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

Chapter Fourteen — Changes Made

In almost six months time Will’s life exploded into more change than the average man could contemplate. He went from a daily life of highly predictable labor and less than average company to a life with people he could only dream about and a future of wealth and knowledge. If it were not for the guidance he was under, none of it could be possible. Over this time, he fought the desire to break away and have some time to himself. After the talk with Lucas, he started to realize that he was becoming so focused on their expectations that he lost sight of some things from his past that weighed on him greatly while in prison. He had no resolution over the death of his family and the loss of their farm. He had come to a point of finality over his brother, Hank, but he had regrets. First of all, he had no idea where Hank was buried. He had little idea of what happened to his mother and father. Hank had designs on going back to Texas and finding Carlson. Both of them shared an intense desire for revenge and that was the main reason for their being outlaws. If he would have left with Hank and gone to Dallas revenge would have been the first order of business. That aspect no longer troubled Will to the point of taking action, but he wanted to eventually go there and be sure his parents had a final resting place. All of this would have to come in time though. He needed to get through the winter and also be there for the spring time. He owed it to everyone around him now to be part of the busiest time of the coming year.
After a good night’s sleep and a quick morning of chores with Lucas, Will made his way to see Ann. Spirit ran most of the way and was happy to get to the Bard ranch to see all of his friends. Will could hear the chatter of many horses as Spirit was lead into the stables. Ann was busy cleaning the house and was about ready to finish as Will walked in. She knew what was going to happen and was a bit coy, letting Will begin the conversation.

“The house looks great. Are you almost done?”

“Just a few more pieces of furniture left to dust. Could you do me a favor and scoop those ashes from the fireplace? The pail is right there.”

“Sure, anything else?” Will picked up the scoop and went to work.
“Would you like to take a ride this afternoon? It hasn’t rained and the clouds look thin.”

“I would love it. The horses need a day out on the trail. We could go over to the stream and have a picnic.” Will had the pail full and walked towards Ann.

“A picnic would be nice. What kind of sandwich would you like?”

“Anything you have my dear. Let’s dump these ashes and hit the trail. But first, I want to ask you something.”

“Why…..what could that be?”

“Did your father have a talk with you?”

“You must know that, he and Lucas want to become partners.”

“That’s right.” Will stepped even closer and put the pail down on the floor. “And what else did he talk to you about?”

“Oh, nothing really, just about what a great job you are doing around here and how he wants you to take on more responsibility.”

“What kind of responsibility might that be?”

“What do you think? Two ranches aren’t enough?”

“Not nearly enough……unless……you come with them!”

“Ah hah! I knew it. Daddy asked me if I thought we would get married and I bet Lucas asked you the same thing!”

“Yup. We had a great talk Ann. Believe me, I don’t want to make you uncomfortable about marriage. I do think we should talk about it. I’m not in a hurry, but I want you to know I feel that way about you and when the time is right…..” Before Will could get another word out Ann leaped into his arms and kissed him.

“I do feel that way too my love, you know that.” They kissed again.
“Of course I know it. I can’t stand a day away from you as it is.” Will held her even tighter.

“We’re still not ready you know. It has barely been six months and there is so much for us to do. It will be a big deal to make preparations, my mother would want to come back from Pennsylvania, friends in town will make a fuss, it would start a chain reaction for sure if we say anything at all.”

“Will put Ann down while still holding her hands. “I understand how that would be the case. I don’t think any of us are ready for all of that commotion. But we do need to make a commitment to each other, and to Lucas and your father. Are we at least ready to speak to them about it?”

“That groundwork is already underway if we both answered the same to them yesterday.”

“You mean you told your father that you want to marry me?”

“Yes I did. I’ve felt that way for a long time. And I have faith in you for that same answer.”

“Well, that does it then. I told Lucas the same thing. We have kind of known this all along. I mean that it would be highly likely.”

“Yes, my waiting for you taught me that first impressions mean a lot. You never left my mind and I could never feel happy when I had other boys visit. I spoke with some at the riding events and at church, but I just couldn’t bring myself to take up with any of them. You have been in my heart for a very long time William Fulton. I am committed to you for life.”

“As am I Ann Bard. As am I.” They held hands and smiled at each other speechless for a few minutes as the finality of the moment sank in. Another kiss sealed their joy.

“I am going to suggest then that we make a point of informing our elders of our plans and that we keep our designs private for now. Christmas is in two weeks, we’ll all be consumed with holiday cheer as it is.”

“Yes we will. Is Lucas going to see Mark?”

“Yes. He wants me to spend the holidays here with you. I hope Mark will understand everything that is happening. It’s his ranch also.”

“Mark is a good kid. I know he will enjoy knowing that you are here and that both ranches will be there for him if he wants to come back. I know Lucas misses him dearly and would love to have time to be with him more often. I just know all of this is for the best.”

“I know it will be. Blessings seem to be coming our way more all of the time. Your father needs to know that he can trust me most of all. I love that guy. He has the most at stake in all of this. Just like Lucas, I feel the need to do something for him.”

