The Writer's Corner
The Next Step…
Chapter 46 – The Story Continues
The story of The Rifleman: The Legacy Fulfilled
Written by Deanne Bertram
As agreed, William Walsh submitted each story to Lucas and Mark,
prior to forwarding to his editor. Each story was approved as
written. His first story addressed Lucas as a soldier during the
Civil War, coming up through the ranks and earning his
Lieutenant’s bars. The story concluded with Lucas receiving an
honorable discharge from the army.
His next story told of the Small Pox epidemic that struck Enid,
Oklahoma and killed many of the residents. And how Lucas, being
too grief-stricken to stay, set out with his young son to find
someplace else they could call home. The story included their
brief encounter with the outlaw Wade Joyner and then followed
their lives to Wyoming and how events there, resulted in Lucas
seeking someplace else. He’d known from the beginning that
Wyoming wasn’t where he planned to permanently call home. Walsh
made sure that each time he wrote of Lucas being forced to kill,
he pointed out how much it tore at him.
The third story Walsh wrote, told of a widowed father, trying to
raise his son. Making sure his son kept to his studies:
spelling, reading, mathematics, and history. He also wrote how,
every Sunday during their travels, Lucas and Mark dedicated the
day to studying the Bible. Yes, he was The Rifleman, but more
importantly, he was a father, first. Lucas was impressed that
the newspaperman was interested in telling the whole story, and
not just telling of the guts and glory.
His forth story told of the McCain’s choosing to call North Fork
home -- a place, wild as it was, where Lucas knew he wanted
raise his son. Walsh chose not to focus on the individual
outlaws or the count of those killed, but instead focused on how
it shaped the relationship between the Rifleman and his son.
Walsh decided now would be a good time to include how Lucas
struggled with his growing son’s desire to have his own gun and
Lucas’ desire to keep his boy innocent, for as long as possible.
The end of March was nearing when William Walsh returned to
North Fork. He was ready to start telling the story of the
Rifleman and the Lawman. Mark was waiting as the train pulled
into the station. As was usual, Mark caught the packet of flyers
from the conductor and greeted anyone stepping from the train.
“Morning Deputy!” William Walsh called as he stepped from the
train. “Quite a brisk morning.”
“Yes sir, it is quite brisk. Welcome back to North Fork,” Mark
said as he greeted him.
“I want to thank both you and your father for being so
cooperative in my stories. You’re story has struck a cord with
how the people back east perceive the west. They’re beginning to
realize we’re not all lawless and cut throats. My editor is
really pleased with how the stories are taking shape. Our Senior
Editor from Chicago is even thinking that later this spring he
might stop by and visit you, personally. I hope with the stories
I written so far, you’ve come to trust me and I’d like to
consider you and your father as friends. So, how are things
otherwise here in North Fork?” Walsh asked as they started to
walk to the hotel.
“Mr. Walsh, as I said before, we’re just people. Living our
lives the best way we can. Living our lives according to the
laws of man and the laws of God. If you keep your stories
honest, we’ll continue to work with you and we’d like to
consider you as a friend. As for North Fork… The town and
ranchers are gearing up for spring’s arrival. Pretty much the
same as it is every year, at this time. The ranchers are
preparing to move their herds closer so they can keep an eye on
the calving and foaling. The farmers are making sure their plows
are ready to start breaking ground. Like I said, there’s nothing
that special about North Fork, except that we like to call it
“Deputy, it’s the simple life. Yes sir. I want to show a
different side of how folks out here live. The dime store novels
have their place, but they don’t tell the truth, or rather, they
don’t tell the whole story. That’s what I want to…”
Their conversation was interrupted when Hattie came running up
to them. “Mark, we need Doc Burrage over at Johnny and
Colleen’s! I think the baby’s coming!”
“Okay Hattie, I’ll send Doc Burrage over. Go on back and let
Uncle Johnny know.” Then turning to Walsh, “Sorry, but I’ve got
things to do. See you later.”
Mark ran to the clinic and found Thadd tending to the scraped
knee of one of the Porter children. “Mrs. Porter, pardon the
interruption, but Doc, you’re needed over at Johnny and
Colleen’s. Hattie just ran up and said they think the baby is
“Okay, Mark, I’m almost done here.” Then turning to Albert,
“Well Albert. Let this teach you a lesson about running away
from your Ma when she asks you for a second time to do a chore.
You best do it the first time.”
