The Writer's Corner
The Next Step…
Chapter 45 – The Legacy
Written by Deanne Bertram
Tom Benton arrived back in North Fork, the day before Hope and
Mark’s birthday. He rode for the McCain ranch, arriving just
before supper. Mark and Lucas were just stepping from the barn
after tending to the horses.
“Tom?” Lucas said. “Welcome! What brings you here?”
“Your son,” Tom answered. Then turning to Mark, “Well Mark? I’m
hoping you’ll make it official. Are you willing to be my
After a few moments of looking from his father, to the house,
then to Tom, he replied, “No sir, I’m sorry I can’t be your
deputy, I’m Micah and Johnny’s deputy. But…, I’d be happy to be
your Deputy U.S. Marshal.”
“Lucas, don’t you ever feel like taking him over your knee?”
“Tom, there’s been plenty of times. Come on inside, I insist you
join us for supper.”
“You don’t know how much I miss good, home cooking.”
As Tom was bidding the McCain’s good night, he said, “Mark, in
the morning I’ll wire Marshall Cole Barker and let him know your
answer. He said if you accepted, he wanted to be the one to
officially swear you in. It wouldn’t happen until after the
first of the year, though.”
“No problem Marshal Benton,” Mark answered.
“Mark, I think at your age and seeing as we’re going to be
working together, it’s about time you started calling me Tom.”
“Yes, sir… Tom.”
As their birthday party wound down, Hope and Mark handed Lucas
and Milly an envelope. Everyone stood around, waiting with
anticipation, knowing what was in the envelope.
“Mark, what’s this?” Lucas asked.
“Well, it’s a present for you and Ma. We thought you could use
some time away by yourselves. To celebrate your wedding
anniversary, seeing as you never took a honeymoon. We’ve a room
reserved for you at The Grande in Albuquerque and included in
the envelope are two train tickets, you leave day after
tomorrow, and you’ll be back home in time to celebrate
everything else here.”
“Mark, Hope, this isn’t necessary, this birthday party is for
the two of you,” Milly stated. “What of Myra and Little Ted?”
“Ma, this is something we all want to do for you,” Hope
answered. “We know you wouldn’t do it for yourselves, seeing as
how your anniversary, Christmas, and Myra’s birthday are all so
close. So we did it for you. Mark and I can take care of Myra
and Little Ted while you’re away.”
“Pa, with everything that happened earlier this year,” Mark
stated. “It’s time you and Ma did something for yourselves. I
mean, it’s not like I’m still twelve years old and you have ask
someone to watch out after me.”
“Mark, it’s not that…”
“Then what?” Mark demanded. “We won’t take no for an answer.”
Lucas and Milly boarded the early morning train, bound for
“Lucas, are you sure?” Milly asked.
“Milly, they’re right. It’s not like Mark is still twelve years
old and can’t take care of himself. We’ll be home before
Christmas. Besides, we never really did take a honeymoon. I’m
kind of looking forward to some time alone with my wife.”
They arrived in Albuquerque later the next day. A carriage was
waiting to take them to The Grande. Two porters were waiting in
the lobby to show them, and take their luggage, to their room.
Lucas tried to tip the men, but both refused.
“Sir, we can’t accept your money. We’re under strict orders. All
your expenses are paid in full. There’s a bath with an
attendant, down the hall, if you’d like to freshen up after your
trip. Your dinner reservation at the hotel’s restaurant is at
seven o’clock. Good evening, Mr. and Mrs. McCain.”
With that, both porters left the room.
“Milly, seems I’m going to have to have words with a certain
son, when we return home,” Lucas said as he shook his head.
“Lucas, it’s not just Mark…”
Milly handed the letter to Lucas.
“Dear Ma and Pa,
Don’t be upset with any of us. Everyone in North Fork chipped
in, in one way or another. This is just our way of showing you
how much you mean to us and to say ‘thank you’ for everything
you’ve done to help everyone.
Now, go freshen up and enjoy your honeymoon. We’ll see you when
you get home!
Love Mark, Hope, and the rest of North Fork.”
Before heading to the restaurant, Milly asked, “Lucas, why don’t
you leave your rifle in the room. We’re not leaving the
building. Is it really necessary to carry?”
With some misgivings, Lucas agreed. As they left their room,
Lucas extended his arm to Milly.
Lucas and Milly had dinner at the restaurant, then followed the
music towards the hotel’s banquet hall and spent the rest of the
evening dancing and enjoying themselves.
As they walked to their room, Milly asked, “Now was it really
that hard to leave your rifle behind? I mean, someday, this
territory is going to be civilized and you won’t see everyone
walking around with guns strapped to their legs or carrying
Pulling Milly close and wrapping an arm around her shoulders,
they walked up the stairs, “Milly, I so much want to see that
day, but I don’t think it’s going to happen in my lifetime. I
wish it would happen in Mark’s, but more realistically, I pray
it will happen in Little Ted’s. That’s why I waited so long to
introduce Mark to a rifle. I prayed he wouldn’t need to learn,
except to hunt for food. I guess I was kidding myself.”
