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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
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
“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
“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
“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
“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,
“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
“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
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
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
“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
“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
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 —
This is a story based on the TV
series The Rifleman
Here are some other great stories. Enjoy!
around The McCain Ranch