The Rifleman
Welcome to The Writer's Corner
Fan Fiction

The Rifleman's Serenade
Chapter 6 - North Fork’s Finest
Written by Frank Charles aka weinerdawgy

The small churches were packed and many gathered outside to join in the hymns. The desert like heat was dusty dry. Shade for the many guests was at a premium. Tents and wagons provided some relief and many had blankets stretched out between poles. After lunch the crowd was at the range on this blazing hot Sunday ready for action. The first order of business was to have Mayor Hamilton give a speech. The long awaited day of the big gun show had arrived!

“Ladies and Gentlemen, fellow marksmen, and all who would allow me to have your ear, before we start this greatly anticipated event, I want to thank you for being here today. The great city of North Fork welcomes you and wants to provide the best of times available in the Territory of New Mexico! As mayor, I am very proud of our town. We have grown up from a sleepy ranch community with a stage coach stop into a central point for all who must come our way. The railroad has brought us much closer to those who would travel and made it possible to mature at a rapid pace. We are a much safer community thanks to the strength of our legendary lawmen. From a time when it used to be a great challenge to keep the peace, we have become a much respected and family oriented place in which to live. We have with us today those living legends that have been instrumental in making this happen.”

“First of all, I want Micah Torrance to stand.” A nice round of applause went up. “Micah has been our town’s marshal for a very long time. His recent retirement has not meant that he was ready to put his rifle down. He can still be found keeping his eyes open and his opinions known!” A good round of laughter erupted at this comment! “Thank you Micah, this town owes you a deep and lifelong appreciation for your service! You have done more than anyone to pioneer justice in our town” Micah waved his hat to the crowd and took in the moment with pride.”

“Next, I want to thank this town’s favorite son, a man who needs no introduction, but since I am standing here with everyone’s attention, let’s hear it for the man who makes us so proud, Lucas McCain!” With that the crowd stood up and carried on for a good long time. Hats were tossed into the air and nearby hands were slapping his back. When the noise finally calmed down, John continued. “Lucas has pledged his life to North Fork. His wisdom and dedication has touched all of us at some point. Thank you for your service as both a lawman and the finest citizen we have. Do not be humble this day Lucas, it is our right to thank you now and to go on thanking you forever. As you can see from the response, you are well loved and cherished by all. Anyone thinking different has either been in jail or no longer with us!” More laughter and cheers went up. “This is your day Lucas, as there will be many more. Let today be a celebration of your achievements and success as a father. We are all here to express our love, to share in the excitement, and to show the world that North Fork has a hero. Yes, thank you Lucas McCain, “The Rifleman!” The cheering carried on as Mark stood up and hugged his Pa. At this point the mayor was at a loss for more to add, he backed away as Lucas, Aubrey and Mark stood at the podium to wave their hats and bow.

John hugged them as the applause dwindled. “Two more introductions before we begin. First being our current marshal, Wes Carney!” Wes stood up to a modest round of cheers from an applause weary audience. “Wes has done a fine job of carrying on with our tradition. His expert guidance and willingness to work with our aforementioned legends has gone a long way towards keeping our growing city safe and proud. Thank you Wes, this is a great day for you as well, we look forward to your taking part today. And finally, we have a very special guest of honor, a consummate legend of the West. This man has tamed the worst of outlaws and broken ground in the field of law enforcement for communities far and wide. Many of you have read about his exploits as a lawman in Dodge City, Kansas and on the open plains as a buffalo hunter and expert scout. He is also a great pioneer of the railroad. And by the way, some of you have contributed towards his favorite activity at Sweeney’s poker tables!” A big round of laughter went up. “I could go on about this man’s marksmanship and charity for hours, but you all know his name without any further adieu, I give you Bat Masterson!” John gave a final wave to the crowd and surrendered the podium to Bat.

