and speak with Sarah, only a few chairs away.

“I want you to know how much I appreciate your being here.” Will kissed her on the cheek and took her hands into his.”

“I wouldn’t miss the chance at having one of these porterhouse grilled by the man who supplies them!” They both had a good laugh.

“You have done so much as have many here. I want there to be more time for us to be together. I know there’s much to talk about.

“Yes my dear, but your friends and family need you right now. I can stay a long time. Things are looking good in Dallas, and I love it here. I find a comfort that words fail to describe. I am so happy for you William. After so many years of wondering about you my heart feels complete to know that so much good has come your way. And I understand how you must feel to have such a loving family here. Still, I look forward to some happy days on our farm. It’s there for you now and always.”

“And I am relieved to know that there will be no more trouble, thanks to those friends of ours! I’m going to come back soon. I want to arrange for Hank to be with my parents. And I would love to see about a new house for the farm. I know it all takes time and that the law may still have something to say, but I know we are richly blessed to have such great things to look forward to.”

“Yes we are. And I want for you to feel at home anytime. I’ll have the plans for your family’s house looked into and we can go over them when you get there. The cotton business is doing great. We have plenty of resources to make improvements. And I want you to know that anytime you have a need for these ranches just let me know. This is such an inspiring place. I don’t want you to stress about the farm. It is yours to enjoy whenever you wish. I have kept everyone involved with running it and we can decide on details as time permits.”

“Thank you Sarah. I know Ann will love us having a home in Dallas. You know, life takes us in unexpected directions. At first I was running away when I came here and now it’s my home. When I first met Ann, I was unable to tell her why I couldn’t stay and it hurt bad. It was love at first sight for both of us. Then it took so long for us to be together once everyone found out about me. She waited all of that time, over eight long years!” Tears came to Will’s eyes. “God Bless that woman!”

Before another word could be spoken a clinging from an empty wine glass called everyone to attention. Mark stood with a spoon in his hand. He gave everyone a few moments to come to attention. Glasses of champagne were being passed out and when it was time Mark raised his voice to give a toast.

“It is my sincere honor to be Will’s Best Man. I want to raise a toast to the man that saved my life when I was very young. He has returned to North Fork to become part of our very large family. Most of us came here from somewhere else at one time or another searching for a new home. This gives us a special ability to accept newcomers into our community. I welcome you William Fulton, may your life among us be prosperous and ever loving. May your roots sink deep and your branches grow long. May the fruit that you bring forth enrich our lives. And may our friendship in return enrich yours!”

The glasses clanged and cheers arose. Will and Ann’s arms intertwined to sip the champagne. Lucas looked in amazement at his son whose words were so well chosen. William looked over his family in awe. He looked at Ann and almost burst into tears.

“Thank you everyone! And thank you most of all Mark, my friend and brother. Very long ago I came to North Fork in a very bad way. My brother, Hank, and I had just robbed a bank and were on the run from a posse. We came upon this young man clinging to a cliff side and not far from falling. If not for my decision to stop and rescue him, we would have rode on and neither of us would be here today. It was a miracle indeed. It has led to many more miracles. I promise that I will consider each and every day among you a miracle. You are all precious to me. To those of you who have taken me in and shown me the love that I was so hopelessly missing, I say God Bless you. You are the good people who make this world a righteous place. You know to do the right thing by nature, never doubting, never having to think about it, you just do it. I am here today as a result and can never do enough to express my gratitude. And to my wife, I say God Bless you for waiting for me. For being devoted for so long, for being giving in every way. Your patience has brought us here and given us a new life together. I promise to cherish you for all eternity!”

“Ann stood up and embraced her husband. The cheers went up for a long time. The people outside were very loud. Next, it was Julie’s turn to offer a toast.

“To my best friend Ann Fulton, you are as a sister to me. Growing up with you is a great joy and I cherish every moment. All of North Fork has been blessed by your loving ways an unending generosity. We thank you from the bottom of our hearts. May your new life as Misses Ann Fulton be as richly blessed as our lives are to this day!” Another round of cheers and clanging glasses gave Ann a moment to regain her composure.

“Julie, as always, you make my day. I am indeed fortunate to have you to be part of me. Thank you for the many blessings you are in my life. You are my protector in times of trouble and my partner in all things. I know we have so much more to look forward to. Likewise, I have waited for so long to become wife to this wonderful man. I want him to know that he is worth the wait. It was love at first sight. I took it on faith that he was for real. And now we are one! Miracles do happen and faith can heal all. To my husband I say, God Bless you William Fulton, I love you! God Bless all of you for supporting us. We shall be one with North Fork for the rest of our days!

