The Writer's Corner
Written by Judith Schaefer aka Stargazer
sat at the table, talking and laughing, well into the evening.
Micah thought he had best be getting back to town before too
long. He was glad, though, that he had come out to spend some
time with his good friends, Lucas and Mark. He had promised Mark
he would help celebrate the boy’s half-birthday, which had been
Micah’s idea. Mark’s real birthday was in the middle of December
when they couldn’t always get together. Besides, who gives
someone a fishing pole in the middle of winter? And, with school
letting out tomorrow for the summer...well, it was even more
cause for Mark to celebrate.
Mark enjoyed having dinner with his pa and Micah, and he sure
was looking forward to the summer and no school. But the best
part of the night for him was receiving a copy of Mark Twain’s
new book, ‘Adventures of Huckleberry Finn’. He was so excited
when he removed the wrapping of brown paper to find a book from
his favorite author. His pa knew how much he admired Mr. Twain.
The shirts Pa had given him were nice, too.
Lucas didn’t have enough money to get the book for his son’s
actual birthday, but he had saved up enough to buy it for him
now and thought he could read it over the summer. He wasn’t
about to let Mark get away with a whole summer of no studies.
And, the two new shirts were a necessary gift…the boy was
growing like a weed.
“Pa, that sure was a good supper. And, that chocolate cake!”
Mark patted his satisfied stomach as he pushed back from the
table. “Oh, and uh, Pa… thank you for the book and the shirts. I
like the color blue.”
“Glad you like ‘em, son.” Lucas smiled at his boy thinking to
himself, 14 going on 15, when did that happen?
“Well, I hate to leave good company, but I better be headin’
back to town,” said Micah, yawning, as he rose from the table.
“Micah, I’m glad you came out tonight. Thanks again for the new
fishin’ pole,” Mark said as he held up his gift and grinned from
ear to ear.
“Why, you’re welcome, Mark. Say, while your Pa’s gone to Las
Cruces, maybe we can go up to the lake and see if you can catch
“I sure would like that! Would it be alright, Pa, if…if I make
sure to get all my chores done?”
Yes, Mark, I think that would be okay.” Then pointing a finger
at his son, Lucas added, “As long as I don’t come home to find
you’ve neglected anything.” He cast a knowing glance at Micah
who raised a hand to his mouth to try and conceal a grin.
“Oh, I’ll check up on him, Lucasboy, don’t you worry. Good
“Good night, Micah. I’ll stop in to see ya after school
tomorrow,” said Mark as he began clearing away the dishes.
“I’ll walk out with you,” Lucas said to Micah as he pushed his
chair to the table. He wanted to talk to Micah before he left
and without his son overhearing the conversation.
“Mark, when you finish there, why don’t you get ready for bed,
son. I’ll be back in after Micah leaves.”
Lucas followed Micah out and closed the door behind him, then
stopped at the edge of the porch. Micah walked to his horse and
loosened the reins from the rail.
“Lucas, don’t worry about the boy. He’ll do just fine while
you’re gone. Besides, you’re only gonna be gone two days. Mark’s
got school tomorrow and on Saturday, well, we’ll go fishing when
he’s finished his chores.”
“I know, Micah, I can’t help it. This will be the first time
leaving him overnight by himself. I told Mark this was a test to
see if he can handle things while I’m gone…even if it’s only for
one night. After Mark leaves for school in the morning, I’ll go
over to the Severs’. They should be ready to head out by that
“So, Ben and Cora are moving to Las Cruces?” questioned Micah.
“They finally had enough of ranching?”
“Well, after losing their herd to hoof-and-mouth, they just
didn’t feel like trying to build it back up again. Ben thinks
he’ll do better with a grain and feed store. They’ve been good
neighbors…I told them I wouldn’t mind helping them move.”
“You’re a good friend, Lucas,” said Micah as he climbed into his
Lucas smiled up at Micah, “So are you, so are you. Thanks for
keeping an eye on Mark for me. Hope he doesn’t give you any
trouble. I’ll see you tomorrow night in town for supper. I
should be back before nightfall.”
“Alright, Lucas, see you in a couple of days.” With that, Micah
turned his horse towards town.
Lucas pulled a cigar from his shirt pocket and lit it. He took a
few puffs and looked about the ranch. He looked up into the
clear night sky and said a little prayer…please watch over my
boy while I’m gone and keep him safe from harm. With that, he
snuffed out the cigar and stepped back inside. Mark should be
about done with those dishes by now.
It was a fine, early summer morning thought Lucas to himself as
he surveyed the milky, blue sky. The horses were saddled, but he
checked the cinch around Razor once more as Mark bounded out of
the house with the canteen.
“All filled up, Pa!”
“Thanks son. Now, you sure you can handle things while I’m
gone?” Lucas asked with a slight wrinkle to his brow. “If you
have any trouble, you let Micah know.”
“Oh, Pa, I’ll be fine. I’ll do my chores, and…and I’ll check the
fencing in the south section tomorrow morning,” promised Mark as
he grabbed the reins and hopped up on Blue Boy. “Have a good
trip and tell Ben and Mrs. Severs good luck in their new home.
