The Rifleman
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The Next Step...
Chapter 106 - Kiowa Reacquainted
Written by Deanne Bertram

Upon hearing that they would be meeting real, live Indians, the boys begged and pleaded to be able to ride their ponies to the settlement.

“But we have church, tomorrow is Sunday!” stated Hope. “You’ll be in your Sunday clothes.”

“We can pack other clothes to change into. Mama, them Indians need to know that we can ride!” Zach stated.

“Please, we all have to ride our horses, you too Mama,” Josh pleaded.

“What of Eli and your sisters?” asked Mark.

“Can’t they ride with Grandma and Grandpa?” Zach asked.

“I ride with Papa!” Eli declared.

After discussing the situation with Lucas and Milly, and having Myra and Little Ted overhear the others would be riding their horses, they too pleaded to ride their horses. Milly stated she would drive the buckboard with Mykaela and Faith, as well as the carpetbags with their change of clothes.


After church, the McCain’s stopped by Seth and Lilah’s in order to change their clothes before proceeding to the settlement.

“You come with us, Grandpa?” Eli asked as Seth handed him up to Mark.

“I’ll stop by the settlement after the performance. Someone has to keep an eye on the town while you and your papa are having fun.”

Seth wasn’t quite sure he wanted to meet Iron Heart and the others. He had invited them to Hope’s wedding, but after he learned of why Hope had tried to kill herself a few years prior, he wasn’t sure he wanted to know more of her life with the Kiowa.


Buffalo Bill Cody, his show manager Johnny Baker, and Chief Iron Heart waited at the entrance to the settlement, “Welcome! Welcome one and all!” Buffalo Bill declared as the McCain families arrived.

The children were wide-eyed in amazement as they stepped down from their horses, or were helped down from the buckboard. Mark introduced his parents and had to hide his laughter as the children huddled together to be introduced to the three men who greeted them.

“Pleasure to meet each and every one of you. I wish that I could show you around, but Johnny and I need to get ready for this afternoon’s performance. If you’ll excuse us?”

Cody tipped his hat and walked away.


Several braves ran to the group when Iron Heart motioned for them, which caused the children to step back and seek protection from their parents.

“The children of McCain have nothing to fear, you are welcome as honored guests into our camp,” Iron Heart stated as he knelt down and waited.

“You’re not gonna scalp us?” Little Ted dared ask as he looked from behind Lucas.

“No, you have my word as chief of the Kiowa that you will not be harmed.”

“What about the others?” asked Myra as she stood next to Milly and pointed to the others.

“They too will give you their word. Anyone you meet from our tribe will be your friend.”

“You mean it? We can meet everyone?” Josh asked as he stepped closer to Iron Heart.

“Yes, we will be honored to show you our camp and teach you of our way of life.” Pointing to his son, “This is Grey Heart, he will show you where to take your ponies.”

As the children followed Grey Heart, the elder McCain’s smiled as they heard the barrage of questions asked and the patience Grey Heart showed in answering the questions.

“Iron Talon will see to your team. Come, I show you where you can put your horses, then I’ll show you to our teepee.”

As they walked along, Iron Heart commented, “May I commend you upon your own horses. They are… the word escapes me…”

“Beautiful?” offered Hope.

“They are that, but the word I was thinking… mag… mag…”

“Magnificent,” offered Milly.

“That is the word. Have you thought of breeding them?”

“They kind of took care of that themselves, earlier this Spring,” Mark replied.

“Should be a strong foal.”


Running Fox opened the gates to several corrals where Blade, Rainmaker, Two-Bits, and the team could be turned loose.

“If you don’t mind, Iron Heart, I’d prefer to keep Rainmaker saddled; as a U.S. Marshal, I really need to be ready to ride at all times.”

“You are no longer a deputy, but a U.S. Marshal? I am sorry I did not see the change,” spoke Iron Heart.

Iron Talon excused himself from the group as Iron Heart led the way to the center of the settlement and to his teepee.

Silver Moon excitedly asked, “Are these your children?” when she saw Mark carrying a young child on his hip and Hope holding the hand of another.

“These are our daughters, Mykaela and Faith,” answered Hope.

Silver Moon could not keep the disappointment from her voice when she asked, “The Great One has not blessed you with a son?”

“Oh, he has,” replied Hope. “Grey Heart is helping them take care of their ponies and showing them and Mark’s younger brothers and sister around.”

“They, the Great One blessed you with two sons?” asked Silver Moon with a smile spreading across her face.

“He has blessed us with three strong sons. Silver Moon, these are Mark’s parents.”

“I remember from your wedding,” Silver Moon stated as she graciously greeted Lucas, Milly, and Mark. “You have met Grey Heart, this is his wife, Moon Shadow. Iron Talon took Crying Dove to his teepee, and running fox took White Morning.”

“You said yesterday, you were blessed with many grandchildren,” stated Hope.

“You will meet them later, they are with Grey Heart and Iron Talon,” answered Silver Moon. “Please be seated. We have prepared a meal for you.” As the others took their seats, she continued. “We are pleased you returned with your whole family. I have longed to know if you are truly happy and I know you are; I can see the love of your family.”

The group had finished their lunch when they heard the unmistakable sounds of children, running and yelling, coming their way. The McCain’s quickly rose to their feet to make sure their children were not the cause of any trouble.

“Papa, you’ll never guess what!” Little Ted called, out of breath, as he abruptly halted causing Levi to run into him and fall.

Josh and Zach were quick to help Levi to his feet; they too were excitedly calling out.

“Easy there!” Mark called as he tried to restore order to the mob of McCain children and children from the camp.

Iron Heart yelled even louder as he too attempted to restore order; silence quickly surrounded the group.

Silver Moon stood with her hands clasped together when she saw the children; curious as to which ones were Hope’s.

With hands on his hips, Mark declared, “And I thought we had raised proper children, not a mob of banshees.”

“But Papa,” Josh dared speak.

“First, you will thank Chief Iron Heart and Silver Moon for allowing you to visit their camp.”

Introductions of all the children were made and appropriate respect was given by white and Indian child alike.

“Now, what was so important?” asked Lucas.

“It’s Sunday!” Little Ted declared as if that would answer his father’s question.

“I know it is, just what does today being Sunday have to do with the lot of you creating such a ruckus?”

“Just say yes, Grandpa,” Josh chimed in.

“And just what is your Grandpa saying yes to?” Mark seriously asked, upon folding his arms and casting a disapproving look to his eldest.

“Mr. Grey Heart and Soaring Hawk said we could ride during the performance today. They say on Sundays the children are part of the performance. Please? We can only ride if you say we can,” Little Ted rapidly spoke.


The Silver Moon suggested to Iron Heart and Grey Heart that they take Lucas, Mark, and the children, to discuss the arrangements. Hope stared at Silver Moon upon hearing the name Soaring Hawk.

“He lived?” asked Hope when Silver Moon looked to her.

“Yes, he lives.”

Milly walked to stand next to Hope and placed a hand upon her shoulder, Milly remembered when Hope had told her about Soaring Hawk. Upon seeing Mykaela and Faith starting to yawn, Silver Moon suggested, “Why not put them down for their naps inside, they will be safe.”

Silver Moon opened the flap and helped Hope put her daughters down for their nap.

Upon exiting the teepee, Hope stood to see a young Indian boy wearing leather breeches and a leather vest with many beads adorning it, standing by the campfire, watching. As with most young Indians, he was lean and muscular, little fat appeared on his young body.