“The best thing you can do for Daddy is to be honest, work hard, and take some lessons from him. He may like his whiskey, but he is the most loving and generous father this girl could ever hope for. He understands his place in life better than any man I know. If we can show him trust and loyalty, then he can feel comfortable about leaving the ranch in our hands. I want him to be able to travel or do whatever he wants in his later years. He has worked hard all of his life. He fought hard in the war, he fought hard to win my Mother’s hand, and he fought hard to raise me right. And that wasn’t easy, I’ve been surrounded by cowboys most all of my life.”

“That is why you are such a cowgirl today!” Will picked Ann up and carried her out the front door, down the steps, and into the stables. Flash and Spirit danced their way across the pastures on the way to the most joyous picnic of a Young Gun’s life.

While the lovers frolicked in the grass by the stream, Lucas rode into town to make his regular appearance and pick up the final supplies before leaving on his trip to see Mark. He was going to look in on Micah Torrance, who was now retired from his days as Marshall of North Fork and living in a flat overlooking the main street. Before he could start up the stairs, a boy from the telegraph office came running up to him in a very excited state.

“Mister McCain! I have an important message for you. It’s from Bat Masterson. We were hoping you would make it into town soon. I was about to ride out to your place to deliver this.”

“Why thank you young man, your boss knows I have been waiting for this a very long time.” Lucas reached into his pocket and gave the boy a few coins.
“Oh yes, we have been waiting right along with you.”

“Well then, let’s just open this and see what it says.” Lucas cast his eyes onto the paper and about swallowed his tongue. The telegram read:

Lucas! Great news. John Browning wants to meet with you personally. He requests your approval for a Lucas McCain Commemorative model rifle. Will be in Santa Fe on the second week of January. Have already spoken with officials we have permission for a demonstration near that time. Please respond promptly, Merry Christmas, Bat Masterson.

The boy knew what it said and so did half the town. But this was one of those moments that begged for feigned ignorance. “What does it say Mister McCain? I can’t take it any longer!”

“It says Merry Christmas son, do you know who John Browning is?”

“Ain’t he the guy who invented your rifle?”

“That’s right. Now he wants my name on one.”

“Yes sir, that is big news.”

“So then, you must know who Bat Masterson is.”

“Everybody knows who he is.”

“I have him to thank for many blessings son, you can be sure of that.”

“Yes sir Mister McCain, you have a very Merry Christmas sir, and you be sure to tell Mark I said hello. You got an answer for that message?”

“I sure do. Tell your boss to send Bat this. Merry Christmas Gunslinger, see you in Santa Fe! Permission granted. Lucas McCain.”

“Yes sir!" Lucas gave the boy the rest of the coins in his pocket and went up the stairs.

Micah had been listening from above and couldn’t contain himself as Lucas came into the room. “Lucas Boy, ya gotta have angels lookin’ over your head. You are gonna take me to Santa Fe ain’t ya?”

“I wouldn’t have you miss this for the world Micah, my pleasure. What are you doing over Christmas?”

“Why I don’t rightly know. Hang around town I reckon, have a few drinks with the boys in town, the regular old thing.”

“How would you like to ride with me to see Mark? I don’t want to go alone.”

“Why, I thought you would have Will with ya on this trip. Oh, I know what’s going on. He wants to be with Ann. I guess I can disappear for a spell. I hope the weather holds up, it can get ugly up that way about this time.”

“I think we’ll be alright. We can take a tent and Will fixed up the buckboard real nice. We’ll have some fresh horses from Sam as well. You have to say yes.”

“Will Ann make us some grub for the trip?”

“Already in the plans my friend, start packing!”

“I already have a few things ready, you know, just in case.”

“If I knew you any better, I’d think you have a checker board packed too.”

“Well now Lucas Boy, you know me pretty darn well.”

“I’ll be back tomorrow to pick you up. Be ready early, I want to make good time.”

“Will ya go have a drink with me before you leave? I’ll help ya load them supplies, I need to get outta here and do some walkin’ before I rest my bottom on that buckboard seat.”

"I’m due out at the Bard place for supper, but we have some time. I suppose everyone knows about that message. I should let them all congratulate me down at Sweeney’s place I guess, wouldn’t be proper otherwise.”

“That would be swell Lucas Boy…. I should stop calling you a boy, just can’t get outta that habit.”

“You have that right, Old Man. We’ve been through a lot together and with a few more blessings, there’s a whole lot more ahead!”

“I’ve gotta lot of miles on this old carcass Lucas. I’m happy just to see ya smile and have that young man to go visit. He’s in for a shock when ya lay all this news on him.”

“I can just see his face right now, “But Pa, I thought you didn’t want to be a gunslinger no more!” I’ll find a way to explain it all to him. He’ll be full of his book learning anyhow. Okay, let’s get down to the saloon Micah, get this over with.”

