The Rifleman
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Fulton's Fury

A Predatory Excursion - To Ravage …. Fury
New York Bound — Chapter Seventeen
Written by Frank Charles aka weinerdawgy

The north bound passenger train chugged through the countryside ruggedness of the Texas and Oklahoma border region. It was a quiet departure for Bat and Lucas. They boarded the train without Emma at the station. They wore simple clothing and put their hats away. Each man took a window seat apart from each other and they kept quiet watching the scenery. This was one of the few times of late that Bat and Lucas were really alone with each other without the gun show or the Fulton business to be concerned about directly. After a few hours they both went to the dining car and enjoyed a meal. It wasn’t easy being cooped up in a small space for Lucas and the trip was just getting under way. The journey was scheduled to take about five days to reach New York City. Bat was seldom at a lack for conversation but he could tell that Lucas was thinking and wanted the silence while they ate. It was part of their settling in for a long stretch of being together. Finally, Bat couldn’t take it any longer, he had to break that spell of deep thought.

“Lucas my friend, I know this is going to be a long time together and I don’t want either one of us to get nervous about the other. I know I can be a pain talking so much, but it’s my way of keeping cool. I don’t want to break the silence without good reason, so I understand you have a lot to think about and you just take your time. But we have to keep talking and always know what the other is thinking as we encounter a place like New York. So tell me that you’re alright and I’ll just keep quiet for now.”

“Alright, I’m fine Bat. You have nothing to worry about with me. I do tend to think a lot and this happens to be one of those times. I can shake it off and talk. I’m not going to become a problem, you ought to know me better than that by now!”

“Oh I think I do, but I sense something is heavy on your mind. If you really want to know, it happens to me a great deal also. I tend to do my thinking when I’m alone. That has been a while. When I’m around Emma I tend to neglect my quiet time.”

“That’s just it. I’ve been around Aubrey, Will, everyone for so long, I just needed a while to settle down. I haven’t been in the close company of a woman for a very long time. Many things came over me while I was with her.”

“I see your point. I’ve been a loner and a wanderer a great deal of my life. It can be difficult when others demand more of your time than you’re used to. I think you’ll get over it soon enough.”

“It has been strange, but in a good way. All about the extremes I suppose. I’ve only had a few brief interludes since my wife passed on. This time is much different. I think I’m really in love with her Bat.”

“I’m happy to hear that. A man such as you, being alone for so long, needs to know his feelings, wake up to them so to speak. You’ve only known her a short time. You’ll know by the end of this trip. This first absence is what’s making you unsettled.”

“How do you and Emma deal with it? Are you happy to get away from each other?”

“We were so used to it before we met, I guess it just comes naturally to us. It helps that she has a very focused and demanding career.”

“Does she trust you to be off like this, going to saloons and rough places, being in danger and around other women?”

“Yes, and I’m a man of my word. I had my time with the ladies in my younger days. My varied jobs and gambling means that I travel for long periods of time. It wasn’t until I started to slow down and settle in Denver that I met Emma.”

“She is quite a unique and rare match for you. I guess I see some of that in Aubrey too. If she starts to travel with me I wonder how it would go. She is not used to this and neither am I. Have you traveled much with Emma?”

“Not as much as you would think. Now that we are alone and you bring this up, maybe I can trust you with a secret? It’s very important.”

“I wouldn’t say a word about you to anyone Bat, you know that.”

“Here goes, I haven’t told anyone about this. Emma and I are not really married!”

“What? That’s incredible!” Lucas had to take a moment to catch his breath. You’ll have to explain that a bit further my friend.”