“Ladies and Gentlemen, thank you so much for your kind welcome, I have come to love your North Fork. Mister McCain is a great friend and companion with the grace of a saint. He led me to this promised land, and it is my honor to now consider myself one of you. May the Western spirit forever reside in our hearts. May your ranches and farms be plentiful and blossom with enduring success. We have a lot to do this afternoon. There are ten finalists in both the pistol and rifle competitions. Let me tell you, there are some mighty fine marksmen here and the going was tough yesterday. I am confident that you will be thrilled with our contest. Soon after, we have a wonderful show for you. It has long been my dream to put on these target demonstrations. If you have read about me, then you know I did this often in Dodge. By displaying proficiency with firearms I have managed to minimize gunplay in the execution of my duties as marshal. It is in that spirit that I hope we impress you today. Life is indeed precious and it is not for the lawman to judge. If we can defuse an outlaw and bring him to justice, then that is our foremost requirement. All that is necessary is for them to know we will use whatever force is prudent to maintain the law and peace. Peace is our reward as well as our right. It must be preserved with great vigilance. You have grown to know this as Micah, Lucas, and Wes have done their best in this very effort. We do not think of ourselves as heroes, that is for you to decide. What we do want is for all of you to feel safe when you go to sleep each night, when you walk down the street, and when you send your children off to school. It is our hope that as time goes on you will gain in your confidence that you can rely on this. Trouble will never totally go away, and times will certainly change. The law is what holds us together as a community, it’s what makes us strong. We are here to uphold the truth and dispel the novel writers that would have you thinking we are bigger than life. Sure, we have our adventure and meet the famous at times, but that is not what we are about. You fine people are the legends, you make our history worthwhile. So with that in mind, let us proceed to the firing line!” Up went the cheers once more as the contestants took their places. Bat continued with a brief introduction for the program and then left the narration of the pistol contest to Lucas.

The ten men competing included Bat, Ron, and Will. There was an interesting collection of characters from near and far. One man was a well known marksman from Las Cruces, Ben “Eagle Eye” Teags. He wore fine black leathers decorated with plenty of metal studs and custom tooling. He gave a look of confidence that defied loss. He stood out among the other well dressed contestants. All of the men hit dead center or close to it on their targets the day before. The cards were now placed at fifty feet and each man had two chances rather than three. Numbers were drawn to determine the order. Will drew the first spot and took his stance. It’s usually hard to set the pace early as each man to follow has something to think about from the previous contestants as he approaches the targets. Will shook his arms and looked from side to side to get used to the sunlight. He faced the targets and drew quickly for his first attempt. He landed about half an inch from center. Will gave his second attempt a little more deliberate motion with about the same result. That extra twenty feet provided just enough difficulty to make things interesting for these experts. Will signed his cards and they were put on display on a scoreboard that fans could inspect.

Three more contestants took their turns before Ron’s number came up. Interest was heaped upon him due to his brazen performance the day before. As he faced the audience and acknowledged their applause, he turned to take a long look at his targets. He tipped his hat and as it landed back on his head he spun around and drew on his first ace of spades. This was exciting to say the least. The bullet struck black and was very close to center. For his second card he drew facing the target and was just a little further off, partially into the white. This was by far the best attempt. Ron’s first shot caused quite a stir. He absorbed more cheers before he took a seat. The next man was close to center with one card and his second was low and to the left. Eagle Eye was next.

His presence was attention getting, a weathered face and large waxed mustache gave him the classic cowboy look. A small group of supporters made most of the noise as he approached the firing line. His specialty was the quick draw, having performed in various gun shows and contests throughout Texas, Arizona, and New Mexico. Ben knew he had to do something special if he was going to beat Ron. Bat looked on with great interest as the pressure was going to be high for his late attempt. Ben stood facing the audience with a blank stare, deep in concentration. Suddenly he spun around and his pearl handled Colt shot thunder but only grazed the black tip of the spade, landing mostly in the white above. He knew it was time to hit center or go home with his tail between his legs. Ben shook off his disgust and held his gun in the standard pose. He drilled an almost dead center shot without any fancy antics. A look of relief came over him as the audience gave him a nice round of applause. Even if his first attempt wasn’t the best stunt of the day, it was still a great shot that most present would be glad to sign their name to. At this point Ron and Ben had the two best cards. The next contestant was from Santa Fe, a rancher that considered himself an expert shot from as far back as the Civil War. It was a very good attempt, but he was not in the running when he was through. Bat was number nine.

