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

Chapter Thirteen — Horse Sense

One should not have to use much imagination to figure on how excited Sam Bard would be to finally have a chance to talk with Lucas McCain. Ann made a dinner of fried chicken and mashed potatoes with corn as a vegetable. Lucas came riding over on Razor wearing Will’s Derby hat. Will gave Sam the cane he earlier showed Ann. For once, Sam let Lucas do most of the talking as all four of them sat around the dinner table late into the night. Sam was quiet in disbelief as Lucas went on and on about Bat Masterson and the gunplay. After all the times that Sam spent informing Lucas about the legend of the man, he was now envious of his best friend being a part of Bat’s story. Lucas also spoke of Simon Battle and how they met, but he didn't go into the killings on the cattle drive or their shootout long ago. Sam already knew some about how they met in North Fork afterwards as that story was well known. Simon and Lucas agreed back then to keep the ugly part of their past to themselves.

“You mean to tell me that after all that shootin’ and drinkin’ no one got hurt? Sam jokingly asked Lucas.

“Not even a cut from the broken glass. I don’t think I ever met so many people in one place in my entire life. Why I bet I hear back from half of them before you know it!”

“And Bat can even shoot better than the stories say?”

“I saw it with my own two eyes, Sam. Ask Will if ya don’t believe me!”

“Well, if that don’t beat all, Lucas McCain meets Bat Masterson, that calls for another drink. Sam handed the crystal decanter across to Lucas. Will and Ann had their usual lemonade. At this point, Ann decided to bring up the subject of horses.

“Daddy, Will and I have something we want to talk to you about.”
 
“Well now, don’t tell me, let me guess. You two want a house together out back somewhere!” Sam laughed very hard and took a big sip of his drink.

“Oh Daddy, nothing like that. Will and I want to breed Spirit, we need to find him a mare. And we were wondering if we can train some more cattle horses for Lucas.

“That’s no problem, of course we can. Lucas can have his choice. We have some excellent Morgans going unused at pasture. They’re very easy to train and ride. You take some time Will, ride any number of them. Get your feel before you go making any decisions. Ann and the men will show you anything you want to know. I’ll ask around, see who knows where to find one of them Saddlebreds. They aren’t as easy to find as some breeds. Not cheap either. The generals all liked to have one during the war, aye Lucas?”

“That’s right Sam. I had one myself at one time. Fine animals, very fast and not afraid. That’s why so many generals survived.”

“Having that rifle didn’t hurt either.”

“That rifle saved my life, it was born out of necessity.”

“Well, it’s horses that are born out of the need to control cattle that we must concern ourselves with now! You can have whatever you want my friend.”

“That’s very generous of you Sam. Let’s see what Will can do with those Morgans and maybe we can make a deal for them. My horses are doing well right now, but I realize that next year’s herd will be a strain on them. Will can take the rest of the winter to see what he thinks.” Lucas looked over to Will.

“I’ll be honored to work with your horses Sam. I can use some experience at training and blacksmithing for that matter. I was able to learn some about smithing in Yuma. Woodworking too. There’s a whole bunch of tools I want to make.”

“That’s a fine ambition son. You’re welcome to work with my men anytime. Two of them are graduated farriers. We have the blacksmith’s shop as you know. It’s all at your disposal. Heck, we’ll even make you a saddle if you want. There’s plenty of leather around here.” Sam reached for his trusty decanter.
“Looks like you have your winter’s work laid out for you Will. “Lucas commented.

“By the spring, we should have us a couple of new ranch horses and a new living room set! That is, if you get done with the fence work and chores in time.” This brought on a chuckle.

“Now, who does he look like? Mark!” Ann added. “I’ll see that he gets his chores done, leave the hard work to the woman as always I suppose!”

“Now I really feel like part of the family!” Will leaned back in his chair laughing. This became contagious and they all let go.

The evening came to an end as it was agreed that Will should waste no time at developing a good horse sense. Ann was pleased that Will was going to be around the ranch more often and that she would be working with him most of the time. Lucas liked the idea of new horses without having to do any trading with the tricksters in town. There would be no guesswork from now on. If Will could learn enough to take care of these aspects of ranching on his own, then Lucas could feel better about his traveling plans for the future.

