The Writer's Corner
The Next Step…
Chapter 102 – The Oklahoma Story - Part I
Written by Deanne Bertram
Lucas, Milly, and their children arrived at the train station
two mornings later, surprised to see who else was standing on
“Here to see us off, brother?” Lucas asked as he saw Johnny and
Colleen Gibbs and their three children.
“No, our bags are on the cart over there.”
“Lucas, we heard Mark left Wednesday to take his family back to
Enid. Kind of figured if he could return, then I could too. Also
did some figuring that your wife might convince you to travel
back there,” replied Johnny.
“Actually, Harvey told us yesterday that you had purchased
tickets for the rest of your family to Oklahoma,” Colleen
“You’re right about Milly. She put up a fairly good argument the
afternoon Mark left,” Lucas stated pulling Milly closer to his
side, letting her know he appreciated their argument and their
making up afterwards.
“Do you think Enid’s going to be ready for the McCain-Gibbs
families’ reunion?” Johnny asked.
“I don’t think Enid will be ready for the population explosion
that’s about to happen,” Lucas commented.
“Luckily, it’s only temporary,” Colleen laughed, as she
understood the underlying meaning of her husband’s question.
The hotel owner returned to the front desk after a friend helped
him carry a heavy crate from the train station into the kitchen
and unpack the shipment. As the friend waved goodbye, the clerk
hollered for him.
“Yes, Lucius?” the man replied.
“If we’d a known you’s having kin folk coming in on the morning
train, we coulda gotten the big room ready for them. You know we
don’t give it out for just anybody and it’s been a while since
anybody used the room,” Lucius answered while the man removed
his hat as he stepped to the front desk.
“What do you mean, kin folk coming?” the man asked as he
scratched at his beard.
“The morning train arrived, late as usual.” Seeing the
impatience on the man’s face, “A family named McCain signed the
register book, not more’n a half hour ago. The man saw his wife
and young’ens upstairs, came back down, and he asked about the
livery. Saw him ride, kind of casual like, headed out of town.”
The man looked at the last entry written in the register, Mr. &
Mrs. McCain, North Fork, New Mexico.
“Who are they?” Owen, the hotel owner called out as the man
turned and purposefully strode from the hotel.
“Mac?!” the man yelled as he entered the livery.
“O’er here. Be wi’ ya inna moment,” was spoken with a thick
Scottish accent. A bald-headed, burly man wearing a leather
apron came from behind a wagon, “What kin I do fer ya, Abe?”
“Lucius stated a man came in here, got a horse, and rode out.”
“Sure he did. Very nice looking man. Real polite. Real quiet.”
“What did he look like? Did he have sandy colored hair and
taller than me?”
“If Lucius told you about him, why didn’t you ask him?” Seeing
the impatience in the man standing in front of him, the Scotsman
continued, “Naw, he had dark hair and maybe was five foot eight,
five foot ten at the most--maybe mid 20’s. He asked about
directions to the McCain Ranch.”
“He said ranch and not farms?” Abe hurriedly asked.
“Sure did, I ask ‘im about tha’, too. I hope ya don’t mine me
atellin’ ‘im. I think he’s a relation of yors; said ‘is name was
“Mark…” Abe mulled the name over, turned, and ran from the
livery, heading to the General Store. “Peter!” he yelled as he
entered, almost knocking over the broom display.
“Geesh, what trouble did you and Owen get into unpacking that
crate. You look…” Peter called back.
“Forget how I look brother, we got to get to Matthew and
“To Laura’s, what for? She and Matthew don’t need us…”
“Peter, Mark’s in town. He asked Mac for directions and rode out
to Laura’s,” Abe hurriedly called out trying to get his brother
“Mark? Mark who?”
“Lucas’ boy. Lucius stated he and his family arrived on the
morning train, and are staying at the hotel.”
“That was Mark?” Peter’s wife, Tiffany, asked.
“You saw them?” asked Abe as he turned to face his
“Just in passing, I was walking in front of the hotel and they
were the only family I saw entering, they stopped to let me
Abe’s wife, Julie, came from behind a row of shelving in hearing
“Why would Mark come back here?” Peter asked. “You don’t think
something happened to Lucas, do you?”
“My God, Abe! You and Peter best get to Laura’s!” Julie
“That’s what I’m trying to get across to Peter,” Abe shot back.
Peter’s expression displayed he didn’t understand the
implications of what Abe and Julie were trying to convey.
“Peter, it’s almost June third!” Julie’s voice tried to express
the need for Abe and Peter to get to Laura’s.
“So?” Peter replied.
“Peter! Honestly! Mark’s back here because it’s been twenty
years since Margaret passed away! Get out there, you can’t let
him visit his Ma’s grave alone! And do you trust your youngest
sister to not take a pot shot at him for trespassing, if she
Abe and Peter ran from the General Store, jumped in their
saddles, and headed to their sister’s home.
A blonde-haired woman trotted her horse along the ridge of the
hill. In one side of her saddlebags, she carried work gloves and
several small hand tools; in the other side, she carried two
small potted marigold plants. As she crested the rise, she saw a
lone man standing inside the fence, in front of the tombstone,
hat in hand, head bowed. She became incensed at the trespasser
and urged her horse on to a fast lope. From under her leg, she
pulled her rifle from the scabbard and as she halted her horse,
she pointed her rifle and demanded to know what right the man
had to trespass?
