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The Next Step
Chapter 72 – The Adventure
Written by Deanne Bertram

Mark had just stepped back into his home from morning chores, as he opened the door, the smell of pancakes and maple syrup wafted through the air. Mark walked to the stove and wrapped his arms around Hope, “Good morning,” his whispered in her ear.

Smiling, Hope returned the greeting.

“So, should I get the boys up?” he asked.

“I think they’re already awake, they won’t let Gwen in their room,” Hope commented.

Mark release his hands from Hope’s waist and walked over to the closed bedroom door, turned the knob, pushed on the door, only to find it wouldn’t open. When it wouldn’t open, Mark knocked.

“Boys?!”

“Yes Papa?” came from the other side of the door.

“Why won’t this door open?”

“We’re getting ready,” came a second voice.

“Ready for what?” Mark shoved a little harder on the door and it budged.

“Papa, No!”

“Open this door, now!”

From the other side Mark heard something being pushed out of the way. Mark waited for the door to open.

“What are you hiding?” Mark asked as Hope came to stand behind Mark.

“Nothing,” Eli said.

“Nothing? Then why was the door blocked?” Hope asked.

“We wanted to surprise you,” Josh spoke as he stepped into view.

Hope raised her hand to her mouth and Mark raised his eyebrows. Both looked as all three of their sons were dressed in their Sunday clothes, including string ties, only they weren’t exactly tied correctly.

“We wanted to show you we could be good and get ready without any help. Papa, we really want to go fishing this afternoon, you promised,” Zach pleaded.

“I did at that. But why block the door?” Mark asked again as he knelt down and started to properly tied each one’s tie.

“We didn’t want Gwen to come in and spoil our surprise,” Josh answered.

‘Well, your Mama and I are quite pleased you boys took the initiative to get dressed so early,” Mark answered trying to keep a serious face.

“We did what?” Eli asked.

“You got ready on your own, without your Mama and I having to ask you. I’m really proud.”

*****

As the families gathered in front of the church, before services, Josh and Zach started talking with Little Ted about their plans to go fishing after church.

“Can I come too?” Little Ted asked.

“You ask Papa?” Eli answered and then quickly ran to Hope, when she called for the boys.

Eli and the twins stopped short when they realized their parents were talking to a stranger, “Boys,” Mark called, “I’d like for you to meet Mr. and Mrs. Cooperton, and their son seven year old son, Isaiah.”

All three boys stated, “Pleased to meet you.”

“Go on inside with your Mama, I’ll be in shortly,” Mark told his sons.

“Yes sir,” each one said as they followed Hope inside.

“Such young gentlemen,” Mrs. Cooperton commented.

“We try to raise them properly,” Mark said as he smiled.

“Are the oldest in school yet?” Mrs. Copperton asked.

“Next year, they’re only four.” A longing tugged at Mark’s heart, yes, his boys were only four, yet, it seemed like it wasn’t that long ago they were born.

As the last of the parishioners entered the church, Mark closed the door behind him, then went to take his seat with his family.

Mark noticed the different arrangement of the seats and the pulpit, as he heard Reverend McCafferty request all the children to come to the front of the church. The Reverend announced that the sermon for the day was about life’s blessings.

“Life’s blessings. That’s what each and every one of you are,” Reverend McCafferty stated as he pointed to each and every child sitting around him.

“Uh Uh, Ma says I’m a hellion,” little Charlie Walker could be heard to say. His comment drew a laugh from the adults, and an embarrassed “Charlie!” from his mother.

“Well, sometimes, that too,” Reverend McCafferty commented as he tried not to laugh.

By the end of the sermon, the love that so many of those present shared with those sitting around the Reverend was evident. Smiles in realizing their blessings and pride abounded in the church.

Reverend McCafferty ended his sermon by starting to sing and one by one, the children joined in,

Jesus loves me! This I know,
For the Bible tells me so.
Little ones to Him belong;
They are weak, but He is strong.

Yes, Jesus loves me!
Yes, Jesus loves me!
Yes, Jesus loves me!
The Bible tells me so.

Jesus loves me! This I know,
As He loved so long ago,
Taking children on His knee,
Saying, “Let them come to Me.”

Yes, Jesus loves me!
Yes, Jesus loves me!
Yes, Jesus loves me!
The Bible tells me so.

Jesus loves me when I'm good,
When I do the things I should,
Jesus loves me when I'm bad,
Though it makes Him very sad.

Yes, Jesus loves me!
Yes, Jesus loves me!
Yes, Jesus loves me!
The Bible tells me so.

The group continued to sing as they walked out the front door of the church.

Lucas, Mark, and Milly started to head to the restaurant when Mark stopped as he felt Josh tug on his pant leg.

“Yes, Josh?”

“Can’t we go home. Mama fixed a picnic basket,” Josh pleaded.

“Please, we been real good Papa,” Zach pleaded.

“What’s this about a picnic basket?” Lucas asked as he looked to his oldest grandson.

Josh looked to his feet.

