The Rifleman
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The Continuing Saga of The Rifleman

Rifleman: Generations--
 Home Ranch Homecoming
 
Chapter 2 - Welcome Home
Written by Wayne Skiver aka Winchester4440

Three miles outside of town sat the McCain Ranch.  Originally 4100 acres purchased in 1881 by Lucas McCain.  Over the years as property lines were squared up and neighboring ranches came and went the McCain land eventually settled in at an even 4600 acres.

The ranch had remained virtually the same as it was since the 1800’s with the exception of a new house and barn built circa 1898 on the south side of the property.  This “New” house as the family still called it had been built for Mark McCain and his wife.  The original ranch house where the legendary Lucas McCain lived and raised his son Mark still stood as did the original barn, it was a matter of pride and tradition that the McCain family had always kept the place up and in good repair.  To visit the “Old House” was like stepping back in time.  Lucas and Mark had added a second bedroom to it after North Fork’s favorite son had married his second wife, Ann, in 1889.  Lucas had never wanted power lines “spoiling the view” and as such the original ranch house remained electricity free.  Even so there were no comforts lacking.  The well pump set up still functioned easily and kerosene lanterns offered plenty of light.  It was a cozy, warm place and many times over the decades a member of the family had gone back to their roots by staying in the place a week or so at a time.  Most of the original furnishings had even been left intact.  The corral and barn were still used on occasion too.

Chance and Jake pulled into the long, gravel drive behind Sheriff Bodie that led to the New house, the house that Chance had grown up in.  Jake couldn’t help but notice an involuntary smile cross his father’s features as the place came into view.  He looked out at the rolling hills in the distance, the wild grass growing tall and free and something inside Jake stirred too.  He wasn’t sure what it was he was feeling, but he knew it was right.

“This is home Dad?”

Chance brought the truck to a stop in front of the two story house and with a quiet nod and got out of the truck and walked around to meet his son on the other side.  With his strong arm around his boy he turned towards the simple majesty of the land around them.
 
“The canyon, the herd, every rock, every tree, every blade of grass…its all ours son.  Yes this is home.”

“Truer words were never spoken.”  Came a voice from the porch behind them.
Turning around the two beheld an older man in a wheelchair.  A warm smile was etched across his weather worn, rugged face and his hair was mostly silver with remnants of reddish blonde.  The old man’s eyes lit up as he looked his son and grandson over.

“Grandpa!”  Jake yelled with a smile as he ran up and threw his arms around Norman McCain’s neck.  The older man laughed and hugged the boy in return.
“It does my heart good to finally have you out on the ranch Jake.”  He beamed.
“And its good to have you back where you belong son.”  He smiled at Chance who had stepped up and put his hand on his fathers shoulder.

Sheriff Bodie couldn’t help but be pleased himself at seeing his friends’ happy reunion.

“Now maybe you two can keep this old coot in the saddle instead of laying under it!”

“This chair isn’t permanent Jake.”  The elder McCain stated in reply to the sheriffs quip.  “I was riding and got thrown when my horse was spooked by a rattler.  I don’t heal as well as I used to, the chair is to keep me from putting undue stress on my legs and hips for a while.”

Bodie gave Jake a friendly slap on the back.

“Take care of your grandpa son, I need to get back to North Fork.  I’ll see you fellas around.”

As the sheriff left, the three generations of  McCain's entered the home that Mark McCain had built over a hundred years earlier.  There was talk of many things but what held young Jakes interest the most was the talk of the fried chicken they were having that night for supper.

The next few days were spent with Jake listening to tales of his fathers youth growing up on the ranch and Chance teaching the boy about horses.  Young Jake took to riding easily, it was in the blood after all.  This had been the right move for the two, true happiness had begun to return to their faces.  No small feat after the loss of a wife and mother.

On the first Saturday living on the ranch, Chance and Jake saddled up to take a ride together, a ride to the original McCain ranch house.  It stood as it had for the past century as they approached it, like stepping back to a simpler time.  The two reigned up and just stared, taking in the rustic scenery of their ancestral homestead.  Chance pushed the brim of his hat back.

“You’ve heard all the stories about Lucas son.  This is where he lived, this is where a real life legend of the Old West hung his hat!”

Jake looked at the old house and barn, the broken down buckboard beside it.
“They really called him the Rifleman dad?

