The Writer's Corner
Written by Klara's
This story is dedicated to
Cowgirlatheart and Brooke.
The man examined carefully the right foreleg of his horse. The
animal was uneasy and exhausted, nickering nervously.
“Yeah, I know, the rain is coming in fast, my girl. But how on
earth could you lose a shoe? Now we are in a tight spot. We
better hurry. I sure like water but that would be too much.”
Heaving a sigh the man mounted his beautiful horse and looked up
to the sky which was covered with heavy clouds. Distant thunder
could already be heard behind him.
“Two more days … then we will be in North Fork, my dear.”
“You´re Jim Thorwald?”
“Well, mostly they still call me The Shiloh-Kid because it was
during the war, when I …”
The old man in the brittle rocking chair shook his head.
“I am gonna call you by your real name for two reasons, Thorwald:
the war is over and you sure are no kid anymore. I hear you are
hiring out again.”
“You have good ears.”
The old man in the rocking chair next to the bar gave the gunman
a disapproving look.
“The Good Lord doesn't take too kindly to men killing their
fellow men for a living.”
“Even The Good Lord can't blame a man for doing what he is best
at, I reckon.”
“That´s right, you are the best, aren't you?”
Thorwald was a slender man in his late forties, wearing a
buckskin jacket, a fancy white shirt, army pants and a dark
sombrero. A beautiful Colt 45 was holstered at his right side.
“The Mexican you sent to me said something about 150 dollars.”
The old man in his rocking chair nodded.
“After the job is done, the money will be waiting here for you.
You can trust me, you know that.”
The gunfighter walked closer. The sun drew his lean shadow
against the dirty wall of the cantina.
“In my profession a man has got a choice: he can lead a long
and happy life and die in bed, surrounded by his mourning
grandchildren or … he can start trusting people. By the way …
nice place you got, mister. I trust it was not too expensive?”
Thorwald looked around. The dilapidated cantina in the middle of
the stony desert was almost empty: only two drunken Apaches were
sitting at a table on the other side of the room, mumbling
strange words in their native tongue. They didn't seem to be
bothered by the relentless heat, the appalling tang and the
pesky flies circling around the dirty dishes. Several empty and
broken bottles covered the grubby floor, attracting giant
cockroaches. The owner of that bedraggled place remained
motionless in his rocking chair.
“Don´t try to be funny, Thorwald. This is the seediest place
west of New York, run by a world-weary man, who is no good
anymore. Those two injuns over there are my best customers at
the moment. They are always welcome tough I normally can't
stomach such filthy pagans. But sometimes even a worn-out old
man is still able to come up with a surprise. Just turn around.”
The gunfighter moved his head and looked at a man who emerged
slowly out of the little larder behind the bar. The stranger was
a younger fellow, maybe thirty years old, dressed completely in
black. The old man in his rocker grinned for a moment.
“You know each other?”
Thorwald smiled, showing his white teeth.
“We sure do. Ain't that a surprise? Howdy, Walt. Long time no
see. You look great.”
The younger man walked up to Thorwald, looking into his green
eyes. His glance was full of hate.
“I´ve been thinking that I never would catch up with you,
Shiloh. But thanks to this old fool, we meet again.”
Thorwald seemed a little embarrassed.
“You don't hold a grudge against me, do you? Well, I don´t think
you would be that touchy, Walt.”
Walt's right hand moved to his belt, where his gun stuck.
“You ran out on me, Shiloh. You took off with my share of the
bounty after we had brought Francis Romano in. 500 dollars are a
lot of money. For almost one year I have been after you. But
today we will get even.”
Thorwald crossed his arms, still smiling, while Walt stepped
slowly aside, trying to get the sun behind him. The older
gunfighter seemed totally unimpressed by the deadly wrath of his
“If you allow me to play a hunch I would say you wanna have your
share right now. That's what mother has always wanted us to be:
fair and square. By the way, have you seen mother lately?”
For a moment Walt seemed to turn into a boy once more, as his
voice became strangely soft, almost weak. His clean shaven face
“Ma passed away last June. I was there, holding her hand. There
was no money left to pay a decent doctor to save her, so she
died rather painfully, I can tell ya. The next morning I buried
her right next to Pa. I put flowers on their graves but they
His older brother was stunned. His arms were still crossed but
his smile froze. For a moment an excruciating twinge of real
remorse seemed to torture his mind.
“Much obliged, Walt. I really mean it, yessir. Well, I must say
I'm proud that at least one of us shows enough decency to …”
Walt drew his Colt with lighting speed, but before he could pull
the trigger, three bullets hit his chest.
When the smoke cleared away the rickety man was still sitting in
his rocker, totally unfazed by the tragedy. Not even the boozed
Apaches had lifted their heads, still muttering hardly
understandable words in their native language.
“That´s what I call a family reunion, Mister Thorwald.”
The pale gunfighter starred down at Walt's body as he slowly
holstered his Colt.
“So, that´s why you summoned both of us, ain't it? To see who of
the Thorwald brothers would be faster. You knew it would come to
The hard-boiled man rose from the rocking chair, now smiling and
rubbing his frail hands.
“I have been right all along: you are the best. That
demonstration was pretty impressive, I gotta admit. Now we can
talk business, Mister Thorwald. How about a drink? It's sure hot
today, wouldn't you say? The way I see it, a nice tequila
wouldn't hurt any of us. I always keep some bottles away from
those filthy pagans. Tame injuns the damned government call them
nowadays. I can't wait to see the day when all those lousy
pagans gonna be civilized … or dead, whatever comes first.”