“Lucas, it’s an admirable dream; to want better for your
children. I remember all the times Mark asked you for a rifle
and you said no. He understands the rifle’s purpose and the
realities of the rifle better than most people ever will. He’s
seen you through so much while he was growing up.”
As they entered their room, Lucas replied, “And now he has to
use a rifle. How I wish he didn’t. Deep down, I wish he were a
rancher, just like me.”
“Lucas, he is just like you, a rancher, but he also accepted the
responsibility to keep the law, full time. How could he
otherwise, after watching you help the town out, time after
time. If it hadn’t been for Mark, I’m sure you would have taken
up the badge.”
“Milly, if it weren’t for Mark, I probably would have been on
the other side of the law, after I lost Margaret.”
Seeing the shock in Milly’s face Lucas continued, “Milly, before
I met Margaret, I told you how wild I was…” Milly nodded. “Well,
after I lost Margaret, the only thing that kept me from… from
wanting to kill Samuel Gibbs was Mark. Knowing that if I killed
a man in cold blood, I’d be sent to prison, if not executed. And
then where would Mark be? Milly, there have been a number of
times, that if it hadn’t been for Mark, I’m not sure I’d be here
today. He’s been my weakness, but God knows, he’s also been my
strength. My reason for living.”
Turning in for the night, Lucas blew out the lantern on the side
table and they went to sleep in each other’s arms.
On their second day, another guest approached them as they were
finishing their breakfast.
“Excuse me sir,” he interrupted.
“Yes?” Lucas replied.
“My name is William Walsh and I’m a writer for the Albuquerque
Journal, are you Lucas McCain?”
“I saw your rifle when you checked into the hotel yesterday. You
are better known as the Rifleman, am I right?”
“No, I’m known as Lucas McCain and some people have referred to
me as the Rifleman.”
“I didn’t mean to offend you or your wife. I was hoping you’d
grant me an interview. A first person story of your life, in
helping to tame the West. All the people back east hear about
are the outlaws and the lawmen that chase them. I’ve heard about
you and think you’d make interesting reading.”
“Mr… Walsh, I’m not interested,” Lucas said as he stood to
“Mr. McCain, please…”
“Mr. Walsh, when I’ve been forced to use my rifle, it’s just
that, I was forced. It comes down to protecting the town I call
home or protecting my family, I take no pleasure in killing any
man. I don’t go looking for trouble and I don’t want any
trouble. I’ve spent many sleepless nights talking with God,
asking for his forgiveness.”
“But sir, it wouldn’t be any trouble,” Walsh pleaded.
“Mister there was a time in the past, when a story was written
and the writer put their own take on their subject, a former
lawman known for his speed with a hand gun, but now was someone
who was years past his prime, only the writer left that part of
their story out. I saw a man eager to make a name for him self
come to my town and challenge a man just because of who he used
to be. He wouldn’t leave the man alone, to the point my friend
would rather take the risk of being killed in a gun fight versus
the man hounding him. I want no part of that. I’m a man, plain
and simple. My rifle is a tool, nothing more, nothing less. If
I’m to leave a legacy, I’d rather my legacy be my children, not
my rifle.” Offering his arm to Milly, “If you’ll excuse us?”
Throughout their stay in Albuquerque, each night they were
invited to share dinner with various guests as word got out that
The Rifleman was staying at the hotel. Some were newcomers to
the territory. Others we long-time residents.
Though it upset Lucas to be admired for his prowess with the
rifle, at least he could set the record straight in talking with
the people. More often than not, by evening’s end, the people
felt truly embarrassed. Thinking they knew what the man and his
rifle were all about. They left the supper table, truly humbled
by a man who lived by the Word of God and was at times forced,
regretfully, to take the life a another human being. A man with
strong convictions in family.
They were North Fork bound, enjoying their memories of the past
week. Just the two of them, Lucas’ arm was wrapped around Milly
as she rested against him. Their memories were interrupted as
the train started slowing down. Lucas looked out the window.
“Excuse me sir, but I noticed when you boarded you carried a
rifle,” the conductor stated as he stopped next to Lucas.
“Yes I do,” Lucas replied.
“You any good with it?”
“Some. Why do you ask?” Lucas inquired.
“I overheard a couple of men talking and one of them said you
were known as the Rifleman. Now, I’m not sure what’s up, but
this ain’t a planned slow down. Not many people know, but we got
a bank shipment in the cargo car. The bank thought shipping it a
couple of days earlier than normal, would get it through without
risk. I’ve two guards in back there, but… I’d rather people tell
me I’m being paranoid because nothing happened. Sir, I got a bad
feeling about this.”
Lucas excused himself from Milly as he picked up his rifle and
followed the conductor.
The train lurched to a stop. Several men attempted to board the
train by knocking on the door to the cargo car, the conductor
opened the door, and those men found three Winchesters pointing
straight at them. Those in the car saw a number of men wearing
cavalry uniforms, guns still holstered.
