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

Chapter Eleven — Credence

A hopeful Bat Masterson waited for the travelers from Lone Pine to arrive. It was late in the day and the men were hungry. Bat was ready with plans for dinner and more talk about the upcoming event. The Hell Hole On The Bluff, as the territorial prison was known, had no problem with a shooting demonstration. There hadn’t been an escape attempt for several years, but the superintendent thought it would do some good to remind the inmates that there were still sharpshooters ready for them if they stepped outside the compound. Even though Gatling guns were mounted on towers in strategic places, and the guards had plenty of look out posts, there was always a concern for the misguided seekers of freedom. The Colorado River, being so close, provided plenty of temptation for those pent up heat fatigued prisoners that just couldn’t take it any longer. Those that made it outside quickly discovered the quicksand waiting for them as they got near the river. There were several famous attempts in recent years that left some dreadful memories in the minds of the guards, who still mourned their dead. The festival was set for Sunday and some of the inmates were to be allowed to view the show as they looked out from the openings in the wall. The huge iron strap gateway made a perfect backdrop for the onlookers on the outside.

By now, Will had eaten more than his share of good food. Once again, Bat took them to his favorite eating establishment, The Sonoran Gateway’s very own steakhouse. It was a cool evening for a desert town, providing a very comfortable setting as the hungry men arrived.

“I’m not letting any broken legs interrupt this meal.” Simon said as they took their seats at the round table. A loaf of bread and two pitchers of beer were waiting for them.

“Gentlemen! Let me tell you that we are about to enjoy some of the best steaks in this entire desert territory. And it’s a good thing this place affords me a very short walk to the card tables afterwards!” Bat cracked his knuckles and looked to his friends for approval.

“You guys are making me fat, as if I wasn’t already from Ann’s cooking!” Will commented.

“Us oldtimers have to keep our strength up if we’re going to shoot straight Young Gun.” Lucas replied. “You’ll have plenty of time to work off that weight when we get home.”

“I’m looking forward to it, let me tell you! I made Ann wait long enough the first time and I’m not taking any chances now. I want to look famished when we get home so she’ll cook even more.”

“Fair enough William, we’ll put you to work tossing shot glasses in the hot sun. We have to practice before the big show.” Bat took a long drag on his beer. “Now, for some good news my friends. We have everything we need ready for us, including ammunition. The prison superintendent liked our idea so much that he offered to supply everything but the guns. We have plenty of shot glasses left and I also found us some decks of cards and some silver coins. We can practice hitting coins by using clay poker chips. I thought it would be a good gimmick to award the pierced coins as souvenirs to a few members of the audience. How does all that sound?”

“I like it fine Bat. I’ve shot coins on several occasions in North Fork. I think playing cards make perfect targets. Do you think there is any danger to the crowd if we use shot glasses? Lucas was ever mindful about hazards involved with firearms due to some of his past incidents.

“I intend for us to shoot toward the river and we will have lookouts posted to make sure no one gets in the way. I believe the audience will be roped off and far enough back from the flying glass. I’ve also arranged for a small contest with some of the guards for the prisoner’s benefit. If all of this is agreeable, I’ll start putting the word out and we can have some posters made at the printer’s shop. It won’t take much to draw a crowd, the craft festival usually does a brisk business without any help.

“I’m happy as long as you are Simon.” Lucas cast a glance his way.

“I hope I can shoot as well as the guards!” Simon replied.

“We’ll begin practice in the morning then, after I go by the printer’s and tell them it’s a go. I took the liberty of designing the poster while you were away. I hope you like the picture we drew of you Lucas, you’re standing tall with your rifle in hand. The newspaper artist did a real fine job in my opinion. They already had some drawings of Simon and I from previous articles. We’re asking for a 50 cent donation for each adult and children under 16 are free. All proceeds are to go to the prison hospital to benefit research. You alright with that Simon?”

“Every little bit helps. I hope your arm is in good shape Will, I need plenty of practice.”

“No problem Doc, I’m ready. But you’ll have to throw a few for me in return.”
“We have five days to practice sharpshooters, Sunday is show time!” Bat concluded the conversation just in time for the arrival of the steaks.