I’ll sure miss ‘em.” As Mark swung his horse around he shouted,
“Last day of school, wha-hoo!” He nudged Blue Boy and waved his
hat in the air as he took off. “Bye, Pa!”
“Don’t forget, I’ll meet you and Micah in town Saturday night,”
yelled Lucas after his son waving to him as the boy rode away.
He smiled, shook his head, and raised one eyebrow thinking that
boy of his was getting too big for his britches. Why, it didn’t
even seem like Mark was going to miss him. With that, Lucas
climbed atop Razor and rode off to meet with the Severs.
Micah stepped through the doorway of his office holding the
latest wanted posters. He glanced up and down the street which
seemed to be bustling with activity this Friday afternoon. As he
turned to tack up the posters, he caught a glimpse of old Mr.
“Marshal, say Marshal…”
“Good afternoon, Mr. Forsyth. What can I do for you?” inquired
“Well, Marshal, we had a bit of trouble up at our place last
night. Something got five of my chickens, tore ‘em up pretty
good, too. I heard a lot of commotion outside and grabbed my
shotgun. Chased whatever it was away, but not before they made
an awful mess. Scared the Mrs. half to death.”
“Sorry to hear that, Dan!” exclaimed Micah.
“Something else…I was just over to the saloon and Mr. Jackford’s
boys said they’ve lost three head of cattle over the past week.
They seem to think it’s wolves.”
“Wolves!?” questioned Micah. “We haven’t had any trouble with
wolves around here for quite some time.”
“Jackford’s men said it’s probably because the herds are
building up again, and the wolves can’t find any other big game
around these here parts to prey on.” Dan Forsyth rubbed his
whiskered chin and said, “Well, just thought I’d tell ya what I
knowed. I best be gettin’ home before the little woman starts to
worry. See ya later, Marshal,” said Mr. Forsyth as he walked
“Fine, Dan, tell your wife hello for me,” said Micah.
Just then Mark rode up, jumped from his saddle, and tied Blue
Boy to the rail. “Howdy, Micah!” There was an excitement in the
“All done with school?”
“Yep, all finished,” said the boy as he followed Micah into his
office. “For six whole weeks!”
As Micah poured himself a cup of coffee, he asked, “What ya
gonna do with all that time, boy?”
Mark leaned casually against Micah’s desk and folded his arms
across his chest contemplating the Marshal’s question. “I don’t
know, I…I hadn’t thought about it much ‘cept fishin’ and swimmin’,
maybe some arrowhead huntin’. Oh, and I, I’ve got that new book
to read too!”
Micah chuckled at the boy thinking, ‘Hadn’t thought about it
much?’ “Well, that sounds fine.” Micah couldn’t help but chide
the boy, “Course your Pa will be expectin’ you to do some chores
now and then. As a matter of fact, don’t you have some to do
tonight and tomorrow morning before we can even go fishin’?”
“Oh, Micah, you’re just funnin’ me now,” said Mark as he tipped
his hat to the back of his head. “Say, what was Mr. Forsyth
“He was just tellin’ me about something gettin’ his chickens and
Mr. Jackfords’ cattle. They’re suspecting wolves.”
“Wolves!? Around here?” asked Mark with a puzzled expression.
“Yes, but you don’t have to worry none. Say, I think I’ll head
over to the hotel for an early supper. Care to join me?”
“Sure!” said Mark gleefully. Besides, he didn’t cotton much to
having dinner at home without Pa being there.
“Alright then, let’s go.” Micah put his arm around Mark’s
shoulders as the two walked over to the hotel. “This way, I can
see you home before dark.”
“You don’t have to do that, Micah,” said Mark knowing his pa had
asked the Marshal to watch out for him.
“But, I want to.”
Somehow, Mark didn’t seem to mind Micah’s insistence.
Morning light streamed into the window waking Mark from his
restless sleep. The boy rubbed his eyes, stretched, and rolled
over to see his pa’s empty bed. He hadn’t slept very well with
Pa gone, but he was comforted by the thought that Pa would be
Mark quickly dressed and padded out from the bedroom. He stoked
the fire in the stove and unconsciously put a pot of coffee on
to brew. While the mush warmed, he washed his face taking care
to get behind his ears. He pulled on his boots, tucked in his
shirt, and combed his hair…checking the mirror to make sure it
looked just right.
Mark then set out the dishes and poured a cup of coffee. “Now,
why did I do that?” he asked himself out loud while scratching
his head. It sure smelled good. Looking around, as if to check
to see if anyone was watching, he lifted the cup of coffee to
his lips and gingerly took a sip of the hot liquid. Scrunching
his nose, he stepped to the sink and dumped the black brew down
the drain. “How can Pa and Micah drink that stuff?” He poured
himself a glass of milk instead and sat to eat his breakfast
before going out to do his Saturday chores.
Just thinking about fishing with Micah got Mark moving faster.
Soon, with his chores done around the barn, he saddled Blue Boy
and headed out to the south section as his pa had instructed.
He’d check the fencing, look for any strays, and get back into
town by late this afternoon. Why, he and Micah could get in two,
maybe three hours of fishing before Pa arrived in town for
supper. Yahoo, he thought, Pa would be home tonight.
No, he didn’t miss him…much.