“This is private property. Strangers usually ask permission to
cross our land,” the woman bluntly stated.
“I’m sorry, ma’am. I didn’t mean to trespass. It’s just been a
long time since…” the man stopped talking as his emotions choked
off his voice as his gaze returned to the headstone.
The woman called out, after seeing the change in the man’s
demeanor… "My God! You're Mark?! Lucas' boy?" and proceeded to
put away her rifle when he nodded. She tried to stammer out an
apology. After ground tying her horse, she walked to where Mark
stood, "I forgot how beautiful your Ma was. I can see her in
"You knew my mother?" he asked.
"Mark, I'm your Aunt Laura," she replied.
"I'm your father's baby sister. You've a whole family to get
reacquainted with. It's been..."
"Almost twenty years..."
While Julie headed to the hotel, Tiffany headed to the
barbershop to inform Scott Gibbs.
“Scott! Scott Gibbs!” Tiffany called out upon entering the
“You trying to get my throat slashed?” Scott called back as he
grabbed hold of the barber’s hand and pushed it away.
“I’m sorry, I…” Tiffany stammered.
“What’s so important that you bolted in here?” Stuart asked as
he pointed the razor blade in his hand towards her.
“Mark who?” Scott asked.
“Mark Mc…” Scott didn’t finish the name. “Did something happen
“We don’t know. We just found out he and his family were in
town. He’s on his way out to Laura’s, and Abe and Peter are on
their way out there to catch up with him. Julie’s trying to
notify everyone to come to the hotel.”
“I pray Laura doesn’t pull her rifle first and ask questions
later,” spoke Scott. “Stuart, hurry up and finish shaving me.”
“Owen?” Julie McCain called as she entered the lobby.
“Turning out to be quite an exciting day. I take it, they are
“Yes, it’s been twenty years…” Julie answered excitedly and
looked up as she heard child-like footsteps hurrying down the
stairs and a woman calling, “Slow down, else you’ll trip and
Julie smiled as she saw four young children stop at the foot of
the staircase, while the woman behind them carefully walked down
the steps, carrying a young child on her hip.
“That’s them, Julie,” Lucius stated, as he pointed to them.
The woman stopped when she realized the comment was made
regarding her and her children.
“I can’t believe you’re really here,” said Julie as she walked
towards the family.
“Excuse me?” asked the woman.
“Forgive me. Where are my manners? My name is Julie McCain and I
believe we’re family. I’m married to Abraham McCain. And Abraham
is the oldest of the four McCain brothers, with Lucas being the
youngest. I presume you’re Mark’s wife?”
“I am. My name is…”
“Hope McCain,” Julie finished. “I can’t believe it. It’s been so
long. I mean Lucas sends a letter at the holidays, but… Mark’s
really back.” Julie spoke with excitement as she looked over her
great-nieces and great-nephews. “These are the twins?”
“Yes, Joshua Lucas and Zachariah James. And this one is Elijah
Paul,” Hope answered pointing out each one of her sons.
“And just who is this precious young lady?” Julie asked as she
looked to Mark’s oldest daughter.
“I’m Mykaela,” she boldly stated.
“Mykaela?” Julie asked, inquiring if she understood the three
year old correctly.
“Yes, her name is Mykaela Elyse. And this one is Margaret
“You named her after Mark’s mother?”
“The Margaret part of her name, yes.”
“My, it just doesn’t seem possible,” stated Julie, clasping her
hands in front of her chest. “I mean, it’s been so long that we
all kind of still remember Mark being that six year old boy, so
lost in grief. And here he is a father. As I said, Lucas briefly
writes at the holidays and tells of the family, but to see you
here and to know you’re really real… Oh, my manners, I’m
forgetting them again. Please, let’s go to the restaurant so you
may sit down. You must have had a very tiring journey, and with
five children no less.”
As Julie helped the last of the McCain children to their seats,
Tiffany and Scott arrived.
“Hope, these are more members of the McCain/Gibbs family,
Tiffany is married to Peter, who’s the third McCain brother and
Scott… Scott is Margaret’s older brother. I’ll warn you, once
more members of the families hear about Mark being back home,
the families will be coming out of the woodworks.”
Once again, introductions of the children were made.
“I insist that you not stay here,” Tiffany insisted. “We’ve room
at the family farm, plenty of room for you and your children.”
“I don’t know, we’re already registered, and Mark didn’t want to
“Impose?! Land sakes, child,” Julie interrupted. “You’re
“Tiffany, it’s not just the McCain families who will want to see
Mark and meet his family, it’s the Gibbs families too,” Scott
“Owen!” Julie hollered as she stood from her chair and walked to
the door leading from the restaurant.
“You best get to setting more tables, seems you’re gonna have a
full restaurant tonight!”
“Please, we don’t want to be any trouble!” Hope pleaded.
Julie gave a flourish with her hands to indicate this was
routine, “Trouble, you just sit there and relax, once Abe and
Peter rescue your husband…”
“RESCUE?!” Hope reacted in alarm and tried to stand.
“Easy there. Only from a certain family member,” Scott stated
with a laugh.