Big Flies were circling over the bar as the killer emptied his
shot. The tequila was burning in his throat like fire. For a
moment little stars were dancing right in front of his eyes. But
then Thorwald turned very serious.
“So, what is this all about? The Mexican you sent was not
exactly what I call explicit. But that least he was sober enough
to deliver your offer. What do you want from me? Something big I
The old man with the cold smile filled the glass up again. The
tequila was … unusually strong to say the least. For a moment,
Thorwald felt some bile rising in his neck and the crazy stars
“Playing hunches again, Mister Thorwald?”
“They are hardly ever wrong …”
“Are you prepared to kill another man?”
Thorwald´s eyes became small while he pulled out his beautiful
Colt to reload it. Empty shells rained down, almost hitting
“That´s what I normally getting paid for and I always see the
job through. Otherwise I wouldn't be here and … still alive.”
The old man nodded contently. Then he filled the glass a third
“Ever heard of a man by the name of … Micah Torrance?”
“What is it, son?”
“There are fresh tracks over here, leading towards the rise,
Lucas frowned and dismounted. His son was right. Last night
heavy rain had made the ground awfully soggy, so the tracks were
clearly to see. Three horsemen had been heading for the ridge.
Behind those grassy hills the main part of his stock was
grazing. Lucas and Mark had tried to bag a couple of wolves
which had harassed his cattle during the last nights but now the
rancher decided to follow the trail of the three human
trespassers on horseback.
Lucas got on his animal and pulled the Winchester out of the
“Let´s take a look!”
Mark nodded. He knew the expression on his father's face: Lucas
was sensing danger. While they rode on, Lucas kept his eyes on
the ground. Studying the tracks in the brown quagmire, Mark
noticed an interesting detail.
“One of those horses lost a shoe, Pa.”
“That´s right, son. From now on you stay real close to me. Maybe
they are just harmless drifters but we ought to be careful. You
Mark nodded. The boy grew worried himself. After half a mile
they arrived at a giant outcrop which was surrounded by thorny
scrubland and old trees. The narrow path leading around the
mighty rock was hard to overlook. Growing anxious about his
cattle, Lucas took the lead and drove his horse over the muddy
bedrock. His rifle was ready to fire. Normally he would have
sent his son back to the ranch but dangers could also lie in
wait along the way home. Besides … Mark was no kid anymore.
A little bird flew up, leaving the vast scrubland in a hurry.
Lucas was well aware that the place was ideal for springing an
ambush, so he was extra careful. His eyes were …
The attack happened so quickly that Lucas was unable to turn
fast enough in order to protect his screaming son who was
mercilessly pulled out of his saddle by strong arms.
A Colt was cocked.
“Better drop the rifle, mister! Won't do you any good anyway.”
“`morning, Milly. Nice to see the sun again after all the rain,
Micah was in a cheerful mood, enjoying the fresh air, but the
young woman didn't even answer. She hurried over to her store,
hardly returning the Marshal's greeting.
“What´s the matter, Milly? Is something wrong?”
First Milly continued her walk but then she became slower.
Eventually she stopped and turned around, facing Micah. Her
pretty face was pale. A little tear was running over her tender
cheek. Now Micah was worried.
“Milly, what happened?”
“Never mind, Micah, it's just …”
Micah stepped nearer. Deep inside his heart, he was really fond
of the distraught girl, in a very special way. He never would
have mentioned it to anybody but he loved her as the
granddaughter, he never had. Seeing her crying made him anxious.
His voice was soft and soothing.
“Well, if there is a problem, we should take care of it
together, wouldn't you say, gal?”
Milly sobbed. She looked lonely and desperate, kinda … helpless.
“Perhaps you are right, Micah. Have you heard? What they did in
Silverton three days ago?”
Lucas was utterly helpless. One of the attackers was holding
Mark, aiming a gun against the boy´s right temple. Mark was
trembling and moaning while blood was running over his forehead,
coming from a deep laceration he had suffered when he was
brutally pulled from his nickering horse.
Another man, a blond fellow armed with a pair of guns had picked
up the rancher's rifle, admiring it for a couple of seconds.
“Yes, Mister Spears! I was right all along! It's Lucas McCain
himself! We got him! At last we got him!”
“You´re sure, Robert?”
The young man nodded eagerly, displaying the famous weapon.
“Just look at this wonderful rifle, Mister Spears. There is no
other gun like this one. It´s the one with the special trigger
they kept talking about in Yuma. I didn't believe it. But now …”
Lucas interrupted the young man.
“What is this all about, mister?”
The attacker holding Mark was an elegant man with a thin
mustache, wearing an old duster, a red shirt, stained paints and
muddy boots. He was still pressing the muzzle against Mark's
“Allow me to introduce myself, Mister McCain. My name is Simon
Spears and that is my right-hand-man Robert, a good boy. We are
highly interested in your cattle. We were just about to drive
some of your calves away when we saw you coming over the ridge.
So we figured it wise to hide our horses behind those bushes
over there and lie in ambush here.”
“Let my boy go, Mister Spears.”
“Sure, anything you say. I am mighty fond of kids by the way.”
