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

Chapter Three — Home With A Blast

It was late in the day when Lucas and Will cleared the final rise to view the ranch. They rode down the same hillside Hank and the boys did on their fateful return eight years earlier. The heat made the ride slow going over the two days. Both men and horses were weary, the ranch seemed an oasis. Will jumped down from his horse and threw himself into the water trough. “WHEW!” He yelled. “It’s great to feel at home already!”

Lucas headed right into the house and threw himself onto his bed. Both horses received a brush down and a bag of oats before Will even thought about resting. He let Lucas sleep through the evening.

Will took some time to look over the barnyard. The memories of his last time there rushed through him. He recalled Lucas loading the bodies of his brother and the gang onto the buckboard as he took the money into North Fork and delivered it all to Micah. He could almost smell the gunpowder from the seconds it took to kill them all. He stood in the very spot that he had asked Ann to wait for him. He could also remember his last ride on Spirit, his chestnut horse, on the way to give himself up. It took a lot of courage to turn himself in and a lot of influence from Lucas and Micah to make it possible for him to be standing there now. He understood the price he would have to pay then and now it occurred to him that it was worth it. If only Hank could have had that chance. If only his parents were still alive and the farm was still theirs.

Remembering how much Lucas liked to have the dishes washed in the past, Will set out to straighten up the entire kitchen area. He studied the modest ranch house thinking back on the time he spent there with his broken leg. The same checker board sat on the table where he and Mark spent the evenings growing close. Everything seemed to be the same but for one thing, Mark was gone. Will realized how Lucas must feel now that his son was off on his own. Loneliness was something Will knew well from countless nights in his cell. “I guess any place can be a prison if you’re there by yourself long enough,” Will thought to himself. He sat in Lucas’ favorite chair and finally allowed himself to settle down. He found a box of cigars on the table and lit one up.

As overwhelming as the last 3 days were, Will felt at ease now that he had a chance to sit back and contemplate his future. He took all of his current blessings into account. He never expected to think about family so soon. The time between chairs in the warden’s office until now had almost all been spent in a saddle. This was the first time that there wasn’t anyone watching him. He was free at last! He hadn’t really felt free since before his family lost their farm. Comfort was a stranger to him, but it was a feeling he knew he could get used to. The idea of being with Ann once more was intimidating, yet it was the one thing he truly looked forward to. Soon, the cigar was snuffed out, his boots were kicked across the rug, and sweet William was doing some snoring of his own. The snoring rumbled through the rafters, as if it were the roaring of lions, for the rest of the night. The McCain ranch house was having new life wafted into its soul.

The morning brought a bright glare into Will’s eyes as he sat trying not to wake. Lucas was up frying bacon and mixing biscuits. Will got his boots on and lifted himself reluctantly from the chair.

“I don’t have much food stocked up right now, but we’re gonna have eggs, bacon, and by now you know I live on biscuits. We’ll go into town soon and get supplies. Since Mark left, I’ve been eating dinner in town a lot. I kinda need to make an appearance every few days or they all start to forget me.”

“I’m as hungry as a bear alright, that bacon smells so good. We didn’t get very much of that in the big house. But they let us have chickens to take care of, so we had eggs, lot’s of eggs and bread.” Will got up and looked out the front door. “You guys have really built this place up, I remember helping with that corral over there, but I don’t recall the rest of that fencing and are those chicken coops over yonder?”

“You betcha. Mark took a fancy to raising chickens. He made a little extra money supplying some of the neighbors and a store or two in town. Why don’t you go out there and fetch us a few good eggs, I haven’t gone out there myself yet. You’ll find a sack of feed just outside the door.”

“Ah, putting me to work already, it’s a great morning Lucas, I’ll be right back.” Will was good with chickens, he spread the feed around and talked to the birds as if he knew them. He went inside and was amazed at how Mark fashioned the nesting areas. The hens were free to move around, water was supplied by a small barrel fixed to let only enough out to keep a pan full. Will saw several empty nests and looked for some eggs. He took 8 huge brown ones, being careful to leave each nest with at least one egg. The smell was a bit much, so Will took little time getting back. He knew the next thing on the list would be to clean out the coops and the yard.

