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Cherishing the Time
Written by Morgan
Mark threw the covers off himself
and tried to slow his breathing as he sat on the edge of the
bed. He had hoped that the dreams would go away, but they had
succeeded in plaguing him once again.
Mark had been through this so many times before that he didn't
even bother trying to go back to sleep. He stood up, made his
bed, and began to dress knowing that he would just waste time
trying to fall asleep again. Careful not to wake his Pa, Mark
left the bedroom, rolling his eyes as he caught sight of the
timepiece which read a few minutes after four O'Clock.
After three months, Mark thought he should be over what had
happened, and emotionally he really was... but every one to two
weeks, he would startle awake from another world without his Pa.
After the third night of disturbing dreams, Mark had learned to
just get up and start on the chores rather than lying in bed
until his Pa woke up.
As Mark entered the front room, he stifled a yawn and headed for
the cupboard which held the matches. He proceeded to light two
lanterns, one for the front room and the other to take with him
as he did his chores.
It wasn't too long after Mark headed outside that the sun began
to peek over the mountains and he could feel the fall air
warming a bit. After finishing his chores, Mark took a deep
breath of what he thought would be fresh air, but instead caught
a whiff of the chicken coup.
'Well,' Mark thought, 'I guess now is as good a time as ever.'
Mark set to work cleaning the chicken coup and did it as quickly
as he could. Cleaning the chicken coup was his least favorite
chore - next to dishes, that is.
Once Mark finished, he grabbed the basket of eggs and lantern,
and headed towards the house. As Mark walked in the front door
he saw his Pa exiting the bedroom and buttoning his shirt.
"Morning Pa," Mark said as he handed Lucas the eggs.
"Morning, Mark," Lucas started to reply. "How long have you been
"Not too long, I couldn't fall back asleep after I woke up. The
chores are done though; I needed an early start with school
starting today and everything anyway."
"Are you looking forward to starting school again?" Lucas
inquired. He wasn't actually sure what to expect Mark's reply to
be. His son used to hate school with a passion, but the past
year and a
half or so, Mark had started to take his lessons more seriously.
"Yeah, I actually am. Never thought I'd be saying that though,"
Mark answered with a smile before continuing. "Boy, I sure used
to give you quite a bit of trouble with my schooling, I'm
surprised you didn't give up on me!"
"Believe me, I was tempted," Lucas replied with a smirk as he
shook his head.
As Lucas began preparing breakfast, Mark set the table and then
joined his Pa at the stove like he did every morning. They
talked about school, work, church and several other things
before sitting down to eat breakfast.
During their meal, Mark suddenly remembered something he was
wanting to ask his Pa about.
"Oh, Pa. I was wondering if it would be alright with you if I
could help Marshal Osborne out after school this week. Doc
finally told him he was in good enough shape to start working on
his house, and I know he's worried about everything getting done
before his family arrives, I'm sure he could use some help."
"I don't know Mark, you've just been so irresponsible around
here lately..." Lucas said sarcastically. "Sure," he continued,
"Just make sure you leave in time so you can get back by dark."
"I will," Mark assured. "He bought the Buchman's old place. It
needs a lot of fixing up and he'll have to build a new barn, but
I think it will be great for his family, it's a good sized
house. Plenty of land too."
"Well, sounds like he knows a good property when he sees one.
You better get going or you'll be late for your first day of
school," Lucas said as he stood and took the dishes to the sink.
"Sure you don't want help with the dishes first?" Mark offered,
only because it was his turn.
"Go ahead and get going, I can manage."
"See you tonight Pa," Mark said as he walked towards the door.
"Have a good day, son."
' Margaret, you'd be so proud of him,' Lucas thought as he
watched his son head to the barn to saddle BlueBoy.
After school was dismissed, Mark didn't rush out the doors with
the rest of his classmates as he would have done only two short
years ago. Instead, he grabbed the stack of books underneath his
desk and proceeded to take them to the front of the classroom
and place them on Mr. Griswold's desk.
"Thank you for letting me borrow the books, I really enjoyed
them," Mark told his teacher, who turned away from cleaning the
"I'm glad to hear it, Mark. A bit surprised, I must say, but
glad you found pleasure in reading them," the teacher replied.
"You and me both. I couldn't believe it when half way through
summer I realized I actually missed being at school," Mark said
with a smile. "Never thought I'd hear myself say that in a
"Would like to borrow any more?" The teacher inquired, elated
that one of his students was finding the joy of learning.
"I don't know how much extra time I'll have, but if you have any
more medical journals, I'd be interested in those."
"I think I should have a few more, I'll try to have them
"No rush," Mark began. "I'm going to be plenty busy the next few
weeks, but I should be able to squeeze some reading in over the
weekends." Mark paused before continuing, "Mr. Griswold, there
was a short article in one of the books about law and order out
here in the “wild” west... It piqued my interest. I was
wondering if you had any books on law and stuff?"
"I'll look Mark, but I believe most of what I have would be
included in the American History curriculum you've already
completed. You could ask Micah though, he most assuredly would
"Wouldn't those just be books full of codes and regulations?"
Mark asked in confusion.
"Mark, there's much more to being a lawman than knowing when to
throw someone in jail and under what circumstances you can keep
them there. A lawman must know the law in complete detail if he
wishes to do his job correctly. He has full knowledge of how our
court system works, how the different government departments
come into play in the different states and territories; he knows
the letter of the law, and breathes the spirit of the law."
"I guess that makes sense," Mark stated. "I'll ask him when I
get a chance, maybe Marshal Osborne too. Thanks, Mr. Griswold, I
better get going."
"You're most welcome Mark, anytime!" The teacher shook his
student's hand and watched Mark as he exited the building.
Many of the town's people were very impressed with how Mark had
matured and grown into a young man over the past six years,
especially the last two, and Stephen was proud of the hard work
Mark had begun putting into school. He did, however, hate to see
Mark's childhood fading away as quickly as it was. He admitted
that Mark was ready to be “grown up”, but the circumstances that
had been forced upon Mark to make him the young man he was were
things no grown man should have had to experience. It had caused
Mark to see things too early in life, making him grow up faster.
Stephen hoped, and maybe for simply his own personal pleasure,
that Mark's boyhood wouldn't completely disappear as it seemed
to be doing.
Marshal Osborne looked up from fixing the porch step and smiled
as he recognized the small figure on a horse heading his way. He
stood, removed his hat, and wiped the sweat off his forehead
before replacing the hat as he waited to greet his visitor.
"Afternoon, Mark. What brings you out this way?" The Marshal
asked as Mark dismounted.
"Yep. Seeing as how you managed to get yourself shot up a few
months back I figure you might be needin' some help getting this
place fixed up."
"I'm completely healed up and I'm sure you have plenty of stuff
to do, I couldn't ask you to help. Besides, I'm sure your Pa
will be expecting you home soon." The Marshal appreciated Mark's
offer greatly, and really would enjoy the young man's company,
but he couldn't ask Mark to take what he knew was valuable time
out on the frontier to help him.
"First of all, you and I know that arm of yours is still giving
you a bit of trouble and you need to have everything done in two
weeks. Secondly, I finished my chores at the ranch and Pa said
it was fine for me to help you out this week, and thirdly, you
aren't asking, I'm offering," Mark said with finality as he went
to hitch his horse to the section of porch railing that was
"Alright then," Marshal Osborne said as he shrugged his
shoulders. "Would you hand me that can of nails over there?"
Mark did as was told and the two set to work on the porch. They
worked quietly, not saying much until Mark remembered his
conversation with his teacher earlier that afternoon.
"Marshal Osborne, do you have any books on law?" Mark inquired.
"Yes I do, several, actually. Why do you ask?"
"Well my teacher gave me some books to read over summer break
and in one of them was an article on law and order. I found it
interesting and was just wanting to learn more about it, I was
wondering if you'd let me borrow one or two."
"I'll have to look through some boxes that my wife just sent
over, but I'd be happy to lend them to you. Have you ever
considered becoming a lawman, Mark?" The Marshal asked.
"Oh, when I was younger I did... but then again, I considered
being everything I could possibly be back then. I have a lot of
respect for the law, but I don't think that kind of work is for
me. And with people like you and Micah as role models, I don't
think I could live up to the badge."
"I know you could Mark, and I say you'd make an exceptional
officer of the law."
Mark sort of shrugged the comment off as he moved on to fix the
hinges on the door, so Osborne asked what kind of work “was for
"Ranching." Mark smiled as he thought of one day running his own
ranch, or continuing working side by side with his Pa. "It's one
thing I'll never get tired of."
"Cattle ranching?" Osborne asked.
"Probably, but I have seen a few horse ranches and I love
working with horses. I think horse ranching might be something
I'd like to do. I've got plenty of time to figure it all out
"Are you busy next Monday?" The Marshal asked.
"I don't think so... besides school, that is," Mark replied.
"My wife is sending our horses over by train ahead of her and
the girls. If your Pa is alright with it, would you mind giving
me a hand getting them home after school?"
"Sure, not a problem," Mark said. "When are you going to start
on your barn?"
"Unfortunately, the supplies I need won't be here until Friday
on the train, so I probably won't start until Saturday. I'll
probably have to put up a large paddock this week so I have
somewhere to put them until the barn's done."
"How many horses do you have?" Mark inquired.
"Nine." Seeing Mark's surprised face, the marshal explained,
"Five riding horses, one for each of us. My oldest keeps his
horse at home during the school year. We have one team for the
buck board, then two colts that Cassie is raising. My wife's
parents sure will be glad to see them gone," Osborne chuckled.
Eventually, Mark said he better be headed home and told John he
would be back the next day after school. The Marshal said that
wouldn't be necessary, but Mark insisted.
Before Mark mounted up, the Marshal admitted he was very much in
need and appreciative of the help, then he thanked Mark before
shaking his hand.