Julie proceeded in giving orders to Tiffany and Scott, telling
them to get word around to all the members of the McCain and
Gibbs families that everyone was expected at the hotel
restaurant for supper, and for everyone to bring a covered dish.
Before Hope could insist that there really wasn’t a need for all
the fuss, two more women entered the restaurant, with each one
asking, “Is it true?”
“Yes, Mark’s come home,” Julie happily answered, returning to
the table where Hope sat, “Now we don’t expect you to keep each
and every one of our names straight, but the one on the left is
Emily, she’s Lucas’ oldest sister, but still younger than Lucas.
She’s married to Jason and he’s our town doctor, you’ll meet him
later. And on the right is Emily, we call her Em, and she’s
married to Jeremiah, Lucas’ second oldest brother.”
As time passed, Hope couldn’t believe all the people arriving at
the restaurant, family members and their spouses, and their
children and their spouses, and their children. She marveled at
the way the woman named Julie organized everything and kept
making introductions. Hope smiled in thinking how she would have
made an excellent drill sergeant at one of the forts when her
father had been stationed in the army.
Hope tried to keep names and faces straight as she was
introduced to Mark’s oldest cousin Charlie, however, she
couldn’t keep straight the names of the triplets, let alone who
was married to whom. But with so many other cousins and people
arriving and moving about the room and holding side
conversations, it was a near impossible feat. So many of the
women came up to Hope and started their conversations with how
they were related to Mark; and commented how good it was for him
to return home. The men kept asking about Lucas and Mark, ‘had
they both come home?’
“Mama?” Josh asked as he tugged at her skirt. “Are they really
“From what they say, yes.”
“Mama? They say Papa returned home, are we gonna live here? What
about Grandpa Lucas and Grandma Milly?” Zach asked.
“And Grandpa Seth? I wanna go home!” Eli cried as he clung to
his mother’s leg.
“I wan’ Gandma Lilah,” Mykaela stated as she hid behind Hope’s
Seeing that her children didn’t fully understand what was
happening, Hope truly wished she could just turn around and take
the children back upstairs as more and more members of the
McCain and Gibbs families arrived at the restaurant. Hope
started to worry when Mark had still not returned. And she
worried, from whom did Lucas’ brothers needed to rescue Mark?
Hope asked to excuse herself as the children started to become
“Please, if I may?” Hope asked of the woman named Julie, “I
think Faith needs to be changed and the children are.., please…”
“Hope, you can leave the others down here, they’ll be in good
hands,” Julie replied.
“I don’t mean to be rude, but that’s just it, there are too many
people here and the children are being overwhelmed. They don’t
understand everything that’s being said, I mean how it’s being
said. Please, just let me get them back to the room upstairs,”
“Everyone, make room for Hope and her children to get through.
Jeremiah, you run interference, don’t let anyone stop her,”
Julie hollered above the multiple conversations being held in
the restaurant and lobby.
Once Hope and the children were back in their hotel room, she
shut the door and set Faith on the bed, Hope sat down and pulled
the others into her arms as they continued to cry that they
wanted to go back home, to their grandparents. She felt so
overwhelmed and wished Mark was there to help her as she tried
to explain what the others had meant when they said Mark was
Mark watched as his Aunt Laura returned to her horse and pulled
the saddlebags down.
“Here, let me help you,” Mark insisted.
“Just carry it over to her grave and set it down beside the
As both entered through the gate, Mark commented, “I don’t
remember the fence being around her grave.”
“It wasn’t, I had Scott help me build it the year after you
“Scott, he’s my Ma’s older brother?” Mark inquired, hoping he
remembered the family relationships.
“Yes, he is. Anyway, after the fence went up, I’d come out here
and pull the weeds and a few days before the… Well, I’d come out
here and plant marigolds. She always loved them.”
“That’s what Pa told me. When we settled in North Fork, after we
rebuilt the house, the first thing Pa did was to plant marigolds
around the porch.”
Mark removed his jacket and draped it over the white picket
fence, he got down on his hands and knees to help Laura pull the
weeds from around the grave and plant the marigolds. Mark walked
to Laura’s horse and pulled down the canteen to water the
“If you came out here alone, how did you find Margaret’s grave?”
“Pa told me once, that our home in North Fork was so much like
our home back here. The same hills and valleys, the only thing
Pa said was missing, was the cross that marked Ma’s grave.”
“Not too many people outside of the family could give you
directions to your mother’s grave.”
“He described it in such detail one night when we were talking
that once I arrived, I just knew the way,” replied Mark. “It’s
just as I imagined, the trees, the little stream… even the
boulders over there. I’ve a pond back home and it looks so much
“Your home must be beautiful. Can I ask if you came alone or did
you bring your family? I hope you brought your family. It’s been
kind of…, not exactly difficult…, but knowing members of the
family aren’t present...”
“I brought my wife and our children. I told Pa, I needed to do
“Mark, you don’t need to explain, we’re just happy you came
ho... back. I take it that Abraham and Peter didn’t see you when
you were in town? They’re usually in town Friday mornings and
afternoons, running errands; Saturdays are pretty much
impossible to do errands anymore, what with so many people in
“I wasn’t looking for family. I saw that Hope and our children
were settled in the hotel and went to the livery, rented a
horse, and asked which way to the McCain Ranch.”