Bat knew he had to do his best. If he didn’t have nerves of steel by this time, he sure was in the wrong place! He didn’t want to be fancy, that had already been done. He walked calmly up to the firing line as the audience gave him a long round of applause. Before the applause had a chance to settle down Bat quickly drew from his familiar stance and once again placed his round completely in the black and almost dead center. He patted his peacemaker as he turned to the audience. Did he want a second card? He didn’t even look at the first one. As it was brought forth to the officials Bat walked up to sign it. It was near perfect. When it was held up to Ron and Ben’s it was obvious who was now in the lead. The tenth man simply had too much pressure to deal with. He stood holding his gun as best he could, but neither shot was totally in the black. The audience still made him feel good. It would have been easy to award the contest to Bat, but after a brief conference it was decided to have a three way shoot out between Ron, Ben, and Bat. This became the highlight of the day. Each man continued to hit very close to center in a second round. Bat’s card was not the best this time, it was Ron’s. Ben decided he was through and so it came down to Bat and Ron. With a third round to come, everyone knew they were witnessing something great. Bat, for once, felt the pressure. He was amazed at the ice in Ron’s veins. Ron wasn’t doing the spin move after his first round, but he was smooth at the draw and flawless in the result. Bat went first and was once again almost perfect. Two out of his three attempts were the best of all so far. Ron was now faced with a do or die performance. It was silent as he stood before the target. In almost a slow motion move he drilled the card once again, giving the officials a most difficult decision. Did they want to have a fourth round? While they stood together looking at the cards something occurred to Bat that he couldn’t resist. Before the officials could say another word he waved his hands and got the attention of the audience.

“Ladies and Gentleman! I give you the winner of today’s contest, Ron Fitch!” Ron looked amazed and his first reaction was to shake his head no. Bat saw this and reached out to grab his shoulder to drag him alongside. “No need to say one man is better than another, Ron has proven himself worthy as well as good old Eagle Eye. Everyone here today is a winner for having witnessed or taken part in this amazing performance. Ron had no further say, the applause was deafening and Bat motioned for the officials to bring forth the prize. “The custom engraved Winchester was first handed to Lucas who then joined the two men at the podium.

“Ron, I want to present you with this first prize custom rifle. It is hand engraved by the artists at the Winchester factory and your name will be added by one of them present here today. Congratulations on the finest shooting exhibition any of us have seen in a very long time!” Lucas joined a three way hug as Ron lifted the rifle overhead for all to see. Once the noise settled, Lucas brought out a check for one thousand dollars. “And this is a small token of our appreciation Ron. May it bring you great joy and let you know that you are always welcomed in North Fork!”

Ron was left alone at the podium as Lucas and Bat sat down. He gazed over the many faces, all smiling and showing admiration. He felt great shock as he thought back over the life he had led in New York. Instead of brick and concrete, he saw wood. Instead of hurried city dwellers he saw country folk who were so much more at ease. He was overwhelmed and found it hard to speak. He had certainly put himself on the map now. Photographers and writers made sure that Ron Fitch would be a well known hero. There was no going back. Finally, he yelled out, “Thank You North Fork, you’ve won my heart!”

Bat knew what he had done. He took advantage of the moment to cement Ron’s fate. By declaring him the winner, Ron would now be known as the man who beat Bat Masterson. This was sure to make the news in New York and would fall upon the eyes of those in Ron’s clan. As much as he would like to think he planned this, it was simply good fortune. Bat was more competitive than most. After viewing the cards, some would wonder if he let Ron win. The fact was that the cards were almost identical and the contest could have gone either way. There was great value in what Bat did for both Ron and the cotton farm. Somehow, Ron had a strange feeling about this. He knew what it meant as the cameras went off. But he was glad. He liked what he was finding out about the rest of the world upon leaving New York.

