The Writer's Corner
Chapter 13 - The Aftermath
Written by Michelle Palmer
Margaret wiped her eyes as she lifted from his embrace. “You
are an amazing woman, did you know that?” Margaret shrugged. She
didn’t feel like she deserved such a compliment. Lucas gave her
a small, painful smile as he nudged her chin. “I knew there was
a reason I married you.”
Margaret felt like such a failure as a wife at the moment. She
watched as Lucas hurried off to help the other men fight the
fire. Everything was in a blur of activity as men worked at
putting out the fire. Flames danced high into the sky. The
engulfed barn was gone. Soon, only ashes would remain where it
A fury of activity blurred the next several hours for Margaret.
Someone, she didn’t know exactly who, had ridden back to town to
announce that all was fine and the barn was on fire. Margaret,
who had stood on the porch for a long time watching the activity
around her, was soon ushered into the house and put to work at
making coffee. Her head spun as she lifted another shaky finger
to take down a coffee cup. Voices around her sounded. Margaret
couldn’t even tell exactly who the voices belonged to.
Shouts sounded from outside as men gave orders, desperately
fighting against the wind that had quickly come up. Margaret was
vaguely aware of the shed and smoke house catching on fire. Then
she heard the screaming of the chickens as they jumped around in
the yard, trying desperately to escape from the flames. Men
began beating small fires that came up around the house. More
orders sounded, and then Margaret’s hand went to her chest when
someone…her mind wouldn’t focus on who exactly it was…ordered
the women to leave the house.
The roof was on fire.
Margaret felt herself being dragged out of the house. Tears
filled her eyes. Did someone say the house was on fire? She
wasn’t sure. But she soon found herself sitting at a different
table as Ann took over the making of coffee for the men. “I have
to help…” Margaret mumbled. “I have to help…He’s my husband…”
Margaret stood, but felt her legs buckle. She was so weak. She
felt herself again being lowered into a chair as women around
Women stood at the windows gasping and pointing, but Margaret
buried her face in her hands, unwilling to look. Hot tears
burned her eyes. She could smell smoke all around them. When
will this nightmare end? When??? “Lucas…” Margaret swallowed
hard as she once again stood up. “Luke…”
Margaret raced from the door and across the street before anyone
could stop her. She fell to her knees after entering their
yard, screaming her husband’s name over and over. Finally,
someone appeared. Was it Lucas who swept her up and carried her
back across the road? She wasn’t sure…She smelled the smoke and
saw black soot on the shirt, but her senses wouldn’t focus. She
felt herself being laid on a bed. A sharp pinch was soon
followed by darkness.
Lucas washed the soot from his face and reached for the towel.
It was now late afternoon. They had fought against the wind for
hours, trying to get the fire out. The fact that Lucas had no
well to draw water from and no nearby source of water made
things more difficult, yet they had finally managed to beat the
last few smoldering flames out. The fire had indeed reached the
house, but the men were ready, and quickly got the fire under
control, but not before the fire had burned a rather large hole
in the roof. A Bucket brigade was formed by the men from town,
using Hal’s water well. The house had been saved, but a mess had
been left on the inside. Lucas was dead-tired, but they had
managed to save the house.
Lucas turned and looked around his yard. The shack that had
served as his first home was gone, as was the barn, the shed,
the chicken coop, and the smokehouse. Tears fought to emerge
from the back of his eyes but Lucas pressed them down, not
willing for them to come to surface. The men walked somberly
around the yard. Abe had assured Lucas they would take care of
any animal carcasses that remained as a result to the fire.
Lucas turned back toward the house and pressed a hand against
the wall as he bent his head low to compose himself.
Then, Lucas felt a hand on his shoulder. Lucas turned to see
Jason looking at him. “I had to give Margaret a sedative. She’ll
sleep for awhile, Luke. She’ll need you.” Lucas smiled shortly
and vaguely realized he was thanking Jason, but he wasn’t sure
if the words had actually sounded on his lips. Just the same,
he’s sure Jason read the words in his eyes as he nodded and
Then the men announced they needed to find the horses. Lucas
wasn’t sure, but he believed Abraham said something about his
horse being found alive. In all, Lucas knew the men had found
four horses, and they would use the teams the women had driven
in to get back home. The women, not wanting Margaret to come
home to such devastation, did their best to clean up the house,
but the hole in the roof would have to stay until Lucas could
find time to repair it.
As for the damage…Lucas couldn’t focus enough to allow himself
to even process what that would come to. He knew this would set
them back for quite some time, and his heart hurt as he looked
around the yard.
“Luke, we should leave,” Marshal Williams stated. “I’ll take
these bodies back to town. I really think you should consider
Lucas put a hand to his forehead. He couldn’t think. He couldn’t
process anything. He simply shook his head and mumbled something
about not making a decision right now. He had too much thinking
Lucas watched his family slowly ride away. His brothers promised
to be back the following day to help, but Lucas wasn’t sure what
they said they would help with. “I’m sorry none of your horses
were found alive,” Peter said again. Lucas only nodded, not
being able to fully process what was being said. He watched the
last of the wagons leave. Jason and Emily made their way across
the street to check on Margaret. Lucas mumbled something about
being there soon.
When he was alone, Lucas lowered himself down to the front steps
of his porch. His mind tried to process everything that had
happened the last week. Then he looked around the ranch once
more. He felt his eyes fill with tears, and didn’t have the
strength to stop them from falling. Now that he was alone, he
allowed the sobs to come as his body shook and he released
“Luke…Luke…” Margaret mumbled as consciousness returned to her
in the early evening. “Luke…”
Lucas leaned forward in the chair and took her hand. “I’m right
here, honey. I’m here.”
Margaret slowly opened her eyes and looked up into the
red-brimmed eyes of her husband. His tears startled her. She let
out a gasp in panic. “Did we lose everything?”
Lucas shook his head. “We still have the house.”
Margaret lifted a hand to his face. “Don’t cry, my love…”
Margaret mumbled softly as tears began to fall down her own
cheeks. “I know it’s bad…” Lucas grasped her other hand as he
leaned closer to her. “The…the horses?” Margaret asked then as
concern again filled her eyes.
Lucas shook his head. “We looked all over the range, honey. I’m
afraid that…we lost them all.”
More tears fell down her cheeks. Lucas searched her face as he
tried to keep from crying himself. Suddenly, she sat up and
threw her arms around him. Sobs racked her body as Lucas held
her tight. He smoothed her hair and spoke to her quietly as she
cried. “Let it all out…” Lucas mumbled as he held her close and
allowed tears to fall down his own cheeks. “It’s been a rough
day. You just let it all out.”
“I’m sorry…I tried to be strong,” Margaret’s muffled voice spoke
as she pressed her face into his shirt that smelled of smoke and
“Sh…” Lucas hushed her. “You’ve had quite a day.” He pressed his
lips to the top of her head as they sat quietly holding each
A knock sounded on the door. Ann poked her head inside. “Luke,
can she eat?” Concern was evident in her voice.
Lucas lifted Margaret’s head from his chest. “Can you, honey?”
Margaret nodded as she slowly stood from the bed. She was quiet
as they ate. Lucas watched her closely, worried about what all
of this was doing to her.
Finally, Margaret lifted her head. “Can we go home?” Lucas
nodded as he stood and grasped her by her shoulders. He helped
her stand. Margaret mumbled her thanks and heard Ann say she’d
be over to check on her in the morning. Then they walked across
the street. She was still shaking from all the excitement of the
day. Lucas kept a firm hold on her, wishing he could stop her
shaking but knowing only time would make it cease.
Before they got into the house, Lucas picked her up and carried
her. He was thankful when she chose to bury her face in his
neck, not quite ready to see the devastation from the fire. He
wanted to guard her from seeing the destruction the fire had
done to her kitchen as he carried her into the undisturbed
bedroom. “Would you like to take a bath?” Lucas asked. Margaret
nodded as she stood in the middle of the bedroom and stared
blankly at the wall. She felt so dead at the moment. So much had
happened…she was having trouble processing it all. Lucas brought
in her rocking chair. He helped Margaret slip out of her dress
and into her robe, then he sat her down. “I’ll heat the water
for you, then I’ll help you,” Lucas said softly as he laid his
hands on her shoulders and studied her eyes once again. He was
treating her as if she were a fragile china doll.
