The Rifleman
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The Battle Within A Young Gun
Written by Frank Charles aka weinerdawgy

Chapter Nineteen — Back To Work

Lucas returned to a busy time on his ranch. Sam’s men were fast at work building a bunkhouse and enlarging the stables. Sam planned to start out by adding most of his cattle to the McCain herd. His prime stock and milk cows would remain at his ranch. Some of the work horse operation would move over later, once the new stables were ready. The competition and riding horses would remain at the Bard stables. The original McCain barn and house would go untouched and the new buildings were far enough away to not intrude. Razor, Blue Boy, Flash, and Spirit were used to spending time on both ranches and would always keep their own stalls. Will was involved with showing the new foreman around the property in order to size up the resources. It was mildly cold and the men enjoyed the comfort as they worked on the buildings. There was still a possibility of snow storms all the way into March. If they could get the preparations completed by that time, the cattle could have a full season at pasture and a larger herd would be ready for market.
Lucas was tired from the long ride home. In one week he was going to be leaving for Santa Fe. Micah went home to rest his backside and planned to take the stage when the time came. Sam, Will, and Ann were looking forward to riding along with Lucas on horseback. Before that was to happen, Lucas wanted to review the books with Sam and make sure he agreed with what plans were to be enacted in the coming months. No matter how good of a friend Sam was, Lucas still needed time to get used to the idea of letting someone else control his ranch. He didn’t anticipate any real problem, he simply wanted to know that the roads of change were going to go both ways. Since he had just taken part in Mark’s efforts with his cabin, he figured it would be a good idea if he had some place on Sam’s spread to rest his bones and hide out. It would also be good for others who wanted to use it. On the second evening after his return, he went to the Bard Ranch for dinner. They first had a great time sharing Christmas stories. Lucas loved the way Will proposed to Ann, but was disappointed to have not been there. Once everyone was caught up,

Lucas and Sam took the decanter to the easy chairs for negotiations.

“Well Sam, things are moving right along. Your men are doing a great job preparing my property. I like the site for the bunkhouse, I’m looking forward to the time when I won’t have to keep such a close eye on things. I like your choice for foreman. Asa Wright is a good man. He and I have always gotten along.”
“That was the deciding factor in the end analysis. I wanted to be sure that you would enjoy working with the man I chose. He’s had the longest tenure here and deserved it the most. I could never have let go of my foreman here, Charlie knows the horses too well and he told me that he would rather remain. He kind of thinks of himself as a second father to Ann anyhow, I like that. I think he’ll get along with Will better as time goes by.”

“It all makes sense to me Sam, I’m happy. It occurred to me that there will be times when I may not want to stay at my ranch. What would you say if I wanted to build a small cabin someplace in the woods nearby?”

“I think that’s a great idea. We’ll take a ride out back tomorrow and select a spot. I’d like it if you were here more often and it can help cut down on your travels back and forth. Maybe I can even sneak back there and hide out sometimes. Let’s make it somewhat larger and more comfortable than a cabin.”

“Great! That might give our two lovebirds the main house and the privacy they’ll want in the future. You’ll get plenty of time alone there when I travel. And that will free up my house for other’s if there’s a need. That might happen soon in fact if my Sister’s family comes to visit in the summer.”

“I’d really like to meet them. I hope they can be here if we have a June wedding!”

“That’s exactly what we talked about. All we need is for Will and Ann to cooperate.”

“I suppose we should ask them about all of this soon, but I don’t want to rush things. You know Ann needs to think about it more than Will does, he knows what he wants. She does too, but she is a slow mover, unless it comes to Flash!”

“Hah, she’s a flash alright. That girl can ride with the best of them.” Lucas looked over at the gun cabinet. “And she can shoot as straight too!”

“Yup, we had quite a conversation about that. She’s concerned about your plans to put on those shows.”

“It seems everyone is. I wish there was so much concern when I had to shoot it out with the real bad guys!”

“You bet Lucas old boy, this town depended on you for a long time. Now they think they know how to look out for you. Poppycock! I say. Nobody knows the score better than you, not even Masterson.”

“I’ll reserve judgment on that comment. Bat is a legitimate sharpshooter, you have to see him in action.”

