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The Next Step,,,
Chapter 105 - Rough and Ready
Written by Deanne Bertram

Lucas and Mark didn’t stray far from their homestead, giving themselves time to heal from the hurts each had caused the other over their return to Enid; side by side father and son worked the ranch and continued to talk. Most folks who knew the McCain’s thought their bond couldn’t be any stronger, but they would have been wrong, over the course of the week, Lucas and Mark came to understand and respect the other more; laughter and ease returned to their homes.

When they finally decided to head into town with their families, Lucas was disappointed to find out that Lariat Jones had left while they were gone.

“Now Lucas, you know how he was one with the wind,” Micah teased as he leaned against the wheel of the buckboard, watching Lucas load the supplies. “However, I feel this time it didn’t have so much to do with the wind, but had more to do with Ruth Jackford.”

“What happened to Ruth?” asked Milly as she came from the General Store carrying packages.

“Nothing, except her having her sights set on visiting San Francisco. She was originally heading there when she stopped in North Fork earlier this year, and you know Oat, he tried real hard to keep her at the ranch, hoping she’d settle down. Lariat promised Oat he’d keep a watchful eye over his sister.”

“I’m gonna miss seeing him around town,” commented Lucas as he looked towards Sweeney’, hoping that Micah was jesting and he’d see Lariat stroll out the doors.

“He said he’d send a wire when they settled,” answered Micah. “Them two are two kindred spirits, I don’t think either will settle down.”

*****

North Fork had survived their Independence Day celebration they day before. Monday dawned to a rider coming into town, excitedly racing his horse up and down the main street, declaring, several times, “Buffalo Bill’s Wild West and Congress of Rough Riders from the World are Coming!” as he fired his pistol. Johnny Drako ran from the Marshal’s Office in an attempt to restore order to his town.

“Easy there!” Johnny declared has he stopped in the middle of the road, his arms held out to the side.

“Marshal, the rough riders are coming!” the rider yelled in pure excitement, ignoring the fact that his horse was lathered in sweat and blowing from the effort of running, his flanks heaving heavily.

“So you said. Right now you’ll holster your gun and stop racing your horse up and down our main street, endangering people’s lives,” ordered Johnny. “Besides, if you don’t’ stop, your horse might just collapse out from underneath you.”

The rider started to argue with Drako, but chose to bite his tongue as he witnessed the citizens standing along the boardwalk, clutching to their children. “Guess I shouldn’t have been quite so excited, but it’s my job! My apologies,” he called to Drako, but then yelled, “My apologies to all I alarmed. I shall make my announcement in a more civilized manner.” The rider stood up on the haunches of his horse and called out, “Ladies and Gentlemen, Boys and Girls, I’m here to tell you that none other than Buffalo Bill Cody is bringing the wild west to your fair town! Start saving up your money so you’ll be able to purchase a ticket!” As he finished his announcement, the rider slid down from his horse and landed on both feet giving a large flourish as he bowed to everyone who was still staring at him.

“Better,” Drako commented as he pushed his hat back on his head, allowing the sun to strike at his steely, cold eyes.

“I have some posters that need to be hung,” the rider stated, his demeanor changed to one who understood he had been wrong and needed to walk as if on thin ice.

“Oh no ye don’t!” Lou declared as she stormed from the front of the hotel. “Ye’ll not be robbing my hotel safe nor any other safe for that matter. Johnny, run him out of town this instant!”

“Hold on there, Lou,” Johnny dared answer his wife.

“Ma’am, I mean no disrespect and have no intensions of robbing anybody. I earn good wages from Mr. Cody himself.”

“So said the last drummer who came through here, declaring the circus was coming to town!” retorted Lou.

“Ma’am, I’m not working for any circus. Our Wild West is more than any circus!” boasted the young man, taking a deep breath and pushing his chest forward. “Why Annie Oakley and Frank Butler are a part of our show, no circus can boast of them. And Geronimo, Chief Joseph, and Sitting Bull have all graced us with their presence at one time or another.”

“I don’t care who ye say, I don’t trust ye!”

“Lou, he’s just a drummer, let him do his job.”

“Then ye do yours; Marshal. Warn all the merchants of North Fork to keep a close eye on their safes.” Lou humf’d as she folded her arms and dared her husband to say otherwise.

“Johnny,” Micah called as he came from the leather shop, “Lou’s right about the past. The last time a drummer came through here, Lucas ended up shooting him when he tried to rob Lou’s safe. It put Lucas and Mark at odds with each other when the drummer said that he saw someone else run from the lobby. Lucas knew the drummer to be a thief and Mark believed him to be honest.”