“Well, if I know our family, and I do, we had best get you back
to Enid. Your wife is probably being overwhelmed with McCain and
Gibbs family members.”
Abe and Peter raced their horses across the land towards
Laura’s. Matthew was just stepping down from his horse, in front
of the barn, when they arrived.
“Matthew, where’s Laura?” Peter yelled pulling his horse to a
“I think she was going to Margaret’s grave this afternoon. You
know how she always tends to it. Why?”
“We’ll tell you on the way. Get back on your horse.”
Matthew did as told and rode with the two McCain brothers.
The three crested the hill and saw Laura and a stranger getting
to their feet, wiping dirt from their hands. The men urged their
“Well, true McCain’s and Piedmont’s, you show up once the work
is done!” Laura laughingly called to her bothers and husband as
they halted just outside the fence.
“Laura!” Abe’s voice held a tone of warning.
“I’m not an eight year old girl anymore, so don’t use that tone
with me, big brother!” Laura quipped. Turning to Mark, “Mark,
the brash one there is your Uncle Abraham, and next to him is
your Uncle Peter, and the handsome man, is my husband, your
Uncle Matthew.” The three stepped down from their horses and
shook hands with Mark.
“It’s been a long time,” Abe ventured to say, looking Mark over
to make sure he really was standing in front of him. Unbelieving
it could possibly have been so long.
“Too long. I’m sorry I didn’t come back sooner,” Mark answered.
“No, Mark. Don’t let him make you feel guilty. You and Lucas
have your own lives. It took time, but, we finally accepted
it... And Abe, stop looking him over like that! Yes, I drew my
rifle on him, never seen anyone else out here except family
members. But once I saw him up close, I knew right away who he
“How is your Pa?” Peter asked.
“Healthy, he said to send his regards,” Mark answered,
regretting it wasn’t the truth. “Aunt Laura told me I’ve plenty
of family to meet.”
“You sure do at that. If you’re through here, we’ll escort you
back to town,” Peter stated.
“I don’t mean to be a bother to anyone…” again Mark’s voice
Laura looped her hand onto Mark’s arm and walked him back to the
horse he rode. “You’re no bother, you’re family.
As Mark mounted his rented horse, he looked to these members of
his family, “I was wondering…”
“Go on Mark,” Abraham encouraged.
“Our old home… Does it still stand? Does anyone live there?”
“It’s where Matthew and I live. Though, we have made some
changes to it. It has indoor plumbing.”
“Laura!” Matthew chastised his wife.
Mark didn’t know exactly how to ask what he wanted to ask.
“Mark, if you’d like, we can stop by and let you look, before we
head to town,” Laura offered.
The others had stepped from their horses and tied them to the
hitching rails in front. Mark took in the sight of all the
marigolds planted around the front porch.
“Mark?” Peter asked as he turned to see Mark still in the
“Just trying to remember. That tree over there…” pointed Mark.
“That’s the one you fell out of and broke your arm. I think you
were, maybe, five,” Abraham stated.
Mark slowly stepped from his horse and started to follow the
others inside. He stopped at the door, taking a deep breath
The first thing Mark noticed and remembered was the fireplace.
His memories took him back to the cold winters where his parents
would sit with him in front of the fire after playing outside in
the snow. Mark walked to the mantle and ran his fingers across
the worn wood. He remembered seeing his Pa coming inside and
placing his rifle over the mantle. Mark smiled as he realized
the pegs were still there.
Abraham, Peter, Laura, and Matthew watched while Mark
re-explored the home where he had once lived, so long ago.
‘This house, it’s just like the one back in Enid,’ Mark heard
his Pa’s voice say. With one exception Mark remembered, this one
had two doors, side by side. One door to the bedroom his parents
had shared and the other, his. Mark turned the knob to the room
that had been his; he kept his hand on the knob, and slowly
pushed it open. His mind replayed scenes from his youth, him
sitting on the floor playing with his blocks. Another scene of
him being afraid to go to bed one night because of a scary story
his cousin Charlie had told him about monsters under the bed.
Mark turned and looked back to the front room. He remembered
sitting at a table in the room, while his Ma struggled with his
refusal to memorize his alphabet, and how to spell his first
year words. His arguing he should be out on the range with his
Mark looked to the second bedroom door; he couldn’t bring
himself to turn the knob. The last time he was in the room…
tears fell down Mark’s face as he tried to remember… Mark felt a
supporting, gentle hand on his arm.
“It’s okay Mark. It took a long time before I could bring myself
to enter the room, but Matthew told me, by entering, I could
celebrate Margaret’s life. We could bring life back to a home
that had been so filled with love. This home needed to hear
laughter within the walls.”
Laura opened the door to show Mark the room, the large
four-poster feather bed. Sunbeams streamed through the window
and shone brightly on the colorful quilt that adorned the bed.
In the corners sat two large, overstuffed chairs. By the wall,
next to the door, was a small dresser and mirror, with a small
bench in front of it. At the foot of the bed was an oak wood
chest. A large dresser stood against the far wall.
“It’s so different from what I remember,” Mark commented.
“It should be Mark. It’s our home,” Matthew stated as he came to
stand behind his wife, placing his hands on her shoulders.