"Stay out of trouble," John said as Mark kicked Blue Boy's
"I'll try!" Mark hollered back and waved goodbye.
Lucas stood in front of the stove, stirring the pot of stew as
Mark entered the house. He watched his son put his gun in its
spot, next to Lucas's rifle, hang his hat, and start setting the
"Have a good day son?" Lucas inquired as he added a little more
salt to the stew.
"Sure did," Mark answered. "It was good being at school again,
even though most of today was review. Marshal Osborne and I were
able to finish fixing the porch and a few of the windows before
I had to leave." As Mark thought about his conversations with
Marshal Osborne that day, he began realizing something he was
going to need to talk with Lucas about... eventually.
Lucas noticed that Mark's attention had been drawn to something
else, but he didn't press for more conversation. He was
contemplating something else himself, trying to find the best
way to bring an issue up with Mark.
Lucas set dinner on the table, and after saying grace the two
ate dinner in silence, both sorting through their own thoughts.
Neither one had realized how much they had been lost in thought
until a knock on the door brought their attention to the
present. Lucas stood to get the door, and realizing that both he
and his Pa were done eating, Mark began to clear the table and
do the dishes. Mark heard Micah's familiar voice and Mark and
Micah exchanged a few words before Lucas stepped onto the porch
and shut the door.
After Mark finished the dishes and watched through the window as
Micah mounted up, Mark stepped outside to join Lucas on the
porch and say goodbye to Micah.
"What did Micah need?" Mark asked after Micah left.
"Oh, he just stopped by on his way back from visiting some of
the outlining ranches to say hi and tell me there was a council
meeting Saturday evening," Lucas replied.
After a few minutes of silence, Lucas and Mark turned and began
talking to each other at the same time.
"Mark," Lucas stopped before continuing. "Go ahead."
"Well I was just going to say you were pretty deep in thought
during supper, and have seemed... “preoccupied” I guess, the
last couple days. Is something wrong?"
Lucas took a deep breath and thought a moment before answering.
He had been meaning to talk to Mark, he supposed now was as good
a time as ever. His only apprehension was... He didn't know if
he was ready to admit to himself that Mark was ready for this.
"Well Mark, I guess I've been meaning to talk to you for a
couple months, but I've been really noticing it the last few
days. And..." Lucas paused, "I don't really know how to go about
this, so I'm just going to tell you. I noticed it the first day
we rode into town after I... “came back from the dead”, and I
will tell you, it surprised me. But I suppose what surprised me
the most was that I didn't know how I felt about it."
"Felt about what?" Mark asked, confused at first, then he
thought about it some more. "Are you talking about me carrying
my rifle more places... well, I guess carrying my rifle
"It was strange seeing you carry it wherever you went..." Lucas
nodded as he spoke. "And honestly I do suppose that it saddens
me to see you carry it, knowing I caused you to lose that much
more of your innocence." Lucas paused, searching for more to
say, but Mark spoke up instead.
"I guess I should've talked to you about it, but it didn't
really cross my mind. During that week it just became a habit.
It brought me a little sense of security, it... reminded me of
you, and the character you had taught me to have. By the time
you showed up again, I didn't think about it anymore, it was
like... I don't know... a part of me in some strange way. But, I
understand if you want me to leave it in the scabbard, I don't
want to disrespect you in any way or bring back those memories
if it bothers you."
"No... more than it bringing sadness, Mark, it brought me pride
to see the way you carry it, and more importantly, for me to see
the way you continue to carry yourself. I know you're
responsible enough to handle it, mature enough to know when to
use it, and man enough to use it when you need to." Knowing what
he needed to do, more for his own sake than Mark's, Lucas
continued. "I do have one problem though..." Lucas said as he
went inside and motioned for Mark to follow him.
Mark carefully followed his Pa inside, not really sure what was
going through his Pa's head. If Lucas had said to put the gun
away, he would've done so without a second thought. His Pa was
always sure about what he was doing and rarely seemed as
apprehensive as this. Mark watched his Pa get into the closet
and bring a box down.
"I was going to wait until your birthday to discuss this, but I
think we're to the point where we need to deal with it now."
As Lucas handed the box to Mark, Mark wondered what was wrong;
his Pa's apprehension was beginning to worry him.
"I don't think that .22 of yours quite suits the man within its
owner, and it's about time I face that fact," Lucas said,
gesturing to the box.
Mark slowly removed the lid and his eyes widened as he saw what
was inside: An 1860 Spencer Repeater rifle... and not just any
Spencer; Mark realized it was the one his Pa had used during the
"Pa, I..." Mark began, before Lucas interrupted him.
"Mark, it's about time I've faced the man you are, I think I
need to do this as a way of settling that once and for all, and
besides, that .22 was starting to look a little small on you,
"Pa, are you sure...?" Mark asked, not really sure if he thought
he was ready himself.
"Positive Mark," Lucas said with a smile. "You want to go try it
Mark slowly nodded, still trying to let it sink in. Lucas
chuckled at his son's astonishment before the two went outside.
Lucas helped Mark adjust to the new gun and the father and son
spent the rest of the evening working on Mark's target practice.
As the two walked back to the house, Mark looked up at his Pa.
"Thanks for the rifle, Pa. And thanks... for everything."
"You're more than welcome, son. I love you Mark."
Lucas smiled, he had finally accepted Mark as the man he was.
And although a bit surprised he wasn't, Lucas didn't find
himself worried about letting Mark go. He knew Mark would make
the right choices as decisions would begin to fill his manhood.
As they settled into the house, Lucas was even more satisfied
with the decision he had made to give Mark the rifle that night.
He watched Mark put his new rifle in the stand next to the .22,
settle into his chair with Lucas's Bible, and open it up like he
had every night for the last three months.
When Lucas woke Wednesday morning, he found his son absent from
his bunk. Intrigued but not alarmed, Lucas dressed and stepped
into the front room to find Mark sitting at the table, Bible in
hand, staring out the window. Lucas could tell Mark was deep in
thought, struggling with something, and watched his son for a
minute trying to figure out what was running through Mark's head
before closing the bedroom door behind him.
Mark jumped as he heard the door close, and turned to see his Pa
walking towards him. Lucas noticed Mark was tense, but saw him
slowly relaxing. His eyes which had been concentrated and...
almost worried, a few moments before were now as calm and soft
as ever. Without saying anything, Mark stood and started to put
the Bible away.
Lucas wanted to straight up ask Mark what the matter was, but he
could tell there was something very different about this
problem, whatever it was, compared to previous issues. Lucas was
thinking about what to say to start a casual conversation when
Mark put his hat on, grabbed his rifle, and went out to start
chores. Lucas put the coffee on before following his son to the
"Morning, Mark," Lucas said as he started to grab a shovel to
help his son muck the stalls.
"Mornin' Pa." Mark replied in his usual cheerful manner,
grateful his Pa had followed him out there. With school having
started he knew the time he could spend with his Pa was becoming
less and less.
"What are you doing up so early?"
"Couldn't fall back asleep is all. Decided to do some reading
before I started on the chores."
Mark had been surprised that he had two of his nightmares so
close together, but brushed it off as a rare scenario... he
"Are you helping Marshal Osborne out after school again?" Lucas
"Yep. We have a few finishing touches on the bedrooms and then
we'll move on to the kitchen."
Lucas once again saw Mark's train of thought leading him
elsewhere and together the two silently finished the chores.
Lucas was still wanting to find out what was bothering Mark, but
it didn't seem to be the right time. Lucas enjoyed the time
working with his son and during breakfast finally decided to
simply ask Mark what the matter was.
"Mark, is there something we need to talk about? You seemed
pretty disturbed this morning."
Mark waited a moment to collect his thoughts before answering
his Pa. He had been wanting to ask his Pa this question for a
while, and one of his conversations with Marshal Osborne had
reminded him that it needed to be dealt with fairly soon. Mark
just didn't want to make his Pa upset, and he wondered how his
Pa would react.
"Well, I guess there is. Pa, I know I've still got a while
before I finish school and such, but when the time does come...
well... do you ever see me living off the ranch... or even
outside of North Fork?"
Lucas processed his son's question for, what seemed to Mark to
be an eternity. Lucas had known it was something he would have
to deal with, although he didn't want to, but he knew what his
answer needed to be and stood behind the answer he gave Mark
with all his heart.
"Mark, I'll be honest. I would love to see you get married and
raise a family on this land. After all, it is our ranch, and as
much yours as it is mine. I would love to see my grandkids
running barefoot across the yard, and love to see you working
with me, continuing what we started together. But, I would hate
to see you stay here if that's not what the Good Lord intended
for you to do. Mark, I promise you right now that I give you my
full blessing to do whatever it is you want to do with your
life. It's your life Mark, not mine. I'll be happy to give you
counsel and guidance, but in the end, whatever you chose to do
is your decision and I won't interfere. I love you so much Mark,
and want to see you prosper, I don't want to stand in the way of
whatever it is you decide to do."
"Thanks Pa, that means a lot... I wouldn't ever want to do
anything to cause a rift between us, and I didn't know how you
would feel if I ever thought about moving on."
"Are you thinking about it?"
"Not at this point. Monday, Marshal Osborne and I did get to
talking about the future, and it just made me think about the
possibility of it. At this point I want to stay and work on the
ranch, but there's always more options."
"Well, since you have plenty of time on your hands before
school, would you mind dropping that special saw blade off at
Jackford's for me?"
"Sure. Oh, and I was supposed to ask you if I could help Marshal
Osborne Monday after school, he has a bunch of horses he has to
get to his property that are comin' on the train."
"I think that should be fine, Mark. Has he started on a barn
yet?" Lucas asked.