“It has to do with how we met and why we want to be careful for each other’s sake. Back in Denver she was working at a night club on a regular basis. I would see her there often and we would talk for hours on end. There was a man that took a fancy to her and wouldn’t leave her alone. She tried to tell him to stop but he didn’t. So I stayed close and joined her in the off hours. In a way we were already in love. We made an effort to be seen together in the night club and around town. This man had to persist though and he challenged me one night at the bar. I don’t make a point of being a gun fighter to kill. I do it so guys like this will back off or leave me alone. But love has a way of making one blind to reality. He went for his gun in a crowded room. The last thing I wanted to do was shoot in that situation. So I dove to the side of the bar and waited for him to come my way. Before he could take two steps he was overcome by some men nearby and taken to jail for the night. I refused to press charges and made it known that I would kill him if necessary to protect my future wife’s honor. That cooled him down for the time being, but I had more run ins with him as time went on. Eventually, Emma got a job in a better form of entertainment, doing shows much like the one she is in now. She wasn’t the star right away, but hard work pays off, she has achieved much over a few years time. I really admire her for that. So we found it convenient to let everyone think what was becoming obvious, the rumors turned into our story of marriage. We are in love and want very much to marry one day. But as you can see, it’s times like this that make us realize we should remain independent. At least until one of us is finished being a nomad. I trust that you have noticed how much time we spent apart from each other over our stays in Santa Fe and Dallas. It really is a good thing for both of us. She doesn’t worry about me getting into trouble and I’m willing to let her concentrate on her acting career. In a few years we’ll be ready to settle down and have a successful marriage. In the meantime, we enjoy each other’s company more and more and she’s left alone by her growing number of fans. It’s quite common for many in the public eye. Don’t you think I make an effective body guard? Not much different than Sarah and Turley in many ways.”

“I understand Bat. You two do very well together and I would never say a word. It must, excuse my pun, be part of the act. I love it. I would never have guessed it though.”

“I don’t really know what the folks back in Denver think, we never had to explain it or fake anything. It pays to be on the fringe of the social circle there, or anywhere for that matter. The newspapers did the work by putting the word out that we were married and nobody has ever questioned it.

“Well, this is where your story and mine differ. I’ve been a straight forward man when it comes to romance in adult life. Margaret was a strong woman and until now, I haven’t been able to handle another. Her memory kept me branded and focused on my son. He has become a man though, I can’t use him as an excuse. He needs to feel free to find a woman one day soon. But I’ll never push him into it. And I won’t use Aubrey in any way either. I want her to be free to decide for herself and not feel obligated to Mark.”

“Do you think he will be accepting of Aubrey?”

“He would have been happy if I married the first woman I saw when we got to North Fork. You should have seen the trouble he got me into trying to fix me up back then!”

“I bet that was really something. You have a great life in North Fork. I admire that. In my travels I helped many in small towns and large. I got to see the warm side of their lives in a stable family or at least they were settled in one place. But something never let me stay. It scared me in fact. I wanted to ride on to the next job or adventure as soon as possible. I’d stay longer on occasion for the sake of a lady of course. I suppose I could have married many times if I were of the mind. But when you win at gambling often it isn’t safe to stick around. Driving cattle, working for mines, railroads, and the law doesn’t afford a man time to settle down.”

“When I was young, I spent a great deal of my time wandering, trying to figure out what I wanted in life. The Indian Nations captured my desires. I wanted to live near them and be one with the land. My rifle, even then, gave me a reputation. I didn’t whip it around or have a lever on it, but I did hunt and defend myself. That is where I was first called “Rifleman”. It made me strong and sure of myself and it helped me to respect the Indians. It still makes me mad when I think about what happens to them. Our country is great and I fought hard for it, but it is growing without honor as the railroads and modern times take over.”

“I agree. While I’ve had to defend myself and others from them, I find it rotten to the core when I see the sad faces and the dispirited souls as they are herded onto reservations. I’m not proud of what I and others have done to reduce the buffalo either. If it had been only to feed both Indian and White man alike we could have gotten along. But even as with the longhorns, one can see only greed. I hope we are able to pay them back in some small way by bringing Renfro and all that resemble him to justice. We have a noble goal Lucas, I intend to give this my all.”

“I do as well. Both of us have walked through the valley of the shadow of death many times. Let us fear no evil.”

“I like the way you think. We walk together my brother, I pray that I am worthy to be your brother.” Bat drank the last of his coffee and waved the waiter away from pouring him another cup.

