The Writer's Corner
The Next Step…
Chapter 69 – Past and Present
Written by Deanne Bertram
The following morning saw Lucas carrying a pitcher and basin
into Mark and Hope’s bedroom, as Hope carried their breakfast
dishes to the kitchen.
“Hope, why don’t you spend some time with Myra out on the front
porch over out our home and let me tend to Mark’s exercises and
“Pa, I think I’m old enough to bathe myself,” Mark complained.
“And just how do you plan on doing that?” Lucas asked. “Show me
you can readily move your arms and I’ll let you bathe yourself.”
“Well, I’m sure that Hope could…” Mark started to say and then
his cheeks flushed.
“Mark, just be thankful I’m not asking Milly in here to bathe
you,” Lucas smiled as he chastised his son. “You’re not up to
having your wife bathe you. That’ll come in time. First we have
the exercises that Thadd prescribed for you.”
As embarrassed as Mark was about having his father state he was
going to bathe him, Mark was even more embarrassed to find out
how little control he had over his body.
While Lucas and Mark were working on Mark’s exercises, Milly
returned to her front porch after hanging the laundry on the
clothes line. She asked Myra to go inside and work on her
studies, while she talked with Hope.
Mark’s going to be alright,” Milly stated as the front door
“I know that now, Ma. Oh Ma, how could I? You were the one
talking about having faith and not giving up. But when it came
down to it, I didn’t…”
Milly pulled over a chair and sat down next to Hope.
“Hope, you’re strong of faith. Ever since I met you, I know how
strong you are. But, this time, there was something else pulling
at you. You’ve been through so much with Mark, that… I couldn’t
believe it when Gwen told us what Marshal Buckhart said.”
Sniffing and trying to dry here tears, “What did he say?”
“When he received word of Mark’s condition, he immediately came
here. Worried for you. He said that sometimes when an Indian
woman’s husband dies… if the love was so great… the woman would
choose to take her own life to be with him on the other side,
instead of living without him.”
“Ma, I do love him…”
“We know you do,” Milly stated as she put her hand on top of
“And that’s why Sam came here, to alert us. We didn’t know this
aspect of life among the Kiowa. You’ve been married to Mark for
almost as long as you lived with the Kiowa… Hope, if you need to
talk, I’m here for you. I want to know more of your life from
those years you lived with Iron Heart. You’ve learned so much of
Mark’s growing up with Lucas, but we’ve not learned of your
growing up years. Hope, I’m not judging what you did… I just
want to understand how the years… Your life with Iron Heart and
his tribe is part of who you are and I’m here, when you want to
Looking to the door to her home, Hope said, “My best friend,
Spotted Doe, was married to Running Wolf. She wasn’t that much
older than me and already married and had a beautiful baby boy…”
“She was already married and had a child?” Milly asked. “Are
most Indian women married so young?”
“Those who catch the eye of a brave…” Hope quietly answered.
“And you didn’t catch… I’m sorry Hope, I had no right to asked
that,” Milly closed her eyes, embarrassed that she had asked.
Giving a half-hearted smile, “I was the white daughter of the
chief. Even if I had been Indian, I would not have been given to
any brave until I was eighteen.”
“Given?” Milly asked.
“Yes, a brave would have traded many ponies and such in exchange
to a maiden’s father for the right to marry.”
“I guess it’s not too different from a bride’s family presenting
a dowry.” Seeing the Hope was unfamiliar, Milly explained, “In
England and other countries, a woman is presented to her
betrothed with a dowry. It’s the woman’s family’s way of making
sure the future husband will take good care of their daughter or
give her something to ensure she has a means to support herself,
if…the husband were killed early in the marriage. Sort of like
receiving an inheritance, before the death of the parents.”
Milly thought on what Hope was saying, would there have been a
brave in her future…had the past not happened as it had? “Your
friend, Spotted Doe?”
