The Rifleman
Welcome to The Writer's Corner
Fan Fiction

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

Chapter Twelve — Homeward Bound

A huge party developed at the Gateway once the shooting was over. The entire town of Yuma was bursting with a nighttime revelry of untold proportion. The men drank and played cards until very late. Lucas talked to so many people that he gave up on remembering names. His pockets were stuffed with notes and addresses from nearby ranchers, the mayor, prison guards, town folk, and even those passing through on their way west. “It sure seems everybody is your friend at a time like this!” Lucas commented to his poker table audience. Ears rang and the men grew hoarse from talking in a crowd for most of the day. By the end of the night, Will had quietly won over one hundred dollars at poker. Over several weeks time, he built up quite a little fortune. Bat carried on with his stories and drank a considerable amount of expensive whiskey. Simon wondered if he had enough of his magic elixir for the next morning. He cut lose and drank more than usual himself. He knew better than to go too far though. In his profession he saw too many times what whiskey could do to a man. In earlier days, he was falling into the trap himself, and that plus a Rifleman’s bullet almost killed him! As far as anyone tonight was concerned, the guns were a source of entertainment and not danger.
The next day was to be the last of the visit. Simon set up the familiar bicarbonate drinks and cooked a final breakfast. They sat around trying to recover until Bat showed up in the afternoon carrying a special package.

“Say Doc, you got enough of that headache juice left for me?”

“Anything for the Marshall. Did you just get up Bat?”

“Not quite. I had time to send off a telegram to John Browning. I want to know what he thinks of the lever. I bet Lucas has quite a few orders already!”

“That I do! I wonder how many because I lost track. Look at all of these notes I collected yesterday.” Lucas pulled a wad of paper out of one of his pockets.

“This is just a start. And many more said they would contact me. I’m going to be busy when I get home.”

“That is what I hoped would happen. I have something for you.” Bat handed Lucas the package.

Lucas tore off the paper to find two boxes of cigars and an envelope. “Why thank you Bat, I really enjoyed your brand of smokes.” As Lucas opened the envelope a big grin came upon his face. “Why a lifetime pass for traveling on the Atchison, Topeka, and Santa Fe! Now that is what I call a special gift! I hope I can do something for you one day my friend!

“I have a hunch you’ll think of something. The one thing you can do for now is to let yesterday sink in as you ride home. And keep your wits about you until I can make it to North Fork. I will telegraph you once I hear back from Browning about the lever. If I know John, he will have a considerable amount of interest. He has been designing rifles for a very long time. I am sure he already knows about the lever, but he may not be aware of the popularity you are creating.”

“I have not communicated directly with him, but our gunsmith in North Fork has. He knows about it alright. Somebody at Winchester has been making them for me for many years. I’m surprised there is not a standard model with one by now.”
‘That, my friend, is about to change!” Bat drank his bicarbonate and then went back out to his horse. He brought in two new canes and gave them to Will. “These are lethal weapons in the right hands, and I trust you will practice the moves I taught you.”

“You bet! But you already gave me one earlier.”

“That is not going to last you forever, use it and save these for later. Maybe you can show Lucas a thing or two.”

“How about that! Me teaching Lucas!” Will tossed one of the canes over to Lucas and the two of them mocked a sword fight while Bat and Simon laughed.
“This has been such a marvelous time. I can’t say thank you enough and I really hate to leave. Lucas unwrapped a cigar and slid the box across the table towards Simon. “I am so overwhelmed by everything that has happened. I never dreamed of actually meeting you Bat. You are certainly more than any legend I’ve heard of. You are a National Treasure. And Simon, the same goes for you brother. It’s a miracle we are here to be such great friends. Vicki has grown up to be worth all of your effort. You can’t ask more than that from any father. I’m proud to know you.

Any time you need me, just drop a line and I’ll hop on the next train!”