“I am honored to call you brother Bat. What a miracle it has been for us to come together in the first place. I’m not happy that we must face what we are traveling toward, but fate has brought us together for a reason, just as sure as Simon Battle and I met and as sure as the both of us have survived danger along the way until now. Have faith and the light shall show us the way.”

“You’re great with those biblical references, it makes me feel real good. I’m proud to call you my brother, brother.”

The train pulled into Paris for a brief stop before crossing the Red River into Indian Territory. Farms and cattle ranches dotted the countryside. This new route was a more direct connection to St. Louis, going through Fort Smith and over the Arkansas border. Paris was a popular cattle town. They only had a few minutes to get off the train and walk around. Both men spent time along the Red River in their past. It was interesting for them to see this part of the country by rail, wishing they had time and energy to explore as in their youth. They stopped in a small saloon for a shot of whiskey. Bat commented that he felt like blasting the shot glass. He recalled how he’d been doing it for many years. By this time he’d shattered thousands of them, Lucas could never catch up.

“Once we do shows in a few big cities, there won’t be a safe shot glass anywhere in this country. Maybe it is wise to invest in a glass company.” Bat said as he sat his bottom heavy glass on the bar.

“Maybe we’ll look into that once we get settled in New York. I don’t know as if I’m ready to invest in cottonseed oil anyhow.” Lucas lit one of his cheroots.

“I’m impressed with the ingenuity of the cotton business. The oil must have a future. As long as cotton is in demand, the oil will be too. We’re feeding more cattle with it as time marches on. There is money to be made. But I’m not sure if it is the right investment for us. William might own that farm one day and find oil a good long term investment. We may only do this shoot ‘em up thing for a short while and then the bottom will drop out of the shot glass market! Can you envision a day when they won’t need shot glasses? Perish the thought!” Bat laughed and reached for a cheroot.

“What could come along to stop the flow of whiskey?” Lucas asked.

“Beats me, they make it almost everywhere. I guess they could try to vote it against the law, but can you imagine what kind of an uproar that would bring?”

“Oh I think there’s plenty of mad women in church that would gladly bring on that kind of an uproar. It could happen, we shouldn’t laugh too loud. Investment is a risky thing. When it comes down to it, I’ve always invested in myself. I’ve fixed the ranch and sent my son to school. Will Fulton is a form of investment also. The cattle business goes up and down like anything else, but we’ll always have to eat. They thought the longhorns were endless, but look at the favor the new breeds are gaining. Sam Bard is an artist at raising quality beef. It won’t be long before the old ways are gone. That is what our partnership is about. If I don’t change, my ranch will dry up and blow away. Sam needs more volume and help. We can better compete with the larger ranches this way. Look at how Sarah liked those steaks.”

“I like the business myself and I’m still invested in it. I think you are wise to stay with what you know. I can’t wait until we have the time to go to North Fork”

“You will enjoy the visit, I promise. We have no White Elephants in our little town, but we do play poker.”

“A universal language in our time. I do my best to find pleasure in it everywhere I go. I’ve spent plenty time in small towns. Mining is that way, very remote. But men in the smallest of outposts still play poker.” Bat looked up at the clock just as the whistle from the train blew the first warning. “We better get on board, I know we have a long haul through the Territories. I hope we can pass some of that time with the cards.”

“I’ll play poker Bat, but I’m not going to lose my share in the ranch, remember that.” Lucas laughed as he got up.

“We can keep the wagers low, it’s not money I’m after, especially with a friend. Poker keeps our minds active while we sit. Walking will keep us active when we stop.” The cheroots left a trail of smoke as they exited the saloon and went back to the train.

“We have about fifteen hundred miles to go Lucas, want to bet on how many hands we’ll play before arriving in New York?”

“Who’s doing the counting?” Lucas sat across from Bat at a small table in the lounge car.

“Too much trouble and I seldom bet on such silly things. One for you, one for me, two for you….”

Lucas took up his five cards to reveal three tens. “What are we betting?”

“Neither of us have enough coins. How about bullets?”

“We’ll both start with a box of fifty rounds”. Lucas reached into his bag and withdrew two boxes of bullets. “OK, I bet ten bullets.”

“The gentlemen with the big bullets bets ten, I’ll see your ten and raise you three.”