“Alright, I’m just tryin’ to root for you. What I think is that you need to do this, get it out of your system. You had a taste of the action back in Yuma. We’ve talked it all over before. Make some money and you can free yourself up to do whatever you want. This ranch business is going to work, we have what it takes already. I’m with you all the way and I want to be there to enjoy some of the fun as well.”

“Thanks Sam. I can always trust in you, I’ll never forget that. All we have to hope for now is some good weather. Bat should be in Santa Fe by now, I’m anxious to get on the way. How are we fixed for feed, are the cattle set while we are away?”

“The cattle on your ranch will need more feed before the winter’s over. I’m planning to move part of my herd over there in maybe a week. I think I can supply what’s needed, and if not, I’ll make it happen. I want to see the operation in full swing by the end of March. You’re free to do what you need to. Asa assures me it will all get done no matter what the weather does.”

“Is there enough water? I was just getting by last year.”
“I think we’ll be alright. We’ve had more rain this winter than normal. We can always move some cattle back here if there’s trouble. That won’t matter until later in the year anyhow.”

“Yes, I’m just trying to think of everything at once. When we get back from Santa Fe we can start mapping out all the details. Asa has the best mind for all of this, I trust him.”

“Exactly, we can let the men take care of both ranches. We’ll only be gone for a few weeks at best. By then, we’ll know better what will be happening further into the year.”

“Sam, we’re in for a good time, you haven’t been away from the ranch in several years.”

“That’s for sure. I’m ready, the horses are ready, and the lovebirds want to fly. Do you think we should take a wagon along for the trip?”

“Let’s see about it, Micah and I are darn sore right now. He wants to go by stage and I don’t blame him one bit!”

“Yah, but we may have more luggage to take along than pack horses can handle, maybe I can take the wagon most of the way.”

“I won’t mind if you don’t, but I want to be on horseback most of the time. I know Will and Ann will feel the same.”

“I’ll give it some thought, there may be some things to bring back also. I get plenty of riding time here as it is.” Sam refilled their drinks while Lucas put another log on the fire.

“I haven’t heard anything about Donaldson, do you think Jack will behave himself?”

“Talk is that Walt may need help. He won’t want to ask us, but I figure we should be ready for him to. Jack is still forlorn, but he’s been that way for years. I wish I had more to go on, he worries me.”

“I don’t know why there always has to be a problem child in our midst. I’m glad Ann is going with us Sam. We need to keep a sharp eye out for Jack.”

“I won’t go easy on him if he makes any more trouble, my daughter does not deserve his harassment. Walt and I go way back, you’ve known him as long I guess. He can have all the help he needs, but he better control Jack, that is, if he can.”
“Jack is a grown man, Walt can only talk to him. I was happy with him when we met in Lamy.

“We should all talk when we get back then.”

“Of course, I like Walt and he should know we support him, no matter what Jack does. Maybe we should tell Asa and Charlie to make that known to him is he should try to contact us while we’re away.”

“Good idea Lucas, I’ll talk to both of them and we should also have a regular meeting once a week or so as things are getting started. I want you to feel free to speak to them at any time, we are equals in this effort, always know that.
“I appreciate that Sam, we are the best of friends, no matter what goes on in the business. Our many years together have been as brothers seeing eye to eye. I promise to keep things that way.”

“As shall I. Now let me fill your glass and we will drink to it!”
Sam and Lucas ended the evening listening to the horses in the stables as they walked about outside the house. Flash and Spirit were especially noisy in anticipation of the coming trip.

When Jack returned from his self imposed banishment in the mountain cold he became quiet and distant, not talking to anyone in town or at home. Walt was not surprised but also knew that nothing good would be brewing. By this time, talk around town about Lucas and his plans to put on the show with Masterson was very widespread. Jack was well aware and had nothing but resentful things to think about it. He always took pride in his own marksmanship. After all, Lucas was his early teacher. He had just been out practicing in the mountains and felt as sharp as ever. “If he had one of those fancy rifles he could be just as good as Lucas”, was all he could feel about his former mentor. It didn’t please him one bit that Lucas was responsible for Fulton getting out of prison. The fact was, he had a newer Winchester with a standard lever and two Colt .45 pistols. He was getting low on ammunition after his practice sessions and was on his way into town to get more.