“Lucas?!” the man wear a major’s insignia called.
“Seth?! What are you doing here? Why are you stopping the
train?” Lucas asked, then said, “Men you can lower your rifles,
we don’t have anything to worry about. This is a real cavalry
“Lucas, surprised to find you on board, but we’re under orders,
I’m to give this letter to an Everett Dalton, he’s supposed to
be one of the guards.”
“I’m Everett Dalton,” the man said as he lowered his rifle from
his shoulder to his hip, still not uncocking the weapon as he
turned to Lucas. “So just how do you know this man? And why
should I trust you? Sure you stood up to help, but this could
all be a deception.”
“Mr. Dalton, you ever heard of the Rifleman? You ever heard what
his rifle looks like? There’s only one like it in this country,”
Seth Lane stated. “You’re talking to Lucas McCain here. You ever
heard the description of the Rifleman? Not too many men stand
six foot, five and carry that rifle.”
“Mr. Dalton, the Major here is the father of my son’s wife.”
Then turning to Seth, “But what are you doing here, I thought
you were supposed to be on your way back to Fort Sam?”
“I was all set to return, but I received a wire, I was ordered
to meet up with this detachment out of Fort Stanton and then
command them as we transport this shipment from the Denver mint
to the Fort Worth/Dallas mint. They’re trying their damnedest to
keep anyone from knowing where this shipment really is. Mr.
Dalton, there’s instructions that you and a Mr. Cole are to
accompany this shipment, regardless.”
Lucas assisted in transferring the shipment from the trail to
the wagon. Soon the train was continuing its trip to North Fork.
The McCain and the Gibbs families celebrated a quiet Christmas
together. Lucas was thankful this year there weren’t any
surprise announcements. Lucas pulled out one last gift.
“Mark, this is from me to you.” Lucas handed the box to Mark and
watched as he opened it. “I worked with Angus on its design. Now
it’s not exactly like mine, seeing as how your arms aren’t quite
long enough, but with Micah getting ready to retire, your
position as Johnny’s deputy and you’re about to be deputized as
a Deputy U.S. Marshal, I thought this one would be more
practical for you.”
Mark pulled the rifle from the box, its lever was modified to
allow Mark to rapid fire, but the lever didn’t contain the
expanded loop. Mark laughed as he remembered the one time when
he tried to twirl cock his father’s rifle.
It was New Year’s eve, Lucas and Milly had enjoyed a quiet
evening at the house with Mark and Hope and the twins. Myra and
Little Ted had been put down for the night as Mark and Hope
carried the sleeping twins to go home for the night. They
stepped to the porch to say goodnight when they heard a rider
“Hello Johnny, what brings you out this late at night?” Lucas
asked of his brother-in-law.
“A newspaper story. Thought you should see it as soon as
possible.” Johnny pulled the paper from his saddle bag. “I’ll be
back tomorrow afternoon with Colleen. See you then, Lucas.”
“Pa, I’ll be back after I help Hope put the boys to bed,” Mark
Lucas walked back in the house, sat down at the table, and
opened the paper. Milly stood behind him. On the third page, the
circled headline read:
The Rifleman and His Legacy, by William Walsh
Most folks would say, the name of the man isn’t as important as
what others call him, The Rifleman. He carries a modified
Winchester rifle that some claim, makes him as lethal with it as
any man with a six gun. There are stories told around saloons,
camp fires, and in prisons, about a big bear of a man who shoots
first and asks questions later. The sound of his rifle being
twirled as he cocks it has been said to strike fear into the
heart of anyone who dare challenges him.
But I had a chance encounter to meet, The Rifleman. A man who
would prefer to be left in the background, with no attention
brought to himself. A man who says that all he’s done, was what
Could it be that as time passes from an event; the facts get
stretched in each retelling? And soon the myth is larger than
the man. Pretty tall tales considering this man stands a good
six foot, five inches tall. Yet, the man I met, said he never
went looking for a fight, he never went to intentionally kill a
man. He doesn’t seek the fame his abilities afford him.
The Rifleman told me “I’ve been forced to use my rifle; it’s
just that, I was forced. [When} It comes down to protecting the
town I call home or protecting my family, I take no pleasure in
killing any man. I don’t go looking for trouble. I’ve spent many
sleepless nights talking with God, asking for his forgiveness.”
He went on to say, “I’m a man, plain and simple. My rifle is a
tool, nothing more, nothing less. If I’m to leave a legacy, I’d
rather my legacy be my children, not my rifle.”
The story I intend to write is of The Rifleman and the Lawman, a
…to be continued in future editions.
Lucas handed the newspaper to Mark, after he re-entered the
house, and asked, “Mark were you aware of this?”
Mark took the paper and read the story. He shook his head as he
finished, “Pa, I knew there was a newspaper man in town and he
was talking with folks, but honestly, I had no idea what he was
writing. He said here, he met you.”
“In Albuquerque, at the hotel, but I told him I didn’t want any
part of his story,” Lucas stated.