"No, materials he needs won't be here until Friday evening. He
said he would just have to make do with a large paddock until
the barn was built." Mark paused a moment before continuing, and
Lucas could see the wheels turning in his son's head. "...But if
I talked to a few people... I'm sure we could organize a barn
raisin'... sorta make it a surprise, too...?" Mark hopefully
Lucas smiled at Mark's proposition, his son was always thinking
of ways to help somebody else out.
"Sure, just remember that a few of us, including the Marshals,
will have to leave for that council meeting Saturday night."
"Shouldn't be a problem," Mark said as he began to clear the
table and do the dishes. Mark already knew who to talk to. Four
simple conversations would have Marshal Osborne's barn up by
late Saturday afternoon.
After dropping the saw blade off and talking to Oat Jackford
about organizing a barn raising, Mark quickly made his way into
town. Lou was simply elated at the idea of such a large get
together and promised to talk with the women and make sure food
was taken care of. Micah agreed to pass the word on as he walked
the town, and during lunch Mark asked Mr. Griswold to make an
announcement before he dismissed school.
As Mark helped Marshal Osborne with his house that afternoon,
Mark smiled at the prospect of having the barn raising. There
hadn't been any sort of social gathering since the summer social
at the end of June, and it would be good for the Marshal to meet
the rest of the townspeople since he had still been recovering
during that event.
After supper that evening, Mark used the little daylight that
was left to have some target practice like he had the night
before. Lucas joined Mark about half way through and gave him
some tips on how to improve.
As Mark settled into bed that evening he smiled at how good
things were and how everything seemed to be coming together.
Mark drifted off to a peaceful sleep... but it didn't last long.
Mark startled awake for the third time that week, and grew
frustrated at himself for having such childish nightmares. It
was only two in the morning so Mark hoped he would fall back
asleep, but it wasn't so. After lying in bed for half an hour,
Mark got up and made his bed before dressing, then made his way
to the front room. He sat down with the Bible once again,
something that had become a daily occurrence for him. He wasn't
really sure when exactly he had started to do this, but he knew
it had to do with the week he had thought his Pa was dead. Mark
had found it was his only source of peace and found comfort in
learning about the God who understood his pain and grief. If his
nightmares ever did really come true, Mark knew there was only
one place he would find comfort, because there was only One who
would never leave him.
Much to his surprise, Mark found Lucas still asleep by the time
he had finished the chores and it was time to start breakfast.
Mark put the coffee on and started the eggs, he would let his Pa
sleep just a little bit longer. When the coffee was finished,
Mark decided to take a sip of it himself. He'd never tried any
before, but it sure did smell good. Mark poured two cups of
coffee and proceeded to drink from one.
Lucas stepped out of the bedroom just in time to see Mark
spitting the coffee into the sink. He had a good laugh and
remembered the first time his sister had tried coffee, her
reaction was about the same as Mark's.
"How do you drink that stuff?" Mark asked as he got a glass of
"Good, isn't it? Want some more?" Lucas asked as he went to pick
up the cup Mark had poured for him.
"It's disgusting! At the rate you and Micah drink it, I thought
it was some amazing thing."
"You want to try some brandy next?" Lucas teased. Lucas had
never “forbidden” Mark to drink until he was old enough, it
wasn't necessary. Mark had sworn on more than one occasion he
would never touch alcohol.
Mark's routine was pretty much the same as it had been the last
three days and would be the next day. Mark was thankful for a
full night's sleep Thursday and Friday, and he woke refreshed
Saturday morning, ready to head over the Marshal Osborne's with
John Osborne sipped from his coffee cup as he surveyed the
kitchen he and Mark had fixed up. He had to admit, Mark did a
right fine job with a hammer and couple of nails. Osborne wasn't
looking forward to starting on the barn, but knew it had to get
done sooner or later. He realized that he was really going to
miss Mark's company and wished the young man hadn't been busy
that day, but Mark did have things of his own to do.
As the marshal walked to the sink to wash his cup, he heard a
ruckus out in the yard. Curious, he walked to the window and was
surprised to see practically the whole town on his property.
"What's this?" The marshal asked as he stepped onto the porch.
"Just our way of welcoming our new Marshal to town," Micah
answered. "Where do you want us to start?"
"Start with what?" Osborne asked in confusion.
"The barn," Jackford hollered. "Ain't ya ever heard of a barn
Not waiting for a reply, everyone started dis-mounting or
getting down from their buckboards, and before Marshal Osborne
could grasp what was going on, the barn was underway.
"Well are ya gonna stand there all day or help?" Mark teased as
he passed Marshal Osborne.
Any other adult, Mark wouldn't have dared tease... except his Pa
or Micah, but Marshal Osborne was like both of them; he was like
By the time the marshals and the rest of those on the city
council had to leave, the barn was pretty much finished. Despite
the warning Osborne gave for everyone else to leave, Mark, Oat,
and his hands stuck around to put the finishing touches on it.
Knowing his Pa wouldn't be home for quite some time, Mark took a
detour on the way home and stopped at the Donalds. With Tim
working at his uncle's ranch in California, Mrs. Donalds didn't
have much help with more of the physical work around the house.
Her others were too young to do things like chop wood, except
Emma, but there was no way she could do it. Emma was so small
and slight of build; though if you ever told her she couldn't do
anything, she'd set out to prove you wrong. One time Mark had
gone over and said she couldn't fix the fence by herself, that
the posts were to heavy for her to support. She set out to prove
him wrong, and almost did... only she lost her balance at the
last second and dropped the post on herself. Laughing, Mark had
helped her up and then the two mended the fence together, but
Mark made a mental note to never tell her she couldn't do
something... he didn't want to know what kind of trouble she
would get herself in.
As Mark rode up to the Donalds, he saw Lilly making yet another
batch of mud pies. Every time he visited, he tried his best to
make sure he took a minute to talk with her. Mark loved young
children, but Lilly was something special, and not many people
treated her like anything but a nuisance. He remembered what it
had meant to him when he was younger for people to make a point
of talking with him, so he tried to do the same.
"Good evening Miss Lilly. I see you're hard at work on your pies
again," Mark greeted her.
"Yep, and before you ask, you may not have one. I told you last
time, and the time before that,
and the time before that. They are pretend," Lilly said
The little girl giggled as Mark picked her up and swung her
upside down, tickling her in the process.
"Put me down!" Lilly laughed.
"Not until you say I can have one," Mark insisted.
"Alright, alright!" Lilly said before Mark put her down. She
knew Mark was joking and pointed to the house as she told him
that's where her mama was.
"Thanks," Mark said. "One day, when you make real pies, promise
me you'll let me eat those."
"Just as long as you promise to stop eating mud!" Lilly giggled.
Mark made his way towards the house and gently rapped on the
door. Emma opened the door, and was surprised to see him.
"Oh! Hello Mark."
"Evening," Mark said as he removed his hat.
After a few moments of awkward silence, Emma remembered her
manners and invited Mark inside.
"Ma, Mark's here!" Emma hollered to the kitchen.
Mrs. Donalds came to the front room and greeted Mark warmly,
then asked if he was needing anything.
"No ma'am, just on my way home and stopped in to see if you're
needing anything. Pa has a council meetin' tonight so I figured
I could stop by and see if there was something I could do," Mark
"Well I appreciate it very much Mark, but I think you covered
everything last time you were here. We still got plenty of
firewood and the kitchen door is holding up fine."
"Alright then. Emma, I didn't see you or your brother in school
"Ted came down with some cold and Ma needed my help here. Did I
miss anything important?" Emma asked.
"Not anything too terribly vital. He did assign all of us older
ones to write a one page report on the importance of community."
"Thanks, I'll be sure to get it done. See you Sunday... I guess
that would be tomorrow...?"
"No, the circuit preacher got delayed and isn't expected for
another two weeks, so it'll be Monday," Mark corrected.
"All right, see you then," Emma said as she walked Mark to the
"Thank you for checking in, Mark," Mrs. Donalds offered.
"Not a problem!" Mark waved goodbye and headed over to mount
Emma watched as Mark rode away, and didn't hear her Ma calling
her name until Mrs. Donalds stood right behind her.
"Huh? Oh, sorry. What did you need Ma?"
"I asked if you would finish churning the butter."
"Sure," Emma replied as she turned away from the door, a smile
spreading across her face.
As he had said he would, Mark met Marshal Osborne at the train
station on Monday afternoon to help him with the horses. Marshal
Osborne took note of how well Mark worked with the horses,
calming and coaxing them, and even slipping some of them a sugar
cube or two. Mark seemed like a natural with horses and actually
impressed the marshal with how well he handled the biggest one,
Trigger, who was a little on the wild side.
After getting the horses to the Marshal's barn, Mark was invited
inside the house.
"Care for some coffee?" The Marshal offered.
"No thanks. I had my first sip Saturday and didn't care for it
to much," Mark replied in disgust.
The marshal laughed and poured himself a cup, then got Mark a
glass of water.
"Thanks for heading up that barn raising Saturday, I can't tell
you how relieved I am that everything is done."
"Who said anything about me heading it up? Lou, Micah, Mr.
Jackford, and Mr. Griswold were
the ones who headed it up."
"And I wonder how they found out I was needin' to get my barn
up," The Marshal said sarcastically.
"Ya must've said something to Mr. Lanely at the hardware store,"
Mark replied innocently.
"Even if you won't admit to headin' it up, I still appreciate
"When does your family arrive?" Mark asked, trying to change the
"Five O'clock train, Saturday. If you and your Pa aren't busy,
I'd like to ask you to join us for supper at the hotel."
"I'll ask Pa, I don't think we're doing anything."
Marshal Osborne looked down to his cup, but his eyes caught
sight of Mark's rifle leaning against his leg.
"Mark, when did you get a new gun?" The marshal inquired.
