The Rifleman
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The Rifleman's Serenade
Chapter 12 - Reception
Written by Frank Charles aka weinerdawgy

The carriage eased close to the lodge. The ride was such a pleasure. Sam and Lucas escorted their Brides into the lodge. The hosts were going to wait for most of the guests to arrive before coming outside to begin the celebration. Aubrey knew she had to be in her gown for the formalities but she changed into more comfortable clothes while they waited. Sam and Vanessa were set to take their renewal vows first thing.

Tables were set up for the hosts along with a podium with an area in front. There were tables in place for the close audience, but most of the accommodations were on the way with the guests. Tents and tarps were taken down in town and brought to the ranch. Many brought their own seating and food supplies. It was a great deal of work and much of it would have to go on during and after the opening of the festivities. Before long a band formed in front of the lodge and began to play. The guests arrived and wagons were unloaded. Men were ready to help park the wagons and unhitch the horses. It took several hours for people to get ready and seated so things could commence.

The mid afternoon sun was relentless, but the many tents and tarps began to give shade. Sam came out to the podium to announce that a special ceremony was soon to take place. The hosts took their seats at the front tables while others started to gather in front or where they could get close.

“Ladies and Gentlemen, I know it is hot. We have a short greeting and ceremony to conduct and then we will let you all get back to setting up your areas. Then we will wait until later towards evening to reform for the formal dinner and celebration.” Sam joined the others to give everyone a few minutes to fill in the up close seats.

Finally it was time to begin. Vanessa was now dressed in her wedding gown and Aubrey stood by her side. Lucas was next to Sam as his best man. Reverend Jamison stood at the podium, ready to lead the ceremony.

“Ladies and Gentlemen, we gather here today to both celebrate and renew. We are to witness Sam and Vanessa Bard repeat their wedding vows. There is no reason to explain the need for such a ritual other than to say a new starting point is desired. Sam and Vanessa come to us today in all humility to proclaim their love. Let us give them support and show them our love as they embark on the rest of their lives together. They are joined by today’s newlyweds both in this ceremony and in their livelihoods. We are privileged to be guests at the McCain–Bard Ranch which is now a joint effort. These men have been working alongside each other for years and now they are as one. Let us wish them well in this endeavor to meet the future head on. Please join me in prayer.”

“Father in heaven we gather before you on this occasion to ask your blessings upon Sam and Vanessa. Here are two souls joined in your Holy Matrimony long ago that wish to express their feelings once more. Perhaps there has been some time away from each other in recent years, but their love has never waivered. Let their calling to be together once more remain strong for the rest of their lives. May we rejoice with them now as they stand before us in your glory. We ask this in Christ’s name, Amen.”

“We will now witness as Sam and Vanessa recite their vows. Sam Bard, you come before us now to proclaim your love for Vanessa.”

“Yes I do.” Sam and Vanessa turned to face each other. “Vanessa my love, so very long ago I gave you my word that I would love only you for the rest of my life. I know there have been some bumps in the road along our journey. I am here today to let you and all present know that I do love only you. My love is forever. I want you by my side until we reach the end of our time on earth. All that I work for is for naught without your love.

I promise to honor and cherish you in all that I do.”

Vanessa stood silent for just a moment as the Reverend changed his attention to her. “Vanessa Bard, you come before us to proclaim your love for Sam.”

“I do. Sam, you are my only love. We have faced so many years together and the bumps in our road are to be expected as we travel side by side. I am here today to let you and all present know that I love only you. My love is forever and I promise to be by your side until we reach the end of our time on earth. And God willing, we shall be one in the great beyond. I promise to honor and cherish you in all that I do.”

The couple turned to face the Reverend once again. “Sam and Vanessa Bard, you have both expressed before us the desire to honor and cherish each other in all that you do until you reach the end of your days upon earth. All present have witnessed your renewal of these vows and are here to support you. All along your road of life you have been one in the eyes of God. He does not waiver. He requires of us to be true and our vows are a symbol of the great responsibility we take on when we are wed. I am confident in your proclamation and I pray that all the days of your lives shall be full of joy and success. Ladies and Gentlemen, I give unto you the Bard Family, safe and secure in the love we all share from this day forward! Sam Bard, you may now kiss your wife!”

Sam embraced Vanessa and they kissed as the audience cheered. Lucas took Aubrey by the hand as they joined behind them to form a brief procession away from the podium and down a center aisle in the tables. The rest of the commotion was informal. People rose to greet and throw rice and flowers. Everyone was glad to finally be able to seek the shade. After some time mingling, the couples made their way back to the podium. Sam shook hands with Reverend Jamison and then addressed everyone.