“The same goes my way Lucas, I’m looking forward to meeting Mark again one day. I know he is a very special son. He has The Rifleman for a father! Simon had to wipe a tear from his eye, one that was a long time coming. The bond between all four of these men went well beyond the brief few weeks they had just spent together. In fact, this was simply the culmination of their lifetimes, something that just had to be.

Good byes were difficult the next morning as Bat and Simon placed the two ranchers into the hands of Bradford J. Billings, conductor extraordinaire. The custom made private coach only had a few other passengers. By this time, Lucas and Will had eaten and drank enough to last for days. They took their seats in fine overstuffed chairs and quickly fell to sleep as the train pulled out of Yuma. Will kept one of the canes out to play with during the ride. Bradford kept calling him Bat Junior. After they had a short snooze, Bradford brought out a box and gave it to Will.

“I’ve been meaning to give this back to Bat. I figure he can do without it though. He’ll get a good laugh when I tell him what I did with it.”
Will opened the box to find a brand new black Derby hat. “Oh my! All I need now is a vest!”

“That’s what I call a hat fit to drink from!” Lucas just had to reply.
“Bat left that on board some time back. He has plenty of extras I’m sure. You boys had quite an adventure I hear. I’m goin’ back to fetch us some cold beers and you can tell me all about it.”

Visits to the ice cold box cars were not necessary. The heat was giving way to the milder climate of the desert winter. The story telling made the ride home a very pleasant time. Lucas let Will do most of the talking. Bradford was grateful for the new stories that he looked forward to telling in the future. Actually, he knew more than he let on due to the fact that he talked with Bat during his brief layover in Yuma. As usual, the ride home seemed much shorter than at the start of the trip. Before they knew it, the train pulled into the Lamy station. It was another difficult goodbye as they left Bradford on the train with a promise to see him again real soon. With a night’s stay, Lucas and Will were rested for the two day ride to North Fork.

After such an eventful trip, the trail ride home was a chance to finally be quiet and put some thought towards getting back to a rancher’s life. Will enjoyed the simple food and water for a change. All he could really keep his mind on was Ann. He wore his derby hat and stuffed his old one into his bed roll along with the canes. Will left the hat box on the train so Bradford could find another use for it. Lucas had a calmer sense about him that was noticeably better than before the trip. The demons from his past were far off from his mind. Now he was ready to focus on improving the ranch and making some changes that he knew were going to have to be. It was much to consider, but Lucas was never one to dwell on idle thoughts. He was ready to get back to work.

The first order of business upon returning to the ranch, as always, was to tend to the horses. Will didn’t mind one bit doing most of the work. Once he was finished with the work horses they had just rode, Will went in the stall to see Spirit. Ann kept him at the Bard Ranch for the first few weeks, along with Razor and Blue Boy, but she brought them back soon enough for them to be ready for their return. After a brief rest, Lucas went to visit with Razor. He was getting on in years but Lucas tried to keep him active. Lucas put a saddle on him and lead him out of the barn. Will was already saddled up and ready to ride. They watched the sunset from a nearby rise then took their time wandering around near the house before going back to the barn.

“For an aging horse, Razor still has a lively step, which is more than I can say for this old sodbuster.”

“You look pretty lively to me sharpshooter!” Will replied

“I even surprise myself sometimes. It’s getting late, should we finish up the trail grub for dinner tonight? I don’t think either of us has the energy left for anything else.”

“That sounds good. It may seem funny, but I can wait a while before I see another steak.”

“I know what you mean. I’m not used to eating fancy so often. I love beef and Ann’s cooking though. We’ll get back to normal before you know it. It’s going to feel great to sleep in our own beds for a change.”

“I can’t wait to see Ann. I’ll ride over there tomorrow afternoon and see what’s for dinner!”

“I think we’ll be ready for a good meal by then. I’ll get on Razor and join you once I’m through looking over the breed stock. We’ll have to move them to a nearby pasture before the real cold weather sets in. I don’t want to have to go so far to feed them and they can use the shelter from the trees. We may have to bring some of them indoors if things get bad. Those extra stables Mark and I built a few years ago come in handy.

