The Writer's Corner
Chapter 12 - Range War
Written by Michelle Palmer
Jake Scully scratched his long, scraggly beard as he slightly
shifted in the saddle. Two men sat on their horses on each side
of him. On his right was his brother, Alex, who had been brought
up to be as rough and tough as Jake. Alex had red hair that
matched Jake's, and his long mustache hung below his chin. Bobby
sat on the other side of Scully; but unlike his brother, Alex,
he didn't enjoy walking in his brother's footsteps. No...He'd
rather learn to live the honest way.
Scully smiled as he looked over the land. "Yep…this will do
quite well for those thousand head I have grazing elsewhere. Yes siree…finest land I've seen yet!" He turned slightly in his
saddle to look at Alex. "Ya boys found out who owns it?" His
voice growled as if he had cactus needles in his throat.
"Matter-of-fact, Jake, there are two owners. That spread…" the
shorter of the two pointed to his right. "…belongs to a man
named Dodd. He owns the most of it. Has lots of cattle that I
reckon we wouldn't mind taking on. He paid quite the price for
his land…$2000. The other…" He pointed to the other side. "That
belongs to a man named McCain. It's about 4200 acres, only a
fourth the size that Dodd has, and he only paid $500."
"I see…" Jake slowly pulled out a cigar from his pocket and
rolled it under his nose. "Know anythin' about ‘em?"
"Heard tell that the McCain's ‘round here are pretty tough.
Asked around in town last night, and the late McCain helped
settle this town years ago. There are four brothers as tough as
nails. The men in th' saloon last night said they…all stick
together." Jake turned and narrowed his eyes at Alex. "Ya want
we should pay ‘em a visit?"
"Mm hm…" Jake nodded his head. He rolled the cigar between his
fingers as he lifted high up in the saddle and looked over the
McCain Ranch. "We'll start with McCain. If we can break him, we
can break Dodd, I ‘spect." He turned back to his horse. "Mount
up, men. Let's go pay McCain a visit."
The first two weeks of their marriage had been blissful.
Margaret and Lucas only left the ranch for short periods of time
and spent plenty of time together. Margaret tried to do outdoor
chores when Lucas was working outdoors, then when he had indoor
things to do, Margaret would work indoors. They built up so many
memories those first two weeks. Margaret very much enjoyed
fixing three square meals a day, washing his clothes, cleaning
up after her husband. Though it's true that he was quite messy,
she lightly chastised him and began training him on the proper
way to behave in her home.
Many evenings were spent sitting in their home reading a book or
sewing, then they'd move out onto the porch and just hold hands,
cuddle, and look at the stars. The nights would end with the
couple retiring to bed making love, or just cuddling until they
fell asleep in each other's arms.
But then one morning, Lucas announced that he would break the
ground he would need to plant the crops come spring. He would
have liked to get winter wheat in the ground, but that wouldn't
happen this year. Margaret mumbled an apology, but Lucas told
her he reckoned he received a better investment in rescuing her
and getting married. Margaret blushed as he took her in his arms
and kissed her once more.
The first morning, Lucas and Margaret lingered in bed. They made
love before Margaret got up to go fix breakfast. As Lucas ate,
he told Margaret it would take him several days to do the
plowing. His days would be long and hard. Winter could sometimes
sneak up on a person, and since October was quickly approaching,
he simply HAD to get this chore done before the ground started
freezing. But still, Margaret wasn't prepared for the long days.
That first evening, Lucas dragged in well after dark. Margaret
scolded Lucas for working so late, but Lucas was too tired to
listen. He was falling asleep at the table as he ate his stew
and eventually fell into bed. When Margaret woke up the next
morning, Lucas was already gone. She fixed breakfast as the sun
started to peak over the horizon, and again scolded Lucas when
he tiredly stepped into the house and quickly ate his food.
Lucas didn't even stop to kiss her before he went out into the
fields. Margaret made sure to bring him water out in the field
every hour or so, then at noon she would take him a sandwich.
But Lucas didn't leave his plow until the sun went down.
That second night, Lucas never made it to supper. He came inside
and mumbled that he would just lay down while she spooned up his
beans. As Margaret carried the bowl into the bedroom, she heard
the soft snoring of her husband. Lovingly, she covered him,
kissed him on the forehead, then left.
Margaret woke the following morning to hear Lucas stirring
about. She sat up, asking what time it was, and Lucas mumbled
that he reckoned it was close to four in the morning. He wanted
to get the chores done and breakfast eaten before the sun came
up. There was no time to waste on the field. Margaret tiredly
prepared his coffee, and Lucas mentioned he'd only have time for
oatmeal that morning. Margaret started to protest, but Lucas
held up a hand and hurried out the door.
Little did either of them know what was in store for them on
that day. Something was about to happen that would test the
undying love they had for each other.
Later that morning, Margaret looked up from the scrub board and
wiped an arm to her forehead to push the hair back from her
face. The sun was still warm, and she was sure Lucas was near
parched from the sun and hard work. Of course, as his wife, she
worried he was pushing himself too hard.
Margaret wiped her hands on her apron and picked up the bucket
sitting on the porch. Slowly, she made her way out to the field.
Lucas stopped the horses and turned to accept the dipper she
held out to him. "Thanks." He took a long drink then took off
his hat and poured the rest on his head. "It sure is hot out
Margaret looked up at the sky. The sun shined brightly on them.
For mid-September, the air was still rather warm. "Luke, I think
you're pushing yourself too hard. You need to slow down," she
Lucas put the dipper back in the bucket and turned back to the
plow. "I'll be done in a couple more days."
Margaret reached out a hand and touched his arm. It was really
the first touch from Lucas she had felt since the plowing had
began. She couldn't even remember him kissing her in the last
three days...not since that first morning. Lucas looked up into
her face. "Luke, you're so tired. I hate to see you working this
Lucas turned from her and looked toward the horses. "This is a
farming ranch, Margaret. I told you farming's hard work."
"I know. It's just that...you work until sundown and fall into
bed so exhausted you can hardly stand. You aren't eating either,
which isn't good for you! I just..." She stopped. She started to
tell him she missed his kisses...his holding her...his arms...But that
sounded so selfish. She had no right to ask for those things
when he was working so hard to provide for her.
"I have to get back to work." Lucas put the reins back over his
neck. He sensed Margaret's feelings. He could hear the unspoken
frustration in her voice. That made him pause and turn back to
her. "Honey, I'll be done in a couple days." He gave her a
Margaret lowered her head and bit her lip. "I'm sorry. I'm
"It's okay, Honey." Lucas touched her chin. Margaret leaned into
his hand and closed her eyes with a sigh. She would relish this
one simple touch he had volunteered without any prompting from
her. As she looked into his eyes, he winked at her and gave her
a tired smile. "I love you."
She didn't realize until that very moment that it wasn't the
kisses or his arms she needed. It was hearing those three tender
words spoken from his lips. She didn't even have to say
anything. Her smile told him everything he needed. They shared a
quick look, then Margaret nodded and stepped backwards as she
continued smiling at him. Lucas turned from her and clucked to
the horses, starting the plow back into motion.
Margaret went back to her laundry. She'd take Lucas out a
sandwich in another hour. Maybe she'd even manage to receive
another smile from him. Margaret's heart soared as she
remembered those words Lucas had spoken before going back to
work. Even the daunting task of laundry didn't spoil the mood
she suddenly found herself in. From where she stood, she could
see Lucas as he plowed the field, his upper body stripped of
clothing and drenched with sweat. She enjoyed the view.
But then they came. She was hanging one of Lucas' shirts on the
line when she head their horses ride up. She turned and wiped
her hands on her apron as she stepped forward to greet the
strangers. Three men dismounted their horses and tied them to a
nearby hitching post. Margaret lost part of her smile when she
saw their faces. Some sort of dread entered her, causing her to
take a step backwards. "Howdy, ma'am," the one with a mustache
tipped his hat to her as he growled out a greeting.
"Hello," Margaret greeted them coolly.
"Yer husband here?" The man with the beard asked the question.
Margaret nodded toward the field. He chewed on the cigar in his
mouth as he narrowed his eyes and slowly slid his eyes down her
body and back up again. "You two live here alone?"
Margaret was relieved when she saw, from the corner of her eye,
the plow stop and Lucas hurry down into the yard. "My husband
and I live here." Margaret turned to see Lucas pick up the rifle
leaning against the porch and hurry toward them.
Lucas came to stand beside Margaret. Protectively, he pushed her
back behind him a bit as his lips pressed in a straight line.
Silently, he studied the three strangers. Margaret could tell
from the expression on his face that he wasn't too impressed
with what he found. "What can we do for you gentlemen?"
The big man with a scraggly beard smiled as he took a long puff
from his cigar and looked Lucas up and down. Cocking his head to
one side and slowly blowing smoke from his mouth, he asked, "You
Lucas looked suspiciously from man to man to man. His eyes
narrowed and his hand tightened around the trigger of his rifle.
"I'm McCain," he answered with the slightest nod. "Now tell me
who you are," Lucas growled, still leery at just who these men
"Scully. Jake Scully." The man smiled. He laughed a wicked laugh
that sent chills up Margaret's spine. "These here 'er my
brothers...Alex..." Alex tipped his hat and nodded toward Margaret.
The grin he gave her matched Jake's. "An' Bobby."
"How do, ma'am?" Bobby gave her a pleasant smile as he removed
"Put yer hat back on!" Jake growled to his brother. Bobby
obeyed, but Lucas and Margaret could tell he wasn't too happy
about it. Lucas turned and looked at Margaret. He shot her a
warning to stay quiet. Lucas suddenly whipped his head around
when he heard the evil laughs from Jake and Alex. "Thet's
a…right fine lookin' wife ya got there, mister."
Lucas protectively put an arm around Margaret. "Margaret…go on
inside," he quietly ordered.
"Luke…" The last thing Margaret wanted to do was leave him alone
with these three men. She didn't trust them, and she suspected
Lucas was anxious to send them on their way.
"Go on." Lucas didn't take his eyes off the men as he quietly
spoke to her. "Go on now. Do as I say. Get inside and…stay out
of sight." Lucas' voice was gruff as he spoke, and held a
warning…one that Margaret had to obey.
Margaret looked at her husband one more time. Lucas finally
turned his head to look at her, but kept one eye on the men. His
eyebrows shot up, warning her to not dare defy him. "Yes, Luke."
Margaret really didn't want to go inside, and she was sure Lucas
knew that. She slowly made her way inside, keeping her head
turned. At the door, she turned back and gave the men one more
Lucas waited until he heard the door close, but never took his
eyes off the men. The three strangers eyed the rifle he held in
his hands. Lucas lifted it slightly and made sure they saw him
grip it tighter. "Now…like I asked before…What can I do for
you?" Lucas' voice was far from pleasant as he spoke. It held
barbed wire, and the men knew it.
Jake looked around the yard. He allowed his eyes to stray from
one end of the land to the other. Slowly, he took another long
puff off his cigar and allowed the smoke to roll from his lips.
When he finally spoke, his voice was low and threatening.
"Ya…got yerself a right-fine piece a land here, McCain."
"That's right," Lucas nodded, his eyes challenging the man to go
Jake cocked his head to one side. "How long ya been livin'
Lucas eyed the men again, beginning to understand why they were
there. "Long enough."
"Oh." After taking one last puff, Jake threw his cigar down and
started to take a step forward, but he froze when he heard the
cock of Lucas' rifle. A slow, evil smile spread across his face.
"Hee hee hee…" His laugh was pure evil and his eyes flashed.
"I'm only going to ask you once more. What do you want?" The
barbed wire in Lucas' voice had been replaced with sharp nails.
Jake continued to smile as he looked over Lucas' shoulder toward
the house. Lucas moved sideways so he could look behind him to
see what Jake was looking at, yet keep an eye on the men. He saw
Margaret in the window. Lucas turned back and narrowed his eyes
at Jake, then he looked back toward the window.
"Margaret, get back and stay out of sight!" Lucas barked out
loud enough for her to hear. He saw her face quickly disappear
from the window. He turned back to give the men his full
attention. "Well?" He made sure they understood that this was
his final warning.