“I want to thank all of you for joining us today. This is the happiest day of our lives. To start our celebration I am going to open with a toast.” Glasses of champagne were passed out to as many as possible. “To all of you that help to make this day worthwhile, may we live on forever in the joy we share. We thank you for your love and best wishes and cherish your friendship.” Lucas turned to Aubrey and Sam to Vanessa as they crossed arms and drank their champagne. After another round of cheers, Sam released everyone to party! “Now you all get comfortable while I fire up the grill. We have plenty of everything. We’ll be starting dinner in a short while, but feel free to eat anything and everything whenever you desire. We are here to enjoy! Thank You!”

The sun fell low in the sky but the heat remained as dinner began. A row of tables held the many dishes and drinks as guests passed by the grill to load up on the beef, pork, and chicken. Sam had the help of Lucas and William while the ladies stayed in their gowns at the front tables. Once everyone was situated and had their fill the time came for speeches. First up was Sam, the Best Man.

“Lucas McCain! It has been my honor to be at your side on this great day. In turn, thank you for being my Best Man. We have a partnership that has endured throughout the years. Our families cannot get any closer unless we try to live in one house. But our strength is in the fact that no building can contain our energy. In this spirit I know we shall find success and grow to fulfill our dreams for family and friends alike. I could call what we do a business and that we shall surely be, however, we work towards so much more. We have but to pool our resources to make magic. Just look at the magic we have before us today!” Sam waved his glass towards the guests. “Thank you Lucas, my brother. We are together with many brothers on this day. May you and Aubrey find great joy in all that you do, as we will in turn take great joy in being part of your lives!”

Lucas stood up and they hugged during the cheers. “Sam Bard, my brother, thank you for sharing your life with me throughout the years. We have formed a partnership, but that is nothing but formality in comparison to the close family we have been all along. We never hesitate to share and neither has anyone here. We can’t ask for any better proof of success than to see so many great friends in one place. I could talk for hours about what we mean to each other. More important though, may we carry on in the years to come. We are limited only by the imagination given all that we have before us to achieve. I believe that God’s blessings have watched over us from the start. Thank all of you for being here today, our success is your success, I salute you!” Sam and Lucas shared a toast among many cheers. Happy faces looked up to envision the brotherhood shared by the best of friends. Aubrey and Vanessa stood to join their husbands as they waved their glasses.

Once the noise settled down, Aubrey took her turn to speak her mind. “Never has a day gone by since I have met Lucas McCain that I haven’t said to myself, this is the best day of my life. No matter what comes our way, I know that this will be my thought before any other. I feel so at home in North Fork and with every one of you fine people. By joining my life with this man I am making a promise to all of you to be the best friend I possibly can. May we live long and love always. To my Maid of Honor, Lou Mallory, you have become a dear sister to me. No finer friend can I ask for to begin this new life. Thank you for joining me and standing at my side. Thanks to all of you, I am feeling the magic we are sharing today!” Lou stood up and shared a hug with Aubrey. The tears fell and the cheers took a long time to subside.

Lou wiped the tears from her eyes and looked over the many friends in front of her. “Aubrey, you have given me new reason and direction. Thank you for being my friend. It has been the greatest honor of my life to be at your side on this day. I promise to never leave as we go forward. I look towards the coming years as a time for North Fork to shine. No finer citizens can there be to form a city of our dreams. All of us welcome you with the warmest of friendship. It makes us proud to see you and Lucas stand together as one. I see in you two the hopes and dreams of everyone here. May we learn from each other and be the best that we can be!” Lou burst into tears all over again as Aubrey embraced her. She knew this would be difficult for Lou. It didn’t hit her as hard during the day, but this moment brought all of the emotion to the surface. Lou couldn’t help but let it flow out. Aubrey got her to sit down while Vanessa raised her glass and waited for the commotion to calm down.

“Ladies and Gentlemen, I will be brief. Some of you have known me for a long time. North Fork has given me plenty of lessons over the years. It wasn’t until I came home for my lovely daughter’s wedding that I was able to see clearly. Life is not what we sometimes grow up to think it is. I became blinded by my desire to cling to my old ways from childhood. With open eyes today I can surely see the light in all of you. I had but to see Sam’s eyes as Ann took her vows a few weeks ago. It made me feel as if I have lost a great deal of time being away from Sam, Ann, and everyone here. Thank you for joining us in our rebirth. Enough of these tears now, we are here to celebrate!”