There was still several weeks before the weather would turn for the worse. Will and Ann went quickly about selecting four horses. Sam’s men helped them make the choices as they were already familiar with the animals. They wanted to start with two to three year old untrained geldings so Will could learn as much as possible. The overall training would take a long time and some of it would happen once the time came to work in the field. The best they could hope for was to be able to use them for roping calves by spring. They were broken for riding only at this point, so Will and Ann gave each of them a workout in the corral to begin with. Then they took them on progressively longer rides into a herd and out towards the nearby hills. This built trust between the rider and horse. They made them drag logs with a rope to get used to the load a calf would provide. Each horse was made to stay in a corral with a cow to see how it would react. The Morgans responded well. Ann’s loving ways and extensive experience at training paid off. Will picked up on her methods quickly. His early time with Spirit taught him a lot about horsemanship but he soon found out that it took more knowledge and patience to train a horse for advanced skills. At the same time, Will had to remain involved with the current horses at the McCain ranch. By the end of the second week he was starting to understand what it took to be a true cowboy. It was a lot of work.

All of this time together gave Will and Ann a chance to learn each other’s ways much closer than before. At times, it was difficult for Will to take so much direction about something he thought he knew already. But he was surrounded by professionals who knew their trade. Lucas taught him plenty about working with cattle in the few months before the drive, but actually mixing with well trained hands in a larger operation was a daunting challenge. Lucas stayed close by and made sure he was not overwhelmed.

Once bad weather arrived, Will turned his efforts towards the blacksmith’s shop. The heat from the fire and the ringing of the anvil became well known to his senses. From a couple of rough sketches Tom gave him in Lone Pine, Will fashioned the carving tools he needed for making dovetail joints. Sam’s men taught him the methods for making horseshoes and the hardware needed for tack and wagons. This was a great help to Lucas, many of the tools and gear on his ranch were worn and in need of repair. Will recalled the time he leaned on his crutch with his broken leg and watched him grease the axels of the buckboard as they spoke of the hard work it took to run a ranch. Now it was his turn to grease those axels and replace worn out parts. His woodworking skills would also be required for the constant need to replace various items on the ranch. One of the first things was the seat on the buckboard. Everyone agreed it was time for that!

Will took on an increasing work load as the winter wore on. Travel between the ranches became a chore in the rain. Lucas realized this and suggested to Sam that it would be a good idea for Will to have a place to stay on his ranch when there wasn’t much to do at home. Sam was impressed with Will’s work ethic and by now considered him family, so he quickly agreed with this idea. Sam’s men had no problem accepting him into their group. Of course, this gave Will and Ann more time together and it made it easier to tend to the horses and work them when the weather would allow.

Lucas and Sam began to realize that, ever more, they were sharing resources and labor. Lucas knew that the road went both ways and that he needed to find a way to reciprocate somehow for Sam’s generosity. One evening after dinner the subject came up.

“Sam, I realize that you have been very generous with me over the years. I’ve borrowed your men and horses, eaten at your table, brought Will into your lives, and Ann has been so helpful at my place. I feel the need to do something for you.”
“Well now Lucas, you don’t have to worry about that. It’s easy for me to do those things, you’re like a brother to me. I’d do anything for you, and I know you would do the same for me. Heck, just you’re being here so much is a blessing. I don’t get away from the ranch so often any more.”

“I know all that, but somehow, I want to be able to give more in your direction. I don’t know what it could be in the material sense. I don’t have the kind of spread that you do, and I want you to realize I’m not out to take advantage of that fact. I wouldn’t be here right now if it were not for you. We should plain be partners for that matter.”

