The Writer's Corner
The Next Step…
Chapter 80 - Whiteout…
Written by Deanne Bertram
It was late Friday morning and Hope was dealing with the
disappointment that Josh and Zach were experiencing as they had
expected their father home long before. The twins were
constantly underfoot asking when Papa would come home so they
could go for a horseback ride. Since it was such a nice February
day, Hope relented and took Eli and Mykaela to Milly’s. Once
Little Ted found out the others are going for a ride, he too
wanted to go. So, Hope saddled up all three ponies and Two-Bits
and the foursome headed out.
Hope kept a watchful eye on all three boys riding their ponies,
giggling to herself as the ponies would pick up a trot and the
boys would bounces in their saddles. Once they had enough of
bouncing, they would bring the ponies back to a walk. She
listened to them talking of the races they would run and who
would win, once they learned how to do more than just walk or
trot. They talked of riding with their Papa’s and helping to
drive their cattle to market when they grew up.
“Mama, would you miss us when we go on a cattle drive with
Papa?” Josh asked.
“I sure would. Home would be pretty quiet without you two
“And me?” Little Ted asked.
“Yes, you too.”
“What about Papa?” Zach inquired.
“I guess I’d even miss your Papa’s.”
Hope enjoyed riding Two-Bits and listening to the boys
continuing to bantered back and forth. They’d been gone for
about two hours when Hope realized the weather was changing.
Dark clouds started rolling over the hills and the temperature
was dropping. She made sure the boys buttoned their jackets up
as they started to head home. The ponies had sensed the change
in the weather too and were acting up, causing the boys to get
scared. Finally, Hope tied one pony to the next, and she tied
the final pony to Two Bits’ saddle. They didn’t make it too far
before a heavy, wet snow started falling. Hope knew the boys
were trying to be brave and not complain, but she could tell
they were cold and wanting to be home.
As the snow fell heavier, the group found shelter in an old,
abandoned shack on the north side of McCain property. Hope never
remembered seeing the building when she and Mark had been out
riding together. Hope noticed an even more dilapidated shed,
large enough to shelter the horses, on the backside of the
shack. After seeing the boys inside, she stepped outside to
search for enough kindling for a fire. Once she had a fire
blazing in the fireplace, she led the horses through the
deepening snow, into the shed and pulled their saddles. Grabbing
her rifle, she left the saddles in the shed, and carried it and
the saddle blankets into the shack, wrapping them around the
boys in an effort to help keep them warm.
Hope returned to the door and tried to figure out why the hinges
wouldn’t allow the door to close completely. She saw years of
built up rust causing part of the hinges to corroded and break
off. This prevented the door from fully closing. She tried
pushing the door harder, hoping that even if a hinge broke, she
could get the door to close. Without any luck, she stood watch,
shivering as the wind blew past the door. While the wind howled
and Hope prayed the wind was the only thing outside howling.
Hope looked to the boys and saw them huddled together around the
“Boy’s, I’m going out to find more wood, stay put. You hear me?”
“Yes!” they replied.
Before Hope realized, a white out was upon them, she couldn’t
see more than a few feet in front of her. For a few brief
moments, she feared getting lost and not being able to find her
back way to the children. After taking a few deep breaths, she
calmed herself and found her way back to the shack. She knew the
small amount of wood she had found for the fire wouldn’t last
long. Hope shivered as she returned to the doorway, her jacket
and clothing soaked.
Even without seeing the sun, the day progressed into the
evening, and Hope did her best to protect the boys from the
weather and made sure they stayed close to the fire to keep
“Mama, I’m sorry,” Zach offered as Hope knelt next to them to
make sure they were doing okay.
“Why are you sorry?”
“Because we wanted to come out and ride. And now we can’t go
“We’ll get home. We just have to wait until the storm dies
Once she had kissed each boy, Hope returned to the doorway.
The snow had eased considerably, but continued to fall. With her
body shaking from being cold, Hope decided to take a chance and
look for more firewood; hoping that as she moved around during
her search, she would warm up. Stiffly, she bent down to picked
up the last of the wood she could carry and still hold her
rifle, she saw paw tracks that sent a colder chill down her
“Oh God, please let me keep the boys safe.”
