The Rifleman
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The Next Step...
Chapter 112 - The Expansions
Written by Deanne Bertram

It was a crisp early October morning when Mark entered the Marshal’s office to hear an argument brewing between Johnny and Seth, both had previously spoken with their respective wife to schedule their vacations, not realizing they had chosen the same time to be gone.

“I’ll just have to tell Lou that we’ll need to post-pone our vacation, that’s all there is to it,” Johnny stated.

“I won’t hear of it. You have seniority, I’ll tell Lilah that we need to wait until you return,” countered Seth.

“No, you and Lilah go on with your plans,” answered Johnny.

Mark stood just inside the door; listening as both men tried to defer their vacation, “You’ll both go!” Mark finally stated.

“I’m the Marshal of North Fork, so what I say goes,” Johnny retorted.

“And as the Marshal, you have the right to keep your planned vacation,” Seth stated as he stood from his desk and walked over to stand just in front of Johnny’s desk.

“And I’m a U.S. Marshal, and my title trumps both of you,” laughed Mark.

“Mark, I understand what you’re trying to do,” Johnny spoke as he stood from his desk and walked to refill his coffee cup at the pot-bellied stove. “But you know it takes two to watch over North Fork.”

“Have you forgotten you pinned the badge on Micah earlier this year?” answered Mark as he followed Johnny to the pot-bellied stove and accepted a cup from Johnny.

“Mark, Micah…”

Mark interrupted, “Johnny, you pinned the badge on him. I’ve not seen him look so full of life in a long time. Besides, don’t you think our reputations keep outlaws from riding into town, especially after that show we put on with Buffalo Bill? When was the last time we had any…” Seeing his father-in-law about to speak, Mark pointed, using his hand that was holding the coffee mug, and stated, “Now you can’t count Warrenson and Rodriguez, they were here because of the Wild West show. You think the two of us can’t take care of this quiet, little town?”

“Mark, it’s not that…” Johnny added.

“Then what?” A boyish grin started to spread across Mark’s face. “Do you really want to tell Lou that you’re going to post-pone your vacation? You know how she’s been talking about going back to see your family and how excited she is to meet the newest members… she’s not seen any of their babies. The last time you went to visit was on your honeymoon. Do you really want to suffer her wrath?”

“That’s a low blow,” Johnny retorted.

“All the more reason for you to go. Lilah and I…” commented Seth.

Mark wasn’t through with his tactics to see his friends and family take some well deserved time off, “Seth, do you want my wife to tell your wife you could have gone on your vacation, as planned, to visit her other grandchildren?”

“Mark!” Seth demanded.

“You’ll both go and that’s final. I’ll move Hope and the family into the hotel, and Micah can keep watch from the office when I need to work the ranch or make my rounds. Besides, I’m sure John Hamilton or Nils or even Uncle Johnny would gladly help out for a few hours here and there.”

“Then I insist you stay at our house while we’re gone,” Seth ordered.

“Yes, sir,” agreed Mark.

*****

Johnny, Lou, and their family had already left North Fork two days prior when Hope, Mark, and their children stood at the train depot to see Seth and Lilah off.

The conductor had made his final call for “All aboard!” when the train started pulling out of the station, while he held Faith, Mark and Hope waved goodbye while their four oldest children ran to the end of the platform, trying to keep up with the window where Seth and Lilah were waving.

*****

Mark opened the door and allowed his family to enter, before he started carrying in their bags.

“You four go upstairs and start to unpack your bags,” stated Mark while Hope set Faith to her feet in the parlor.

The last item Mark carried in was the bassinet for Faith to sleep in; he placed it in the same upstairs bedroom where Mykaela would sleep.

“She’s not sleeping in the bedroom with us?” asked Hope, slightly perplexed.

“She’ll be a year old the end of the month. Don’t you think it’s about time? Besides, I’d like a little private time with my wife.”

“Mark! This is my parents’ home!”

“So?”

“Would you want to do as you suggest in your parents’ home?” answered Hope.

“Have you forgotten all the times we did? After we were married? Before we built our own home?” teased a smiling Mark.

Hope blushed at forgetting, but also at remembering.