“What you’re both talking about is in the past and has nothing to do with the young man who’s standing in front of us. We have people, strangers, coming through here day after day and we don’t issue any warnings about them, so why should I issue a warning today?” Johnny cocked an eyebrow as he looked directly at his wife.

“Well?!” Lou turned to walk away, her Irish temper flared. Her body posture indicating she was not yet through with this discussion, but the conclusion would wait until they were in private.

“Marshal, I’ll be staying here for a while. Mr. Cody told me when I got to North Fork to wait for the show.”

“You have a name, son?” Johnny Drako asked.

“Sure, Pony Rawleston, my friends call me Pony,” stated the rider as he held his hand out to Johnny.

“Pleased to meet you. I’m Marshal Johnny Drako and welcome to North Fork.”

“You’re really him?” asked Pony, eyes wide in astonishment.

“Him?”

“The gunfighter… Johnny Drako?”

“Son, it’s been too many years since I was considered a gunfighter.”

“But you are Johnny Drako, right?”

Johnny nodded.

“Then you have to be one of the reasons why Mr. Cody is coming here, he said something about some others that he’d heard about in this territory. You’re famous!”

“Oh no…” cringed Micah.

“Marshal, if you don’t mind, I’ll take care of my horse and put him up over at the livery and I really need to get these posters up. Mr. Cody will have my hide when he arrives and I’ve not done my job.”

“When does he expect to get here?” Drako asked.

“By Friday, he’s made all the arrangements to move his show from the train into wagons. The train itself will be on sidetracks about ten miles east of town; we’ll probably establish our settlement a couple miles outside of town. Some towns take exception when we’re too close, but I’m sure Mr. Cody will be in to see you prior to unpacking the first crate.”

“Do you job, but check in with me when you’re done,” Drako suggested as he tipped his hat.

“Yes, sir. Thank you sir. Guess I should ask the livery owner if he minds my sleeping with my horse seeing as how I don’t think that gal who owns the hotel will let me stay there.”

“You leave the hotel owner to me, you’ll get a room, meals, and a hot shower,” Johnny replied as he pulled his hat lower over his eyes.

“Smell that bad, do I? Maybe I should visit the barber shop, get a shave and a bath before I start walking around your town.”

“Maybe a bath and then a shave,” Johnny smiled and shook his head as he returned to the Marshal’s Office.

Pony ran his left hand across his smooth face, “Yes sir.”

*****

Micah and Johnny sat outside the office, talking more about the last drummer who came to North Fork.

“So how was it that Mark came to stand up for this drummer against Lucas?” Drako asked.

“Mark was always eager to get his first rifle, and that was the day Lucas agreed to buy him his twenty-two. That drummer, I think his name was… Marty, anyway, you know how our young Mark trusted everyone at face value; Marty took to teaching Mark how to shoot his rifle and I knew that didn’t settle well with Lucas.”

“No, I can’t imagine it would have. But how did they get at odds?”

“Lucas spent the evening with Lou, and when he dropped her off at the hotel, Lou thought she had a prowler in the lobby and yelled for Lucas, he came running into the lobby and barely missed being struck by a bullet, he returned fire, striking the lad through the doorway. Marty told them he’d seen someone else running from the lobby, heard the shots fired, and was struck. Anyway, you know Lucas, he’s like a she bear with cubs when it comes to Mark, unfortunately neither could get the other to understand, or accept, why they felt the way they did. Ultimately, Lucas came up with a plan to prove which one of them was right, I was to wire to the circus inquiring if Marty was really in their employ.”

“And, what happened when you received the return wire?”

“We didn’t, Mark was to let Marty know that I was sending the wire, if nothing happened, we’d know he was telling the truth. Turns out, he tried sneaking out of town in the middle of the night right after Mark told him what we were doing. Lucas and Mark were waiting in the barn, each hoping the other was wrong, but dreading the fact they might be right. Marty entered the livery to get his horse and took a pot shot at Lucas, that’s all there was too it.”

“Bet Mark didn’t like being proven wrong by Lucas,” commented Johnny.

“No… The way I remember it, Mark was more hurt by Marty breaking the trust he had placed in him. Mark looked up Marty because he wasn’t that much older than Mark, and he was able to come and go as he pleased; I’m sure the fact that he was skilled with a gun also had something to do with it. No, Mark didn’t mind Lucas proving him was wrong, he stood up like a man and apologized to Lucas for thinking opposite of him.”