“Soaring Hawk, come here,” called Silver Moon, using the Kiowa language, as she motioned with her hand for the boy to approach.

“Yes, Silver Moon,” the boy answered, in Kiowa.

“Do you know who this is?” asked Silver Moon.

“If she is who Grey Heart said, she is Dawn Fire, the one who kept me alive after my parents died.”

“Since you know who she is, we will speak using the white man’s language.”

“I am pleased to meet you,” Soaring Hawk stated, bowing his head slightly forward.

“I’m pleased to see you… so grown up,” offered Hope as she smiled at the boy.

“I thank you for milking the goats and giving me the gift of my life,” Soaring Hawk spoke.

Hope nodded as she remembered the sad events that prompted her to take care of the baby, who now stood before her as a young boy.

“It was nice to meet you, but…”

“But what?” Hope asked.

“If I have paid my proper respects, may I go play with the others?”

Silver Moon nodded and playfully pushed Soaking Hawk away. “Go.” Upon turning to Hope, “Do not think poorly of him.”

“He is precious, as any child his age. He’d be ten now?”

Silver Moon nodded.


Time passed quickly and soon it was time for the afternoon performance, a special performance including the children from the camp and the young McCain’s. Mark and Lucas kept to the fringe of the arena, having planned to help keep an eye on their children, not that they expected them to cause trouble, but they didn’t know how they or their ponies would react. Rainmaker and Blade displayed they were upset at not being able to join the others; both fidgeted and would not stand still, several times Mark had to calm Rainmaker as he reared. Regardless of the antics of their own horses, fatherly pride swelled in the hearts of both McCain men as they watched their children perform with the others.


The McCain’s rode behind their children, watching them interact with their new friends and laughing as they made their way back to the settlement following the performance. Mark was quick to hear, “We’ve been robbed!” when he turned Rainmaker and headed toward the man who yelled. Mark’s vision followed in the direction the man pointed; at least three riders were racing away from the ticket booth. Mark didn’t hesitate to give chase; Lucas hesitated long enough to hear Iron Heart say, “Go, we take care of them.”

The crowd thought the robbery was all part of the show; they applauded and cheered the riders on, outlaws and lawmen alike. Mark and Lucas carefully guided their horses through the crowd so as not to run anyone over.

Father and son made their way to open ground and gave chase, encouraging their horses into a gallop. They were soon joined by Seth Lane and Johnny Drako, who had been riding to the show grounds, and upon seeing Mark and Lucas racing their horses, urged their own horses to catch up.


The only comfort the posse had as they gave chase to the three robbers was that they were out of range when their quarry turned in their saddles and fired upon them. But the outlaws failed to recognize that each time they fired, they were slightly giving up ground to their pursuers. Even when the posse lost sight of the outlaws over a rise or around a rock outcropping, there was a cloud of dust to show them the way.

As the chase wore on, Seth and Johnny felt their horses faltering, regardless how much they encouraged their horses, they were unable to keep pace with Lucas’ or Mark’s horses; the two slowed their pace, hoping to give their horses a brief respite. At the same time, the horses the outlaws were riding were also faltering; the men whipped and spurred their horses without mercy. They had managed to make it to a rocky butte, where they jumped from their horses, abandoning the moneybags, and ran. They began their ascent, recklessly picking their route, losing their footing, sliding down a ways, only to try again.

Lucas and Mark reached the outlaws’ abandoned horses and silently surveyed the location, and without a word, made their way to an adjacent rock outcropping. Mark chose to stay at ground level, behind a cottonwood tree, offering protection to Lucas who carefully made his way up the hill. Lucas heard Mark’s rifle fire and ricochet numerous times in response to the outlaws’ gunfire. Several times the outlaws fired bullets in both their directions, but none came close to striking their intended targets. Lucas heard a rifle shot from below followed closely by a human cry as a bullet from Mark’s rifle struck true. Lucas paused and cast his gaze to see the man’s fall turn into a rockslide gathering other loosened other rocks, causing a cascading effect down the face of the butte. The man’s body came to a rest at the foot of the hill, covered over by an avalanche of rocks and dirt.

Lucas finally reached a location that offered him excellent coverage and an advantage over the robbers. Lucas carefully aimed his rifle, and smiled when he heard his own ricochet and a man yelp as rock chips struck one of the outlaws. Without needing to be told, he was going to do his best to bring the remaining men in alive.

Johnny and Seth arrived to add support from the ground, allowing Mark to make his way up the rock face from a different direction than what Lucas took. Mark prayed the others would keep the outlaws distracted enough to prevent them from seeing him as he worked to gain an advantage of his own. Seth kept an eye on his son-in-law and fired anytime he saw Mark start to slide, driving the outlaws back from the edge; giving Mark the time to regain his footing, without the outlaws being wise to his planned counter-attack.

Mark finally had the high ground; he stood, allowing the sun to cast his shadow across their quarry. They men tried to shield the sun from their eyes as they looked up. Lucas’ fired one last shot, striking between the two men.

“We give up!” one of the men yelled as he threw his handgun over the rocks.

“Nos damos por vencidos! ¡No disparen!” the other yelled, dropping his gun. “No me mates!”

Lucas kept his rifle trained on the two as Mark pointed for them to make their way down. Mark waited until the two had reached the ground, slipping and falling one into the other, causing more rocks to start an avalanche, before he started his way down. But first, he picked up the Mexican’s handgun, emptied the bullets, and slipped the gun into his belt.

While Johnny and Seth took care of the surviving outlaws and Lucas made his way to the ground, Mark emptied his rifle and set it aside in order to dig the other outlaw out from under the debris. By the time Lucas reached Mark, he had exposed enough of the man’s upper torso to see that he too was Mexican. Mark sat up after listening for a heartbeat and shook his head in answer when Lucas placed his hand to Mark’s shoulder.

“I’ll get his horse and some rope to tie him over the saddle.”

Once Lucas returned with the man’s horse, he helped his son finish digging the man out.

“He wasn’t there when I pulled the trigger. I didn’t intend to kill him,” commented Mark as they pulled the man free.

“No one will hold his death against you Mark. You’ve the badge on your side,” Drako stated as he approached the McCain’s, “Commendable that you’re able to bring the other two in alive.”

“It took all of us to do that,” answered Mark.


Mark felt three sets of concerned eyes upon him as he climbed into the saddle, he knew why they were looking at him, and he took comfort in their unvoiced concerns.

“Do you two think you can keep up with us?” teased Mark, trying to turn their attention from him. “Or should Pa and I leave a trail for you to follow?”

“Keep up? We laid back to make sure they didn’t have any other associates waiting to spring a trap on you two,” declared Johnny Drako as he pushed his hat back on his head, leaned forward in his saddle and rested his arm on the saddle horn. “Can you believe him? A U.S. Marshal and he races in without thinking about a trap.”

“I thought you trained him better than that,” Seth joined in the teasing.

“I did,” Drako seriously answered, looking squarely at Mark.

“So you did. But it’s not like we didn’t know the two of you were back there,” Mark replied. “Okay, touche’. Let’s get them back to town.”

“What about the money?” Lucas asked.

“I already grabbed it from this one’s saddlebag,” commented Mark, extending his rifle to reach for the reins to the dead man’s horse, before turning for North Fork.


Lucas led the group as they entered North Fork, dusk was settling, casting long shadows across the main street. Storekeepers had long closed up for the day, if they had even been open on a Sunday, while Sweeney was lighting the lanterns that hung on either side of the swinging doors to his saloon. The two surviving outlaws, with their hands tied to the saddle horns, rode between Johnny and Seth as they broke off to head to the Marshal’s Office.