Margaret merely nodded her head. She wasn’t sure she could have
done anything by herself that night. Lucas silently worked at
filling up the tub. He made sure the water was warm, but not too
hot that it would scald her. He mashed up plenty of the smell
good soap and stirred the water. Then he looked over at Margaret
who sat in the chair and stared straight ahead.
He walked over and bent down in front of her, putting his hands
on the arm rests of the chair. Her eyes held so many emotions.
He had to draw her out of the despair she was feeling somehow.
“It’s over now,” he spoke gently.
“Is it?” Margaret asked as she wiped the tears from the corner
of one eye. She didn’t even look at him.
Lucas sighed. “Honey, I know these last few days have been
rough…” He heard Margaret’s short laugh under her breath.
“Okay…it’s been downright difficult. I know that…I didn’t make
things any easier for you…”
Margaret allowed the tears to slip from her eyes. “Neither have
I…I guess we’ve been…” Margaret sniffed. “…fighting a range war
of our own.”
“Mm hm…” Lucas nodded. “I suppose you could say that.” He lifted
a hand to her chin, forcing her to look at him. “I love you.”
Margaret nodded. “I love you too.” Margaret sniffed. “Luke…I
always thought that hard times made us closer…but this seemed to
tear us apart.”
“No, honey. I won’t let it tear us apart,” Lucas declared
softly. He paused until her eyes focused on him. “We’ve always
gone through hard times together, but this time…well…we did it
as husband and wife. As your husband, I long to protect you…to
make sure you are safe at all costs.”
“And as your wife, I want to be there beside you. I want to
understand what you’re going through…what you’re feeling…”
“Yeah.” Lucas grunted. “I’ve never been too good at telling you
what I’m feeling.”
“Your sister was kind enough to remind me of that.” Margaret
laughed shortly. “Luke…what’ll happen next time?”
Lucas slid his hands off the armrests and took her hands as he
looked down at them. “I don’t know, honey.” Lucas again lifted
his eyes to hers. “I’ll…still do everything in my power to
Margaret nodded. “And…I’ll still do everything I can to help
They looked at each other for another moment. Neither face held
anger or hurt, but their eyes were full of questions. “Well…”
Lucas stood and tugged on her hands to stand her up. “It sounds
like we have quite…a mess to clean up.”
Margaret heard it in his voice. She knew the mess he was
referring to wasn’t just from the fire. Lucas put an arm around
her waist as helped her toward the tub. “Where do we start?”
“Right here...I think.” Lucas stopped walking and turned to face
her. “We’re talking, and we aren’t yelling at each other.” He
smiled as he tipped her chin up. “I think that’s a good start.”
“What happened, Luke?” Lucas lifted his eyebrows in question.
Margaret swallowed as she started to explain. “I mean…before we
were married, we would talk it through when problems came up. It
was never…like this.”
“I don’t quite understand it myself. I remember after those men
left that first day how…incredibly overwhelmed I felt. I
realized for the first time that I was responsible for another
person. The decisions I made would affect you for the rest of
your life, and I found myself wanting to protect you…not only
physically…but from the truth.”
They started walking again as they kept their arm around each
other. “What was the truth?”
“Well honey…that man made some rather…disguised threats that if
I didn’t give in, you’d be in danger. I suddenly felt I had to
protect you from that, yet at the same time I was terrified.”
Lucas stopped again and turned as he placed a hand on her cheek.
“I reckon I love you so much that the thought of…” Lucas stopped
when his voice cracked.
“Oh Luke…I’m your wife! I want to take care of you. I want to
help you through thick and thin!” Margaret shook her head. “If
you had just let me in, we could have…”
“I know, I know.”
Margaret leaned into him and laid her head on his shoulder. “Can
we talk more tomorrow? I’m just so…tired.”
Lucas lifted her from his shoulder and nodded. He gave her a
small kiss. “Let’s get you in the tub.” He stood back and helped
Margaret slide her robe off. Then he waited while she finished
undressing. He helped her into the tub. Knowing how tired she
was, he offered to wash her back and shoulders. Margaret’s smile
told him that she appreciated the thoughtful gesture. She closed
her eyes and leaned her head against the back of the tub as
Lucas lathered the cloth up and handed it to her. When she was
ready, he gently washed her back.
Lucas held up a towel for her as she stepped from the tub. He
walked her to the bed where a fresh, clean nightgown was already
laid out, then he helped her into bed.
Margaret was asleep almost as soon as her head hit the pillow.
She woke up with a start. She heard horses screaming and
crackling as the fire burned high in the sky. But when her eyes
opened, everything was quiet. Margaret was surprised to see the
sun shining in the window. Quickly, she threw the covers back
and reached for her robe that Lucas had laid across the foot of
their bed after getting up that morning. After tightening it
around herself, she opened the door and walked into the front
The smell of coffee filled the air. Margaret smiled as she
hurried into the kitchen and poured a cup of coffee. Then she
walked to the front door and opened it. There was no sign of
Lucas. Margaret allowed her eyes to scan the ranch. She saw the
charred remains of the out buildings that Lucas had recently
built. She pressed a hand to her mouth when she realized his
little shack had burned as well.
Margaret slid down to sit on the steps of the porch as she
sipped her coffee. Soon, Lucas came around the side of the house
to sit beside her. “Morning,” Lucas said as he kissed her cheek.
“Did you sleep well?”
Margaret nodded. “Until I started dreaming.”
“Yeah.” She glanced at him sideways. “Screaming horses…the
“You weren’t here when the horses were screaming…were you?”
Margaret looked into her coffee cup. “I could hear them…a long
way off.” Lucas turned to look out in front of him. “Coffee?”
“I’ll get it in a minute.” Lucas rubbed his hands together. “I
found your horse.”
Margaret heard the hesitation in his voice. She shot her head up
and looked into his face. “I don’t have a horse.”
“Oh. Andy’s then.” Margaret didn’t say anything as she slowly
turned her head away. “He’s dead.”
Tears filled her eyes. She quickly nodded her head, letting Luke
know she had heard him. The emotions the horses’ death caused
her were indescribable. He had served as a link to Andy.
Margaret could still remember the day Andy had gotten that
horse. It was like love at first sight when the two of them
met…sort of like when Lucas met Bullet for the first time. “I
miss him,” Margaret whispered.
“I know.” Lucas gently slid an arm around her shoulders. She
leaned her head against him. “I’m sorry, Honey.”
“Did you find Bullet?” Margaret asked then.
Margaret slowly lifted her head. She saw the emotions playing on
her husband’s face. “I know he was special to you. I’m sorry.”
Lucas merely nodded. He was too numb to talk about it. He’d
rather move on for now. “You hungry?”
Without saying another word, Margaret hurried inside to fix
Nothing was said as they silently ate breakfast that morning.
Both Margaret and Lucas had a lot of thinking to do. There were
decisions to make and things to discuss. Not only did they need
to rebuild their ranch, but they needed to rebuild the
relationship their words had damaged. Both Margaret and Lucas
knew that nothing but time would rebuild that.
Finally, Margaret spoke. “How bad is it?” Lucas shot his head up
wondering just what she was talking about. Margaret swept her
eyes toward the door and back to him. “Tell me, Luke.”
Lucas sighed as he looked back down at his plate. “It’s bad,” he
answered shortly. He felt Margaret’s eyes on him as she waited
for an explanation. “Horses are expensive and we lost them all.
All our gear, all the feed, hay for the winter…” Lucas swallowed
hard as he looked up at her. “I can’t give you milk because both
of our milk cows were in the barn. The pigs behind the barn…the
sow died…Of course, the chickens are gone and…” Lucas stuffed
the remainder of the pancakes in his mouth. “…the meat.”
Margaret allowed silence to settle around them as she processed
all this. All they had left were the cattle that they couldn’t
feed and the house. She pushed the last piece of pancake around
on her plate as she slowly allowed the news to sink in. “We’ll
But at the same instance, Lucas said, “I’ll have to sell the
Margaret shot her head up. “Lucas, NO!”
Tears filled Lucas’ eyes as he stood from the table and hurried
to his desk. Margaret silently began cleaning up as Lucas looked
over the ledger. She knew better than to talk to him at the
moment, but she silently watched him work as she poured water
into a pan to heat so she could start her cleaning.
