The Writer's Corner
The Next Step…
Chapter 56 – December
Written by Deanne Bertram
Arrangements had been made with Lou for the McCain’s and the
Lane’s to celebrate the three upcoming birthdays, Hope’s,
Mark’s, and Seth Edward’s, over supper.
Since Mark and Hope had requested the night to be more about
Seth Edward and family, than themselves, the men were teasing
Ethan that he’d need to hire out a porter to carry all the gifts
for his son, home.
“Oh, I thought that’s what families were for?” Ethan replied
with good natured banter.
The McCain’s laughed as they told of the first birthday party
for Little Ted, Josh, and Zach.
“Ma baked several different cakes. One for the boys and two
others for the rest of the guests,” Hope stated.
“Yes, you should have seen how the three of them demolished
their cake with their hands,” Milly replied.
“It wasn’t so funny when it came time to bathe them,” Mark
stated as he looked to his nephew and saw the icing all over his
As the evening wound down, Lucas and Seth sat to the side, they
quietly talked of their pasts, as single fathers, both trying to
raise a son. Both men smiled, knowing how much fuller their
lives had become over the past few years. Wondering what life
had in store for them, next…
Lucas saw Mark excuse himself from the group and headed out to
the front of the hotel.
“I’ll be right back Seth.”
“That’s okay Lucas, I think I should rejoin the group anyway.
See you in a few minutes.”
Lucas walked out the hotel doors and saw Mark sitting in a chair
out front. Mark quickly wiped his hand below his eyes, as Lucas
sat down in the chair next to him, and turned his jacket collar
up to the cool temperatures.
“Something in your eye?” Lucas asked.
“I understand. Seth and I were just talking of how we were both
single fathers trying to raise a son and now look at our
“It’s just that I saw everyone in the room and for a moment, it
was overpowering. For a moment, I almost felt like there wasn’t
enough air in the room for everyone.”
“Take your time coming back in.”
“I’ll be back inside in a moment. I want to thank God, one more
time, for the blessings I have.”
Lucas knew how Mark felt, he felt the same way. He returned to
the gathering inside.
Lucas and Milly celebrated their sixth wedding anniversary that
Christmas eve. It was a wonderful evening with the two families
sharing supper and then afterwards, Mark and Hope singing
Christmas songs, with Lucas and Milly occasionally joining in.
They watched as their young children struggled to keep their
eyes awake, hoping to; just maybe, catch Santa Claus coming down
“Papa,” Myra said. “If there’s fire in the fireplace, how does
Santa get down the chimney?”
Milly raised her hand to her mouth to hide her laughter, as she
looked to Lucas.
“Well…” Lucas started to say.
“Come on Pa, I want to know too. I’m sure my boys will be asking
that question in a few years and I want to be able to tell
Lucas gave Mark one of ‘those’ looks.
“Well, no body really knows how he does it. You see, some how,
Santa knows when children are awake and not sleeping, so he
doesn’t come until all the children are asleep,” Lucas answered.
“But you’re not a child, Papa. Don’t you get to see him come?”
“No, because I need to get my sleep so that I can get up early
in the morning and tend to my chores, before I get to spend time
with my family.”
Milly, Mark, and Hope tried to hide their laughter as Lucas
answered Myra’s question.
“Mark, did you ever try to stay up late to see Santa?” Myra
asked as he walked over and crawled up into Mark’s lap.
“I did once, but… I fell asleep in Pa’s chair in the front room.
I woke the next morning, still in the chair, with Ma cooking
breakfast. And there weren’t any presents under the tree. Pa
told me because I had tried to catch Santa arriving, that Santa
hadn’t left me any gifts in the house.”
“Were you upset?”
“I was Gabby. But then Pa said it was my own fault. After
breakfast, we went to the barn to do the chores and you know
what?” Mark asked as he hugged his sister.
“What?” Myra asked with excitement.
“Santa left my present in the barn.”
“He did?!” What did he leave you?” Myra asked.
“A pony of my own.”
“No, I didn’t get Blue Boy until a number of years later. So you
see, it won’t do you any good trying to stay up late and spy on
As it was past time for the boys to be in bed, Lucas carried
Josh, while Mark carried Zach, and Hope carried Eli, back to
their home and placed them in their beds.
“I still can’t get over seeing you full grown and this room full
of children,” Lucas stated as he looked to Mark.