"Your land." The smile never left Jake's face. "We just want
"Well…" Lucas lifted his rifle a little higher as he clinched
his jaw and glared straight at Jake. "There's only one problem
with that." He eyed the three strangers again. "My land ain't
"Oh." Jake turned and looked at his two brothers. Alex gave a
laugh that matched his brother's evil laugh. Jake turned back
around and narrowed his eyes at Lucas. "Don't seem to
understand…" Alex started as his laugh grew louder.
"Shut up!" Jake hollered as he turned and shot his brother a
look. Alex cleared his throat and immediately sobered. It was
obvious to Lucas that these brothers were scared of him. Jake
turned back around and cleared his throat. "Well…were I you, Mr.
McCain, I would change thet way a thinkin' right quick."
"What's that supposed to mean?" Lucas snarled.
Jake held up a hand and cocked his head to one side.
"Now…now…now…don't ya go thinkin' we's some sorta land grabbers
er somethin'…we ain't gonna take yer land…We'll buy it from ya…"
Again, Alex let out a hideous laugh. Jake rolled his eyes
skyward as he turned and gave his brother a hard smack on the
jaw. "I said shut up!" Alex lifted a fist in reaction, but
immediately stepped back and sobered once again. Jake turned
back to face Lucas. He cleared his throat and ran his fingers
around the inside of his gun belt. "Like I said…we'll pay…the
price ya paid fer it." Jake continued to give Lucas a pained
expression as he reached in his jacket pocket and pulled out a
wad of money. He threw it at Lucas. Lucas moved his eyes
downward as the money fell to the ground. "Five hundred
Lucas slowly lifted his eyes back up and narrowed them at the
men. Lifting his eyebrows, he sneered, "Well, that's mighty kind
of you, but I'm afraid the land's worth much more than that
"That's all yer gonna get," Jake announced with an evil grin. "Take it or leave it." Jake held up a hand to stop Lucas from
answering just yet. "And were I you, McCain…" Jake slowly took
another cigar from his pocket. "I would take it."
Lucas stepped on one of the gold eagles, pressing it into the
ground. Without hesitation, he answered, "I'll leave it."
"Well…that's too bad." Jake nodded to Bobby who stooped down and
picked up the gold pieces as Lucas and Jake continued to stare
at each other. Lucas began to impatiently work his jaw as Bobby
hurriedly picked up the money. He handed it to Jake who counted
the money and narrowed his eyes at Bobby. Bobby apologized
humbly and looked around the ground. Lucas grabbed Bobby by the
chin with the barrel of his rifle and glared into his eyes. "Were I you, I'd ride out of here," Lucas growled in his face.
Bobby slowly turned and looked at his brother. Jake slapped him
across the face. "You lilly liver!"" Jake cursed him. "Ya find
that other gold piece."
"I said ride out of here!" Lucas clinched his jaw and gave Bobby
a hard shove back. "Ya get on yer horse, BOY!"
Bobby didn't look toward his older brother this time. He turned
and mounted his horse. Jake stepped up beside Bobby's horse and
got right in his face. He grabbed him by the shirt and pulled
him forward. "Ya get out a here, ya coward!" Bobby turned his
horse around and quickly rode off without saying another word.
Jake turned back to Luke. "Now…ya gonna give me that ten dollar
eagle under your boot?"
"Nope," Lucas answered. "It's on my property."
"Why you…" Jake lifted his hand to smack him. Lucas swung the
rifle across his hand. Jake cursed even louder.
"Good day," Lucas nodded his head and nudged his chin toward the
road behind him.
"Now, hold on a minute there. I'm not finished!" Jake's words
came out in a growl as he pointed a warning finger at Lucas.
"You are." Lucas gave him a small nod. "And if you want proof…"
Lucas held the rifle up and pointed it right at Jake's chest.
"…just say the word."
"Well…" Jake widened his legs as he held his hands out to his
side. "Perhaps we didn't make ourselves clear enough." Jake
looked at Alex from the corner of his eye. "You see…either you
be friendly-like about this and GIVE us the land in exchange for
this five hundred dollars…or we'll have to do things the hard
way." This time, Jake took a step forward. He allowed an evil
grin to come across his face. "We'll take it from ya." He looked
over Lucas' shoulder. "Yes sir…that's a right purty wife ya have
there." The warning was very clear to Lucas.
"Get out of here!" Lucas growled as he lifted his rifle and
fired it, barely missing the man's shoulder. "Get out of here
"Oh, we'll leave." Jake tipped his hat to Lucas. He turned and
mounted his horse. Before turning to leave, he leaned way down
on the saddle and pointed a finger at Lucas. "Oh, and if you
have some notion on taking on the three of us…I'll warn you
now…I have many, many more men. You refuse me and you just may
find yerself in trouble." He tipped his hat. "Good day, McCain.
We'll be back…and when we come back, we won't be alone." Again,
Jake looked over Lucas' shoulder. "Ya tell thet wife a yers I'll
be seein' her."
Lucas felt his jaw clinch some more as he watched the two men
ride away. He turned and looked toward the house. Margaret was
again staring out the window. Their eyes met. Margaret read so
many emotions in his eyes as they gazed at each other. Her heart
nearly jumped in her throat at the look that quenched his face.
She stepped away from the window and hurried out to him, but
Lucas simply turned from her without saying a word and walked
back to the field. From the yard, Margaret watched as he put the
reins over his neck and started the horses back into motion.
Her shoulders were heavy as she went back to her washing. The
joy that had filled her heart only minutes earlier was now
replaced with a deep worry. She hadn't been able to hear much of
the conversation, but from the looks on the faces of the men,
she knew something was going on. The expression Lucas had worn
on his face after the men had left was enough to tell Margaret
that something was amiss.
Margaret wanted to find out what was going on, but she knew
Lucas didn't want interruptions while he was plowing, and she
knew he expected her to go about her chores as if nothing had
happened; but the truth is something HAD happened. In fact,
Margaret had a notion that Lucas had been threatened.
Margaret hung another article of clothing on the line, and again
turned and looked toward the field where Lucas was working. The
rifle, which had previously sat against the porch, was now in
his hand as he pushed the plow. Lucas plowed, but kept one eye
on the road.
Margaret quickly finished her laundry, then went in to prepare
him a sandwich.
He had to get the plowing done. Lucas made sure to know exactly
when Margaret left the yard to go back inside. He shifted the
rifle in his hand as he plowed. He couldn't take his mind off of
what had happened earlier. The minute those men had rode onto
his land, Lucas knew they were bad news. He remembered back to
almost ten years ago when some men had come to visit his father.
He remembered that his father had been out in the fields. Though
Lucas hadn't heard the conversation, he knew his family had been
threatened because after that his father had made sure to know
where every member was, and he had ordered the women-folk to
Lucas felt a burden weighing heavy on his shoulders as he
quickly wiped an arm across his forehead. A realization had
kicked him in the gut when he watched those men hurry off. Never
in his life had he ever been responsible for another person. He
was the youngest of four sons, and when he went off to war his
parents were still alive. Never was he responsible for the life
of another person…until now.
Lucas stopped the plow and whipped his hat off his head. "Damnit!"
he cursed as he hit his thigh with his hat. He turned to see
Margret hurrying toward him with his lunch. She was now his
responsibility. She was the one weakness he now had in his life,
and those men had used her to try and get to him. The more Lucas
thought on the responsibility that now belonged to him, the more
bothered he became. He started working his jaw as he felt the
anger wail up inside him. He felt like he was about to explode
from the weight of it all.
"Hungry?" Margaret asked as she forced a small smile on her
face. Lucas merely nodded as he took off his gloves and took the
sandwich from her. Margaret silently watched him as he ate. He
refused to look at her and kept his back turned toward her. She
saw the muscles in his face working; she knew he was fighting
against something. "You want to talk about it?"
"Nope," Lucas answered shortly. He took another bite off his
sandwich and bent down to take the dipper in his hand. He took a
long drink as he continued to think on the fact that this woman
whom he loved more than life itself was now his responsibility.
Every decision he made…everything that affected him would now
affect her. Something dark had come into his life today, and he
wanted nothing more than to protect her from it.
He hoped she wouldn't ask, but he should have known better.
"Lucas, those men…"
Lucas stopped her before she could go any further. He shoved the
dipper back down into the bucket. "I know you had your heart set
on riding out to see Julie this afternoon, but I think its best
you stay where I can keep an eye…" Lucas stopped when he heard
her sharp intake of breath. "I mean…with me." Lucas finished off
his sandwich before he stood up. "In fact, while I'm out here in
the field, I think its best you stay inside."
"I've got chores to do outside, Luke," Margaret pointed out.
"They can wait," Lucas answered simply.
"Luke…" Margaret felt the anger wailing up inside her. "Why
don't you talk to me? Tell me what you're feeling? I want to
"Thanks for the sandwich." Lucas said quickly as he handed her
the cloth it had been wrapped in. "I should get back to work
now." He said nothing more, but turned abruptly from her and put
the reins back around his neck. Margaret's eyes filled with
tears as she watched him start the team back in motion and
continue with his plowing.
Margaret had no choice but to do as Lucas wished that afternoon.
She had enough cream to do some churning, made a pie for
dessert, and washed the floors even though they really didn't
need it. But she couldn't take her mind off of the events from
When she had come inside, the shouting frightened her so she
stood at the window and watched. She knew Lucas was upset that
she had stood at the window, especially when that man…Jake, he
said his name was, had looked at her the way he did. Lucas
wasn't exactly the jealous type, but Margaret figured he was a
bit possessive when it came to her. She had done as he asked and
stayed away from the window, but the gunshot had sent her
running back. That man, of course, had seen her from where he
stood and once again gave her a look.
Margaret hoped that by tonight Lucas would be ready to talk
about what had happened and how he was feeling. She wanted to be
supportive and help him, but it was a bit hard to do so if he
shut her out. They had always been close…had always been able to
talk through problems without much trouble. Lucas wasn't ever
one to express his feelings, but now that they were married
Margaret was sure he would. After all, a husband is supposed to
share his feelings with his wife so he can receive comfort.
Margaret was happy when late afternoon came and she could fix
supper. She took the deer meat Lucas had brought to her a week
ago and cooked it along with some mashed potatoes and carrots.
When supper was almost ready, she walked out into the field and
announced supper was ready. Lucas didn't say a word but nodded,
indicating he had heard her. Margaret turned and hurried back
Margaret had supper on the table by the time Lucas came in. She
filled his coffee cup as he sat down at the table. She was
surprised when he began chatting. "Can't believe how hot is
still is out there," Lucas grumbled as he picked up the coffee
cup and took a sip. Without saying more, he bowed his head and
quickly blessed the food. He usually took her hand as they
blessed the food, but not tonight. After his amen, Lucas started
eating in silence.
Margaret, wanting to break the ice before she asked Lucas about
earlier, cleared her throat. "How's the plowing coming?"
"Oh." Lucas took another sip of coffee to wash down the venison
in his mouth. "I'll have to get Hal to help me pull out this
tree tomorrow. I'm hoping we won't need blasting powder, though
Hal said he has enough on hand if we need it. After that one
tree, I think the rest of the plowing will go smoothly." Lucas
had looked up into her eyes, but quickly looked away and began
eating in silence again.
Margaret sat down her fork and leaned forward. "I'm glad you're
almost finished. I want my husband back." She smiled, but her
smile quickly disappeared when she got no response. Again, she
tried to keep a calm voice. "I hate seeing you so tired, Luke."
Still, Lucas ate in silence. Margaret leaned forward in her
chair. Quietly, she asked the question. "Luke…about those men…"
Lucas quickly lifted his head and looked into her eyes. They
narrowed, and the expression on his face darkened. "Yes…about
that…" He took a long swallow of his coffee before continuing
with what he had to say on the matter. "I sensed there was
something about them the minute they rode up. That's why I sent
you inside, Margaret." His voice was controlled.
"You didn't like the way that man was looking at me. I
understand that, Luke. But…" Margaret stopped when Lucas held up
He shifted in his seat, then looked into her eyes. As he studied
her, his expression changed from concern to anger. Harshly, he
grunted. "I don't much appreciate you standing at the window
spying on me."