“Damn it!” Lucas pounded his fist on the desk in frustration and
stood. “God!” Then he hurried from the house.
Margaret paused in her washing and looked out the window. Lucas’
shoulders slumped as he hurried across the road. Tears filled
her eyes. Margaret hated what was happening to them. She hated
that Lucas’ dreams seemed to all be going awry.
Slowly, she sat down the cup she was drying and walked over to
the desk. She picked up the ledger to read the figures. “Oh
Lucas…” She breathed. She saw his figures for what things would
cost to make it until spring, then she saw his figures of how
much money they had. She worried at the burden her husband was
Just then, a knock sounded on the door. The visitor didn’t wait
for Margaret’s answer but opened the door. Ann stepped inside.
She saw Margaret’s paled expression and sat down at the table
while Margaret went to fix some tea. “Luke’s over there talking
to Hal right now.”
Margaret kept her back turned to her best friend, but she
couldn’t keep the sobs at bay. “I saw him go. He’s really
“He’s…asking Hal to buy the cattle.”
Margaret knew those words were hard for Ann to say, because Ann
knew what they would do to her. Slowly, Margaret sat the tea pot
down and covered her mouth with a hand as more sobs sounded. Ann
was up beside her in an instant, turning Margaret toward her.
She wrapped her arms around Margaret and held her while she
cried. “How much more?” Margaret asked then. “How much more do
we have to bear?”
“I don’t know, honey. Oh, I wish I could take this pain from
“I think Lucas is going to go see his brothers. Hal’s
encouraging him to go…says he needs to talk to them – sort
through things.” Margaret nodded as she bit her lip. “I’ll help
you with the cleaning today.”
“Oh no!” Margaret shook her head. “You don’t have to do that!
“Nonsense! I’m your best friend!” Ann hurried to the kitchen.
“Now, let’s see where to start…”
They hadn’t worked for very long when Margaret heard a horse
hurrying into their yard. In another moment, the door opened and
Scott was standing in front of her. Margaret dropped her rag and
hurried to her brother. “Scott! Oh Scott!” She felt herself
being lifted off the ground as he hugged her tight. He held her
while she again cried. Oh, how much more would she have to cry?
She was almost empty from all the tears!
Scott put his arm around her shoulder and walked her outside.
Together, they sat down on the porch. “What are you doing here?”
Margaret asked as she accepted his kerchief and wiped her face.
“You were quite distraught when I left here yesterday. I worried
about you all night.”
Margaret gave him a weak smile. “You worried about me?”
“Well, you’re my little sister.” Scott squeezed her hand. “I
passed by Luke on the way here. He was on his way to see his
“Ann told me he may go.”
Scott smoothed her hair from her face as he gave her a look of
compassion. “How are you two doing?”
Margaret sniffed. “We’re talking some. Lucas is taking care of
me the best he can.” Margaret sniffed again. “We’ve been
fighting ever since those…those…”
“Remember what Mama always told us when we were growing up? Hard
times makes us love each other more.”
“Then I’ll love Lucas a lot more by the time it’s all over.”
Margaret looked up at Scott. “He said something about…selling
the cattle.” Scott gave her a slight nod. Margaret’s eyes
suddenly filled with tears again. “Oh Scott, he just can’t! He’s
worked so hard and that’s our only crop right now! If he sells
Again, she was in his arms. Scott allowed her to cry for only a
moment before he lifted her up. “Honey, I’m worried about you,
and so is Mother.” Scott studied her face intently. “Margaret,
you’ve always been so strong! When hard times came, you would
cry, then you would wipe your face, square your shoulders, and
do what needed done. You were always the strong one!” Scott laid
a hand on her cheek. “What’s happened?”
“I don’t know…” Margaret mumbled softly. “If we lose our cattle
“Then you’ll start all over!” Scott lifted his eyebrows. “Oh
Margaret, when Ma and Pa started out, Pa had to start over three
times! Don’t you remember Pa telling us about that when we were
younger? First disease, then the harsh winter, and finally the
drought that caused a fire? Yet each time…our parents picked
themselves up, dusted themselves off, and tried again.”
“But…if we lose the cattle, Lucas will be a farmer! He doesn’t…”
“He’ll do it because he has to, Margaret. Come spring, he can
buy more cattle and you can start over again!” Scott smiled.
“I’ll talk to Luke. See if he’ll let us help him. We’ve got
“No.” Margaret shook her head. “No, he’ll never allow that and
you know it! He’s too proud!” Margaret smiled then. “Just like
“Yeah.” Scott smiled at her. “That’s why you’ll overcome
this…because he IS proud. But Margaret…Luke needs you. He needs
your strength and your courage! You both need a lot of faith.”
Scott kissed her cheek then stood up. “Well, Ma and Amanda
ordered me to come by and check on you. The baby’s a bit under
the weather, so I best go get the tonic and get home.”
Margaret stood. She was still processing everything Scott had
said. “You’re right, Scott. Luke does need my strength right
now. And I’ll give it to him.”
Scott smiled. “I know you will.” He tipped his hat to her and
mounted his horse.
Margaret waved as he rode from the yard. “Ann!” Margaret hurried
inside. “Ann, we’ve a lot to do if we’re going to get this house
back into shape before Luke gets home! Will you help me?”
Julie filled the coffee cups and sat them on the table as Lucas
began speaking. Abe sat back and listened, nodding his head and
offering some short comments once in a while. At one point, he
lifted his head toward the window to make sure his children were
still behaving themselves as they played in the fenced-in front
yard. Lucas’ voice became so emotional at times. At times it
looked like he was going to burst into tears, while at others,
he seemed almost angry.
Finally, Lucas stopped talking altogether and just sat quietly
as he stared down into his coffee cup. “I…” Lucas swallowed
hard. “I’ll have to sell my cattle.”
“Oh no!” Julie exclaimed suddenly. “Luke…” Julie stopped when
she felt Abe’s hand on hers and saw the warning in his eyes.
Lucas grabbed his coffee cup as if it were a life line. “I don’t
have any choice,” he stated. “I’ll have to repair the damage to
the roof and build new out buildings, a new corral…we lost every
one of our horses and our hay and seed…” Lucas swallowed the
lump in his throat. “Everything…We lost…everything.”
“You still have your house,” Julie reminded him. “And you have
Lucas lifted his head. He swallowed hard as tears squeezed from
his eyes. “I wish…I wish we had waited to marry.”
“No, Luke! Don’t say that!” Julie suddenly shouted.
“Julie…” Abe warned.
“Lucas, you and Margaret love each other! You need her right
now!” Julie continued on.
“Julie, hush!” Abe ordered a bit sterner.
“No Abe, I won’t hush!” Julie lifted her chin in a stubborn
stance. “Now you listen to me, Lucas McCain…That woman loves you
and you need to have more faith than that! She can survive this!
Why, I bet you right now that she’s at home trying to do her
best to keep the ranch together!”
“But if I had waited until…” Lucas swallowed. “…until I had a
well dug and we hadn’t rushed into this…”
Julie simmered a bit and laid a hand on Lucas’. “No, Luke. You
two did right in marrying. I saw such happiness in your eyes
after you came back.”
“Yeah. And then the first trial that came along…we start
fighting like…like…” Lucas groaned as he put his hands to his
face. “Oh, everything’s so hard right now! She’s cried so many
tears and…I just don’t know what I’m going to do…I just..I just
Julie continued to hold his hand as her eyes filled with tears.
“Marriage is hard, Luke. You have to learn…” Abe spoke quietly,
trying to calm him.
“But we’ve loved each other for so long! We’ve always managed to
get through things together. We were fighting so much! I was so
stubborn. She was so…so I don’t know…” Lucas shook his head as
more tears slipped down his face. “I wish we could be more like
“Oh Luke…” Julie shook her head. “Don’t you go thinking Abe and
I haven’t had our problems. We’ve had some big fights!”
“That’s right, baby brother. I had to sleep in the barn a couple
nights, we were fighting so much.” Abe shook his head. “No,
Luke…Marriage hasn’t been easy for us either.”
“It’s just that…” Luke wiped the tears from his cheek. “It’s
just so hard…She’s hurting so badly from…everything that’s
happened. I don’t know what to do!”