“There’s plenty of work ahead. I’m ready to get busy. The trip did both of us a lot of good Lucas, thank you. My life has come full circle, just look at me, sitting on my Spirit and looking at the freedom I thought I could never have. Sometimes, I feel like I’m dreaming. But now it’s time to wake up and make this ranch grow.
“It does me good to see you on that horse brother. You belong there. And you belong here. It’s time to take what we have learned and put it to use. I can feel it in my bones, this ranch has a great future ahead for all of us. Time will come when you’ll be running things around here. And I want you doing it with a real cowboy hat, let’s go eat and put that Derby away. That’s a collector’s item!

It was a cold clear morning as Ann did her chores in the stables. The hands took care of most of the animals, but Ann had her favorites and loved the work. She was thinking to ride over to the McCain Ranch when she was done. She wanted to make sure things were straightened up before the boys got home. When she finished brushing down her black Morgan, Flash, it was a matter of minutes before she was on her way. Flash was a very fast stallion. Ann loved him for his perfect size and durability. Sam Bard also loved the Morgan breed as he rode one during the Civil War. Flash was a descendant of just such a horse. Although he wasn’t as tall as a race horse, he was smart and well trained. He won Ann a number of ribbons in dressage competition and placed well in many local races. Flash was in a feisty mood and the cool air encouraged him to let go and run all out. Before they got half way to the McCain Ranch, they came upon Will, riding Spirit from the other direction. Ann had to work hard to slow Flash down. She sped past Will and came back at a slow pace giving Flash some time to cool down. Will had to settle Spirit as he got excited by the passing Flash. As Ann approached Spirit wanted to run along. Both horses tried to bolt but they managed to slow them down enough to talk.

“Will, I didn’t expect to find you here, Oh I’ve missed you so!” Ann was still trying to catch her breath.

“We got back yesterday afternoon, I figured I better get over here right away. You have no idea how much I missed you. I hope I never have to go away like that again.”

“I’d jump down and kiss you, but I better let Flash walk a while before he stops.”

”Let’s mosey on over to those trees, we’ll talk for a spell before we go to your house.”

“I’d like that! Daddy says you got to meet Bat Masterson, is that right?”

“Yes it is. I got to spend a lot of time with him.” Will reached down and pulled a cane out from an otherwise empty rifle holster. “Check this out!”

“Wow, is that real gold?” Ann waved the cane around and examined the heavy metal knob at the top.

“I don’t believe that it’s solid. I think they have a way of plating it on like jewelry.”

“That’s really special, he must be a very nice man.”

“He’s one of the best. I never thought I would be saying that about a lawman, but he really impressed us. Simon Battle too. Lucas and I had a great time, I learned a lot.”

“I bet you did. You must tell me everything. It’s so wonderful to have you back Will.”

“I thought of you constantly my love, don’t ever doubt that, no matter how long I ever have to leave you.” Will reached out and they joined hands as they came upon the trees.

“Your hand feels so strong. Did you guys eat well?”

Will laughed. “Eat well? Nothing as good as your cooking, but we had the best Yuma has to offer. Simon cooked some Mexican style eggs that were real good. He said it was a seasoning called cumin.”

“I’ve heard of that. It’s used in chili and other sauces for Mexican cuisine. I haven’t cooked with it, but I have eaten some in town. It’s very good.”

“Yes, it settles down the nerves I guess. We drank some whiskey on several occasions and it helped the next morning. I’ve got so much to tell you.”

They dismounted and ran into each other’s arms. Their embrace lasted for a very long time. It was obvious that their love was true. They talked about the trip as they sat in the tall grass keeping an eye on the horses. Flash had a tendency to wander if ignored for very long. Spirit was more likely to stay close to Will.

“Flash is such a beautiful horse Ann. You must be very proud of him.”

“Yes, I’ve had other favorites in the past, but he is the best we have managed to raise.

Morgan’s are very spirited animals. Kind of like my men.” Ann giggled and leaned over for another kiss.