The first morning’s practice session was a big hit by itself. Once Bat had final permission, word got around fast. There were some who already knew what was going on for that matter. Bat had a hard time keeping the idea to himself at the casino. Twenty men lined the fence along the target range. Will spent most of his time tacking up playing cards and running them back to show the results. After a few minutes of throwing shot glasses and poker chips, Bat enlisted several of the onlookers to join in the tossing. By that time there were over thirty men to chose from. Not all of the poker chips were hit as they didn’t quite toss as well as a heavier coin. This problem was going to take some thinking as the men retired for the day. Bat and Will went over to the blacksmith’s shop to ask for advice. The blacksmith figured out a way of making iron blanks that were almost as heavy. Will helped with the hammering, which gave him further inspiration and skill for his return to the ranch.

Bat seemed to have an answer for everything. Will enjoyed his company more and more. During the afternoons, Simon took Lucas on a tour around town, including the prison and his lab. This worked well because Will had no desire to see the inside of the Hell Hole. Bat worked with Will giving him pointers on boxing, wrestling, and cane fighting. At other times, they played poker in the casino. The evenings were reserved for good eats and gun cleaning. By Friday, each man was a well refined sharpshooter, ready for action. Over fifty people were present at the practice range that day. The plan was working in a big way. The posters were up all over town and the newspaper ran daily articles which sold a record number of these editions.

Lucas was amazed by the response and it was becoming difficult for him to walk down the street without drawing attention. He was pleased by the polite manner of most of the people, but a few tried to taunt him as was to be expected. This brought out a hint of apprehension that Lucas could feel building inside of him. But he held true to his word and didn’t let the few ruin it for the many. It was a good thing Simon was with him on most of the occasions as they walked about. There were a couple of tough looking characters in town that, in an earlier time, would have enjoyed a fight, but they knew who Doc Battle was. He wore his pearl handled 45 on his side, with the familiar “B” on the holster. People were used to seeing Masterson around town and he always wore his Colt for everyone to see. For good measure, the Marshall of Yuma and his deputies worked extra time to make their presence known. As the day of the show drew near, the streets and saloons were filled with larger crowds than ever before. There was no practice on Saturday as the men rested and looked over the set up of the staged area in front of the prison. Late in the day, they took a few test shots so they would be familiar with the surroundings and then it was off to Simon’s place for dinner. By this time, it was almost impossible for any of the four to attempt eating in town.

“Can you feel the excitement Lucas?” Bat asked as they sat around Simon’s kitchen.

“Much more of this and I’m going to go crazy! It’s become a real circus. I had no idea just how big a deal this would become.”

“It’s a sign of the times my friend, Western legends are a hot commodity these days. We’re some of the biggest names in the history of gun fighting. We have the newspapers and novel writers to thank for that. If you can handle this fame, then you can understand what will happen if we do this in a city like Denver. I want you to try and relax, take this response as a true compliment. You have served your country and it’s time for your country to show you some appreciation. I know it is a lot to swallow at one time, but look at it as if you are an actor. The theater is the target range, and the audience is every history loving fan of the west. Can you imagine how much money can be made? I’m not trying to sell you on this as a new career, but if we even do this a few times, we’ll be set for life. Why, royalties from the writers and newspapers alone will be enough. And another thing, I have been meaning to talk to you about that lever on your rifle. Don’t you think it’s time you let Winchester know that you want some recognition? If I know Winchester, it won’t take much to get his attention. Especially after tomorrow’s exploits. Every rancher across the country will want one.”

“It’s been a lot to think on, I’ll grant you that. I have to admit that you make all of this sound tempting. I imagine that it’s too late to stop this ball from rolling downhill. If we are successful tomorrow, and I see no harm afterwards, then I’m willing to see what Winchester has to say. They have already made a number of these levers for me, and I suppose for a few others by now. I want Mark to have the best education possible, and I want the McCain Ranch to become more than just a place of labor. I also want Will and Ann to enjoy a better way of life. I’ve resisted reputation and fame all of my life. But on this end of a very long road, I have nothing to lose for trying. You’re one heck of a salesman Masterson, why has it been all about gambling with you?”

“It keeps my blood boiling. Like you, I take no pleasure in killing a man. But I need some excitement to make it worth waking each day. Gambling affords me a way to remain peaceful and profitable. But I don’t think there’s much for us to gamble on with this show. Although I imagine there are plenty of side bets going down in the saloons as we speak. I love this kind of action, even more than money. I hope you can trust me Lucas. We do have the Law on our side you know!”