The words stung as much as his tone of voice did. Margaret
stared at him, not quite believing that he was speaking to her
in such a way. "What?" Margaret slowly sat her spoon down,
feeling angered at his accusation. "Luke, I wasn't spying on
you…that doesn't even make sense!" Lucas' eyes narrowed. "I was
just concerned." Her voice shook as she spoke.
"Yes. So was I." The expression on his face was now unreadable.
It looked as if he was fighting some battle inside himself. "Well next time when I tell you to go inside, don't stand at the
window gawking." Lucas stood from the table. "I best get back to
work," he mumbled, suddenly needing out of the house.
Margaret felt hot tears burn her eyes as Lucas hurried from the
house. He was angry at her and she didn't understand why. "Lucas…" She hurried after him.
"Luke…We need to talk about…"
But Lucas didn't stop walking as he went to the barn to saddle
his horse and ride out onto the range. Margaret went back inside
to clean up. Several minutes later, the door opened. She turned
to see Lucas' tall frame standing in the doorway. His eyes held
a deep worry. When he finally spoke, his voice was low and
shaky. "I have to go check the stock. I don't want you leaving
this house, ya hear?" He stared at her, waiting for her response
as he worked the muscles in his face again. Margaret couldn't
find her voice, so she merely nodded as she pressed a hand to
Lucas nodded. Then he was gone.
Being late September, the sun was already going down earlier. As
Lucas rode away from the house, he stopped his horse on the
range and looked down toward the house. He didn't want to leave
her alone – not for a second. He could still see the ranch house
from where he stood, but if those men came back he wouldn't have
time to get to her. Lucas looked down at his rifle. He felt
anger again boil inside of him. The words Jake Scully had spoken
again echoed in his head. ‘That's a right purty wife ya got
It didn't take an education for a person to figure out that was
an out-right threat. Lucas knew the men would be back, but he
had no idea how long. He couldn't leave her alone. He just
couldn't let her out of his sight. "Damnit!" Lucas cursed again.
He felt the pressure of his responsibility suddenly weighing on
his shoulders. He remembered his Pa's words when men had
threatened to take his land from him. "I'll die before I let
anybody take my land!" Those were words to live by, and Lucas
felt the same way.
This land meant a lot to him. Before the war, Lucas had ridden
out here and just stood on the hill where the house now sat. He
dreamed of the day he'd be living on the land…soon, the dream
included Margaret. He and Margaret had spent so many evenings on
this land. He'd proposed to her right on the crest a ways from
the front of the house. He loved Margaret more than anything,
yet he never even thought about the fact that he was now
responsible for her well-being.
"Oh God…" Lucas prayed as he looked toward the house, watching
for any sign of danger. "God…am I ready for such a
responsibility? I've never had to deal with such a thing
before…Even in the war…I promised her I'd take care of her when
I married her, yet now I have to come to a decision. I can't
just make it based on what I want…" Lucas knew he couldn't give
up his land. He also understood that decision could cost him his
life. "I'll have to send her away to keep her safe…"
The prospect of doing that brought grief to Lucas' heart. It
tormented him to even think about sending her away, yet he had
to keep her safe. Lucas turned in his saddle and looked out onto
the range. He knew he needed to check the cattle, but instead he
rode back to the ranch house. After bedding down the stock, he
Margaret was just finishing up the dishes when he walked inside
and put his rifle in the holder by the door. "I thought you went
to check the cattle."
"I changed my mind." Lucas went to look out the window. "I meant
to pick up some locks for these doors when I was in town the
other day…" Lucas mumbled these words to himself. "I worry about
you when you're here alone."
Margaret sat the plate down and slowly walked over to him. "I
know how to shoot that shotgun we have over the mantle." She
nodded toward it. "If you remember, my brother taught me."
Lucas jerked his head around. "I don't want you using that gun,
you hear me?" His voice boomed the order so loud that Margaret
took a step backwards. She was shocked at his sudden outburst.
Lucas put a hand to his forehead and sighed. "I'm…sorry…" He
turned and started to reach out to her, but he lowered his hand
back to his side. "I just…worry about you."
"Luke, pleas talk to me," Margaret pleaded.
Lucas turned away from her. "I'm going to bed."
Margaret blew out the lantern and sat down on the side of the
bed. "Luke, you awake?" she asked as she laid down in the bed
and pulled the covers up around her. Lucas grunted, indicating
he was. Margaret stayed on her back and looked up at the ceiling
as she spoke calmly and quietly. "Luke, will you please talk to
"About those men."
She heard Lucas sigh. "You don't need to worry about it. I'll
Margaret suddenly sat up in bed and looked down at Lucas who was
laying on his side away from her. "I DO need to worry about it,
Lucas McCain! You are my husband. What concerns you concerns
me." Margaret paused and waited for him to speak. "What did they
want? Who were they?"
Lucas didn't move or say a word for a moment, then he sighed as
he slowly turned onto his back. In the darkness, he looked up at
her. "They want the land."
Margaret drew her knees up to her chest and wrapped her arms
around them. She stared toward the far wall as she allowed the
meaning of his words to sink in. "To buy it?" she finally asked.
"They offered to give me five hundred dollars," Lucas answered.
Lucas sat up and turned to face her. "No, honey…I'm afraid you
don't. They want to…take it." Margaret slowly turned and looked
at him as realization began to set in her eyes. A pained
expression crossed Lucas' face. "Do you remember when we were
kids?" Lucas reached out and took her hand. "There was a man who
came to my Pa and made the same demands these men were demanding
of me today. When my Pa refused, this man tried to burn us out.
We lost a lot that night. Do you remember that?"
A tear slid down Margaret's cheek as she slowly nodded her head.
Silence snipped the air as Lucas allowed the seriousness of the
situation to sink in. He continued to hold her hand, rubbing his
thumb along the top of it as she sniffed. Finally, Margaret
allowed herself to ask the question. "Is that going to happen to
"I…I don't know." Lucas swallowed as he answered honestly. "I…I
hope not." But Margaret heard the fear as his voice shook.
"So you're saying that…that those men are…are…land grabbers?"
Margaret felt more hot tears fall from her eyes. Her lips began
trembling as she turned to look into her husband's eyes. Lucas
slightly nodded to answer her question. "You're so much like
your father, Luke. You…won't give in." It wasn't a question.
Margaret slowly nodded, trying to accept this piece of news. She
forced the tears to stay in her eyes. She wanted to be strong
for her husband. The last thing he needed was her weakness. "I
won't pretend to understand what's so important about land that
makes a man want to die over it…But…I'll stand beside you."
Margaret wiped the tears from her cheek. "Maybe…maybe you scared
them. Maybe they'll go away." They just stared into each others'
eyes. Both Lucas and Margaret knew they wouldn't.
Margaret and Lucas continued staring at each other. They both
knew what the reality of today was, and they both knew it wasn't
over. Suddenly, Margaret's face turned from sadness to hurt as
she once again felt the sting of her husband's words. She was no
longer able to hold her tears back. Before she was overcome with
tears, she choked out, "I wasn't gawking today, Luke." Then she
burst into tears, allowing the emotions of the day to capture
Lucas felt his own eyes fill with tears. He reached out and took
her into his arms. Margaret pressed against him as she wrapped
her arms around him and sobbed hard, shaking sobs in the comfort
of his arms. Lucas knew he had caused some of her tears. "I'm
sorry…I shouldn't have said that, honey…" He held Margaret while
she cried. "That was rude and harsh…I was just so upset." Lucas
sighed. "I guess I'm a bit…protective of you. The way that man
looked at you…"
"I know. But I was just so concerned…" Margaret mumbled against
his shoulder. "I'm sorry I disobeyed."
"Disobeyed…" Lucas lifted Margaret's head from his shoulder. "I
knew they were bad news, honey…and Scully made some
inappropriate threats. I just…I have to protect you." As he
continued to hold her, Lucas felt the weight of his new
responsibility again. He had come to a decision earlier. Lucas
lowered his head, gaining strength for his next words.
"Margaret, if they come back, I'll send you away."
Margaret lifted from his embrace and stared into his eyes. "NO!"
Margaret shook her head violently. "You can't! I'm your wife!"
"And I'm your husband, Margaret. I have to do what's best for
you! I have to keep you safe!"
"Your fight is my fight, Luke!" Margaret's eyes again filled
with tears. "You can't push me away! You need to talk to me…tell
me what you're thinking and feeling…"
"I won't allow you to stay here!" Lucas suddenly declared as he
pushed her further away. "I'll send you to your mother's…or to
"NO!" Margaret shook her head even harder. "I won't go!"
Lucas suddenly released her. Anger flashed in his eyes.
"Margaret, I…" He stopped and turned from her. Laying down on
his side away from her, he said, "We should sleep. I've a big
Margaret knew that was the end of the discussion. She was left
sitting up in bed trying to come to terms with all that had
happened on her own. As she stared down at her husband, she
became hurt, angry, and fearful all at the same time. She
remembered that dark time in the McCain family's life. She
remembered how hard it was for the family to recover from that.
She remembered…remembered too well.
In time, Margaret laid down on her side away from Lucas. She
sobbed, suddenly feeling alone. A long time later, she fell
Margaret had hoped things would look better for both of them by
morning, but when she woke up the next morning, Margaret found
the place beside her empty and cold. After dressing, she walked
into the kitchen and started breakfast. Margaret lifted the
curtain from the window to see Lucas standing over the woodpile
with his ax in hand. His rifle was leaning up beside the barn,
in easy reach if he suddenly needed it. He nervously looked from
one direction to the other, took a swing with the ax, then
looked in every direction again.
Margaret turned from the window and went to light a fire in the
stove. She started the coffee warming as she went to start a
batch of pancakes. After the coffee warmed, Margaret made her
way to the barn where Lucas was once again hitching up the plow.
He turned when he heard the barn door open. "Margaret, I don't
want you outside the house, I said!" His voice snapped at her.
"I refuse to be held prisoner in my own home!" Margaret shot
out. She gave him a hard look as he took a sip of his coffee.
"And you'll eat breakfast before you start plowing."
"Just bring it out to me when it's…" Lucas started.
"I will not!" Margaret declared. "You can't eat pancakes from
the field. I expect you inside to eat a good breakfast before
you go to work." Margaret turned on her heels and started out
"Margaret…" Margaret turned to look at him. His eyes softened a
bit as he gave her a small smile. "Thanks for taking care of me.
But…don't be angry when I do the same."
"I'm not," Margaret answered simply. "I'm worried about you,
"I know." Lucas turned back to ready the horses for the day.
"And I'm worried about you. That's why I have to…"
Lucas turned when he heard her let out a loud sob. He saw her
back quickly retreating to the house.
Breakfast that morning was eaten in silence. Margaret glanced at
him a few times, and he glanced at her, but they silently ate
their pancakes and sipped their coffee without saying a word.
When Lucas was done eating his two pancakes, he refused anymore
and got up to start his hard day. At the door, he again paused
and asked her not to leave the house.
Margaret couldn't concentrate on a thing that day. She tried to
keep herself busy with baking bread and cleaning, but there were
only so many things she could do. She watched Lucas work himself
hard. He seemed to be pushing himself harder than he had the
other days, and today he anxiously looked toward the house every
minute to make sure those men weren't coming back. She took him
a sandwich at noon, much to his disapproval, then called to him
to come in at six o'clock that evening. Lucas was so exhausted,
yet he sat on the porch that evening and smoked his cigar with
his rifle on his lap. Margaret stood in the doorway, but somehow
didn't feel invited to join him.
He later laid down beside her, but there was an empty space
between them. Margaret longed to be held by him as she fell
asleep, but they were both so angry. Again that night, she cried
herself to sleep.
The following day was much of the same. Margaret allowed the day
to go on, but didn't stay inside, much to Lucas' disapproval.
They exchanged a few angry words and in the end Lucas ‘allowed'
Margaret to do some outside chores, not that she gave him much
of a choice in the matter, that she declared simply must be done
while he plowed from the other direction. Margaret hated that he
felt he couldn't let her out of his sight for a moment. She felt
like such a burden and wondered why he wouldn't talk to her.