Micah had just raised the shades on the office windows when he
saw someone rein in a horse and stop out front. A moment later,
Oat Jackford barged through the door, “Morning, Marshal. Sorry
to bother you so early this morning, but we lost another couple
from the herd last night. I know it’s a pack of wolves, maybe
four or five of ‘em. Do you think you could come out and help me
and my men flush them out? I know they’ve been plaguing some of
the other ranchers around here. We need to get ‘em before they
do any more harm. I suspect they’re out around the bluffs…plenty
of rocks and small caves for them to hide in there.
Micah didn’t hesitate and grabbed his shotgun. “Okay, Mr.
Jackford, let’s head down to the livery to see if Nils would
mind the office.” He wanted this problem with the wolves taken
care of before anything else happened.
Nils, always ready to lend a hand to his friend, Micah, was
sitting out front of the Marshal’s office with the deputy’s
badge pinned to his shirt pocket. As Micah and Jackford rode by,
Micah called out, “I should be back by sometime this afternoon.
When Mark comes by, you tell him to wait for me. Maybe you and
he can play some checkers.”
“Okay, Micah, sure thing,” said Nils as he watched the men ride
out of town.
Lucas shook Ben Severs’ hand and gave Cora a hug. “You’ve got a
mighty nice place here, but we sure are going to miss you in
North Fork,” he said as he stepped from the porch of the Severs’
“Lucas, thanks so much for helping us move over here. We are
mighty grateful. And, you tell Mark that both of you are welcome
to visit us anytime,” said Ben as he placed a hand on his wife’s
shoulder. Cora then wrapped one arm around Ben’s and waved good
bye to Lucas.
Stirring Razor to a lope, and waving farewell to the Severs’,
Lucas turned toward North Fork and home.
Mark rode Blue Boy slowly up and along the fence that bordered
the southeast edge of the ranch. The fencing continued for a few
miles except for where it stopped on either end of the bluffs
along the ravine and stream that separated their place from the
Jackford Ranch. The trouble between Pa and Mr. Jackford had
ended a long time ago, but still Mark knew his Pa didn’t want
their cattle mixing in with Oat Jackford’s.
The boy again pushed his hat back on his head. Despite the
breeze, it sure was turning out to be a hot one today. Maybe he
should have planned to go swimming with Freddie instead of
fishing. Oh, well, he wanted to try out that new pole Micah had
Mark pulled up on Blue Boy and slid down to the ground thinking
he’d walk his horse for a spell especially across the top of the
bluff. He removed his leather gloves and stuck them in his back
pocket, then unbuttoned his shirt and fanned it to try and cool
off some. Checking his pocket watch he discovered it was well
after noon, no wonder he was hungry. He grabbed a cloth from his
saddlebag and unwrapped the piece of bread he had brought along
to eat. After downing that, he took a few swallows of cool water
from his canteen and returned it to his saddle. Mark hooked the
thumb of one hand in his front pocket and held Blue Boy’s reins
in the other as the two started moving up the smooth rock floor
of the rim overlooking the ravine. He glanced back and forth and
whistled a tune as he thought about fishing at the lake, and
then dinner with Pa and Micah. ‘Gee, what could I have for
supper?’ he thought to himself.
After stopping by the ranch house to pick up a couple of his
men, Jackford led Micah and the others out across the range. It
would be an hour before they reached the tree lined bluffs, but
Micah still figured on being back to North Fork in time for
Mark. He didn’t want to disappoint the boy even though he knew
they had plenty of time over school break to go fishing. The
sooner they got out to the bluffs, the sooner they could find
those wolves. When they finished the job, Micah figured he could
cut across Lucas’ place to get back to town more quickly. Maybe
Mark would still be at his house and they could ride in
Mark squinted into the sun and raised a sleeve to his brow to
wipe away the beads of sweat forming across his forehead. He
hadn’t found any breaks in the fence, so no strays to find. He
was thankful he was almost finished…he just had to get to the
other end of the bluff. The ground and rocks were fairly smooth
here and made for easy walking. He looked down the rocky walls
of the ravine to the stream below which was still about half
full with runoff from the mountains to the west. He then looked
up across the ravine to the other side where the bluff loomed
higher. Mark could see the tops of the trees beyond and below
the boulders there. He remembered Pa telling him about a few
small caves on that side as well and thought it would make a
fine place to go hunting if it wasn’t for the fact that it was
Jackford land. The ravine was just wide and deep enough that the
cattle wouldn’t cross here and made a natural border between the
The boy slowed and stopped as he spotted something…something
about 30 yards straight ahead in the pile of rocks at the top of
the bluff. He shielded his eyes from the glare of the sun so he
could get a better look. Leading Blue Boy, he climbed higher and
closer to the objects. Then, letting the horse stand, he walked
a few more steps, stopping just short as he gasped. The
fly-infested remains of a steer lay strewn about the blood
stained rocks. Mark winced at the sight and turned for a moment
raising his arm to his face to try and block the awful stench.
He then turned back, still holding the crook of his arm to his
nose, and inched closer to get a better look. What could have
done such a thing, he wondered. Whatever it was, it had dragged
parts of one of their steers up here for a feast.