Mark started to lead the horse with the dead outlaw to the undertaker’s, “Pa, go on to Iron Heart’s, let Milly and Hope know we’re back safely,” said Mark.

“I think I’ll wait for you to finish. You still have the money and I’m sure Cody will be anxious to get it back.”

Without saying any more, Lucas waited; he knew how Mark had to be feeling…after taking a life. He wanted to be there for his son.


Stepping down from their horses in front of the show office, they met Johnny Baker and Bill Cody, “Here’s everything they stole,” Mark called out as he handed over two moneybags.

“Little did I know when I offered to host you and your families this afternoon, that I would also be indebted to you for saving our box office,” Buffalo Bill stated. “Johnny, see that this gets placed in the safe.”

“Yes, sir, Mr. Cody.”

“So did you take them alive or did ya kill ‘em?” asked Cody.

“Two are at the Marshal’s Office and one is at the undertaker’s,” Lucas answered, a little upset at Cody’s carefree attitude about killing.

Buffalo Bill continued to offer his thanks when Johnny Drako and Seth Lane joined them, it was then that a look of recognition came to Cody’s face. “Forgive me, but I do declare, I have finally put everything together… Mark McCain, The Lawman…Lucas McCain, The Rifleman…Johnny Drako…The Gunslinger. Well, if this don’t beat all!” Cody slapped his gloves against his thigh. “And you, Seth Lane, you carry yourself as one who has served in the Army.”

“Yes, for over twenty years I served in the U.S. Cavalry, I resigned my commission as a Major a few years back,” answered Seth.

Cody removed his hat and scratched at his head. “I tell you what; I want to offer all four of you a place in my show. I’ll bill you as The Four Guns of North Fork.” Cody raised his hands over his head, at first together, but he spread them apart as if to emphasize the title of the banner he had in mind.

“I have a job, I’m a U.S. Marshal,” Mark replied.

“No thank you, we all have families,” Johnny replied.

“Cody, none of us use our guns for money, we defend our town and those who visit us,” replied Lucas.

“Personally, I spent too many nights out on patrol and I’ve come to enjoy sleeping in a good, solid bed, and knowing where that bed will be, at all times,” Seth seriously jested.

“It would sure be some shootout.” Bill twisted his mustache as if not hearing their objections.

“Shootout?” asked Mark, but unsure if Cody heard him.

Cody yelled out, “Annie! Frank! Over here!”

After introducing Annie Oakley and Frank Butler, Cody insisted in leading the group to a long bench table and invited everyone to have a seat. Many in the crowd strolling by were awed in seeing who all sat around the table, talking as if they were old friends, but behind the veil of their civilized talks, Cody was trying his damnedest to see that his show had a new attraction to draws crowds like none before. Those from North Fork were trying their best to explain to Cody the reason for their objections.

“Listen Cody,” Drako stated, narrowing his steely eyes. “We have a nice quiet town, a town I happen to like just the way she is. You put banners out like that and you’ll only be giving outlaws an excuse to come and disturb what we’ve worked hard to create. A safe town, a peaceful town…”

“Bill, it is an interesting proposition, but we’re all in agreement, we must decline. If you’ll excuse us, we best be getting to our families, they’re probably worried about us,” Lucas eventually stated as he reached for his hat.

“At least your family saw you ride out,” Seth stated. “Lilah is probably worried sick about me. I told her I’d be home long before now to bring her to the camp.”

“Mr. Cody, thank you for your hospitality,” Mark offered.

Buffalo Bill thought quickly, he needed a little more time. “Then I insist all of you shall receive complimentary tickets for your families to next Saturday’s performance. It’s the least I can do.”

Cody called out to Johnny Baker and instructed him to bring enough tickets to allow all the family members to come to the show.


Bill Cody’s Four Guns of North Fork walked to the front of the sideshow area, when Mark asked, “Were you able to find out who they were?”

“All three have wanted posters out of Texas. I wired the Rangers to let them know we had two of them in custody. Amos said he’d leave any response under the door to the office.

As the four continued to talk, a young boy ran up to them, “Excuse, please. I, Soaring Hawk. Iron Heart sent me, bring to his fire.”

“Son, please thank your chief, but I had best get home to my wife,” stated Seth.

Johnny Drako also begged his apologies that he needed to get back to his family.

“Sirs, families with Iron Heart and Silver Moon. Mr. Cody send riders, they are with McCain’s.”

The group followed Soaring Hawk, “I tell you, young ones have much fun today.”

Their wives patiently, if not nervously, waited for their arrival, but were unable to restrain themselves when they saw them; each ran to their respective husband and welcomed him back.

“Iron Horse, thank you for watching over our families,” Lucas stated as he walked to the chief and extended his hand, the one not wrapped around Milly’s waist.

“It was the proper thing to do.”

Mark quietly asked of Hope, only seeing Faith in his wife’s arms, “Where are the other children?”

“Inside,” Hope pointed to the teepee; she stopped Mark from leaving her side.

Milly, Hope, Lou, and Lilah insisted that their husbands come to sit beside them. As if upon cue, the elders took beating the drums around the fire. Women from the village brought plates of food to give to them. In the language of the Kiowa, the tribe members began their song. Soon the flap to the teepee opened and an Indian woman led the McCain and the two oldest Drako children out, the flames from the campfire illuminated the excitement on their faces as they joined other children from the camp.

With Faith sitting in his lap, Mark looked around to see Johnny and Lou, each holding one of the twins in their laps. Mark clapped his daughter’s hands in rhythm to the drums, she squealed in laughter while everyone watched the children dance.

Buffalo Bill Cody soon joined the group around the fire and smiled as he realized the significance of the dance – a dance of brotherhood.

At the end of the dance, several Indian women led the children back to the teepees from which they came. With lateness of the night, the youngest ones were put to bed, but still the evening and entertainment progressed outside the teepee. Try as each one might, with all the excitement and activity of the day, they couldn’t keep the Sandman from seeing them to peaceful dreams.


By the end of the evening, Lucas stated, “Thank you for a wonderful evening,” as they prepared to get the other children to take them home.

“Please, leave the little ones here; they’ve had such a wonderful day and made many new friends. We will watch over them as if they were our own,” Silver Moon asked.

“We can’t ask that of you,” Hope replied.

“It was not asked, it was offered. It fills my heart to share the laughter of so many children, including your children. Please… Let us say proper goodbyes in the morning.”

All agreed that the older children would spend the night in the camp of the Kiowa and the Drako’s and McCain’s would return by eight o’clock the following morning.


Night had settled when Cody entered the trailer housing the show office and spoke with Johnny Baker.

“You want what?!” Baker asked, unbelieving what he’d heard.

“You heard me, I want you to have Pony ride to the surrounding towns and put an announcement in all the local papers regarding a special performance by the Four Guns of North Fork.”

“But they said no. Oh, I get it. The tickets were an excuse to make sure they come back. I take it you’re gonna keep this a secret from them?”

“They turned me down once; they can’t do it in front of a large crowd. I want people from miles around to know this is happening. I’ll get my show! Annie and Frank are good draws; however, I’m sure that there are many people in this territory who would change their minds to travel here, if only to find who’s the better shot. There’ll never be another showdown like it.” Bill stretched his legs out on top of his desk, while he leaned back in his chair, interlacing his fingers behind his head. “Ain’t ever gonna be another show like this one.”