“Here we go Lucas, some real beauties. Mark’s done a great job. I bet that kept him busy. ”Will took the eggs from his upside down hat and placed them in a bowl on the table.

“I wish I had a dime for every time I had to clean it all though, but I love eggs too. Mark is much better at building and figuring things out than he is at cleaning up.

I had to really work on that boy to get his chores done. But he turned out to be quite a man. Few boys go through as much as he did growing up. It’s kinda hard when your Pa is a well known gunfighter.” Lucas cracked the eggs into the bacon grease as Will washed up.

“You haven’t told me where Mark is, what is he studying away at college?”
“Well, let’s see. Mark went off to learn writing and general studies for a start and he wants to be an engineer some day. He’s in a real good school back in Oklahoma, near Enid, where his aunt can keep an eye on him. I figure that if he makes it through the first few years being away there, then he can choose to go any place he wants. It also affords him a chance to learn his roots. That is where we came from to live here.”

“It must be hard to send your boy away. Did he want to go?”

“Yes. Once he reached 16, the ranch life didn’t appeal to him as much. He began to like girls and finally learned to enjoy school. He spent more and more time away in town or doing homework with some of those pretty gals. I gave him a guitar and he became known as a singer. I guess the girls really like that. Anyhow, he still worked hard until he left and he knows he can come back here whenever he wants.”

“I better brush up on my singing then,” Will exclaimed. “I bet Ann would like to hear a few ballads!” Will danced around the kitchen getting the plates ready.
“She’ll have you doing more than sing old boy, but you better keep your mind on your work or I’ll have her cook you for dinner!”

“I’ll mind my chores big brother, don’t you worry. I just got out of one frying pan, I ain’t about to hop in another.” Will began to sing “Rock of Ages” it was one of the few songs he knew from early church days back home. He didn’t want to remember the ones he learned in prison.

Once breakfast was over, Lucas turned to the chores. Then he saddled up Razor and Blue Boy and took Will on a ride around the ranch and out to look on the cattle. They checked their water and saw to it that none of them looked sick. “They get plenty to eat in this pasture right now, but we’ll have to move them on closer to the house and feed them hay and corn before too long. We’ll go ride the far fence line next to be sure it’s in good shape. It doesn’t take long for something to go wrong with a barb wire fence.” When they returned to the house it was time to feed the horses and clean out the stalls. Lucas gave Will a few minutes to grab a snack and drink some water, then he put a shovel into his hands.

“You know what this is for, I’ve got to ready the tools and load the barb wire onto the wagon so we can work on the fence tomorrow. When you’re done with the horses you can do the same for the chickens.”

“Good deal boss, I love horses, even the smells. And chickens, well they make good fertilizer. Would you mind if I start a vegetable garden?”
“I think that would be great. We kinda had one a few years ago, but I never have time to tend to it these days. You can see on past the corral where we were planting, it’s all yours.” Lucas started out for the barn. “If we get the fence done early enough tomorrow, we can clean up and go see what Ann is cooking for dinner, how does that sound?”

“That sounds like heaven. I’ll shovel enough flop to make up for two days just to be sure!” Will sang out with his “Rock Of Ages” rendition to proclaim his enthusiasm for shoveling poop. The brothers worked the rest of the afternoon, until finally, Lucas had enough.

“You want to cook dinner tonight? I’ll need to be going over my books for a while. There’s some ham and potatoes in the cellar. I may even have some cider jugs left.”

“That sounds good. I can’t say thank you enough for what you’re doing for me Lucas. This may seem routine for you, but I could waller in horse poop for months and not get tired of it.”

“There’ll be plenty of time for that, but I’ll do it once in a while to break things up. Sometimes I pay a neighbor boy to come over and take care of the animals. Before long, we’ll be busy with the cattle and you’ll want time for Ann. I think we’ll settle into our ways real good Will. I’m happy you’re here. After dinner, we’ll see about getting you a room to sleep in. Mark’s room is almost empty, you can have it if you want.”