“Just love her, Luke.” Julie gave his hand another squeeze. “She
just needs love and understanding. She needs you to tell her
what you’re thinking and feeling…”
“How much more are we supposed to take?” Lucas questioned as he
lifted his eyebrows toward Julie. Julie felt a tear slide down
her already-moist cheeks.
Suddenly, the door opened and Adam came running inside. “Pa, he
“No I didn’t! You started it!” Sammy declared.
“Did not, did not, did not!” Adam shouted then as he went to
grab a lock of his brother’s hair and give it a yank.
“HEY!” Abe stood up and put his hands on his hips. “Both of you
OUT!” Both boys hung their heads and turned toward the door.
“After your uncle leaves, you can both expect a trip to the barn
for your behavior. In the mean time, go back outside with David
“Yes Pa,” they both answered.
Lucas stood from the table and grabbed his hat and rifle. “I
gotta go. I need to check on Margaret.” Both Abe and Julie heard
the burden in his voice. “Thanks for listening.”
“Luke…” Julie hurried up to him. “Why don’t you stay for lunch?”
“No…” Lucas sighed. “I need to get home.”
Julie hugged him and watched from the doorway as Abe walked
Lucas to his borrowed horse. She allowed herself to cry as Lucas
rode from the yard. Abe went to deal with the misbehavior of
their sons while she carried the cups to the sink. She was still
standing at the sink when Abe walked back inside. “Oh Abe…”
Julie mumbled as she stared out the window. “Why?”
Abe walked up behind his wife and took her in his arms. “I don’t
Julie pressed her face into his chest and sighed heavily.
“Yesterday was their one month wedding anniversary.”
Abe pushed her face back so he could look into her eyes. “Are
you serious?” Julie nodded. “You mean on their one month
anniversary, they were…” Abe closed his eyes. “Oh my…”
“We’ve got to do something to help them!” Julie cried. “We’ve
just got to!”
“What can we do, Julie? You know my brother’s a proud man.” Abe
went to sit down at the table.
Julie sat down on his lap and rested her head on his shoulder.
“Abe, Margaret’s done so much for me. She was there when the
triplets were born. She came every single day to help us out
with the children. When I had to stay in bed those weeks before
I miscarried, she was there. She took care of the children when
they had the measles…” Julie shook her head. “She never got a
thing for everything she did.” Julie slowly lifted up and stared
into her husband’s eyes. “We’ve just GOT to do something to help
“I agree,” Abe nodded. “But what?”
“Well…” Julie started to stand, but Abe wrapped his arms around
her and kept her firmly on his lap. “Between the McCain family
and the Gibbs family, surely we could give them enough so they
don’t have to sell their cattle! There’s plenty of men in this
town who would be willing to help rebuild the barn and other
buildings that were burned, and I think we should start with
those thirteen men who were responsible. Between all of you, you
can repair the roof. And I’m sure we could all pitch in together
and somehow get them enough feed and hay for the winter!”
Julie stood up with excitement. Her eyes began glowing as she
worked through her thoughts out loud. “We all pitched in and
donated chickens, and we can do that again! And we don’t need
THREE milk cows, Abe. You were talking about selling one of them
anyhow! A…a…and then we could help find some horses and…”
“Whoa there!” Abe held up a hand as he stood from his chair.
“You’re forgetting one thing, my beautiful wife.” Julie paused
and waited for Abe to continue. “There is no way in this world
that Luke is going to accept all this. Now, I agree with you
that between everyone, we can make it work, but…how do you
convince my baby brother of that?”
Julie folded her arms and stuck out her chin. “Well now…if we
just show up and announce we’re doing it, he can’t say much now
“You don’t know my brother, my love!” Abe scratched his beard as
he turned and watched his daughter toddle behind her brothers.
“But if we ask him for help in exchange…he just may go for it.”
“Help with what?”
“Well now…” Abe looked his wife up and down. “I’d say you could
use Margaret’s help three times a week, and we could use some
help with the planting this spring.”
“Oh Abe! I can’t ask Margaret to…” Julie started.
Abe held up his hand. “Trust me, Julie…We must allow Lucas to
keep his pride. We’ll help him, alright.” Abe grabbed his hat
and gunbelt, then bent over to kiss her.
“Where are you going?”
Abe smiled as he opened the door. “To go talk to my brothers.”
“What about your lunch?” Julie asked then.
Abe laughed. “I’ll eat at Peter’s! You know Tiffany will feed me
as soon as I show up.” Rachel ran to her father and lifted her
arms. “And it looks like I’m taking Rachel with me!”
“Oh, but what about her lunch and nap?” Julie protested, wanting
to keep her daughter on her schedule.
“Tiffany will take care of that!” Abe tossed her up in the air
and laughed. He ordered his sons to clean up the yard so they
could go in and eat their lunch, then he hurried down the hill.
Lucas was quite surprised when he walked up onto the porch of
his house and smelled an aroma coming from their kitchen. He was
even more surprised when the door to his house opened and
Margaret stepped out with a beautiful smile on her face. She
hurried toward him and kissed him softly on the lips. Lucas
stepped back and studied her from head to toe. She had her hair
all prettied up the way he liked it and a pretty dress on.
“Welcome home, husband.” Her voice was quite cheerful.
Lucas couldn’t keep his eyebrow from popping up as he studied
this ravishing beauty in front of him. Was this the woman he had
left crying with such fear in her eyes just hours before?
Margaret took his hand in hers and pulled him inside. The table
was all set. Lucas studied the ham and vegetables that sat on
the table. Then he lifted his head toward the ceiling and
noticed that the hole had been covered.
Margaret pulled out Lucas’ chair and sat him down. Then she
served him the food. Only after his plate was filled did she
make her way into the kitchen and bring the coffee pot. She
filled his cup then poured some cream into his cup. Then she sat
down and folded her hands in prayer, waiting for Lucas to bless
Slowly, Lucas closed his eyes and took her hand. “Lord…uh…bless
this food and the woman who prepared it…as mysterious as she is.
Amen.” Lucas lifted his head to see Margaret smiling at him.
“Alright…I just have one question.”
“What?” Margaret asked.
“Did…I come to the right house?”
Margaret giggled as she filled her plate and started eating.
“Honey, what’s going on?” Lucas finally asked. “The house is
clean…the roof is covered…and the food…Where…How…What???”
“Scott stopped by a while ago, Luke. He pointed out a few things
to me that helped me to see that we need to give each other
strength…not fall apart. Oh Luke, I know things will be hard
but…” Margaret reached out and took his hand. “We’ll be okay!
So, we’ll have to sell the cattle and plant extra crops…So what?
We still have each other, and I’ll be there by your side!”
Lucas smiled at her. He was speechless. He ate quietly for
awhile, then asked, “Where’d the ham come from? We lost all ours
in the fire.”
“Ann gave it to me,” Margaret answered without looking up.
Slowly, Lucas sat down his fork. “She WHAT?”
“Now Luke…I know how you feel about charity.”
“Good.” Lucas nodded his head. “Then you’ll understand when I
tell you not to accept anymore!”
“How did the roof get covered?” Lucas asked suddenly.
“The…roof?” Margaret raised an eyebrow and tipped her head as
she played dumb.
“Yeah…You know…” Lucas nudged his fork upwards. “That thing that
keeps the rain from pouring down on us when we’re INSIDE.”
“Oh…the roof.” Margaret cleared her throat. “Well, you see
Luke…” Margaret looked down at her plate and started pushing the
Slowly, Lucas sat down his fork again. “Yes?” he prompted.
“Well...Ann and I…” Margaret cleared her throat.
“Ann and you…what???”
Margaret took a long drink of her coffee. “It’s nothing you’d
approve of, so let’s just forget it and…”
“Please…” Lucas closed his eyes to gain control of his voice.
“…tell me you women weren’t up on the ROOF…”
“Okay. I won’t tell you.”
Margaret stood and lifted his plate as he took the last bite
from it. “Luke dear, you are talking about the two best tree
“Now Margaret, I have enough to worry about and don’t need…”
Lucas pointed a finger at her as Margaret slid on his lap and
gave him a long, lingering kiss.
Lucas smiled. “Do that again.”
“What?” Margaret drew her arms around his neck. “This?” She gave
him another long, slow kiss. Lucas put his arms around her and
squeezed her to him as he intensified the kiss. Margaret pressed
a hand firmly against his chest and pushed away from him. “I
have dishes to do.”