The elegant bandit released his grip and Mark hurried over to
his Pa. Spears holstered his Colt. Lucas was covered with sweat,
since there was nothing he could do. The other outlaw was much
younger, maybe eighteen years old, blond and lean. He aimed the
Winchester at Lucas.
“Let me tell you something, sodbuster. In prison I heard that
you shot a man called Cole Jackson around here. That happened
about five years ago. You remember him, sodbuster?”
The young rustler´s youthful voice was dangerously soft and
serene, making Lucas hesitate before answering.
“Jackson attempted to murder a Mexican family who tried to
settle here, Robert. I came just in time to prevent it. But
what's that to you?”
Slowly the Robert stepped closer, still threatening Lucas with
his own rifle.
“You see, sodbuster, he was my Pa. You shot my Pa just because
of a punch of stinking greasers. Now you will see your son die
right in front of your very eyes … and after that I will finish
you off. I have sworn to kill you with your own rifle. Now I'm
gonna do it and I'm gonna enjoy it.”
Robert's eyes were those of a madman. His eyelids were slightly
trembling, while he starred at the captive rancher. Now his
voice turned raspy, low and full of hate.
“Nobody … hurts my family and lives, sodbuster.”
Lucas hugged his bleeding son, trying his best to protect him.
“You can't do that! Please, you just can't do that. Not my boy!”
Spears grinned, sweeping the sweat from his forehead. Obviously
he was quite fond of Roberts's determination.
“I am deeply sorry, but I promised Robert. Killing his old man …
well, he took it kinda personal, I reckon. As a matter of fact
it made me bitter too, since Cole used to be such a good friend
of mine. It's just seemly to take care of things now. That's why
I brought Robert along so he can fulfill his solemn vow to
avenge his father. After that we will take enough of your cows
to start all over again in Mexico.”
“You ain't gonna see Mexico again.”
A third man had emerged silently out of the tense bushes, he had
been hiding in. He was a grey-haired man in his fifties, short
and portly. His right hand rested at the holster at his right
For a second Spears and his younger companion were stunned. But
then they swung around simultaneously, trying to take on the
stranger. Spears tried to draw his gun but it was too late. The
stranger's Colt spit fire and lead. Spears didn't stand a
chance. He got hit twice before his sidearm was out. The rustler
could not even scream when the bullets pushed him back against
the rock behind him.
That very second Lucas lunged forward as fast as he could. His
powerful right fist hit Robert's chin the same instant his left
hand clasped the rifle. Lucas jumped back and before the young
killer could react, the mad rancher had turned the muzzle
against his opponent's chest.
“Nobody … hurts my family and lives.”
Robert's blue eyes were wide, showing not only madness anymore
but panic and surprise. The vengeful outlaw opened his mouth,
trying to say something, maybe begging for his life. In an
instant Robert realized that his end was …
Lucas pulled the trigger.
“Missus Romano told me this morning, when she did her shopping
in my store. Money had been stolen in Silverton. At least,
that's what the wife of a wealthy farmer claimed. There was no
clue about the thief. But then they arrested that young man … I
don't know his name, but because he was a stranger without any
friends who would stand up for him … they found him guilty.”
Micah was listening to Millie's story. He knew Silverton. It
was a wild, violent town, about 40 miles away. Billy the Kid had
been hiding from the law there for quite a while before
returning to Fort Sumner where Pat Garret finally caught up with
him. Silverton's inhabitants were believers more in bullets than
in words. So he didn't find it hard to guess, what Milly was so
“People there are not much for law and order at least not in a
way we would appreciate, but …”
“Micah, they broke him out of prison and took him to that tree
and … “
The woman started crying again, being simply too upset about the
injustice. Micah was glad that they had gone to his office in
the meantime. The busy street was no place for such a
conversation. But here they could talk freely and without any
“All just because he was a stranger, Micah. The day after that
hanging the farmer returned home from Santa Fe. It came out that
he had taken the … stolen … money with him to buy tools. So, the
young outsider had died for nothing … for nothing!”
Micah tried to comfort the young woman. But it was to no avail.
“Well, Milly, there is nothing we could do about it now. But I
can promise you this: as long as I am responsible for North
Fork, there will never be something like that around here.”
For a moment, Milly raised her head. Suddenly she felt a strange
kind of anger and disappointment about Micah's reaction to that
“How can you be so sure?! As a lawman you ought to know how low
people can sink. Without you and Lucas … who knows, what could
happen even here …”
Micah remained silent for a moment, as his eyes turned cold and
hard. Then he shook his head. He was an over-the-hill man, a
former drunk, a left-handed cripple, not good with a handgun
anymore, but in that very moment, not even the President of the
United States would have questioned his authority. His old
fingers touched his black vest.
“There will be no unlawful hanging in this town, as long as I am
wearing this badge.”
For a moment Milly stopped sobbing.
“What are you talking about, Micah? How could you such sure
about that?! Not even …”
“Let me tell you a story, gal …”
“You are alright, mister?”
Calmly the stranger approached, holstering his gun. While
hugging Mark, Lucas eyed his savior.
“We sure are, mister, thanks to you.”
The stranger looked down on the bodies. Robert was lying
face-down in the mud, while Spears was still leaning
half-upright against the rock, starring into the cloudless sky.
The stranger touched his victim's shoulder, making the corpse
drop to the ground. Now Spears was lying spread-eagle next to
his young friend.
“I am glad I could help. Are you hurt bad, son?”
Mark was still heavily breathing but he pulled himself together.
There was no danger anymore.
