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

Chapter Five — Ranch Hand

Lucas and Will went to work improving the ranch, one fencepost at a time. The fencing was in need of much repair throughout the pastures. The larger herd became more of a task than Lucas could manage on his own. The help Lucas was getting before Will came along was not enough to keep things in order. Mark tried to be of some use, but getting ready to leave for school took a lot of his time. Sam gave Lucas some help from his men, but he had plenty of work for them as well. Together they spent the rest of the summer tending to the cattle on both ranches, getting them ready for market.

Will settled into his new life and was very thankful for his many blessings. At first, it was difficult to get used to receiving so much in a short time, but it made him feel even better to work hard for others. He was now reunited with his horse and was learning the farrier’s art at the Bard Ranch. Ann taught him some finer points at riding skills which gave them many hours of joy together. It seemed that most of the life he had lost was returning to him. As had been the case for along time, staying busy kept his mind off of the tragic past.

Ann came by the house often and gave things inside the help only a woman could. She made new curtains, cleaned the bed clothes often, planted flowers and put some on the window sills. She dusted the furniture, and of course, provided well prepared meals. She even leant a hand at shoveling out the stalls and working the horses. This kept Will happy as most days he was so tired after working with Lucas that he didn’t have the energy to ride the three miles to the Bard Ranch. But Lucas made sure there was a good amount of time by the weekends for the two to be together. He tried to go with him on most occasions, which is what he promised Sam he would do. Besides, Lucas liked Ann’s cooking as much as Will did. Lucas was very happy with the way his plan was working out. He missed Mark very much though and was looking forward to his letters. The first one came as he predicted, but was brief and told only of his getting settled and meeting family. The school year had yet to begin.

Sam was happy to have Lucas’ ear more often as he enjoyed telling his Civil War stories. He spent as much time trying to get Lucas to talk of his days in the war. Lucas didn’t always want to speak on those times, but he trusted Sam and they related well. Both men had their share of killing and sadness. Will learned a whole bunch about his new found big brother when he found the time to sit in on these conversations. Sometimes Ann was busy with her horses and training sessions, which afforded him time to tell of his experiences with Hank and being behind bars. It was important for them to talk about these things. It was Sam’s right to know what was in Will’s past. When he learned of the terrible way his family lost their farm and that his parents were killed Sam began to understand why he first chose to break the law. It was helpful for Will to gain acceptance and get some of his feelings out in the open. Sam was beginning to relax over his fears about Will, and soon, the three men trusted each other enough to be family.

Eventually, the time came for Will and Ann to spend some time in town by themselves. There was one last dance before the end of the fall season, Lucas happened to be very busy making preparations to take most of the cattle to market. The corn feed was about to run out and it was becoming time to sell them or winter them over until next year. Lucas spent a lot of money getting them ready and outfitting his ranch hand, so it was time to do some business. Sam had similar matters to attend to.

The Saturday of the dance came and Will was determined to make everybody proud and show them he could be trusted. He rode over in the buckboard and escorted the well gussied up Ann into North Fork. The streets were crowded, the dance was one of the biggest events of the year. Ann saw many of her friends as they made their way down the main street toward the stables. Will didn’t know very many people yet. His visits in town were usually limited to helping Lucas load the wagon with supplies, but they did have a meal at the California House once in a while. Will was a bit nervous as he realized just how popular Ann was. Of course, she knew almost everyone for miles around. This is where she grew up, took part in riding competitions, and her involvement in church and town matters made her very well known. She was excited about this evening and her glow was all over Will.
Once they walked inside the dancehall, they were surrounded by well wishers and friends. There was close to an hour before the music would start. The time flew while Ann chatted and made introductions. Will felt somewhat out of place. Ann held his hand firm and did her best to involve him in the conversation. But, it was only a matter of time until somebody brought up the fact that Will had been in prison. This came in the form of one Jack Donaldson, a local son of a ranch owner, who fancied Ann since grade school.

“Well, if it isn’t Ann Bard, and who is this fine gentleman, or should I say convict!”

Ann anticipated this happening, but at the moment she found herself unable to reply, a scowl came over her face and she sought to drag Will away to the other side of the room. Will resisted and had to reply. “You’ll do well to mind your manners around the ladies mister. If you have a problem with me we can settle it another time.”

“My only problem is that Ann is too good for you convict. Why don’t you find some place to hide out and let us town folk enjoy the dance?” Jack braced himself for what he hoped would be a lunge from Will.

Will would have obliged him except that the lectures from Lucas were still fresh on his mind. “I don’t have time to breathe the same air as you cowpoke. If you want a piece of me you’ll be sorry. Ann doesn’t deserve to have this evening ruined by you. Now mosey on and rejoin the herd!”

Most of the bystanders began to laugh and Jack figured he better save what face he had left for a better time. “Alright convict, we’ll meet again one day and there won’t be a herd around to protect you.” Jack walked angrily past the imposing character standing next to Ann and out into the night air.

This brought on more chuckles and eased Will’s acceptance. Most of the town folk were weary over Donaldson’s bad attitudes as long as they could remember. Will also learned a very important lesson. Trust in the Lord and The Rifleman!
The dance was a magical time, filled with fiddles, food, and drink. Will found a new confidence among the people of North Fork. Ann gazed upon him with beaming pride. It didn’t happen often at these affairs, but several of Ann’s best girlfriends cut in to have their chance to dance with Will. This gave Ann some time to rest and brag about her man on the side. When the evening finally wound down and the popular couple took their leave, Jack Donaldson could be seen across the street in front of the saloon, being held up by one of the wooden posts.
“Hey convict!” Jack bellered out. “I’ll be seeing you. Don’t wander too far off of the range or I might have to round you up, doggie style!” Jack laughed long and hard as only a whiskey soaked forlorn rancher can.

This time, Will held himself speechless and didn’t even look over at him. It was Ann that had something to say. “I’ll never speak to you again Jack, you have no right to be mean to Will. He is more of a man than you will ever be. Now go home and sleep it off before I really get mad. You know what happens when I get mad, don’t you?”

“Ah, back off woman, this is a man thing, and I can see your man has nothing left to say to me, must be shaking in his boots, letting a woman do the talking.” Jack flopped himself over to the next post and almost fell.

“You’ll fall much further than that if I ever hear another word out of you Jack. Your turn will come, and when it does, you won’t be the one to walk away!” Just then, Ann felt a jerk as Will hurried her on towards the stables.

“Now, don’t antagonize him further, I can handle idiots like him.”

“I bet you can Will. Let’s get home, I’m very tired.”

The wagon rolled quickly past Jack and out of town. Will didn’t say anything for a long time. Ann was doing her best not to fall asleep sitting up.

“That was strong punch tonight, Jack obviously had too much before we even got there. I pray there won’t be anymore trouble.”

“I don’t have time for that stuff. I have to keep myself on the straight and narrow or I go back to the big house. I’ve said my prayers, and Lucas was the answer.”

“I think everyone in North Fork knows just what kind of man William Fulton is. And they also know what kind of indignant fool Jack Donaldson is. You’ll be alright, just keep your faith and know we all love you.” Ann put her arm around Will and hugged him tight. “You’ll always be my man Will, you can trust in that, I love you.”

“I love you Ann. You’re everything to me. I don’t care what anyone else thinks. You can trust in that. Will gave the horses a little goose with the reins and the lovers sped off into the night, back to rancher’s heaven.

Battle Within A Young Gun - Chapter 6 — Rails and Trails

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

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