“Papa, Mark said he’d take them fishing after church today. Can I go too? Please, Mark?” Little Ted asked.

“That’s up to Pa,” Mark answered. “Pa, earlier this week, when I returned to duty, the boys were having difficulties, so I told them if they behaved for Hope and Gwen this week, I’d take them fishing after church today.”

“You know what, fishing sounds mighty good to me. That is, as long as the women folk don’t mind?” Lucas asked as he looked to Milly.

Lucas felt a tug on his hand, “Yes, Myra?”

“Can I go fishing or am I women folk?” Myra asked, bringing laughter from everyone present.

“Which would you like to be?” Lucas asked.

“Well, I know Ma’s trying to raise me to be a lady, but with so many boys around…”

“You want to go fishing Gabby?” Mark asked.

“Yes,” Myra giggled.

Milly nodded, “Let’s get everyone home and changed so they can go fishing.”

*****

Milly holding Levi, Hope holding Mykaela, and Gwen stood on the porch and waved to the others as they headed to the fishing pond.

“Okay, now that we have the afternoon to ourselves, what shall we do?” Milly asked as they entered into Milly’s home.

“We can talk?” Gwen asked.

“Sure we can, anytime.” After seeing the expression on Gwen’s face, “Or is there something particular you’d like to discuss.” Milly set Levi to the crib as Hope placed Mykaela in the crib.

“Oh, Miss Milly, I’ve been bursting at the seams all morning long! I wanted to tell everyone, but it didn’t seem proper at church, least not yet.”

“Tell everyone what? Oh my!” Milly exclaimed as Gwen held up her left hand.

“When did this happen?”

“Last night,” Hope answered. “We were the excuse for Jake inviting Gwen over for dinner last night.

“Have the two of you set a date, yet?” Milly asked.

“We’ve barely had a moment to talk about it,” Gwen stated.

“Okay, then tell me all the details,”

Milly poured lemonade for the three as they settled back to listen to Gwen. Both Milly and Hope, allowed their memories to take them back to when their respective husbands had proposed. They remember how they felt as they listened. Even though Hope was there, she enjoyed listening to Gwen tell of the night before.

*****

Once the boys and Myra were settled down with their fishing poles, Lucas and Mark grabbed and baited their own poles.

Myra was the first to feel a fish tug on her line.

“Papa, lookie, I got one!” she squealed.

“Gently, real gentle, stand up and bring your pole this way,” Lucas stated.

After a few minutes, Lucas removed a nice sized crappie from Myra’s pole. Shortly all four boys were calling they too had something on their lines.

By the end of the second hour Mark declared, “Seems we’re going to have a nice fish supper tonight.”

*****

Mark and Lucas loaded the boys and Myra into the back of the wagon and Lucas drove the team back to the homestead.

“Papa?”

“Yes, Zach?” Mark asked as he turned around in the front seat of the buckboard.

“When did you learn how to ride a horse?”

“I don’t rightly remember. I do remember your Grandpa riding me in front of him in the saddle when I was little,” Mark answered.

“You were about the age the twins and Little Ted are when you got your first pony,” Lucas answered.

“Could you teach us how to ride?” Josh asked.

“Could ya?” Little Ted asked.

“You can teach them on Blue Boy, like you taught me,” Myra offered.

“I think I smell a conspiracy,” Mark laughed as he looked to his father. “When we get home, I’ll talk with your Mama, and as for you little brother, that’s up to our parents to say yes.”

All three boys looked to each other and smiled.

*****

After the children had finally been put to bed for the night; both households had trouble, as all the children we still too keyed from their adventure, Mark and Hope returned to his parent’s home.

“So, when are you going to find time between working the ranch and standing your shift in town to teach three boys how to ride?” Lucas asked.

“Do what?” Milly asked.

“Did you say Mark was going to teach the boys how to ride? They’re too young!” Hope exclaimed.

“Hope, they’re older than I was when I was riding in the saddle in front of Pa,” Mark stated. “And Ma, Gabby was four when I taught her how to ride.”

“But,” Hope tried to protest. “Just who are they going to learn on?”

“Gabby offered Blue Boy, but he’s starting to get up there in years, I was thinking Two-Bits.”

“Mark, I don’t like the idea of you taking all three up to the round up pen…” Milly protested.

“I won’t, with three of them, I thought about teaching them in the corral. Besides, teaching them here, Hope and you can be here to help out.”

“So, where do we find saddles small enough for them and then large ponies?” Lucas asked.

“You remember Mr. Cooperton?”

“We met the family at church today?” Lucas asked.

“He’s a saddle maker. I had already talked with him earlier in the week about commissioning him to make saddles for the twins. I realized today was coming. I can talk to him about a saddle for Little Ted and then with Nils about large ponies.”

“Think we might need to build on to the barn again,” Lucas said with pride as he knew his second son was growing up.

*****

The following weekend, Lucas and Mark rode into town with two tasks to complete, first talk to Leon Copperton about three saddles for three boys and then to Nils about three large ponies.

The Next Step — Fort Stanton

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

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