“Mark, I can’t imagine how difficult it must have been for your
father, those first few weeks after your ma died.”
“How so?” Mark asked, not really thinking. His memories were
still trying to envision his mother.
“A husband in grief, knowing…” Matthew started to speak.
Laura continued, “Knowing he still had a son to raise; seeing
you each and every day, and how much you look like your mother…
your eyes, your smile.” Laura’s eyes warned her husband that he
almost divulged the secret.
“It’s hard for me to remember her. I know her face, but I can’t
remember her arms around me anymore. I can’t remember her voice
singing as she worked around our home.”
“Mark, it’s not because she’s no longer here. It’s because
you’re an adult and a father. Those memories stay with you for
as long as you need them, to help comfort you, but once you
become an adult and a parent, it’s your turn to pass those same
kinds of memories on to your children,” Abraham stated.
As Mark’s eyes looked around the front room, he saw pictures on
the far wall. Mark walked to the wall and looked closely at
them. He ran his hand along the bottom of the frames and
realized they all had to be recent family pictures, save one,
Lucas, Margaret, and a very young Mark. Tears formed in Mark’s
eyes as he saw the life the others had lived, husbands, wives,
and their children, now grown… with children of their own.
“Mark, let’s get you back to your wife,” Laura stated, as she
realized where Mark’s mind might be taking him.
While they rode back to town, the others allowed Mark his
silence and time to regain his composure. As the group stepped
into the hotel lobby, Mark was surprised; he couldn’t believe
all the people inside.
“Abraham,” a woman called, as she approached Mark, he saw the
broad smile on her face. “Is this Mark? Can’t be anyone else,
now can it. Tell you what, I think we’ve scared your children
some, your wife is upstairs in your room with them.”
Mark allowed the woman to push him to the staircase where he
took the steps two at a time and knocked on the door. From the
other side he heard, “Who is it?”
“Hope, it’s me, Mark.”
He heard hurried footsteps and the door being unlocked and
quickly opened. Mark barely closed the door behind him before
his four oldest children had their arms wrapped around him,
trembling and crying they wanted to go home.
“Hey, now, what’s this all about? Why are you crying?” Mark
asked with an upbeat tone, trying to lighten the mood of the
Josh was the first to speak through his tears, “They said you
came home. We don’t want to live here!”
Eli cried, “I don’t wanna live here.”
Zach replied, “We want to live with our Grandma’s and our
Mykaela stood to Mark’s side, tears falling from her face, and
said, “Not home!”
“Mark, the children kept hearing everyone say how good it was to
finally have you home and the children aren’t old enough to
understand what they meant. I tried to explain that we were only
here for a visit, like you told them on the train, and that this
isn’t our home,” Hope stated.
Mark looked to Hope and said, “I’m sorry I left you and the
children alone. I wasn’t thinking.”
Mark felt for his family. He hadn’t counted on how meeting the
other members of his family would affect his children; he also
hadn’t counted on them being found out so quickly. Mark got on
his knees and wrapped his arms around his sons and daughter
while Hope held Faith.
“Hey there, listen to me… Your Grandpa Lucas and I lived here
when I was the same age the twins are. All those people
downstairs, they’re my family, our family. I’m sorry. I’m sure
they didn’t mean to make you cry. North Fork is our home and we
will go home.”
“When?” Josh asked through his sniffles.
“How about next week? We talked about this on the train, this as
an adventure, you’re meeting members of your family -- cousins
and aunts and uncles.”
“We go home?” Mykaela sniffled.
“For you and your brothers and your sister, yes, I promise.”
Mark hugged his children closer.
Mark looked to Hope, “I didn’t think they’d find out so quickly
that we were here. Are they all McCain’s?”
“No, there’s a good representation of the Gibbs side of the
family downstairs, too,” Hope stated as she started laughing,
hoping it would make their children feel more relaxed.
“Tell you what, why don’t you let your Mama help pretty up your
faces…” Mark spoke to his children.
“Our faces don’t need prettied up!” boasted Zach.
“Okay, let your Mama pretty up your sisters’ faces and for the
young men in this room, she’ll help clean away your tear stains.
“Yes, Papa,” Eli answered, with Josh and Zach nodding.
Mark stood to his feet and turned to the door when Hope asked,
“Where are you going?”
“Downstairs, I think I need to talk with the family and explain
what happened. I’ll be back in a few minutes and this family
will make a grand entrance.”
Mark carried Faith down the stairs as Hope held Mykaela’s hand.
The boys quietly preceded them down the steps. Stopping on the
landing, Mark smiled as he looked upon all the members of his
Julie and Abraham stepped forward and welcomed Mark and his
family to Enid and began the introductions all over again.
As she completed the introductions, she felt a tug on her skirt
and Julie looked down, “Yes, Josh?”
“Something smells good. I’m hungry,” Josh replied.
“Joshua!” Hope scolded.
“Well I am,” Josh answered with all the seriousness of a soon to
be six year old.
With laughter in her voice, Julie answered, “That’s all right
Hope. Supper is almost ready. Owen’s just finishing the roast.”
Elevating her voice, Julie called for everyone to find a seat.
