The Rifleman
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The Next Step…
Chapter 31 – Eastbound Train
Written by Deanne Bertram

It was early October and Doc Burrage was having lunch with John Hamilton, when it was interrupted by the train conductor who came running into the hotel restaurant, yelling,

“I was told the town doctor was here!”

“I’m Doctor Burrage, what seems to be the matter?”

“Doc, we got a pregnant woman on the train, she started getting sick and then went into labor and I think she needs your help.”

Doc excused himself as he ran, following the conductor to the train. After he completed an initial examination, Johnny Drako entered the train.

“Doc, you need some help?”

“Johnny, we need to get this woman back to the clinic, can you help me carry her?” Then turning to the conductor, “Why don’t you bring her husband along, then the train can head on out as scheduled.”

Johnny and Thaddeus carried the woman to his office and to the back room. “Johnny, would you take the woman’s husband over to Lou’s? Keep him occupied. I’d say take him to Sweeney’s but I saw him carrying a small child. Well, maybe Hope can look after the boy and you can take the husband to Sweeney’s.”

“Sure Doc.”


Doc delivered a healthy baby boy and then slapped his bottom, the child announced to everyone that he was there. He wrapped the baby in a blanket and handed the child to his new wife, Abigail. Then he pulled a blanket over the body of the young mother.

“Abigail, here hold and rock the child.”

“Thaddeus, this child, he needs to nurse.”

“I know Abigail, let me go get a bottle and some milk. We’ll see what we can do before I have to tell the father he has a son, but his wife died.”

They worked for some time, but the infant just wouldn’t suckle from the bottle. Johnny knocked on the door before he entered. Thaddeus met him as the door opened.

“Johnny, can you go get Milly McCain. I need her?”

“Sure Doc, why?”

“Just go get her,” Thaddeus replied.

Johnny ran to the school room and returned with Milly.

“Milly,” Thaddeus started. “We’ve tried everything we can to get this baby to suckle from a bottle, he just won’t.”

“What about the baby’s mother?” Milly asked.

“Milly, she died while giving birth. I couldn’t save her life. But I have a chance to save the life of her baby. Milly, you’re the only woman right now who has a baby and is still breast feeding. I know this child isn’t yours, but if we don’t try, I’m not sure the baby will survive.”

Milly turned as Abigail brought the infant into the room. Hearing the baby cry, Milly’s heart melted and agreed. Abigail led her to a back room for privacy.

“Doc?” Johnny asked. “You want me to go with you to tell the husband?”

“Yeah, this isn’t going to be easy. Do you know the man’s name?” Thaddeus asked.

“Said it was Ezrah Masters.”

Thadd and Johnny walked to Sweeney’s. They returned Ezrah Masters to Doc’s, where Thadd informed him of his wife’s passing. The man then asked of their baby.

“The baby lives. Right now, we have a local woman nursing the child. We tried to bottle feed him, but he wouldn’t suckle,” Thadd stated.

“I have a son? My wife…, we were heading back east to be with family. She wanted to be with family. The baby came too soon, he wasn’t due until next month. We should have had time to get to Tennessee.”

“Ezrah, I’m sorry for your loss. If you like, we can prepare your wife’s body and arrange transport back east.”

“No, my wife loved the west, but her parents are older and ailing in health and she wanted them to see her children before they passed.” Through his grief, “If possible, could she be buried here?”

“We’ll make the arrangements,” Johnny stated.

“My son? When may I see my son?” Ezrah asked.

“As soon as Mrs. McCain is through nursing the child. My wife can bring your son to you, if you’d like to have a seat?”

“Mrs. McCain? I met a Deputy McCain at the saloon, is she his wife?”

“No, this Mrs. McCain is actually the Deputy’s mother. Step-mother, but they don’t make that distinction.”

Soon, Abigail Burrage brought the infant to the front office and handed him to his father. They watched as the man unwrapped the blanket and counted his son’s fingers and toes, marveling at the new life in his arms.

Later that afternoon, at the hotel, they tried to get the infant to nurse from a bottle, with no better results.


Lucas had come into town to drive the women of his family home, when he was called over to the hotel by Johnny Drako.

Lou, very much pregnant, led Lucas upstairs. As he entered, he saw his wife buttoning her blouse as Doc Burrage picked up an infant and then carried the child from the room.

“Milly?” Lucas asked as he walked over and sat next to her.

“Lucas, a train arrived this morning. A young mother was in labor… Lucas she died while giving birth. They tried to get the infant to suckle from a bottle, but it wouldn’t. I know I should have checked with you first, but as a mother, I’d pray that another woman would step up and help out, had the situation been reversed.”

Doc Burrage knocked on the door as he opened it to return to the room.

“Milly, Erzah sent a wire to his sister in Colorado Springs. She had a baby about five months ago. She and her husband are making arrangements and should be here by week end to take care of the baby. Lucas, I know how difficult this must be for you, and Milly too. But the man has stated he would pay for you to stay at the hotel and pay for your kindness, until his sister arrives.”

“Doc,” Lucas stated, seeing the look in Milly’s eyes. “We’ll accept his paying for the room, but the room only. I understand why Milly’s doing this, but you’ll see that Milly nursing two babies won’t be too much of a drain on her body?”

“Lucas, we’ve already talked of this. Milly is close to weaning Myra, in a few months, so she’ll start weaning Myra to a bottle and some solid, mushy food a little early. Myra’s ready and this will reduce the burden on Milly.”

Lucas returned Hope to the ranch and to pack an overnight bag for Milly and himself. At first, Myra was fussy and not wanting to suckle from a bottle, but after a little bit of coaxing, she was happily slurping. Lucas took pleasure in feeding his youngest child.

Doc Burrage had recommended that, in the mornings, Milly nurse both children, but then throughout the day, Myra should eat from a bottle. During the night, the baby Michael and Myra slept in the room with Lucas and Milly. Lucas would wake with Milly to tend to Myra, while Milly tended to Michael. During the day, Ezrah watched after his newest son. His oldest son, Matthew, spent the day being watched after by Hope as she watched after Myra and some of the other young children of North Fork. Throughout the day, during recesses and lunch, Milly would meet Ezrah at the hotel and take baby Michael upstairs to a room to nurse.

As Lucas held and bottle fed Myra, his memories would return to the first month of Mark’s life, when Margaret had been too ill to care for the two of them. He remembered the worry and his fears for his young wife, but he was amazed at the tiny life that he had held in his arms. He remembered, caring for the new life that they had created, their son. Now, he marveled at the new life that he and Milly had created, their daughter.


The Saturday afternoon train arrived. Ezrah Masters met the train and led his sister, her husband, and their child to the hotel. They were invited to join the McCain’s for supper at the hotel and then attend church services the following morning, before the family caught the train back to Colorado Springs.

As they stood on the train platform Sunday afternoon, Ezrah told Milly, “Mrs. McCain, I can never thank you enough in your generosity for what you’ve done. And to you Mr. McCain, for your understanding and compassion to a total stranger, I don’t know what to say. I’m truly humbled.” He turned, carrying his youngest son and held the hand of his oldest son as they boarded the train.

The Next Step — The New Year

This is a story based on the TV series The Rifleman
Here are some other great stories. Enjoy!

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