“Yes sir, I’ll remember.” Albert stated as he hopped down from
the table. Mrs. Porter offered, “Mark, tell your uncle and aunt,
congratulations for me. I hope the baby is healthy.”
“Thank you, Mrs. Porter.”
“Mark, knowing how nervous your Pa was when Myra and Little Ted
were born, I can only imagine how nervous your uncle is. Why
don’t you head home and get your Pa. I’m sure Johnny will
welcome the company.”
“Okay. I need to stop by Johnny and Lou’s to let them know where
I’m heading and I’ll be out of town for a little while.”
Lucas arrived at his brother-in-laws house to find Johnny
frazzled. Milly ran upstairs to help Doc Thadd.
“Come on brother. Let’s get you to Sweeney’s. There’s nothing
you can do here.”
“Lucas, h-how did you do this? I mean, you’ve gone through this
three, three times. Just listening to Colleen… I think I’d
rather be stomped on by a saddle bronc, than sitting here
waiting.” Johnny continued to look over his shoulder and up the
stairs as Lucas led him from the house.
“That’s why were heading to Sweeney’s,” Lucas stated.
The sun was setting as Mark was walking the town and saw Thadd
exiting his uncle’s home.
“Well Doc?” Mark asked.
“A healthy baby girl. She’s quite the set of lungs. Almost as
loud as Savannah’s. I presume your father took Johnny to
“He did. Tell Uncle Johnny and Aunt Colleen I’ll stop by later.
See you, Thadd.
Mark was watching out the front window of the Marshal’s Office
when he saw his Pa and Uncle Johnny leave Sweeney’s. The good
news, it didn’t look like either was drunk. Mark laughed as he
thought on how his Ma would react, had they been.
Johnny entered his home as Milly stepped to the foot of the
stairs. “Your wife and daughter are up stairs Johnny. Go on!”
Milly stepped to Lucas and wrapped her arm around his waist as
they walked into the kitchen of the home.
“Did either of you eat today?” Milly asked.
“A little, but I’m sure they could eat a good meal. Was it
difficult?” Lucas asked.
“Not that difficult. Colleen was thankful you took Johnny away.
She was more worried about him than herself. She should be up
and around tomorrow, no problem.”
As they prepared supper, Lucas commented on how he just couldn’t
get over the change in Johnny. “You know Milly, Johnny was
always more free spirited that I was. Now he’s married and a
“Lucas, I’ve heard him say you were a great roll model for him.
‘If Lucas McCain can do it, why can’t I?’ He really does admire
the life you and Mark had.”
“We still have that life, only we’ve a larger family to share it
with,” Lucas said as he came up behind Milly and wrapped his
arms around her and nuzzled into her neck.
They carried a couple trays of food upstairs and knocked on the
bedroom door before entering.
“We thought you might be hungry,” Milly stated as they entered.
As Lucas watched Johnny holding his daughter, he remembered back
to when each one of his children were born.
“Well? Was I right Johnny?” Lucas asked.
“Lucas, you told me how this little one would melt my heart the
first time I held her, but it still didn’t prepare me for this.
She’s so tiny. All I want to do is to protect her. I don’t want
to let go of her.”
“If she’s sleeping, why not lay her down between the two of you
and so you can eat,” Milly stated. “Have you thought about a
“Lucas, Milly, we’d like you to meet Lillian Claire Gibbs.”
Before returning to the ranch, Lucas and Milly stopped by the
Marshal’s Office. Mark asked them to let Hope know he wouldn’t
“Lou’s cold struck her kind of harder this afternoon. Tessa’s
tending the hotel and Johnny’s tending to Lou and Connor. That
leaves me to watch the town.”
“Okay son, we’ll let Hope know,” Lucas stated as they turned to
Mark was finishing writing his latest report to the Marshal’s
Office in Denver, when William Walsh knocked on the door.
“Come on in Mr. Walsh. I’m sorry about earlier…”
“No need to apologize. I understand that baby’s don’t wait for
any one. I’d like to ask you a favor.”
“Earlier I said, I’d like it if we could be friends and as
friends, Mr. Walsh sounds… Well, please just call me Will.”
“All right, Will. Just call me Mark.”
“Mark, I wanted to start writing the story of you becoming a
lawman. I know from talks with your father, how he tried to keep
you from the gun. But still, you took up the rifle. You went
against your father’s wishes.”