“Are you going to be okay settling everyone in?” Mark asked as he wrapped his arms around Hope’s waist and pulled her close.

“Sure, why do you ask?” Hope replied as she wrapped her arms around Mark’s neck.

“Just wanted to make sure before I leave; I need to take all the horses over to Nils’ before I head to the office. What time would you like to meet to go to supper tonight at the hotel?”

“I’d planned on fixing supper here,” answered Hope.

From the top of the stairway, they both heard the disappointed “oh, man,” cries of their sons.

“I think we have eavesdroppers,” Mark quietly stated, before speaking louder, “What have we said about eavesdropping?” Mark turned to look up the stairs, but didn’t let Hope go from his embrace.

“We weren’t eavesdropping, we were coming back downstairs and heard ya,” Zach answered.

“I think you can go right back into your rooms.

“Come on guys,” Josh stated. “They’re doing kissy-face stuff.”

Mark and Hope couldn’t quiet their own soft laughter.

*****

The twins enjoyed staying in town, though they were disappointed they couldn’t ride their horses to school, they did enjoy the benefit of being able to stop by the Marshal’s Office after school and talk with Papaw Micah and listening to him tell stories from his years of marshaling.

Mr. Bullock closed the school doors as he let the children out for the weekend and most all the schoolboys followed Josh and Zach as they made their way to the Marshal’s Office.

“Just what do I have here? If you’re a lynch mob, I don’t have any prisoners in my jail,” teased Micah.

“Papaw Micah,” Josh stated. “The guys want to hear your stories too. Please?”

A chorus of ‘Please?’ went up from each boy.

“Well now, can’t disappoint those I’m sworn to protect can I?”

“No sir,” Isaiah Cooperton answered.

Micah waited for the boys to settle themselves while he thought on which story to tell. The some of the boys climbed up on top of the desks, while others sat on the floor and patiently waited.

“Now, let me think, what story should I tell you?” Micah decided to tell the story of when Johnny Drako first came to North Fork and stood with Lucas and himself against Billie Graves, Mac Jones, and Red Evans.

*****

Lucas and Mark entered town later than planned, and Mark stopped talking when they saw a large group of parents making their way from the schoolhouse to the Marshal’s Office.

“Marshal!” a few of the parents called and started to run towards them.

Halting Rainmaker, Mark replied, “How can I help you?”

“Our boys, none of them returned home after school today.”

“None of your boys?” asked Mark as he watched the group of parents shake their heads. Urging his horse into a trot, Mark headed to the Marshal’s Office.

Reaching for the office door, Mark called, “Micah!”

“Afternoon Mark… What’s wrong, something happen?” Micah asked upon seeing Mark enter.

Mark’s posture and tone of voice changed from alarm over the missing boys to ease upon finding them. “I’d say. Seems most of the boys from school didn’t arrive home when they should have. I’ve a mob of worried parents making their way… here.”

“Missing boys… Uh oh,” Micah answered, embarrassed as he stood. “Guess I should have asked if their parents knew where they were.”

“That would have been a good idea,” Mark answered.

Hearing the parents nearing the jail, Mark stepped outside the building and tried to quiet the group.

“Folks, all your sons are safe.”

“Where are they?” Lance Tunneson asked.

“Seems they needed to do some community service; they’re all inside. Boys?!” Mark called.

One by one, the boys exited the jail and walked to their parents. The last boys to leave stopped in their tracks when they heard their names, “Little Ted, Robbie, Josh, Zach,” slowly they turned around to face Mark.

“Why didn’t you go home after school?”

“We’re living at Grandma and Grandpa Lane’s until they get home,” Zach answered.

“You know what I mean.”

“We been stopping by here and talking with Papaw Micah, listening to his adventures after school this week. Mama knows,” answered Josh.

“I take it you told the others about Micah’s stories?” asked Mark.

“Sure, but they didn’t believe us, so we told them to come along today and hear Papaw Micah for themselves. He’s got lots of stories to tell,” Zach answered.

“It didn’t occur to you that by inviting your friends you’d worry their parents?” asked Mark as Lucas stepped down from his horse behind Mark.

