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Apple Pie
Written by Klara's Boy


"It´s about time, we find a place to spend the night, son.“

Lucas and Mark were riding over a barren ridge, which led straight to the West. They had three more days to ride to get back to North Fork. Both had been enjoying the trip but for the night Lucas would have appreciated a roof over the head. The sun was already sinking and dark clouds were gathering, promising heavy rain.

Mark was tired and hungry but he was wary enough to be the first to spot the little cabin at the river banks.
“Look, Pa! Maybe we should try our luck there.”

Lucas nodded and turned his exhausted horse around. After ten minutes they reached the half-collapsed shack. Only a few meters away a dingy man with a grey beard was standing on a flat boulder, washing his dishes in the river. When he noticed his visitors, he smiled and tipped his flea-infested hat.

“Good afternoon, gentlemen. Gus is at your service.”
“Good afternoon, Mister Gus. My name is McCain and this is my son Mark. We were wondering if we could spend the night here. We are willing to pay.”

Gus put this pan aside and stepped nearer. His shirt, his brown poncho and his grey pants were in no better shape than his hat but his smile revealed that he was a simple-minded but honest man. His voice was raspy and deep and a little hard to understand.

“Sometimes that nice little river still provides Gus with a little gold. It´s nothing much, but for a humble man like Gus more than enough. Gus spent almost his whole life here, yessir. Not even those pesky Yankees bothered Gus out here. Gus thanks the Good Lord for that. But spending the night here? Well, as you can see, folks, Gus´ old cabin is not exactly the finest palace under the sun. But maybe Gus has a better suggestion. Would you listen to old Gus, sir?”

“Sure, Gus.”
“Just a mile down the river you will find a house, a real house. That´s where the Olsons live. Olga and Pete Olson are finest folks you can imagine. They love having visitors. Olga´s apple pie is like no other in the world. Sometimes Olga brings Gus a piece of it, yessir. Gus thanks the Good Lord for such fine neighbors. Just follow the river, my dear gentlemen. You will be far better off there. Gus promises you that.”

Lucas looked at his son´s face, knowing his penchant for apple pie. A warm meal and a good sleep were hard to turn down after such a long ride.
“Well, if you put it that way, Gus, we try our luck there. Much obliged. So long.”
“Not at all. Gus sends his regards to Old Pete and his lady. So long.”

Lucas and Mark rode on following the stony riverbank. After a mile they reached the Olson´s place. It was a surprisingly beautiful house with two stories and a big wooden door. A looked like a small hacienda but of course it didn´t have the elegant appearance of rich cattleman´s estate. Maybe its roof was a little ramshackle but still it was a remarkable building, surrounded by a lush garden and a couple of apple-trees watered by the river running by. When Lucas and Mark approached an old woman stepped out of the house, eyeing the visitors curiously.

“Good afternoon, ma'am. On our way here, we met a man at the river called Gus who said who could maybe spend the night here. Is that true?”

The old lady came closer, smiling cheerfully. She was wearing an old but elegant black dress and a fitting white scarf. Her face was covered with dozens of wrinkles but her blue eyes showed kindness and warmth. Generally she made the impression of a well-bred lady with a heart of gold.

“Of course, mister. I am Olga Olsen. Much delighted to have guests tonight.”
“Much obliged, ma'am. My name is Lucas McCain and this is my son Mark.”
“Oh, aren´t you the nicest young man, I have ever seen, Mark? Pretty soon the ladies will chase you all day long, you´ll see. Well, I sure do hope you wouldn´t turn down a piece of my famous apple pie.”
Mark blushed when he tipped politely his hat.
“Well, … I don´t think so, ma'am. In fact, my Pa loves apple pie, too.”

The tiny woman giggled like a school-girl.
“Well, I guess such a big fellow like your father need a little more than other people. Ain´t that right, Mister McCain?”
Lucas only nodded, being terribly weary and saddle-sore. The rancher dismounted and pulled his rifle out of the scabbard. His horse nickered, grateful for the relief.

“To be perfectly honest, ma'am, we came a long way. We attended a meeting of cattle-breeders in Texas and now we are on our way back to North Fork in New Mexico. It´s sure nice of you letting us stay for tonight, Missis Olson.”

“Oh, please, call me Olga, Mister McCain. Pete and I will surely enjoy the company. I am glad Gus was so kind to recommend our humble place.”
Lucas and Mark smiled, truly thankful for the cordial hospitality. Olga beckoned to them, inviting them to follow her into the big house.
“What are you waiting for? Come in.”


***

The sun had already sunken behind the hills and owls could be heard between the bushes. Crickets started their nightly concert. The interior of the house was surely not luxurious but clean and tidy. A bison´s head at the wall over the table watched Olga and her guests eating. The second story of the building could be reached over a wooden staircase next to the impressive fireplace where a nice little fire was warming up the cozy room.

During the meal Lucas grew really fond of Olga. The lady was the most debonair and likeable person. In the candles’ light her face looked even kinda fresh and youthful despite the wrinkles. Lucas often looked into her waggish eyes during the meal. The steaming coffee and especially the famous apple pie had breathed new life into his tired body.

“I gotta admit, Olga, your house is really impressing. Never would have expected such a building out here.”

The charming old lady smiled as she filled Lucas´ cup again.
“Well, there was once that British nobleman who was planning to set up his retirement residence here. He even planted the apple-trees you can see out there. He was quite wealthy but then His Lordship had to return to England for some urgent family affair. He sold his house to us really cheap and that way it became our retirement residence. Pete had a little maintenance to do, but he has always been quite handy with tools. We are so happy here now.”