“I am alright, mister. Thank … thank you …”
Lucas lowered his rifle. He could hardly believe that he and his
son were still alive. He had faced many outlaw in his days but
Robert had been worse … a demon despite his youth, his innocent
face, his serene voice. When the rancher and his rescuer shook
hands, Lucas realized how strong the man's grip was.
“The name is Miner, Samuel Miner.”
“My name is Lucas McCain and this is my son Mark.”
Miner nodded contently. He looked old and weary but the elegant
way he handled his gun revealed that he was a professional
gunman, maybe the fastest ever.
“Pleased to meet you, Mister McCain. By the way … you are pretty
handy with that rifle. I have always admired men, who can shoot
Lucas looked down on his son, who was still pale and bleeding on
the forehead, but was unhurt apart from that.
“How can I ever repay my debt, Mister Miner?”
“By telling me where I can find the nearest blacksmith. Emily
lost a shoe two days ago.”
“Beg your pardon, mister. Emily is my horse, the finest animal
ever born by a mare. I left her over there between the trees in
safety when I came across those rustlers.”
Mark and Lucas exchanged glances.
Micah had taken his seat behind the desk. Out on the street
people were moving around as usual, but Milly didn't pay any
attention to anything else but Micah's story. Never before, she
had been alone with the old man that long. His calm voice and
lined face revealed his great deal of life experience. Deep in
her soul Milly was feeling how her affection to the old man was
growing, as Micah began his story.
“I was married once, Milly.”
The young woman was utterly taken by surprise.
“Really? I had no idea, Micah. Nobody has ever told me. You were
really hooked? Who was …”
“Her name was Elizabeth Cook, the prettiest girl in Montana
Territory. I wanted to make money to … well, to impress her and
her parents. To court such a woman can be mighty hard for a
young fellow when has not a single cent in his pocket. It's also
a matter of pride to impress a bride, you know.”
Milly, although still sad, couldn't help sniggering.
“Sorry, Micah, but it's … well, kinda hard to picture you as a
young … heartthrob.”
“Do you want to hear the story or not, gal?”
“Sorry, of course I would love to. Go on, please.”
“Well, I was young and strong and … maybe even a little taller
than today. I was not afraid of hard work so I started out as a
cowhand. Montana was a wild and untamed country in those days, I
can tell you. Being a cowboy was a pretty rough business back
then. We once even lost a herder and two horses during a
stampede. But that was nothing compared to …”
Micah stopped. For a moment he hesitated. It was hard for him to
find the appropriate words.
“It was a hard work, gal. Cattle … well, they are such dumb
animals, not to mention dangerous. We boys had a saying: it's no
use trying to understand them, just rope and brand them.”
Milly nodded. She seemed to have forgotten her grief for the
time being. Obviously Micah was a good storyteller.
“Yes, when he was young my father used to work as a ranch hand
too. One day a horn broke three of his rips and cracked his
Micah was glad, that the tender dame had at least an impression
about the hardship a poor cowboy had to endure.
“Then you can image that it was important to have men around you
that you can count on. We were a great bunch: three or four
young fellows. Especially … well, there was one young fellow.
We all just called him Rico, that's Spanish for “The rich one”.
He was anything but rich but he used to say that every man who
has a reason to smile is rich. And since he smiled almost all
the time despite the hard work, he earned himself that name.
Rico was an orphan from somewhere in the South. He was so young
and lively, never uttered a bad word, never swore or drank. He
loved all kinds of animals, too. Once he even saved a calf from
getting stolen by a Cheyenne. I figure you would have liked him,
Milly smiled for the first time on that day.
“What happened to him, Micah? Are you still in touch with Rico?”
Micah lowered his glance. Bad recollections tightened his
Lucas, Mark and Miner headed home for the ranch, leaving the
bodies behind. Lucas had to notify Micah about the killings as
soon as possible. When they came out in the open, Lucas noticed
a swift movement on an oblique rock about 60 feet away. The
rancher stopped his horse and pulled the Winchester out of the
scabbard. Miner reined his mare next to Lucas.
“What is it, Mister McCain? Anymore trouble …”
Lucas fired a single shot. After a couple of seconds a furry
carcass rolled down the rock and disappeared in the high grass,
never to rise again. Lucas smiled, as he ejected the empty
“That was one of the wolves we were after in the first place. A
shrewd old fellow, but he won't bother my cattle anymore.”
Miner nodded. After a moment he drew his Colt with lightning
speed and fired three more shots. A painful howling was the
answer. A grey body, even bigger than the first one, jumped
snarling out of the grass and dropped back into a muddy buddle.
The angry howling died away fast. Only the fresh grass was still
moving for five more heartbeats. Miner holstered his gun, while
his mare seemed totally unfazed by the dangerous beasts.
“That was the second one, probably the female. She was about to
attack us. Wolves have tight family bonds, risking their very
lives in order to protect their kin or to take revenge for their
pack. But you are right, Mister McCain. A man has to protect
what's his. Sometimes it's a pity tough.”
Lucas didn't say a word. He just put his Winchester back into
the scabbard. As they rode on Mark turned around in his saddle,
looking back to the rock.
“He is so fast …”
“It was just a small herd, we were responsible for, maybe not
more than nine cows and three steers. The cattle belonged to a
man, who wanted us to call him The Boss, just The Boss. He was
only a couple of years older, but he was the meanest man, you
could imagine. When one of us made a mistake of failed his
expectations, he used his whip to teach him a lesson. This whip
… was more feared than any gun, I can tell you.”