“You know, as I get older, and I hope wiser, I’m taking more time to savor what time I have left on this earth. You can’t take it with you. At some point, one should learn to become a leader and let those that follow move up in the ranks. I have two or three hands that deserve a chance to run this ranch some day. I don’t want them competing for that opportunity. I’ve tried real hard to make them all feel good about working for me. And I don’t want them feeling as if Will is moving in on their territory. So far, they have been very gracious about taking him into their inner circle. I have to admire them for that. If Will and Ann marry I don’t think there would be any trouble. But it is getting close to the time that I need to give these men a chance to move up. Your ranch is too big for just you and Will. When Mark and you were younger, you had more energy and smaller herds. You had to have my help back then. If you think that your ranch is going to grow, then you better realize that your crew is going to have to grow with it. The larger ranches are gaining ground in the beef market, even I am slowly losing ground to them. It’s not going to destroy me, but I think we can have a better chance at keeping up with them if we join forces.”

“I like what I think you are driving at. It still seems as if I would be benefiting from any arrangement we could make though. Right now, Will thinks he is going to be top dog on my ranch. I wouldn’t want to backslide on him.”

“I want us to be partners Lucas. We put both of our spreads together and lots of problems go away. Will is family and he has nothing to fear if we explain to him why we are going to merge. If one of my men were to be assigned as foreman on your ranch Will can still be considered an owner rather than an employee. That goes for my spread also. It would be a quick ride up the ladder for him and a better way for me to deal with the dilemma I have in promoting my men. Once we achieve a solid partnership, both of us can have more time to enjoy our later years. You have to be thinking the same thing old boy, we are getting, dare I say it……Old!”

“I hate to admit it Sam, but you are right. My bones creek right along with yours’ Will does need more time to mature before he can handle all the things it would take to be top dog. He needs to be one of the men before he can be a leader of men. Let me talk to him, we see eye to eye and I know he will understand. Something else I have been thinking on is how can I travel more often. How would you like to go with me to meet Bat Masterson?”

“Now you are talking my friend!”

The next day, Lucas and Will were alone at the ranch. The chores went by fast and the weather was good. Lucas suggested that they ride out to the shooting range and have a good time. Lucas was wondering when he was going to hear from Bat about the rifle lever and he figured he better stay on top of his marksmanship. Razor and Spirit enjoyed getting out on a ride to a different destination for once. They had been going back and forth between the two ranches for quite some time. The stallions knew each other well and got along better than most. After an hour of practice killing cans and cards, Lucas sat Will down and discussed with him about what he and Sam were considering.
 
“Will, first of all, I want you to know that I am very impressed with everything you have done since we have been together. Think nothing of the Jack Donaldson problem. No matter what ever happens between you and Ann, you have my blessing. I can tell you that Sam feels the same way. He loves you as a son now.”

“I appreciate that. I feel very good about everything as well. How can I ever complain? I don’t think there are many of my kind that get a chance like this.”

“I understand that, I’m very glad to have the opportunity to give you that chance. But there is something I have to talk to you about. I don’t want you getting any wrong ideas about what I am about to tell you. So just hear me out before you react.” Lucas pulled out a cigar and let a few moments go by.
 
“After all that has happened Lucas, I hope you can trust me to understand whatever it is that has you concerned. I hope there isn’t anything wrong.”

“Nothing like that, but there may be some changes as to how we do business. I need to explain something to you that happened last night. Sam and I got to talking about things and we came to a conclusion that we should become partners. I explained to him that I wanted to be able to give back to him for everything he’s done for me. Over the years, I have been in the position to receive much more than I could ever give. Sam has been a great friend and on a higher level at ranching than I am. He’s looked out for me so many times when I left my ranch and usually Mark. His men have had to run the ranch on many of these occasions. I can’t tell you how much I owe him.”

“I must admit that I haven’t given this possibility much thought, but I do realize that both of you have a lot at stake. Ann told me from the start that I would have two ranches to worry about if we were going to be together. So much has happened in such a short period of time and I have had to concentrate on the work.”

“I don’t want you to change a thing about what you are doing. It is more about expectations that I am concerned with. This isn’t about lowering them either, but I want you to be willing to understand why I have to do this. Sam has some of the best men in the business. Several of them are ready to run a ranch on their own. He wants to have a way to promote more than one of them. So I am considering handing over control of this ranch to one of his men.”