“I’ll see your three and raise you five.” Lucas did his best to keep a straight face.

“This is getting serious right from the start! I’ll see your five. How many cards?”

“I’ll take two.” Lucas exchanged cards and got two threes in return. He fought back a grin and set his cards down in front of him.

“Dealer takes three” Bat was hoping to make three kings.

“Ten more.” Lucas laid out his bet.

“Ten more! Goodness gracious, I’ll be a sport, here’s your ten, show ‘em!” Lucas flopped over his full house and Bat’s jaw dropped. “I had to go and pick a fight with the Rifleman!”

They played cards for hours as the train rumbled along. Lucas kept the upper hand a good deal of the time. It seems as if two great stone faces were fighting on an ancient battlefield. When one would run out of bullets from the original fifty they would count that as one game and go back to even. Money had nothing to do with this game. They were indeed training for what was to come.

This young train route had stations every so often along the way. The Choctaw Territory was sparsely populated with Indian farms and settlements. Towns like Goodland, Antlers, Wadena, Butler, and Clayton served as water stops and grew overnight due to the railroad. Construction projects were underway in many places. The rolling green hills and open farmland gave way to the vast valleys to the north as they reached Kiamichi and Albion. The final destination for the day was Fort Smith, Arkansas. Bat related several stories to Lucas about the “Hangin’ Judge”, Isaac Parker as they drew close. He sent a number of train robbers to their appointed destiny years ago working railroad security.

Parker was known throughout the land for his tough brand of justice. A sentence to the gallows was often the verdict. Fort Smith was a rowdy town and the Judge was assigned to this area long ago because of his reputation. Most of the towns along the way were known for catering to the needs of the traveling kind, cowboys, settlers, military men, you name it. Bordellos and saloons provided plenty of temptation and trouble for the Judge to deal with. Because of the location, Fort Smith was the center of affairs for the entire Indian Territory. This gave Parker a vast jurisdiction. Now the AT&SF railroad brought more popularity to this railroad junction. This is where Bat and Lucas spent the first night.

Lucas watched Bat play poker in a saloon after dinner. Some men knew about the gun show and most heard of Bat from his previous reputation. Many wanted a chance to play a hand with the famous lawman and agreed to take turns. Lucas took notice of how easily Bat was recognized. It was also starting to happen to him. It didn’t dawn on Lucas in Santa Fe or Dallas, but now they were in a strange town far from the large city newspapers. He was used to recognition in North Fork, but that was on a smaller scale. He felt the Colt under his coat and wondered if he would really use it if confronted. Lucas found time to think about a lot of things as this trip progressed. Being in strange surroundings was an unavoidable thing to ponder. This was true of his early days, but he was younger and braver then. The many years in North Fork meant that his roots ran deep and he felt more comfortable close to home. By the end of the night’s entertainment Lucas found himself fatigued from talking with strangers. He wondered how this would be in New York. It was a good thing he could face these thoughts now rather than later. This adventure was going to teach him a lot about his ability to spend long times on the road and how to handle fame. His final thoughts before falling asleep were did he want to take fame home with him? Would he ever be able to find privacy again? Was this going to be fair to Mark and others back in North Fork? This snowball was well on its way down hill, he knew there was no turning back.

“We’re home at last Will!” A cry of exuberance came from Ann as they approached the Bard Ranch.

“Will took in the view of the house and stables. It looked like heaven. The horses made enough noise to let anyone nearby know they were home. The stable came alive with horse talk. “I guess these guys have some stories to tell. Spirit hasn’t been on a long trip in years. They must have missed home something awful!”

“Flash has been away a number of times, but you can always tell when he gets back. The horse family knows more than we tend to give them credit for. They’ll go on like this for hours. Let’s go see Daddy and then give these tired steeds a well deserved brushing. Then we can all use some pasture time.” Ann dismounted and joined Will as they went up the steps and into the house. It was mid afternoon and there was no one to be found. After a few minutes and a drink they took the horses into the barn and made them comfortable. After the brushing and hoof cleaning they were let out to pasture. Both Flash and Spirit ran for a spell and displayed their antics as if to say, “hey everyone have I got something to tell you!”