After he had inspected the sight, he backed up and turned to get
his horse. Just then, he heard it…a wolf’s howl, followed by
another. The eerie sounds seemed to come from across the ravine
on the other side of the bluff. Mark swallowed hard as he
remembered Micah telling him about the trouble out at the
Forsyth and Jackford ranches. He felt a bit safer that the
sounds came from across the way, but he would hurry back and get
to town to let Micah know what he had seen and heard. As he
climbed down towards Blue Boy, a low growl came from a dark
figure crouched in the rocks where the partial carcass lay. The
noise stopped Mark dead in his tracks. He turned slowly to see
the wolf’s snarling teeth…it was trying to protect its food
source. Fear gripped his body, he couldn’t move. He couldn’t get
to Blue Boy before the wolf would be on top of them both. His
mind raced as he tried to think…Pa, what do I do?
Making a swift decision, he waved his arms and jumped up and
down. “Yah! Yah!” he screamed hoping to spook the horse to run
and scare the wolf at the same time. Mark watched as his horse
reared up on its hind legs, pawed the air, snorting and
neighing, and turned to run. The wolf, startled, ran up and over
the rocks. Mark tried to run down the bluff but caught his foot
between two rocks which sent him falling back over the edge and
down the rocky side of the ravine. He yelled as he started to
The boy tumbled, at first trying to catch on to something and
break his fall. It was as if he was falling in slow motion, but
he couldn’t stop. He felt the rocks tearing his hands and arms
as he plummeted. A branch of a dead, snarled tree caught his
back, slowing his descent, but tore away Mark’s shirt and gashed
his skin as he fell further. The floor of the ravine was coming
The men crossed the Jackford Ranch and neared the base of the
bluff. After hearing at first one howl and then another, they
spread out to make the climb to the rocky ridge above. With his
shotgun ready for any sight of the wolves, Micah ascended slowly
weaving his horse back and forth among the trees. He searched
for tracks while keeping a wary eye.
A short time later, Micah heard gunshots, followed by a few
more, about 150 yards away. One of Jackford’s men had found two
of the wolves and put them away in short order. He yelled to his
boss, who relayed to the others, to be on the lookout. The rest
of the pack would be close by.
As the men climbed closer to the top of the bluff, Jackford
spotted two more of the animals in the rocks up ahead. One was
just to his right and one was nearing the rim closer to where
the Marshal sat atop his horse. Jackford whistled to Micah and
pointed up to the left. He then dismounted and raised his rifle
to his shoulder to fire. With one shot the wolf was hit and
lunged, falling to the rocks just 10 feet in front of the
rancher. He turned to check on Micah.
Micah was now leading his horse as they climbed to an
outcropping of rocks. He took his shotgun and got the wolf in
his sights. He panned left, following the wolf as it moved up
the face of the bluff. Micah pulled the trigger and the wolf
fell dead where it stood. Micah breathed a sigh.
As the men reached the top of the rim with their horses in tow,
they couldn’t help but wonder if they had gotten them all. They
searched along the top of the bluff for any signs of more of the
pack but didn’t find anything. Micah huffed and puffed, taking a
few moments to catch his breath. He muttered to himself, “I’m
getting too old for this."
Lucas pulled up on Razor and swung down from the saddle while
grabbing his canteen. It was turning out to be a hot, dusty ride
back from Las Cruces. Summer was definitely here. Just a couple
more hours, though, and he would be back in North Fork. He was
working up quite an appetite and looked forward to dinner. It
had been a long time since eating breakfast with the Severs.
And, though he had just seen Mark yesterday morning, it seemed
like much longer ago. Securing his canteen, Lucas climbed back
on his horse and continued on his journey.
As Micah, Jackford, and his men gathered together on top of the
rim, Micah wiped his brow with his kerchief and placed it in his
back pocket. “Well, looks like we got ‘em, Mr. Jackford.”
“Good job, men. If there are any of them left, we’ll know before
too long. But for now, let’s get back to the ranch. Micah, thank
you for coming out with us. I’m beholdin’ to ya,” said Jackford
as he and his men mounted their horses.
Micah said he was glad to help. Besides, now he wouldn’t have
the ranchers, in particular Mr. Forsysth, complaining to him.
“Oat, I think I’ll just head across at the end of the ravine and
stop by Lucas’ ranch to see about Mark on my way back to town.”
“Okay, Micah, see ya soon,” said Jackford. The three men
prepared to head back down the bluff and cross the range. But,
just as the rancher was about to leave he caught sight of
something whipping in the wind, hanging from a tree on the
opposite side of the ravine. He yelled out to Micah, pointing,
“What’s that over on the other side?”
The boy lay silent, face down in a heap on a ledge in the side
of the bluff about 30 feet from the top. The sun blazed hot on
his bruised and bleeding body. Dust encrusted cuts and scrapes
covered him. The gaping wound to his back was open to the
elements and blood ran down his side. Mark stirred and moaned
under his breath, moving slowly with great effort. He slid his
left hand to the side of his head which was pounding with pain.
He could hear the rush of water just below where he had landed
and he tried hard to open his eyes fighting the blinding light
of the sun. He felt the gravel and dirt below him as he strained
to breath. He wiped the dust from his mouth and gasped for air.