That night at supper, Margaret again begged Lucas to tell her
why he was so angry; but again, Lucas clammed up and wouldn't
say a word.
Another night was spent apart, yet in the same bed.
Two mornings after the Scully brothers' visit, Margaret felt
Lucas stir in the bed beside her. The house was still dark when
she turned to see Lucas rise from the bed and begin to dress. "Luke?" Margaret called in the darkness.
Lucas pulled his pants on, then hurried to her and gently pushed
her back down in bed. "Everything's okay, Margaret. I'll start
the coffee. You go on back to sleep," he whispered gently.
Margaret heard the concern in his voice.
"What time is it?" Margaret asked as she turned on her back and
yawned. Lucas reported it was nearly three o'clock. Margaret
slowly sat up in the bed again. "What's wrong, Luke?"
"Nothing," Lucas tried to reassure her again. "There's nothing
wrong." Lucas pulled on his shirt.
"Then come on back to bed, honey." Margaret watched in the
darkness as Lucas continued to button his shirt. "Luke, you need
to sleep too."
"I can't." Lucas whispered as he continued to stoop down beside
the bed. He leaned forward and kissed her forehead. "Now, you go
back to sleep." He stood up, then hurried from the room.
Margaret soon heard his stirring in the front room. Then she
heard the front door close. She waited a few minutes then stood
from the bed. After securing her robe, she walked to the front
door and opened it. There she found Lucas on the porch with his
rifle in hand. "Luke?"
Lucas turned to her. "Margaret, I told you to…" He started in an
Margaret ignored him and came to stand beside him. Her eyes
scanned the darkness. "What's out there, Luke? What is it?"
"It's nothing!" Lucas answered her harshly.
"Then why are you standing guard as if someone's out there?"
Margaret shivered involuntarily. "Luke, what's wrong?" She
reached out and grabbed his arm. "TALK to me!"
Lucas' eyes hardened. "Nothing's wrong!"
"Stop it, Luke! Stop lying to me!" Margaret stepped closer to
him. "A man…especially you…doesn't stand guard on his front
porch in the middle of the night when nothing's wrong!" Margaret
watched as he turned away from her. "Luke…those men have you
really scared, don't they?"
"I'm not scared!" Lucas stopped, realizing that wasn't
completely true. "Look…I have to protect you, Margaret." Lucas
clinched his jaw as he grabbed her arm. "That's my
responsibility. I…I have to protect you."
Margaret searched his face. She saw such desperation…such
weariness in his face. She felt an ache deep inside her. "You
can't keep going like this, Luke. Those men were here two days
ago. All you've managed to do the last two days is walk back and
forth in the yard and work. You've hardly let me out of your
sight. You don't talk to me…you growl orders at me…I'm sick of
it! You aren't sleeping and…and I'm tired of seeing you like
this." Margaret was half shouting, half-crying as she spoke
these words. She again had tears falling down her cheeks.
"What do you want me to do?" Lucas' suddenly snapped at her as
his eyes glared. "You tell me what you expect of me? You expect
me to just lay in there in that bed and leave you unprotected?
To go about my work and leave you here alone knowing that those
men are out there…just waiting for the opportunity?" Lucas
clinched his fists.
Margaret shook her head. "I'm NOT unprotected, Luke! You're in
that bed right beside me!"
"I can't take this rifle to bed with us, Margaret! I won't live
like that!" Lucas suddenly shouted in anger.
Margaret turned from him, trying to regain her composure. She
closed her eyes then turned around, but the anger and hurt was
still there. She felt hot tears once again pour down her cheeks.
Her eyes flashed. "YOU can't live like that?! So instead, you're
going to sleep on one side of the bed and me on the on the
other…then you're going to leave me in bed alone…in the house in
solitude while you stand guard outside the house? You don't talk
to me…you just give me orders, and when we do have a
conversation, we end up fighting!" Margaret shook her head. "I
CAN'T LIVE LIKE THAT!"
Lucas' voice softened as he once again took her arm. Calmly, he
spoke. "Margaret, do you remember those men who approached my
father? Do you? Do you remember just how cruel they were?" Lucas
turned back to look across the road. "I talked to Hal yesterday.
He had a friendly visit from those men. They told Hal they
planned to take his land as well." Lucas turned back to face his
wife. "By force if they have to…Just like Pa." Lucas closed his
eyes as he stepped away from her. "I can't let ANYTHING happen
to you! You are my world!"
Margaret bit her lip to keep it from trembling. "Luke there are
some things you aren't telling me. Tell me what's got you so
scared!" Lucas closed his eyes and remained silent. Margaret
again stepped toward him and gently laid a hand on his arm.
"Luke, please…talk to me! Allow me to share this with you!"
"Go back inside." Lucas' voice ordered her. Margaret didn't
move, but only stared at him. "GO BACK INSIDE, I SAID!"
The moment the order left his lips, Lucas felt regret. A deep
hurt suddenly entered his wife's face. Margaret threw a hand to
her mouth and hurried inside, giving the door a good slam behind
Lucas jumped as the door slammed. He banged his hand against the
post on the porch and looked up into the sky. "God…" Lucas
breathed. "Please help us. Help her understand that this is hard
for me. I've never had to be responsible for someone. I've never
had to share my every thought with a person. I can't tell her
that she's the way they want to hurt me. Oh God…" Lucas felt a
tear slide down his cheek. The last thing he wanted to do was
hurt Margaret, but he was so scared. He had lived through this
once before, and he wasn't sure he could endure it again…not
when Margaret was involved!
On the other side of the door, Margaret was sobbing as she
clinched a hand to her mouth. She felt so alone. This was a time
when husband and wife should be holding each other, trying to
find a solution to their problem. Instead, Lucas was shutting
her out, not allowing her anywhere near his fears and pain. If
only he would hold her and talk to her! If only he would allow
her to suffer through this with him. "God…" Margaret whispered
through her tears. "God…please help him understand that I love
him, and I want to help him…Please help him understand that
watching him go through this alone is killing me inside!"
Lucas came inside hours later when Margaret quietly announced
breakfast was ready. He ate quickly, neither husband nor wife
uttered a word. Enough had already been said that morning, and
they both knew it. In fact, the silence was so thick that when
Lucas allowed his fork to fall on his plate, the sound of it
made Margaret jump. Lucas didn't seem to notice, but mumbled
that as soon as she finished the dishes, he would escort her
across the street to stay with Ann behind locked doors.
Margaret's eyes grew wide as she stared at him, but Lucas took
special care not to look toward her as he put his gloves on and
lifted his rifle. Margaret suddenly felt as if she were a six
year old child being punished for not obeying her mother. Of
course, she always enjoyed visiting Ann, but not behind locked
doors at the express commands of her husband. She opened her
mouth to say something, but closed it when she saw the warning
in Lucas' eyes as he finally turned to face her. She was one to
speak her mind, but enough had already been said. She just
couldn't say anymore, knowing it would only turn into yet
another fighting match.
Instead, she turned away from him and clinched a hand over her
mouth. Only when she heard the door close behind her did she
allow her sobs to sound once again and her shoulders to shake
from the weight of it all. It was some time later before she
felt steady enough to clean the dishes.
In time, Margaret removed her apron and went to look out the
bedroom window. There she saw Lucas, rifle in hand, plowing the
field. Margaret put a hand to the window as she whispered his
name. She wished she had the wisdom to take this horrid pain
from him that he was bearing. She couldn't believe they had only
been married 3 ½ weeks ago. Right now, it seemed like an
eternity. Were they really in that blissful state of their
marriage just three days ago? Margaret remembered that last
morning when they had made love. She had no idea then that in
only a few hours, their blissful life would come to a screeching
halt. First Lucas had started long days of plowing, then the
strain already between them had increased when those men showed
up a few days later.
Suddenly, Margaret needed Ann. She hadn't even been able to see
or talk to Ann since all this had started. She needed out of
this house and…she hated to even think it…away from her
over-protective husband for awhile. Margaret turned from the
window and went to check her hair in the mirror. She felt torn,
though. What if those men came back while she was gone? How
could she help him…protect him from himself if she was across
the street behind locked doors?
Margaret walked into the front room and opened the door. She
stepped out onto the porch and looked toward Lucas where he was
almost done plowing. Lucas ‘whoaed' the team and wiped the sweat
from his brow as he hurried toward her. "Maybe they won't come
back," Margaret mumbled. Then he was there. He nodded toward the
road, and without saying a word walked with her across the
But Margaret couldn't stay silent. She had to let Lucas know
just what she was feeling. When they had entered the Dodd yard,
Margaret bravely voiced her thoughts. "Luke…I think that the way
you are treating me is very…cruel."
Lucas stopped and took her arm, pulling her back beside him. He
turned her to face him. "Honey, I'm trying to protect you!"
"You're not letting me in. You're trying to fight this alone."
Margaret kept her voice controlled and even.
"You don't understand!" Lucas shouted suddenly. "I have work to
do and I can't leave you there by yourself, knowing those men
could come while I'm gone!"
"I'm not a child!" Margaret screamed. "I'm an adult and I can
take care of myself."
Suddenly, the door opened. The fighting couple turned, their
faces reddening with embarrassment at being caught in an
argument. Hal stepped from the door, ignoring the whole exchange
they had obviously heard. Ann lifted her eyebrows in question as
she looked toward her best friend. "Ann, make sure you lock the
door behind you." Ann nodded silently.
Lucas and Margaret continued staring at each other. It was
obvious that had they not been interrupted, more words would
have been said. Ann felt her intervention was necessary at this
point. "Margaret, come on inside." Ann took her arm and turned
her around. She led Margaret inside then locked the door. After
settling Margaret at the table with a cup of tea, she spoke. "I
heard you fighting, Margaret. I know this is between you and
Luke, but…can I say something?" Margaret nodded as she stared
into her tea. "Lucas loves you, honey." Ann took her hand and
looked into Margaret's eyes. "He wants to take care of you and
this thing's got him and Hal both scared." Ann lifted an
eyebrow. "Hal said they threatened him with me."
"You? How?" Margaret asked suddenly.
"Well, they didn't come right out and say it, but they mentioned
how lovely I was several times. Hal got their message loud and
Margaret bit her lip. "You think…perhaps…they did the same with
"Well…that's one way to try and get what they want." Ann reached
out and took Margaret's hand. "Hal's tried to talk to Luke, but
Luke won't talk to him about it either. He's pretty shut up
about all this."
Margaret's eyes held fear and hurt in them. She once again
lowered her eyes to her tea cup still sitting on the table. She
finally spoke, but her words were quiet. "Did you know Lucas'
family was burned out by men like this?" Ann said nothing.
Margaret continued. "We were about…oh…twelve or thirteen, I
suppose." A tear slid down Margaret's cheek. "I was there the
first time they came by. I remember the look on Uncle Marcus'
face." Margaret bit her lip as she lifted her eyes to Ann. "I
saw that same look two days ago. It was like looking in the face
of a…a ghost…" The last two words came out in a whisper.
"When it was all over…Uncle Marcus cried. The whole family went
through quite a difficult time. They…had to rebuild…not only
their farm, but their lives. Aunt Ruth was a rock, but there
were times when she could hardly stand to be there. Oh, but that
was such a hard time." Margaret's eyes filled with tears. "I
don't know if…if Luke can survive that again. The last time
he…he swore he kill that man someday."
"I'm sorry this is happening again."
Margaret slowly stood up and walked to the window. "Ann…if I'm
not there…" She turned back to face her best friend. "…there's
no telling what Luke will do. I have to…to protect him from
himself. He won't let me inside…he's fighting this alone."
Ann slowly stood and walked over to Margaret. She put an arm
around her best friend's shoulders. "Maybe that's how he wants
"He's my husband!" Margaret wiped tears from her face. "I love
him…so much! I want to help him!"
"Just keep loving him, Margaret. Pray." Ann lifted her eyes. "We
can pray right now."
The two women kneeled beside the couch and poured their hearts
out to God. An hour had passed before the women opened their
eyes and stood from their kneeled positions. Ann started to
suggest they make their way back into the kitchen when the
sounds of horses could be heard. Margaret hurried to the window,
her eyes growing wide at the image she saw. She counted them
then turned to Ann. Her face paled as she whispered, "There's
ten of them that I see!" Margaret's eyes filled with fear. "And
they're all heading to our ranch!"