“Seems the number of children in your own home is getting ready
to expand, Pa,” Mark replied.
All three quietly laughed as they said goodnight.
The day after Christmas, Lucas and Mark headed out to check on
“Feels like a storm front is getting set to move in,” Lucas
stated as he mounted Blade.
“I know. The air feels cold, like a snow front’s coming,” Mark
replied as he petted Blue Boy, who had hung his head over the
corral. “Not today old man, you’re Gabby’s horse now.” With
that, Mark mounted Copper.
“Well, come on. Let’s get the cattle checked. The sooner we
check them out, the sooner we can get back to our families and
That night, the temperature dropped sharply after the sun set.
Mark and Hope heard the wind howling outside and went to make
sure the pot bellied stove in the boys’ room was well stoked.
They pulled the covers up and over and tucked their sons, tight
into their beds and then headed back to their bedroom. Mark
stoked the pot bellied stove in their bedroom, before returning
“While we’re waiting for the fire to take hold, we can always
warm ourselves up otherwise…” Mark stated.
Hope looked at the boyish expression he held on his face and
willingly gave herself to Mark that night.
New Year’s Day dawned bright and cold. Mark headed out to tend
to morning chores in the barn. Later he carried some firewood
from the shed back into his home. Hope was humming a song while
cooking breakfast for her family. And the boys were quietly
playing with their toys, in front of the fire.
Later that afternoon, they headed over to Lucas and Milly’s to
celebrate Myra’s fifth birthday.
As they entered the home, Myra was there to greet them, “Ma said
I’m not to ask if you brought me a present.”
“Didn’t you get enough presents at Christmas?” Mark asked as he
bent down to pick his sister up.
“Those were Christmas presents.”
“What other kind of presents are there?”
Myra cupped her hand and placed it to Mark’s ear as she
whispered, “Birthday presents.”
“Oh, is today your birthday?”
“You know it is!”
“Then you probably should ask Hope, I think she has something
“I can’t do that,”
“Why?” Mark asked.
“Ma told me I couldn’t ask.”
“Well then, we don’t want you getting into trouble on your
birthday, do we?” Mark asked.
“No!” Myra squealed.
“No what, young lady?” Milly asked.
“I didn’t ask, honest. I told Mark I couldn’t ask,” Myra stated.
Milly knew that Lucas’ two older children were more alike in
their ability to get into mischief, than they realized. “Myra,
let Mark get out of his coat and why don’t you put it and Hope’s
coat on your bed,” Milly stated as she turned to take Eli from
Hope, so she could get out of her coat.
Lucas helped the twins get out of their coats.
The family had a wonderful time together while they celebrated
Myra’s birthday. Later that afternoon, while Mark and Lucas were
out tending to the stock and Milly and Hope prepared supper,
they spent a lot of time talking about the anticipated birth of
Milly’s baby the end of March.
After supper was eaten and the dishes done, the presents were
brought out for Myra. Lucas and Milly had bought her several new
dresses to wear to school and another for church. Hope had
purchased Myra a new coat to wear. Mark’s present was last.
“Well Mark?” Myra asked.
“What Gabby?” Mark replied.
“Didn’t you get a present for me?” Myra pouted a little.
“Oh, you didn’t find my box?”
“Then you did get me a present?”
“I did. Why don’t you go into Little Ted’s bedroom and get your
box,” Mark replied.
Myra ran to the room and saw the box setting in the middle of
the bed. She pulled it down and carried it into the front room.
“What’s inside?” Myra asked.
“Now you’re just going to have to open the box and see for
Myra neatly pulled the colored paper from the box. She pulled
off the lid and squealed, “MY OWN COWGIRL HAT! Oh Mark, it’s
Myra pulled the hat from the box and put it on her head. “Well,
maybe not perfect. Guess I got to do some growing,” Myra stated
as she pulled the hat from her head.
“We can fix that,” Hope stated as she asked for the hat.
After inserting some paper in the headband, they placed the hat
back on Myra’s head and it was a perfect fit.
“Oh Mark, thank you. I love my hat. And Hope, I love my jacket
and I love the dresses that Mama and Papa got me.”
Soon it was time for Mark and his family to return to their
The Next Step — A Debt Paid
This is a story based on the TV
series The Rifleman
Here are some other great stories. Enjoy!
around The McCain Ranch