Lucas held tight to her. “Margaret…we have to sell the cattle.
You know that.”
“I know. And I imagine you’ll have more plowing to do come
spring for the extra crops we’ll have to plant.”
“I talked to Hal this morning. He’s willing to buy most of the
cattle. The cattle he doesn’t buy, Scott said he’d take for the
same price. The calves…they’ll go with the cattle as well.”
Lucas gave Margaret one more kiss, still surprised at how happy
she suddenly looked. He was proud to see the old Margaret McCain
back. He knew they still had some unresolved issues among them,
but he also knew that in time the healing would occur. Lucas
picked up his hat and rifle and went to check cattle. That was
pretty much the only chore he had left at the moment anyhow, and
soon, there’d be no cattle to check.
Lucas checked his cattle with a heavy heart. He knew that
tomorrow he would be selling every last one of them so he could
provide for his wife over the long winter. The money he would
get from the cattle would give them just enough to get a couple
horses, which they would have to use as saddle horses and team
horses both; chickens, a new barn and shed, and some feed for
the horses and chickens. The rest of the money would have to be
used sparingly for food and other necessary items. The hardest
part was forcing Margaret to go without when she was used to
being able to buy whatever she wanted or needed.
Lucas’ heart soon grew even heavier. He really didn’t need to
check his cattle, so he decided to make an early evening of his
chores and headed back to the ranch. Margaret was doing some
washing outside. She said the sheets needed a good washing, but
he wasn’t to worry because she had extra linens for their bed.
She also had a big pot of beans on. “Might as well get used to
eating beans,” Lucas grumbled as he started piling the burned
rubble into the back of a wagon he’d brought back from town.
“Seems we’ll be eating a lot of them this winter.”
Margaret merely smiled and stated that at least they wouldn’t
That evening, Lucas didn’t say too much as they ate. He took
extra time in smoking his evening cigar as he sat on the porch
and stared up at the stars. After cleaning the kitchen, Margaret
stepped out onto the porch and sat down beside her husband. She
wrapped her arm through his and sighed as she leaned her head
against his shoulder. “What are you thinking, Luke?”
Lucas started to tell her nothing, but remembered the advice
Julie had given him earlier. He sighed as he put an arm around
her and drew her against him. “I’m thinking about how hard
things will be for you this winter. This isn’t how I wanted our
life together to start out like.”
“It’s going to be harder for you, Luke…” Margaret cuddled closer
to him. “I was wallowing in self-pity when Scott came over. But
you know what he did?”
“He finally lifted my head from his chest, looked me straight in
the eye, and reminded me about how strong I’ve always been. He
reminded me that when we were kids, I’d be the last to give in
to self-pity, and he was right. I don’t know how it happened,
but for some reason I’ve been looking at things like they aren’t
going to get better. But they are.”
“How do you know that?”
“Because, Luke…We have each other and…” She reached up and
touched his cheek. “We have the Lord.”
Lucas looked out across the land. The moonbeams danced off the
charred remains of what was once the bright beginnings of a
ranch. Margaret’s mention of God stirred something deep inside
him. He was taken back to the day his father’s farm had burned.
He told himself he’d never let anything like that happen to his
own family, yet it had. Lucas felt a sudden anger wail up inside
him. He was so disappointed that after all his hard work, he’d
have to start all over again. He couldn’t keep the bitter words
from coming. “Looks like God’s dead set against us having our
Margaret straightened up from him as her eyes narrowed in
disapproval. Finally, she slowly stood up and crossed her arms
as she looked down at him. “Luke…I bet it’s been some times
since you’ve had a bedtime story.”
Lucas slowly turned and looked up at her.
“Well…” She nudged her head toward the house. “Let’s go.”
“To bed. I’ve a story to tell you.” Margaret smiled. “Come on,
mister! March!” Margaret pointed inside.
Lucas could do nothing but obey her. Margaret blew out the
lantern in the front room and followed Lucas into the bedroom.
She didn’t say anything as they prepared for bed. Finally, she
crawled in bed and laid down. “A long time ago, there was a man
named Job,” she finally started as she stared up at the ceiling.
“He was a wealthy man with anything a man could want, lots of
children, and plenty of animals. He was very faithful to God.
Well, one day, the devil…”
Margaret had hoped Lucas would stay in bed and rest, but when
she woke up the following morning, Lucas was again gone. The
night before, he had fallen asleep pretty quickly. She had
indeed finished telling him about Job and how he had passed
God’s test. She’d even quoted Job’s words to Lucas, and he had
kissed her softly, thanked her for showing him the truth, and
then turned away from her and fallen asleep.
Sleep had been slow in coming for Margaret. Oh, how she had
longed to fall asleep in her husband’s arms! When would the
barrier they had between them go away? Up to the day Lucas had
to put in long days breaking new ground, Margaret and Lucas had
slept in each other’s arms all night. Now, there was a space
between them. They shared the same bed, yet they didn’t.
Margaret felt a heaviness about her as she got up and dressed.
When she went into the kitchen, she found that the stove was
cold. Lucas must have once again left before time to start the
fire. After starting the fire and putting the coffee on to warm,
Margaret opened the door and stepped out onto the porch. There
she saw him. He was standing on the back side of their yard
just…looking at the cattle.
Margaret slowly walked out to meet him. She came to stand beside
him as he looked out over the range. She put her hand in his.
“You still have the land, Luke. They didn’t take that from you.
You fought for it, and you won.”
Lucas squeezed her hand as he turned to her. “I know…it’s just
that…” He pressed his forehead to hers. Margaret closed her eyes
and sighed, relishing in the feelings that raced through her as
he slowly put his arms around her and pressed her to him in an
“You don’t want to start all over again.” She kissed him softly.
“I know.” Margaret rolled her forehead from his, and they were
soon standing cheek-to-cheek. “Perhaps you should hold on to
them for a few days. There’s no reason to…I mean, you need to
clean up the burn before you can…”
“What’s the use on holding on to them, Margaret? Nothing’s gonna
change.” Lucas sighed. “We don’t have enough money to get us
through the winter…not if I have to rebuild and…and…”
“You shouldn’t have spent all that money on the wedding, my
dress, the dishes…You just shouldn’t have, Luke!” Margaret
“Oh no!” Lucas lifted his cheek from hers. “Don’t you ever say
that…I have no regrets in marrying you. I…” Lucas sighed as he
put his hands on her shoulders and glanced away from her. “Well,
that’s not exactly true. If we had waited until we had a well
built so you’d have proper drinking water. If we had a well, we
could have stopped the fire in time and…”
“No.” Margaret felt tears fill her eyes. “No, Luke. We can’t
look back. I want to walk with you in this time. Please…don’t
regret marrying me.”
“Oh I don’t!” Lucas again pressed his forehead to hers. “Seems I
can’t ever say the right thing these days.”
“We’ll get through this, Luke. Just remember that I love you so
very, very much.” Margaret kissed him softly. “Now, how about
coming back inside and having a cup of coffee while I fix your
Lucas read from the Bible while Margaret fixed flapjacks. She
hated having to again fix them, but without eggs and milk there
wasn’t much else she could fix for breakfast. Lucas ate in
silence, and Margaret decided to leave him to his thoughts that
morning. After eating, he thanked her for the meal, kissed her
on the forehead, and picked up his hat and rifle.
“Luke?” Margaret stood.
Lucas turned to her. Tears were in his eyes. “I have to do this,
Margaret. I’ll…be back.”
Margaret heard his gasp as he walked out the door. She knew this
was something that would be hard for him. “Oh God…send us a
miracle!” Margaret prayed. “Please send us something…anything to
tell us everything will be okay. Not for my sake, Lord but…for
my husband. This is so…hard for him.”
She went to clean up the dishes, her heart feeling heavy. But
she was determined to stay brave for Luke.
Margaret had just gotten the main room back into shape when she
heard a noise in the back yard. She hurried to the back window
and looked out. Something was moving around in the trees below.
Margaret puzzled over this and slowly opened the back door.
Stepping out onto the porch, she wiped her hands on her apron.
“Hello?” There was no answer, but whatever was in the trees
below continued to move around. “Lucas?” She had seen Lucas go
down the hill sometime ago and hoped he was returning, but she
heard a low sound like a horse sneezing.
Cautiously, Margaret took a few steps toward the clump of trees.