After a brief intermission the rifle competition began. Lucas had some hard work ahead with the line up to come, including once again, Bat Masterson. Mayor Hamilton had it mind to give his old friend a good contest as well. All of this would become moot if the buffalo hunters were on their mark with their Sharps rifles. Bat owned one of these marvelous weapons but decided it was best to use a Winchester for obvious reasons. Sales were brisk at the booth and it would be a great advertising ploy if a Winchester won the competition. Will took the honors of narrating the affair as everyone else was involved in the shooting. The bottles were waiting at two hundred fifty feet. The following ones would be placed another fifty feet back for additional rounds until the four hundred foot distance was reached. A small sized bottle was then to be used to give further difficulty. Most felt confident that it was going to take two or three rounds before anybody fell out of the contest. Assistants were ready with cases of red colored water bottles on the back of a small wagon. Wood rails were in place for them to rest on.

The first to shoot was Charlie Weston of North Fork. He was a well known rancher and also a veteran of the Civil War. He hit his first bottle with ease. Bat drew second and had no problem. Lucas was fifth and Ann did well in her eighth position. The mayor came last, his aim was true. Everyone hit the mark in the first round. At three hundred feet there was the same result. The Sharps rifles produced their familiar roar, the two hunters had looks of surety as they took their turns. At three hundred and fifty feet three contestants fell out having come close but only splinters could be seen as the bullets hit just low. With all of the popular shooters still in, the four hundred foot mark didn’t promise to narrow the field down by much. If the smaller bottles were not enough, playing cards would have to be used. One person missed at four hundred, leaving Bat, Lucas, Ann, the Mayor, and the Sharps hunters. When the smaller bottles were used they proved difficult to hit. Ann missed as did Mayor Hamilton and one of the Sharps hunters. The rifles were capable, but now was the time for the shooter’s skill to come into play. The air was hot and still. Smoke hung like cotton making it harder to see the targets. After a few minutes to let it clear, the shooting resumed for a second round at the small bottles. Once again, the three men hit their target. The pressure went up a notch as playing cards were placed in front of a large bottle for each man. This was sure to produce a clear winner at four hundred feet.

Bat shot first and managed to just nick the ace off to the right. The remaining Sharps hunter was not much better, but he found a bit more black. Finally it was up to Lucas. His chance was narrow, the ace was not really visible at this distance, all he could do was trust his instinct and hope for the best. The crowd stood still as Lucas took aim. He was never one to hesitate, but he took time to exhale and come to a greater calm. The shot rang out and the card flew off as the bottle shattered. The assistant held everyone in suspense as it took time to run forward with the cards. Whether it was luck or skill, Lucas had hit more than half black! The Rifleman prevailed in grand fashion. Will made the announcement and induced a great round of applause. This is what everyone was hoping for. The star of the show and favorite son did not disappoint.

Once things settled down there was a matter of awarding the second place man the real prize. Lucas came to the podium with Bat and Will to thank the crowd. The engraved rifle and check for five hundred dollars went to John Caldwell of Kansas City, a Sharps hunter of great skill. This didn’t do Winchester any favors, but it was a well known fact that Sharps were perhaps the most accurate rifles made. Bat did well to keep within a half inch of John’s shot. Lucas heaved a sigh of relief to have won. This is what contests are for, and everyone got their money’s worth. Ron rejoined the men at the podium for a final tribute.

At intermission the saloons were ready for the many thirsty people. John and Ron stuck by the podium with the showmen to give people a chance to head for refreshments. They didn’t want to be overwhelmed by handshakes until everyone had a chance to calm down. Sales at the Winchester booth were brisk. Most orders were given delivery dates, all of the custom rifles brought to the event were sold. In fact, Winchester was working overtime back at the factory since the New York show. Neither John Browning or William Brighton had time to come to North Fork.