“That is a big change! I can see how it can improve things faster though. I’m trying to learn as much as I can, but it will take me a long time to know enough, that is for sure. I know you want to travel in the near future. I don’t expect I could run this place on my own fast enough. I’m alright with what you are thinking.”
 
“Good. Now here is how I want things to be. First of all, I want you to know that you are family and not an employee. That goes for both Sam and I. My ranch is your ranch for life. You always have a home here. We will build whatever is needed to improve things for the men who will work here. You can learn and work with them all you want. But I expect that you will desire more time on the Bard ranch as time goes by. This partnership will give you the freedom to develop a more serious relationship with Ann. Am I correct in thinking that is what your intention is?”

“That is a loaded question. I hope you can be patient for an answer. I want to marry her and I believe she would say yes if I asked her right now. But I never want to pressure that into coming about. It is a lot of responsibility for me to consider, I imagine Sam has many concerns over what will become of his beloved daughter and his ranch. Keep in mind that after just getting out of prison, I could never expect all of this to fall into my lap so quickly.”

“That has always been on my mind. Sam’s too. But consider it this way, if we really love you as family, and we do, then Sam and I would rather see you concentrate on Ann than trying to become an overnight rancher. You won’t have to hurry yourself into learning the trade. It takes most people decades of hard work to achieve that level of success. And you have shown much higher than average potential. In the long run, if you and Ann marry, it is the Bard ranch that you will wind up in charge of anyhow. What happens to mine won’t be so important. It can either be a part of the bigger picture or become Mark’s interest. But I can tell you right now that he will probably grow into a much different lifestyle.”

“You should discuss this with Mark. I can get along with whatever situation you think is necessary.”

“I intend to. I plan to travel to Oklahoma as soon as possible. I need to see my boy. I hope Bat gets in touch soon.”

“I have been wondering about that as well. Maybe you should write to Simon if you don’t hear from him.”

“Yes, I’ve thought of that. I want to send him something in appreciation for his hospitality also. I’ll think of something. Christmas will be here soon. If I go see Mark at that time will you be alright at the Bard ranch? You can just stay there most of the time if you want to.”

“You won’t have to ask me that a second time! Pinch me Lucas, tell me I’m not dreaming!”

“Great, you do see how this can work out. I believe Sam should be having a similar discussion with Ann. The next time you two talk, watch out! You just might be in for a whole new outlook on life!”

“As if my mind wasn’t racing already. What did I ever do to deserve all of this?”
“It seems to me that you stood up for yourself a long time ago. It may not have seemed like such a huge decision at the time, but it brought about great blessings, hasn’t it?”

“No doubt! I wish Hank were here to see all of this.” Will wiped a tear from his eye.
“I do also brother, believe me. In the next few days then, we will get together and have dinner over all of this. You be sure to talk to Ann before hand. This brings you up a notch, not down, you understand?”

“Completely. I actually feel relieved now, it will sink in better after a good night’s sleep I’m sure. You never cease to amaze me. God Bless you Lucas McCain!

“He always does, Will Fulton, and the same goes for you.”

“Thank you. I give you my word that I will support you in every way possible and I will do the right thing for Ann’s sake, I consider all of you family as well you know.”

“I do know. I even had a strong sense of that when we first met. It was awkward I have to say, but once you had time to consider what was going on, you came to the right conclusion. Even before you stood up to Hank, I knew you were a good person. I’m sorry that so much time had to go by before we could progress to this point, but here we are just the same.”

“ I suppose it wouldn’t be a lesson if we get it all done too quick. If there is one thing I am learning about becoming a man, it’s that you have to do it one step at a time. It’s tempting to want to reach out and grab it all at once, but I feel more thankful when it takes time and effort to get something done. Your light shines bright Rifleman, and your lead flies true. I am proud to be part of your family.”
“I am very happy that we understand each other so well. Now, let’s get back to target practice, I feel an urgent telegram coming on. We have our sights set on some lofty goals.

Battle Within A Young Gun - Chapter 14 — Changes Made

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

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