“Guess one way or another, he wanted his story printed. He left
town before you and Ma returned, but he came back to town
earlier today,” Mark replied. “I’ll have a talk with him in the
“Pa, he mentions both of us as subjects of his future stories.
If you talk with him, so do I. Besides, I carry a little bit
more weight, being a deputy.”
“In the morning then,” Lucas replied.
After finishing their chores, Lucas and Mark rode into North
Fork and dismounted in front of the Marshal’s Office. Johnny was
already inside, reading a copy of the paper.
“Well, seems we have a few celebrities in our fair town,” Johnny
stated with a laugh.
“Not now Johnny,” Lucas said. “Neither of us asked for this
story to be written.”
“Johnny, I stopped by to let you know it’ll be a little while
before I relieve you this morning,” Mark stated. “We’re going to
talk with Robert Garrison before we talk with this… William
“I kind of figured you’d be detained this morning after I read
the article. I’ll go ahead and walk the town this morning, then
head to Lou’s for breakfast.”
“Robert,” Lucas stated. “What can we do? Neither Mark nor I gave
this man permission to write a story about us.”
“Lucas, I understand your position, but right now, you don’t
know that he’s talking about you. He didn’t identify you
directly in his story,” Robert replied.
“Mr. Garrison, how many other men are known as ‘The Rifleman’?”
Mark asked. “How many stand as tall as Pa?”
“Robert he quoted me in the story. How can he not be writing
about me, and then implying a future story about Mark?” Lucas
“Lucas, there are plenty of ways for writers to complete their
works without approval from their subjects and as long as he
doesn’t libel you, there’s nothing you can do. He’ll claim
protection by the First Amendment – Freedom of the Press.”
“Robert, we’ve had writers here before who’ve stirred up
trouble. I don’t want that to happen again!” Lucas stated as he
slammed his fist down on Robert’s desk. “I’m sorry. It’s just
that all Mark’s life, I’ve tried to protect him…”
“Lucas,” Robert interrupted. “Mark’s a grown man. And soon,
he’ll be a Deputy U.S. Marshal. You can’t protect him forever.”
“What if some ‘kid’ or ‘gunfighter’ out to make a name for
himself, what if they come here, looking for a gun fight? I want
him out of North Fork before that happens!”
“Pa, the damage is already done,” Mark stated as he rolled his
hat around in his hands. “Mr. Garrison…”
“Mark, please call me Robert. You needn’t be that formal with
“Sorry, it’s just that…” Mark hesitated, unsure how to say what
he wanted to.
“I understand, Mark.” Robert interrupted. “You’ve grown up and
there are so many of us that you’ve known since you were so
young, and during that time, it was proper for you to address us
formally. Believe me; it took all of us a little getting used to
you being a deputy, in the beginning. We remember you as a young
boy and some of the troubles you got into or caused. And here,
the last few years… we’re mighty proud of you. It’s just a sign
that times are changing.”
“Robert, is there any way we can insist on approval before any
future stories are printed? I mean, if he’s going to write about
us, don’t we have a right to verify the facts?” Mark asked.
“Well, there is that option, if he’ll agree.’ Then looking to
Lucas, “You know, based on what you told me, I think that’s what
he’s really after. This first story was just to get you riled
enough that you’d want to see the truth printed and you’d agree
to help him. Lucas, I know how you want to protect Myra and
Little Ted, as well as Mark’s children, but maybe this would be
the way. Agree to help him write his story, but make him agree
to not mention the little ones,” Robert said.
“But that still won’t stop someone from trying to kill either of
us. And what if they succeed?” Lucas demanded, still angry.
“Lucas, as good as you are with that rifle?”
“I’ve been shot before and you know that Mark was taken hostage
just a month ago by outlaws. They didn’t know Mark was my son,
only that he was a deputy. They were only looking to settle a
score with Drako. But now, people are going to know…”
“Pa, we’ll just have to keep a sharper eye out. I know you don’t
like it, neither do I, but it’s the best we can do. I think we
should ask this Walsh to submit his stories to us for
verification before he sends them for publication. That way,
we’ll know what he’s up to, and if anything needs changed, we
can be prepared. Best to have him on our side instead of letting
him set his own agenda that would cause us even more grief.”
Robert Garrison joined Lucas and Mark as they headed to the
hotel to request a meeting with William Walsh. As they
approached the front desk, they heard, “Mr. McCain!” called from
the restaurant. The three walked into the restaurant.
“Please have a seat, join me for a cup of coffee,” William Walsh
invited. “So, you must be the young McCain, the son of the
“My name is Mark McCain. As you probably learned during your
first visit to North Fork,” Mark replied as he removed his hat
and leaned his rifle up against his chair. As Lucas did the
“Yes, I learned your name and that you are also a deputy for
this fine town.” Then turning to Robert, “And you sir, I presume
you must be a lawyer in the town.”
“I am. The name’s Robert Garrison.”
“Now that we all know who everyone is, what can I do for you
gentlemen?” Walsh asked.