She paused again as the thing moved. Her eyes focused a bit
better and she was able to make out the form of a horse.
Margaret continued to go forward cautiously. “Whoa, boy…”
Margaret mumbled as she continued toward the spooked horse. Her
heart began to race when she realized that the horse was the
same color as Bullet. “Whoa…” She continued softly.
Margaret took a couple more steps forward. She was so close, she
could reach out and touch it, but she continued to speak softly.
Margaret looked around for Lucas, but found him nowhere in
sight. “It’s okay…it’s okay…” Another step forward sent the
horse in a bit of a fright. He started whinnying as he stepped
out of the bushes, prepared to run if he needed to.
The sight that met Margaret’s eyes brought joy to her face.
“Bullet!” Her exclamation came out in a whisper. Tears filled
her eyes. “Thank you, God! Thank you!” She reached out a hand
and lightly patted his flank. “It’s okay, boy. It’s okay…”
Cautiously, she made her way to his front. She reached out a
hand to grab the broken halter that hung down. “That’s a boy…”
Margaret looked him in the eye as she continued to speak softly.
“That’s right. You’re okay now, boy.” Margaret continued to
reach for the halter. “I’m not going to hurt you.”
Her voice did the trick. Bullet hardly flinched when she finally
took a firm hold on his halter. She smiled as she reached up a
hand to pet his nose. “That’s right. You’re okay now.” She
smiled. “Boy, Luke will be happy to see you!” At her soft touch,
Bullet gave a loud whinny and pulled away a bit. “It’s okay!
It’s okay!” Margaret kept her voice soothing and calm, and the
result was calming to the horse. “You’re beautiful!” She laughed
as she continued to pet his nose. “You are so beautiful!”
Margaret then tugged gently on the halter. She clucked to him to
move forward, but he hesitated. She looked up and understood the
reason for his hesitation. The charred remains of the burn could
be seen from there, and she knew Bullet was remembering the fire
from earlier. “Okay…it’s okay…” She wanted to call for Lucas,
but feared that her sudden noise would spook Bullet. “Okay…we’ll
just go right up here.”
Bullet again hesitated as he pulled against her. Margaret turned
back to him and gave him a gentle kiss on the nose. “You’re
okay. You’re okay.” Margaret turned in the other direction and
gently pulled on his halter. Bullet obeyed her and followed her
lead. She managed to get to a hitching post on the side of the
yard and tie him to it with some rope that was lying on the
She knew all the feed had burned up in the barn, but she had
some sugar cubes inside and hurried inside to retrieve them. She
knew Lucas would frown on her feeding his horse sugar cubes. It
spoiled them, and he had firmly lectured her on that, but
Margaret figured Bullet needed some extra pampering after the
ordeal he had been through. She brought the cubes out and began
feeding them to him. “Good boy!” Margaret rejoiced when Bullet
relaxed some more.
“Bullet!” Margaret lifted her head to see Lucas hurrying up to
the two. Obvious shock was on his face. “Oh Bullet!” Lucas gave
his horse a firm hug around the neck as if he were again that
twelve year old little boy meeting him for the first time. He
reached an arm out to Margaret and squeezed her against him.
“Where did you find him?” His voice was heavy with emotion.
“In the trees, Luke. He was awful skittish, but I kept talking
“I’m glad you found him.” Lucas turned and smiled at her. “If
anyone can tame a grizzly, it’s you.” Lucas let out a holler,
which sent the horse to whinnying. Margaret chastised him and
Lucas apologized to his horse. They rejoiced together, Margaret
thanking God for the miracle. Lucas, turned and hugged her
again, relieved he had his horse back. They shared an intimate
embrace as they stood beside the newfound horse.
They were still trying to get over the fact that Lucas’ horse
had indeed survived when they heard a loud rumbling coming from
the road. “What is that?” Margaret wondered.
Lucas pushed her back toward Bullet and held up his rifle. “I
don’t know.” She heard him cock his rifle. He was ready for
whatever was approaching. The sound got louder and louder. From
across the road, Ann hurried to the road. Lucas turned and
looked at Margaret, surprised Ann would go toward the noise
without knowing what it was.
Then suddenly, riders were riding into the McCain yard. The
several riders on horses were followed by several wagons. Lucas
watched as his and Margaret’s entire family stopped in the yard.
The sight that met their eyes was more than they could take in.
Town folks and friends dismounted their horses and climbed from
the wagons. Every man, woman, and child stood in front of Lucas
and Margaret. The couple scanned the crowd.
Behind them stood horses with no riders and cows. Wagons were
loaded with all sorts of supplies. Lucas turned and looked at
Margaret again, but she merely shrugged that she had no idea
what was going on. “Luke…” Abe, the family Patriarch and leader
of this bunch, stepped forward.
“Abe…what’s going on?”
Abe immediately held up a hand to Lucas. “Well now, first of
all, I want you to hear us out before you say anything.” Lucas
nodded as he slowly sat his rifle down and took Margaret’s hand.
“Luke, since you left yesterday morning, I’ve been talking to
all the town folks and our families and such and…well, the way
we see it…you did a great service when you stood up against
those men the other day. If you had given in…well, we could have
been next. If they took over two ranches, they may have tried to
take over our town so…you did us quite a service. You, that is…”
Abe turned his eyes toward Margaret. “…and your wife.”
Margaret squeezed Lucas’ hand as tears filled her eyes.
Abe cleared his throat. “We all came to a decision yesterday.
Not only are we going to help you clean up the aftermath of this
war you just fought, but we’re going to rebuild. Bobby Scully
over there…he’ll put in his time since it was his ken folk that
started this mess. Marshal Williams went out and ordered every
one of the men involved to be here, and they came willing. Every
one of them had something to donate to you. They all pitched it
and bought the needed supplies to not only rebuild what they
burned, but to replace what you lost. The women here…” Abe
turned back toward the group before continuing. “They gathered
up some chickens for you and…I had an extra milk cow that I
didn’t rightly need right now. Your hay will be coming later
once we get everything stocked up.”
Scott hurried forward then. “We have a couple old steers that
need butchered. We’re giving you the meat.”
“Yeah, and…” Mr. Stevens stepped forward. “I would appreciate it
if you would take some pork off my hands.”
Ann smiled as she hurried forward. “And until those chickens
give you eggs, I have plenty for you to use.”
The group grew quiet. Lucas’ eyes filled with tears. “We can’t
Julie hurried forward. “Luke, your wife helped me bring my three
babies into this world. She came over every day, six days a
week, and helped take care of my children. She stayed with me
and helped me through my miscarriage, and stayed to care for
Laura Rose and Charlie when they had the measles. Margaret has
done so much for my family! We want to pay her…something…”
“Oh, but I don’t want repayment!” Margaret declared. “I did it
because I wanted to!”
“We know that.” Julie’s eyes filled with tears. “Oh Luke…we all
want to give. Please don’t take away our blessing!”
Tears fell from Lucas’ eyes. He turned and looked down at
Margaret. “What do you say, Mrs. McCain? Do you want to accept
this gift they’ve come with?”
“Oh yes!” Margaret cried. “Yes!”
“Well…” Lucas said as he took a step toward his brother.
“I…guess the only question is…what do you want me to do?” Abe
and Lucas gave a half embrace as the men all began talking at
the same time. Margaret stood back and watched the men discuss
their plans for the ranch.
The women all gathered. “We’ve brought plenty of food. I think
the community donated enough to keep you well-supplied for many
“But why?” Margaret shook her head. “We would have been fine
just with the men replacing the things we lost!”
“Margaret, sometimes it only takes a spark. Once we started
asking, people wanted to keep giving.” Julie took Margaret’s arm
and led her toward the wagons. “Marshal Williams ordered the men
involved to come, and every one of them insisted on not only
coming, but giving things as well. Abe was honest when he said
they replaced everything they burned. Between them, Abe made
sure they were able to do that. Then the town folk started
bringing us foods and items to give you. They all felt the same
way…that you and Luke did them a favor.”
“I prayed this morning,” Margaret whispered as they walked up to
one of the wagons. “I prayed for a miracle.”
Julie lifted a bundle up from the wagon. Other women worked at
lifting more items from the wagon. “First order of business is
getting lunch prepared while the men discuss what to do.”
Margaret started toward the house, but Julie shook her head.