Suddenly, Margaret bolted for the door. Ann caught her arm and
held on for dear life, stopping her from opening it. "We'll just
cause trouble!" Ann shouted as she held tight to Margaret. "We
have to wait."
"I can't!" Margaret cried.
"You could get him killed!" Ann insisted. Margaret froze,
realizing she was right. Then she allowed Ann to hug her as she
wept and prayed.
Lucas heard the approaching horses and quickly turned from his
work in the barn. He picked up his rifle and swung it around
before leaving the confines of the barn. Slowly, he walked out.
Jake Scully looked around the yard as he scratched his chin. He
sat up straighter in the saddle. "I thought we finished our
business the other day," Lucas growled as he looked from Jake to
"Seems we didn't. You're still here." Alex laughed wickedly, and
this time his brother, Jake, joined in with him. "McCain…" Jake
moistened his lips as he slowly leaned forward on the saddle. "Now…our business ain't done ‘til ya come ta yer senses." Scully
slowly sat up straight and again slid a cigar from his pocket. "Ya might as well make it easy on yerself
an' give me the land."
Lucas cocked his head to one side. "I thought you would give me
five hundred dollars for it."
"That was the other day." Jake slid the match across his boot. "Today…I take it…fer nothin'."
"No, Jake," Alex laughed. "Fer ten dollars, ‘member?"
"Ah yes…" Jake laughed. "Ya see, McCain, th' way I see it, I
have invested in this land already." He took a long puff off his
cigar. "Might as well make it easy on yerself. Ya may live to
"This is my ranch!" Lucas suddenly shouted. "I plan on bringing
up my family on this ranch. You ain't gonna stop me." There was
a stubborn determination in Lucas' voice.
"Speaking of thet…" Scully turned to look around. "Where is the
wife? Ya have her locked up somewheres?" Scully laughed evilly
Lucas suddenly lifted his rifle and shot at the horse's hooves.
The horse reared back and threw Scully from the saddle. Lucas
hurried up to him and pointed his rifle in Scully's face. "Now,
get out of here," Lucas snarled.
Scully eyed the rifle. A smile slowly crossed his face as he
propped himself up in the dirt. "You know…that rifle sure does
look like it can shoot its target. And you can shoot me too." He
stood to his feet, his eyes staying on the rifle as it raised
with him. "But uh…as soon as you do, there's seven more guns
that will fill you full of led." He took the cigar out of his
mouth and pointed it behind him. Lucas turned and looked to see
guns drawn from other men he hadn't noticed before. Jake and
Alex both cackled. "Now…were I you, McCain…I'd just drop thet
Lucas did as he was told. He held up his hands and waited for
the next move. Scully slowly circled him, chuckling to himself.
"Now uh…you have a nice house here. You have a mighty fine barn
and shed…That's a right purty woman you got there too." Scully
stopped and laughed right in Lucas' face. "Hate for ya to lose
Lucas reached up to punch him, but froze when he heard the
cocking of a gun behind him. "You plan to kill me for this
"Kill you?" Scully laughed as he looked at the cigar in his
hand. "Nah…I don't think I'll have to go that fer. At least I
haven't had ta yet." Scully took a few steps away from Lucas. "Besides, there's other ways ta convince ya." Scully nodded to
his men as he slowly put the cigar back in his mouth.
Lucas looked around to see the men slowly walk towards him.
Soon, they were all circled around him as Scully and his
brothers just stood on the outside watching. Lucas turned and
punched one of the men hard, but two men grabbed him from behind
and held him as a big man with a beard lifted his fist and
punched him hard. Lucas groaned as pain shot through his face.
The man hit him twice more. Then another man came forward and
punched him in the gut. Lucas let out a cry as he toppled to the
ground. He felt a hard kick in the side, then another lifted his
head by the hair and punched him twice more. Lucas fell to the
ground, his head buried in the dirt.
Scully came to stand over him. Lucas weakly lifted his face and
looked at the boots of the man who was causing him so much
grief. "We'll be back, McCain. Ya have yer answer ready then.
Pack up and get out….or else…" Scully turned from him. "Mount
up, boys." Lucas weakly bobbed his head up and down as the sound
of mounting horses came. "By the way, McCain…that's a mighty
fine lookin' woman ya got yerself…next time…it just may be her."
Margaret watched out the window, but she couldn't see anything.
She fretted as she began pacing the floor, wondering what was
going on over there. "Where's Hal?" Margaret suddenly asked.
"Why doesn't he come?"
Ann shook her head as she clasped her hands around Margaret's
shoulders. "Hal's way out in the North pasture."
Margaret again began pacing the floor. Suddenly, she heard the
sound of Lucas' rifle firing. "Oh!" She let out a cry and raced
toward the door.
"Not yet!" Ann hurried toward Margaret and again grabbed her.
"You can't go out there, honey!"
"I have to go!" Margaret felt tears welling in her eyes. "Oh,
he's my husband! I must…"
"We're safer in here!" Ann shouted. "There's nothing you can
do…NOTHING!" Ann cried herself. She hated what was happening to
her best friends. "The men are still there, Margaret. We must
wait until they leave!"
Margaret was shaking with fear. She couldn't think that Ann was
right in making her stay, yet she couldn't fight against her.
Margaret dropped to her knees and put her face in her hands. "Oh…please God! Please protect him!" Margaret hugged herself as
Ann kneeled beside her. Both women again prayed.
A few minutes later, Margaret hurried to the window when she
heard the horses ride off. "I'm going over there!" Margaret
announced a she ran to the front door and unlocked it. She
lifted her skirt and cried as she hurried across the street, Ann
hurried right behind her. When she saw Lucas' form still
kneeling on the ground, she let out a cry and hurried up to him.
"Lucas!" She fell down in front of him and took his face in her
hands. "Oh Luke…what did they do to you?" She asked as she
tenderly began searching him for wounds.
"I'll go get my husband!" Ann declared as she turned and hurried
back across the road.
Lucas lifted a shaky hand to her face and sighed. Blood oozed
from his nose and several other wounds on his face. Tears of
shame that his wife had to find him in such a state were in his
eyes. He clinched his middle and knew that he would be hurting
worse later. "They tried to beat the sense into me." He closed
his eyes and groaned. "Margaret…" Lucas swallowed hard.
"Please…please just go…leave me alone…"
"I won't!" Margaret took his face in her hands. "I'm your wife
and I love you!"
"I don't want you to see me this way…" Lucas tried to keep the
tears from slipping down his face, but one trickled down anyhow.
"Oh please…please, honey…please go away…PLEASE!"
"Lucas McCain…" Margaret lifted his face, forcing him to look
into hers. "YOU are my husband. I married you in good times and
bad. I will NOT leave you, and don't you DARE feel ashamed for
what those men did to you! You took a beating because you stood
up for what you believe. I am so…proud of you!"
Lucas stared at her, then slightly nodded.
"Can you make it inside?" Margaret questioned then as she tugged
on his arm to help him up. Lucas nodded and put his arm around
her. Margaret helped him stand. They walked inside. After
Margaret got him seated at the table, she hurried into the
kitchen and poured water into the basin. She grabbed a cloth and
dipped it into the water than hurried back over to Lucas.
Just then, the door opened. Hal hurried inside with Ann right
behind him. "Luke!" Hal bent down in front of his friend. He
touched Lucas' chin and turned his head from side to side. "How
many were there?"
"I don't know," Lucas mumbled as Margaret pulled out the chair
beside her husband and sat down. "Ten maybe."
Hal lifted his eyebrows. "They beat you up badly. What did they
say to you?"
"Not in front of my wife, Hal," Lucas grumbled.
"Luke…I want to know!" Margaret argued.
"Alright." Hal put a hand on Margaret's shoulder; silently
telling her to stay calm. "I'll go for the Marshal."
"NO!" Lucas shouted. Hal froze and slowly turned around. He
looked from Ann to Margaret as his eyebrows popped up in
question. "I don't want you to tell anybody!"
"Luke, don't be a fool!" Hal argued. "You can't go up against
ten men! This is something for the Marshal!"
"I don't want him involved!" Lucas shouted. "This is my fight! I
don't want to hurt anyone else."
"What about Margaret?" Hal asked.
Lucas' eyes raged as he turned to look at Margaret. "She's my
responsibility. I'll take care of her."
"Lucas, have you forgotten that they want Hal too? It could be
him next!" Margaret argued. She began tenderly wiping his wounds
as she calmed her voice. "I don't understand why they're
fighting you instead of Hal anyhow."
"She's right," Ann responded. "After all…we have a lot more land
than you do, Luke."
Hal stood and placed his hands on Ann's shoulders. He looked
straight into her eyes. "I don't have the reputation of a
McCain." He turned and looked at Margaret. "They think that…if
they can break a McCain…they can break me."
"That's ENOUGH, HAL!" Lucas suddenly shouted.
"What are they going to do next?" Margaret cried. "Burn our
house? Kill you?" Margaret shook her head. "Luke, you cannot do
this alone! You just can't!"
Lucas reached out and touched her chin. "Hal…I'd like to be
alone with my wife."
"Luke!" Ann started to argue. Hal immediately shook his head and
motioned for Ann to leave. "But Hal…he's…"
Hal hurried Ann from the house. "He's being a fool," Hal
"You should go for the Marshal, Hal. We've Margaret to think
Hal shook his head. "No…I think Lucas will be taking Margaret to
town. For now…we just have to mind our own business."
"Will they kill him?"
Hal turned and looked toward the closed door. "I…don't know."
Lucas stayed quiet as Margaret worked on his cuts and bruises.
He kept an eye on her face and could tell she was working up to
a fiery speech. He'd had enough and he knew what would need to
be done. Lucas flinched a bit. He wasn't sure if the pain in his
heart or the pain on his face was hurting worse. No, he decided,
it was neither. The pain was coming from the hurt and agony he
saw on his wife's face. Just when he was about to reach out and
touch her, Margaret spoke. "Oh Luke…they hurt you badly! They
could have killed you!" Finally, she leaned forward and kissed
his cut lip softly. "You have to let Hal go for the Marshal."
"Hal should have NEVER spoken on the matter in front of you!"
"I don't understand you, Luke! I'm your WIFE!" Margaret felt her
eyes fill with tears again. "Hal's right. You cannot fight off
ten men! You just…you can't!"
"I said I'll handle it, Margaret!"
Lucas grabbed her wrist as she started to stand. "Margaret…we
need to talk." She heard the hesitation in his voice.
Margaret settled herself back in the chair and softly patted his
cuts with the damp cloth. "What is it?"
"I have to send you away."
"It's not up for discussion!" Lucas declared. "You're going to
your family for a few days, and that's final!"
"Luke…" Margaret shook her head. "Luke, don't do this! You
cannot shut me out!"
"Honey, I love you!" Lucas pressed his fingers to her lips. "I…I
love you." His voice spoke so tenderly. His eyes filled with
tears. Then to Margaret's surprise, he began weeping. "Oh
Margaret…please understand that I love you so much!" He groaned
as he stood to his feet. "Have your things packed by the time I
get the wagon hitched up."
Look stopped and turned around. His eyes held a warning.
"Margaret, please don't fight me on this," he demanded angrily.
Margaret watched Lucas turn and walk out the door, then she
turned and hurried into the bedroom.
After hitching the team, Lucas stepped into the house. When he
opened the door, he was surprised to find Margaret standing in
front of him with her head lifted high and her arms folded in
front of her. "I thought I told you to be ready," Lucas stated
"You did," Margaret answered with a nod. She took a step
forward. "That's what you did…you TOLD me."
"Well?" Lucas folded his arms, matching her stance as he towered
"Lucas McCain…I have a few things to say and…"
"Now, see here Margaret…" Lucas shouted.