“Yes son they did.”  Nodded Chance.  “He was faster with his special-made Winchester than most any gunslinger around.”

He looked sternly at the boy as he continued.

“But he wasn’t a gunfighter, he took no pleasure in having to use his rifle against another man.  He only did it to uphold what was right.”

“Can we look inside?”  asked Jake excitedly.
 
“Look inside?  Why I figured we could stay the night if you wanted to!  I told your Grandpa I was taking you out to connect to your roots.”  The big man smiled as he spoke.

“Yee-Haa!”  squealed the boy as he spurred his horse towards the front of the old house.

His father started to yell at him to slow down, but just shook his head with a grin as the boy galloped away.  It seemed like the lures of technology and the city had slipped away and that wasn’t a bad thing he thought.

The ancient buckboard wagon had caught Jake’s eye and after he hitched his horse to the porch rail he trotted over towards the barn to check it out.

 Meanwhile Chance entered the front door and took in the sights of his youth, the same sights that his father, grandfather, and great-grandfather had also seen… home.  The place was maintained as if it was always lived in, 120 year old china in the cabinet, the same wooden table and chairs that had been there from the first day the house was built.  The one small difference was the relatively new portrait which hung over the fireplace, a painting of Lucas McCain and his son Mark as a young boy.  The painting had been placed there in the 1950’s by Mark McCain himself.  On the bookshelf was a book written by Mark as well, penned in 1958 it was a memoir of his life growing up in the North Fork of the 1880’s and the exploits of his father.  The book was titled “The Rifleman”.

Chance took the book down off the shelf with an involuntary reverence, but before he could open it to the title page the sound of his boy letting out a startled cry jostled him into action!  Bursting from the house out towards the barn the big man moved with fatherly determination just as young Jake was running in the opposite direction with a look of horror on his face.  Chance grabbed the boy as he ran towards him.

“What is it son?  What’s wrong?”
“The back of the barn!  Theres a man!  I…I think he's dead!”  Choked out the 12 year old.

Chance reassured his son and told him to stay by the horses.  With a determined look he strode into the old barn, taking up a weathered axe handle propped by the entrance as he walked by it.

As dim shafts of light filtered through the sides of the ancient building a shape could be seen by the last stable on the left.  There laying in the straw was a man.  He was absolutely still and a cautious McCain smelled the coppery tinge of fresh blood the closer he got.

Narrowed eyes scanned the area for signs of anyone else, nothing, not a sound or a sign save for the body at his feet.  He rolled the man over with his boot to discover a terrible wound in his chest.  The man had been murdered!

It was no one Chance recognized and all in all the stranger seemed rather well dressed in an expensive suit.  Unlikely that he was a local all the way out here dressed as he was.  Had someone dumped him here?  It couldn’t have been very long ago from the looks of the body.  A grim thought occurred.  Whoever was responsible would have seen he and Jake approaching on horseback from a good ways off.  They had probably scared the culprit away.  Chance turned on his heel and hurried back to his son.  It was an unsettling thought that a killer could still be nearby.

In fact someone was closer than Chance suspected.  Someone who was very scared and being very still and quiet had been watching both father and son as they had entered and exited the barn.  In the shadows of the hayloft Mitch Russell was trembling in absolute fear.  Fear of being caught, fear of going to jail, or worse…  In his sweaty right hand he clenched a rifle, a vintage Winchester 44/40 with a cut down barrel and a large loop lever.  He had been asked by a well dressed man to procure this antique rifle from the old McCain property.  The man was a collector he had said.  Mitch Russell was only too happy to steal from the McCain’s, but he never expected to see the man who had hired him get brutally murdered right in front of him.  If not for the unexpected sound of the Man and his son coming Mitch Russell would be dead too, he knew it.  The murderer had slipped out the back of the barn and Mitch had hidden in the hayloft mere seconds before the boy had entered.  The local hooligan was in serious trouble now, but how could he tell anyone?  Who would believe a known rough neck like him?
Mitch knew one thing for sure, the man who killed the collector would be back to finish the job.  He would also be back for the rifle.  A rifle that Mitch had stolen from a secret hiding place in the old house that his “employer” seemed to know about.

Rifleman: Generations - XXXXX

These stories are based on the TV series The Rifleman
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