“Well, your father and the men must be at the construction site. We may not recognize the McCain ranch having been away for so long.”

“There should be someone around here though. It’s not like them to leave the place unattended like this.” Ann scouted around the stables as they walked back to the house.

“It’s been more than a day since I sent the telegram from Santa Fe. Sam may not have gotten it yet, they don’t know to expect us at any particular time. Let’s get settled and rest in the house for a few minutes. If we don’t see anyone in a couple of hours, we can take a ride and see what’s up.”

“I’m for the resting part. Somebody should come along soon enough.”

“Very well, you can find me in your father’s chair!” Will stole a little snort from the decanter on the end table and was soon asleep. Ann looked down at her man with great content. The long trip was finally over and the world felt so different than before they left. Things were happening in all directions. She wondered how long before they would be on the road again. She sat in a chair near Will and fell asleep.

Along about five o’clock Sam Bard and Walt Donaldson came riding up to the house. They spied the two sleeping and decided to attend to their horses before waking them.

Well now, I see what you are working so hard for has come home. She’s a very lovely woman Sam. Congratulations, you’ve done right well!”

“Thank you Walt. She’s all I really have in this world. I’m a very happy father.”

“Despite our rough past, I want you to know that there’s no bad feelings whatsoever about what happened to Jack. I know it doesn’t need sayin’, but it makes me feel better to just get it out right now. I hope Will has some news for me. He must have spoken to the law when he passed through Santa Fe.”

“Let’s wake them. I’m very interested to see what they have to say. They must be full of questions too. And if we don’t get to that decanter soon, ah, I don’t even want to think about it!”

They walked into the house and shook Will and Ann’s feet to wake them.

“Hey you two! Sleepy time’s over, we’ve got work to do! Come along now.” Sam laughed as he startled Will back to life.

“Where have you guys been? We were concerned when we came home to an abandoned ranch!” Will sat up and offered the chair to Sam.

“No, no. You stay put. Walt, grab us a couple of chairs from the kitchen while I get us some glasses.” Sam went over to his liquor cabinet and produced two more shot glasses and a new bottle of Whiskey.

Ann got up and hugged her father once he set the supplies down. “I missed you Daddy. I don’t like being away for so long. We have so much to tell you. Dallas is such a wonderful place. And you should see the farm, you would love it!”

“Ah my baby, I’m not happy when I don’t know where my little girl is! Just what have you been doing with my daughter?” Sam cast a humorous glance toward Will. “And where is your chaperone? I thought I told Lucas to never let you two out of his sight!”

“Lucas and Bat are on their way to New York City! It’s a long story. But you know some of it from the letter I sent asking for the steaks. And I have done everything humanly possible to keep your daughter safe, I can assure you.” Will placed his shot glass close to the other two and poured the remains of the decanter into them.

Walt came back with the chairs and looked right at Will. “Son, I have to apologize to you for the actions of my offspring. I never thought it could come to the trouble he’s caused you. I promise he’ll never bother you again.”

“I appreciate that Mister Donaldson. Please know that I have no animosity towards you in any way. In fact, thank you for being up front with us all along. I can only hope that Jack finds a place in his heart to one day return here a changed man.” Will handed Walt a shot glass and the three men downed their drinks. Sam opened the new bottle for another round.

“That’s mighty fine of ya Will. Thank you. I hope we can be friends and work together.” Walt put his hand out and Will shook it good and firm.

“Did I tell you Will? Walt is a partner in our ranch project now. I hope that’s to your liking.” Sam sat down and the others followed.

“I heard about it in your telegrams to Lucas. A great idea, perhaps we’ll have the most successful ranch in New Mexico. I’ve got some very good news. I came into a great fortune upon my return to Dallas.”

“Yes, that money you sent here is in the bank. That sure floored me. And this Sarah Cockrell, she must be one real fine lady to think that highly of you after such a long time away.”