“We’ll use Ann’s house. They’ll be repairing the roof first
All morning, the men laid out a strategy for who would do what.
The women had a rather elaborate lunch prepared. Beef stew and
sandwiches sat out on tables in the yard and even the children
sat around and discussed plans for the afternoon. Everyone had a
job to do, Abe announced as they finished eating. Some of the
women were put in charge of entertaining the younger children.
Other women and older children were put to work to help clear
the burn out. The men went to work on starting the repairs.
By the time the sun went down that evening, buildings had
started taking shape. A huge bon-fire was made to burn the rest
of the ruined materials, and what couldn’t burn would be hauled
off. “We’ll have the barn finished tomorrow,” Abe announced.
“Folks, don’t forget to bring your dancing clothes for the very
first Lucas McCain barn dance!” Lucas kept his arm firmly around
Margaret while they waved goodbye to all their friends and loved
Margaret sat down the brush and stood up from her dressing
table. As she took her robe off, Lucas held the covers up so she
could slide into bed. “Come here, my love,” Lucas mumbled as he
drew his arms around her and pulled her to him. He sighed as he
laid down on the pillow. Nothing was said for awhile, then Lucas
mumbled, “I’m sorry.”
Margaret rubbed her hand up and down his arm as she pressed her
back against his chest. “Sorry? For what?”
“I shouldn’t have doubted you. I should have…had more faith in
Margaret suddenly turned in his arms so she could look into his
face. The faint glow of the lantern cast shadows over his face.
She laid a hand on his cheek. “Luke, what are you talking
“Honey…I just felt so overwhelmed. I mean sure…we’ve always
talked about our problems before, but this time was different.
We weren’t just friends. You were my wife and I would move
heaven and earth to protect you. I was just so afraid…Afraid
that…Well, I don’t know exactly. I’d never been responsible for
another person’s life before. I…” Lucas turned his face away
from her. “I hurt you so deeply. And I’m sorry.”
“I’m sorry too, Luke. I haven’t exactly been the most
understanding woman in the world. I’ve said some things to you
that I shouldn’t have. I…”
“No!” Lucas pressed his fingers to her lips. “Margaret, you’re
right…You did marry me for better or worse, and I do need you
beside me. I love you, Margaret Ann McCain.”
Margaret smiled into his eyes. “And I love you, Lucas McCain.”
They shared a passionate kiss, but the day had been long, and
the couple knew the following day would be even longer so the
kiss soon ended. They soon fell asleep, happy to be in each
The next day, Margaret was awake before Lucas. She hurried and
dressed and went across the street where Ann was already
preparing a large breakfast. They were just finishing breakfast
preparations when the first of the work crew arrived. The men
had set up makeshift tables outside in the Dodd’s front yard.
Everyone laughed as they filled plates and ate.
While the women worked at cleaning up after breakfast, the men
picked up their hammers and saws and went to work. One group of
men was sent into the woods to get more firewood, since the
majority of the firewood had been destroyed in the fire. Another
group of men worked on the barn while another worked on
rebuilding the shed, and yet another worked on the smokehouse.
The repairs on the hole in the roof was almost finished
By mid-afternoon, the finishing touches were put on the barn.
Hay was stacked in the hay loft, the milk cows were taken to
their respectful places, and the two new wagon horses were shown
their new living quarters. Margaret didn’t have a saddle horse,
but Lucas put that subject aside to discuss with her later.
Soon, it was time for the barn dance. The women went to get
ready at Ann’s house while the men got ready at the McCain’s
house. The children were fussed over and warned to be on their
best behavior that evening. The women giggled when they saw
their men coming across the street to fetch them.
Lucas had on his Sunday best. The men all stopped in the yard
and gave him a small push forward. Lucas paused at the Dodd’s
front door and turned to look at his friends and relatives. Then
he knocked firmly on the door.
Ann answered the door and smiled when she saw Lucas standing
there. She called for Margaret, who came forward wearing the
dress Lucas had bought for her before they became engaged. The
neckline was a bit lower than her other dresses, which caused
Lucas to look her up and down as a big smile came across his
face. He held his arm out to her, but Margaret cleared her
throat and lifted her chin. Lucas lifted his eyebrows, wondering
why she was hesitating.
“Your hat!” Abe whispered as he leaned in toward his brother.
“Oh!” Lucas whipped his hat off and Margaret nodded her head as
she took his arm. “Shall we go to the dance, my love?”
Man after man took his bride. They all followed Lucas to the
barn. Lucas winked at his wife and gave her a grin. “Well, Mrs.
McCain, shall we get this party started?” He held out his arms.
As the fiddles and harmonicas sounded from the make-shift stage,
Margaret rolled her eyes. They twinkled as she said, “Bullet!”
Lucas blushed, realizing that was their code-word to remind him
that he’s doing it wrong again.
Lucas repositioned his arms. “Would you believe that was on
purpose?” Margaret shook her head and giggled, then she walked
into his arms. Lucas led her around the barn floor.
Others filtered in, but everyone knew who would be the stars of
the show. The love Lucas and Margaret had for each other always
shone through. There were many dances when everyone else would
stop and just watch the couple dance.
It was the third song, when the band was playing Beautiful
Dreamer, that the rest of the guest stopped and formed a circle
with the couple in the middle. As the music started, Lucas bowed
to Margaret, who nodded her head. They danced around the circle,
only having eyes for each other. The love they had for each
other began shining through once again. As they danced, their
love for each other was restored.
“Look at them!” Julie declared. “Just look at them!”
Abe wrapped his arms around his wife from behind and put his
hands on her swelling belly. “And they were afraid their love
“Humph!” Julie declared. “I’d say they’re more in love now than
they were ever before!” Julie’s eyes shone. “I’ve never seen a
“Me neither!” Tiffany declared beside her sister-in-law.
“Hey!” Both Abe and Peter gave their wives a kiss. “I’d say
we’re pretty happy!” The women giggled as the brothers echoed
“Then show me!” Julie ordered as she grabbed Abe’s hand and
pulled him out onto the dance floor. Around the circles, the
other couples did the same. They only had eyes for each other.
Children ran around the yard, being carefully watched by the
older children who had been given strict orders to keep an eye
Lucas and Margaret went to the punch bowl for a drink, then soon
the retired Dr. Stevens announced, “Alright everyone! Let’s
gather around for the square dance! We need four couples!”
The four McCain brothers all hurried forward. Usually, they
treated this as a silly dance between the guys, but tonight,
they dragged their wives with them. Everyone clapped as the four
couples laughed and danced. Dr. Stevens’s calls got so fast that
the couples fell to the barn floor laughing. Everyone cheered as
each husband kissed his wife.
“Those McCain brothers sure do know how to kiss!” Some female
voice sounded from the crowd.
“How would you know?” Peter asked as he lifted his head. “Oh…”
He quickly dropped the matter after realizing just who had said
“Now, what’s that supposed to mean?” Tiffany questioned as she
pushed her husband away a bit.
“It means, my darling, that I only have eyes for you!” Peter
tightened his arms back around his wife as he gave her another
“Alright, let’s get the kids in here!" The children all squared
off into groups of eight, and the square dances continued.
Everyone clapped as they watched the children attempt the square
dance. Margaret’s eyes shone as she clapped and laughed.
“Let’s get out of here,” Lucas whispered close to her ear.
Margaret turned to her husband. “We can’t! We’re the hosts!”
“They’ll never know we’re gone,” Lucas mumbled as he grabbed her
hand and pulled her to stand up. The couple hurried from the
barn to take in the cool night air. Lucas took her hand in his
as they walked far from their ranch to the creek. After Lucas
had sat down and settled Margaret down in front of him, he
whispered, “What do you think, Mrs. McCain?”
“I’m happy!” Margaret declared as she pressed further back
against his chest. “I’m so happy!”
Lucas kissed her ear and chuckled. “You know…this is the first
dance we attended as a married couple. And now that we’re
“You just behave yourself, Lucas McCain!” Margaret declared.
“You can perform your husbandly duties later…after our guest
“Will you let me?” Lucas’ voice grew husky.
“I’ll think about it.”
“Brutal!” Lucas gasped as he put a hand to his chest. “How can
you be so cruel?” They laughed, then Lucas sobered. “You know…we
would have been fine, even without the help from our family.”