The tables were arranged in a big U shape in the restaurant,
with smaller tables for all the younger children in the middle,
even more tables were set up in the adjoining lobby of the
The food bowls were placed on tables lining the outer walls of
the restaurant, where the members of the families could fill
their plates before taking their seats. Conversations throughout
the room varied as members of the families asked questions of
North Fork, Lucas and Milly, and anything else they could think
The sun had set sometime earlier before the last of the family
bid goodbye. Julie, Abraham, and Owen helped Mark and Hope carry
their sleeping children up the stairs and to their hotel room.
“Mark, we’ll let you explore the town on your own tomorrow. But
if you need any help, just ask anyone to point out a McCain or a
Gibbs family member,” Abraham stated.
“Oh and on Sunday, Church services begin at nine o’clock. We’ll
meet you in the restaurant for breakfast at seven, thirty,”
“We don’t want to be any trouble…” Mark tried to say.
“You’re no trouble. We’re happy to have you home for a visit,”
Abraham replied as they stepped from the room.
It was Sunday, May 30th when Lucas and Johnny stepped from the
train with their families in Enid and headed to the hotel to
register and drop off their luggage. Owen looked at the names
written, Mr. and Mrs. Lucas McCain and Mr. and Mrs. Johnny
Gibbs, “My, oh my, I’m thankful I didn’t put away all the tables
from the other day. Mr. McCain, your son and his family arrived
“I’m glad to hear that,” Lucas answered as he looked around.
“Are they up in their room?”
“No, sir. I’ll take your bags up to your rooms. Your boy and the
rest of your family, and you too, Mr. Gibbs, they’re all over at
the church. It’s Sunday,” Owen commented.
“Thank you. I think we’ll head on over to the church.”
“I’ll see your rifles are placed in your rooms,” Owen offered.
“I’ll take it with me,” Lucas replied as he reclutched his
“Lucas,” Milly spoke. “We’re going to church. I think you can
leave your rifle here.”
“You too Johnny,” Colleen stated. “Hand your gun belt to the
Reluctantly, both men set their weapons on the luggage and
watched as the hotel owner instructed two other young men to
move the luggage upstairs.
Together the families walked the few blocks to the church. Lucas
with his arm draped across Milly’s shoulder and holding Levi on
his opposite hip, watched as Myra held Little Ted’s hand and
walked in front of them.
Johnny and Colleen carried Andrew and David on their hips while
Lillian walked the other side of Myra.
“Lucas?” Milly asked as she sensed Lucas tense.
“I know what you’re feeling, brother,” Johnny offered and placed
a hand to Lucas’ shoulder. He explained to their wives, “The
last time either of us were inside this church was for
Margaret’s funeral service. We ain’t been back since.”
Lucas nodded and led the families to the doors that he quietly
opened. The families slipped into the back pews and took their
seats. Both Lucas and Johnny thought they recognized a few of
the people who turned around upon their arrival, which started
an ever-growing buzz among the parishioners.
Reverend Upshaw realized his sermon was going unheard as more
and more people turned their attention from him due to a
distraction among his congregation. He paused in the middle of
his sermon, raising his voice, “It seems that we have more
visitors this morning, and they’ve created an excitement among
those in the back.”
“Dang right, Reverend!” Mose Sanderson hollered, “It can’t be
none other than Lucas and Little Johnny, come home!”
With that announcement made, everyone turned around in his or
her seats, except Mark, who stood with disbelief, and walked to
the back of the church.
“You came,” Mark whispered, he wanted to hug his Pa, but instead
offered his hand.
“You should have asked me to come with you,” Lucas answered.
“I wanted to Pa, but after your initial reaction... I knew how
you felt. But I had hoped you’d change your mind and offer to
“Took Milly to make me understand that,” Lucas said as he
relaxed his grip and pulled Mark into a hug.
Reverend Upshaw spoke from the pulpit, “So, are these newcomers
more members of the McCain’s or Gibbs’ families?”
“Both,” Abraham called as he, Jeremiah, and Peter walked down
the aisle to greet their youngest brother.
Emily and Laura, and their sisters-in-law had tears in their
eyes as they stood with their families, knowing the heartaches
that everyone had felt when Lucas and Mark left Enid. Now, joy
and excitement filled the church. The family circle was
completed as Scott and Beth walked to the back of the church and
greeted their little brother, Johnny.
“Well, I think today’s church services should just be a lesson
in compassion and realizing it’s never too late to come home,”
Reverend Frasier proclaimed.
After church services, Mark nodded as the various family members
said they were going to return to the hotel.
“Pa, I’d like to talk…” Mark suggested.
Lucas nodded and motioned for Milly to take the family and go
with the others.
“Milly? I’m Abraham, what’s that all about?” he asked, pointing
to Lucas and Mark walking away.
“Twenty years of buried memories and heartache. Lucas was
against Mark’s coming,” Milly quietly answered.
“Figured it had to be something like that; Lucas never did like
to look back. To say the least, I was shocked when Mose said
Lucas’ name. I never figured to see him in Enid again.”
“It was a hard sell. I know he’s still hurting, but in an effort
to make peace in the family, he agreed it was time for the North
Fork McCain’s to meet the Enid McCain’s.”
“Pa, I’m sorry I left home on such awkward terms. I just didn’t
know exactly how to tell you why I was drawn to make this trip.”