"I can see that. But Flash and Spirit do seem to get along quite well for a couple of stallions. You have done such a marvelous job with him. I’ll never stop telling you how thankful I am that you saved him for me. We really are fortunate to have such animals.”

“And I am very fortunate to be surrounded by such well trained men!”
“Ah, you’re the one in charge woman! We all behave for you. Without that smile on your face it would all be a lost cause.”

“Are you getting hungry? Let’s get back to the ranch.” Ann and Will embraced a final time. They rode to the Bard Ranch where Ann made Will a sandwich and a glass of cold milk. They spent the rest of the day with the horses and talking in the shade of the trees along the pastures. It took a while for the subject of Jack Donaldson to come up. Neither one wanted to spoil the reunion.

“Will, I heard about your trouble with Jack on the drive. I’m so sorry.”
“Don’t you worry about that jerk. He’s nothing but a coward. I had to go and lose my head though. He was starting to get dangerous and I couldn’t take it any more. I hit him with my belt, the buckle landed right on his throat. I only meant to scare him off but that’s what happens when you resort to violence. He’s lucky to be alive.”

“I saw him in town last week. He still can’t speak very well. He gave me a dirty look.

I’m afraid he’ll do something stupid. He’s never had any sense. You be careful, you hear me!”

“ I hear you, I feel bad enough as it is. It cost Lucas some money to keep me out of trouble. Why does this have to be? So much else has gone right for me.”
“Everybody in town knows he’s wrong, you just take it easy. He will pay dearly for causing you any more trouble. No one will have anything to do with him as it is.”

“That can be a problem too. He is going to brood and get madder. I hate having to look over my shoulder all the time.”

“I want you to be free of this as soon as possible. But we can’t have everything.”
“I have so much with you, I’m willing to fight for what’s right. We’ll think of something.”

“I think we have plenty to do and should spend most of our time out of sight. Both ranches will keep us busy and the weather will limit the time we spend in town. You won’t have to see Jack for a long time.”

“I’ll do my best to keep away from him. And he better stay away from me! Will stood up and threw a rock he had been holding in his hand. He had a troubled look on his face as he reached down to help Ann up.

“You two are like a couple of stallions stomping the ground. I’ll have to keep you two in separate pastures from now on! We should get back to the house, I want to have dinner started before Daddy gets home and Lucas will be along soon I imagine.”

“I don’t want things to get any more complicated Ann. I want to be fair to Lucas and I want to be right with you. We all need each other and I won’t let anyone ruin what we have. Promise me that you will let me know before things go wrong.”

“I love you Will, you have my word. I’ll not hold it back from you, ever.”

“I talked to Lucas about all of this plenty. He was concerned that he might have placed us in an unfair situation. Lucas and I both have things from our past that can come back to haunt us at any time. We have to be careful. Now that Masterson has Lucas thinking about these sharpshooter demonstrations and ideas over his rifle design, there might be danger from the notoriety. I’m going to let him handle most of that by himself. I need to stay here with you and be able to run the ranch on my own.”

“I understand. And I want you to have as much time as you can around here. I want you to become involved with training horses and to come with me to some of the events.

I also think we should find a mare for Spirit. It would be wonderful to raise a Saddle bred. I know Spirit wouldn’t mind.”

“Yes! That’s a great idea! I’ve been thinking that we could use a few more horses on the ranch as well. Do you think your father would have a few to spare Lucas?”
“I know he does. We have more than we need these days, mostly Morgans and some Quarter Horses. We can talk about this at dinner. I know by next spring you will need the help. And during the winter, we can chose a few and start training them to work cattle, you’ll love it.”

“And you can probably get me up to speed in the process! I’ll have to learn fast if I am going to run a ranch.”

“If there is one thing about horses I know, it’s speed. Flash is one of the best. I want you to be able to keep up with me!” Ann wrapped her arms around Will and hugged him as hard as she could.

Battle Within A Young Gun - Chapter 13 — Horse Sense

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

The Writer's Corner
Table of Contents

Site Map
around The McCain Ranch