“Well, we always knew Mark was something special.” Johnny narrowed his eyes as he saw Lou peeking out the front window of the hotel, still brooding. “Guess I better go un-rile my wife.”

“Have fun!” Micah called as Johnny walked away.

*****

Johnny Drako, Seth Lane, and Micah Torrance sat outside the Marshal’s Office allowing the evening breeze to cool them from the heat of the afternoon. They stopped talking as two men stopped their horses in front of the hitching rails.

“Evening Gentlemen!” called the one wearing a fringed buckskin jacket over military pants, blue with a yellow stripe down the seam. “Allow me to introduce myself…”

“You don’t need to introduce yourself Mr. Cody, you boy, Pony already did that,” Micah answered as the three stood and waited for the two men to step from their horses.

“Well, you have me at a distinct disadvantage, but allow me to introduce my show manager Johnny Baker.”

“Mr. Cody, you’re here!” Pony yelled as he ran from the livery.

“Of course I’m here. Told you we wouldn’t be here any later than tomorrow. I decided to come into town and find out where we should set up.”

“Mr. Cody, this here is Marshal Johnny Drako, Deputy Seth Lane, and Deputy Micah Torrance,” Pony introduced.

After exchanging handshakes, Drako stated, “Pony said you usually set up a mile or so out of town. There’s a gentle valley, east of town, with plenty of grassland for grazing your stock and a creek that runs through it and has a large pond area before continuing on.”

“Glad to see we think alike, Johnny and I saw that valley when we were riding in,” Cody answered. “We hope to have everything set up so our first performance will be Saturday afternoon.”

“That quickly?” Micah asked.

“Your questioning a former cavalry scout, Micah,” Seth offered as an explanation.

“We’ve enough roustabouts, that we’ll have most everything set up by late afternoon tomorrow. Our outfit is extremely self sufficient.”

“That and you’ve done this quite a few times,” Drako offered. “Just remind your ‘roustabouts’ that this here is a quiet town. They’re welcome as long as they mind themselves.”

“Thank you. Baker, you’ll pass the word along?”

“Yes, sir, Mr. Cody.”

*****

Mark and his family sat mesmerized through the first performance of Buffalo Bill Cody’s Wild West and Congress of Rough Riders from the World; upon hearing the news that the show would be on the outskirts of North Fork, Mark organized a family outing to celebrate the twins sixth birthday, yet left their daughters with Seth and Lilah. The boys were thrilled to see all the riders, U.S. Cavalry and scouts, Cossacks, Turks, Gauchos, Arabs, Mongols, and Georgians and their horses, not to mention riders of the Pony Express and Native Indians; cowboys and Texas Longhorns, each group dressed in traditional attire. Mark answered his young sons’ questions, as best his could over the noise of the crowd and the action happening in the arena. Towards the end of the performance, Buffalo Bill Cody rode into the middle of the arena sitting upon a large, pure white horse with a long flowing mane and even longer tail.

“Ladies and Gentlemen, Boys and Girls, I present to you fierce warriors who once were our foe, but, I am now proud to call my friend. Watch and be amazed at their prowess in riding their trusted ponies! Be amazed with the accuracy of their arrows and knives, the knives of an enemy that took many scalps and not just those of white men! See the vibrant colors of their clothes, and allow yourselves to be drawn into their world. Watch the intricacies of the dance as they pray to their Gods. Ladies and Gentlemen! I present to you, Lakota!! Pawnee!! Sioux!! And Kiowa!! Indians of the Nations!!”

Only a few minutes into the performance, from the corner of his eye Mark saw Hope stand and plead, “Excuse me” as she tried to pass the other spectators who were sitting in the same row. Knowing he couldn’t leave his sons alone, Mark could only sit and wait, and wonder.

*****

Still hearing the sounds from the arena, Hope ran while trying to avoid the multitude of performers and support personnel making their way to and from the show grounds. Leaning against a traveling wagon, Hope could no longer stop the tears from falling from her eyes; her emotions wrought with hatred, embarrassment, and humiliation.

*****

“Ma’am, are you okay?” Hope heard; she tried to compose herself as she opened her eyes.

“No!” Hope yelled and tried to run away, but the Indian brave who had asked put out a restraining hand, “I mean you no harm. Our tribe is friends with the white man.”

“How could you!” Hope dared yelled as she stomped her foot and clinched her hands.

“How could I? Your question is strange,” answered the brave.

