The Writer's Corner
The Next Step…
Chapter 11 - Learning the Letter of the Law
Written by Deanne Bertram
Doctor Burrage had declared Mark healed enough that he was able
to return to all his chores at the ranch and to return to his
duties as a deputy in North Fork. Micah and Johnny agreed that,
in the beginning, they would only ask Mark to stay in town two
nights a week. Mark chose Tuesdays and Saturdays.
Mark had made a run to the store to pick up supplies when Amos
brought over a letter. Mark looked at the postmark, Denver,
Colorado. He opened the letter and read it.
Deputy Mark McCain
North Fork, New Mexico Territory
I’ve read the report from Marshal Torrance that your town doctor
has declared you fit for active duty. The offer is still open. I
look forward to your attending our training class beginning
February 1st. Wire if you are able.
Mark returned home to find his Ma in the kitchen. After
inquiring about his Pa, he was informed he was out on the range.
He’d be home in time for supper. Mark placed the letter against
the lamp on the table.
The discussion over supper was Mark attending the training.
“But Pa,” Mark stated. “If I am going to continue to be a
deputy, and maybe someday, even a marshal, I feel it’s like
doctoring. Get the most education you can so that you can make
the right decision, when the time comes.”
“So just when did my son get so smart?” Lucas asked with a grin
on his face.
“Well that happened back before Thanksgiving, when Mr. Griswald
gave me that piece of paper.”
It was a tearful farewell when Mark had to say goodbye to his
family. Milly and Lucas gave him some privacy to say goodbye to
“I know it will seem like forever, but I’ll be back in just over
two months. Miss Hattie is a good woman, just like a Grandma.
I’m sure Ma and Pa would enjoy you staying at the ranch every
now and then while I’m gone. You can stay in my room.”
The train whistled and the conductor called “All Aboard!”
Mark quickly kissed Hope, grabbed his bags and his rifle, and
climbed aboard. He waved as the train pulled from the station
and he could no longer see his family. He settled into his seat
on the train.
Three days later, Mark arrived in Denver and marveled at the
size of the town. He was standing on the platform when he heard
his name called.
Marshal Benton greeted him and took his bags.
“Mark, I’ve a room already set up for you at the hotel, you
don’t need to worry about any expenses, the U.S. government is
picking up all the expenses for this training session. All you
have to do is think, listen, and learn.” Benton handed Mark’s
bags to the coach drive and opened the door for Mark to enter.
“Mark, I also think it best that no one know your real age.
You’re a lot younger than any of the others, if they ask, you
can tell them your twenty, but you just look young for your age.
There’s one other deputy, Drew Anders anywhere close to your
age, and he’s twenty-three.”
“What about my name? Would anyone here know my Pa and his
reputation with his rifle?”
“I’m sure some will. But don’t let any of the others push you to
prove you’re anywhere near as good with that rifle as your Pa.
That’s not what you’re here for.
For two months, Mark listened, studied, and learned. In the
beginning a few questioned Mark on how young he looked, but by
the end of the first week, he was one of the ‘gang’. Most had
heard of the Rifleman and no one challenged Mark to prove
anything. They figured if he were the Rifleman’s son, then he
had to be just as good with the rifle.
Over dinner each night, there were discussions, back and forth,
regarding the topic of the day and how each would have handled
the situation. They discussed strategy and theorem. After
dinner, cards were usually brought out or the checker boards
Of an evening, once he was back in his hotel room, Mark would
sit in the big overstuffed chair and look out the window.
Wishing the city lights weren’t so bright and that he could see
the stars. Wondering if Hope was looking at the stars he always
looked at when he was home.
The final week, of training, Marshal Benton announced that there
would be a shooting contest. It wasn’t just about abilities with
the rifle or hand gun, but abilities to address a situation with
split second decision, shoot or hold fire.
By the end of the third round, Mark and Drew Anders were tied
for the lead. Benton called for a sudden death shoot off. This
time, accuracy and efficiency matter most. Benton placed the
bulls-eye targets 25 paces away. Both deputies were requested to
fire five shots, as quickly as possible.
By flip of the coin, Drew went first. Three dead center. One on
the line. One just inside the second ring out.
Mark walked to the line. He inhaled slowly and waited for the
signal. Five shots. Four inside, dead center and one just on the
line, but still center.
All the other deputies slapped Mark on the back, each stating,
in their own way, “You sure are as good as your Pa’s reputation.
Guess North Fork will be mighty tame with you around.”
Marshal Benton saw Mark back to the train depot. “Well Mark,
you’re every bit as good as a student and your rifle as I hoped
Micah’s secret deputy would be. I’m proud to call you a brother
of the law.”
“Marshal Benton, thanks. I know a lot of people might think I’m
too young for this responsibility…”
“Non-sense boy, best to bring you up knowing what’s right now,
than trying to teach some of the older deputies and marshals.
Some just get too set in their ways. You tell your Pa I said,
The Next Step — The Homecoming
This is a story based on the TV
series The Rifleman
Here are some other great stories. Enjoy!
around The McCain Ranch