“Blast it Bat! You’re spinning my head. And I can’t fight it. The time has come for this old man to come of age. How am I ever going to explain all of this back home? How am I going to get back home for that matter? I can’t even walk down the street!”

“I’ll even help you there. Recall my friend Bradford from the train? He’s better than any porter or conductor. I’m going to have him set you up with a private ride on the way home. He does it for me any time. That railroad owes me plenty. You’ll travel in style from here on out!”

“I’m going to have to take you up on that offer. I don’t think I ever want to ride in a passenger car in the heat for that long again.” Lucas got a huge grin from Will as he looked over.

“The railroad will issue you a private pass card, good for you and your guests, upon my request. Consider it done. And let me tell you, the chairs are upholstered and the food and drinks are the best.”

“I must say that you know your way around pretty good. Is it like this for you in every town?”

“Not quite. They don’t relish my return in Tombstone since I helped Earp and Holliday after the gunfight. And I won too much money and shot the signs out in a number of towns along the way. But I lost track of most of them. Nowadays, I try to limit myself to the friendly places like Yuma and Santa Fe. In the summer months, I like to stay near my Olympic Club in Denver. I really hope you can make it there next year Lucas.”

“I can’t promise that right now Bat, but I am going to give it a great deal of thought. We’ll have to see what condition the ranch is in by that time. This show and maybe a few more in Santa Fe and North Fork will help me to decide. Folks know me better back there. I have to know they will accept this kind of thing from me. Can you be patient?”

“You have my word. I know this is going to work. By the end of this winter, we will be quaffing a brew in Santa Fe!”

It was a long and restless night for Lucas to attempt sleep. He wasn’t used to being the center of so much attention. Will had no problem with his belly full and his hopes for seeing Ann soon to be a reality. Simon took some time to read himself to sleep in his study. Bat was too anxious for rest. He went back to the Gateway for some late night cards and his favorite whiskey.

Sunday morning breakfast came in the form of the same Mexican eggs that Simon prepared upon the Rifleman’s arrival. The seasoning helped settle their stomachs and nerves as show time drew near. An early audience patiently waited behind the ropes in front of the prison gate. There were several hours before the show and even on this winter’s day the heat took its toll. Some of the people gave up their front row spots to relieve their thirst and get out of the sun. A half hour before the shooting was to start, Bat came onto the stage and gave a talk about what was going to happen. He informed the audience about Doc Battle’s research and how the proceeds from the show were going to do so much good. Next came each man’s story and some information about the guns to be used. Bat enjoyed being in front of a crowd and this was surely one of the best times of his life to feel the energy of a large group. As he looked over the grounds, he estimated well over one thousand people in attendance.

The final moments before the demonstration were used to make the introductions, first came the prison superintendent and then the mayor. Simon and Lucas were next. Will was the last one to be introduced. His part of the show was mostly to deal with the targets. He did his best not to look over at the prisoners. But it was difficult for him to be in their presence.

Simon stepped forward and took over the announcing while Bat started things off.

He told a brief story about Bat and his early days in Dodge City. When he got to the part about his target practice in the streets, Bat drew his Colt and blasted 6 shot glasses off a rail at thirty feet. It took all of about two seconds and the crowd erupted into cheers. Will quickly set up another six and Simon took a turn. This was met with another round of cheers. Quickly, Will set up another twelve shot glasses and swiped the Derby from Bat’s head. Bat and Simon stood next to each other awaiting the drop of the hat. In unison they shattered all twelve shot glasses off the rail. There were a series of rails ranging from the first one at thirty feet, then fifty feet, another at one hundred, and finally a far off two hundred and fifty feet. The Colorado River could be seen in the distance beyond that.

Next, Lucas took center stage. He held up his rifle and explained how the screw in the lever allowed it to rapid fire. As he turned around, he whipped the Winchester in a circular motion and began to shoot. He took out a row of ten shot glasses from the fifty foot rail in a blaze of smoke and lead. As he finished he whipped the rifle around once more. The audience roared with delight and it took a few minutes for the commotion to settle down. Will set up six each for Simon and Bat and another ten for Lucas. Once again, at the drop of the hat, all three shot at the jiggers and in seconds they were gone from the fifty foot rail. Lucas spun his rifle around once more and the audience went nuts.