“And if they don’t agree?”

“They will. The crowd will see to it that they will.” Cody’s eye held a gleam of someone who knew how to get what he wanted.


The families returned to the Kiowa camp Monday morning to collect their children. After bidding goodbye to Johnny and Lou Drako and Lucas and Milly McCain, Silver Moon asked, “Do you have to go? It has been long and I enjoyed your children yesterday, please, won’t you stay. Mr. Cody said we are to stay here and rest before traveling. I would like to spend more time with you and the little ones have had such fun with their new friends.”

Hope’s eyes asked, even though she knew her husband would say yes.

“You make sure you mind your manners,” Mark replied upon pointing to his children.

“Can we really stay and play with the others?” Zach asked.

“Yes, but I’m still the marshal and if I hear you’ve done anything wrong…” warned Mark.

“We’ll behave!”

The boys ran off to play while Moon Shadow took Mykaela and Faith to be with her youngest, allowing Silver Moon and Hope to talk.


“Silver Moon, would you like to go into town. I have other friends who I would love for you to meet; people who welcomed me shortly after I started living here.”

Riding astride their horses, the two women rode into North Fork. Their first stop was at the Day Care where Hope introduced Silver Moon to Hattie and explained how at first she had lived with Milly, until Milly married Mark’s father. Then she lived with Hattie who treated her as her grandchild, until it was time for her to wed Mark.

“She still treats me as her grandchild, as she does Mark, too.”

Next Hope introduced Gwen to Silver Moon and explained how Gwen had come to live with them, before marrying her husband.

“When is your little one due?” Silver Moon asked.

Rubbing her hands over her pregnant stomach, Gwen stated with a smile, “Sometime in November.”

The four women spent time talking while they watched a few of the children play, until Micah walked through the door.

“Micah, I want you to meet Silver Moon,” Hope announced.

The two graciously greeted each other.

“Thought I’d invite my wife to lunch, would you care to join us?” offered Micah.

“Thank you but we need to get back to the village; I wanted Silver Moon to meet the rest of my family and a few others.”

Micah tipped his hat as he offered his arm to Hattie.

“Gwen are you okay to stay here?” asked Hope.

“Sure, there’s only the three today. It’s an easy day. Hattie said she’d watch them this afternoon, giving me time to go to Lilah’s to be fitted for new clothes while I’m carrying this little one. Jake will come for me after he’s done out at Lucas and Milly’s.”

The women said goodbye.


Stepping to the boardwalk, Hope called out, “Mrs. Donner?”

The woman turned and made her way to where Hope and Silver Moon stood.

“Madelyn, I’d like for you to meet Silver Moon, she raised me as her daughter, after Iron Heart found me.”

Hope smelled the man approaching and moved out of the way before he could bump into her. She couldn’t make out what he was saying as mumbled under his drunken breath.

“Silver Moon, this is Madelyn Donner, she runs the general store and between her and Lou, they helped me choose my clothes once I came live in town. She has been a good friend.”

Next, Hope introduced Silver Moon to Stevan Griswald, informing her that he was her first teacher; Mark had only been a student teacher while working with her those first few months.


That evening, Sweeney nervously ran into the Marshal’s Office, “Johnny, he’s at it again.”

“Trumble?” Drako asked.

“Who else?”

“Uh Mark, I think Johnny can handle him,” Sweeney stated.

Mark paused in reaching for his hat and rifle, “What do you mean, it’s always taken at least two to deal with him,” replied Mark.

“It would be for the best… if you didn’t…” was Sweeney’s response.

“He’s coming,” Drako insisted.

“He ain’t being…kind.”

The three entered the saloon to hear Trumble stirring up trouble.

“I tell ya, he’s a squaw man.”

Nils tried to quiet him, “You’re out of line!”

“There’s nothing worse than a white woman raised as a squaw. Ain’t nothing worse than a white man marrying one; and raising bastards.”

The saloon silenced as the others recognized who walked through the door.

“TRUMBLE!” Drako yelled.

Not turning around, Trumble declared, “I’ve paid my tab! If fact, I’ve paid more than what me and my friends have drunk.”

“You’re coming with us!” ordered Drako.

“Us?” Trumble teased as he turned around. “Filthy stinkin’ injun lover. No wonder ya weren’t concerned when they took your squaw.” Trumble pulled himself to his full height and took several steps towards Mark. “And you…you ain’t worth the dirt I walk on.” Trumble spat on the floor in front of Mark.

Mark did his best to keep his temper in check, allowing that Trumble was drunk; his reaction surprised those present because he didn’t tear into the man, but his body posture reflected his turmoil.

“Trumble, I’m not asking, I’m ordering you to shut your mouth and come with us,” Drako again ordered.

“An old washed up, has been gunfighter and a squaw man are what this town has for lawmen.” Trumble bellowed a hollow laugh, and with speed belying his bulk, he charged Johnny and Mark.

The new hostess at the saloon, screamed as she saw Trumble crash into the two lawmen, driving them through the swinging doors and out onto the boardwalk. Johnny had gone for his gun and barely cleared his holster when the weight of Trumble drove the breath from him. Mark had the butt of his rifle in motion, aiming directly for Trumble’s jaw when the impact threw him backwards causing him to struggle to inhale as Trumble landed upon him. Trumble bellowed his anger as he stood to his feet, and prepared to kick Johnny. The other patrons in the saloon jumped from their chairs or left the bar and crowded the doorway and windows to watch the fight, that didn’t materialize when Seth Lane brought the butt of his revolver to the back of Trumble’s head.

“You two okay?” asked Seth upon returning his gun to his holster.

“Yeah, give me a hand up,” asked Johnny, extending his arm.

Once to his feet, Johnny turned to Mark, “How about you? Here,” he said upon extending his arm to Mark after Mark had pushed Trumble from him.

“Ow,” complained Mark, rubbing at his ribs once he was to his feet. “How many times will this make that we’ve had to drag him to jail?”

“Too many to count,” Nils stated as he exited the saloon and offered to help.


The group relaxed upon hearing the cell door clank closed and Johnny turned the key to lock it.

“Nils, will you go wake Micah and ask him to come to the office?” Seth asked.

“Why are you wanting to wake Micah?” Mark asked, after letting out a groan in sitting down at his desk.

“Because I want Doc Burrage to have a look at the two of you, I didn’t like the way I heard both of you huffing and puffing getting him here.” Seth motioned with his head towards the cell where Trumble lay.

“I’ll be fine,” Drako stated.

“No you aren’t, you still look pale. Nils, do as I said.”

“Okay, Seth,” Nils hurried out the door before Johnny or Mark could countermand Seth’s orders.


Johnny heard Lou enter the clinic, asking, “Where is he?”, “In here Lou,” he replied.

Lou entered the room to see a shirtless Johnny sitting on the examination table as Doc Burrage tightly wrapped his ribs in a large bandage.

“He’ll be okay in a week or so. Nothing to get overly worried about, Lou,” Sarah McCafferty volunteered as she handed a pair of scissors to Thadd.

“Was it Trumble?” Lou whispered as she gently placed a kiss to Johnny’s cheek.

“When is it not him?” Johnny replied.

“Why did ye try to take him on by yerself?”

“He didn’t, Mark’s next door,” Thadd replied.

Setting his roll of tape down, Thadd stated, “There, he’s all yours Mrs. Drako.”

“Thank ye, Doc. Can I take him home?”

“It’s still my town to oversee…”

“Not tonight, the doc said yer all mine,” Lou replied, with a gleam in her eye.