That moment heavy steps could be heard on the upper floor over their hands. A person seemed to be quite busy upstairs, walking up and down. Then, after a short pause, the man kept on pacing restlessly. Judging from the loud noise on the wooden floor it was a heavyset fellow.

Lucas looked up and smiled at his host.
“Seems to me, we are not alone, Olga. Is Pete up there?”

Olga listened to the steps for a moment before she brought some more coffee.
“That´s my husband, alright. Pete always spends the evening up there. Old habits die hard, I guess.”

Mark was still chewing on a delicious piece of pie. It was obvious that he also had become a devoted admirer of Olga mostly due to her recipe.
“Well, my Pa and I would love to make his acquaintance. Is your husband that shy?”

Olga couldn´t help it. She just started laughing.
“My Pete and shy? What are you thinking, boy? Back in the days, he was the bravest daredevil you can image. A real giant of a man. Even bigger than you, Mister McCain. He once walked up to three bandits and when they drew their guns he just shot them, just like that. By the way … you have a quite a rifle there, Mister McCain. It´s really a nice shooting iron, I´d say.”

Lucas looked at his Winchester, which was leaning against the wall next to the table.

“I like it. But, seriously, we would love to meet your husband. Why doesn´t he come down to join us?”

Mark looked around, noticing a framed photograph on a table nearby, lit by the candles. A woman with a wedding dress together with her strapping bridegroom could be seen on the picture.
“That´s you on your wedding, right?”
Olga nodded wistfully.

“Yes, Pete is the best man I have ever met. After the funeral he moved back in here, so I don´t have to be lonely out here. Oh, he has always been such a spunky fellow, Mark. Once he even scared a wild bear away in order to protect me. That was back in ´71, if memory serves me correctly. Or was it ´72? Anyway, it was really a nasty bear and regrettably short on manners. But that was nothing compared what happened last year. Those two bank-robbers broke in with their loot and tried to hide from the posse, which was hard on their heels. They went upstairs and … well, I tried to warn them, but anyway, they next day they turned themselves in. Such scum is never welcome in our house. Pete has his principles after all.”

As the steps grew even louder Lucas frowned.
“Excuse me, Olga, but did you say … after the funeral?”

That very moment a heavy man walked slowly down the stairs. Lucas and Mark turned their heads. The person seemed to stop next to the fireplace. The flames sent sparks through the room as if they were moved by a cold wind.

After some endless seconds, Olga became a little cranky.
“Mark, it´s not exactly mannerly to stare at someone like that, especially if you can´t see him anyway.”

But Mark didn´t listen to that reprimand since his father also turned very pale.

The old lady on the other hand was totally unimpressed by her husband´s arrival.
“Any more coffee, Mister McCain?”


***

Micah grew sentimental … and hungry. Since Lucas was still gone, he had to have lunch on his own and he didn´t like it. He really missed his best friend and started to worry. But when he left his office and headed over to the hotel he saw two riders coming down the street. Micah stopped and waved, smiling gleefully.

“Lucas Boy! Mark! You´re back! That´s great! Just great!”

The rancher and his son stopped their horses in front of the hotel and dismounted in a hurry. The relieved Marshal welcomed them.

“I didn´t expect you before Wednesday. You had quite a ride, I reckon.”
“Huh?”
“I said, you must have … hey, you´re alright, Lucas? What´s the matter, son?”

Mark in particular was pale and taciturn. Lucas pulled his rifle out of the scabbard, grasping it tightly.

“Well, as you said, we had quite a ride, Micah. We couldn´t wait getting home. We missed North Fork so much. There is no place like home, I can tell you. So there is nothing to worry about, I assure you.”

Micah became a little suspicious. Being an experienced lawman he felt if people were telling the truth or not. He could see that their sweaty horses had been treated recklessly in order to come home as fast as possible.

“Well, if you say so, Lucas. How was Texas?”
“Texas?”
“Yes, as far as I remember you went there to meet up with other ranchers to …”
“Oh, Texas you mean. Yes, it was pretty informative. We had many interesting conversations with cattlemen from the East … nothing out of the ordinary. What´s on the menu today? We are still in time, aren´t we? We are rather hungry.”

The aging Marshal nodded, still curious about the peculiar behavior of his friend.
“Yes, today they offer really fine venison stew and as dessert apple pie …”

Lucas and Mark exchanged glances, turning even paler. Micah shook his head distrustfully.

“Lucas Boy, you are worrying me. You look like you have seen a ghost.”


***

The nugget was not bigger than a pinhead but it turned Gus into a happy man. He was standing right in the middle of his beloved river, admiring his treasure. Then he noticed Olga approaching with a big basket, covered with a checkered cloth.

“Olga! Gus found this really fancy nugget only minutes ago. Ain´t it beautiful? Gus thanks the Good Lord for such a wonderful day.”

The old man hurried back to the shore, eager to present his impressive trove. Olga smiled, feeling great joy for her god-fearing neighbor.

“It sure is, Gus. I see you are happy today.”
“Gus is happy, Olga. So happy! Gus thanks the Good Lord for everything!”
“I am here to bring you some apple pie. My last visitors left it on their plates. That big man and his boy … they were really nice … but they were also a bit of a disappointment, to be honest.”
“In which way, Olga?”
“Well, when Pete came down to join us, they just jumped up and left, hardly saying Goodbye.”

The dingy man took the basket gently out of Olga´s hand, shaking his head in disbelief.

“And leaving that wonderful apple pie behind? Who can understand such people?”

The End

These stories are based on the TV series The Rifleman
Here are some other great stories. Enjoy!

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