“You make a mockery of… of…”

“Moc-ker-y, this word is not known to me.”

“Participating in that show!” Hope yelled as she pointed back to the arena. “You are proud and noble and now… what the audience saw was staged and so unreal!”

“What would a white woman know of our way of life, other than what she has read in books?” the brave asked.

“I lived your life! I lived among you! Grey Heart, you and Iron Heart and the others…”

“You know my name?” Grey Heart curiously asked.

“And why should I not!” a defiant Hope demanded.

“Ma’am?” Confusion painted the brave’s face.

“I am not a ma’am, I am Dawn Fire!” Hope’s eyes daring Grey Heart to take up her challenge as she re-clinched her fists.

“Dawn Fire…” With a softening of his expression, Grey Heart asked, “Can it really be you?”

“I am Dawn Fire! And what I saw out there was not the tribe that raised me!” Again Hope pointed towards the arena.

“No, what you saw was a show for those who come to see. Nothing more, nothing less.”

“Grey Heart, you need to get ready for the finale,” said a woman dressed in traditional Indian attire, who came to stand next to Grey Heart.

Hope looked at the woman and saw the age in her face and the streaks of grey in her hair.

“Silver Moon, I will go, but please, keep my sister safe.”

Grey Heart turned to leave and jogged to where another brave held his horse. He grabbed the mane of his horse and swung up upon the animal’s back, grabbed his lance, raised it over his head and cried out. As one, every rider followed Grey Heart’s lead into the arena.

“Dawn Fire?” inquired Silver Moon.

“Yes, it is I,” answered Hope as she lowered her eyes, unable to look at the woman who stood before her, the woman who had offered her comfort those first few days after her Aunt Susan and her family had been murdered; the woman who became a mother to her.

“Dawn Fire, come child. We have much to talk.”

Silver Moon placed her hand to Hope’s back and escorted her into their camp. As they walked farther and farther from the arena and the sideshow attractions, Hope came to realize that much of what she now saw was the truth, the way she remember living when she was, Kiowa. The teepee where Iron Heart and family lived was central to the entire camp. Throughout the camp, young children helped with chores, while women prepared meals… And those in between being considered a child or a brave, took care of the herds. The young maidens of the camp were at their elders’ sides.

Silver Moon pulled aside the flap of the teepee and offered for Hope to enter first; Silver Moon allowed the flap to close as she joined Hope within.

“It is good to see you again daughter. Many times, I pray to the Great One that you are happy. I pray that your life is good?”

“It is, Silver Moon. The others?”

A smile broke across the woman’s face when she answered, “I am a grandmother many times over because of Grey Heart, Iron Talon, and Running Fox. When my husband and eldest sons returned without you, I mourned your loss. Iron Heart was proud when he received word that you were to marry and your father asked us to come. Yet, again, I mourned your loss upon our return home. I missed having my daughter sit in front of me, allowing me to brush her hair, talking woman’s words… baking bread or skinning hides…”

“I missed you too. It was difficult, but… the people of North Fork welcomed me as you did. I love my husband and his family…”

“Has the Great One blessed you with..” Silver Moon stopped talking.

Hope looked toward the flap upon hearing the voices of many braves cry out their victory. The voices outside abruptly quieted and the flap to the teepee opened, allowing the interior to be flooded with the sun, before it closed again.

“Dawn Fire, Grey Heart said you returned to us,” Iron Heart spoke to welcome the one who had been his daughter.

Hope stood to the side of the cooking area within the teepee, staring at Iron Heart, dressed in his full war bonnet and breastplate, holding his lance perpendicular to the ground.

“The teepee of Iron Heart has not been the same since you left,” Iron Heart offered as a way to entice Hope into conversation.

“Iron Heart and his family have been missed in my heart, too,” Hope answered.

“From what Grey Heart said and from what I see in your eyes, you do not approve of how we live.”

Thinking before she spoke, Hope finally answered, “I know I have no right to judge you and the tribe; I am no longer a member.”

Grey Heart took the lance Iron Heart held out to him. Iron Heart walked towards Hope, his arms held open, inviting her into an embrace. Hope cried again as Iron Heart wrapped his arms around her and spoke soothingly. In time, Hope regained control over her emotions and Iron Heart stepped to stand next to Silver Moon, placing his left hand on the right shoulder of his wife.