"Last Monday. It's the first time I've carried it with me off
the ranch since I got it, I wanted to be confident with it
before I took it anywhere. I've been working on my target
practice every night and Pa's been helping me some."
"It's a Spencer Repeater, isn't it?" John asked.
"Yep, the one Pa used during the war." Mark handed the rifle to
Marshal Osborne, who looked it over.
"Seems to be in pretty good condition considering it's been
through the war." There was a brief pause before the Marshal
continued, "Mark, I hope you understand just how much it
probably took your Pa to give this to you."
"Yes sir... I already had an idea, but Pa explained some things
to me that I didn't understand when he gave it to me. I hope I
don't ever make him regret giving it to me."
"Carry it with integrity Mark, and you never will."
Saturday evening, Mark and Lucas sat on one of the benches on
the train station's platform, while Marshal Osborne paced in
front of them. Mark didn't understand why he was so anxious.
Sure, he was excited his family was coming, but what was the big
deal? Lucas knew perfectly well why. He had been the same way
after being separated from Margaret during their marriage, he
couldn't wait to see her again.
As the train slowed to a stop, Mark and Lucas stood in
preparation to meet the arriving passengers. They all turned
when they heard someone call out behind them.
Mark saw who he assumed to be Marshal Osborne's family coming
towards him. John reunited with his family and kissed each of
his girls atop the head before embracing his wife.
"Welcome to North Fork!" Lucas said as he and Mark made their
way closer to the family.
"Catherine, this is Lucas McCain and his son, Mark. They've
become good friends over the past three months and Mark here
helped a lot with gettin' our home ready for your arrival," John
"A pleasure to meet you," Mrs. Osborne said as she smiled.
"I'm Cassie," Osborne's older daughter stated as she stuck out
her hand to shake Lucas and Mark's.
"Anna," was all the younger of the two said.
Mark really wasn't surprised, Marshal Osborne had said Anna was
quite shy and didn't really speak up much.
"Well, let's get you folks' things and load them up on your buck
board, then head over to the hotel. Lou serves the best food
within a hundred miles," Lucas informed.
"We're just thankful she does the servin' and not the cookin',"
Mark quipped as he went to help move the boxes that were full of
the Osborne's belongings.
"You better not let Lou hear ya saying that," Marshal Osborne
"Oh I won't, I value my life," Mark replied.
After getting the Osborne's things off the train, the group
headed to the hotel for supper.
It wasn't very often that they ate at the hotel anymore,
especially since Lucas was standing in for Micah less and less,
so Mark enjoyed every bite of his meal. As much as both of their
cooking skills had improved, bachelor cooking was nothing
compared to the hotel's food, even when Lou was short staffed
and had to help with the cooking. Mark admitted Lou wasn't
really that bad of a cook, she was actually getting fairly good,
but he and Lucas loved to tease her about her cooking anyway.
During a lull in the adults' conversation, which Mark ended up
taking more part in than he had expected to, Mark started asking
Cassie and Anna questions to engage them in conversation.
"What do you like to do during your free time?" Mark inquired.
"Ride," Cassie piped up. "I love spending time with horses, and
if I'm not doing that I'm reading. I just finished Hamlet, and
although it was somewhat difficult to understand at first, I got
used to it."
"I love reading as well, but the Shakespeare is too much for
me," Mark said. "What do you like to do, Anna?"
Anna took a moment to reply, and Mark noticed she seemed to be
very carefully choosing how to word her answer.
"When I'm not finishing assignments for school or helping
mother, I like to go for walks in the woods, or pick wild
flowers out in the field," Anna quietly replied.
"Sometime Mark will have to take you two for a ride and show you
the view from Miner's Peek, it's quite a view," Lucas suggested.
Cassie and Anna both seemed interested and after getting
permission from their respective parents, the three decided to
go for a ride next Saturday afternoon.
After finishing supper and dessert, the group stood and left the
hotel. Mark and Lucas walked the Osborne’s to their buck board,
and said goodnight.
"Will we be seeing you in church tomorrow?" Mrs. Osborne asked.
"Circuit preacher won't be here until next week, unfortunately,"
"Well hopefully we won't have that predicament too much longer,"
Lucas said. "The town council decided to start looking for a
permanent preacher, they hope to have one in place by
"Well stop by then on your next trip intro town, we'd love to
have you for a visit," Mrs. Osborne invited.
"Thank you, ma'am we might just take you up on that," Lucas
After the formal goodbyes were given, the Osborne's drove off,
and Mark and Lucas mounted up and headed home.
"Pa," Mark said as they rode, "You never said anything about a
"I didn't?" Lucas said as he looked towards Mark. "Guess not.
Well, Saturday the council decided North Fork is gettin' big
enough to hire a full time pastor. We've already got a church
separate from the school house, so we don't have to worry about
space, and it's about time we try again."
"I hope it's not a repeat of the last time we looked for a
Mark thought about when he was eleven and some criminals killed
the actual preacher and his wife and took their places, then
tried to rob the bank. It didn't end well for anyone, and no one
wanted to see it happen again.
"Don't worry about it, I'm sure it won't," Lucas assured.
Mark had been held hostage that night and Lucas wondered if that
would affect the way Mark accepted the new preacher.
"Are you going to handle it alright?" Lucas asked.
"Yeah. What happened was a bad thing and I was just in the wrong
place at the wrong time. It'd be stupid to hold onto it and let
fear control me. 'Sides, we've been waitin' a long time for a
preacher, I'm excited."
"Good," Lucas said with a smile. "So... I saw Mrs. Donalds in
town the other day."
"Ya did?" Mark asked, not sure why his Pa would mention seeing
her in town.
"She said you dropped by again to see if there was anything she
needed help with."
"I try to help her out when I have a few minutes to spare is
all. Why are you bringing this up?"
"Sure there's not someone you're wanting to see while you're
there?" Lucas teased.
"Oh, Pa, gross! That's just... ew!"
Lucas laughed as Mark kicked BlueBoy's flanks and hurried past
"Just disgusting..." Lucas heard Mark mumble.
Lucas caught up to Mark and patted his son's shoulder.
"Just teasing you son. But one day, you will find that special
one and your feelings about all that “gross” stuff will change."
"Well today isn't that day and tomorrow ain't looking too good,
either," Mark said, shaking his head. "What does love do to a
person, make them lose their mind?"
"Pretty much," Lucas laughed.
As the months passed, life became slower in the town of North
Fork. The excitement of school had died down, and even Mark was
beginning to find the hours during school monotonous. The
Osborne girls had little difficulty getting caught up with the
other children their age, and Anna was doing so well, Mr.
Griswold advanced her a grade.
Mark, Anna, and Cassie often went for rides on the weekends,
especially when the Osborne's invited Mark and Lucas over for
One thing that the townspeople were looking forward to was the
arrival of the new preacher, who had a wife and young son. Mark
was excited to see North Fork getting a permanent preacher, but
he would miss the Sunday Mornings he and his Pa would spend
together when there was no circuit preacher in town.
One day when Mark was at the Donalds, he and Emma were working
on the barn chores together when Cassie rode up. Emma was the
first to notice her and called out to her.
"In the barn Cassie, come on in!" Emma invited as she wiped her
hands on her dress.
When Cassie came into the barn, she was surprised to see Mark
mucking a stall.
"Hi Emma! ...What are you doing here, Mark?"
"Just helping out. Emma was having trouble with the cow so I
came in to help her after chopping some wood."
"And how did that lead to you mucking stalls?" Cassie
"Just a little bet that I lost," Mark replied. "What are you
"I invited Cassie to spend the night," Emma replied.
"We're going for a ride as soon as Emma is done with her chores,
want to come along?" Cassie asked.
"Sure, it'll probably be our last ride for a while, the weather
is getting nippy."
"I nearly froze to death on the way to school yesterday, I don't
know how we're going to survive this winter..." Emma complained.
"I don't know if we will... we've never faced a cold New Mexico
winter before! We'll freeze over and they won't find our bodies
'till spring!" Mark said, dramatically putting a hand to his
"Har har," Emma said as Cassie and Mark had a good laugh.
After Cassie and Mark helped Emma finish the chores, the
threesome headed off for a leisurely ride through the woods.
After seeing the two girls back to the Donalds', Mark said
goodbye and rode off on BlueBoy.
"So, does Mark feel the same way?" Cassie inquired as she turned
to her friend.
"Same way about what?" Emma asked innocently.
"Oh, please. I can tell you are sweet on him. Does he like you?"
"I wish I knew. You're close to him, why don't you ask him?"
"Well hold on, I wouldn't say we're “close”. Our parents are
close and he and my Pa talk a lot, but all we ever do is go
riding with Anna on the weekends."
"You spend more time with him than I do, could you just ask him
for me, please?"
"I suppose I could try, the McCain's invited us for dinner
tomorrow. No promises though."
"Thank you!" Emma stated excitedly.
"Now let's get the horses in the barn before we freeze!"
As the girls were brushing down their horses, they chatted away,
talking about anything and everything they could. After a pause
in the conversation, Cassie decided to ask Emma a question she
had been wondering about for quite a while.
"Emma, do you know what happened to Mrs. McCain?"
"I'm not sure. We moved out here after my Pa died, and the
McCain's were already settled. He never talks about her, so my
guess is she left."
"Well you can't just jump to that conclusion, for all you know
she died and he's very sensitive about it."
"Take your pick, I think she left," Emma stated bluntly.
Cassie was surprised to find her friend so insensitive about the
matter, but then again she also realized it was none of her
business weather Mrs. McCain had died or left. Cassie put the
question aside and hurried to finish brushing Storm before the
girls headed into the house.
Mark arrived home to find his Pa un saddling Razor in the barn.
"Have a good day, Mark?" Lucas inquired.
"Yep. After I helped out at the Donalds, Cassie and Emma invited
me to go riding with them, so we rode through the woods for a
"You're quite a lady's man, I see."