“You could stop writing your story,” Lucas stated,
“Sorry, can’t do that. My editor loved my first submission and
wants more. You both are news and that’s what we’re in the
business of, news. Then there’s a little matter of the First
“Told you Lucas,” Robert stated, then ordered a cup of coffee
from Alice as she stopped by the table. Lucas ordered coffee
while Mark ordered a copy of hot chocolate.
“See you’ve not acquired the taste, boy.” Walsh stated as he
drank from his cup.
“Sir, you will call me by my name or by deputy, not ‘boy’ when
you address me,” Mark stated as he started to dislike the man.
“I’m sorry, just seeing someone as young as you wearing the
badge, I’m just used to older marshals and deputies. But that’s
just one of the points I want to get across in my story. The
story of Lucas McCain, the Rifleman, and then I found out about
you, the Lawman. I’d never heard before that the Rifleman had a
son. I mean, why is it the son wears the badge and not the
father? How did Lucas McCain become known as the Rifleman and
then tell the story of how he passed his skills to his son.
Mark, you must have been teethed on the rifle!” Walsh bragged.
“Mr. Walsh,” Robert said. “I’ve discussed with my clients, their
situation. We would like to propose that they agree in helping
you with your story, however, before your story is submitted,
they have first right of review and final approval to whatever
“Really?” Walsh stated, unbelieving that he wasn’t going to have
to put up a larger fight.
“But there are a few more conditions,” Robert announced. “I’m
sure that you are aware from talking with the citizens of North
Fork that both Lucas and Mark have young children?” Walsh
nodded. “Good. Nothing in your stories will mention anything
regarding them. My clients wish to protect their families. You
will not mention anything about their wives, either. If this is
the story of the Rifleman and the Lawman, your story will only
be about them and no one else in their families, unless we give
you permission. If you are in agreement, to these terms, I’ll
write up a letter of understanding for your signature later
“Sure, I never really expected this kind of cooperation,” Walsh
“Walsh, my son and I will cooperate as long as things are as we
approve. One minor deviation from what we approve and your story
is over. We’ll force a retraction and there always is the
possibility of a lawsuit against you and the paper you write
for. You have to understand, you’re writing about the lives of
two men. We’re not characters in some dime store novel. We
didn’t ask for this, but in order to see that what is written is
real and not exaggerated, we’ll cooperate. But you have to
cooperate with us as well,” Lucas stated as he pointed a finger
Mark then said, “Mr. Walsh, I just hope we don’t disappoint you.
That you’ve not imagined a bigger story, than warranted by the
facts. If you’ll excuse me, I have a job I need to get to.” Mark
picked up his hat and rifle and left the group.
As Lucas watched Mark leave, he added, “There’s one more thing
you should understand Walsh, I tried to keep my son from the
rifle while he was growing up. It wasn’t easy, being a widower
with a young boy to raise on my own. I had hoped that by the
time he was grown, we wouldn’t still be depending on the rifle
or the gun. I wish to God this territory was more civilized. But
it was his choice to step up to wear the badge, events happened
that no one could have foreseen. Growing up, there were so many
other ideas he had about what he wanted to be when he grew up,
in fact, he once met Samuel Clemens and seriously thought about
becoming a writer. I’ve come to accept the fact that my son
wears a badge and carries a rifle. Don’t make me regret agreeing
to help you,” Lucas stood and bid the men goodbye, as he picked
up his hat and rifle.
Mark finished his watch of North Fork for the day. Before
leaving to head home, he stopped at the General Store and picked
up the package he had waiting. Regretting that he was going to
be so late. The sun had set by the time he arrived, and after
tending to the livestock in the barn, he walked to his parent’s
house. As he entered, Myra was there to greet him.
“Mark, you late for my party!”
“And what party would that be Gabby?” Mark asked as he set the
package down in his chair and picked Myra up in his arms.
“My birthday party! I turn three today.” Myra took Mark’s hat
from his head and put it on her’s.
“Three, you say. You’re getting to be a big girl, aren’t you?”
“Uh huh!” Myra said as she nodded her head and Mark’s hat fell
“Myra, you should let your brother take his coat off before you
climb up in his arms,” Milly stated as she pulled Myra from
Hope came and kissed Mark welcome home. “The boys are in Myra’s
room sleeping. Why are you so late?”
“Mark,” Lucas came up behind Mark and put a hand on his
shoulder. “Everything okay in town? We expected you earlier.
Johnny and Colleen were sorry to miss you.”
“I know, I met them on the road just outside of town. I’m real
sorry about being so late. We had trouble when the train arrived
in town; I had to get Johnny to help me deal with bunch of
drunken drovers. The conductor and other passengers wanted them
off. Took some doing, but we finally got the worst of them to
the jail. The others that weren’t so much the problem, we
shipped them back out when the train left this evening. They
settled down once they got a taste of how we handle drunks.
They’re still a few in the jail, until they sober up. Never
understand what makes a man want to get so drunk, they don’t
know what they’re doing, right or wrong.”