“I did say you were all hers,” Thadd laughed. “Take it easy for a few days. Stop back by on Thursday and I’ll take a look at those ribs again.”


“Well Mark, seems you took the brunt of Trumble’s tumble.”

“Don’t make me laugh, Doc. They’re just a few bruised ribs, I’ve had bruised ribs before,” Mark diagnosed.

“It’s a little more serious than a few bruised ribs, Mark. I think with Trumble’s weight, he actually cracked a few of your ribs. They’re not broken, just cracked. Regardless you and Johnny are going to be wrapped up for a week or so. I don’t think it will stop either of you from doing your jobs, but just try to take it easy. I’ll give you a prescription you can have filled at the general store in the morning; it’ll help alleviate some of your pain.”

“My pain is dealing with a drunken Trumble all the time,” Mark expressed his frustration.

“Mark, try to take it easy and next time Trumble gets so drunk, maybe you should wire Ethan and have him bring in the cavalry to deal with him.”

“Thanks for the vote of confidence,” teased Mark.

Placing the tray to the desk, Sarah stated, “Mark, I don’t know why, but ever since he first bumped into you at the Sweetheart’s Dance, he’s not had a liking for you.”

“It’s only going to get worse,” Mark whispered, not realizing he said it loud enough for Thadd to hear.

“Sarah, we’re through here, why don’t you go on home for the night.”

“Good night, Thadd, Mark.”

Sarah left the office.

“Okay, so why are things going to get worse?” Thadd asked.


“Mark, I’m your friend. Let me help you.”

“There’s nothing else. Thanks for bandaging my ribs, Doc.”

Hearing a knock on the door, neither had time to say come in before the door opened to have Seth enter the room.

“Well? How’s my son-in-law?”

“Stubborn. Maybe you’ll tell me what else happened tonight?”

“Just Trumble being drunk and spouting off,” answered Seth.

“Okay, be that way. Listen, I’m your friend as well as your doctor. Most times people confide in me.”

Thadd stood back and crossed his arms, waiting.

“Doc, Trumble was spouting off about Hope and… Well, he said some mighty unpleasant things…that I don’t care to repeat, I’m just worried about people who are new to town and don’t really know Hope.”

“Mark, don’t keep this from her. She has a right to know, so she can be prepared to handle the situation, should it arise, when she comes to town. She should hear it from you, not someone in town who doesn’t know any better. Besides, you have plenty of friends who will be the first to correct anyone who dares repeat anything Trumble says.”

“Doc, again, I’ll heed your words of wisdom,” Mark stated as he pulled on his shirt and began to button it, before tucking his shirttail into his pants.


“Thanks for watching the office,” Mark said to Micah as he escorted him to the boardwalk.

“You sure you’re okay to take over,” Micah asked.

“Yeah, with Trumble in jail, who else is going to cause us trouble? Go home and give Hattie a kiss from me.”


Drako returned to the office Tuesday late morning only to have Wyman Wimbleduff corner him, “I want to press charges!”

“Who punched you in the nose?” Drako asked, seeing blood seep through Wimbleduff’s fingers as he held his hand over his nose.

“You’ll put her in jail, won’t you?” Wimbleduff asked.

“Her? Just who punched you?”

“That new hostess.”

“A woman did this?” Mark asked, unable to keep the laughter from his voice.

“I want to press charges!”

“Okay, let me get you to Doc’s and Mark will go and get her side of the story.”

“There ain’t no story, she punched me!” Wimbleduff proclaimed.


Mark walked into Sweeney’s, surprised by the sight that greeted him; the men were cheering and congratulating someone who stood amid them. Slowly the group parted allowing Mark to see a pretty woman standing at the middle of the bar.

“Well Marshal, I presume you’re here to take me to jail?” the woman asked, holding her arms out as if ready to be handcuffed.

Mark observed that she wasn’t that much taller than Hope, and her dark hair was attractively done up on top of her head. Her tanned complexion contrasted against the light colored blouse she wore, fully buttoned, over a dark full-length skirt. She wore a minimal amount of make-up only enough to accentuate her natural beauty.

“I take it you’re the one who punched Wimbleduff?”

“I don’t think we’ve had the chance to be properly introduced, my name’s Thelma Van deHan.”

“Marshal Mark McCain. Was he ‘forward’ with you?” asked Mark, knowing how some drunks would treat saloon girls.

“No Marshal, he didn’t do anything in appropriate to me,” replied Thelma.


“Mark, she was in the right,” Johnny Gibbs stated. “Had she not been the one to punch him, I sure would have. But I wasn’t close enough.”

“Uncle Johnny… Would someone like to tell me what happened, so I can make my report and decide what charges are to be pressed and against whom?”

No one was forthcoming in offering information as to why, only that each man present had wished they had been the doer of the deed.

“Okay, since no one will tell my why, I presume it has something to do with what happened last night, involving Trumble.”

Mark looked at those present and guilty faces reflected back at him.

“Marshal McCain, I briefly met your wife yesterday when she was introducing Silver Moon, she’s a lovely woman… And she don’t need nobody repeating words that should never have been spoken in the first place. I’m sorry but I just couldn’t stop myself.”

“Mark,” Johnny Gibbs interrupted. “She gave him fair warning to stop talking. Wimbleduff actually had the nerve to swing on her.”

“That’s right Marshal,” was repeated by several others.

Mark saw Sweeney nodding. “Mark, Thelma’s a very nice lady, she hasn’t caused me any trouble since I hired her as a hostess, she ain’t no saloon girl. In fact, she’s kept most of the ranch hands in line when they’re here.”

“Care to tell me how you learned to punch like that?” Mark couldn’t help himself from asking.

“I have four older brothers,” answered Thelma.


“Well?” Drako asked as Mark returned to the office.

“Wimbleduff should be thankful I’m not arresting him. He had the nerve to swing on Thelma first.”

“Who said?” Wimbleduff asked.

“Everyone. Go home and sleep it off.” Mark let him off with a warning, “And next time you decide to spout something you heard, get ALL the facts. Be thankful it wasn’t me who heard you.”

“You didn’t do anything last night,” Wimbleduff replied.

Mark called Wimbleduff’s bluff, he removed his badge and set it on Johnny’s desk, his look told his friend to ‘stay out of this’.

“I’m not wearing the badge now. Care to repeat what you said in front of me?”

Giving the man time to think, Mark stated, “Didn’t think so. Get out of here.”

Mark returned to Johnny’s desk and picked up his badge.

“He repeated Trumble’s words?” Johnny asked.

“You don’t know how hard it was to restrain myself last night.”

“I do. Maybe just a little harder than it was for me to restrain myself.”

“But Hope’s not your wife!”

“No, but she’s the wife of a very good friend of mine, a very good friend to my wife, the daughter-in-law of another good friend, and the daughter to another. And regardless, no one has the right to speak about her in such a manner.”

“What about Trumble?” Mark asked.

“Martha came and got him while you were at Sweeney’s,” Seth replied.

“I bet she wasn’t too pleased with him,” Mark replied sympathetically.

“Embarrassed was more like it. Mark, why don’t you head on home, your shift is about over anyway,” stated Seth.


Mark returned to his home for lunch, knowing Hope planned to ride to the Kiowa camp. Tying Rainmaker to the hitching rail Mark entered his home, excitedly greeted by his children.

“Have all of you had your lunch?” asked Mark.

They nodded.

“Why don’t you go outside and play for a little while. I need to talk to your mama.”