Mark struggled, fighting the pain he felt all over, but managed
to get his right arm out from under him and push up with his
hand. Reaching out, he propped up on his right side and leaned
against the wall of the ravine. His shirt was gone except for
the right sleeve which had slipped down around his wrist and
forearm. He felt the knot on the side of his head and tried to
slowly shake away the throbbing. His observed his hands and arms
which were covered in dust and blood, and his right ankle ached
something awful. But the most frightening thing was the stream
of red coming from his left side. He tried to reach around and
feel for the wound, but the pain was overwhelming. He cried out
in agony. He pulled his hand away from his side and saw it was
now dripping with blood. He cringed at the sight and a sickening
feeling formed in his gut, he felt cold.
Mark tried to reason what had happened but his thoughts were
going every which way. He remembered riding Blue Boy…where was
his horse? He had been checking the fence, and then walking
along the bluff. The wolf, where was the wolf? Tears welled up
in his eyes as he thought…please God, please let Blue Boy be
okay. Mark struggled to stand, but couldn’t find the strength.
His breathing became more labored and his body started to shake.
He wanted to yell out…Help! But, he couldn’t form the word. He
could only think as he fought back the tears…Pa, please find me.
It hurt too much to think and pain and nausea overcame him.
Everything…faded…to black and the boy slid down the ravine wall
and slumped over. He couldn’t hear the animal approaching.
The wolf moved quickly and silently down the side of the ravine,
then stopped and waited, looking straight at its prey, straight
Hearing Jackford, Micah turned in his saddle and looked across
to where the man had indicated. He saw a blue cloth attached to
an old tree jutting out from the side of the bluff. His eyes
strained as he tried to see, he couldn’t quite make it out. It
looks like a shirt, a blue shirt. Familiarity crept over
him…why, that looks like one of Mark’s shirts. But, how…?
One of Jackford’s men shouted, “There’s a horse further down on
the bluff, but no rider.”
The Marshal looked up and down the rock wall. There was a figure
on the ledge just above the stream bed, and it was then he was
sure it was Mark. The boy wasn’t moving. He couldn’t…he couldn’t
Oat suddenly yelled, “Wolf!”
As fast as he could, Micah pulled out his shotgun and trained it
on the animal as it readied to pounce on Mark. His aim was true.
The shot rang out and echoed off the bluff as the wolf fell
lifeless into the stream below.
Lucas arrived just before dusk, but with thoughts of seeing his
son, he didn’t notice the stares of the townspeople as they
watched him approach the hotel. He tethered Razor to the
hitching rail, stretched and dusted himself off, then walked
inside. The sight of Micah made him smile, “Hello, Micah,
where’s Mark? I bet that boy couldn’t wait to eat. I’m kinda
hungry myself.” Removing his hat, Lucas strode across the lobby
and peered around the corner to scan the dining room as he
asked, “Is he in there already?”
“Lucas,” Micah said in a low voice as he followed him to the
Turning to Micah, Lucas grinned and asked, “Okay, what did ya do
with him? Did you get fed up with the boy and throw him in a
cell? I was hopin’ he wouldn’t be any trouble…”
“Lucas!” He grabbed his friend’s arm to get his attention.
“What is it, Micah?” Happy anticipation suddenly turned to fear.
Something was wrong, very wrong…where was Mark?
“There was some trouble, trouble with wolves getting to the
“I rode out with Jackford and…and a couple of his men to the
bluffs on the south section of his ranch. We hunted down the
pack and killed them…killed them all.” His voice was shaking and
Micah was having a hard time forming his words, how could he
tell Lucas what had happened to his son. “I was going to cut
across your place and…”
“Micah, Mark was supposed to go out to check the fence bordering
Jackford’s…” A cold wave swept over Lucas as he tried to ask,
“Where’s my boy, where’s Mark?”
“Lucas, we’ve got him out at your ranch. Oat Jackford and his
men stayed with him until I could get into town and send Doc
Burrage out there. I waited here for you.”
Lucas felt drained and a kind of panic overcame him. He leaned
back in the doorway to brace himself, closed his eyes, and
asked, “What happened…is he…?”
“He’s alive, Lucas, but somehow…somehow he fell from the bluff
and he’s got a lot of injuries. I don’t know how bad it is. We
were lucky we were up there hunting those wolves or we wouldn’t
have found him when we did. Jackford and his men helped me get
Mark out of the ravine and back to your place.”
“I don’t understand, I don’t…Micah, I’ve got to get to Mark.”
Micah took Lucas’ arm and guided him towards the front of the
hotel. “I’ll get my horse; you wait right here and I’ll ride out
with you. Lucas? Lucasboy? Do you hear me?”
“Yes, Micah…I’ll wait right here.”
Darkness had fallen and Oat Jackford lit the lamps on the table
and over the sink. He paced in front of the fireplace as he
waited for the doctor to come out of the bedroom. He had sent
his men back to his ranch as there was nothing they could do to
help the boy. The rancher hoped McCain would get here soon. His
boy needed him, and he wanted Lucas to get here before something
happened. Without any children of his own, Jackford envied the
relationship between the man and his boy, and had since the
first time he met them. Lucas was a strong and just man with
good values, and he was raising his boy right. The sound of
horses coming fast down the lane caused him to turn and step out
the front door. Thank God, Lucas and Micah had arrived.