As was his usual end from a day’s hard work, Sam Bard sat on his front porch with a glass of whiskey. Ann was cooking dinner while Will was tending to Spirit and Flash. Sam was content with the way life was moving along. Long gone were the apprehensions over Will and the worries about his cattle business. He enjoyed the idea of being partners with Lucas and was looking forward to seeing him ride up over the ridge before the sun was gone from the skyline. He was mulling over which of his men to assign to the McCain ranch as Will came walking out of the stables to join him on the porch.

“Howdy Sam, been a long day. I bet Lucas comes over the ridge before ten minutes are up.”

“You got a bet. That is about all the sun we have left. He’s probably been yakin’ with Micah too long as usual. That old buzzard can talk all day.”

“Yah, Micah and Lucas go back a long way, lots to yak about.”

“How’d your day go? I saw you two riding off into the woods this afternoon.”
“We had a great picnic by the creek. The horses loved getting out like that. I’m still in shock every time I get on Spirit. He’s such a great horse. You’re the best my friend.”

“You’re welcome son, I know how much he means to you. We’ll find him a mare soon I hope, but we’ll probably have to wait til the holidays are over.”

“Yah, I imagine so. Time will come for all good things, shouldn’t rush romance you know.”

“That’s for sure. Ann tells me you had a real fine talk today.”

“That’s right. You know the score better than anyone I reckon. I feel so blessed in all that is happening. I want you to know your daughter is the greatest woman on this planet. You can trust me to always do the right thing Sam. We know it isn’t time for marriage yet. We also know that the time will come. It’s been a long wait for both of us, but we also respect you and Lucas too much to rush into the biggest decision of our lives now that we are together.”

“I’m honored to have you as part of my family Will. I’m confident that you will make my Ann a fine husband. I’m also proud of how you have shown me that you are a man. Your loyalty is well noticed, and not just by me. The hands all think the world of you. Fitting in with them is real important if you are to run this place one day. Do you feel good about taking direction from them?”

“Yes I do. Lucas sets me straight about these things too. I understand my place is to learn and be one of them. I have no intention to compete with anyone. We all work together and take pride in a job well done.”

“That is what I wanted to hear. I suppose your past has taught you humility, I respect that. It took me a long time to find the right men to put this crew together. They are much more than employees to me. Our success is born out of respect for each other. I want every one of them to know that they have a home here, that their efforts help shape the future for all of us, not just the owners. You have to be able to uphold my promise to them if anything ever happens to me. My wife, she doesn’t want anything to do with this ranch. I love her dearly, but she is so attached to her family back east that I hardly know her anymore. I want to go back there someday and be with her for a short spell, but I have cattle in my blood, there’s no way I’m going to let go of all my hard earnings to be a city slicker or some retired snoot.”

“You have my word Sam. No snoots allowed, never! Humble is my middle name from now on. I love each and every one of those men as a brother and I respect you and Lucas and could never allow myself to get a big head. Speaking of big heads, I think I see one bobbing along the ridge, right as the sun is going down. Must be the Rifleman!”

“Yup, I know that hat from a mile off. I’m ready to eat, how about you?”
“Ann has us spoiled Pop. Her menu is our leash. If there is one thing I am loyal to around here, it’s her cookin’!”

Lucas rode up and led Razor into the stables. Sam could see a wide grin on his face. Will went back to give Ann help setting the table. Sam poured Lucas a glass and eagerly awaited his arrival upon the porch. Lucas came along with a lively step and couldn’t wait to give Sam the news.

“We head to Santa Fe right after Christmas Sam, Look at this!”
Sam took the telegram from Lucas and handed him his drink. “From Bat, well lookie here, ain’t this the miracle of all time! John Browning himself. EEEEEEEYOW! You’re in the big time now brother!”

“And you’re right there with me Sam. You’re going to love meeting Bat. I can’t wait to get to Enid and see Mark! Micah is going with me, and I hope you don’t mind if he goes to Santa Fe with us also.”

“Congratulations Lucas. This is great. You know I love Micah, he has to be there. So do Will and Ann. The ranches will be fine, we have a great crew! A real live shoot ‘em up show! They call this Christmas for a reason, just a bit early this year.”

“Yes, say, I know we have lots to talk over, did Will speak with you guys alright?”

“Did I ever tell you how much I love that boy? He’s gonna be my son you know!”
“I knew he would win you over Sam. I’m a good judge of character most of the time.”

“You have me for a partner don’t ya?”

“Got that right! And soon enough, Bat Masterson too. I haven’t felt this good in a long time. And I’ll feel even better once I get some food in me. I had to have a few rounds with Sweeney and the boys in town. I want to get up early and be on the move. Whiskey makes me sleepy. So keep it slow tonight for me, Partner!”

“Alright Rifleman, this is the best day in years for me. Life is good and we’re on top of the world. Merry Christmas Lucas!”

“Merry Christmas Sam!”

Battle Within A Young Gun - Chapter 15 — Mark's Place

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

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