Before long, the band assembled in the barn and the dance was on. Will and Ann led as everyone gathered to watch them waltz as man and wife for the first time. A cake was ready as they ended the first dance in position to slice it. There were other cakes provided as one could never go around. Will and Ann held each other’s piece of cake to take a first bite. Suddenly, Ann went first and smashed the remainder in Will’s face which brought on the same from him. They quickly realized it was getting on their wedding attire and backed off before it got too messy. A loud round of applause and cheering went up and the band began to play. A towel was given to each of them to clean up. Julie came up to Mark and they took the lead in beginning the next waltz. Lucas grabbed Aubrey as Sam and Vanessa followed suit. Before long, Bat and Emma and Dillon and Ruth took to the floor. Ann nudged Will towards Sarah and they paired to take the center of the dance once Mark and Julie moved to the side. Ann took a moment and had somebody help remove part of the wedding dress decoration so she could move about easier and made sure there was no more cake to make a mess. Once she was ready, each man took a turn at dancing with the Bride. Sam went first, taking his daughter to the center of the group. He kissed her and whispered in her ear.

“Well my daughter, you’ve gone and done it now!”

“I certainly have! Thank you Daddy, I love you!”

“And I love you Ann. You’ve make me very happy. You’re the best!”

“Happily ever after, that’s how it’s going to be.” Ann hugged Sam tight and they drifted along until Lucas bumped into them.

“May I have the honor?”

“Sam let Ann step away holding onto one hand. “Why certainly Mister McCain.”

“Why thank you Mister Bard. Lucas bowed and took Ann by the other hand and they made their way to the middle of the floor. “Congratulations Ann, I guess I don’t need to say it…..”

“I know, kinda makes life worth livin’ don’t it!”

“Now where have you heard that before?”

“A certain cowboy I know keeps telling me that. I think he learned it from you!”

“Got that right. So what comes next?”

“That is up to you Lucas McCain! I think you are next!” Ann laughed and stepped up the pace. “In fact, we have to speed things up a little.”

“Lucas smiled and looked over to Aubrey. She winked and smiled back. She knew what was being said. About this time Bat stepped up and made his request. Lucas passed the Bride to the Master and strolled back to join Aubrey.

“So we’re going to be next, are we?”

“So you can read lips? Amazing!”

“I can read eyes too! I think just about everyone here is talking about it.”

“Does that bother you my dear?” Lucas took her hands into his and looked into her eyes.

“Not in the least. In fact, I want it to be so. I just hope you are ready for an even bigger party!”

“I think we can arrange for that. And one at your place too!” Lucas waved over at Sam and Vanessa. They joined them on the side as others took to the dance floor. “Say Sam, do you think we have enough beef for another wedding?”

“You’ll be doing the butchering friend!”

“I can do that. You have one beautiful daughter partner!”

“Thank you Lucas. And your adopted son is quite a handsome Groom.”

“That he is. He’ll make a great rancher some day.”

“Say Lucas, you know what? We can have us a real big time one day soon. When you and Aubrey are ready to tie the knot, Vanessa and I want to renew our vows also!”

“Now that’s a right good plan Partner! You’ll be doing the promising and I’ll do the butchering.” Everyone laughed as Sarah joined them.

“So, I understand we might have another wedding soon. Should I stay in town?”

“You’re welcome to stay here as long as you please! Steaks are on me! Lucas hugged her and they all laughed. “We do have everyone here, but we can’t be too quick about it, can we…..?” Lucas looked over at Aubrey and she shrugged her shoulders. “Well, it could be soon. But let’s finish this party first!”

Sam had a special gift to present to Will. The many gifts waiting to be opened were waiting in the lodge, but this one was too big. Sam asked the band to pause and whistled real loud to get everyone’s attention.

“Ladies and Gentlemen, I would like to call my daughter and son in law up front for a very special presentation.” Sam waved at them to hurry them up. I know we have a whole bunch of gifts to open and much more fun before the evening is over, but I want to tell you about a very special story. When William was having his problems, we took it upon ourselves to take care of his cherished horse, Spirit. Ann was able to surprise him with this upon his return some eight years later. For some time now we have been looking for just the right mare to breed with Spirit and by golly we found her!” Sam motioned for the horse to be brought forward. “William, you make me very proud this day. I look forward to one big happy family as you guys grow together. So I thought I would give you a head start!” William fell back into Ann’s arms as a stunning horse was brought out from a stall in the barn. “This is a rare American Saddlebred chestnut mare. She hails from Kentucky and a very distinguished line. I don’t have to tell you how special she is, her father was a very famous show horse. So we now have the makings of a new line of breeding for our ranch. Spirit’s legacy can now live on.”