There were many gifts to be opened and this took time. A soft breeze cooled and gave rise to more toasts and drink. Emma came forward to sing a love song while a wedding cake was brought out and placed front and center. Aubrey brought forth one of the nicer gifts, a fine silver cutlery set. She drew from the block a very large carving knife. Lucas joined her as they held hands to make the first cut. Sam and Vanessa were then given the knife to make a second cut. Vanessa finished removing four pieces of cake, one for each. As they started to motion towards taking a bite, both ladies smirked at each other and smashed the cake into their husband’s faces! Laughter erupted. Sam and Lucas promptly rubbed their pieces into their wife’s faces and they shared the mess. Aubrey stood back and made sure that nothing got onto her gown. They took a moment to wipe up and the music for a brief dance began. More cakes were brought out and others from the guests came forward. The couples danced for a short time while photographs were taken. Once the cake was finished, the front tables were taken away to make room for a formal dance so some of the guests could join in with the newlyweds. Aubrey was once again twisting and turning in her gown, but she was a trooper and danced with many. A gathering was forming in the lodge so Emma could get her small band of actors ready for a presentation. She managed to convince a few to volunteer for a short comedy routine and more singing. The stage was going to be the deck in front of the lodge so the tables had to be removed. The band continued with the music and dance until Emma came out to begin the show with a song.

The audience was very pleased with Emma’s version of a popular show tune “A Rancher’s Wife, That’s Me!” It told of a young woman looking forward to finding a husband rancher as she sits among her maiden companions. At the end her wish comes true, of course. This had a great effect on Lucas and Aubrey. They sat together on a bench with cushions right up front. The comic act was adapted from the same show, “Western Life, Western Wife”. Mark played a young man, similar to his real self, set to become a rancher. He had a number of women interested in him and must disappoint all but one. A familiar theme in many stage plays, but this one gave Mark a chance to ham it up a little about his Pa. At first he was seen talking with his mother, Emma, about what a perfect girl would be like. He used most of his Pa’s description from long ago. Little did Lucas know that is why Mark brought it up as they got ready for the wedding, he chuckled as he thought about it. Little did Aubrey know that this is what Lucas really thought at one time! Mother told her son that scrubbing and sewing are great skills for a wife to possess but that nothing can replace true love. You can like eyes of blue and hair as fair and blonde, but no one knows until the time comes just what one will find in love.

In the next scene Mark met with a blonde girl and sings a love song to her. But several wealthy girls were doing their best to get his attention. The comedy came about as two of the hopefuls met with Mark one by one and exposed their vanity. Mark had a good time dismissing each one as he discovered their faults, even though he was at first attracted. Meanwhile his true love saw this going on and became worried. Finally she got up the nerve to storm into Mark’s parlor to confront him about his visitors. All of these girls were real life friends of Mark from school days. Emma coached them to act.

“Oh Mark, my love, are we not bound by fate to be lovers?”

“Becky, you know that I care only for you!”

“Well, I’ll have you know that I saw those girls come to you today. What was that all about?”

“Uh, uh, I cannot lie. They thought they had a chance at my heart, why else?”

“And what did you say to them?” Becky stamped her feet firmly and grabbed her hips.

“Well, I listened mostly. I wasn’t exactly asking them to approach me.” Mark stood uneasy seeming very worried.

“And can I expect to hear gossip about me next time we gals see each other in town?”

“I didn’t tell them anything about you. They have no reason from me to say a thing.” Mark thought that was what she wanted to hear.

Becky huffed and showed her discontent. “Why I want them to gossip, I want them to know. You must be proud of me if we are to be in love.”

“But Becky, I am proud of you. I only thought it right to let them do the talking.”

“Well, what did they say then?”

Mark by now was nervous and wanting out of this trouble. “They only told me of how they could impress me with their riches. Neither one knew a thing about ranching.

“You know I have been a hard worker on my father’s ranch!”

“That I do, believe me, I do! I told each of them that I’d expect them to cook, sew and scrub, maybe even ride with me on the range.”

“And what happened then?”

“They about turned and ran!” This brought on laughter. “It was too funny if you ask me. I didn’t want them to think that I was just looking for an excuse to get rid of them. It was their idea to leave.”

“I see. And do you expect me to cook, sew, and scrub all day?”

“Well, not all day!” Mark smiled and looked hopefully at Becky.

“Ok, only half the day then!” Becky continued to seem disturbed.

“Why, you don’t have to do any of those things if you don’t want to! I just want you. Love doesn’t mean a list of chores and requirements. All I know is I want you!”