“Mark, would you like something to eat?” Milly asked.
“Your stew sure smells good Ma, I could use a bowl,” Mark
“Mark, for me?” Myra asked as she looked at the package Mark had
“Are you the birthday girl?”
“Yes!” she giggled.
Mark picked up the package and sat down in his chair, allowing
Myra to climb up in his lap. He helped her unwrap her present.
“Books, books! Papa, books! Read me! Please? Read me?” Myra
squealed as she handed a book to Mark.
“Myra, let Mark eat. Would you like for Hope to read to you?”
Myra climbed from Mark’s lap and carried one of her new books to
Hope. “Read me?”
“Myra, I’d love to read to you. Tell you what,” Hope stated and
she knelt down to Myra. “Why don’t you get ready for bed and
I’ll read to you in bed. Would you like that?”
“Me go bed and you read me?”
Milly lead Myra to her room, after handing Mark a bowl of stew.
Mark was carrying the empty bowl to the sink when they all
heard, “Me ready!” coming from Myra’s room. Mark and Hope
entered the room and sat down on the bed, on either side of
Lucas followed, stopping at the door and asking, “Did you say
your evening prayers, young lady?”
Mark and Hope took turns reading from the book. Soon, Myra was
asleep. Mark and Hope kissed their sister goodnight after making
sure she was tucked in. They picked up their sons, bid Lucas and
Milly goodnight, then walked home.
Seems almost the entire town of North Fork showed up throughout
the day to celebrate the second birthday of Connor Sean Drako at
the hotel restaurant. Lou and Johnny were enjoying spending the
day together as a family and sharing their blessings with
As the evening wound down, just the Bullock’s, the Torrance’s,
and the Drako’s remained.
Percy pulled Micah aside, “Marshal,”
“Percy, you know I’m not the Marshal anymore, that’s Johnny
Drako’s job,” Micah stated.
“I know, just that, you’ve always been the Marshal, ever since
Father and I arrived. Going to take a while to get used to
calling you something other than Marshal. Any way, you and Miss
Hattie have been helping to look after Tessa and Mabra, and so,
I kind of feel like you’re family to them.”
“Their very wonderful young ladies, Percy.”
“I know, but… I… I…” Percy stuttered.
“What is it, Percy?”
“Well, I want to ask Tessa and since she doesn’t have any
family, other than Mabra; I thought, well… maybe you could speak
on her behalf. I mean, talk with her to see if she’d be
interested… I mean agreeable… Oh, I don’t know exactly, but I
want more than anything to ask for her hand in marriage.”
“Percy, I understand your predicament. Tell you what, let Hattie
and I walk the ladies back to the boarding house and I’ll let
you know in the morning.”
The following morning, Percy waited for Micah outside the day
care. “So young man, when do you expect to ask your intended?”
“She said yes?!” Percy asked excitedly.
“Well, yes that she would be interested in marrying you. But she
hasn’t said, ‘yes’ to marriage, because you haven’t proposed,
yet.” Micah answered with a laugh.”
“Sir, I know this Saturday is your retirement party, would you
mind if I asked her then? I mean everyone we know will be there
and it would add to the celebration, please?”
“Sure, Percy. Honestly, I’d rather the whole party be an
engagement party instead of a retirement party for me.”
Mark turned up his coat collar as he waited for the morning
train to arrive in North Fork. He’d received a wire the day
before that Tom Benton and Cole Barker would be on the Saturday
morning train, arriving from Denver.
Mark accepted the mail pouch from the conductor then waited for
the passengers to disembark. He was totally surprised when not
only Tom and Cole, stepped from the train, but also Marshals Sam
Buckhart, Drew Anders, and Coltrane Walker all stepped to the
All the marshals were laughing and making a big to do about
today being, the big day.
“If all of you keep up like this, I might just have to throw the
lot of you in jail for disturbing the peace,” Mark called to
them. And in turn, they all burst out laughing.
“You just do that deputy, there’s not a good one in the lot,
besides me,” Cole Barker stated as he offered his hand to Mark.
“Glad to finally meet you. And it will be my privilege to swear
you in as a Deputy U.S. Marshal this afternoon. I also hear its
perfect timing as the town’s planning to celebrate Marshal
Torrance’s retirement tonight.”
“Yes, sir,” Mark stated as he shook everyone’s hand, in turn.
“Come on, I’ll get all of you over to the hotel.”
As afternoon was changing over to evening, Mark impatiently
stood as Hope tried to straighten his tie. “I don’t see what the
fuss is all about. I’ve been considered a U.S. Marshal for some
time and this is all just a formality.”
“Mark, hold still! Let me get this properly tied. And why didn’t
you get your hair cut yesterday. Honestly Mark, I don’t want
everyone to think I married a slob.”
“Oh, how I wish today were over.”
“Mark McCain! Today’s not just about you. This is a big day for
a lot of people!”
“Who?” Mark asked as he continued to fidget.