Lucas pushed past Jackford, “Where is he?”
“The doc’s got him in the bedroom, but I wouldn’t go in there
just yet, McCain…”
Lucas didn’t hear Jackford’s cautioning words. He opened the
door to the bedroom to find Doc Burrage standing over the bed
that held his son. Taking a few slow steps forward, he noticed a
golden light filling the room. The doctor had requested as many
candles and lanterns as the men could find to light the room as
he tended the boy. Micah and Jackford stood in the doorway.
“Doc?” Lucas said in a low, pleading voice.
“Lucas, he’s in a bad way…but it’s a good thing Micah and the
others got to him when they did. They probably saved his life. I
had to suture a nasty laceration on his left side. It was a deep
cut, but there doesn’t seem to be any damage to his internal
organs. He broke a few ribs, so he’s bandaged all the way
around. His right ankle is busted and he’s got numerous scrapes
and cuts. They’ve been cleaned and bandaged, and I administered
something to fight any infection. He’s going to have a lot of
bruising, too.” Lucas stepped closer to the bed with his eyes on
his son as Doc continued, speaking in a quieter tone, “The worst
thing is the head injury, Lucas. Your boy sustained a
concussion. There’s no skull fracture, but we won’t know for
sure the extent of the injury until he wakes up. I won’t
administer anything for pain until then.”
Lucas knelt down beside the bed and looked over the boy. He
picked up his son’s hand and held it gently as he brushed the
hair protruding from under the bandage Doc had wrapped around
Mark’s head. “I’m here, son,” he said in a soft voice. “Mark,
please wake up.” Lucas felt helpless; he didn’t know what he
could do for his son. He laid his head on the bed next to his
the boy and was overcome by grief.
Doc Burrage laid a hand on Lucas’ shoulder and said, “I’ll be
right out there if you need me.” He then put out the flame of
the candles and the lanterns around the room, leaving the lamp
on the table burning. He motioned to Jackford and Micah to step
back out. The two men complied, and the doc followed, and then
gently closed the door to the bedroom.
“Doc, will the boy be alright?” Micah asked.
“I just don’t know right now, Micah, I just don’t know. All we
can do is wait and pray.”
Micah wasn’t going to leave his dear friends when they needed
him most and made the decision to stay the night. He knew Nils
wouldn’t mind. The doc wasn’t going anywhere either. So, Micah
enlisted Oat’s help before he left to bed down the horses and
bring in a couple of cots from the barn.
With the cots set up and the fireplace lit Jackford felt he was
now in the way. “I better be gettin’ back to my place before it
gets too late, Micah. I don’t think I’ll be much good here
“Oat, I can’t thank you and your men enough for helping with the
boy. Lucas will understand… you get on home, now. Doc and I will
“I hope everything turns out alright. I’ll be saying a prayer
for them, and I’ll stop back by in a day or so,” said Oat as he
turned for the door. “Good night, Doc…good night, Marshal.”
Doc & Micah stood in silence, looked about the room and at each
other. Doc then stirred the fire in the fireplace as Micah put
on a pot of coffee.
“Doc, why don’t you try to get some rest? I’ll wake you if
you’re needed and I’ll stay up a bit in case Lucas comes out.
Doc Burrage didn’t protest. He was worn out from tending to the
boy and knew he needed to get some sleep while he could. He laid
on one of the cots and turned towards the wall. His prayers that
night were for Mark and Lucas.
Micah poured himself a cup of coffee and sat back in the chair
next to the fireplace. He couldn’t help but wonder how in the
world they all had managed to be on the bluff at the same time.
What if he hadn’t ridden out with Jackford? Micah looked down at
the coffee cup in his hand and thought of his conversation with
Mark in his office just the day before. What if he had made
different arrangements with the boy, maybe he could have saved
this from happening. Micah placed the cup on the hearth and
stared into the fire.
Sometime during the night, Lucas woke. He didn’t know when sheer
exhaustion had overtaken him and he had fallen asleep. He was
still sitting in a chair he had slid next to Mark’s bed, and
still held the boy’s hand in his own. He placed his son’s hand
on the bed and gently pulled the blanket up under the boy’s
chin. He placed his palm on top of Mark’s head and gently
stroked his hair, then leaned over to kiss his son on the
He leaned back in the chair and with his elbows on his knees,
leaned forward and let his head fall into his hands. He rubbed
his eyes and sat quiet for a moment. He was hungry but couldn’t
eat. He was thirsty, but he didn’t want to leave Mark’s side. He
needed answers, so he forced himself to stand, then walked over
and quietly opened the bedroom door.
The sound of the door opening stirred Micah from his sleep. He
turned in the chair to see Lucas standing there. Rising, he said
in a hushed voice, “Lucas, Lucasboy…let me get you some coffee.
Here, sit at the table and I’ll pour you a cup.” Micah pulled
the chair out from the table and motioned Lucas to have a seat.
He couldn’t help but notice how tired and pale his friend
appeared. It was if the life had drained out of him.
Micah returned to the table with two cups of coffee and placed
one directly in front of Lucas, “Here, drink this.” Then he sat
across the table from Lucas and said, “What can I do for you?