It was a grand time in the saloon once the contestants made it inside. Sweeney’s was the center of attention. Many drinks were bought for the celebrities. They had to give away most of them because there was a show ahead, but a few beers sure were good to get rid of the taste of gunpowder. Talk was brisk and pats on the back became tiresome. Bat and Lucas moved to keep their backs to the bar to avoid some of this. A large circle formed in front of them to provide a barrier. Sweeney couldn’t scoop up the coins fast enough. A great smile was etched upon his face as he worked frantically to keep the growing crowd happy.

In another corner of town, Lou was overwhelmed and very nearly out of supplies. Most people were gathering at Sweeney’s but she still had much more business than her planning allowed for. Mark managed to break away to see how she was doing.

“Mark! Am I glad to see you! I’ve been chasing my tail all weekend. I’m running out of meat. Do you think your father or Sam could arrange for me to get some more before the show is over? I know it might be asking too much.”

“Why most everyone is away from the ranch, but I’ll run and see what Sam has to say, maybe he can send a man to help out.”

“I’d really appreciate it. There may not be any left to buy right now for all I know. Oh, it’s not right and there isn’t time. Just go back and leave me to my troubles. I’m sorry Mark, I just can’t think right anymore. Look at all of these people! I’ve never seen anything like it!”

“I can’t tell you how I feel seeing all of this attention. Pa is a real big time star! We talked about this at Christmas and I was scared for him, but just think how happy he seems with it. No matter how any of us feel, we have to think of him first.”

“You’re so right honey. I’ve made more money in the past week than I will the rest of the year. I have nothing to worry about. Let these folks eat someplace else. Don’t bother anybody after all. I should close down the kitchen and go watch the show.”

“Now that sounds more like you Lou. I’ll give ya a hand and you come to the range with me, how about that?”

“Oh, thank ye Mark. You have become such a man. Give me a minute and I’ll be ready to go.”

“What can I do?” Mark took off his hat and rolled up his sleeves.

“Just put some of this food away and I’ll tell the help to take over out front.” Lou headed out of the room and Mark went to work. Before long, they were walking together on the way to the show. They joined the family members near the podium. Will, Wes, and a few men were setting up for the show while Bat and Lucas were finishing up conversations at Sweeney’s. Once they started for the range the entire town gathered around, it was standing room all the way back to the range entrance.

Bat opened the show with a brief talk about how western legends came to be and how reputations can be both a positive and negative influence. Anyone who knew Lucas over the years appreciated this. Many had read sensational stories about Bat in either a newspaper, journal, or book. Wes could be seen nodding his head in approval. Bat went on to explain that very few legendary gunfights actually occurred. He mentioned the Luke Short affair as an example of how guns can be all too real in their abrupt way of ending disagreement. But the fact remained that writers sought to color the stories to make a sale. It was only human nature to want the heroes to do spectacular things and newspapers needed the headlines for both influence and profit. Bat closed by admitting that the reputation the stories gave him did actually help to avoid a whole bunch of trouble and that he felt obligated to take advantage of it. He also told of the men who came looking for him, wanting to test his skill. Finally he gave the children a warning about becoming fascinated with guns. They should leave the heroics to the story writers

and respect that guns are tools for adults.

The first event was the quick draw. The shot glasses shattered in rapid fire. This brought a rousing reaction. Wes was perfect in his attempt along with the stars of the show. Next the two winners, Ron and John, were invited to try their hand. Ron did well, he was accustomed to the draw, John took his time with the sharps rifle. Mayor Hamilton had practiced a great deal during the week and hit all of his glasses. Aubrey and Ann joined in at last with rapid rifle shots. Will kept busy setting up targets and didn’t take part in the shooting. Mark looked upon the goings on with great interest. What he saw was his Pa in a much different way. At first it was difficult for him, unlike the previous competition, the show was much more of a spectacle. Each time Lucas performed a crowd pleasing shot Mark got a chill down his spine as the crowd roared. Lou could see that something was bothering him and put her arm around his shoulder.