For the next part of the show, all three sharpshooters lined up and Will tossed the shot glasses as evenly s he could. Each man took a turn with Lucas at the end of the row to be safe. Six shot glasses each flew to pieces in mid air. This was very popular and they decided to do it again. If that wasn’t enough, Will walked back by the fifty foot rail and tossed six more for Lucas. He hit all six and was met with a tremendous cheer as he turned towards the audience. The excitement of the moment shot through Lucas like a thunderbolt. A huge grin came over his face, he motioned for Will to toss six more as he reloaded his rifle. That was about the end of the plan for the shot glass extravaganza. Will took the last of the glasses and set them up on the hundred foot rail. This took a bit more concentration. Bat and Simon shot from a standing position, rather than from the draw. Lucas gave them a head start. As the glasses were hit, the audience clapped along until the pistols were empty. Lucas then braced himself and destroyed those remaining.
The men took a brief time to let the crowd simmer down and Will ran out to the two hundred and fifty foot rail to set up some liquor bottles with colored water. Bat and Simon each brought out a standard Winchester rifle in order to compete with Lucas from a distance. To make things more interesting, each bottle had an Ace card stuck to its front. Lucas made quick work out of five bottles. Each time the card was hit with two of them almost perfect in the center. Simon and Bat took turns next. Simon missed a few times and Bat missed once. Neither of them hit center on the cards. The Rifleman’s skill was clearly in the lead at this point in the event. The audience was pleased to no end. Will set up a second round of bottles and they tried it all over again.

By this time, the Winchesters were very hot. Lucas took a break to clean his rifle as Simon and Bat got ready for the final event, the coin toss. There were 6 silver dollars each. Bat informed the crowd that they would be given to the audience after they were displayed. Will took a moment to get ready. He stood to the side at the thirty foot rail. As he began to flick the coins into the air, Simon and Bat took turns with their revolvers. When a coin was hit, it flew even higher into the air. The first few attempts were successful and the audience roared with approval. Will retrieved the coins and walked along the ropes to show the audience the holes. After a few moments of inspection, Will tossed them up in random fashion and people scrambled to grab a piece of history. Once Lucas was ready, Will stood back a little further and gave each coin a longer toss. Lucas took the first one in his sights and hit it twice, sending it even higher into the air. He was able to hit five out of the six tossed. Simon and Bat gave it a try from this distance using a rifle and only hit one each. There was no shame in missing as this was done more to showcase Lucas. Towards the end of the show, Lucas gave Will a chance to demonstrate his skill. Will’s arm was tired, but he was able to hit two coins out of three attempts. Will received a good round of applause as he went back to the fifty foot rail and tossed the remaining three coins for Lucas. Finally, the last one fell victim to the Winchester and the eighteenth fan had a souvenir. The three sharpshooters bowed to seemingly endless applause. A number of fans started chanting “More! More! More!” This was thought of beforehand and Will ran back to the two hundred fifty foot rail to set up ace cards on special holders. The rifles were once again in play as each man gave his best try at finding the center. This was not an easy thing to do. Lucas was more experienced at distance shooting and thus the most accurate. By this time, Simon was getting tired and had the most trouble hitting the cards. At the finish, Bat hit three in a row and Lucas hit five. Will brought the cards forward and handed them out into the crowd. With a final card in hand, Will walked over to the prison gate and passed it through the iron straps to the many grasping hands inside. The inmates scuffled a bit at first, but finally took turns looking at it as the guards moved in from close by. This brought an end to an amazing demonstration for a very happy audience.

Bat took center stage once more to announce the upcoming competition for the prison guards. There was a one hundred dollar prize and ten contestants. As the men came forward the inmates could be heard booing and rattling objects against the iron straps.

Some of the audience took their leave, allowing many from the rear to come forward. Bat ran the show while Simon and Lucas signed autographs and talked to fans. Most of them wanted a closer look at the mighty Winchester. The lever was obviously the star attraction. Will loved the way Lucas looked pleased, standing proud in his white shirt and black gloves. The apprehension was gone as a new Lucas McCain enjoyed being the center of attention.

Battle Within A Young Gun - Chapter 12 — Homeward Bound

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

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