Are you hungry?”
Lucas looked down at the table and pleaded for answers, “Micah,
what happened? How did this happen? Why…?”
“There’s time for that later, but right now you need to
concentrate on Mark and yourself. You need to get some rest so
you can be strong for that boy of yours.”
“What was he doing out on the bluff?”
“Don’t blame the boy, he was only doing what you had asked him
to...” replied Micah, but was cut short as Lucas shot back.
“You were supposed to watch over him for me,” said Lucas as he
pounded the table with his fist.
“Shhh, you’re going to wake up the doc,” said Micah raising a
finger to his lips. He motioned towards Doc Burrage who,
startled by the sound, stirred and turned over on the cot.
“I’m sorry, Micah. No, you’re not to blame. I should have been
here; I should have been here to protect my son.”
The two men sat and stared at one another for a moment. The only
sounds were the crackle of the fire and the little snores coming
from Doc. Micah was trying to think of what he could say to ease
his friend’s pain, “Things happen, Lucasboy, accidents happen…no
matter how much we try to protect the ones we love. Who’s to say
it wouldn’t have happened even if you had been here.”
Not knowing how to answer, he said, “I’m going back to the room,
Micah.” “Thanks for the coffee,” he said coldly, then got up
from the table and opened the bedroom door.
“I’ll be here all night, Lucasboy.”
Lucas looked at Micah, then looked down at the floor and closed
the door between them.
“God, help them both,” said Micah as his own exhaustion caught
up with him. He stoked the fire in the fireplace then lay down
on the other cot. Maybe sleep would come.
Morning came and Mark still lay unconscious with Lucas keeping
vigil. Doc quietly entered the bedroom and approached the boy’s
bed carrying a tray with the medical supplies he would use.
Placing his stethoscope on the boy’s chest and then his ribs, he
listened. He removed the old bandages from the boy’s wounds and
replaced them with clean dressing. Taking extra care with the
deeper laceration, he checked the sutures and applied new
When he was satisfied of Mark’s condition, he turned and looked
upon Lucas who was lying in his bed. Lucas woke with a start,
first looking at Mark and then back at Doc. “Is he alright?”
Doc Burrage whispered, “He’s holding his own, go back to sleep.
I’ll check on him a little later.” Lucas obeyed the doc without
Doc returned to the kitchen with the tray and disposed of the
old bandages, then washed his hands at the sink pump. As he was
cleaning up, Micah came through the front door.
“How’s the boy doing, Doc?”
“Well, he hasn’t developed a fever…that’s the good news. But, he
hasn’t regained consciousness, either, and the longer it goes,
Micah stopped the doc from saying anything further, “He’s a
strong boy, Doc. Lucas doesn’t realize just how strong he is. He
always says that Mark is like his mother. Well, maybe he is…but
he also has a lot of Lucas in him. He’s going to pull through
this. We just…we just need to give him some more time.”
“You’re right, Micah. Of course,” replied Doc Burrage. He
realized just how deeply the Marshal felt for the boy, like he
was his own grandson. Just then, Mark’s friend, Freddie,
appeared in the doorway.
“I got most of the chores done around the barn, Marshal. Is
there anything else you need? How’s Mark…can I see him?” begged
“No, son, I’m afraid not yet. Mark still needs to rest before he
can have any visitors,” Micah said a little less than honestly.
“Okay, well, would you tell him I was here and asked how he’s
“Why, sure I’ll tell him, Freddie. Here, here’s a dime for doin’
the chores. Can you come back tomorrow morning?” asked Micah
tossing the coin to the boy.
“Gee, thanks, Marshal…I can come back as much as you need me.
Thanks, again!” said Freddie as he turned and ran for home.
Micah smiled after the boy, and then turned towards Doc. “I
didn’t have the heart to tell him that Mark may not be okay.”
Doc scoffed at the Marshal, “Weren’t you just saying how we just
needed to give Mark some more time?”
“Hmmpf, yes, I guess I was. Thanks, for reminding me, Doc. Say,
if you don’t mind, I need to get into town and check on Nils.
See if he doesn’t mind taking care of things a bit longer.”
“No, no, you go ahead, Micah. I’ll watch over things here,” said
“I won’t be gone long. You’ll tell Lucas, in case he wakes up?”
“I’ll let him know, Micah, now go,” Doc said as he shooed Micah
out of the house.
It was mid-afternoon, and Micah had just returned from town. The
reverend’s wife had brought over some stew for the men, and
Micah had it warming on the stove. Doc had just gone into the
bedroom to check on his patient and sent Lucas out of the room.
“Lucas. Here, sit down, boy. You need to eat something, how
about some stew? You need to keep up your strength. Mark’s going
to need you when he wakes up.”
“If he wakes up…” Lucas shot back clutching the back of a chair.
“What am I going to do if I lose him?”
“What are you saying? Of course, he’s going to wake up. That boy
is a part of you, Lucas, and he’s stronger than you think.
You’ve got to have…”
“Faith?!,” interrupted Lucas looking up at Micah and shaking his
head. “Faith…how can I have faith when God lets this happen to
“You know, Lucas, you told Mark that your leaving was a test for
him.” Micah pointed at Lucas and said, “Well, I think this whole
thing is a test for you…a test to see how much faith you have!