Becky, now relaxed, walked toward Mark and grabbed him by the shoulders. “All I can promise you is that I can do all of those things as any rancher’s wife would. But I’m not going to be any man’s slave.”

“I wouldn’t think of you as a slave. We both have work to do if we are to be wed and live on a ranch.”

“I see. Then there will be plenty of work though?” Becky smiled even more as the laughter rose again.

“I don’t see any way to do it without work, do you?” Mark looked out at the audience with a worried face.

“Just as long as all those other girls think they would be slaves to a scrub brush, I’ll work with you my love!” Becky and Mark kissed and the audience sensed it was time to applaud.

After they kissed, they stood back looking each other in the eyes. Mark then reached over and picked up his guitar and sang a favorite love song. This one his Pa knew well. “You’re Something Special to Me”. Tears formed in Aubrey’s eyes. She gazed over to Lucas and, by golly, she saw a small tear starting to form. Mark had a great way of affecting people with his singing. His voice was just a bit deeper now and he had excellent expression. Emma’s coaching was shinning bright. Mark did his best to keep a straight face and a dry eye as he gazed down upon his Ma and Pa. Before it was over there were not many dry eyes present. Emma came back out to the front of the stage and sang another song from the original play as the rest of the cast formed alongside her and joined in. Needless to say, everyone went crazy with cheers!

When things settled down Lucas and Aubrey came up on stage to share more hugs. Father and Son shared a very special moment looking out over their many friends. Not much else could happen to top how they all felt by this time. Aubrey stepped forward with flowers in hand. She waved them around for a few moments until the single gals could find a place in front. Before she turned around, Aubrey made a note as to where Lou was going to be and did her best to launch the bundle in her direction. But Lou did not make any effort to catch them. They were mildly fought over and wound up in the hands of a local young girl. She pranced around and laughed with her friends. Lou smiled and went back to sit down. Next was Lucas at the ready. He took a garter and stretched it out as a cloth was wrapped over his eyes. Mark kept safe by remaining on stage. Lucas had in mind to send his shot in the direction of one Peter Snipe! The garter shot out and right at Peter. His bulk gave him advantage as he reached forward to bring it in! He danced around and snickered loud. Lucas could tell he hit his mark, ever the sharpshooter!

The garter shot brought about the final toast and well wishing from Lucas and Sam. They bade their friends somewhat of a good night as they went into the lodge to change clothes and then mingle with their friends. The band played on and the lodge opened to a full bar. Some guests where already soaking in the cool water of the sauna. Later, when the evening air was cool enough, Mark and Will stoked the fire and heated a new batch of water. Micah was understandably first in line for that. His hip was giving him fits and beer was his only way of soothing it until now. Lucas, Sam, and Bat joined him in the first group. The four amigos had finally reached the relaxation part of the affair. Bat was going to play cards eventually. He was a bit weary of it though. Sam brought his decanter and four shot glasses. They sat in the warm water in total bliss.

Lucas slapped Micah on the back and raised his glass. “Thank you brother, you did us proud today. I knew you could do the job!”

“Lucas Boy, that was the last time I will ever conduct a wedding!”

“Don’t say that Micah, Mark might need you someday.”

“That boy better keep his mind in his books.”

“I made him promise me that. But he sure made being in love look convincing a little while ago.”

Bat laughed hard. “He sure did, why I’d say the lad has eyes on that Becky, she is cute.”

“He kind of always did have a thing for her. I’ll keep that in mind.” Lucas smiled and sat back deeper in the water.

“And that song, he darned near made me cry. That son of yours is a natural born performer, maybe he should give that profession some thought.” Bat winked at Lucas as he said that.

“Now, now, buddy. Let us get over having one performer in the family before suggesting that. I don’t know if I could take it!”

“You must know that traits such as that follow from father to son. I’ve heard him sing quite a few times now. Emma says he has real talent.”

“I know that is true. But he has to learn to follow through with his studies first. He has a long life ahead of him and all of his talents can come into play if he lets them.” Lucas looked up with just his face jutting out of the water to see a certain son of his looking right down at him!

“Is that right Pa? I can become a singer someday! Can I?” Mark laughed heartily.

“Lucas put his hand up to shake hands with Mark. “I’ll shake on it boy!” Mark reached down not thinking and Lucas pulled him right into the water. “That’ll teach ya to sneak up on me! And that’s for kidding me about a perfect wife too!” Lucas laughed even harder and Mark took a place on the steps, it was no good trying to get dry now.