"Pa, please not with that again," Mark begged as he put BlueBoy
in his stall. For the past few months it seemed that all Lucas
could tease Mark about was girls. Mark knew his Pa, and now
Micah, did it all in good fun, but he was getting tired of it.
"For the last time, I'm not interested in girls!"
"Sure, just keep telling yourself that."
"Where did you go?" Mark asked, trying to change the subject.
"Went to visit the new preacher and his family. I invited them
to join us and the Osborne's for dinner tomorrow."
"Did they accept?"
"Yes, they said they would be delighted to join us."
After supper that evening, Mark went outside to get a little bit
of target practice in. Lucas stood in front of the window after
he had finished the supper dishes and watched Mark for a bit
before walking out to him.
"Getting a little cold to be shooting, isn't it?" Lucas asked.
"With the way the weather's been acting I figured tonight's
probably the last night I'll be able to get some practice in.
Want to get in whatever I can." Mark replied as he shouldered
his rifle to take another shot.
"You're getting pretty good with that thing, I wouldn't be
surprised if you win the spring shootin' contest."
"I'm not entering," Mark simply stated before taking his shot.
"Why not?" Lucas asked, intrigued by his son's statement.
"Well like you've said, a rifle is a tool, not a toy to be
played with. I practice so I'm good enough with it incase I ever
need it, but I don't see the point of seeing who's the best
shot. If a situation ever did arise where I need to use my
rifle, and someone else happens to be there, we're not going to
take the time to decide who should take the shot 'cause they're
“better.” Just starting out, I don't really see the point of me
entering a contest..." Mark paused before pulling the trigger.
"Even if I did win, like you always say, there's always someone
"I see your point, but there's no harm in a little contest. I'd
like to see you try just once, at some point. But if you're not
comfortable with it, I understand," Lucas stated.
"Maybe I will, when I'm older, but for now I'm just happy with
hitting the target." Mark said before reloading, then throwing
up the tin can next to him and firing at it seven times. Lucas
went to pick the can up and was shocked at what he found.
"Well?" Mark asked as Lucas walked back towards him.
"You hit it all right - all seven times," Lucas said as he
handed Mark the can.
Satisfied with himself, Mark headed towards the house to clean
and put his rifle away. Lucas followed Mark, telling himself it
had to be a lucky shot in that lighting.
The next morning, Lucas and Mark got up early to do the morning
chores together before eating breakfast and heading to church.
They arrived just a few minutes before the service started and
took a seat after Lucas introduced Mark to the preacher and his
After the service ended and Reverend Graft had shaken hands with
the congregation, the Osbornes and Grafts followed Lucas and
Mark to the McCain ranch.
For lunch they had a simple roast and biscuits, and Mark was
elated when he found out Mrs. Osborne had brought apple pie for
Lucas suggested that the children go for a ride, seeing it was a
beautiful fall day. Mark and Cassie were eager to get out of the
stuffy house, but even though she didn't complain, Anna would
have been just as happy staying indoors. As the three started to
walk out the door, they heard the Graft's three year old son
saying he wanted to go too.
"Darling, this is for the big kids," Mrs. Graft said.
"Mrs. Graft, if you're alright with it, I wouldn't mind at all
if Ethan rode with me. BlueBoy's very gentle and calm," Mark
Mrs. Graft looked to her husband who gave a simple nod, then set
"Thank you Mark, I'd appreciate that," She replied.
Mark helped Ethan put his coat on, then picked him up before
grabbing his rifle and hat and heading out the door.
Cassie wanted to race up the first hill and took off ahead of
the others. Anna didn't like racing and Mark wanted too, but
didn't because Ethan was sitting in front of him. They soon
caught up to Cassie who was now stopped in front of a grave
"Mark? What's this?" Cassie asked, quite confused.
"A grave," Mark replied. "Ever seen one before?"
"Ya know what I mean," Cassie retorted, annoyed at Mark. "Why is
your Pa's name on it?"
"Long story... but I guess we have time. Come on, I'll tell you
about it," Mark replied as he urged BlueBoy forward.
Mark proceeded to tell the Osborne girls the story of how his Pa
“died,” and why Lucas was “buried” on the hill.
"...And the criminals are now serving their sentences in the New
Mexico Territory prison. I don't know why we haven't taken it
out. I suppose we just haven't gotten around to it. We took
Micah's tombstone out of the cemetery but I guess we forgot
about taking Pa's out once we got home," Mark concluded.
"Was it hard? Without your Pa?" Anna asked.
Cassie shot her sister a look telling her not to ask such
"It's alright," Mark assured. "It was the hardest thing I had
ever gone through, and if it hadn't been for your Pa and God, I
don't know if I would've survived that week. But it's in the
past now, and I'm glad everyone's back together."
After a while, the group decided to turn back and after arriving
back at the house, Mark asked Anna to take Ethan inside while he
and Cassie took care of the horses.
"Mark?" Cassie asked as she brushed Storm down.
"What would you say if I asked you if you liked any one?"
"Oh please, not you too! What do I have to do to get you people
to realize that I am happy single!"
"I was just asking. Emma wanted to know if you liked her and I
told her I'd ask," Cassie said as she rolled her eyes.
"Wait - she what?"
"Emma wanted to know if you liked her."
"I mean, she's nice and I like her as a friend, like you and
Anna, but... just no. I never liked her that way."
"Good, I can tell her and she can get over this silly crush,"
Cassie said, not realizing what she had stated.
"I have a feeling she didn't want me knowing that..."
"Oh shoot!" Cassie exclaimed as she stood straight up. "Mark,
please don't tell her I accidentally told you that!"
"Sure, just do me a favor, will ya?"
"Sure," Cassie answered.
"Let her down easy, don't shatter her. She's quite... fragile."
"I will. I can be gentle when I need to be, believe it or not."
Mark put his finger to his chin and paused a moment, pretending
"Can't quite picture it. All I see is a bull in a china shop,"
Cassie threw the brush she had been using at Mark after he
turned back to brush Anna's horse.
"What was that for?" He asked as he picked it up.
"Mess with the bull, ya get the horns!" Cassie replied with a
The next week, Mark and Lucas found themselves celebrating
thanksgiving with Lou, Micah, the Grafts, and the Osbornes. With
all of her guests away at friend's and relative's, Lou was able
to close the restaurant part of the hotel and host the
thanksgiving meal there. As the women worked in the kitchen, the
men organized the tables and placed decorations that Lou had
given to them. Every time Mark would sneak into the kitchen to
steal a bit of pie filling or cake frosting, Lou playfully
swatted his hand and sent him back out to help the men. About
the third time Lou had endured enough, and would've given Mark
an earful if Cassie hadn't beat her to it.
"Mark McCain, ya get out of here for the last time!" She
hollered. "Interfere with the “women's work” before the meal,
and you'll be doing the “woman's work” after the meal!" Cassie
shooed Mark out of the kitchen and sighed as the door shut.
"Men!" She mumbled.
The older ladies and Anna chuckled at Cassie's frustration with
Mark. It took a lot to rile her, even with all of her spirit,
but when you did she was ready to explode.
After the meal, each person took time to share what they were
especially thankful to God for that day, Mark was last and
thought for a few moments before speaking.
"Today, I'm especially thankful for family, and friends who are
practically like family. Pa and I've been through a lot this
past summer and without some of you we wouldn't have survived
it. I'm thankful that God's given us such good friends as you."
"I think I can safely say we all feel the same," Micah said as
the others nodded their heads, agreeing.
"Even if you do eat all the pie," Cassie quipped, which got
Cassie chuckled softly, but her thoughts were occupied with
something else. Mark was like a friend, she realized. Even more
of a friend than Emma in some ways. At first she thought it was
strange, being so close to a boy, but then she admitted that
deep down she'd always known he was more than an acquaintance,
he really was a true friend.
Cassie smiled as she stood to get another slice of pie for
herself. Mark was up on her by two slices, and she wasn't going
to let him win this competition.
Mark volunteered to help with the dishes so the adults could
talk, and Anna, Mark, and Cassie began clearing the table. It
wasn't long after the kids had gone into the kitchen that they
heard dishes crashing, Cassie laughing, and Mark swearing he
would get Cassie back. Lucas and John stood to see if everything
was alright, but Anna came out before they left the table.
"Everything's fine. Anyone want any pie before it gets
destroyed?" She quietly asked as a smirk spread across her face.
"What exactly are those two doin' in there?" Lou asked.
"Mark, don't you dare!" Everyone heard from the other side of
the kitchen door.
"I don't really know how to explain it..." Anna said as she
looked back at the door. "I don't know if I really understand it
"I don't know if I want to know..." Mrs. Osborne stated, knowing
how wild Cassie could get at times.
"Just tell 'em I said my kitchen bet'r be clean by the time I
come back there," Lou said.
Anna turned and walked back in the kitchen to find Mark chasing
Cassie around the kitchen with a spoon of pudding.
"Ms. Lou said you better have the kitchen clean by the time she
gets back here... and if you keep making such a racket, I don't
think that will be too long," Anna stated.
Mark rolled his eyes and popped the spoon in his mouth before
they went back to cleaning the dishes.
"I am going to get you back," Mark stated.
The adults didn't hear anymore outbursts from the kitchen for
another fifteen minutes. When they did hear Cassie squeal Mark's
name, Lou stood to go find out what the two were up to.
At first, Lou was pleased to find the dishes had been completed.
Then she saw Cassie and
Mark and couldn't help laughing as Anna put her palm to her own
"Mark, I don't think ye've ever looked better. Pumpkin pie is
such a good color on ye! And Cassie... the chocolate puddin'
compliments yer blonde hair so well!"