“They were married when she was sixteen and she was seventeen
when Soaring Hawk was born. The braves had gone on a buffalo
hunt. Running Wolf’s horse was gored by a bull. He was thrown
and trampled. Oh Ma! When Mark was just lying there, I kept
seeing Running Wolf after they brought him back to camp. For
several days, the medicine man tended to him. I heard the other
women talking... I was present when she nursed her son, she
loved Running Wolf so much, that not even her son nursing at her
breast would bring life to her eyes. Running Wolf passed during
the night. The next morning, I found Spotted Doe, down by the
lake…” Hope cried harder as she remembered. “I found her, she
had already reunited with Running Wolf. I remember the red of
her blood staining the grass…” Hope drew her hands to her face
“Hope, please, I didn’t mean to bring up such memories. I had no
idea... I shouldn’t have…” Milly leaned forward and wrapped her
arms around Hope.
“No Ma, you were right. You have a right to know why I tried to
take my own life.” Hope sobbed, “I remembered them talking of
other women… when their husbands died, either on the hunts or in
conflicts with the white man.”
“Sam stated that the children of the tribe are raised… by the
tribe? Even with the parents still alive?” Milly asked.
“They are, but because Soaring Hawk was so young, Running Wolf’s
parents asked me to care for the baby, though I couldn’t be his
wet nurse and no other woman had a child at their breast… I was
the one who milked the goats to keep him alive, until those men
came to our camp and took me…”
“Hope, I wish to know more of the life you lived among the
Kiowa. I’m embarrassed that we haven’t talked about your past
“It was my past, I thought it didn’t matter,” Hope quietly said.
“Well, that’s not to be anymore. I want to learn of your younger
years. But for now, Lucas and I don’t want Mark to know about
this,” Milly stated as she picked up Hope’s bandaged wrist.
“We don’t keep secrets…”
“When one like this will hurt Mark so much, we’ll keep it until
Hope finally agreed.
Three days later, Doc Burrage returned to the ranch with Doctor
Jeremiah Jeffers, from Marionette.
“How’s Mark doing?” Thadd asked of Hope as he entered her home.
“He’s doing well. He and Pa are in the bedroom working on his
exercises for this morning,” Hope answered.
“Good. Hope this is Jeremiah Jeffers, the eye doctor I was
telling you about.”
After pleasantries were exchanged, Hope showed the two doctors
to their bedroom. Fifteen minutes later, Doc Jeffers announced
“I agree with Thadd, that the change in Mark’s vision is a
direct result of the blow to his head. From what I’ve seen, the
more you recover and gain your strength back and your brain
learns to control your body, in time, I feel your eyesight will
return to normal, or close to it.”
“But what about now?” asked Mark.
“Well, for now, I did bring a selection of eyeglasses for you to
try, to see which one gives you the best vision.”
By the eighth pair, Doc Jeffers was pleased with Mark’s being
able to read the chart he presented.
“Well, I’ll leave several lesser strength glasses here with
Thadd and as your vision improves, he can change them out,
without my having to come all the way back here. But I’ll want
to see you next month. We’ll be in touch.”
Doc Jeffers and Thadd said goodbye to the McCain’s and returned
to town. Thadd halted the buggy at the train station and thanked
his friend for traveling to North Fork.
After seeing Doc Jeffers off, Thadd drove the rest of the way to
the clinic, where he was met by Jake McCafferty and Gwen
“Well?” Gwen eagerly asked.
“Why don’t you take the McCain children back to their parents.
I’ll go tell Micah and Hattie that they too can visit the
“Thanks, Doc!” Jake stated as he headed back to his home, not
letting Gwen’s hand go as they ran.
As Jake drove the buckboard with the McCain children, he passed
the General Store, where Mrs. Donner called to him.
“Yes, Mrs. Donner?” Jake answered as he pulled the team to a
“With all that’s happened at the McCain ranch, I keep forgetting
to send this letter out to Lucas. I presume since you’re taking
the children, that things are improving?”