“Will, it’s not that Pa didn’t want me to never use a rifle. He
eventually bought me a .22 for hunting. Pa wanted to make sure I
understood the responsibilities that go along with it. And he
also wanted to make sure I could handle the emotions that come
with using the rifle,” Mark replied.
“So how was it that your Marshal, …Micah, deputized you?”
“Pa was up in Santa Fe, at the Cattlemen’s Association Meeting,
and most all the other ranchers and their hands were over at
Little Butte at the rodeo, when the stage was robbed. Micah
needed someone as good as my Pa to help track the outlaws. I
volunteered. No one else can track as good as Pa and most people
will tell you I’m practically as good. Once the outlaws were
dead and the money recovered… Micah chose to keep me as a
deputy. Maybe he knew then that he would eventually retire… As I
recovered from my injuries, Micah and Johnny started ordering
law books for me to read.
“Injuries? What happened?”
“I got caught unaware up in Socorro. I was kidnapped by a man
who had been hired to kill my father. As they were manhandling
me, I broke my ankle. Then, later, when the showdown came, in my
effort to save Pa, I was shot. Took a few weeks to get over the
gunshot, but longer to get over the broken ankle.”
“So once you were back home, you didn’t give your badge back to
“No, the outlaws had taken it from me. Micah handed my badge
back to me once I was home. I felt relieved when he gave it back
to me. Guess after all these years of watching my Pa work as a
deputy marshal up in Wyoming and then helping Micah out here in
North Fork, it wasn’t that far of a stretch for me to want to
become a deputy. But Pa and I did a lot of talking over the next
few weeks. He never tried to dissuade me from my choice, but
wanted to make sure I was ready for that kind of a commitment.”
“I take it; you’ve had to shoot men?”
“I’ve wounded a few and been forced to take the lives of two
others. After I killed that first man, I tried to keep my
emotions inside. I didn’t tell anyone in North Fork what had
happened. I wanted to prove to everyone that I was man enough
for the job. Guess that was one thing Pa and I never really
talked about; what would happen the first time I was forced to
kill a man. When I was growing up, each time after Pa was forced
to kill a man, I knew he needed his alone time. Time to seek
forgiveness from God. I thought it was just as simple as that.
Believe me, it wasn’t. It ate at me. All I could focus on was
that I had taken a life, I kept thinking there had to be another
way I could have handled the situation, and somehow, I could
have pulled my shot. My friends realized something was tearing
me up inside, but they didn’t know what. When I finally admitted
it to Pa, the flood gates opened. Pa and I talked a good long
time. He made me walk him through everything that had happened.
He made me see that, yes, I had taken a life, but I had been
forced into it. There was no other way out of the situation. It
was either that man killing me or me killing him. Pa reminded me
that before I could ask God for forgiveness, I had to forgive
“I know when I made mistakes growing up, how necessary it was
for me to forgive myself first, but I just didn’t think it
applied to this situation. Making mistakes and asking
forgiveness is one thing. But I had taken a life that God had
“The men you killed, they were outlaws?” Will asked.
“Not the first one. He was a soldier. He was threatening to kill
an innocent young woman, because of something from her past that
was totally out of her control. I watched as he tried to
strangle her to death. When she passed out, he threw her down to
the ground and pulled his gun on me and fired. It was purely
instinct that I shouldered my rifle and pulled the trigger. I
don’t even remember doing it.”
“And the second?” Will asked.
“The second man, yeah, he was an outlaw. A man who escaped from
prison and joined up with a band of outlaws and robbed our
town’s bank. As they were trying to make their escape, they shot
both Micah and Johnny. At first it was just Marshal James Carson
and I trailing after them, on our first night out Pa and Nils
caught up with us. We’d been on the trail for a number of days
and got caught in a minor ambush when Carson and Nils were
wounded. We left them in Tucumcari, and Pa and I trailed the
outlaws to Romero, Texas. Marshal Tom Benton met up with us just
outside of town. Between Pa, Marshal Benton, and myself, we took
eleven members of the gang into custody. Pa killed Creed Domingo
in an effort to save Marshal Benton. Later, both of us fired at
Russell Gannaway as he fired at Pa. The town doc told us later
that both our bullets struck within an inch of each other.
“Will, my killing a second man didn’t get any easier for me. I
pray that it never gets easy to take a life. I know that as long
as I never get comfortable with the idea of killing another man,
I’ll always be able to forgive myself and ask God’s forgiveness.