Cassie and Mark joined Lou in her laughter as Anna shook her
"You two best get cleaned up, Cassie ye can go out that door and
use the powder room, first door on yer left. Anna and I will be
rejoin' the adults," Lou said gesturing to the kitchen's back
Lou was still laughing as she took her seat again, and Anna's
cheeks were red with embarrassment... she couldn't believe her
"What's so funny?" Lucas asked. "Or do I not want to know?"
"Oh, those two were just havin' a wee bit of funnin'," Lou
replied. "Ah, to be young again."
Mark was the first to rejoin the group, then Cassie. There were
a few smirks between the two, but neither cared to share with
the group what had happened in the kitchen. The adults simply
decided to let it go... whatever “it” was that had happened.
After the restaurant's furniture was back in place and the
decorations taken down, everyone left the hotel and headed to
their respective homes.
On the ride home, Mark turned towards his Pa to ask a question.
"Pa... I know before holidays haven't really been something
we've celebrated a lot of, and pretty much just always stayed at
home. But I actually really enjoyed myself today... do you think
we could... well... spend more of the holidays with friends?"
"I think it's about time we did, Mark. Your Ma loved the
holidays and I don't see any reason why we shouldn't keep
celebrating them like we would have if your Ma was still here."
Lucas paused a moment before continuing, "Mark, honestly... do
you wish we would have done more things like we did today after
your Ma died?"
"I don't think I was ready for it until this year... I think it
would've been too painful for both of us, but I'm ready for it
now. I'm... ready to move forward, and not cling to the past. Ma
will always be a part of me, but..."
"I understand, Mark... it's the same way I feel. Your Ma is and
always will be a part of us, but a part we take with us as we
move forward, not hold onto as we cling to the past."
Mark smiled at his Pa and the two continued to ride side by side
down the road.
"So..." Lucas began. "Mind filling me in on what happened in the
Mark smirked as his eyebrows and shoulders lifted.
"Sorry Pa, but I've been sworn to secrecy."
"Maybe Marshal Osborne can drag it out of you, then."
"I'd rather deal with him than the one that swore me to
"And who's that?" Lucas inquired.
As November turned to December, Mark and Lucas soon found
themselves at Lou's having a special dinner to celebrate Mark's
birthday. Mark had made it clear after Lucas suggested a party,
this was one “holiday” he didn't mind celebrating quietly at
"Well, It's not very often I see you two in my restaurant,
what's the occasion?" Lou asked after seeing them eating supper
"I asked Mark what he wanted to eat for his birthday, and he
said he'd like to eat here," Lucas replied.
"As long as we were sure you weren't in the kitchen," Mark
"Oh, ye!" Lou said as she slapped Mark with her notepad. "Mark,
I didn't know it was your birthday! Lucas, why didn't ye tell
me? I could've planned a wonderful party for 'im."
"Exactly," Mark said. "You would've planned a big party. Pa and
I prefer to celebrate our birthdays quietly."
"Well, now I know when it is and I won't be missin' it next
year. I'll give ye the grandest party North Fork's ever seen!"
"That's alright Lou, I-"
"No arguin' about it. And both of yer dinners are on the house
tonight," Lou said as she walked away.
"Pa, why are women so... persistent?"
"Same reason us men are, Mark. But keep in mind, there's
and then there's Lou."
After supper, Lucas rode to the edge of town with Mark before
heading back into town for the council meeting. He had hoped to
get out of it, but there were already several members of the
town council gone including Marshal Osborne and Micah said there
were some major issues that needed to be dealt with.
"See you when ya get home Pa?"
"Don't wait up for me, this is supposed to be a really important
meeting so I'm sure it will last a few hours. I won't be home
"Alright. See you later!" Mark said as he rode off.
"I Love you, son," Lucas replied before turning Razor around and
heading towards town.
When Mark woke the next morning, he looked at the timepiece
which read nine-thirty, and was surprised that his Pa hadn't
gotten him up yet. On Sundays they had to get up extra early to
finish the chores in time to get to church. Once he looked out
the window though, he understood. Everything outside was covered
in at least six inches of snow, meaning his Pa had probably
decided to skip church that morning for safety reasons. Mark
began to dress so he could help his Pa with whatever was left to
When Mark stepped out of the bedroom though, he started to
wonder if something was wrong. There was no coffee brewing, and
the fire had died out in the stove. Mark got his hat and coat
off the peg on the wall and put them on before grabbing his
rifle and heading outside. There were no footprints in the snow,
and none of the chores were done. Then, Mark realized something
was wrong. Really wrong.
Mark stepped into Razor's empty stall and looked for any sign to
indicate that his Pa had been there that morning, but there
didn't seem to be any. Razor's food was still there from when
Mark had put it there last night, and everything seemed to be
undisturbed from the night previous. Lucas should have moved
several things around to bed down Razor when he got home.
Mark quickly ran back into the house, hoping he had overlooked a
note or something, but didn't find anything.
“Maybe Pa just decided to stay in town because of the storm.l,”
Mark tried to convince himself as he mounted BlueBoy. That had
to be it... Mark didn't want to think about the alternative.
The first place Mark checked was the hotel. He looked through
the register, hoping to see his Pa’s name, but there was no
Next, Mark checked the jail and Micah's; maybe his Pa had spent
the night with him.
The jail was closed up and there was no answer at Micah's.
Checking the establishments he passed on his way to the church,
Mark hoped he would find Lucas soon. Mark quietly entered the
church and scanned the crowd for his Pa, but no tall, blond
haired man with a rifle was to be seen.
Mark left the church and checked the rest of North Fork, hoping,
praying he would find his Pa. By the time Mark was done checking
every square inch of North Fork, church was letting out. Mark
hurried to find Micah among the large crowd of people, and
finally caught sight of him talking with Mr. Griswold.
"Micah, have you seen Pa?" Mark desperately asked.
"What happened, you lose him?" Micah joked.
"Micah, seriously! It doesn't look like Pa made it home last
night and I've checked all over town, do you know where he is?"
"I'm sorry Mark, I said goodnight to him about eight-thirty."
Mark's heart sunk.
"Pa should've been home before ten... I was up until eleven
reading. Micah, something's wrong!"
"Calm down, Mark. I'm sure your Pa is around somewhere. Let's
check around town and-"
"Micah, I already looked everywhere. Pa isn't here, and he isn't
Micah thought a minute before replying to Mark.
"I want you to go home and make sure your Pa didn't show up
there. I'll double check in town and get some men together for a
search party. If neither of us find anything, we'll meet up at
the church and set out to look for him."
"Alright," Mark said before whirling around to leave.
Suddenly, he felt a hand on his shoulder, turning him back
"Mark, it's going to be alright. We'll find your Pa," Micah
assured before giving Mark a hug.
Micah could only imagine the thoughts and emotions running
through Mark after what had happened that summer. Micah hoped
they would find Lucas soon, and that he would be fine when they
As Mark raced home, he fought the tears that were pushing to
“Not again, not now. Please... let him be alright.”
When Mark rode into the yard, his heart skipped a beat when he
saw Razor standing in front of the house. Mark jumped off
BlueBoy and ran as fast as he could into the house.
"PA?!" Mark called as he ran inside.
Mark looked around the front room, then checked the bedroom.
Everything was as he had left it; Lucas was nowhere to be seen.
Mark ran to check the barn, constantly calling out for his Pa,
but no reply came. When Mark ran back towards the horses, he saw
his Pa's rifle in Razor's scabbard, telling him Lucas hadn't
ridden his horse home. If he had, Lucas would have his rifle in
his hand. If he had, Mark could be in his Pa's arms.
Although Mark wanted to fall apart, he did his best to pull
himself together before grabbing his Pa's rifle, stuffing it in
his scabbard next to his own rifle, putting Razor in the barn,
and heading to town.
When Mark came to the turn off for the shortcut, he didn't even
think about whether it was safe or not; whether he was supposed
to take it or not. All Mark could think about was his Pa
somewhere out in the cold, without his rifle, without any form
Micah paced the front of the church, waiting for Mark to show
up... hopefully with Lucas.
Finally, Mark stepped through the church doors. Much to
everyone's dismay, he was alone.
"Micah, I found Razor at the ranch, but Pa wasn't anywhere,"
Mark began as he walked up to the marshal. "Micah... Pa's gun
was in the scabbard... he's out there, somewhere without-"
"We'll find him, boy," Micah said as he patted Mark's shoulder,
before turning to address the
crowd. "Alright, listen up! Lucas McCain is missing and the last
place we saw him was right outside this church. Spread out in
groups of two's and three's, searching the countryside and off
the roadways. No one, and I mean no one," Micah said as he eyed
Mark, "goes off alone. We don't need another person missing.
Meet back here by five so we can make sure everyone is back by
sunset. If you find anything, fire two shots up in the air and
anyone who hears it head that direction. Any questions? ...Good.
let's go!" Micah turned towards Mark before continuing at a much
quieter volume, "Mark, you ride with me."
"But Micah, we could cover twice as much area..." Mark argued.
"I don't want to have to worry about you and your Pa at the same
time, so stay close."
"But..." Mark paused before continuing. "...Alright." Mark
realized he wasn't going to get anywhere trying to argue with
Micah, at least not now.
Micah and Mark went as fast as they could while still looking
for prints in the snow. Up one hill, down the next Mark called
out for Lucas, even though his throat burned every time he tried
As each hour passed and the sun set lower and lower behind the
mountains, Mark's heart sunk deeper and deeper. Mark ignored his
growling stomach and pounding headache, he couldn't focus on
anything besides finding his Pa.
Finally, Micah was somehow able to convince Mark that it was
time turn back. The two quietly, reluctantly rode to the church
Mark did his best to keep himself composed, especially when one
by one the groups of men came back saying they had found
nothing. Micah thanked everyone for their efforts, and said
anyone who wanted to search tomorrow should be back by seven
Micah took Mark to the hotel to get something to eat, he knew
the boy must be starving. Much to Micah's surprise, he didn't
get the typical “I'm not hungry” he normally did from a McCain.