“I know, but I think it’s seeing the love they have for us that
helped us to heal, Luke. It wasn’t so much the material things
they gave us as the love and concern they showed. It’s been
“I must admit…” Lucas sighed. “It’s been hard for me…”
“But they wanted to do it, Luke!” Margaret turned in his arms.
“It’s what they wanted to do! It gave them pleasure and joy…”
“I know, I know…” Lucas tightened his arms around her. “That’s
why I didn’t put up too much of a fight. It’s one of those times
when I just had to grin and bear it.”
“Luke, about our range war…”
Lucas shook his head. “It’s forgotten.”
“But the next time…”
Lucas sighed. “Honey, I wish I can sit here and promise you that
next time I’ll be more understanding and less demanding, but I
can’t. We just have to learn to live with the way things are.”
Lucas brushed his fingertips across her cheek. “Just remember
when we’re going through that that…we’ll soon be on the other
side of it.” Margaret narrowed her eyes at him. Lucas grinned.
“Well, after all, you took me for who I was, remember…You
accepted all my faults.”
Margaret cuddled close to him as she laid her head against his
chest. “Yes. I guess I did.”
They had been there for several minutes just sitting quietly
when they heard a voice behind them. “There you are!” Margaret
and Lucas sat up and turned to see Ann and Hal. “What sort of
hosts are you…abandoning your guests to come down here and have
some alone time!” But Ann giggled.
“Yeah, what about that…” Lucas grumbled. “And we were enjoying
it up to about two seconds ago!”
“Lucas McCain!” Margaret gasped.
Lucas hushed her by tightening his arms around her. Then he gave
Ann and Hal a mischievous grin as he spoke. “Besides, weren’t
you taking a risk coming down here? I mean…after all, she IS my
“Well…you would have been quite embarrassed,” Ann declared with
a giggle. Margaret’s mouth popped open. She couldn’t quite
believe what her best friend had just said! She couldn’t believe
Lucas either, for that matter.
Hal chuckled. “Must be something in the punch,” he mumbled.
“You’re wanted top-side, McCain.”
“Tell them we’ll be there in a few…”
Hal held up a hand and shook his head. “You don’t seem to
understand, Luke. These orders came from the Captain.”
“The Captain?” Lucas questioned.
“Oh. He’s not the Captain. He’s the General!” Lucas declared as
he stood up and reached down a hand to pull Margaret up. “At
least he thinks he is.”
The four made their way back to the group. “In fact, here’s the
two love birds now!” Abe suddenly said. Everyone turned and
looked at Lucas and Margaret. Margaret blushed as Lucas put an
arm around her. “It seems that every dance, they sneak away.
Well my baby brother, this time we decided to call you on that.”
“Yeah…” Lucas grumbled. “I’ll deal with you later.”
“We didn’t get to attend the wedding, and some of the women here
wanted to present you with the traditional wedding cake.” Abe
raised his voice a bit. “Okay, ladies!”
The wedding march played on the fiddle as the women carefully
carried in a four-tiered wedding cake. Margaret’s eyes grew
wide. “I know we’re a little late for your anniversary, but…”
“Our…our anniversary?” Margaret questioned.
“Yes. We were planning this celebration on your anniversary.”
Julie cleared her throat, wanting to say no more.
Lucas took Margaret’s hands. “It was a month ago last Sunday
that I…I married you.”
“Last Sunday…” Margaret shot a hand to her mouth. “Oh Luke…I’m
so…so sorry! I forgot!”
Lucas chuckled as he shook his head. “That’s okay, my darling.
We can celebrate today.” He leaned towards her. “I Luke, take
you Margaret…” Then he slowly wrapped his arms around her and
gave her a deep kiss for all to see.
“And that’s the kiss he presented her with after the preacher
said…” Peter was suddenly cut off as the couple’s kiss broke
Julie came to Margaret and handed her the knife with a ribbon
tied around it. Margaret smiled up at her husband as they walked
forward and together cut the cake. They each picked up a piece
of cake, and as Margaret felt tears of joy fall from her eyes,
they fed it to each other.
Everyone cheered as the music once again began to play. “Now
then…” Abe said as he clapped his hands. “We want the wedding
dance while the women cut the rest of the cake to serve.”
Lucas took Margaret’s hand one last time and nodded to her.
Margaret nodded back and walked with him out onto the dance
floor. As the two slowly danced with the music, Margaret laid
her head on his shoulder. “Happy anniversary, Luke.”
Lucas chuckled. “Happy anniversary, my beautiful bride.” He
kissed her temple. “What do you say we make today the first day
of the rest of our life?”
Margaret smiled as she snuggled against him. “I think that’s
“Which means that tonight…is our wedding night all over again.”
Lucas whispered in her ear. Margaret blushed as she merely
nodded her head.
Lucas was relieved as he watched the last of their guests ride
from the yard. He stood on the porch and waved before turning to
walk inside. Margaret stood waiting for him in the middle of the
room, her hands folded in front of her. Lucas closed the door
and leaned back against it. “Boy…I didn’t think they would ever
“Tonight was lovely,” Margaret said softly.
Lucas took off his hat and hung it on the hook. As he and
Margaret looked at each other from across the room, he removed
his jacket and tossed it on the nearby chair. Then his tie
landed on top of the jacket. Slowly, he began unbuttoning his
shirt. “Well…seems I have chores in the morning. I reckon I
should…get to bed.”
Margaret gave him a slight nod as a smile slowly crossed her
face. “Must you?” She asked as she slowly started toward him.
She knew that’s what Lucas was waiting for.
“Well, I figured you’d be tired, Mrs. McCain.”
Margaret lifted an eyebrow as she slowly nodded. “Oh I am, but
perhaps not too tired to perform the remainder of my wifely
“Oh…” Lucas took a few steps toward her as he again looked her
up and down. “Do tell.”
Margaret and Lucas stood in front of each other. She lifted her
hands in the air. Lucas pressed his hands against hers and laced
his fingers with hers. “Well…you see…” But suddenly, they were
kissing. Their kiss was quiet hard at first, but soon it
softened and became passionate as they stood in the middle of
the room. Lucas’ lips left hers and trailed down her cheek and
onto her neck. Margaret took short gasps of air as his lips
traveled lower. They were soon teasing her at the neckline of
the front of her dress. His hands shook as they began working
the buttons down the front of her dress. His head lifted as he
concentrated intently on the task.
Soon, Margaret’s dress fell from her body and laid in a heap on
the floor. Lucas touched her soft skin as his lips once again
found hers. Margaret ran her hands up and down her husband’s
bare chest. The kisses and breathing told them of the other’s
desire. Lucas began backing Margaret up to the bedroom. His hand
left her soft skin as he opened the door, then he quickly closed
it with his foot. He moved her backwards until they were
standing in front of the bed.
Lucas lifted from her and watched as Margaret finished
undressing. He reached out a hand and caressed her soft skin as
she stood in front of him. Slowly, he lifted his eyes back up to
hers. He saw the desire in her eyes. He saw her unspoken
request. He quickly finished undressing and lowered her to the
bed. “I love you,” Lucas whispered as he lowered himself on top
of her and kissed her passionately. “I love you so much!”
Margaret didn’t answer. She just deepened the kiss and allowed
the desire to come. Soon they were making love. Tonight they
took their time as they allowed the last of their scars to fall
away. Margaret gave herself to her husband, happy with the
renewed love and passion they once again had restored in their
marriage. Their love making lasted way into the night.
In time, Lucas laid on his side and pressed Margaret’s body
against his. They stared into each other’s eyes as Lucas softly
caressed her cheek with the back of his hand. “Luke…”
“Promise you what?”
“Promise me we’ll still be like this in twenty years.” Margaret
leaned in and kissed him as her hands continued to caress him.
“I promise,” Lucas answered with a smile.
“Promise me we’ll be like this in forty years.”
Lucas’ smile deepened as he leaned in and kissed her. “I
promise, my love.”
“Promise me it’ll always be like this always and forever.”
Lucas kissed her again. “Always,” he stated as he pulled back
and moved his hands up her body “…and forever.”
Their love making continued until they both fell asleep,
satisfied in each other’s arms.
The Margaret Years — The Rodeo
These stories are based on the TV series
Here are some other great stories. Enjoy!
The Writer's Corner
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around The McCain Ranch