The Writer's Corner
The Battle Within A Young Gun
Written by Frank Charles aka weinerdawgy
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
“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,
“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.
“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
“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
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
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
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
“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
“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
“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 —
This is a story based on the TV
series The Rifleman
Here are some other great stories. Enjoy!
around The McCain Ranch