“Milly tried to explain it to me. Thadd said pretty much the
same thing.” Lucas stated as he pushed his hat back on his head.
“Have you been to her grave?”
“The day we arrived. It’s like you said, the land was the same,
just the cross was missing. I met Aunt Laura there. I helped her
plant marigolds at Ma’s grave.”
“Surprised she didn’t pull her rifle on you,” Lucas said
“Actually, she did. Only once she saw me up close, she put it
Lucas and Mark walked to the side of the church and sat down on
a bench under a large oak tree. Mark pulled his hat from his
head and fiddled around with it in his hands, unable to bring
himself to look at his Pa.
“Pa, when we left here, I know you were hurting over Ma’s death.
And in time, we buried the hurt deep inside. We had to in order
to go on living. But… when I trailed after you to Burns Flatt
and later came through Oklahoma City… all the memories from my
childhood started haunting me. The hurt and the bitterness I
felt, because you had taken me from here. I tried to deal with
it on my own and I know in the process that I hurt Hope and the
children. And you.”
Lucas removed his hat from his head as he continued to listen to
“I was finally able to understand when Ma came to me in my
dream. She told me she would always be here, I realized the only
way I could get back to the normal me was to come to say
goodbye, here. Not just acknowledging her death from North Fork,
it wasn’t enough that we named our youngest daughter in her
“How do you feel now?” Lucas asked.
“I’m still grieving. The families have planned a memorial on
Thursday, at her grave. I won’t ask you to be there, but just
the fact that you are here, now. It’s taken a lot of the guilt
I’ve felt the past week off my shoulders.”
“I don’t know if I can be there,” Lucas stated as he looked down
the road, in the direction of the ranch where he had lived and
lost, so long ago.
It had been twenty years since Lucas had been in Enid, and he
enjoyed becoming reacquainted with his brothers and their wives,
Abraham and Julie, Jeremiah and Emily, Peter and Tiffany, as
well as his sisters and their husbands, Emily and Jason, and
Laura and Matthew. Then there were Margaret’s other brother and
sister, Scott and his wife, Amanda, and Beth and her husband,
Orville. He couldn’t believe how much all his nieces and nephews
had grown over the years and they had children, but then, look
how much Mark had grown during the same time.
All the family members were thrilled to meet the rest of the
McCain children, Myra, Theodore, and Levi, as well as the Gibbs’
children, Lillian, David, and Andrew.
Scott laughed out at hearing the tale of the birth of Johnny’s
twin sons and that there were now three sets of twins were in
North Fork. “Hey Lucas, how come you didn’t manage to squeeze
out a set of twins yourself?”
Milly inhaled sharply at the question, worried with how Lucas
Lucas paused before answering; knowing his own hurt from
Margaret’s miscarriage and Milly’s, in that she could no longer
carry another child. “Now see here Scott… I think I got my fill
of having to deal with twins with Mark here. Lord knows he was
worth more trouble than any set of twins could ever be,” Lucas
“I don’t know about that, Pa,” replied Mark.
“They’re your sons, I think you’re just getting pay back for all
the trouble you got into when you were their… younger,” Lucas
While the men were catching up on life, the women took over the
hotel kitchen to prepare a wonderful supper for the families.
Monday morning Scott Gibbs returned to the hotel to meet Lucas,
Mark, and Johnny; he asked the women to excuse them, he wanted
to talk in private. Owen showed them to his office.
“Thank you for seeing me like this, but I have something I need
to know, and felt it best not to bring it up in front of the
“Spit it out brother,” Johnny stated.
“Mark, when Pa died… later… we received word, that you had been
there,” Scott stated.
“Yes, sir. I was.” Seeing the uncertainty on his uncle’s face,
Mark continued, “He’d come to North Fork a year or so earlier,
when the Sherman brothers were after him.”
“We heard about that and when we went to check up on him, we
found he‘d left. No one would say where he went. Then one day,
we got word that he was back.”
“He came asking Pa for help…” Mark stopped and looked to Lucas,
who nodded for him to continue. Taking a deep breath, Mark
continued, “That was the day Pa told me what happened the night
“I’m sorry you had to find out,” Scott stated. “I can’t imagine
how much you must have hated him at that moment.”
“Looking back, I can’t believe that I could hate someone that
much. Anyway, while Micah wanted to talk with Pa, Pa sent me to
wait at the buckboard… instead… I sorta snuck over to the hotel,
I wanted him gone. I didn’t want my Pa or our friends to get
hurt trying to help him. In the hotel room, he asked for my
forgiveness, he tried to explain to me what happened. That
everything Pa had told me… was true.”
“Did you... forgive him?” Scott asked.
“Not right then, I couldn’t.” Mark hurriedly continued, trying
to make his uncle understand, “Uncle Scott, I’d just found out
that my Ma could have lived… had he not been a drunk.”
“Mark, you don’t need to explain to me. But something must have
happened, if you were there when he passed.”
“Later that night, as Pa and I were leaving town, Pa decided to
go back and see Micah, just to make sure he was going to be
okay. While I sat there, in the buckboard, I got to thinking on
all the lessons Pa tried to teach me about forgiveness. It hurt
finding out about… my Ma… but his hurt had to be more, not only
did he play a part in losing a daughter, he… he also lost me…
Samuel Gibbs came seeking forgiveness and through that, I
realized he was the better man… When Pa returned to the
buckboard, he told me what happened with him having to rescue
Micah and Miss Lou, and that we needed to stay in town for a
little while longer… Mr. Gibbs didn’t know anything had happened
since he was preparing to do as I asked, to leave town. Anyway,
I was feeling guilty and I guess Pa realized it.”