"Do not be angered by what you see outside. Cody calls us ‘actors’.” Iron Heart paused as he looked to Hope standing stoically in front of him. “Some day, I see the white man ‘acting’ their own great battles, Gettysburg, Vicksburg, Chancellorsville, and Appomattox, before crowds of people. Dawn Fire, what you saw today is only a show, a show of the white man, but there are times when we are the victors.”

“But the white man sees you as savage because of what you do!”

“Little Big Horn is the history of both the white and the red man…” Iron Heart softly spoke.

“But the Kiowa were NOT there!”

“No, the Kiowa were not there, but the white man does not see the difference between the tribes, to them we are Indian. Though the white man comes from many countries, they do not see that we are different.”

“Then you must teach them the difference, the same as the difference between an American and someone from Ireland or England.”

“But from your history books, Americans are descendants from England, and other countries,” Grey Heart spoke.

“You use my words against me. Why? Why have you given up your way of life to do this?” demanded Hope.

“We do this so we may live a life off a reservation. Should we deny our young the chance to learn? When the white man’s children go to school; our children sit beside them to learn. Those who teach the young, teach of all the cultures in this settlement. The white man has taught us more of their words. Do you not hear how well we use the white man’s words? Have you not listened to hear that the white man uses our words when in conversation with us?” Iron Heart patiently spoke.

Hope continued to stand and listen to the words of Iron Heart, she turned to look at those who she had called brothers were nodding their heads in agreement.

Iron Heart continued, “What you have not seen is after, when the sun is chased from the sky; people from the towns we visit come to our village... Here, they see we are not the savages they read of... They freely walk among us, without fear. Men come and trade for our furs. Women trade for baskets, and beads, and ask questions… Should we be too proud to not use this as a way to teach our way of life to those who are willing to learn?”

“My eyes are as blind as those who only believe what is written,” Hope sorrowfully admitted.

“Dawn Fire, many moons ago, I knew our way would come to an end... We are proud, but by doing this, our way of life still lives and we are free."

“Free? You do not follow the great buffalo herds… How can you say you are free?” Hope pleaded to understand.

“There are not many buffalo herds that roam the land, but we are allowed to be who we are and Mr. Cody understands our way of life and when the iron horse passes through a valley with a herd, he will stop the iron horse and we hunt. Red man and white man, side by side. He provides rifles so we may hunt at a distance so no brave has to get close to the beast and risk his life. He even asked me to teach him to hunt with a bow and arrow, as well as with the lance. The women, of all skin colors, white, red, black, brown, work side by side to skin the buffalo to provide food to sustain us and hides for clothing and blankets…”

“I understand what you are saying, but to see you on display…”

“The white men are on display too. Do not forget they have a part to play out there.”

“The white man has wronged the Indian in so many ways…” Hope answered.

“It was after the white man’s great war that I first encountered a scout, a fierce fighter, for the white man’s army. If I can put aside my past hatred of Mr. Cody, can you not put aside yours?”

“Hatred…”

“Hope, that is the name you are called, Hope?” Iron Heart asked.

“Yes, my name is Hope.”

“Your eyes show your hatred for how you think we have been treated. Mr. Cody treats us with respect and honor. He shares food in this teepee on many occasions, as do others. And Silver Moon and I have broken bread with Mr. Cody in the carriage of his iron horse”

From outside the tent, those within heard, “Iron Heart, a moment of your time?”

Iron Heart stepped to the flap and exited the teepee only to return a short time later with another man, the one who had sat upon the large white horse.

“Glad to have found you, I’m William Cody.”

“I didn’t need finding,” Hope answered.

“One of my managers saw you running from the arena, and a lone woman can cause quite a commotion around here. Myself and a few of my Rough Riders have scoured the entire settlement in search of you, in an effort to avoid any real life re-enactment of any of our performances.”

“You need not worry about that, I have no fear of being scalped.”

“Scalped? Little lady, these Indians are my friends, why they’d no more try to scalp you than they would me,” boasted Buffalo Bill Cody.

“They may not, but I might…” Hope replied.

“I see by the ring on your left hand you are a married woman and I really must insist that you return to join those you came with. If you’ll come with me? Don’t need no woman getting all hysterical and raising unnecessary alarm...”

“Hysterical! I’ll have you know, I am not a hysterical woman. I’ll stand up to any brave or rough rider you have!”

“Dawn Fire!” scolded Silver Moon.

“I’ll not have him belittle you or me!” Hope declared.

“Dawn Fire?” repeated Cody.

“Mr. Cody, the one who stands before you is as a daughter to us, she once lived with us, and was called Dawn Fire,” Silver Moon answered.