“He was such a tyrant? Why did you do anything against him?”
Micah closed his eyes. His memory was clear, painfully clear.
“The Boss was … well, he was not like any other man. We didn't
know anything about him, not even his real name. But he had that
way with people … I can't hardly describe it.”
“Did you get rid of him?”
“Rico was the one, who felt his whip the most. The Boss always
took it out on the boy. Today I am so ashamed that I didn't do
anything to help my friend. One day, Rico tried to run away, on
foot. Of course he did not stand a chance. The Boss caught him
in no time and tracked him back to the camp at a river where we
were watering the stock. Then The Boss said just one sentence:
Deserters and rustlers have not right to live anymore.”
“How could he say such a thing …?”
“Then he calmly took that noose and laid it around Rico's neck.
A few seconds later Rico hung from that giant tree. That's when
I ran back to the chuck wagon to get a gun. I found it and
pulled the trigger. I hit The Boss in the back. He was dead in
an instance. Another cowboy jumped forward and cut the rope. We
managed to save Rico. The boy recovered surprisingly fast. After
a few minutes of heavy breathing he was even smiling again. We
decided to break camp and to leave that place as fast as
“What did you do with The Boss?”
“We left the body to the coyotes and the vultures and never
looked back. Nobody dared to say anything but we all felt that
the curse was taken from us. But that night the Cheyenne jumped
us. Twenty or thirty warriors hit us like painted demons. The
hail of arrows … the shots … it was …”
“I have always thought that Indians never attack at night.”
“They surely taught us different that night. For hours he heard
their hellish battle cries, their war chants. An arrow missed my
head only by inches. Although we kept shooting all the time they
managed to steal or slaughter most of the cattle. All that
remained was an old cow and a young bull. It the morning we
drove those animals to North Dakota and sold them to a wealthy
farmer for 26 dollars. Afterwards we split the money fair and
square. First I didn't wanna take my share, thinking of it as
blood money for shooting a man in the back. But Rico convinced
me to take it anyway. He reminded me of Elizabeth and that we
would need every cent to create our future together. I gave in
and then we split up. When saying farewell Rico hugged me and
promised me that he would repay his debt one day. I have never
seen him again.”
Milly was still fascinated by Micah's absorbing story and almost
sad that it was already over.
“So you returned to Montana to marry you sweetheart. How
romantic. Where is she now?”
Micah shook his head. His voice was soft and full of painful
“Elizabeth died … under tragic circumstances. I once told Lucas
the whole story and I don´t think that I have the strength to do
it again. But there is always her picture in my heart.”
Micah bowed slightly forward over the desk.
“I swear to you that there will be no unlawful hanging in North
Fork as long as this badge is pinned to my vest.”
“Because of a young man called Rico, you saved from being
lynched a long time ago.”
“That´s right, gal.”
Milly got up. There was nothing more to say. She had to get
back to her store but her sad heart had found comfort. At the
door she turned around.
“You know, I never knew my grandfather but I like to think of
him … never mind. Thank you for your story.”
She left the office and crossed the street. Micah smiled. He
Sitting at the porch the old man looked around, enjoying the
nice view and the warm sun. Mark came out of the house and
joined him. A white bandage covered his wound.
“You are really mighty fast on the trigger, Mister Miner. You
must be the fastest gun I have ever seen.”
The grey-haired man turned and looked into the boy's eyes,
“Yes, you have to be, if you are responsible for cattle, Mark.
Those cows and bulls, they are not just animals, son. A healthy
calf, that is a piece of god's grace, granted to you to treat it
the best you can. It's the same with horses. Emily is most
precious horse you can think of. Your father was right to kill
that wolf today in order to protect his herd. I have been a
cattleman all my life and I can tell you: as long as you can
call a herd your own just as your father, you are in God's
grace. I started out as mere cowhand myself …”
Lucas left his barn, holding a horseshoe.
“I just found a single one that was not totally rusted. When we
come to North Fork, we go straight to our blacksmith to have it
nailed to Emily's hoof. I will pay for the job. That's the least
I can do in order to thank you for saving my son, Mister Miner.”
Miner smiled and stood up. Obviously a bond was starting to grow
between the two men.
“That´s just fine. But come to think of it … maybe there is
something else you could do for me, Mister McCain.”
“I haven't eaten for two days, to be honest. A man gets kinda
hungry riding trough this rough country. Maybe you can fix me a
little something, before we go to town. I hope it's no
inconvenience, but …”
Lucas nodded, putting the iron on a barrel in front of the
“Sure! Mark, go to town and get Micah up here. Tell him what
happened. In the meantime I'm gonna fix supper for all of us.”
Something in the rancher's words made Miner turn his head.
“Micah? Micah Torrance is the Marshal here? That cannot be! Are
“Yes, he is the best lawman, a town can have … and my best
The old man laughed, looking up to the Rifleman's flabbergasted
“Well, he is the reason I came to North Fork in the first place.
Micah and I are old friends. We were in the cattle business
once, back in Montana, maybe thirty years ago.”
Lucas was stunned. He mustered his guest once again. Miner was
about Micah's age, only a few inches taller. Maybe they could
even have been brothers. Mark was as surprised as his father.
“Really? You know Micah?”