William was stunned. He walked up to the horse and stroked her gently. Ann looked over her qualities in amazement. Lucas and others gathered around in a large circle giving her room to feel comfortable. Not the slightest jitter did she exhibit. She was used to being looked at.

“I don’t know what to say! This is just the best…… Dad!” Sam and Will hugged.

“What shall we name her dear?” Ann asked to break up the hug.

“I have actually thought of a name if we ever found Spirit a mate. I want to name her Faith. Spirit is a special name for what he meant to our family when we first came to us. We have Sarah to thank for that wonderful occasion! And now Faith means a lot to us as that is what this family represents. Thank you Sam! Your faith in me has been my saving grace. This means so much to me and to all of us. I can’t wait to see Spirit and Faith meet!”

Next Vanessa stepped forward to announce the final formality for the reception.

“I would now like to ask all of the single women to gather on the dance floor for the tossing of the bouquet. Ann is going to stand over here and good luck to all of you!”

Ann gave them a few minutes so anyone outside could join in. When it came time everyone counted down and then over her shoulder it flew. A mad scramble ensued and it landed in the hands of Becky Sue McCarthy, one of Ann’s long time schoolmates. The girls surrounded her and they all jumped for joy.

“And now for William’s turn! I want all of the single men to gather now.” Sam exclaimed. Ann reached down and took a garter from her leg. William took it from her let them count down, then shot it into the air. Mark tried to stay in the back of the area and avoid being the one to catch it, but it came right for him. He sidestepped to avoid the rush in his direction but it still managed to land close to him. It was finally grabbed by one of the men from town, Henry Welson. Mark was relieved knowing that he could not possibly be the next one to wed. He knew it was going to be his Pa!

The sun went down and the dancing went on. The rest of the gifts were opened inside the lodge and the pool table became a popular destination. As the night wore on, Bat ran a very spirited poker game. When the crowd dwindled late into the night, it became mostly a close friend and family affair, the whiskey bottles came out and Sam started off a long round of toasts. This went around many times and so did the whiskey. Finally Bat had one last thing to say.

“To the finest group of family men that has ever walked this earth. It is my privilege to become a member. William Fulton, you are now a son to many fathers. If I never have a son of my own, I will go to my grave knowing that I imparted to you all that I could give to a son. And all that I could give to a brother! May you walk far with your cane, wear your derby in grand fashion, and handle your Colt with the best! And may you never have to use it.”

North Fork grew up a great deal this day. William and Ann Fulton took their rightful place in the fabric of the community. The ranch partnership was set for success and would become a leader in the prime beef and horse breeding industries. There was still much for Will to accomplish in Dallas and at home. Thanks to the efforts of many, Vernon Carlson and Quentin Renfro were finished and spending the rest of their lives in prison. It would take years to sort out the entire mess left behind, and John Templeton was the best man to oversee the process. It would have been too easy to hang Vernon, he and Quentin were more valuable for questioning The cotton farm was now in good hands and would eventually become a jointly held corporation consisting of Sarah’s children and William’s entire family of partners.

Lucas and Bat would go on to perform their gun show in a number of cities around the country. North Fork was the next venue. Their friendship grew and they traveled together with Aubrey and Emma for many miles.

Mark had a very full plate with his education and work in the field of surveying. His aunt and uncle were very thankful to be able to share his presence. He always found it hard to be away from the ranch, but this gave him more ambition to do well at school so he could return.

William Fulton’s decision to pay for his mistakes and to have faith in his friends brought him back from the depths of despair a thousand fold. His revival gave birth to a trail of miracles that would never cease. Forgiveness was surely a powerful expression throughout his life.

It was initially hard for Lucas to let go of Mark as he went off to school. But he came back in just one year impressively grown up. The decision to bring Will into the family was easy to conceive but had many trials as it came to fruition. The experience changed Lucas in many ways as he traveled and became friends with Bat Masterson. He stepped out of North Fork taking many risks and returned triumphant for both his sake and Will’s.

And what of Lucas and Aubrey? Do they get married? Does Lucas find new adventure or does he settle on his ranch to watch Mark and Will run the place? Only time and another tale for the Rifleman will tell.

Rifleman's Serenade ―

This is a story based on the TV series The Rifleman
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