“Are you alright Mark? I see such a bothered look on your face.”

“I, I don’t know Lou. It does bother me to see Pa acting like this. He was always so stern about playing with guns as I grew up. I guess I’m just not used to seeing him like this. It’s all bound to bring on trouble somehow, I have a bad feeling.”

“I don’t know to blame you for that Mark. But like you said earlier, we must think of his happiness. Try to understand that he felt the need to change once you went to school. All of this change must be tough for you as well.”

“I’ll try to get over it Lou. I don’t want to hurt my Pa over this. It’s just that we always talked about being partners with the ranch and now I’m feeling guilt over going away to school and seeing things happen so fast.”

“It’s what you decided was best at the time Honey. You shouldn’t feel bad about that now. Just look at the smile on your Pa’s face. He has changed, and for the better if you ask me. He’s out and making friends, building a new life. You owe it to him to do the same.”

“I know you’re right, after all we’ve been through, it scares me to think he’s going to be around guns so much more. There’s still bad people out there, some that will want to get him. They came so close in the past, I can’t help but worry.” Mark shuffled in his seat as Lucas blasted his next ten shot glasses.

“It’s going to be alright Mark. Wasn’t that great! The crowd loves how fast he can shoot and he is making others happy. Please give this a chance.”

“I will Lou, I will. I reckon it’ll take time to get used to it. Lucas turned around to soak up the applause. Mark’s eyes met his right away. Lou saw the look on Mark’s face turn from somber to smile. Lucas nodded and Mark waved his hat. Hopefully this helped Mark feel better.

The show continued with great success. Will tossed the coins and passed them out as Bat and Lucas pierced them. Ron gave this a few tries but was not able to put his mark on one. A board with coins nailed on was also there and John was able to hit many of them with his Sharps. There were plenty of souvenirs for the crowd once this was over. The girls joined in for long rifle shooting. This was a little different to avoid monotony from the competition that was already a big part of what had been seen for days on end. Some colorful paper targets were put up and a closer range spinning wheel with glass balls filled with water gave everyone a challenge. The moving targets proved hard for everyone to hit. Ann was able to score the highest. Lucas and Bat took it easy with only a few shots during this part. To conclude the show, the card edge splitting brought on the final act. Single attempts for everyone came first. Bat brought out his long barreled Colt and made every shot. Lucas did Winchester proud as well. Ann hit two out of three cards as did Wes. Ron hit one and John got two with his trusty Sharps. Mark settled down by this time intent upon paying close attention as the show came to its climax. Lucas now stood alone in front of the audience. He held his rifle snug in his crossed arms. The ten cards were secure in their holders baring their slender profiles as the people anticipated what many knew was about to transpire. Lucas gave them a few minutes to ponder. The noise turned to almost complete silence. Mark kept a steady gaze into his Pa’s eyes, but all he could see was the blank stare of intense concentration. In what seemed slow motion, the heels of Lucas’ boots spun and the rifle rang out ten times. Ten cards split in rapid fire as Lucas spun back around ejecting the eleventh round into the air and catching it as he returned to face the audience. He gave a huge grin and tossed the unspent bullet into the crowd.

Mark jumped up and threw his hat in the air. The audience erupted with what seemed an unending cheer of adulation. Lucas held his rifle over head and gave them a bow. Bat and the rest of the crew came out to wrap up the show. Before long people were pouring forward, there was nowhere to hide. Now that it was finished, it didn’t matter how sore they got from slaps on the back. This much anticipated event was the largest gathering ever attempted in North Fork. So much energy was expended by the entire town that it would take more than a month to recover. And the excitement was no where near over. The grin upon the face of one Lucas McCain had much more to do with what was to be rather than the relief he felt after producing his biggest show.

The Rifleman's Serenade — Wedding Plans

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

The Writer's Corner
Table of Contents

Site Map
around The McCain Ranch