Hurriedly she returned to the shack as darkness surrounded them;
ever so vigilant in listening for sounds of the pack. Once
inside, she added some of the wood to the fireplace and listened
to it sizzle and pop as the moisture inside evaporated.
Mark and Lucas, along with Myra, looked relieved as they crested
the hill overlooking their homes.
“I’m happy that snow storm didn’t last too long,” Myra stated.
“I want to show Mama my grades.”
“She’s going to be pleased with your progress report,” Lucas
“Pa, something’s not right,” Mark stated, an uneasiness fell
“Pa, my house, its dark.”
“Hope probably has your children over at our place. Come on, I’m
sure they’re worried about us anyway.”
They arrived home just before suppertime to find a frantic Milly
calling from the porch. Milly ushered Myra into the front door
before returning to the porch, where she informed Lucas and Mark
that Hope and the boys were ‘out there’.
“What do you mean, out there?” Mark asked.
“The twins were so anxious to ride today, it WAS so nice.” Milly
answered. “Lucas, Little Ted begged to go with them.”
“How long ago did they leave?” Lucas asked.
“It had to be before noon. I put the others down for a nap after
I fed them lunch.”
“Which way did they head out?” Mark asked.
“They went North,” Milly replied.
Lucas and Mark left their homes after packing their saddlebags
and tying extra blankets to the back of their bedrolls.
While they searched, Lucas fretted, “I shouldn’t have gone to
town. You could have brought Myra home from school.”
“Pa, don’t play the blame game. I should have been home sooner,
I was all set to get Gabby and come home when Clay Akers
arrived, transporting a prisoner. I took his report and set him
up at the hotel for the night.”
“You had a job to do!” Lucas demanded.
“And so do you, running this ranch. Neither of us could have
known the snow storm was coming. And I’m sure Hope thought she
was doing right by the boys in taking them out for a ride. It
was such a beautiful morning and early afternoon. The twins have
been so excited since they got their ponies, any nice day they
have begged me to let them ride around in the corral.”
Lucas sighed as he realized blaming himself wasn’t going to help
their situation. Both signaled their horses to move on.
“It’s no use. We’ll have to stop for the night and start up
fresh in the morning,” Lucas stated as he realized they wouldn’t
be able to see for much longer.
“Pa, if I remember, there’s an old prospector’s shack not too
far from here. I came across it years ago when I was out
galloping BlueBoy. Ain’t much, but it’ll offer us some shelter,”
Mark stated as the sun finally disappeared from the sky.
Slowly they walked their horses over the deep, slippery snow,
across the darkened terrain. Both startled when they heard two
rifle shots. After looking to each other, they kicked their
horses into a trot and headed in the direction of the shots.
As they crested a hill, “Mark, look! Someone’s inside the
shack!” Lucas yelled after seeing a faint glow through a window
and smoke rising from the chimney. He kicked his horse into a
gallop, closely followed by Mark.
As they arrived, they saw wolves circling in front of the shack
and its partially opened door. They heard cries from horses,
clearly agitated by the proximity of the pack. They heard two
more rifle shots and a yelp as they watched one wolf collapse.
Both men pulled their rifles and fired until there wasn’t a
single wolf remaining in their sights.
Lowering their rifles, Lucas and Mark dismounted and ran to
where the figure leaned against the opening into the shack.
“Hope!” Mark called as he realized it was his wife he caught
when she started to fall. Mark felt her body trembling from the
cold, he realized how soaked her jacket was from the snow.
“Papa! Papa!” they heard from further within the shack.
Mark turned and looked as Lucas knelt to gather all three little
boys in his arms.
“Papa!” “GrandPa!” the three called over and over.
“Let me look at you,” Lucas stated as he held each one at arm’s
length. “Are you okay? Are any of you hurt?”
“No, Papa! I’m okay,” Little Ted answered.