“Our Mama knew where we were. Not our fault they didn’t let theirs know,” Josh replied with the sincerity of child.

“And what about you, Little Ted, Robbie?” asked Lucas.

“Mama told us to stay with Josh and Zach, to wait for you, that we weren’t to try to go home on our own,” Little Ted honestly answered.

“Where’s your sister?” asked Lucas looking to his middle son.

“Mama told her to go help Hope after school,” answered Little Ted.

Lucas raised his hand, pretending to scratch his face, more so to hide his grin.

“Now don’t be too hard on the boys,” Micah stated in defense of his extended family.

“Micah, of all people you should know better,” Mark replied.

“And as someone who was once a young boy, you should know better too. Can you really expect anyone of them to done differently than they did?”

Mark shook his head, “No, but that’s not the point.”

“They didn’t do no differently than you did when you were growing up.” Micah continued as he stood tall, “Now that you’re finally back in town, I’m gonna go have supper with my wife.” He tipped his hat as he left the group.

“Guess I better round up my daughter and see these other two desperados home,” Lucas commented. “We’ll be back in town tomorrow to do our shopping.”

“You also got to meet with the lawyer, right?” Robbie stated.

“Yes, Milly and I have an appointment in the afternoon with Robert Garrison.”

Robbie smiled when Lucas confirmed his statement.

*****

Hope and Milly were in the general store Saturday morning when they heard, “What a gorgeous basket. Where did you purchase it?”

Turning, Hope realized the woman was talking to her, “I didn’t purchase it. I made it.”

“You made it, may I?” the woman asked. Hope handed her basket to the woman who turned it all the way around, admiring the craftsmanship in its construction and design. “This is truly beautiful. What is it made from?”

“Ash and oak wood,” Hope answered.

“I’ve only seen baskets made of reed or cane, and a few I’ve seen were made of pine. And the die? Did you die the wood yourself?”

“Yes, I did.”

“It is absolutely beautiful. How long did it take you to make it?”

“I don’t exactly know, I mean, I whittled the wood into strips and soaked it for a few hours in the die or plain warm water and probably about two hours once I started weaving. I let it dry overnight on the hearth.”

“I must commission you to make me several of these. Can you do larger or smaller baskets? What of baskets with lids?”

“It is possible, but…”

“Oh please, I’ll pay you well,” the woman opened her pocket book.

“Ma’am,” Hope started to say.

“Ma’am?” the woman laughed. “Shame on me, we haven’t even properly introduced ourselves. My name is Gloria Longaberger.”

“Pleased to meet you Miss Longaberger, my name is Hope McCain and this is Milly McCain,” Hope answered.

“You must be thrilled with your daughter’s talents,” Gloria Longaberger stated.

“Yes, she surprised us when we couldn’t find just the right sized baskets and she made them for us,” Milly answered.

“Ma,” Mark called from the doorway as he entered and came up behind Hope and placed a kiss to her cheek. “Pa’s over at the hardware store and he’s not sure about the handle you asked him to purchase.”

“Tell your father I’ll be over shortly. Mark, I’d like to introduce you to Gloria Longaberger. Miss Longaberger, my son…”

“Marshal… McCain?”

“Yes ma’am,” Mark answered as he tipped his hat.

“And Hope is your wife?”

With a smile on his face, Mark answered, “Yes ma’am.”

“Oh, Mrs. McCain, I’m so sorry to have presumed that Hope was your daughter,” replied a slightly embarrassed Gloria.

“She is my daughter-in-law, but she is more like a daughter to me,” smiled Milly.

“Please Marshal, I was admiring the craftsmanship your wife put into making this basket. I’d love to commission her to make several for me, if that’s alright with you.”

“It’s Hope’s decision,” Mark answered. “I need to get back to the office, we’ll see you at the restaurant for lunch around twelve, thirty?”

Hope nodded before she kissed Mark goodbye.

“You’ve quite the catch in him, if I might be so bold,” Gloria stated, her gaze following Mark out the door and across the street. She returned her attention to Hope. “Now that your husband has agreed that this is your decision, I own a small store in Blanding, Utah. Please your basket is absolutely to die for.”