“I sure do, boy. I heard that he live in these parts today but I
had no idea that he is the Marshal. Well, he always had a
special taste for justice … I can tell you. Micah used to be a
mighty good cowhand. I would be so pleased to meet him after all
those years. I still him owe him, yessir.”
Mark too was growing found of their visitor. His wrinkled face
and his clear eyes had impressed the boy, who mounted his horse.
“Well, in that case I gonna tell him, that a surprise is waiting
for him up here. I will be back soon, Pa.”
As the boy rode off, Miner smiled pensively.
“Mark is a mighty fine boy, I gotta give you that, Mister
Lucas´ eyes followed Mark galloping away, heading straight for
the town. When the boy was out of sight, he turned to his quest.
“Well, I hope you like potatoes with your steak, Mister Miner.”
The portly man with the lined face nodded, showing a hungry
smile. Lucas pointed to the barn.
“Well, I reckon I have to get some potatoes out of the barn.
When Micah and Mark return the meal will be ready.”
Mark and Micah arrived at the ranch, as the sun was slowly
sinking in the West. The wind had become stronger, maybe
promising new rain for the next days. When they dismounted, Mark
was obviously anxious to reunite Micah with his old friend.
“Pa! Mister Miner! We are back!”
No answer came. The place looked kinda empty, lonely … deserted.
Micah looked around suspiciously, waiting for a sign, but there
was just silence. The old lawman frowned. Out of mere instinct
his left hand touched his gun. Something was wrong, dead wrong.
“Maybe they are in the house. Take a look, Mark. Be careful,
When Mark ran over the porch into the house, Micah's worried
eyes were checking the surroundings.
“Lucas Boy …?”
Missus Romano returned to the store.
“I am sorry, Milly, but I forgot to get some more thread for my
new dress earlier today. I am still so upset. Well, no wonder …”
Milly smiled understandingly. She liked the old lady. The old
widow was one of her best customers, maybe a little vain and
talkative, but always nice and …
“Isn’t it just awful what happened in Silverton? I just can't
get my head around it yet. Maybe because I still can't help
thinking about my dear Francis …”
Milly had heard the rumors that Missus Romano's son Francis had
been hunted down and killed by two bounty hunters some months
ago, somewhere in California perhaps. But there was no sure
evidence. The old woman had never given up hope to see her poor
Francis again although he had allegedly been a rustler and thief
with a price on his head. Now her grief broke free again. So
much bitterness was in her weathered voice. The terrible
incident in Silverton was almost too much for her.
“May I never see the day when something like that happens in our
peaceful town, Milly.”
“It won't happen here, Missus Romano.”
The grey-haired widow with the sad eyes frowned. Her gloved
hands began shaking.
“How can you be so sure, Milly?”
The young woman didn't look up. Her voice let on her new
confidence in law and order.
“We have Micah Torrance.”
For a moment Missus Romano didn't know what to say. She opened
her mouth to disagree but Milly didn't let her.
“That would be four cents, Missus Romano.”
Mark left the house in a hurry.
“They are not in there, Micah. Maybe Pa has …”
But Mister Miner was already standing in front of the house,
facing Micah. The two old men were starring at each other
without a word, without a movement. Mark froze instantly.
“Mister Miner! Where have you been? Where is my Pa?! Mister
Micah's face was calm, serene, without any expression. But after
a moment his lips showed a sad smile.
“So, Miner is your name, hm? I recognized you in a heartbeat.”
The stranger shook slightly his head. His hands were pressed
into his broad hips, only inches away from the gun at his side.
“I don't allow scum like you calling me by my real name. For you
am I still … The Boss.”
Mark was taken by surprise. The boy was growing upset, knowing
all too well how fast the man was with his Colt. Mark stammered
as he started to realize that things were not as they had
“But … but … this is Micah Torrance, Mister Miner. He is your
friend. I have figured you would be …”
Without moving his head towards the boy, Miner sighed.
“I am sorry, Mark, but I lied to you. I came here to get even
with the man, who left me for dead on the plains thirty years
ago. But unlike your revered Marshal here, I will give him a
chance to face me. Do you still remember what I once told you,
Torrance? Deserters and rustlers have not right to live. And you
are also a back shooting coward to boot. Today I caught up with
two other rustlers and helped to get them killed. You will be
There was no hate in Miner's voice, only a terrible kind of …
patience. Micah remained motionless. He knew a professional
killer, when he saw one. Without his powerful shotgun he
couldn't stand a chance against a fast revolver, but his eyes
showed no fear whatsoever.
“How did you get away back then? I have a right to know, Miner.”
“Yeah, I figure, a man has a right to know at least that, before
he is gonna die. I came to in the evening. You know what woke me
up? Not the pain in my shoulder, but the thirst. I was so
terribly thirsty. It was such a hot day. Somehow I managed to
get up on my feet and started growling to the river. I just
drank and drank until I lost conscience again. The next morning,
I heard steps. A young Cheyenne had spotted me lying on the
banks. He thought I was already dead, so he became careless,
when he pulled out his knife to take my scalp. Well, that was
his last mistake. After killing that injun I took his mustang
and somehow I mounted up. But out on the prairie I became so
“You were lucky that day.”
“You can say that again, Torrance. After endless hours of
suffering I came across a wagon train heading west. They just
happened to have a doctor with them. That old sawbone was handy
enough with a knife to get that lead out of my shoulder. He
called me a medical miracle because I had lost enough blood for
two men. For four days I was between life and death. Their
preacher was already preparing a touching sermon for my funeral.