It’s when you get comfortable in killing or not respecting the
life of another human being, that’s when trouble brews.”
Mark went on to say, “People might say that because I wear the
badge and carry a rifle, I’m looking for trouble. I’m looking to
kill. No, I’m not. I’m looking to keep the peace and uphold the
law. I carry both to defend myself and the people of this town.
The citizens of this town deserve protection so that some day,
they can feel safe in not walking around with guns everywhere.
Like my father before me, I don’t want my sons…”
“Mark, I won’t mention that last statement in my story. I
remember my promise. But it is amazing hearing someone as young
as you talk with such dedication to your beliefs and talk so
honestly about events that happened. Thanks for taking the
time…” Will pulled out his pocket watch. “I’m sorry, I didn’t
realize how late it is. Mark, I’ll forward my story to you, once
I’ve written it. Goodnight.”
As Will left to return to the hotel, Mark left the Marshal’s
Office to walk the town for one last time that night.
A week after William Walsh left North Fork a letter arrived
addressed to Mark.
The Rifleman: The Legacy Becomes a Lawman, by William Walsh
When I first met The Rifleman, he told me of how he would prefer
to be remembered, not for his prowess with the rifle, but
instead, he wanted his legacy to be his children. I came to know
Mark McCain, who as a young boy had lost his mother during the
small pox epidemic in Enid, Oklahoma. The son who saw his father
shot a number of times, while defending the town he called home.
The son, Lucas McCain tried hard to keep from the rifle as he
In my talk with the son, I realized it wasn’t that the Rifleman
wanted to keep his son from ever handling a rifle, but more
importantly, making sure the son was ready for the
responsibilities of handling a gun. A gun, be it a hand gun or a
rifle, is not a toy. And once the trigger is pulled, the bullet
cannot be retracted.
Mark McCain told me the first time the deputy badge was pinned
to his shirt. How outlaws had robbed the stage and it fell to
him to help the Marshal track the outlaws because so few men
were in town. Though the Marshal tried not to, he knew that Mark
was his only hope for tracking and swore him in as a deputy to
lead the posse. The outlaws were eventually captured and/or
killed and the money was recovered, but events that happened
during the chase gave the Marshal a new insight on this young
man. The Marshal chose not to rescind the oath of office he had
given Mark. And so The Rifleman’s son became a lawman. He wore
the badge, but had a lot to learn about the “letter of the law”
and eagerly did so.
Mark McCain recounted to me the first time he ever was forced to
kill a man, to save the life of a young woman. He told me of
how, after all the years of watching his father struggle with
the aftermath of taking a life, he thought he could handle the
emotions on his own and prove to those who counted on him, that
he was man enough for the job. But this nineteen year old still
needed his father to help him through his torments. Could he
have handled the situation differently and not taken a life?
Regardless what happened, it’s always easier to look back and
second guess yourself, but those are the times you need someone
to help you see the light. And Lucas McCain was there, as he
always has been.
The second time The Lawman was forced to take a life; it was in
defense of his father against an outlaw, a bank robber, a man
who had already proven he could shoot another human being, just
for trying to defend a town. It was reported that both The
Rifleman and The Lawman fired simultaneously. Whose bullet
proved the fatal shot? Hard to say, the doc said there were two
bullet wounds the man suffered. Both were spaced an inch apart.
Was it easier to take a life the second time? Mark told me, “No,
and I pray that is never gets easy. People might say that
because I wear the badge and carry a rifle, I’m looking for
trouble. I’m looking to kill. No, I’m not. I’m looking to keep
the peace and uphold the law. I carry both [the badge and the
rifle] to defend myself and the people of this town. The
citizens of this town deserve protection so that someday, they
can feel safe in walking around without guns everywhere.”
As he quietly helps to defend his town; the son understands his
responsibilities and what it takes to stand up for the law. Be
it with the badge or just as a citizen. These are the lessons
the Rifleman has left for his Legacy. But more importantly to
this story, there is an unbroken bond between a father and a
son. A bond that says they both will be there for each other and
to defend what’s right.
So, the Rifleman will continue to stand tall and know that he
raised his son right. As for his Legacy? Maybe it won’t be his
rifle, but the rifle of his son – The Rifleman: A Legacy
Next Step — Taken
This is a story based on the TV
series The Rifleman
Here are some other great stories. Enjoy!
around The McCain Ranch