“So you told him you forgave him?”
“Not in so many words, but I think just by the fact that I
called out to him… and called him Grandpa.”
“Probably lifted a huge burden off his shoulders…” Scott stated
as he looked down.
“Yes sir. Anyway, a year or so later, I wanted to spend some
time with him, to get to know him and find out more about my Ma.
I thought long and hard before I asked Pa if I had his
permission to come to Oklahoma for a visit. I spent about ten
days with him before his heart gave out. I’m sorry, I know I
should have probably come to Enid and told you, but, I didn’t
really remember all of you that well. I had just found Samuel
Gibbs, I mean my grandpa and he practically died in my arms, I
wanted to get home. I needed my Pa.”
“No Mark, that’s not why I brought the matter up, it’s just
that, well… We don’t rightly know why Pa took to drinking. Then
the night your Ma died, Pa never recovered from that. He moved
away, to Bensonville. We’d write, only all the letters would
come back unopened. I tried a couple of times to go see him. He
never answered the door when I knocked. I’m just glad to hear
that he reached out to someone in the family. And glad he didn’t
die… alone,” Scott finally said.
“Uncle Scott, when I was there, with Samuel… I mean Grandpa…”
“Go on, Mark,” Lucas encouraged.
“After the services, the town bought me tickets on the stage and
the train, so I could return home. Said it was the least they
could do for the only grandson of Samuel Gibbs… What they said
never really sank in, but… After being here… I’m not his only
“Mark, in his eye’s you were. You were taken away from him
before you had a chance to form your own opinion. Your Ma, she
always wanted to see the good side of Pa. You take after her in
that way, you’d sneak out of school on your lunch hour when
you’d see him in town… No, my children, and Beth’s, they knew
how we felt and they felt the same way and Johnny wasn’t married
back then. Maybe we were wrong to turn our backs on him as we
did. But we felt he could have stopped drinking if he’d really
wanted to, if he really loved us. We did receive a letter once,
from a lawyer in Bensonville telling us we had been
disinherited. So, in Pa’s eyes, you were his only grandson.”
“I’m sorry, must have been hard on you, getting that letter,”
Mark answered and dropped his eyes to the floor.
“No harder than you, finding out what else happened the night
Margaret died,” Scott replied. “We all knew that if one good
thing could come out of Lucas taking you from here, it was that
you’d never have to find out…” Scott stopped talking as the
years of guilt welled in him. “Well, we best not stay in here
too much longer, else the women will get to wondering what we’re
Lucas, Mark, Scott, and Johnny returned to the lobby. While they
had been in Owen’s office, the women had made plans to show the
returning McCain’s and Gibbs’ around town and to tour the
various homesteads the families worked.
By the time they had visited and toured each homestead, except
for one, it was Wednesday evening when Lucas and Milly settled
back into the bed in the hotel. The two looked to the other beds
in the room and saw their children peacefully sleeping. Milly
rested back to Lucas’ bare chest, while he held one hand around
her ribs and the other he rubbed up and down her upper arm.
“I don’t know if I can do it Milly,” Lucas whispered as he
pressed a kiss to her head.
“Lucas, it won’t just be you and Mark, your whole family will be
there to support you,” Milly answered.
“It’s not just visiting Margaret’s grave, it’s also going to
Laura and Matthew’s afterwards. I lost the ranch to the bank… I
never told anyone, I just left. Doctors were expensive and he
“You mean Jason?”
“No, there was another doctor in town back then, Jason and Emily
had gone back east for additional schooling and to visit his
family. Margaret’s health was never as good as it was prior to
her getting sick while she was pregnant with Mark. And after she
miscarried, her health suffered even more. Jason never really
charged me for all his services because we were family. However,
this new doctor, his charges were a lot higher, and not just for
me, but for everyone. I sold off some of my cattle to help make
the mortgage payments on the ranch and to pay for the doctor and
the medicines he prescribed. Before the epidemic started… I’d
had to kill what remaining cattle I had because of hoof and
mouth. No money coming in and I still had a wife and child to
feed, a mortgage payment on a ranch that I was so far behind in
“Now I understand why you were so stubborn when hoof and mouth
struck North Fork,” Milly’s voice was sympathetic, yet
"I worked so hard to build the ranch, our home, and I lost it
all, I wasn’t about to lose my home for a second time. Anyway,
three days after Margaret's death, the banker came and told me
he had foreclosed on the place... It was no longer mine. That's
why I'm so protective of our home in North Fork, it is so much
like what I had with Margaret."
"And now your sister and her husband call it home," Milly
paused. "Lucas, had I known the full story... I wouldn't have
pushed you to come. I didn't know, you never told me."
"I never told anyone." Lucas lowered his head and Milly felt his
tears fall on her cheek.
The Next Step — The Oklahoma Story
- Part 2
This is a story based on the TV
series The Rifleman
Here are some other great stories. Enjoy!
around The McCain Ranch