Jack walked into his father’s usual general store, owned by Turner Ward. Turner was not aware of the situation concerning Ann. He also didn’t know about the financial problems at the Donaldson ranch. Jack had no problem getting the ammunition on his father’s account and was about to go unnoticed until Ann’s friend, Julie, happened by. She tried to look away as he passed by her on the way out. Julie saw the small boxes in Jack’s hands and knew right away what they were. Jack put the boxes in his saddlebag and was on his way before Julie decided to walk into the store. She looked around and settled on some material for a new dress.

“Well, hello there Julie, it’s nice to see you. That’s some fine material, I get it from back east. It comes from New York.”

“I like it very much, just the right color too. It’s so smooth. I’ll bet the gals at church will love it.”

“I think so, it has not been here long, so you can be among the first to wear it.”
“That’s good to know Mister Ward, It’s no fun finding out such things are popular by being seen at church by others wearing the same thing. Will it be available in other colors besides blue?”

“This bolt is a first sample, I can order it in many colors and patterns if you like. It would take about two weeks to get here though.”

“That would be fine. I’ll take some of this now and perhaps I will be back later for an order then. Thank you.” Julie watched as Turner cut the cloth to length.
“Can I ask you a question Mister Ward?”

“Why sure, what is it Julie?”

“Well, with all the excitement about Lucas McCain and the gun show in Santa Fe, I was wondering if your sales for guns and bullets have gone up since word has gotten around. Some of the ladies at church are concerned that this may cause more trouble than usual if some of the boy’s egos are aroused, maybe they will be more willing to shoot at signs in the streets and things like that. We just want to keep an eye out while this commotion goes on.”

“Well, I have sold more than normal if you want to put it that way. You take that fellow, Donaldson, just before you came in. He seemed very intent on his target practice. I know his father, and he doesn’t go through that much in four month’s time. Those bullets are not cheap either. I try to be very careful, we don’t sell to children or anything like that.”

“That’s reassuring. I suppose Jack has good reason to need those bullets, maybe he is going hunting soon. We’ve known each other a long time. I don’t think he would be any trouble. But we girls like to help look out for this town, it is the children we are most concerned about. We don’t want them to get the wrong ideas about guns. I hope things go well for Lucas and I am glad to know that most of the store owners are responsible.”

“Well, I’m certainly glad to know that you ladies are so well organized, you just keep on with your concerns and I’ll be happy to let you all know if I see anything unusual going on. I’m supposed to keep the marshal informed as well. I keep exact records of the ammo sales as it is.”

“I feel much better knowing that Mister Ward, thank you. I’m sure all the girls enjoy your store and I’ll be sure to showcase this new fabric for you real soon. I’ve got some sewing to do. I better get on home!” Julie knew she had something of note to tell Ann. It might not mean anything, but with Jack, nothing could be overlooked.

Jack rode home and went to work cleaning his firearms and getting ready to take another camping trip. This time, he was headed to Santa Fe, but he wasn’t going to let anyone know what he was up to. He told his father he wanted to do a little hunting and maybe wind up in Santa Fe to see the show. Walt needed to stay on the ranch as his few remaining hands could not do all the work alone. He didn’t mind if Jack took off though, he wasn’t much help anyhow. He told his son that he better behave himself and leave Ann and Will alone. Jack assured him that he had no intentions of causing any trouble.

All the men were assembled at the Bard ranch for a final meeting and celebration bar-b-que in order to see the Santa Fe bound owners on their way. Julie, among other friends, was also present. She warned Ann of what she saw at the general store. Ann didn’t seem too worried, but did take note. Nothing was said to Will.

The weather was clear the next morning and no storms were on the horizon. Sam decided to take a wagon and leave his favorite horse at home. He threw a tent and cots in along with the luggage and provisions to have some comfort along the way. Micah was scheduled on a stage the next day, giving his friends some lead time. Everyone was excited and the horses were raring to go. Will and Ann took off first to give Spirit and Flash a chance to work off some early energy. Lucas and Razor took their time along with Sam and the wagon knowing that they would catch up down the road. The lovebirds went far enough ahead to have some time under a familiar tree. With such fast horses, this would become a frequent practice.

Battle Within A Young Gun - Chapter 20 — Santa Fe

This is a story based on the TV series The Rifleman
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