"Don't interrupt me! I have something to say and you WILL listen
without interrupting!" Lucas wrinkled his brow, quite surprised
at the tone of voice she was using. But that tone of voice had
its effect on him. He stopped talking immediately. "Now then…I
want you to know that what I have to do is killing me. You have
absolutely NO idea how hard this is for me to do." Margaret
began crying hot tears. "I'm afraid I'm going to have to go
against your orders…to defy you…to…disobey." Margaret bit her
lip. "I am your wife, and I married you for better or worse. We
promised to ALWAYS stick together." Margaret bit her lip. "So…"
She swallowed hard. "I'm not going."
She saw the hurt in his eyes. The hurt quickly changed to anger,
then changed to something unrecognizable. Margaret braced for
the explosion and told herself she would fight. "Now then…you
can pick me up and throw me over your shoulder and FORCE me to
go along with you to town. You can force me to leave you here
all alone because you are physically stronger than me but…"
Margaret cried harder. "If you do that, Lucas McCain…we'll lose
Lucas looked her up and down as his lips clinched and he worked
his jaw. Without saying a word, he turned and hurried out the
When Margaret retired for the evening, she found Lucas sitting
in bed reading the newspaper. As she prepared for bed, she
spoke. "Luke, can we talk?" She got no response, so after
slipping into her gown, she made her way to his side of the bed
and pushed down the paper. "I said can we talk?"
"Sure," Lucas grunted.
"Luke…you haven't said ten words to me since…"
"Luke…two nights ago, you asked me if…if I remembered what
happened to your family when we were kids. Well, I do, Luke. I
remember that incident very well." Margaret walked to her side
of the bed and crawled under the covers. Remaining in the
sitting position, she turned and looked at her husband. "It
wasn't just your family that suffered, Luke. I suffered too
because I loved you and I saw what that incident did to you. I…"
Margaret pressed a hand to her mouth and began sobbing softly.
"I remember you after it happened…I remember the HATE in your
eyes…the sound of your voice when you swore you'd kill that
"Jameson," Lucas said his name as if it were dirty.
"Jameson," Margaret repeated. "Luke…I saw your father two days
ago when you looked at me through the window. It did something
to me…It hurt so much, because I remember your father's crying
that day. I remember your mother's pleadings to you, your
brothers, and your father for…for months…I remember YOU…"
Margaret shook her head as she pressed a hand to his cheek. "Oh
Luke…when I refused you while ago, I wasn't refusing you out of
greed or selfishness…Well, I guess that's not true because…three
and a half weeks ago, we stood in front of a preacher. You made
some promises to me that we'd be together for better or for
Lucas slowly lifted his eyes to hers. He saw such a deep hurt
there, and he knew it was a hurt he had caused. He suddenly took
her in his arms and squeezed her against him. He could feel her
heart beating hard against his chest. Never had he wanted to
hurt her. Never! "I just love you so much, Margaret. I just…I
just can't…" Suddenly, he was kissing her hard on the mouth.
Margaret laid down in the bed and Lucas moved with her until he
was pressing against her. His hard kiss slowly turned tender as
they shared a passionate kiss. Then she laid her head on his
chest. His arms stayed around her as they laid still.
"Please don't be angry with me, Luke," Margaret begged. "I did
it because I love you…because…I WANT to take care of you…too."
Lucas didn't say anything for a long time. When he finally
spoke, his words were quiet. She sensed a bit of anger returning
to his voice. "Having you here with me is like having my hands
tied behind me, Margaret. You know that."
Margaret traced a finger through his chest hairs. "I know,
Luke," she whispered softly. "I know."
"Ohhhhh…" Lucas tightened his arms around her. "I love you,
Baby." He kissed the top of her head and closed his eyes. "I
just love you." Margaret tenderly pressed her lips to his chest
in response to his words. Then she cuddled down into his arms as
he reached up and turned the wick all the way down.
They both knew their fight was far from over, but for tonight
they silently agreed on a cease fire as they held each other and
fell asleep in each other's arms.
When Margaret woke up the next morning, Lucas was gone. She
slipped from her bed and grabbed her robe. Walking into the main
room, she hurried to the window and looked out. "Oh Luke…"
Margaret pressed her head against the window as tears filled her
eyes because of what she had seen. Lucas was again standing at
the edge of the yard, watching the road.
Margaret turned from the window and lit the lantern. She angrily
threw wood into the stove and started the coffee. Soon, the door
opened and closed. Margaret didn't turn from her tasks in the
kitchen as she spoke. "You think standing at the edge of the
road is going to protect us?"
Silence answered her.
Margaret turned from the stove. Hot angry tears laid on her
face. "Luke, there's a whole range out there!" She shoved a hand
toward the back of the house. "They have many ways they can come
in here! Standing at the road isn't going to…"
"It's all I can do!" Lucas suddenly shouted. His booming voice
silenced as he and Margaret glared at each other. "YOU are the
one who chose to stay, remember that! I have to protect you,
Margaret…any way I can!"
"With THAT????" Margaret shoved a finger toward his rifle. "THAT's how you're protecting me?" Margaret shook her head as
she took a step toward him. "Luke, they aren't going to just
rush into the house and grab me! They…"
Lucas took a step toward her. "YOU DON'T KNOW THAT!!!"
Silence followed his words. When Lucas spoke again, his voice
was controlled and quiet. "Coffee ready?" He pushed past her and
hurried toward the stove. He reached for the cup on the counter
and poured the coffee into his cup, then without saying another
word he turned and walked toward the door. "Hal and I…are taking
shifts. I'll do my chores when Hal's on guard."
Margaret turned again and looked at him. Then she turned back
and looked into the bowl of pancake batter. "You make it sound
Lucas' shoulders slumped. "It…is."
Margaret watched later as her husband ate his pancakes in
silence. She figured they wouldn't be attending church that
morning, and Lucas merely nodded his head. He hadn't said a word
since he had returned from his guard duty…save for mumbling out
a quick prayer at Margaret's insistence. When Lucas stood from
the table, he reached for his rifle and announced he'd be out
tending to chores. She would again go to the Dodd house and stay
there behind locked doors until he came for her. "You're
treating me l like a caged animal."
Her words angered Lucas even more. "You made this choice." Then
he was gone.
Margaret cried in Ann's arms that morning as they stood in her
spacious kitchen. Ann whispered that it was unfair they had to
go through such a time so soon after the marriage. Margaret
stated she was trying to be strong. "Margaret, our husbands are
only trying to protect us."
Margaret bit her lip and turned away. "I know. I'm ashamed for
how I spoke to Luke this morning…and other times…but…" She
turned back toward Ann. "Oh Ann…I'm just so terrified! Luke
isn't telling me anything, but I fear they threatened him with
me. I think that's why he's so worried." Margaret sniffed. "We've been…at odds ever since those men rode up. I don't…don't
understand! We've always been best friends…always been able to
get through things together." She shook her head. "Why is it
suddenly so different?"
"Because now he's your husband," Ann answered. Margaret lifted
her head; her eyes grew wide at the implication. "You should
have left like he asked. We should go together…" Ann stopped.
Margaret stared at her. "Do you know what you're saying, Ann?"
Margaret hurried over to her. She stood in front of the window
as she clasped Ann's hands. "You are willing to leave your
husband here alone to…to fight these…these men?"
Suddenly, the women heard the rapid sound of hoof beats as a
horse raced up to the house. Then the sound of shattered glass
sounded. Margaret let out a loud scream and fell to her knees.
Lucas looked up from checking one of his calves to see Hal
hurrying toward him. "Something's happened! Hurry!" Hal shouted.
Lucas jumped on his horse and raced toward the ranch. He
followed Hal to the Dodd Ranch house. Before they even opened
the door, they could hear Margaret's crying. The sound pierced
Lucas' heart. Lucas hurried inside and kneeled down beside the
chair. "What happened?" He pressed his hands to Margaret's
cheeks and waited for an answer. He grabbed her cheeks tighter
as fear gripped his being. "WHAT HAPPENED?!" He demanded loudly.
"A rider…threw…that rock." Ann pointed a shaky finger toward a
rock. A piece of string laid beside it.
"Where's the note that was attached to it?" Lucas asked.
"Luke…Oh…Oh Luke…" Margaret began sobbing as she pressed her
head into his chest. Lucas wrapped his arms protectively around
"Where's the note?" Lucas asked again, louder this time.
Hal cleared his throat. "Margaret unwrapped it. Luke…they've
given us twenty-four hours to get out before…before they
"Attack?" Lucas turned his head sideways to look at Hal. "Are we
talking about what I think you're talking about?"
Hal nodded. "A range war."
"Oh Luke…Luke…" Margaret grabbed him and hugged him tight. But
Lucas took her arms from around his neck and stood up.
"Lucas, Margaret was hurt," Ann said softly.
"Ann!" Margaret cried disapprovingly.
"Where?" Lucas bent back down beside her, concern on his face.
It was then that he saw the bloodstain and tear in her dress. He
tore the sleeve of her dress a little more to see the ugly cut
with shreds of glass in it. "Dear God…" Lucas breathed.
"This isn't your fault, Luke," Margaret said as she saw his eyes
"Hal, you take the women on into town. I'll stay here and…try to
figure out a way to…"
"NO!" Margaret leapt to her feet. "Luke, you come with me!"
"I can't! They're trying to take our land, Margaret!" Lucas
"Luke, I counted at least ten of them yesterday. You can't go
against ten men alone!" Margaret shouted desperately. "You
"I'll see if I can get some other men to come help us," Hal
stated. "And I'll get the marshal."
"It's not their fight!" Lucas shouted. He grabbed Margaret's
arm. "Let's go home and get you packed."
Half an hour later, Lucas was standing beside the closed door
when he saw Hal pull into the yard. Margaret stared at the bag
that sat, ready to put in the wagon. She had tears on her face.
"Margaret, you may hate me for this and right now I…" He
stopped. "I have to do what I think is best. Jason needs to look
at your arm and…and I need you out of danger. Please…try to
"Lucas…" Margaret hurried up to him as she squeezed the compress
tighter against her arm. "You can't fight them alone! THEY'LL
KILL YOU!" She screamed these last words.
Lucas' eyes filled with tears. He took a deep breath. "Hal's
waiting outside." Lucas turned from her. "You better go."
"Luke, listen to me!" Margaret pleaded again as tears continued
to run down her cheeks.
Tears fell from Lucas' eyes as well. "Margaret, a man lives by
principles. If a man allows another to take his land then…he
ain't much of a man." Lucas paused and turned back to her. His
eyes softened as he put a hand against her cheek. "I…I love
Margaret searched his eyes. She knew her husband had a lot of
pride. She knew going against him again would only make things
worse. Slowly, she nodded her head. After wiping the tears from
her cheeks, she said, "I…I won't fight you anymore…And I won't
hate you for this."
"I'll come for you soon."
Margaret nodded again as she stood at the door. Suddenly, they
were in each other's arms. Lucas held her tight as she sobbed
uncontrollably. "I love you too, Luke…Please…Please come with
Lucas grabbed her shoulders and pushed her away. He lifted a
hand to her cheek and kissed her softly. "I'll come to you soon,
Honey." Lucas leaned forward and opened the door. "Go on now."
Margaret watched Lucas from the door as Hal quickly rode away.
Tears filled her eyes. "Take care of yourself…" But by the time
she was able to say the words, he was gone.
They were just leaving the church that Sunday morning when they
heard a wagon quickly approaching. Dr. Jason Livingston paused
as he was discussing the fact that Lucas and Margaret hadn't
shown up for Sunday services when he saw Hal stop the wagon
beside the group. Jason, alarmed when he saw Margaret pressing a
bloodied compress against her upper arm hurried forward. "Take
this," he said to Emily as he held out his Bible. Then he
hurried forward to help Margaret down.
"What happened?" Abe asked as he hurried forward.
"Someone threw a rock through my window and hit her with it,"
Ann explained quickly.
"What? Why?" Peter asked then. "What's going on?"
"Earlier this week some men came to us…they're trying to force
us to sell our land. They've now given us twenty-four hours to
get out before…" Margaret stopped as tears filled her already
Hal looked around at the group that had gathered to Worship that
Sunday morning. "Before what?" Julie asked.
Hal's eyes turned to look at the children gathered around as
well. He wondered if he should reveal the harsh realities with
everyone gathered around, but Abe saved the trouble. "A range
war? Is that what we're talking about?" Hal nodded.