“Your father, for one. You weren’t home this morning to see the
look in his eyes. Mark, he is so proud of you. And then there’s
Micah and Johnny. Micah’s seen you grow up from such a small boy
to being his deputy and now a deputy U.S. Marshal. And Johnny,
he’s not known you as long, but he’s taking just as much pride
in all of this. Between the two of them, I’m not sure whose
strutting around like a peacock, more. And Uncle Johnny, I mean,
he cherishes his sister’s son and how you’ve grown up. And then
there’s your wife,” Hope stated.
“And just what about my wife?” Mark asked as he put his hands to
her waist and pulled Hope nearer to him.
“I’m proud for you and all you’ve become. I love the man I
married,” Hope answered as she placed her arms around Mark’s
neck and they kissed.
“You know,” Johnny stated as he poked his head in the door.
“There are a lot of people waiting for the guest of honor.”
“Sorry, Johnny, but my wife is trying to strangle me by tying
this tie so dang tight. It’s down right uncomfortable!” Mark
replied, looking in the mirror and trying to loosen the tie.
“Mark, don’t make me pull out the handcuffs and force you to the
hotel at gunpoint,” Johnny stated with a smile.
Mark and Hope walked into the hotel restaurant, arm in arm. A
round of applause went up from those present.
Cole Barker called the gathering to order.
“Micah Torrance, I believe you have a few words you’d like to
“Thank Marshal Barker. Most everyone here knows that Mark is for
all intent and purposes a grandson to me. I had reservations the
first day I pinned a badge on his shirt in order to join the
posse and help me track some outlaws. The events that followed…
well, they brought me to my knees. I saw the hurt my best friend
experienced in having to deal with the aftermath of having his
son shot, because I deputized him. But the faith these two hold
in the Bible and their friends, made me realize, I was the one
pulling away from them. They welcomed me back into their home,
because I was family. Mark, I’m honored that you’ve chosen to
follow in my footsteps. I know you’ll be a good lawman.”
As Micah took his seat next to Hattie, Johnny Drako stood to say
a few words.
“Mark, I first met you when you were, what fourteen? Curious to
see who I was, the gunfighter, Johnny Drako. I remember our
first meeting. I told you to pick up my hand gun. You did, but
you set it right back down on the table. I told you, ‘You did
right. Now remember, just because you can pick one up doesn't
mean you have to marry it.’ Glad to see you married such a fine
gal as Hope there." Everyone present laughed. “I remember the
next time I came through North Fork, for a visit and trailing
after the outlaws who had tried to kill Lucas and beat you, as
well. I remember your defiance as Sam and I tried to get you to
see reason. To leave the outlaws to us and the army. Should have
known then that you’d eventually pick up the badge. I’m proud to
have you as my deputy and maybe just a little bit jealous that
the U.S. Marshal Service knows just how good you are and wants
you as one of their own, too. Just remember, you report to me
“Yes, sir,” Mark declared.
Johnny sat down and Sam Buckhart stood.
“I remember a very young Mark McCain; astounded at his first
meeting with an Indian. I remember the shocked look on your face
as your Father spoke up, against me. Then the look of pride as
you realized he wasn’t talking against me, but making the town
understand what they were doing was wrong. I remember when
Chaqua kidnapped you for his son, I know at nights you cried,
not knowing that your Father lived, but during the day, when you
traveled as their prisoner, you stood tall and brave. I too was
there when you were trailing after the outlaws who you thought
had killed Lucas. I know how much the thought of returning home
and him not being there destroyed you. But through everything
you’ve experienced, you stood true to everything your Father
taught you. I am proud to know you will serve the people of this
town and this territory well.”
As Sam sat down, Drew Anders stood.
“Well, I don’t have as grand a story as those before me, but I
do know that Mark holds high what is right. And when necessary,
he’ll step up to help out anyone in need. Mark, it’s not
official yet, are you sure you really want to do this? Marshal
Barker can be a real hard…”
“That’s enough there Deputy Anders!” Tom called. “There are
decent folks present in the room.”
“Sorry. But, Mark, you still have time to change your mind?”
“No thank you, Drew!” Mark called. “As someone once told me,
‘You make your bed, its surely the one you’re going to lie in.’
I requested this burden, so I guess I’ll have to wear it.”
“Don’t say I didn’t give you fair warning!” Drew called as he
took his seat, allowing Coltrane Walker to stand and have a say.
“Mark, guess our first meeting wasn’t what you would want to
right home about.” Turning to the others present, “Mark thought
I was an outlaw, riding with… Well, let’s just say I was riding
with some real bad company. But what he didn’t know, I had
infiltrated the gang in order to stop them from robbing the
stage carrying one hundred thousand dollars. Well, I didn’t play
my part quite so well and a number of banks got robbed along the
way, and Mark got kidnapped during one of those robberies, and
it took Tom Benton to stop them from robbing the stage. We
finally rode to rescue the kidnapped Mark, thinking the outlaw
had gotten away with all the stolen money.” Then turning back to
Mark, “Imagine my surprise when I realized you were robbing the
outlaws while we forced you to tend to the stock. Knew then that
you had lawman blood running through your veins. I’d like to
say, welcome to the brotherhood.”