How much faith you have in God, and how much faith you have in
The words fell heavy on Lucas’ heart, and tears came to his
eyes. Standing there, he put a hand to his head and ran his
fingers through his hair. He suddenly felt weak and lowered
himself into the chair by the table. As he thought on Micah’s
comments, the door of the bedroom opened.
Doc came through the doorway and said, “Lucas, there’s someone
in here who wants to see you.”
Lucas rushed to his son’s side and knelt next to the bed. “Mark?
You had me scared, son.”
“I’ve given him a sedative and something to ease his pain,
Lucas, so he won’t be awake for long,” said Doc over Lucas’
shoulder. Micah stood in the background and blotted his eyes
with his kerchief.
“I’m terrible sorry, Pa. I…I didn’t mean to cause so much
trouble,” said Mark in a weak voice. Tears ran down his face,
“Is Blue Boy okay?”
Lucas brushed at his son’s cheek, and said, “He’s fine, son,
“Pa, what…what happened? I don’t remember…how did I get here?”
“Mark, it’s alright, you rest now son. We can talk about all
that later.” Lucas’ words faded away as Mark fell into much
Lucas looked up at Doc who said, “He’s asleep. Let’s let him
He gently pulled the blanket up over his son and patted his
head. Then leaving the darkened room, Lucas walked out with the
Doc and Micah.
Later in the day, Micah saddled his horse and prepared Doc’s
buggy for the trip back to town. Doc had left medicine and
instructions for Lucas on how to take care of the boy’s wounds.
“Lucas, I’ll be back out tomorrow to check on Mark and then
every two or three days. I should be able to remove those
stitches by the end of next week,” said Doc as he climbed into
the seat of his buggy. “He’ll need to stay off that ankle for a
while, but he can use a crutch to get around once he regains his
“He’s gonna be alright, Lucasboy,” assured Micah as he mounted
Doc added, “Yes, with some rest and time to mend, he should be
back to his old self in five or six weeks.”
As he stood on the porch, watching his friends prepare to leave,
Lucas suddenly realized that Mark’s whole summer would be spent
recovering from his injuries. “Five or six weeks? Guess I’m the
one who’s going to be reading ‘Huck Finn’.”
Micah chuckled, “Well, it’ll give you something to do.”
Lucas frowned at Micah, and then started to smile. “Micah, I
don’t know how to thank you. And, you too, Doc.”
“You don’t have to say a thing. I’ll be back out tomorrow with
those supplies you need,” said Micah as he rode next to Doc and
the two left for North Fork.
Lucas rubbed his chin as he watched the men leave, then he
turned and stepped inside the house closing the door behind him.
Several weeks had passed and Mark was steadily improving. Most
of the cuts and scrapes had healed and the bruises faded. The
cut to his back and the broken ribs would need more time to
heal, but didn’t give the boy much trouble now. Mark hobbled out
to a chair on the porch and sat down. Pa followed behind him
carrying a book and sat in the chair next to his son. They sat
in silence for a few moments looking around the ranch and
admiring the sunny, late afternoon.
Mark had felt the need to apologize to his Pa. He had been
trying to think of something to say. He wanted his pa to be able
to trust him when he was away, and…
“Something on your mind, son?” asked Lucas.
Mark looked down and scraped at the porch with the end of his
crutch. “It’s, it’s just that…I…I’m very sorry, Pa. I sure made
a mess of things. Why, you won’t want to leave me to take care
of the ranch anymore when you’re gone. And, and…I can’t say that
I blame ya. I guess I didn’t pass that test after all.” Tears
formed in his eyes and he brushed them away with the sleeve of
“Mark…Mark…look at me, son,” said Lucas. He turned in his chair
to face his boy, looking straight into his eyes. He had wanted
to tell his son something that had been weighing on his mind
ever since the night of the accident.
“You didn’t fail the test, son. I did.”
Mark looked into his pa’s eyes and was puzzled by what he was
“Mark, near as I can tell, you did everything I had asked of
you, and more. What happened to you out there was an accident.
You couldn’t have done anything different…”
The boy interrupted, “But, but I…”
“Listen to me,” Lucas said gently. “I know now that I can’t
always be around to protect you. And, I need to trust you and
let you grow up. Mark, you were being responsible, and I realize
that. I didn’t have enough faith that God would watch over you.
And, I forgot to have faith in you too, son, and for that I
Mark swiped at his eyes again and smiled, “I’m awful glad that
you trust me, Pa.”
Lucas smiled back at his son and sat back in the chair. “You
know, now that you’re getting around better, I don’t see any
reason why we can’t take the buckboard out to the lake.”
The boy nearly came out of his chair, “You mean it, Pa, you mean
it? Oh, boy…I didn’t think I would ever get to use my new fishin’
pole. Can we go this evenin’, can we?”
“Sure, son, sure,” said Lucas. He opened the book, ‘Adventures
of Huckleberry Finn’ to where he left off and started to read to
his son, “We slept most all day, and started out at night, a
little ways behind a monstrous long raft that was as long going
These stories are based on the TV series
Here are some other great stories. Enjoy!
The Writer's Corner
Table of Contents
around The McCain Ranch