Mark just nodded to whatever Micah said and went along with it.
Mark didn't notice the stares he got from the townspeople, he
couldn't even tell you what he ate. He was too numb, too worried
His Pa could be freezing to death, slowly enduring torture from
the elements. What kind of pain was he going through? Should
Mark have stayed up and waited for his Pa to get home? Should he
have known something was wrong? Why didn't he wake up sooner
"Micah..." Mark barely whispered as they sat at a table in the
restaurant. "If something happens to Pa, it'll be all my
fault..." Mark quietly said as he stared at the table.
"Mark, I can't promise you that we'll find your Pa, you know
that. But you know as well as I do, none of this is your fault."
"But I should've-"
"If I know you, you did exactly what your father told you to.
Let me guess: your Pa rode you to the edge of town, told you not
to stay up because the meeting was suppose to go late, then you
two parted ways. You went home, read, then turned in. As soon as
you woke and found out Lucas wasn't there, you did everything
you could to find him. And if I know your father, he told you he
loved you before you separated, and I'm sure that hasn't changed
in the last twenty-four hours. He wouldn't blame you, I don't
blame you, no one should blame you. Mark this isn't your fault,
do you understand me? Mark?"
"...Yes sir," Mark said as he slowly nodded. "Micah... I
can't... go through this again. If Pa-"
"I've said it more than once, Mark, “if” is a troublesome word.
Have faith, pray. The Good Lord has a purpose for what He
"Oh, I've been prayin' Micah. Believe me, I've been prayin'."
Mark slipped on his boots, jacket, and hat, then quietly exited
the jail house where he and Micah had spent the night. It was a
cold December morning, one that Mark was already beginning to
loathe. The wind stung his cheeks and the snow that fell between
his neck and collar was melting fast, but Mark pushed it all
aside and focused on his one goal: find Pa.
Mark knew he was in for a lecture with Micah about going out on
his own, especially on a day like this, but Mark couldn't wait
three more hours, he had to do something now.
Mark started out at the church, where the council meeting had
taken place and looked around in a circle.
“Where do I start?” Mark asked himself.
He eventually decided to head towards the ranch, since that's
where his Pa should have been headed two nights before.
Mark called out as best he could, but eventually he had to stop,
anything that came out was a quiet whisper.
After an hour of riding, Mark stopped before a bridge to let a
wagon past. Mark looked at the
river and bank below before continuing, and then realizing what
he had seen, Mark guided BlueBoy down to the river's edge.
As Mark passed the hat from his left to right hand, he confirmed
that it was his Pa's. Joy and worry flooded Mark at the same
time. He'd found a trace of Lucas, but it was next to the nearly
Holding on to the little bit of hope he had left, Mark rode
BlueBoy up the bank, scanning for any other sign of his Pa.
After riding for quite some time, Mark figured Micah had found
his note by now and was furious. He'd apologize... no, he'd
explain later - after his Pa was safe.
After spotting a cave, Mark decided to give BlueBoy a few
minutes of rest and them both a break from the wind. As much as
Mark didn't feel like stopping, he knew it was the best
As Mark stood in the cave, trying to get the matches from his
saddle bag, he thought he smelled faint traces of smoke.
Intrigued, Mark lit the lantern he had grabbed from the jail, as
well as his rifle, and explored deeper into the cave.
First, Mark caught sight of the what was left of a fire. Then he
saw the hand, the arm, and finally his Pa's wonderful face.
"PA!" Mark barely squeaked out as he rushed to his Pa's side.
Mark put his ear to his Pa's chest, hoping... praying he would
hear his Pa's heart beating. To say that Mark breathed a sigh of
relief would be an understatement; the weight of the burden
lifted from him was indescribable.
Mark began tapping his Pa's face, trying to rouse him, but to no
avail. Mark knew Lucas was much too cold to the touch, so before
running outside the cave to gather firewood, Mark slipped his
jacket off and put it on his Pa.
After getting the fire blazing, Mark began to assess the rest of
Lucas. Everything seemed fine... until Mark saw his Pa's leg. It
was only then that Mark saw the good of his Pa being
unconscious. Mark knew what he needed to do, but slightly
hesitated at the thought of setting his Pa's leg even though he
wasn't awake. Mark knew how to set a leg, he'd also seen it done
several times, he'd just never done it himself. Mark also knew
that the longer the leg went like this, the more permanent
problems there could be, but what if he did something wrong?
"God, help me," Mark whispered before snapping Lucas' leg back
Mark hurried to make a splint out of some extra firewood and his
belt, then added more wood to the fire before heading outside.
Mark fired two shots in the air, hoping someone was nearby and
would hear them. Next, Mark began to make a big fire right at
the edge of the cave to attract attention. The wind had died
down some, but it still took quite a while to get the flames to
keep burning. Mark sent another two shots into the air before
returning to check on his Pa.
As he released a big breath of air, Mark squatted next to his Pa
and began rubbing his Pa's hands and face, trying to warm them.
Time slowly drug on. About every ten minutes or so, Mark would
check on the fire at the entrance of the cave, fire two shots,
then return to his Pa and continue rubbing warmth into him.
"Pa, you've gotta hang on..." Mark hoarsely whispered.
After finding Mark's note, Micah was enraged to say the least.
He wouldn't have waited for the search party to assemble at the
church, but the snow had already covered whatever tracks Mark
left and there was no use him going out there alone in that
Micah and Jackford set off as one of several groups, calling for
Mark and Lucas as they went.
"Mark! Lucas!" Micah called. "Oat, I'm gonna tan that boy's hide
when we find him..."
"Sorry, you'll have to wait your turn," Jackford replied.
"I can't believe Mark went off on his own like that."
"I can," Oat commented.
"What do you mean?" Micah asked as he eyed the rancher.
"This is Mark and Lucas we're talking about. We would've
expected it from Lucas, we should've been expecting it from
Mark. Frankly, I don't blame him for heading out so early, I
just wish he would have thought it through more thoroughly and
brought somebody along."
"Remind me to lock him in a cell next time."
"Let's hope there isn't a next time."
The time passed slowly as the search party pressed on. The wind
stung their cheeks and passed right through their clothes,
chilling their bones. Even Micah was beginning to lose hope when
they heard two gunshots in the distance.
"Somebody found something, let's go!" Micah said as he and Oat
headed towards the noise. It was a while before they heard a
second set of shots and were able to pinpoint the general area
of the gun shot. Making their way down the river's bank, they
thought they could smell a faint trace of smoke.
Mark headed out to fire his rifle once again. He didn't know how
much longer his Pa was going to last... he had warmed up a tiny
bit, but was still unresponsive.
As Mark pulled the trigger, he caught sight of two riders
heading his way. Mark continued to rapidly fire, and waved his
arm to get their attention. As the riders got closer, Mark was
able to recognize them and breathed a sigh of relief. Micah and
Mr. Jackford hurried over to where Mark stood.
"Mark McCain, I'm gonna-" Micah started.
"You can lecture me later, Pa's inside and he isn't too good,"
Mark hoarsely told them as he motioned for them to follow him.
The men followed Mark inside the cave, and after assessing the
situation began to build a travois from what they had available.
The three of them lifted Lucas onto it and carried it outside to
hook up to Micah's horse.
"Mark, go back inside and get the rest of the materials, then
put the fire out," Micah ordered.
Mark did as he was told as quickly as possible, and when he came
back out of the cave there were more men from the search party
there. The small group shortly set off, slowly making their way
back to North Fork. Mark rode directly behind Micah, keeping his
eyes glued on his Pa the whole way. Micah sent Oat ahead to tell
the doctor they were coming and what to expect.
Once they arrived in town, they carried Lucas into Doc's back
room where the old doctor began to examine him. Mark stood close
by, watching as the doctor began to work.
"Micah, I need you to get him out of here," Burrage said as he
pointed to Mark.
Mark didn't put up a fight and walked with Micah to the hotel.
Mark knew he was going to be in the way, and until later he best
just do what he was told.
After sitting down and ordering something for the both of them
to eat, Micah sternly looked Mark in the eyes.
"Mark, what were you thinking? I told you to not go off by
yourself, and yet you deliberately set off this morning, not
even having the decency to tell somebody!"
"I left you a note," Mark said respectfully in a raspy voice.
"It's not the same. Do you have any idea what could have
happened? Do you realize you could be lying out there, freezing
"Pa still could be, too. If I hadn't left when I did, Pa would
still be lying in that cave, and as much as I don't want to
admit it, Pa could be dead right now, Micah. Something was
tugging at me, I had to go; I had to be out there, looking for
Pa. I couldn't bear just lying there, imagining having to go
through what happened this summer all over again. I had to do
"Mark, I was worried sick about you, boy. I love you and your Pa
like family - you're the only family I've got. What if you
would've gotten lost? What if you would've been attacked by an
animal? What if your Pa showed up and you weren't here? What was
I supposed to tell him?"
" “If” is a troublesome word, Micah," Mark replied, using
Micah's own words against him. "The point is none of those
things did happen. I was able to take care of myself and find
Pa, alert you, and get Pa back to town. I get your point, it
wasn't smart to leave by myself. And if I could've avoided it, I
would've. But everyone else, including you, would have said it
was just as important to make sure we were rested and that it
would be no use starting out while it was that dark. I'm sorry
Micah, but the rest wasn't that important and there was use.
I... I'm not sorry for going off and finding Pa, but I am sorry
to have worried you. Believe me, I know how that feels. Please
try to understand that what I did wasn't to spite you, but all I
could think about was Pa out there, somewhere."