But I recovered and ended up in California. I ran a saloon
there, got married, went broke, married again… until the day,
when I heard from a young no-good drunk called Romano that you
were still alive and the Marshal around here.”
Micah was still totally unexcited, even when he heard the
“Francis Romano? Yeah, his mother is still part of our
“That´s what that young gun told me. The next day he ran into a
couple of bounty hunters. A sum of 500 dollars can be quite a
temptation for such murderers, I guess. Can't say, that I was
exactly heartbroken tough.”
“You have no heart, Miner.”
Now tears were gathering in Mark's eyes. The situation was
desperate. His last hope was ….
“Where is my Pa?! What have you done to my Pa?!”
“When he went into the barn in order to get some potatoes for
supper, I followed and took care of him in there. Don't worry!
He will live … I think. It sure was not easy to hit the head of
such a huge fellow. But he is simply too dangerous with his
rifle. I could not let him interfere in order to save his best
friend from my revenge.”
Micah turned slowly his head into the direction of the barn. The
door was ajar.
“I personally see to it that you hang if Lucas McCain was hurt
Miner didn't say anything anymore. His right hand was touching
the Colt at his side. The silence was more terrible than any
noise, any shooting, any screaming Mark had ever heard. Now, the
boy couldn't stay back anymore. He stepped off the porch, tried
to get between the two enemies.
“But Mister Miner, I thought we could be friends. You saved my
“Stay where you are, Mark! There is no way you could stop me
from doing what I came for!”
Lucas McCain was dead. At least he felt that way. It took him a
couple of minutes to realize that dead men felt no pain. So, the
excruciating ache that tortured his head showed him that there
was still some life in him. He opened his eyes, but only silent
darkness was around him. Blood was tripping over his burning
face. He was lying on the ground between the hay balls. When
Lucas tried to move he noticed that his hands were tied to his
back. Even his strong legs were …
That was the only thought in his mind. Where was Mark? What
happened? Mister Miner? What about Miner? What happened? His
world was now just weakness, loneliness, pain … and
breath-taking fear. He had to get up, get his rifle and then he
would take care of things as usual. But again the cruel pain
made him feel awfully dazed.
So he sank back to the ground. His smarting face touched the dry
hay. Maybe he could cry for help, maybe he could …
That very second Lucas heard the shots outside: one, two … and
after a pause … a third.
Milly looked outside the window. Again dark clouds were
gathering in the south, bringing rain, maybe even a heavy
thunderstorm. She was still thinking about Micah´s story. She
felt a strange kind of deep love for the old lawman. He was part
of her family … together with the other man she liked to think
about, a towering rancher, feared and respected by all outlaws,
loved by his friends. Maybe one day they would become a real
Milly smiled gleefully.
Lucas tried desperately to get up but to no avail. He was too
weak, too torpid. But now he heard fast steps approaching. The
door of the barn was opened in a hurry. The next second, he felt
arms around his shoulder.
“Pa! Are you alright? Pa!”
The rancher's bloody face was covered with kisses. He still felt
dizzy but now …
And then there was Micah at last, smiling, freeing Lucas from
the ropes around his sore arms and legs, helping the giant man
to get up.
“How´re you feeling, Lucas Boy?”
“What happened, Micah? Where is …?”
Micah turned to Mark, touching his shoulder, smiling proudly.
“Miner won't bother you again. Mark took care of that. You did
good, Mark, really good. Your own grandpa couldn't be prouder of
you than I am, son.”
Mark, although still mighty worried about his beloved father
“Well, I just happened to see that horseshoe on the barrel in
front of the porch. I just took it and threw it …”
Micah kept on smiling. He still could feel his gun's recoil in
his left hand.
“That was in the nick of time. Without you hitting him with that
iron, I never would have outdrawn The Boss. He sure didn't count
on that, I reckon. But now we better get your father to Doc
Burrage. You gonna need a few stitches, Lucas. But in a few days
you will be as good as new, I am sure.”
Lucas was still leaning against the wall of the barn, hurt and
bleeding but happy like never before in his life. After a few
minutes they left the barn, leading the wounded rancher
carefully to the buckboard. When Mark ran into the house to get
some blankets, Micah discovered the famous Winchester hidden
behind the well. He picked it up to return it to his friend as
soon as possible. Then he walked to the body that was lying
peacefully in the sun. Somehow Emily had broken loose. The
beautiful mare was standing next to her master, touching his
bloody chest gently with her mouth. Micah caressed the horse's
long mane, talking softly to the faithful animal.
“We will take care of you, don't you worry. Maybe, … just maybe
I can persuade Mark to take you in.”
Knowing Mark's penchant for horses, Micah had the certain
feeling that persuading the boy wouldn't be much of a problem.
Then Micah looked down on the dead killer. A deep wound over
Miner's eyebrow showed where the horseshoe had hit him.
“Well, Miner, seems to me, that Mark did find a way to stop you
after all …”
Milly was so excited and full of joy. He had put on her finest
dress for the occasion. The rescue of Lucas and Mark and Micah …
that promised to be quite a feast. She remembered the moment
when they came to town four days ago. Her heart trembled, when
she saw Lucas hurt so badly. But with Burrage's help, the
rancher had recovered surprisingly fast. And tonight they would
all celebrate in the hotel.