“I think so, otherwise Doc Burrage wouldn’t let us be taking the
children back home.”
“Would you mind delivering this letter out to Lucas?”
“No ma’am.” Jake took the letter and placed it in the pocket of
“Tell the family we look forward to their returning to church,”
Mrs. Donner said as Jake picked up the reins to the team.
“I will, Mrs. Donner. Good day!”
Lucas, Milly, and Hope stood on the porch to Mark and Hope’s
home when Jake drove the team to the house. Behind them, were
Hattie and Micah in a buggy.
All the boys were calling for their parents, and Josh, Zach, and
Eli also called for their grandparents. After numerous hugs were
shared among the group, Lucas finally invited everyone inside.
Lucas asked the boys to sit on the bricks in front of the
fireplace. As the boys scurried to sit down, Lucas watched as
Gwen handed Mykaela to Hope.
“Thank you, Gwen. I don’t know…”
“Hope, you don’t. I’m just happy Doc said we can bring them all
Micah carried Levi into the house and handed him to Milly.
Lucas turned to the older boys when he heard Josh ask, “Where’s
“That’s what I wanted to talk to you boys about. Now, your Papa
got hurt and Doc wants him to stay in bed for a while. Right
now, he’s sleeping, but when he wakes, we’ll let you in to see
“Yes, sir,” The boys said or nodded.
“Right now, your Mama’s have an early supper ready for you and
for now, you’ll need to try to keep quiet.”
While the children ate, Lucas asked Hattie and Micah out to the
porch. He told them of Mark’s diagnosis and progress that he had
made in just a few days.
Milly stepped to the porch to inform everyone that Mark was
awake and she had already fed him. That evening, there were more
people in the bedroom than ever before. Mark was eager to see
his children as well as his brothers, and happy that Micah and
Hattie had come too. Two hours had passed when Lucas noticed
that Mark couldn’t keep his eyes open and suggested they let
“Pa, can’t the boys stay?” Mark pleaded.
“I’ll get them to bed later, Pa,” Hope stated as she smiled,
seeing Mark and their three boys sitting in the bed together.
As Jake was getting ready to leave, he remembered the letter
Mrs. Donner had asked him to deliver.
“Mr. McCain, this letter came for you,” Jake said as he handed
the letter to Lucas.
Jake stepped to the porch where he slowly said goodnight to
“I wish you could come back to town with me?” Jake stated as he
shifted his feet and couldn’t look at Gwen.
“I belong here. Hope’s going to need my help now. Besides, you
need to get home so you can get a good night’s sleep to come
back in the morning to help Mr. Lucas.”
“And see you?” Jake quickly whispered in Gwen’s ear as he stole
a kiss, turned, and ran back to the buckboard.
Gwen placed her hand to her cheek and smiled.
Gwen re-entered the home to see Lucas carrying one of the twins,
Milly the other, while Hope carried Eli to their bedroom.
After tucking all three boys in their beds, Lucas stated, “Not
sure who fell asleep first, Mark or his sons.”
“He had a great evening,” Hope quietly spoke as they left the
“Hope, will you need anything?” Gwen asked.
“No, why don’t you go ahead and go to bed. I’ll see you in the
Everyone said goodnight.
Once back in their own home and after their children were put to
bed, Lucas sat down in his chair and pulled out the letter Jake
had handed him.
“Lucas?” Milly asked.
“I don’t know it’s postmarked Golden, Colorado. It was mailed
over a month ago.”
Lucas opened the letter and read:
Mr. Lucas McCain
North Fork, New Mexico Territory
Dear Mr. McCain,
I write this letter to warn you. Recently a good friend of mine,
Madilyn Willdrow, passed. Her son returned home, after almost
ten years of being gone, only in time for the funeral.
Afterwards, Oliver proceeded through her belongings and later
that day he rapidly left town.
I entered the home the next day and found her journals strewn
about her bedroom. Also strewn were newspapers articles of you
and then more of you and your son.