“Pa, you have about a perfect a wife as any man I’ve seen. She’s my Mom now! Better not work her too hard.” Everyone joined in the laughter as Aubrey came up to overhear the joshing.

“I have plenty of work lined up for your father son!” Lucas jerked around to see his wife standing behind him.

“I’ll be right with ya my dear!” She knew what that meant, and so did everyone else!

More laughter could be heard as guests started gathering around the sauna.

“Wish I could get down into that warm water!” Judge Hanavan said.

“Would ya really like to Judge? We can get a few of us to help you.” Lucas replied.

“If I can borrow some skivvies afterwards!” The judge laughed. This is too good of an idea to turn down a chance to try it out. Why, I’d dare say every ranch could use one of these!”

A familiar snicker could be heard as Peter Snipe commented. “Trust me Judge, I was in that sucker the other night and I slept like a baby afterwards.”

“A few shots of good whiskey didn’t happen to have anything to do with that did it Snipe?” Lucas came back.

“Sure did. A sauna and sauce, no better way to relax if’n ya ask me!” Peter’s snicker gave way to group laughter.

Lucas and Sam got out of the water and joined Mark in order to help the judge get ready for a soak. Micah remained with Bat in the sauna. The Judge had a little trouble getting ready but they managed to lift him from the wheel chair and carry him into the water. Mark checked the fire and asked if the water was warm enough. It was easy to drain old water and add new to adjust the temperature and soon the sauna was perfectly full of both men and water. Mark led the others away so they could have a few moments to themselves to soak and chat.

“Well Lucas, this is the life. I can’t get over this contraption, what brought about the idea?”

“Mark mostly, but we were thinking of Micah at the time.”

“Now don’t blame this all on me Lucas Boy!”

“I won’t. It became a great idea the more we thought about it and we would have built it with or without ya! But the fact remains that it has been doing you a world of good.”

“Darn right it has! Much easier than getting in and out of a tub in town. And it stays hot longer too! My hip feels much better now. Hope it does the same for you Judge!” Micah took a sip on his whiskey and offered the decanter to the Judge after his refill.

“I’d say my hips are both a far piece more gone than yours are Micah, but I can tell you that this feels great. My old bones need relief all over my body at this stage. Thank you Lucas. Maybe I can get some advice from Mark on how to get one of these built out at my place.”

“I’d say that’s a great idea. He’s drawn up some plans and they can probably work about anywhere. Just have to have a source of water I reckon.”

“Well, I think we have us a good idea. Think Mark would like to make money at this? I know some people that might be interested. Let me put in a word for him.”

“That’s very nice of you Judge. Mark is going back to school though. But I think he deserves some sort of recognition for his idea.” Lucas sighed as he realized yet another distraction for Mark in the offing.

“I can see that he receives a patent on this design for a start. I’m sure others will make improvements but he could do well as the royalties come in. I’ll look into it when I get home.”

“You’re always kind and generous to see others do well Judge. I’ll always remember you for that!” Lucas smiled.

“Your success is my success son. That goes for everyone in North Fork. What good does it do to be a judge if there isn’t anyone around doing well? If all I did was pass judgment and take then we would have a ghost town by now. And I’d probably be just another crotchety old man. Why, I’ve been rich all these years in the knowledge that men such as you are working hard and honest. My being here to see it is my reward!”

Bat couldn’t help chiming in. “It’s my honor to know you Judge. I haven’t met too many like you in my travels. But my short time in North Fork is proof enough of what you proclaim.”

“Thank you Marshal Masterson! Coming from you, I am greatly honored! Why I am in the presence of greatness all around. I’m starting to sound like a ruddy politician. Where’s that John Hamilton, he could do well to fill out this group!”

“Right behind ya Judge! Room for a sixth man in this thing?”

“John! We should have asked you over here from the start! It’s a might crowded, but come on in.” Lucas got everyone to shuffle around to make room. “I’ll sit on the steps, I’ve been in here long enough as it is.”

“Me too Sam volunteered. I could just about fall asleep from all this relaxin’!”

Before long all six men were soaked and ready to get out. Lucas went off to find the Judge some new under garments and then the sauna was ready for a new batch of cowboy soakers. The party raged on into the late night hours. Well before the end though, Lucas and Aubrey made a grand exit in their new carriage. With such a large crowd it would be impossible for the newlyweds to have them a proper amount of privacy for their wedding night. Lou had the very best room ready for them in town. To be sure there would be no Shivaree antics, the rooms on either side remained empty and a close watch by the help kept anyone from approaching the room.

The Rifleman's Serenade — Finally!

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

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