Today there would be …
The door of her store was opened. Milly turned around. A
customer, she never had seen before walked it. He was tall and
handsome, not the youngest man around but still pretty
attractive. The rugged fellow tipped his dusty hat, smiling
“Please excuse my intrusion, ma'am. Would you allow me a
“I am a stranger in these parts. Is it true, that a man called
Micah Torrance is responsible for law and order in this nice
“Yes, that's true. He is the best lawman, a town can have … and
my best friend.”
“Was there any trouble lately in connection with Mister
Milly grinned full of cruel satisfaction.
“If you leave North Fork heading north, you will pass by a
rather quiet place with many engraved stones. That's where a
fine gentleman by the name of Samuel Miner is staying …
permanently … after trying to murder Mister Torrance.”
The lean stranger frowned. But then he started smiling again. He
stepped closer, looking into the young woman's pretty eyes.
“Well, that sounds like quite a story. Why don't you tell me
more about that, ma'am? An exciting story out of the mouth of
such a beautiful lady would make the afternoon most pleasant.”
The sun was burning even hotter than usual. The desert seemed to
tremble in the heat. Not even the Apaches had turned up for a
bottle of fine tequila and so the old man was kinda lonely
sitting in the rocking chair. Then, he saw the horseman
approaching over the barren ridge. The old man rose from his
seat, covering his eyes. The rider dismounted in front of the
seedy cantina where an undecorated grave could be seen.
“Still something left of your special tequila?”
“Sure, Mister Thorwald.”
After having that fiery drink, the gunman looked around.
Something was bothering him. The crazy stars turned up again in
front of his blood-shot eyes, dancing to a mute melody in his
The old man filled his glass again, anxious for the report.
“I reckon you are here to collect your reward?”
The killer shook his head. His voice let on his impatience.
Flies were still circling in the dry air over the bar. Somewhere
in the stony desert, a hungry coyote howled.
“Keep it! I want a favor instead.”
“A free bottle of my precious tequila?”
“I want you to take care of Walt's crave when I am gone. At the
moment I am on my way to my parent's farm. I just gotta go there
after all those years. Maybe I can even make the flowers grow on
their graves. I know, it sounds weird, but sometimes a man
starts thinking. Walt was right. Mother was right! I have been
wrong all my life by hiring my gun out, hunting people. Maybe it
was the war that turned me into the man I am. At Shiloh I saw so
many unspeakable atrocities … and now it's enough. I gotta
change everything when I return home and start all over again …
but … but … never mind.”
The old man was surprised by the gunman's behavior but he
nodded. Again the lonesome coyote howled somewhere in the rocky
“Alright, Mister Thorwald, if that's what you want. I will take
care of your brother's grave, you can rely on that. I reckon his
name on a decent stone would have a nice touch. But now I am
waiting for your report. What happened in North Fork? Did you
find Micah Torrance?”
“First of all, you have to answer my question. How did you learn
about Miner´s plan to kill Torrance?”
The old man lowered his glance. After a few seconds he had
gathered enough strength to explain.
“About two months ago, Miner came here on his way from
California. He didn´t recognize me. That was my luck otherwise
he would have killed me without hesitation. After a while he was
heavily drunk. He kept on talking about thirst, how much he
hated thirst. He was … well … kinda obsessed by drinking. Not
even those filthy pagans can swallow that much in such a short
time. No wonder, he could not memorize my face after three
bottles of my wonderful tequila. Then he started bragging, that
he would shoot a man in North Fork, who once had made him suffer
from such terrible thirst. After a while he revealed that man's
name to me. I was horrified. Then he started shooting around.
Even in his sorry state he was a dead shot. I knew that Torrance
could not stand a chance against a foe with such a deadly hate
in his heart and with such a fast gun in his hand.”
Thorwald nodded. He thought about the charming lady he had met
in North Fork, the beautiful owner of the store. After Thorwald
had been asking the right questions, she couldn't stop gabbling
about her best friend's gruesome past as injun-fighting cowboy
in Montana and his exiting rescue a couple of days ago. Well,
being a lonely woman, she was not exactly taciturn after a few
tasteful compliments from a handsome stranger…
“Show me your neck. I wanna see it. I wanna know! I want the
The old man's thin fingers pulled slowly away the filthy scarf
he was wearing around his unshaved neck. Right above his Adam's
apple a long ugly scar could be seen.
“That´s why I sent you to North Fork to back up Micah, Mister
Thorwald. Only you were good enough to stand up against Miner. I
promised Micah in Montana that I would repay my debt some day.
“Well, you can rest assure, mister: Micah Torrance is safe and
sound and Miner is dead and buried.”
The former cowboy smiled, obviously satisfied with the outcome.
He filled the glass one more time.
“I sure am mighty glad to hear that. But you really ought to
accept my money, no matter what really happened in North Fork.
You might need it for rebuilding your home. Maybe you gonna find
a nice woman someday and then you're gonna need every cent to
create a future together. A close-knit family would really make
a new man out of you. I can see that now.”
Thorwald swallowed that last drink like water. That time the
crazy stars didn't turn up in front of his weary eyes. Instead
the former killer was thinking about a deserted farm with two
graves nearby, that was waiting for him somewhere.
“You are right. There is one important thing I learned in North
Fork. Micah Torrance has such a family. With a family like that,
a man doesn't need any other backup.”
These stories are based on the TV series
Here are some other great stories. Enjoy!
The Writer's Corner
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around The McCain Ranch