Mr. McCain, I fear for the safety of you and your family. Oliver
was led to believe that you were his father when in truth, you
killed his father while trying to rescue his mother, a month
after Oliver was born. This all happen in Oklahoma, about
twenty-seven years ago, from what Madilyn wrote, you had only
been married to your own wife a short time.
Please Mr. McCain, protect your family. I fear that Oliver
wishes to harm you and your family.
In God’s grace,
“Lucas?” Milly asked as she heard Lucas’ fist hit the arm of his
“This letter explains Oliver Willdrow.” Lucas handed the letter
to Milly and allowed her to read.
“Lucas, you couldn’t have known. But this is the past. We have
to focus on now, helping Mark and Hope recover.”
“I know,” Lucas sighed.
“Are you coming to bed?” Milly asked.
“Not yet. I need some time to think.”
“Lucas, God understands and no one blames you for what happened
to Mark. Our family is back home. Lucas talk with God and when
he’s put peace back in your heart, come to bed,” Milly finally
stated as she realized that none of her words were comforting to
Milly woke early the following morning and found the front door
to their home ajar. She hurried to the door and stepped to the
porch, she looked left and then right.
Myra stopped in her tracks and slowly turned around at hearing
her Ma calling her, “Yes, Mama?”
“Just where do you think you are going.”
“To help Hope and Gwen,” Myra said as she looked at her feet.
Then looking up, “Please Mama, I got to talk to Mark. I got to
Milly had walked to where Myra stood and knelt in front of her
“Myra, do you want to talk about this?”
“Mama, I got to know that Mark’s going to really be okay and
that he don’t…”
“He doesn’t what?”
“Hate me,” Myra barely whispered.
“Hate you?” Milly asked, shocked. “Myra we talked about this the
other day, your father and I, we told you it wasn’t your fault.”
“I know, you don’t blame me, but…”
“But maybe Mark does. He laughed and had fun with the boys last
night. He didn’t even call for me. Mama, if he hates me
“Young lady,” Milly said as she stood and took Myra’s hand.
“We’ll get this settled for once and for all.”
Milly walked Myra to Mark and Hope’s home, quietly opening the
front door to see Hope coming from the bedroom.
“Good Morning Hope,” Milly called.
“Ma? Myra? Good Morning. What brings you over here so early?”
“Is Mark awake?”
“He is. I was going to fix him breakfast before the boys woke.”
“Would you mind if Myra spends some time with Mark. She needs to
talk with him.”
Hope looked from Milly to Myra and then back to Milly. “Sure
Milly walked to the door and gently knocked on the door, she
heard Mark called, “Come in.”
“Mark, I think you need to talk with Myra. She’s carrying some…
Well, she feels that…”
“I understand,” Mark answered, realizing what his Ma couldn’t
bring herself to say. “Gabby?”
Myra stepped to the door and stopped.
“I sure have missed you, Gabby. I think we need to talk.”
Milly gently pushed Myra towards Mark’s bed, she closed the door
as she left the room.
“You’re being awfully quiet. That’s not the Gabby I remember,”
Mark spoke as he motioned for his sister climb up on the bed.
“You remember? You’re not just saying that?” Myra asked.
“I remember how difficult it is to keep you quiet. How you’re
always asking questions and not waiting for someone to answer,
before you ask the next.”
“What else do you remember?”
“I know your birthday is New Year’s Day and that you’re going to
be seven next year. I know you’re probably feeling bad, that
maybe this is all your fault? That maybe I don’t love you
“Sis, this isn’t your fault at all. And how can I not love my
only sister? If it weren’t for you, I probably would have died
“But you wouldn’t have been out there if I hadn’t tried to go
home and gotten swept away in the storm.”
“Gabby, if I’d of been to town a little earlier, we probably
would have been at the river anyway.”
“You would have known it wasn’t safe to cross,” Myra countered.