Mark closed the door behind his children, and turned to face his wife.

“What’s wrong?” asked Hope.

“I need to talk with you, without them overhearing.”

Mark unbuttoned his shirt to show Hope his bandaged ribs.

Startled Hope asked, “What happened?” and gently placed her hands to the bandage.

“They’re just bruised and maybe a couple are cracked. We had to deal with Trumble last night.”

“That man! Why can’t you just lock him up and throw away the key?”

“I wish I could, if only to prevent you from being hurt,” answered Mark.

“Me from being hurt? Mark, what are you talking about?”

“Hope, last night Trumble was spouting off over at the saloon. He wasn’t being very kind with his words…”

“I saw him yesterday afternoon when I was introducing Silver Moon to Madelyn Donner. If I hadn’t smelled him coming, I believe he would have deliberately bumped into me.”

“Hope, there were others in the saloon who overheard what he said and how he said it.”


“Wyman Wimbleduff started spouting off in the saloon today, repeating a lot that Trumble said. Hope, there are a lot people who call North Fork their home, that weren’t here when you first arrived; they don’t know your whole story. I just want to protect you.”

Mark pulled Hope to his lap.

“I don’t want to see you getting hurt,” Mark whispered.

“Mark, you don’t know my whole story either. But, if they can’t understand and accept my past, then they’re no friends of ours,” Hope stated.

“But they are our neighbors. We all call North Fork home.”

“They’ll have to be the ones to change. I can’t change the past, but these people have known me since they arrived and I’m the same person I was before the show arrived. And if someone spouts off in front of me, I’ll give you fair warning…” Hope pointed her index finger to Mark.

“Please don’t try to take any scalps,” teased Mark.

“I can promise I won’t take any scalps, but some just might find themselves on the other end of a knuckle sandwich.”

Hope balled her fist to prove her point.

“Well, Thelma Van deHan gave Wimbleduff a knuckle sandwich on your behalf today. He was at the saloon and a number of men from town witnessed it and most wished they had been the one to defend your honor. Including Uncle Johnny.”

“What are you going to do about Trumble?”

“There’s not much we can do except keep throwing him in jail for drunk and disorderly or disturbing the peace.”

Hope stood from Mark’s lap and walked to the front door to watch their children playing together with Lucas and Milly’s children.

“By the way, since you are off tomorrow, Silver Moon and Iron Heart have invited the whole family back to their camp. Mark, visiting with them, is wonderful and I’ll admit Silver Moon and Iron Heart have opened my eyes about why they chose to work with Mr. Cody. I didn’t realize how much I missed them. I hope you don’t mind?”

“I don’t mind. This is important to you, so it’s important to me.”

“I also invited Ma and Pa, as well as Father and Lilah to join us tomorrow, I think it’s time everyone heard from Iron Heart and Silver Moon, the whole story of my living with them.”

Mark walked over to Hope, stood behind her, wrapped his arms around her waist, and sighed, “I love you. I’ll help you get Two-Bits saddled so you can ride to their camp.”


Seth and Lilah cautiously met the McCain’s outside of the encampment Wednesday morning, Seth wasn’t sure he was ready to hear the details of his daughter’s life, during the years he had thought she was killed along with her Aunt Susan’s family.

The McCain children ran to play with the children of the camp, but Hope kept Faith with her.

Iron Heart told of taking Grey Heart and Iron Talon hunting, when they came upon a small figure lying next to a watering hole, dress torn and dirty. He told how he stepped from his horse and walked to the child, knelt and lifted the girl into his arms. Placing his hand to her chest and feeling it rise he said, “She lives.”

“The child started to wake, her eyes held fear as she clutched the doll she carried. I tried to talk to her, but neither understood the other’s language. I knew there was a family homestead at a distance, so I carried the child and set her to my horse. Together we rode until that night. The smoke was bitter and smelled of death.

“We looked for others, who might live, but regrettably, the entire family was dead; no animal was left alive.”

Moon Shadow joined the group and offered to take Faith and set her to play with the other toddlers of the camp.

“Whoever killed the family, wanted others to think Indians had killed, but I knew different. The ponies were shod and the arrows were not of the Kiowa. Anyone who knows the tribes knows the patterns and materials each tribe uses to make their arrows.

“We were many days ride from the nearest white man and who of them would believe us. We buried the dead and left.”

“I didn’t know you buried Susan and her family, it wasn’t written in any of the reports,” stated Seth.

“Why would the white man write of our compassion?” Iron Heart asked as he paused, giving the others time to reflect.

Iron Talon spoke, “My father and brother and I rode with the child, offering her water and to share our meals as we returned to camp. The first morning we rode, we feared she was scared of us when she ran. I followed and watched her jump into a... the water. She splashed and dove under the water again. Coming up for breath, she rubbed at her hair. Next time she rise for breath, she rubbed the dirt from her dress. She walked to the bank and twisted the water out before removing her dress. The sun was just cresting a hill when it struck her hair, and made it appear on fire.”

“That’s how you gave Hope her name?” asked Seth.

“Yes, Dawn Fire,” Iron Heart stated and continued, “She hung her dress over a low branch of a tree and came to sit across from us wearing just her...”

“Petticoat,” offered Hope.

“Yes, petticoat. When the dress was dry, she put it back on and waited. We broke camp and travel back to the settlement.”

Silver Moon picked up the story, “I did not see the little one who rode behind my husband, at first all I saw were the rabbits and deer they hunted. When I stood next to Iron Heart, I saw the two tiny fists balled around his waist. I reached up to help the child down. I feared what was to come because the child was white.”

Iron Heart continued the story, “We told the Man of God, who visited our camp several weeks later, of finding the child. He talked with her and said the child would be better with us. He continued to visit with us once a month to check on the child for many years.”

“Did the priest ever say why he felt the child would be better off with you than her own kind?” Seth asked.

“No, we never knew…” Iron Heart answered.

“Father, it was because of what I saw?” answered Hope.

“What you saw?” asked Lilah.

“I saw the men who came,” whispered Hope.

“You what?” startled Seth.

“Seth, remember when you and Ethan were first reunited with Hope in Alamagordo, she told us then that it wasn’t Indians,” Mark answered. “She said brown and white men. The Priest must have known something.”

“Hope, remember, what did you talk about with the priest…” pleaded Seth.

“I told him of the men who came to Aunt Susan’s and how Aunt Susan had Henry take me to the cellar and lead me out the tunnel; he shut the door behind me, I couldn’t get back inside. I watched them, I heard them…”

Hope shivered as the memories returned; she panicked and looked around, the memories were that vivid; her breath shallowed, in expectation of those men finding her.

Mark sat next to Hope and pulled her close, “You’re safe, you’re with family.”

Hope couldn’t stop the tears or the sobs that came in spasms; she clung to Mark as if her life depended upon him. Mark had never felt Hope tremble so violently or react in such a fashion the whole time she had been a part of his life. The others of their family felt concerned and gathered around Hope and Mark, pleading with her that she was safe.

Hope kept pleading, “Please don’t let them find me. Please, don’t let them find me.”

Silver Moon returned with an older man, his face lined with age, his hair white tied down the middle of his back, his posture stooped over. Iron Heart took the furs the old man removed from around his body, to show he was even frailer than he first appeared.

Lucas pulled Seth aside, while Milly moved Lilah away.

“What’s wrong with her?” demanded Seth.

“Seth, we’ve talked a little bit about Hope’s past, but never to this degree. These are memories she’s kept hidden for a long time,” Lucas answered. “She’s talked of her life with the Kiowa, but never of what happened that day.”