Micah didn't want to admit it, but he knew Mark was right. Had
Mark woken him, he would've convinced him to stay in town for a
few more hours, hours that could've killed Lucas. What surprised
Micah though, was that Mark seemed to understand what he was
trying to tell the boy... and what surprised him more was that
he realized maybe Mark really wasn't so much of a boy anymore.
"...Alright, Mark, I understand," Micah replied.
Once their food came, Mark spent more time moving his soup
around than eating it. Mark didn't really have much of an
appetite, still concerned about his Pa. He did eat enough to
satisfy Micah, but Lou insisted he take the bowl with him when
they went back to the doctor's office.
Mark still had his Pa's hat with him and toyed with it as the
waited in the front room. Finally, after about twenty minutes of
waiting, Doc came through the door.
"Well?" Mark asked as he stood, trying to not lose his voice.
"He's stable, Mark," the doctor replied. "His body temperature
is almost back to normal and he is breathing deeper. We will
have to watch him close for signs of pneumonia, as well as any
other kind of infection. As for the leg, it should heal nicely.
Micah, I didn't know you knew how to set broken bones...?"
"I didn't do it, I didn't even realize it was set," Micah
"Well then who did? Oat?"
"No, he was with me. The-" Micah turned to look at Mark. "You
"Only because I knew it would get worse if I left it," Mark
"Where did you learn to do it?" The doctor asked in amazement.
"Some medical journals I've been reading, and I had seen it done
plenty of times."
The doctor and Micah stood dumbfounded, and Mark eventually
broke the silence.
"Can I see him?" Mark asked.
"Let me check your throat, your voice doesn't sound too good,"
the doctor replied.
"I just strained it hollerin' yesterday." Mark stated.
"I'd still like to check it over."
Mark consented and Doc Burrage examined him before giving him
something to soothe his throat, then Doc let Mark see his Pa.
Mark sat in a chair near the bed and let out a breath of air. He
didn't feel like crying anymore, he realized that he didn't have
control over what happened to his Pa and would just have to
trust God to make the right decision. He prayed that the
decision would be to let Lucas wake up, but if it wasn't... Mark
realized he was going to have to accept it.
"God, please let my Pa wake up, please..." Mark quietly prayed.
"I want my Pa to stay here so bad... I don't want to live life
without him again. God..." Mark was about to say the most
difficult prayer he ever had. "If you chose to take him... I...
I trust that it is best, and that you have a purpose for it.
Give me strength, either way, please. I need You."
Mark relaxed in his chair and watched the steady rise and fall
of Lucas's frame. He didn't want his Pa to die, but amidst the
worry that plagued him, Mark felt an unmistakable feeling of
Two days later, as Mark walked out of the hotel, he placed his
hat on his head and then passed his rifle to his left hand. Mark
walked down the street and headed for the telegraph office to
see if they had any mail.
"Mark, I was just coming to find you," Amos, the town's
telegrapher, greeted him. He walked towards Mark and handed him
two letters, then a telegram. "You may want to read the telegram
first, it... didn't seem too friendly."
Confused, Mark read the telegram... then he read it twice more.
There was no name at the bottom of the telegram. After thinking
a moment, Mark looked up.
"Do you mind if we just keep this between us? I'll tell Pa when
he wakes up, and then let him decide what to do."
"Of course Mark, I'm not a at liberty to share any information
"Thanks," Mark said before leaving the office.
As Mark walked back towards the doctor's office, he thought
about the mysterious telegram. Who would send something like
that? Why would they send something like that?
Mark's thoughts were interrupted by someone calling his name,
and they didn't sound too happy, either.
"Mark! Mark McCain! Ye hold it right there!" Lou hollered.
Mark waited for Lou to catch up with him before continuing
towards the office.
"Mark, I've got somethin' to discuss with ye!"
"Evenin' Lou. What on earth could you want to be talking to me
about?" Mark asked innocently, he had known she'd come after him
sooner or later.
"Yer supper, that's what! I told ye ta get somethin' ta eat as
ye were leavin' my office, and did ye mind me? No. Just what do
ye have to say for yerself?"
"I'm not hungry...?" Mark replied as he held the door to the
doctor's open for Lou and stepped inside after her.
"Doc, ye've got ta get him- where's Doc?" Lou's asked.
"Making his rounds. Should be back in two hours or so. Lou, I'll
eat later, I'm just not hungry." Mark plainly stated as he
shrugged his shoulders.
"Mark, ye skipped lunch, I better see ye in that restaurant
within two hours, or so help me-"
"I promise, you'll see me. Now whether you'll see me eating or
not..." Mark teased.
"Oh, you McCain's!" Lou said before storming out of the office.
Mark chuckled at her wild Irish temper, as well as her sweet
concern as he entered the room his Pa still lay in.
"Do me a favor and tell Lou to keep it down, will you?"
Mark looked up and saw his Pa on the bed, eyes open and a smile
spreading across his face.
"Pa?" Mark called as he hurried to Lucas' side. "Are you
alright? How do you feel? Do ya hurt? Can I get you something?"
"Slow, down Mark," Lucas chuckled. "How about you just tell me
"You don't remember any of it?"
"I remember leaving the meeting, then falling from Razor. I have
a vague recollection of getting some fire wood or something, but
that's about it."
"Well, you didn't come home Saturday night, but I didn't realize
it until Sunday morning. After not finding you in town, we had a
search party go out, but didn't find anything before dark. The
next morning was when we found you in a cave, nearly frozen and
with a broken leg. You've been asleep for two days... Doc was
getting concerned and didn't know if you were gonna... Oh, Pa, I
love you..." Mark said as he hugged his Pa.
Lucas returned the embrace before Mark sat down in the chair and
breathed a sigh of relief.
"Some birthday present, you sure know how to pick 'em," Mark
"I put a lot of thought into getting Razor to throw me," Lucas
"What got him bucking?" Mark inquired.
"I'm not really sure, probably an animal. Thankfully one that
"Doc isn't here, he'll be back in less than two hours."
"I heard. What'd you do to get Lou so riled? It can't just be
"She's been frettin' over me ever since we came back with you.
Apparently, Micah told her I had left before everyone else and
got her all worried, and even though she 'bout talked my ear off
yesterday, she's been hovering over me like a mother hen."
"Hold it, what do you mean you left before everyone else?"
"Oh… about that. I couldn't sleep Monday morning, so I decided
to get an early jump on things and start looking for you again."
"By yourself? In that weather?"
"Only because you were by yourself in that weather. And you
can't say you wouldn't have done the same thing, if you even
would have stopped to sleep."
Lucas wanted to tell Mark it was different, that Mark had no
reason to go off by himself, but he knew it wasn't different.
Even though Lucas loved Mark as a son, and Mark loved Lucas as a
father, they had grew beyond how they were related, and, Lucas
realized, he was beginning to see his son as his equal. Lucas
couldn't really blame Mark either, considering that summer. Mark
must have been reliving that week over and over in his mind the
past few days.
"I understand," Lucas said, surprising Mark a bit.
"You're right, I would've done the exact same thing. Promise me
though, you won't do it again."
"If you promise me not to go off by yourself when I'm missing."
"Mark..." Lucas stopped. He was going to have to accept that in
a situation like this, he couldn't make his son promise him
anything, let alone make him keep that promise.
"Alright, I get it, really. So'd Micah just 'bout tan your
"I could tell he wanted to, at first..."
Mark and Lucas continued talking with each other until Doc
Burrage came back, happy to see Lucas awake. The doctor examined
his patient and was happy with what he found.
"I don't see really any sign of infection, which really is a...
“miracle” as you call it. Your leg should heal good, Lucas you
can thank your son for that. Mark, if you keep a close eye on
him and make sure he stays in the house, you can take him home
in the buckboard tomorrow."
"Thanks Doc." Lucas said. "...What do you mean by thank Mark?"
Doc Burrage and Lucas turned to look at Mark, who was wondering
what his Pa's reaction would be.
"I may or may not have set your leg in the cave..."
"You what? How...?" Lucas began to ask.
"You've got a bright son Lucas, wouldn't surprise me if he
became a doctor someday," Burrage said before collecting his
equipment. "Oh, and Lucas, I was supposed to make sure you got
that package on the table over there," Doc added before he left
Mark picked up the package and brought it to his Pa.
"What do you think it is? We didn't send for anything," Mark
"We didn't, but I did. I was hoping it'd make it here in time
for your birthday, but I suppose late is better than never,"
Lucas replied as he handed the box back to Mark and gestured for
him to open it.
"Pa, I wasn't expecting-"
"I know. Just go ahead and open it."
Mark opened the package and his eyes grew wide at what was
"Now, I don't mind you using mine, but as often as you read my
Bible I guess it's about time you got one of your own."
"Thanks, Pa... it means a lot."
"I love you, Mark. Keep it close and you won't go wrong."
A few days later, Lucas came out of the bedroom to see Mark deep
in thought as he stared out the window.
"Everything alright?" Lucas asked as he made his way towards
Mark on the crutches.
"Yeah, I'm just thinking," Mark replied
"Lots of things, actually, but mostly about you going missing."
"Anything you need to talk about?" Lucas asked as he sat next to
"I don't think so. It's strange, I've always had a hard time
getting over stuff like this, but it seems different this time.
I think that once I admitted I had no control over what happens
to either of us, it helped put things in perspective. I think
I've learned to cherish the time we have, and let God do the
problem solving. Though, I'm sure He doesn't really do much
solving. He's already got it figured out, doesn't He?" Mark
"Yes, He does."
"In one sense it kinda makes me feel helpless, but in another I
think it kinda brings me peace." Mark looked from the window to
his Pa before continuing. "I love you Pa, I'm glad you're home."
"Me too, Mark. Me too."
This is a story based on the TV
series The Rifleman
Here are some other great stories. Enjoy!
around The McCain Ranch