Hope replied, “It’s just a basket, I wouldn’t know what to charge?”

“Well, I would pay you a fair amount.”

“They’re just baskets. We use them for laundry and collecting vegetables from the garden…” Hope answered.

“And so will the women who purchase them from my shop. Oh, please… I’ve never seen any baskets as well crafted or as beautiful. I can tell the pride you took in creating this. Hope, it’s not just a basket; it’s a talent.”

“I’d like to discuss this further with my husband.”

“I’m spending the next two nights at the hotel and won’t be leaving until Monday. Milly, Hope, it was a pleasure meeting both of you and I hope we can come to an understanding in a business arrangement.”

The women agreed they would meet again, after church to discuss the arrangement.

*****

Having made their purchases, Milly and Hope left the general store and set their purchases in the back of the buckboard.

“Can you really believe that someone would want to pay me to make baskets?” asked Hope.

“Hope, it’s no different than someone commissioning Lilah to sew them a dress or make alterations to clothing,” Milly answered.

“I hadn’t thought on it in those terms. But I do want to discuss this more with Mark before I agree.”

“Mark already supports your decision.”

Changing the subject, “So, are we going to the Hardware Store?”

“This is their project,” Milly answered. “Let them surprise us.”

“But Mark said Pa had a question on handles,” Hope stated.

“Okay, climb up and I’ll drive the team over so they can load up whatever they’ve purchased.”

Hope and Milly were seated when Milly reached for the reins, and said, “Can you believe it, our own tub rooms?”

“No more bathing in the kitchen,” Hope mused.

“I told Lucas I wanted a latch on the inside to prevent the children from barging in on me. I can just imagine stretching myself long in a real tub, full of hot water.”

“I can just imagine, oh… I can’t wait for them to finish. I saw Mark sketching something and when I asked about it, he said he was designing something so I wouldn’t have to lug buckets into or out of the room.”

Both women giggled at the vision of their own private baths.

*****

“Lucas, Milly,” Robert Garrison stated as he stood to see them to the door. “I don’t see that there should be any difficulties with your planning to adopt the Trumble children. I’ll go ahead and place the notice in several east coast papers, if after thirty days we don’t receive any response. We can go ahead with the filing.”

“Thank you Robert,” Lucas stated, extending his hand.

*****

After Sunday church services, Hope and Mark met with Gloria Longaberger in the parlor of Seth and Lilah’s home to discuss their arrangement, that Hope would make as many baskets in different variations and send a wire to let her know they would be ready to ship the beginning of December, in time for Christmas. Once Gloria received the wire, she would have her bank initiate a money transfer to the Bank of North Fork to pay for the baskets.

“And if you could continue make say a dozen or so, and we can make arrangements to ship them to me once a quarter…”

Gloria had left to return to the hotel when Hope stated, “I can’t believe she would pay me so much… just for making baskets.”

“What are you going to do with your fortune?” asked Mark as he walked to stand behind Hope, and wrapped his arms around her shoulders.

“I hadn’t thought on it… You can use it to pay for the order at the hardware store or…”

“Hope, this is your money.”

“But you pay for everything with the money you make as a Marshal, and when you and Pa sell part of the herd,” Hope replied.

“Hope, this is your money. We’re not in any financial hurt that we need this money to help us get by.”

“But I want to help with expenses. It’s not…”

“Okay, but I want you to save at least half of what you’ll be earning. We’ll need to open an account at the bank in your name so the money can be wired.”

“Who knows, maybe our children will want to go to college, we should start thinking on that,” suggested Hope.

“The twins are only in their second year,” Mark answered.

“And look how fast the past six years have gone… If they’re anything like their father, they’ll be graduating earlier than we think.”

“Let’s hope scholastically they’re like I was in my later years…”

*****

On Monday, Percy dismissed school for the day, but asked Robbie to stay after for a few minutes.

“Robbie, I’d like to talk with you about the homework assignment you turned in.”

“Did I not do a good job?” Robbie asked.

“You did a very good job; however, you can’t sign your name, Robbie McCain.”