“Ma and Pa will probably be mad at me for telling you this, but
there was a mean man who was going to try to hurt Ma. He was
going to try to take you to force Ma to go with him.”
“Then Mama and Papa weren’t just saying that, to make me feel
“They told you about Harry?”
“I don’t know his name, but they said a bad man came and tried
to hurt Mama.”
“It’s the truth. I’m actually thankful you tried to go home. If
you hadn’t, I don’t know what he would have done to either of
“So you do love me?”
“Always,” Mark said as he raise his hands a little from his
sides, encouraging Myra to come to him so he could give her a
big ole hug.
“So you can move your arms now?”
“Yeah, just wish I could walk. It gets pretty boring just lying
here in bed.”
“I remember a previous time where you were confined to bed and
you did a lot of reading to Myra,” Hope called from the doorway.
“Are you two hungry?”
“I should get back home,” Myra said.
“No, your Mama asked me to let you spend the morning with us.
It’s the first time all three boys have been back here in a
while and I’m gonna need a lot of help today. Mark has exercises
to do and your Papa is planning to work the ranch today, so
Myra, Gwen and I could really use your help. We need someone to
make sure Mark stays in bed when we’re not in the house. We have
laundry to wash and hang. Do you think you can keep him in bed?”
“Yes Ma’am. Could I go home and get my schoolbooks?”
“After you eat.”
Hope served breakfast in bed to Mark and Myra that morning. As
she tended to their sons and daughter she smiled as she listened
to the laughter coming from the bedroom.
August started just as hot as June and July had. That day, both
McCain family’s observed Sunday in Mark and Hope’s home, with
Lucas reading from the Good Book. Before lunch, Lucas headed to
the barn and shortly, Mark heard the team being driven to the
front of the house.
“Pa?” Mark inquired.
“I spoke with Doc yesterday and he suggested a new exercise to
help you learn to walk. We’re going to the pond, boys get your
swimming suits. Ladies, you too. Milly and Hope have already
fixed a picnic lunch for the whole family.”
Lucas helped get Mark into the pond. Mark was pleased to realize
that he could float on the water. Hope had to caution the boys
to not be so rowdy around their father.
The strain of the previous two months wasn’t evident with the
families today. Everyone had fun splashing and swimming and just
having a good time.
While floating around in the water, Mark thought he felt that he
could move his legs. He fervently wished that he really was
regaining control over his legs. He was enjoying being in his
own world for a little while and was slightly startled when
Lucas swam up to him.
“Well, how are you feeling?”
“I feel great. Thanks Pa. This was a great idea.”
“Well, let’s get you out of the water before you start looking
like a shriveled prune.”
Lucas and Milly cuddled in bed with each other that night, both
content just holding the other in their arms.
“Everyone had a great time today,” Milly stated.
“Yes, it's been a long time since the family's had a day like
today,” Lucas answered, whispering in her ear.
Milly rolled over to face Lucas.
“You look a lot more relaxed than you have been in some time,
“I feel relaxed.” Lucas ran the back of his fingers across
Milly’s cheek. “I love you.”
“You care to prove that?” Milly asked as she blushed.
“You’re not tired?…”
“After a wonderful day like today, never.”
Both slipped from their bedclothes. Milly giggled, like a little
school girl, as Lucas’ hands tickled against her bare skin. They
each experienced a simple desire, but the more they caressed and
looked each other in the eye, the more their desire grew to
where they both lost themselves as they made love that night.
They had just rested back into each other’s arms when Milly
“Perfect timing,” Lucas complained and then laughed.
“Mama!” Little Ted called louder.
Milly quickly slipped from under the covers and dressed in her
nightgown to see why Little Ted had called her.
Lucas rested back in the bed, hands behind his head, a smile on
his face as he watched his wife pause at the door and smile back
The Next Step — The Shootout
This is a story based on the TV
series The Rifleman
Here are some other great stories. Enjoy!
around The McCain Ranch