"Dear God…" Someone breathed in the crowd. Several women put
their hands to their mouths.
"Abe…" Margaret hurried forward and took his hands. "Abe…please…" Her eyes filled with tears.
"There are at least ten of them. Luke's there all alone. Oh
Abe nodded. "You go on with Jason, honey. We'll take care of
it." Abe turned around. "Anyone who's willing to fight, meet in
front of the Marshal's office in a half hour. Be ready to ride."
Abe turned and looked at the Marshal. "You're coming?"
"Of course." Marshal Williams put his hat on. "It's my job." He
turned and kissed his wife and son on top of the head. "Let's
go!" Margaret could hear the men discussing plans as they
hurried down the street. The three McCain brothers, Scott, and
Hal were among them. In all, there were only seven. She feared
the odds were still against them.
Jason took Margaret by the arm. "I'll join them as soon as I get
Margaret taken care of," Jason announced.
"Oh Jason…" Emily started.
"Now Honey, I'm a McCain as well. I've had to shoot my way out
of a few scrapes…" Jason turned toward the McCain and Gibb
families. "Take everyone to the hotel dining from. See if they
can make accommodations for all of you." He hurried Margaret to
Emily stood beside Margaret as Jason went to work on cleaning
the wound and taking out the shards of glass. Margaret cried as
she pressed a hand to her mouth. "I know it hurts." Emily
brushed a hand against her sister-in-law's hair. "He'll be done
in a minute."
Margaret shook her head. "It's not Jason that's causing my pain.
It's…It's…" Margaret suddenly threw her arms around Emily. "Oh,
it's been awful!" Jason paused as Emily held her. He knew
Margaret needed the comfort of her more than his medical
attention. "I'm so scared, Emily…I'm so…"
Jason cleared his throat. "Listen honey, I've gotten most of the
glass out. Could you take over? I think I want to go join the
Emily pushed away from Margaret and reached out to her husband.
Margaret paused as they shared an embrace. "Be careful…" Jason
nodded and kissed her. Margaret watched Jason put a hand on
Emily's swelling belly.
"I'm going with you!" Margaret suddenly declared.
"No. Absolutely not!" Jason answered. "You stay here!"
Margaret bolted from the office and ran toward the Marshal's
office. "Abe…Abe…" She ran up to the group. She clasped Abe's
arms. "I'm going with you!"
"NO!" Abe answered with a shake of his head.
"But you don't understand!" Margaret argued. "Abe…you remember
when this happened to your father? You remember Luke?"
Abe's expression changed to understanding. He bent down to
become eye-level with Margaret. "Honey…I'll take care of my baby
brother. I'll make sure he stays safe."
"But without me there…"
Scott put a hand on his sister's shoulder. "We'll all protect
Luke, Margaret. You stay with Ma and Amanda."
"We'll be back." Abraham looked up toward his wife and mouthed
‘I love you.' Then Jennifer put her arms securely around
Margaret's shoulder. "You women stay in town until we get back.
You'll be safer here."
The women and children watched as the men rode out of town.
Margaret felt tears slip from her eyes as she pressed a hand to
her mouth. Emily put an arm around Margaret's shoulder. "Come
on. Let's finish doctoring that wound."
Margaret's heart was heavy as Emily worked at finishing her
husband's job. Margaret watched Emily's face closely and noticed
a sadness of her own. "I'm sorry…" Emily looked up at her,
question in her voice. "I've been selfish. I'm so worried about
Luke, yet…your husband's in danger now too…as well as all your
Emily shook her head as a tear slid down her cheek. "Don't be.
My husband's where he should be."
"Why, Emily?" Emily pinned the bandage tightly to Margaret's
arm. "Why do they want to die for that land?"
Emily lifted her eyes to Margaret. The women just looked at each
other. "I don't know." She turned to gather up the medicines she
had used for her minor surgery. "I remember when this happened
to Papa. I remember how all my brothers proudly stood behind him
and I questioned Papa about it. He said that after all the blood
and sweat he put into the land, he wasn't giving it up. He'd
rather die then…" Emily gasped. "I'm sorry."
"Luke didn't tell me, but…I think they've threatened our
lives...at least mine. That's why he sent me away."
Emily smiled. "He also sent you away because he wants you safe.
That's part of a husband's responsibility...to keep the wife
safe. It's been that way since Adam and Eve."
"Do you enjoy this?" Emily turned and looked at Margaret. "Do
you enjoy being a nurse?" Emily nodded. "Do you miss...farming?"
"I love my husband, Margaret. I love being married to a doctor
and..." Emily pressed a hand to her belly that was beginning to
swell. "I love the fact that I'm about to be a mother. Jason
said something about finding a new nurse when the baby comes,
but I won't hear of it! I told him I could be both a mother and
"You two are…fighting?"
Emily heard Margaret's voice break. She turned and looked at
Margaret questionably. "No…we're just discussing it rather
uh…loudly at times." Emily smiled. "And it's not me being loud.
It's Jason! He certainly has a temper."
Just then the door opened. Margaret and Emily turned to see
Jennifer coming in. "How's my daughter?" Jennifer put an arm
around Margaret. "Can she come eat? They're preparing a meal for
us at the hotel."
"Mama…I'm not hungry."
Jennifer turned Margaret's face toward hers and smoothed
Margaret's hair from her face. "I know…but you have to eat."
"Mama…" Margaret's eyes filled with tears. "Oh Mama…I'm so
scared!" Margaret threw her arms around her mother and began
sobbing. Emily rubbed her back while Jennifer kept her arms
around her daughter. In time, Margaret lifted. "Those men are so
mean. There's about ten of them and…" Margaret bit her lip. "But
that's not all I'm scared about."
Emily led Margaret to a table in the front room of the clinic.
The three women sat down as Emily poured Margaret a glass of
water. "It was so…so blissful the first two weeks. We were
happy…woke up every morning in each others' arms and stole
kisses all day…I would find myself just watching him work and
he'd look up at me and smile…" Margaret felt hot tears again
fall down her cheeks as her lips started trembling.
"What is it, Margaret?" Jennifer smoothed her hair and tenderly
touched her cheeks. "What?"
"Ever since these men rode in…" Margaret burst into tears. She
again wrapped her arms around her mother and sobbed as hard as
she could. "Oh Mama…what's happening? I don't want to lose him!"
"Now daughter, you are married now!" Jennifer declared. "You're
not going to lose him." She smiled. "Your brother and his
brothers are there…the Marshal and deputy…Several men rode out.
If there is a range war, it won't last long. Those men are
"I'm not talking about that…" Margaret sniffed and blew into the
handkerchief Emily had handed her. "Two weeks ago, Luke started
working the fields. He's been so tired…He started work at sunup
and didn't finish until the sun went down. He'd barely stay
awake long enough to eat." Margaret bit her lip. "Then those men
came and we…we…we've been fighting ever since!"
"Oh baby…" Jennifer hugged her daughter to her. "Is that what
this is all about?" Margaret paused in her crying and looked up
at her mother. "Now, I've told you that marriage is hard.
There's going to be storms in your marriage."
"But it's only been three weeks! That blissfulness…"
"…will be back when the storm passes," Emily finished for her.
Margaret turned and looked at her sister-in-law. "Have you and
"We've had a few minor spats."
"This isn't a spat. We've been yelling at each other. He's not
talking to me…not sharing his feelings…"
Suddenly, Emily burst into laughter. Margaret glared at her
then. "Margaret…Lucas has NEVER shared his feelings with us! He
always tries to take on battles by himself." Emily shook her
head. "I'm sure marrying you had changed him a bit, but not that
"And he's so protective of me…I want to be there with him,
yet…Oh…I don't understand, Mama…"
"It's because you love him that you fight. You are both very
worried and upset. This will pass."
"But before…" Margaret swallowed. "Before we were
married…Luke and I always worked through the troubles without
too much fighting. He would always seek me out…talk to me…tell
me what he was truly thinking. Ann said that it's different now
since I'm his wife."
Jennifer hugged her daughter again. "It is different, Baby.
Before…you were best friends. Now you are his wife. You've
become one. He can no longer share his hurts with you like he
used to because though he knew you hurt with him before, now he
understands that…that you feel his pain." Jennifer smoothed
Margaret's hair. "There's another thing you need to think about.
Honey, a man feels a responsibility to his family. Perhaps Lucas
is feeling a bit overwhelmed right now. He knows that…well…that
the decision he makes will affect not only his life, but also
yours. He wants to keep you safe…to protect you because he loves
you so very much; yet you are fighting against his deepest need
– to protect you."
"I am scared, Ma." Margaret lifted her head. "What if…what if
those men fight tomorrow? How many of our men will they get
"No, honey. I learned a long time ago that we can't think ‘what
if' at times like these. No…we have to pray and have faith."
Jennifer smiled at her daughter. "As for the fighting…you and
Luke love each other. You'll patch things up when you return
home. The passion…will return." Margaret searched her mother's
face and nodded. "Now, let's get over there and eat before the
rest of those women and children eat it all up!"
Margaret's heart was still heavy. She hated the fact that she
was separated from her husband when he was going through such an
ordeal. The women reminded her that's the way he wanted it, and
that's the way it should be. Margaret knew five of her family
members had ridden out with the Marshal, as well as his deputy.
The Marshal had asked some of the other men to come as well. In
all there were probably eight or nine.
Margaret tried to answer the children's questions they asked
her, but it was hard. Charlie commented that he missed her
awfully much, and Margaret smiled, hardly believing the eldest
McCain child was starting school. Charlie told her all about his
Pa giving him a whipping for arguing about going to school, and
how his Pa threatened daily trips to the barn if he even looked
like he was going to argue with his Mama.
That Sunday afternoon was probably one of the longest afternoons
Margaret had ever experienced. The women put the children to bed
then sat in the hotel lobby for a long time. There was a sober
silence because they all knew that their men folk were in a
terrible danger. Tomorrow would be here soon enough.
Finally, Margaret allowed Emily to lead her to the cottage she
shared with Jason. Emily put fresh sheets on the bed in the
second bedroom and ordered Margaret to go to sleep. But sleep
was something hard to come by that particular night. Margaret
finally went to the window and watched all her memories float
before her eyes.
Though she did see memories of before their marriage, the ones
that stood out the most were from the last four weeks since they
were married. Margaret remembered that day. Lucas' smile as he
led her in the rain to the church, the tenderness in his touch
as he slipped the ring on her finger and looked deeply into her
eyes, and the kiss that followed the preacher's declaration.
Margaret remembered then, the carriage ride to the little
cottage they shared during their honeymoon. She remembered the
kisses they shared, and the morning she gave herself to him. She
remembered those intimate moments the most as she hugged
Margaret remembered that last morning, days before the Scully
brothers rode in. She and Lucas had awakened early that morning
when a mocking bird had planted himself just outside their
bedroom window. Lucas had groaned and put his arms around her
wishing the bird to go away. Margaret giggled as she pressed up
against Lucas. Then Lucas had jumped from the bed, ran to the
window. After opening it, he shouted his order for the bird to
leave them alone.
Then when Lucas came back to bed, they began kissing. He had
slipped her gown off over her head and caressed her as he stared
into her eyes, then his eyes grew wide as he moved his mouth
down to hers. They had made love that morning while the mocking
bird began to sing his sweet song to them. Margaret remembered
the feel of his lips on hers, his hands as they pressed hers
firmly down onto the bed; and the sound of his soft moans as
they made love.
"Oh Luke…Luke…" Margaret felt a tear fall down her cheek as she
pressed her forehead against the glass. Because what she
remembered next was haunting. She remembered the words she and
Lucas yelled at each other. She remembered the anger…the
silence…the sleeping apart, yet in the same bed…She remembered
it all. "God…please…" Margaret prayed in a shaky voice as tears
fell from her eyes. "Please don't let those be my last
Margaret lifted her head and slowly walked to the bed. She
lifted the Bible from the night stand and began reading and
praying. Finally, she closed the Bible and stood from the bed.
"That's what I have to do." Margaret nodded. Then she stood and
wiped her eyes. "So be it."