Coltrane took his seat and allowed Tom Benton to say a few
“I’ve not had such wild adventures with Mark McCain as the rest
of you, but I do know the father, and I’m glad to know they both
stand on the side of law and order. There’s a saying, ‘the acorn
doesn’t fall too far from the tree’. With Lucas McCain as a
father, there’s no way this young man could be anything other
than who he is today. Well, I can see Cole is getting a little
anxious and Mark is wanting to get all this over with so, I’ve
said my piece. Mark, I’m proud to have you as a
“Okay,” Cole said as he stood. “Is there anyone else who wishes
to ‘testify’ against this ‘outlaw’? Mark, I think I’m going to
have to give second thoughts about you becoming a U.S. Marshal.
You’ve associated yourself with some pretty unsavory
“Don’t hold it against me, you hired most of them!” Mark
hollered as a few muffled laughs were heard from the crowd.
“Don’t remind me. In all seriousness, it takes a special breed
of man to dedicate themselves to upholding the law. Most men
come to that decision later in life or, if they’re younger,
they’re following in the footsteps of their father and
grandfather. Today, I’m honored to swear a young man into the
ranks of being a Deputy U.S. Marshal, even though this is just a
formality, it still holds significance. This young man took up
the badge when he was just shy of seventeen. Knowing what needed
to be done and not shying away from the responsibilities. Even
though one man only wore the badge on occasion, Mark McCain
couldn’t have asked for three finer examples of lawmen to guide
“Mark, will you step forward?” Cole waited for Mark to walk up
to stand next to him. “Please raise your right hand and place
the other on the bible.”
“Mark McCain, do you swear to faithfully execute the duties of
the U.S. Marshal Service as a deputy? To uphold and defend the
letter of the law?
“Yes sir,” Mark replied.
“Good, then as the Director of the U.S. Marshal Service out of
Denver, Colorado, I hear by officially declare you to be a
Deputy U.S. Marshal. Congratulations, son!”
“So Mark,” Percy Bullock hollered. “What’s your first official
act as a Deputy U.S. Marshal?”
“Changing diapers! If you’ll excuse me, ‘duty’ calls.” Every one
present broke out in laughter.
Mark and Hope carried their sons upstairs, followed by Lucas and
Milly carrying Myra and Little Ted, and Johnny carrying Connor,
and last was Thadd carrying Savannah. After all the ‘children’
were changed and put to bed for the night, the adults returned
downstairs to the party.
As the evening progressed, Lucas called for everyone’s attention
and held his glass high.
“Now as President of the town council, I’d like to say a few
words about Micah Torrance. Micah, I’ve been honored to call you
a friend, for what, that last eleven years? You’ve faithfully
served this town and her people. You will be sorely missed as
our marshal, but we rest easy knowing you’ve trained two
deputies to carry on the defending this town. Thank you for
“Here! Here!” came from those present as they offered their
thanks to Micah.
“Speech!” was yelled by someone.
“Well, I never was good at speech making. But I would like to
say, thank you for believing in me and giving me a town to call
home. Now, enough about me. There’s something else that was
planned tonight that hasn’t happened yet. And if all of you are
going to continue to embarrass me like you have, then I’m going
to see that others, beside Mark and me are in the same boat.
Where’s Percy Bullock? Percy! – Don’t tell me that boy’s bolted.
We got enough lawmen here, I’ll swear out a warrant for his
arrest if he’s not in here in sixty seconds!”
Micah spied Percy looking around the corner, “Percy get yourself
Slowly Percy walked into the room, pulling at his collar. He
stopped next to Tessa. The room quieted, completely, as he got
down on one knee.
“Tessa, I… I…” Percy looked around the room. “Tessa, I wanted to
ask if you would want to be my wife, I’m proposing marriage. If
you’ll have me?”
Percy closed his eyes and nervously held his breath, wandering
what could be taking her so long to answer. Micah came up behind
Percy and said, “Boy, you better open your eyes, she’s nodding.”
“Will you?” Percy asked as he looked up to Tessa.
“Yes, oh, yes!” Tessa exclaimed. Percy stood up and pulled the
ring from his pocket and slipped it on her finger.
The elder Percy Bullock pulled Mabra into a hug and said,
“Always wondered what it would be like to have a daughter in the
house, now I’m going to have two.”
“Oh, really Mr. Bullock?” Mabra asked.
“Yes, young lady, now that it’s official. We’ll start getting
your room ready. The house is big enough that everyone will have
their own room. And you can help me keep an eye on those two.
Since we’re going to be related… ”
“Could I call you Father?” Mabra asked.
“I’d be most honored.”
The celebrations continued until well after midnight.
Next Step — The Story
This is a story based on the TV
series The Rifleman
Here are some other great stories. Enjoy!
around The McCain Ranch