“I did not mean to belittle you nor do I demean my friendship with Iron Heart and his people. I know of you, Iron Heart spoke fondly of you when we shared a piece pipe when he first joined our show.”

“You did more than share a piece pipe,” stated Silver Moon as she remembered how drunk the two became on that occasion.

“We won’t go into that part of the story. Ma’am, I think it would be best if you were to come with me and I do not ask for your own good, but for the protection of our friends. There are those who would take your disappearance as an excuse to cause trouble for Iron Heart or any of the tribes. I wish to avoid this at all costs. Please… will you come with me?”

Cody extended his arm and waited for Hope to make up her mind. Soon, she nodded and accepted Buffalo Bill Cody’s arm

Before they left the teepee, Iron Heart spoke in Kiowa, “It was good to see you.”

“I hope we may see each other again,” Hope answered in Kiowa. In English, she continued, “Maybe you can teach me to see with open eyes and an open heart.” Hope gave a brief smile before she turned and left.

*****

“So, where should I see you to?” Cody asked as they stepped from the teepee.

“Probably your ticket gate, I presume my husband would be waiting for me there,” answered Hope.

Buffalo Bill escorted Hope during their walk towards the entrance to the settlement, as they approached they heard the rumblings of a rather unfriendly crowd. Dropping Hope’s hand from his arm, Cody ran to see what was causing the trouble.

“People! People! Quiet down!” Cody demanded as he jumped up on a table.

“They can’t get away with kidnapping a white woman,” a man in the crowd yelled.

“She wasn’t kidnapped!” another man called out in an attempt to disburse the crowd. “Everyone, please, just go back to your homes!”

“I saw her run off! Scared to death she was! Saw a filthy injun grab her by the arm!” the man yelled again. “Burn them all! That will teach ‘em!”

Buffalo Bill heard the one man declare, “Trumble, stop drumming up trouble! You don’t know what you’re talking about!”

“I know what I saw, them injuns have a white woman captive! If you’re not man enough… Come one men!”

Without waiting any longer, Cody pulled his handgun and fired into the air causing an immediate silence to settle around the crowd.

“People! We can handle this without your interference!” Cody heard the young man yell.

“Just who is supposed to be missing?!” Hope dared yell as she walked up to face the crowd. “Have you nothing better to do than let whiskey do your talking?! If you were real men, everyone here would be ashamed for their actions!”

“Is that her?” someone in the crowd yelled.

“That’s her!” another answered.

“Folks, as you can see, there has been no harm done to this young woman and as such, it is getting late and the show grounds are closed. Now please, go back to your homes!” Buffalo Bill Cody declared.

Through mumbled words, the crowd quieted and slowly disbursed, while Buffalo Bill stepped down from the table. Taking his hat in one hand, he pulled a bandanna from his pocket to wipe his brow.

Cody watched as one man broke away from the other two, the young one who had tried to calm the crowd, and wrapped his arms around her and pulled her close. Cody smiled when he saw her somewhat relax into the man’s arms.

“Gentlemen, no harm was done to the young woman. She just got curious and wandered off. One of my men saw her and came to get me to rescue her.”

Pushing herself back, Hope declared to Buffalo Bill, “I say again, I did nothing to need rescuing.” Turning back to Mark, “Iron Heart is here.”

“Here, where?” an incredulous Mark asked.

“In the settlement, I recognized him when the performance started… that’s why I ran. I’m ashamed for what I accused. Mr. Cody, with your permission, I’d like to return tomorrow. My husband and I, oh, this is my husband, Marshal Mark McCain, my father, Deputy Seth Lane, and Marshal Johnny Drako.”

“Ma’am, I met your marshal and your father when we first arrived. Mr. McCain, pleased to meet you. I guess we all kind of jumped to conclusions today. Little Lady, we only have a mid-afternoon performance tomorrow; I’d be honored to host all you and your family after your church services.”

Cody tipped his hat and walked back into the settlement, he halted his stride, shook his head, before he continued walking to his quarters.

*****

“Hope what did you accuse?” Seth asked.

“I accused Iron Heart of betraying who he was,” Hope cast her eyes down as she answered her father. “I have a lot to learn and to apologize for. Where are the boys?”

“Johnny and I came to check on how the roustabouts were behaving and saw Mark looking rather, anxious. We took them back to town and left them with Lilah before returning. We just go back when Cody fired his gun,” Seth answered.

The Next Step — Kiowa Reacquainted

This is a story based on the TV series The Rifleman
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