The women were just getting their children settled down for
breakfast the next morning when they heard the commotion coming
from the front of the hotel. Julie hurried into the front room
to see a wide-eyed, white-faced Emily. In her hand, Emily held a
single sheet of paper. "Emily? Emily, what's wrong?" Julie
hurried forward and grabbed her sister. "What is it?"
"It's…it's Margaret…" Emily slowly turned to look at the other
women gathered with Julie. "She…she went home."
Lucas had been less than thrilled when the men showed up with
Hal the night before. Abe, always the bossy type, held up his
hand and ordered Lucas not to say a word on the matter. Lucas'
fighting the men alone would be suicide. Abe made Lucas give
them every detail at what had happened. He assured Lucas that
Margaret was okay, though she was rather upset.
The next morning, the men were in place even before the sun came
up. They all stayed at their posts, armed, and with plenty of
ammunition. They were prepared for a fight, though Marshal
Williams hoped it wouldn't come to that. He'd had his share of
range wars and didn't like them much. There would more than
likely be causalities on both sides. Abe looked toward his
brother. "You're worried about Margaret."
Lucas nodded. "We…haven't been getting along too well lately."
"Honeymoon's over?" Abe questioned.
"Yeah. Something like that."
Abe nodded. "It's hard when you have conflict. Luke…" Lucas
turned and looked at his brother. "You two love each other. This
will pass, and when it does, I'm sure you two will be as sappy
and disgusting as you were two week ago."
Lucas smiled. "I hope so. I love that woman…I guess that's
really why we're fighting."
No more could be said, because sounds of horses could be heard
in the distance. "Alright men, don't you fire a shot until I
tell you to, ya hear?" Marshal Williams ordered his stern
warning. "We don't want to start any gun play!"
It was eight o'clock in the morning when Lucas saw from his
station at the window the first rider come into the yard. Every
man was hiding, not willing to reveal how many were there lying
in wait. Jake Scully threw down his cigar and dismounted his
horse. Slowly, he wrapped the reins around the hitching post and
looked around. Everything seemed abandoned.
Lucas watched as Jake made a motion with his hand for the others
to come in. He looked around as he waited for the men. "Looks
like the coast is clear, Jake," Alex stated as he slowly walked
up to his brother.
"No." Jake shook his head. "It's too quiet." Jake took a step
toward the house and scratched his beard. "McCain?" Scully put
his hand on his gun belt. "Okay McCain, I know yer in there. And
I know yer missus is in town. Come on out."
Lucas looked toward the marshal who nodded his head slightly.
Lucas laid his rifle against the wall and stood up.
"Alright…I'll come to the porch. But you have plenty of guns
trained on you, so don't do anything stupid!" Slowly, he made
his way out onto the porch. Several cocks could be heard as men
all around the ranch readied their guns to start shooting.
"Alright. What do you want?"
"You know what I want," Scully answered as he waved a hand
across the land.
"The answer is no." Lucas quickly looked Scully up and down.
Scully slowly licked his lips and narrowed his eyes at Lucas. "I
told you what would happen if you decided to stay."
Lucas nodded. "You told me." Challenge sounded in his voice.
"You don't care that I threatened yer wife?" Scully snickered.
He slid a cigar from his pocket again. "Ya know…" He struck a
match against the porch post and lit his cigar. After taking a
long puff from it, he took the cigar from his mouth and said, "…I jest may ride myself into town and take a uh…have a talk
with her." Suddenly, a shot whizzed just over his head.
"I said hold your fire!" Marshal Williams shouted.
"What was that?" Scully asked as he ducked just a bit and
grabbed his hat.
"Surely you aren't that stupid," Lucas sneered. "It's called a
"Well you see…" Lucas folded his arms. "My…lovely wife…has a
brother that's pretty protective. In fact, he's almost shot me a
"How many men ya got McCain?"
"Too scared to fight yer own battles?"
Lucas lifted his head and looked at the men standing with
Scully. "If the shoe fits…"
Scully pressed his lips together and pointed the cigar at him.
"This is your last warning, McCain. Get out!" He shouted.
"Ya tryin' ta start somethin'? Ya know how many men I got?"
Scully lifted his head and nodded toward a hill. Lucas saw five
more men on horses, waiting for his signal.
"You got my answer. I don't care if you have a whole Cavalry
ready to fight me…the answer always has been, and always will
be…NO!" Lucas purposely turned his back and walked back inside
the house. Then he lifted his rifle and hit the window with it.
The window shattered. Lucas jammed his rifle out of the hole.
"Marshal, there's at least sixteen men out there!" Jason
"I know…I know!" Marshal Williams punched the floor.
"What do we do?" Jeremiah asked then. "Are we going to fight?"
"I don't know…let me think!"
Abe crawled over to sit beside Lucas. "I promised Margaret I
would bring you back to her. I promised her I'd protect you, so
don't try anything stupid." Abe looked out the window. "Like get
"McCain! You got those mangy brothers in there with ya? Ya got
the Marshal?" Scully laughed. "Hey Marshal, ya in there?"
Suddenly, a shot rang out. Lucas looked out the window and
cried. "Dear God! The barn's on fire!"
The men Marshal Williams had sent to the barn were rushing from
it. Horses cried as the doors opened. Lucas jumped up and bolted
toward the door, but Abe and Peter grabbed him to hold him back.
"The horses!" Lucas cried. "All our horses are in there!"
"There's nothing we can do!" Abe shouted. "We can't go out
there!" Lucas continued to fight. Abe gave Lucas a hard slap
across the face. "Listen to me now, baby brother! I promised
Margaret I would deliver you to her safely! The minute you walk
out the door, they'll shoot you dead!" Abe shoved him to the
floor and pinned him down. "Now…you stay put or I'll shoot you
in the leg to keep you alive, you got that?"
"Our horses…" Lucas mumbled. Already, the sounds of the
horses' screams could be heard. A few had managed to escape the
burning embers, but not many of them. "Our…horses…" The sound of
the horses' screams pierced Lucas' ears. He hated the fact that
they were dying such a horrid death; it broke Lucas' heart.
Tears filled his eyes.
"What do you say, McCain?" Scully laughed. "Ya believe me now?"
Lucas looked toward his brother who gave him an encouraging nod.
"I can build another barn! I can get more horses!" Lucas shouted
above the noise. "Burning my barn won't hurt me!"
"What about yer wife, McCain?" Pure evil dripped from Scully's
Lucas fired a shot toward Scully. Scully jumped as he felt the
bullet hit his boot. "I won't miss the next shot!" Lucas warned.
The men had all dismounted at this time. They all stood in a
line across the front of the yard. "We'll kill you!" Scully
shouted. "We'll kill every last one of you ugly sod-busters!"
"Now boss, ya said nothin' ‘bout killin'!" one of the men
"Shut up!" Scully shouted. He turned back to look towards the
house. "We'll…do what we have to do."
"Now Jake, you said we'd burn them out…you didn't say nothin'
‘bout killin'!" Bobby Scully said. "I don't much cotton to..."
Scully reared back and slapped Bobby so hard that Bobby let out
a cry and fell to the ground. "What's wrong with you? Ya all
yeller or somethin'?" Scully's voice growled as he took another
hard look at his men. "Ya comin' out, McCain? Or…" Scully lit a
match. "We gonna hafta burn you out?"
Lucas turned and looked at his brothers. His decision was
putting them all into danger. Catching the house on fire would
take away the one piece of shelter they had left. Abe, Peter,
and Lucas all looked at each other, knowing what the answer had
to be, yet understanding just what the price of that answer
would be. "Pa…" Abe swallowed. "He'd be so proud right now,
Luke." Lucas nodded as he turned back to give his answer.
But just then, Jeremiah and Scott, who were watching the back,
suddenly saw a lone rider coming over the hill. They watched the
rider closely, wondering if it was another one of Scully's men.
Scott cocked his rifle, ready to kill if the rider started
shooting; but as the figure got closer, their eyes widened. "Scott, what's your sister doing here?" Jeremiah suddenly
questioned in shock.
"Margaret!" Scott jumped up and hurried out the back door. Lucas
turned and ran toward the back door. His eyes widened when he
saw Margaret quickly approaching. Scott tried to catch the reins
to her horse, but Margaret bolted her horse out of his reach.
She rode to the side of the house then jumped off the horse.
"Wait!" Margaret gasped for air. "Just…just wait!"
"Margaret, what the HELL are you doing here?" Lucas shouted
angrily from the doorway. "Get inside now!"
"NO!" Margaret lifted her head. She slowly walked to the front
yard. "Well…if you want the land, all you have to do is take
me!" Margaret bravely stepped in front of the men. "…DEAD!" The
men turned and looked at Jake. Margaret balled her fists and
curled her lip as she screamed at them. "That's right, you brave
men! Didn't Mr. Scully tell you McCain had a wife? This is also
my home…my husband…my land…and I'm NOT going to just stand by
and let you take it!"
The men, some with gaping mouths, all watched as Margaret
stepped up onto the porch. "Or did you think I was the silent,
abiding wife who allowed her husband to fight his own
battles…alone?" Margaret slowly shook her head. "You can shoot
him, but that won't make you a man!" Margaret shoved a finger
toward the house. "Inside there are my husband's three brothers,
my husband's brother-in-law, my brother, the Marshal, and a
deputy. They all have wives and children. Also inside is my best
friends' husband. I assure you men that if you DO manage to kill
some of them…" Margaret pointed to several of the men who stood
before her. "You WILL NOT live to enjoy the fruits of your
Lucas stood in the doorway staring at her. He couldn't even move
to take her away, he was in such shock at what he was
witnessing. The men were listening to her! "You are all wrong,
and nothing you EVER do will make it right again!" She lifted
her chin higher. "What good will this land do you? You'll either
be dead or…wanted by the law…either way, you won't be able to
enjoy it. Why all this greed and violence?" Margaret looked up
to the hill where the five other men sat. "My husband fought for
your country to earn the money for this land. He fought for four
long, hellish years so you could live in America where land is
being GIVEN away to men who want to work it…Yet, you all stand
here trying to TAKE the land my husband has poured every ounce
of blood and sweat into? He will die for this land!" Margaret
turned and walked to stand beside Lucas. She took his hand. "And
so will I."
Lucas could see Margaret's hand shaking. He heard her voice
break at the end of her fiery speech. The silence that followed
was eerie as the men on both sides stared at each other. "Well
then…" Scully finally shouted. "I reckon you'll die with him."
Scully lifted his gun. Margaret turned to Lucas and buried her
head in his middle and covered her ears as she let out a loud
Gunshots rang out. Then there was silence. Margaret felt Lucas'
hands go to her face. "It's alright, honey…look." Margaret
turned to see Jake and Alex Scully's crumpled bodies at the foot
of the porch. The five men on the hill turned and rode away. "You're right, Miss…There won't be any more trouble." Bobby
slowly put his smoking gun back into his holster and tipped his
hat. After mounting his horse, he turned to the men. "We'll
rebuild your barn." Some of the men grumbled. "At least I will."
"And the horses?" Margaret questioned. "The horses you…you…"
Her eyes filled with tears and her lips trembled as she
realized the reality of the burning barn. The air was filled
with the stench of it.
"Margaret…" Lucas warned.
"We'll replace the horses."
Margaret, Lucas, and the rest of the men watched as the men
slowly rode from the yard. "You can press charges, you know,"
Marshal Williams stated.
Lucas turned and smiled at the Marshal. "No. I think they've
learned something today." Lucas put his arms on Margaret's
shoulder and locked his hands behind her neck. "So have I."
"What's that, Luke?" Jeremiah asked.
Lucas never took his eyes off of Margaret's face as he answered.
"Well…us men fight a war with our weapons, but women have a
weapon of their own…one that's…often overlooked. Their weapon
tames us men and leaves us quivering at their feet, yet we don't
account for it being able to stop a fight." Lucas smiled. "Maybe
had women been in charge of the country there never would have
been a war."
"What weapon are you talking about, Luke?" Scott stupidly asked.
Lucas smiled into Margaret's eyes. "The tongue."
"Oh Luke!" Margaret cried. Then Lucas took Margaret in his arms
and hugged her tight as they both sobbed tears of relief.
The Margaret Years — Aftermath
These stories are based on the TV series
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around The McCain Ranch