“What’s he giving to her?” demanded Seth as he watched the old man pull out a pouch and mix whatever was inside into a gourd containing water.

The old man spoke, and Silver Moon translated, “Mark, he said to make her drink it all. It will make the gasping stop.”

“What’s wrong with her?!” an alarmed Seth asked.

“Seth, please,” Lilah stated as she placed her hands into her husband’s.

Mark held the gourd to Hope’s lips while Silver Moon held her hands, to prevent her from trying to push it away.

“Please Hope, drink this,” pleaded Mark.

They saw Hope struggle to bury her memories and to do as she Mark asked, but her emotions were too much for her; tears poured down her face.

“Hope, listen to me,” stated Mark. “You’re safe; you’re with people who love you. Please, drink this…”

As sobs continued to wrack her body, Hope tried to do as asked; trying not to choke as she drank all that was in the gourd.

“That’s it. Try to breathe slower, try to relax. Please…” begged Mark.

Upon Silver Moon releasing her hands, Hope immediately clutched Mark’s shirt, and nestled her head to his shoulder. Tears still fell from her closed eye, but the sobs were lessening, Mark felt her relax against him, her breath calming.

Silver Moon quietly spoke to the old man and said to the group, “She will sleep for some time. Mark, if you will carry her inside, it will be easier upon her when she wakes.”

Carrying his wife, Mark followed Silver Moon into their teepee and placed her on a pallet of furs; and watched as Silver Moon placed another fur over top of her. ”You will stay with her. She will need you when she wakes.”


After taking the old man back to his teepee, Silver Moon returned, “The medicine given will not make her forget, only to sleep. Sleep is the best thing for her. I have more, should it be needed.”

“We are sorry to bring such memories back to her,” Iron Heart spoke as he wife sat next to him, tears on her own face. “She never told us…only the Man of God knew.”

“I guess it had to be done. She wanted us to know more of her life with you… I wonder…” stated Seth. “If the priest knew you had a white child and if he also knew about the massacre, could he have known who did it and left her with you to protect her from those responsible?”

“Seth, that is a possibility,” replied Lucas. “He must have felt it was safer to leave Hope to live her life with the Kiowa versus taking her back to a town and have those men find out there was a survivor. If they could murder a whole family in cold-blood, what would have kept them from trying to kill one small child?”

Silver Moon wanted Seth to understand how much she cared for the girl, “I took her into our home as if I had carried her and gave birth to her. That first night, I held her to my breast and allowed her to cry. I put her to bed and slept under the furs with her, she needed to know she was not alone. To me, Dawn Fire was the daughter I never had. A chief expects to raise sons, but the mother always longs for a daughter. She was an answered to my prayer. I grieved with her for her loss, I would hear her cry at night, but when the sun chased the moon from the sky, she never cried. In time, she no longer cried at night.”

“But if I had known she was so stubborn,” Iron Heart stated as he laughed at a long forgotten memory.

“Stubborn?” Seth asked.

“She insisted in learning as the braves, she said that if she was to live with us, she must know all there is to know. She spent the sunrises with the women learning how to be an Indian, and our words. As the sun moved to slumber, she spent time with me, learning of animals, and the ways of our people.”

“She was very eager to learn when she was in school,” Milly interrupted. “Her teacher and I would talk many times about her eagerness to learn. That’s probably why she caught up so quickly with her studies.”

“And here I always thought it was because of my son being an excellent student teacher,” Lucas stated lightening the mood.

Silver Moon continued, “She never complained about helping with the younger children or the elders. When work needed done, she was there to help. I remember when I was teaching her to weave baskets, she would try so hard to keep up with the older girls when it came to harvesting the reeds from the ponds; she would bloody her hands, but she never complained, until I told her she could no longer help, not until she was healed. In time, I believed she forget her time before…”

“Silver Moon, there was an incident several years back, where she told me about Running Wolf, Spotted Doe, and Soaring Hawk,” Milly stated.

“Yes, I know of what you speak. Dawn Fire grew into a beautiful young woman, and as the daughter of a chief, many braves favored for her.”

Silver Moon needed to talk more of her memories, “It is time men go and talk of men talk, this is women’s talk.” Silver Moon waited for the men to leave and soon it was just her, Milly, and Lilah. “These are words for you to hear, not men… Dawn Fire longed to be given to a brave, as many of her friends had been; some already had a child or carried the life within. I knew of her yearning.”

“Hope told me could not be given, as she was not old enough,” stated Milly.

“That is what I told her. Iron Heart had told me of a dream he had seen from the elders…showing that her own would come for her. Little did we know how that would end,” Silver Moon paused to collect her thoughts.

“Silver Moon, before Hope married Mark, she told me of a dream she had from the elders, when the men had taken her from your village. In her dream, a man came to take her home. At first, she said, she thought he was to take her back to you, but as she came to know Mark, she realized the dream was that he would be her home.”

“It is difficult at times to truly understand the dreams the elders’ send, until the dream become real.” Silver Moon continued, “But still, we could not tell her of the dream. Dawn Fire was there when Spotted Doe birthed Soaring Hawk. She wiped the sweat from her friend’s body as she struggled to birth, from when the sun was high in the sky, until it hid from the moon. When the child arrived, Dawn Fire held the child as Spotted Mouse cut the cord of life. Dawn Fire held the bloodied baby to her and wrapped him to keep him warm while the others tended to Spotted Doe. She watched when Spotted Doe took the child and placed it to her breast and watched as the milk of life spilled from around the child’s mouth. I was there when Dawn Fire left the teepee, blood from the birth on her dress and arms.

“I followed her to the stream, I knew she needed a mother. As she knelt in the cold waters, I asked if her tears were tears of joy for Running Wolf and Spotted Doe. She did not answer, she did not move, leaving it to me to remove the soiled clothing from her body as she cried. She looked to me and I saw the longing in her eyes and I yearned for her to know what it was to receive and carry the seed of life within.”

Silver Moon continued, “As I bathed the blood and sweat from her; she asked if she was so unworthy that the Great One made her body so small that no brave wanted to take her to give their seed to her to bring forth a child from her womb. She told of her yearnings while she helped her friend.”

Milly tried to envision what Hope endured; Lilah understood Hope’s longing to have a child.

“Yet, the elders’ dream did not tell us when her own would come for her, so I told her she was not of age. I told her many of the braves in the tribe favored taking her, but that Iron Heart had not chosen which brave would bear the honor of taking his daughter, at least not until she was of age. I told her by waiting until she was older, this gave the braves time to increase their herds in their offerings to Iron Heart. The more horses presented, the stronger the brave and stronger the sons he would have her bear.”

“But what would have happened had she turned eighteen?” Milly asked.

“We prayed the white man would come for her, but had he not, she would have been given to the brave who offered the best and the most to us,” Silver Moon answered.

“She would have been sold, for horses?” asked Lilah, she couldn’t listen anymore; she stood and excused herself.

“It is difficult for others to understand our way of life, but it is the father’s right to choose who is best for his daughter. By presenting the best ponies, it shows the brave is strong, for only the strongest brave would be able to present such an offering. In time, the woman would come to love her husband, as I came to love Iron Heart and bore him three fine, strong sons. There were many braves who sought her favor, but we also did this to protect her.”

“Protect her?” asked Milly.