“Grandpa, I’m hungry!” Zach said as Lucas looked to him.
“You are? I’ve some biscuits and meat in my saddle bags,” Lucas
“Can I have some too? We’ve not ate since this morning,” Josh
“You boys get back to the fire and keep warm. I’ll get our
horses and put them with the others.” Lucas stated as he pushed
the boys back towards the fire and stood. Before leaving the
shack, he stopped and knelt next to Mark, “How is she?”
“Pa, she’s so cold,” Mark answered. “Her lips are blue.”
“Get her back to the fire. I’ll tend to the horses and we’ll let
the boys eat some of the food Milly sent with us. We’ll have to
spend the night here and I’ll take the boys back home in the
morning. I’ll return with the buckboard for you and Hope.”
When Lucas returned to the shack, he handed a number of blankets
to Mark to wrap around Hope. Lucas carried a couple more
blankets to the boys, as well as his saddle bags, pulling out
food and handing it to the hungry boys. Lucas stepped from the
shack and scoured around for more firewood. When he returned the
three younger boys were huddled together, sound asleep in front
of the fire. Mark sat on the other side of the fireplace, with a
bundled Hope in his arms.
Lucas worried for his son and his daughter-in-law, while he
stood watch at the front door. Worrying if they had driven off
the entire pack or were some still lurking.
It was late morning when Lucas returned with the buckboard
bedded deeply with straw and blankets. He helped Mark get his
wife into the back and climbed up into the front seat. Lucas
raced the team, through the melting snow and mud, back to the
ranch. Milly was waiting at the house, as Mark carried Hope to
the front porch; Milly opened the door to their home. Within
moments, Mark was overcome with the warmth of their bedroom.
“Mark get her in bed and get her stripped,” Milly ordered.
“Lucas, Gwen has all the children at our place, the twins were
getting upset while waiting for you to return. Why don’t you go
home and help Gwen. I’ll be back once I’ve finished helping
“Ma?!”” Mark asked.
Milly shut the door as she pushed Lucas out of the room; she
returned to help Mark. Milly was shocked with how cold and
clammy Hope’s skin was to the touch as she pulled the blankets
“Mark, we’ll take care of your children, you strip yourself and
climb in the bed with Hope and wrap yourself around her.”
Mark looked to Milly in askance.
“Mark, you’re not thinking… If you want to make sure Hope
recovers you better get to thinking like a doctor, as you have
in the past. Worrying won’t do either of you any good right now.
Strip and use your body heat to help warm her.”
Milly closed the door behind her as she left the room carrying
Hope’s still damp clothing.
An hour had passed when Lucas returned to Mark’s home carrying a
bottle. He knocked on the bedroom door before proceeding into
“Come in,” Mark called.
“I brought some brandy,” Lucas stated.
“Pa, they gave me brandy… when I went to fetch Doc Burrage, when
Ma was giving birth to Gabby.”
“We used it during the War, too.”
Mark sat up and gently shook Hope, she roused, but didn’t wake.
“As long as she’s somewhat conscious, it should be okay to make
Mark watched as his father poured some of the contents from the
bottle into a cup and held it out to Mark. Mark took the cup and
placed it to Hope’s lips, he encouraged her to drink. As the
brandy trickled over Hope’s tongue, she fought drinking, but
with Mark’s loving and encouraging words, she swallowed. Mark
handed the empty cup back to Lucas, who filled it half full
again and returned the cup to Mark.
Hope had finished drinking when Mark felt her relax back against
“She’s not trembling as much,” Mark stated.
“I’ll leave the bottle here on the side table. If she gets to
trembling again, give her another half cup full,” Lucas stated.
Before leaving he walked to the pot-bellied stove and placed
several more pieces of wood inside.
“Milly and I’ll be back later this evening to check on the two
“Pa… Thank you,” Mark stated as he looked to his father.
“It’s what fathers do.” Lucas pulled the door closed behind him
as he left their bedroom to return to his own home.
An hour later, Mark woke to feeling Hope trembling beside him.