“Yes sir! I could talk for hours about her alone, but so much has happened. Before we go on, I want to tell you about Jack. I know you must be wondering. I was asked to return to the Santa Fe court on the way home to see if I would be needed in a trial. Jack decided to plead guilty and ask for the mercy of the court. The Judge told me that he was inclined to give him a year to think about his crime. There will be no trial and I asked the Judge to go easy on him. He insisted on at least one year. After all, he attempted to kill. If it were up to me, I’d let him come home right away. But one year is not so bad. So that’s the best I could do for him.”

“I’m thankful for your thoughtfulness Will. My son deserves much more punishment than that. I think this experience will serve to bring him back down to earth. He’s never been easy to control and this will be the first time his Daddy wasn’t there to bail him out. I’m inclined to leave him there for now.”

“He’ll be in the Santa Fe prison. I can tell you that he’ll learn what hard work is and his fellow inmates will be happy to enlighten him on the finer points of prison life.

Now that he’s a convict, I don’t reckon he’ll be able to give me any more grief!”

“I can only hope this will do for him what I couldn’t. I refuse to beat myself up over it any further. Sam has sure kept my spirits up. This ranch partnership is my passion now. Wait until you see what’s happened to the McCain place!”

“That’s what we want to hear about. And where is everyone? Why was this place left unattended?” Will gave Ann a confirming look and she looked to Sam.

“Ahem, well my children, we have been very busy while you were off playing with guns and horsies!” Sam laughed heartily and motioned for another refill. “All of us have been at Lucas’ place today. We had to be there in order to put up a main beam to the new bunkhouse and lodge! That sucker is huge.”

“Wow! I can’t wait. When can we see it?” Will knew he would do more than see it.

“Bright and early my son. We’re all back at it in the morning. I think we can find a place for you in the crew.”

“Who is going to watch this place?”

“Some of the men will be back later this evening. They are having a huge cookout to celebrate the raising of the beam. It took every one of us to hoist it up. We used horses to pull the ropes and the pulleys looked as if they were going to let go. But we got it up there. Walt and I came home early for a little celebration of our own, I got your telegram yesterday, figured you might get home this afternoon.” Sam raised his glass and drained it. “Do you think we could whip up some dinner Ann?”

“Oh yes! I have missed the kitchen, is there something you would like to have?”

“I’ve had a hankering for fried chicken, mashed potatoes and corn on the cob, unless, you all want a steak!”

“Fried chicken it is!” Ann answered quickly. “We’ve had enough steak for a while, believe me!”

“I guess you have. And we haven’t had your fried chicken in way over a month.”

Ann ran back to the kitchen while the men continued to chat. The clamor of pots and pans was music to Sam’s ears. Walt heard so much about her cooking, this was his first chance to experience the joy. Will gave them the complete story about the farm, the gun show, the lawyers, and especially Sarah. Sam loved hearing about Bat and the White Elephant until the part about Luke killing Courtright. Sam couldn’t help but comment about the need to carry a gun, Ann was not going to argue with him but she still didn’t like the idea of Will going back to the Elephant. The Dallas visit sounded like a fairy tale with a, yet to be found, happy ending, which then brought the conversation around to Lucas and Bat going to New York.

“Bat thinks that Vernon Carlson might have something to do with the New York Cottonseed Oil Consortium. They are going there to find out about Carlson or R.J. Graham. In the meantime, they will explore the possibility of a gun show.”

“New York is a crazy place, they better be careful. I was there way back in 1859. Before the war it was a hotbed of wild folks from all over the world. I can’t imagine what it’s like today.” Sam did not like hearing about Lucas being involved in this.

“Sam, all I can say is that those two are brave and ambitious. Bat took on the case with a passion and Lucas went right along with him. Both of them seem to crave the danger or maybe I better call it intrigue. The more corrupt Bat found Renfro, the more he seemed to relish in the investigation. He even knows the ex-Attorney General of Texas, John Templeton. Once we found out that R.J. Graham was a phony, they got excited and are now full out after these guys. The problem is, Templeton tried to prosecute Renfro before and lost in the courts so they need to be careful and have the best proof possible.”