“A far sight better than the barn and a broken leg I’d say, thanks Lucas.”
“Alright then, you have the run of the house, start getting used to things. Time will come when you’ll have to be here alone for days at a time. Do you like to read?”
“I did me some reading while I was in prison, mostly the Bible and every now and then a newspaper. You have to get good at biding your time inside. You won’t have to worry about me.”

“Mark left some of his books, you can look them over if you like. I know he liked Mark Twain. I have a Bible over on the table by my chair. Don’t move my markers, but read it anytime you like.”

“Mark Twain, seems to me I’ve heard of him.”

“Mark got to meet him briefly when he came through town. He’s wanted to be a writer ever since. That was the start of his sudden interest in book learning. Speakin’ of books, I need to balance things out before we can go to town. We’ve had a long day, I’m looking forward to seeing what you can do with a ham.

The fence work went fast the next day. Will followed along on horseback while Lucas had the wagon and supplies. Will kept wondering what drove this man on. Why was he so dedicated to this ranch. After all, Mark was off to greener pastures, what might Lucas be looking forward to? There was some rusted wire to replace and two bad posts to dig out.

“It’s a good thing we got to this when we did or we’d be chasing strays for a week. I need every head this time around, Mark’s education isn’t cheap. And I want to get a few things for you also. I’m sure you’ll want some new clothes and something to keep yourself entertained with as time goes on. There’s some better stores in town now and it’s easy to order things from back east. This ranch is still a good producer. Even in the dry years we had enough to get by.”

“I can see what you mean. This is such a large area and the herd has grown too. As long as you have enough water, things should go well. The first thing I need is a new hat. This nasty thing on my head has soaked up a lot of sweat in that brickyard. I won’t drink from it anymore!” Will laughed. “Here, give me that hammer, I’ll nail the first end and you drag out the wire to the next post.” Lucas liked that idea, he could stay seated for a spell.”

Once the fence was fixed, Lucas pulled out his rifle and gave it a look over. “Remember that canyon shooting range I told you about? Well, it’s not too far off, how’d you like to take a few practice shots with that new shootin’ iron of yours?”

“Can we? I’d enjoy that, been a long time.”

“Only for a short while if you want to see Ann for dinner, she has to be wondering what is taking us so long by now.”

“Let’s shoot ‘em up boss, I want to know that I can handle this tool.”
With that, the two men rode off into the nearby hills to where Lucas had made some rails to place cans on and several human shaped boards of wood where paper targets could be hung. Lucas set up the cans and readied his rifle. Will played with his .45, twirling it around as if it weighed nothing. Even he was surprised that he still had his touch. What a nice gun.

Lucas waited until Will was ready and told him to stand back. He crouched down and braced his rifle against his thigh. With a thunder the cans began to fly off the rail, eleven in a row without a miss. The smoke cleared and Will rushed forward to set the cans back up. “My turn!” Will was like a kid again. He took his stance while Lucas stood back. Wham, wham, wham, six bullets left the barrel and 6 cans hit the ground.

“Not bad Will. I can see you know how to handle a gun. Do you have any experience with a rifle?” Lucas had already reloaded his trusty firearm and tossed it to Will.

“I have shot some back on the farm, but I don’t know about whipping it around like you do.” Will sighted down the barrel and felt the balance of the weapon.
“It takes some getting used to. You can hurt your fingers bad if you don’t hold it right. Go ahead and shoot it normal, I took the repeating screw out for now.”
Will looked over to the wood figures and let off six rounds, hitting the target each time.

The smell of gunpowder was heavy by now and the horses were not liking it.
“Let’s go up on that rise for a minute, we can shoot some more from there.” Will carefully spun the rifle around one time as he handed it back to Lucas.
“A fine sword sir, I hope I can be worthy of using it one day. You are a legend Rifleman, I bow before you as your humble servant.”

“We can break with the legend stuff, I’ve had a belly full of notoriety and rumors. Talk like that can get people killed as you well know. Don’t get a reputation over lead, it ain’t healthy!”

They finished off the box of ammo and the cans. The horses were happy to get back on the trail as they headed home to clean up. Ann was wondering if they were ever going to come to dinner.

Battle Within A Young Gun - Chapter 4 — Reunion

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

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