“When Dawn Fire first came, there was one who could not accept the fact that Iron Heart had brought a white child into the tribe, he was most vocal, yet Iron Heart proved time and time again, that he was in the right. After the dream, we prayed the Great One would fulfill the elders’ dream, I fear had the past not happened as it did, Dawn Fire would be dead today.” Milly sharply inhaled when she heard Silver Moon’s words. “Thundering Buffalo was most demanding against her living, but his grandson, White Buffalo, was the most demanding when presenting ponies to Iron Heart.”

“But if he was a strong brave?” Milly tried to understand.

“Many times in counsel Thundering Buffalo would argue how the Kiowa had grown weak, so weak that Iron Heart brought a white bastard child into the tribe. We were pleased when White Buffalo made his offering; that maybe the grandson was ready to live as Iron Heart had chosen to lead the tribe. She was fourteen when he first tried, but it is for the father to choose when and we both knew she was too young. When Dawn Fire turned sixteen, Black Hawk also sought her; he and Grey Heart were as brothers. He knew he could never present as many ponies as White Buffalo, but he told us of what he heard White Buffalo boast he would do, were Dawn Fire given to him, he said he would take the white bastard to his bed and seed a life inside her, and shortly before the birth, he would kill both.

“Milly, you must believe me. White Buffalo would have drug her from their bed and in front of all, cut the baby from her womb allowing her to bleed to death. White Buffalo grew up hearing tales from his grandfather of the Kiowa’s long ago wars against the white man, when Thundering Buffalo killed white women in such a manner. White Buffalo would do such to his wife to appease his grandfather’s death and to prove he would keep our tribe, Indian. You understand more of why we told her the lie that she was not old enough. We prayed her own would come, and soon.”

The images Milly envisioned were revolting and it took everything she had to keep from losing the contents of her stomach, even though breakfast had been hours before.

“Milly, I mourn the loss of my daughter, but I know she lives a better life with you; as she first lived a better life with us. Be grateful she has a life to live.”

The two women cried and hugged each other, counting their blessings that Hope still lived.

“What of White Buffalo?” Milly dared ask.

“After Iron Heart first returned without Dawn Fire, White Buffalo killed a soldier. Iron Heart stated that he would stand trial in the white man’s law, but if found guilty, he would face Kiowa punishment. In a way, the white man’s law would have much kinder to him, but, he has been reunited with his grandfather.”


Hope woke, finding herself wrapped in furs with her husband’s arms around her; she gave a start when she remembered what had happened.

“I’m here, Hope,” Mark stated as he woke and propped himself up on his elbow.

“How long?” Hope tried to ask, as she started to fear her past.

“The sun has already set. Are you okay, should I send for Silver Moon?”

“I just want you to hold me… I want to forget those men… I need to know that I belong here with you.”

“I know. Shhhh. Regardless of how it happened, you belong by my side.” Mark pressed a kiss to his wife’s head and pulled her closed to him. “Iron Heart and Silver Moon said we were to sleep here tonight. Ma and Pa left to go home earlier this evening.”

“What of Father and Lilah?”

“Ma and Pa said they’d see them home, they knew that the tribe would look out for you, plus, I’m right here with you.”

“What of the children?”

“They’re having fun with the others and looking forward to another sleep over.”

Mark climbed from the fur pallet and stood up.

“Where are you going?” Hope asked, not wanting to be alone.

“I’m going to get us something to eat. I know you’re hungry. I’ll be right back.”

As Mark promised, he returned. After they ate, they set aside the dishes and sat and listened to the sounds outside the teepee as the tribe prepared for night, Hope asked, “Are you sure we should stay here?”

“Are you sure you’re up to offending Iron Heart or Silver Moon if we leave? They gave up their sleeping quarters for us tonight.”

“I guess not…” Hope stated as she cast her eyes down and closed them.

The fire in the middle of the teepee cast a gentle glow that flickered along the hides stretched across the poles that met at the top of the teepee; with a hole large enough to allow the smoke to slip out, but constructed in such a way to not allow the gentle rain that had begun to fall to enter.

Mark leaned forward, taking Hope’s chin in his hand, giving it a lift and kissed her. Mark couldn’t stop himself as he pressed Hope to lie back down on the furs. Slowly he worked at unbuttoning his shirt and pulled the shirttail from his pants, not willing to separate their lips, he allowed Hope to slip his shirt from his shoulders. Her hands came to rest on the bandages around his ribs; Mark broke off their kiss allowing Hope to unwrap his ribs before he finished stripping. He rolled to his back, pulling Hope on top of him and they kissed again. He unbuttoned her blouse and slipped it from her shoulders as Hope slipped from her skirt. Having removed her camisole from over her head, Mark lovingly ran his hands down her soft skin, causing a brief shiver to course through her body, before she lay back down to him, and Mark pulled a fur across her back. As the sounds of the tribe quieted to the sounds of the night and with the rain gently striking the teepee, nature created its own music, to which Mark ensured Hope forgot her past in while he made love to her.

So intense was their passion, they were oblivious that the furs had slipped from them as two intertwined into one, both seeking the pleasure the other offered, oblivious to the fact that Silver Moon entered the teepee to see if they needed anything for the night. Silver Moon smiled as she slipped back out, closed the flap, and walked to where her husband waited.


Upon putting their youngest children to bed, and retiring themselves, Lucas asked about the rest of Milly’s afternoon with Silver Moon.

“We talked more of Hope’s growing up and becoming a young woman,” Milly answered quietly.

“Is that all? You seem… a little upset about something…”

“Oh Lucas,” Milly cried. She so much wanted to protect her husband from knowing, but the secret was tearing her up inside. With Lucas’ arms wrapped around her, Milly lay back against Lucas’ chest and told him everything Silver Moon had said after Lilah had left.

Lucas did his best to calm himself after listening to Milly. After working through their anger and tears, both vowed, neither Mark nor Hope would ever know what could have been Hope’s life, had she not entered the McCain’s lives.


When Hope woke the following morning, she sat up and wrapped the furs around her while she quietly watched Mark dress. After pulling on his boots, she asked, “Do you have to go to work?”

“Yes, you know I do. If you want, you can come to town later…”

“No, I think I want to stay here. Silver Moon stated the other day they would be weaving baskets today. I remember how much fun I had and how all the women would talk while working. I guess you could compare it to a quilting bee.”

Mark knelt in front of his wife, “Hope, just remember, your life is here, with me.”

“After last night, how can I forget?” she blushed.

“Just try to forget those men. They’re long gone and can’t do you any harm.”

“I know, it’s just, hearing Iron Heart and Silver Moon last night, it all became so much more real.”

“Promise me, you’ll rebury those memories.”

“I’ll try.”

“I’ll try to be home early tomorrow. I love you,” said Mark.

“I know you do.”


“I don’t know how I can ever repay them for saving her life…” Seth stated as he and Lucas walked through the Indian camp Thursday afternoon. “Their life is nothing like I imagined -- it’s so simple. In case I haven’t thanked you enough for raising Mark as you did…had he not been there that day…Stedman and the others could very well have destroyed this tribe; this way of life.”

“How are you handling what you heard yesterday?” asked Lucas, mindful of the secret.

“It was difficult to hear the details, but if it meant my daughter lived, I’m thankful that Iron Heart found her and that priest chose to keep quiet to the authorities. Had Stedman not plotted to kill Senator Borden, using Hope to lure Iron Heart after them, I think I would be happy to know that this would have been her life. Marrying and bringing children into their world. As long as she would be happy, that’s what really matters; she’d have a life.”

The Next Step — The Four Guns of North Fork

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

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