“I sure hope this doesn’t balloon into an all out range war. Those ranchers are a rough bunch and will gang up to protect each other, even from the law. It’s happened before in those parts. Texans have a way about them that’s different from most others, an independent lot that’s for sure.” Sam commented.

“Oh, we saw that plenty! Don’t forget I come from there. Sometimes I have to watch out for my quick tempered ways. You know that.”

“Yes I do, but you know how to control yourself, you are blessed with common sense. Say, how come we never heard from you about moving your brother’s grave? Micah is still waiting to know what to do.”

“I had a hard time thinking about that. When I first saw my parent’s headstones it struck me that these were great people, below and above the ground. Hank did so many truly evil things. I’m not so sure he deserves to be there with them. I may change my mind, but right now we have a lot more important things to worry about. I’ll talk to Micah as soon as I can. I know he went out of his way to see about it. It was a big deal to me before I got there, but I have to tell you that what I experienced in Dallas has opened my mind to what my life can come to mean. I have been moved by the kindness of so many people since Lucas brought me back here. I didn’t exactly know how to reckon with it. My guilt kept coming back to haunt me for one thing. And what I now think about Hank makes me wonder what right I have to be judgmental. So many times we act without having regard for what it means for other people. I want to lose my selfishness and give back to the world after having taken so much. Sarah gave me the means to do just that. And I want to do as much as I can for her. Once again, it’s Bat and Lucas that are facing danger on my behalf. I’m benefiting from others again and it’s weighing on me. The same thing keeps happening at every turn and I seem to be standing back and soaking it up. All of you are great friends and give so willingly without expectations of being paid back. I thank God for every step along the way, but I don’t see how I deserve it sometimes.”

“I can understand, but I can’t tell you that I know how you feel. Most of us have done things at one time or another that we are not proud of. Life deals us some rotten blows and we never know why or when. The best we can do is face the bad with bravery and be thankful for the times we can enjoy. I don’t pretend to know what makes people tick, but it isn’t that hard to tell a good egg from a bad one. Any of us can see the good side of you right off. If you were ever bad, you have changed, you have learned. Maybe we’re your teachers and sometimes you’re ours. Don’t be too rough on yourself son.”

“Thank you Sam. Your generosity and understanding have taught me plenty. I want you to know that I intend on doing my part around here. This is going to be one great ranch. These men deserve the very best. I want you to help me do some things for them. And the first thing is going to be a pool table! What do you say?”

“I love that game, wish I had more time to enjoy it. I bet this new lodge will have room for one.”

“I’m glad you approve. We’ll order one next time we go into town. And I know one more thing that needs to be done. You guys want a cabin out back of this house. I want to get started right away. It would be so great for Lucas to come home and see it at least started. I need to do something special for you and him. And he might have a frequent guest in the future you know.”

“Do you mean Aubrey? I was hoping they would get along.”

“That’s exactly what I mean. I want him to have a new start at some happy memories. That’s the least I can do for him.”

“Now that we have that beam in place, I think we can spare a few men part time to get that cabin built. I’ve been thinking about it too. It will be more than a cabin, it will be a home. And he’ll find his old house in very good shape too. We’ve fixed it up good. Every door has been improved and the windows have either been cleaned or replaced.” Sam turned to Walt and refilled his glass.

Walt took a sip and looked Will right in the eyes. “You know Will, I’ve been learning a great deal since you came to town. You are a teacher and sometimes a preacher, without even knowing it. If there’s something gnawing at your guts you come right out with it and you display your conscience without even thinking. You do care about others before yourself and seek to make peace in all that you do. You don’t have anything to worry about, just keep being you!”

“Thank you Walt. I wish I could have convinced Hank of that. I hope all of us can keep what you just said in mind and follow that path each day.”

“I’d sure love to have a son like you. One of us does. Mark is a fine boy in all respects and Lucas is a great father. You stick by them and you can’t go wrong. I have some catching up to do with Jack. Part of his problem is me, we never found enough in common and I was too busy with our ranch to care. I hope I can learn enough by knowing you to be able to help my son.

Fulton’s Foray — Historic Springfield

This is a story based on the TV series The Rifleman
Here are some other great stories. Enjoy!

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