“But Papa Lucas said we were going to be part of his family.”

“I know. Mark’s told me of his father wanting to adopt you, but it’s not legal; not yet. Your last name is still Trumble.”

“But I want to be a McCain! I don’t want to be a Trumble. My first Pa was no good, I want to be respected, I want people to like me. They’ll like me with a name like McCain…” Robbie was in tears when he finished talking.

“Robbie?” Mark called from the back of the classroom, having overheard the conversation.

“I don’t wanna talk to you,” Robbie replied as he tried to wipe the tears from his face.

“Percy, would you see to others to the Marshal’s Office? I’ll lock up the school when Robbie and I leave.”

Percy walked to the back of the classroom, where he quietly spoke to Mark, “I didn’t mean to upset him, its just that he signed his homework Robbie McCain… I tried to tell him he needed to use his proper last name, at least until the adoption is finalized.”

“Thanks Percy, let me talk with him,” Mark answered. He watched his friend gather his sons and siblings and lead them to the Marshal’s Office.

Removing his hat, Mark walked to where Robbie sat in the schoolroom, and took a seat across the aisle from him.

“Robbie, I heard what you told Mr. Bullock. You don’t have to be a McCain to have people respect you.”

“Do too. My first pa was a good for nothing drunk and nobody like him.”

“He didn’t make it easy for people to like him. But you’re not your Pa, and people do like you and your sister.”

“They’d like us more if we were McCain’s.”

“Not necessarily. A name is just a name, it’s not who you are. Who you are comes from within your heart. You have to be willing to like yourself before people can truly like you. And, you have to give others the same respect that you want for yourself,” Mark replied.

Sniffling, Robbie asked, “Like the Golden Rule?”

“Yes, do unto others as you would have others do unto you. Even if your last name was McCain, if you didn’t like yourself or treat others fairly, you wouldn’t have many friends.”

“How did you get so many friends? Is it because you’re a lawman?”

“No, its not because I’m a lawman. I’ve lived here a long time but have only worn the badge for part of that time. Pa and I arrived here when I was just a little older than you.”

“How did you become a marshal?”

“That’s a long story…”

“Please?”

“It wasn’t planned… Growing up I’d fancied any number of ideas on what I wanted to be when I grew up, but being a lawman never was one of them.”

“Then how’s you become a lawman if you didn’t want to be one?”

“Back then, Deputy Torrance was our marshal, and at first was against deputizing me.”

“How come?”

“I wasn’t seventeen years old yet.”

“But he did deputize you?”

“Eventually, he and the others agreed I was the only one available who could track as good as my Pa.”

“Papa Lucas couldn’t help?”

“He was out of town at a Cattlemen’s Association Meeting.”

“So you helped the Marshal get the bad guys?” Robbie’s eyes brightened as he imagined a wild shoot out with Mark leading the charge.

“In a way, but not like you’re thinking. The whole ordeal didn’t exactly turn out as anyone could have imagined. The trail I was following lead to Socorro and… I ended up being kidnapped and used against my Pa.” Mark continued to tell the tale of Mark’s Posse.

“Afterwards, Micah chose to leave me as a deputy. After I recovered, he’d stated he’d seen me grow in ways he never really imagined. Anyway, I’d come to town and stand watch with him or Marshal Drako on Friday and Saturday nights, and they taught me what it truly meant to be a lawman.”

“And you got everyone’s respect because you wore the badge?”

“No, the people respected the badge, I had to prove I had the right wear it. I had to do the job that Micah hired me to do, I couldn’t take it for granted or make myself better than anyone else. I had to believe and trust myself, and give respect to those in town who I swore to protect.”

“Marshal Mark… Do you want your Pa to adopt us?” Robbie cautiously asked.

“I think it would be neat to have another brother and sister, but we have to wait until the law says it’s okay.”

“Guess it wouldn’t be right for the family of a marshal to break the law… I think I can wait until the law says I have a new last name. Are you gonna tell Papa Lucas that I got into trouble?”

“Now why would I tattle on my future little brother… Come on, let’s go get the others and head on home.”

The Next Step — The Train

This is a story based on the TV series The Rifleman
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