As instructed by his Pa, he reached for the bottle and poured
another half cup and encouraged Hope to drink. After setting the
cup back to the side table, Mark remembered more from his
experience in Marionette, he started rubbing Hope’s hands and
arms, trying to stimulate the flow of blood. Rolling his wife to
her stomach, he rubbed her back. Next, he uncovered one leg at a
time and started rubbing them. Once he was satisfied, that her
skin was returning to a healthier color and a more normal
temperature, Mark wrapped the covers over her legs. He slipped
back under the covers, pulling his wife against him and was
pleased with how warm she was beginning to feel. He said a quiet
thank you prayer to God.
Night had fallen the next time Lucas and Milly returned to check
in on Hope. Mark woke to hearing someone knock on the bedroom
“Mark, it’s me and your father,” Milly answered and entered the
“She’s not trembling as much, and she doesn’t feel as cold.”
Mark answered after they asked how Hope was doing.
Milly reached under the blankets for Hope’s arm and was pleased
with the change in the way Hope’s skin felt.
“She is feeling much warmer. Are you hungry?” Milly asked.
“Yes, Ma’am” Mark stated with a little more enthusiasm than he
meant. “Now that you mention it,” Mark stated as they all heard
his stomach grumble.
“I brought a stew for you and some broth to continue to warm her
up from the inside,” Milly stated.
“Pa, brought…” Mark started to say.
“I know what Lucas brought,” Milly replied and gave a
disapproving look to her husband.
Milly stepped from the bedroom and returned a few moments later
carrying a tray with supper for Mark. After seeing to it that
Mark had eaten, Milly again stepped to the kitchen and returned
a few moments later with a bowl of broth for Hope. Mark roused
Hope enough for her to drink.
Lucas stepped to the pot-bellied stove and placed a few more
pieces of wood inside.
“We’ll let you two be,” Milly stated as she pushed Lucas towards
Milly wrapped her shawl tightly around her shoulders before they
left Mark’s home. “I can’t believe you did that!” she stated as
Lucas closed the door behind them.
“Milly, it’s a tried and true way for warming someone up… from
“She’s going to be okay. Though she might be a little out of
sorts when she finally wakes, depending on how much Mark’s given
“Lucas McCain, just how much…”
“She drank a full cup and a half earlier, and I told Mark to
give her a half-cup each time she started to wake, if she was
still trembling. It appears that Mark’s given her at least
another cup and a half.”
“LUCAS!” Milly stated. “If she’s not drunk when she wakes… how
could you?” Milly scolded.
“Guess we better get some black coffee brewed for later…” Lucas
stated with a mischievous smile on his face. He opened the door
to their own home and allowed Milly to enter before him.
The moon was shining through the window of bedroom when Hope
opened her eyes. She stretched her body and regaled in the
warmth of the room and snuggled closer to Mark. Mark wrapped his
arm tighter around Hope as he slept.
Hope bolted upright and called, “The Boys!”
Mark startled awake at hearing Hope call out.
“They’re okay. They’re at Ma and Pa’s,” Mark stated as he pulled
Hope back to lie down beside him and pulled the covers over her.
“We found you Friday night.”
“What is today?” Hope asked.
“It just past mid-night. It’s Sunday morning.”
“Are you sure the boys are alright?” Hope quietly asked.
“According to Ma and Pa, yes. They survived the whiteout better
than you did. Do you remember what happened?”
Hope proceeded to tell Mark of their riding out and without
warning, the weather turned. Knowing she needed to seek shelter,
she ushered the boys and their ponies until they found the
“I was out hunting more wood to keep the fire going when I
encountered wolf tracks.” Hope trembled as she snuggled against
“Are you cold?” Mark quickly asked.
“No,” Hope hiccupped. “Just the memory.” She raised her hand to
her head, “I feel so light-headed.” She hiccupped again.
“Oh,” was all Mark could answer, as he smiled in knowing why.
Mark encouraged Hope to continue telling him what had happened,
even though her words were a little bit slurred.
“When I returned to the shack, I saw their ssilhouettes, they
were so close. And so many of them…” Hope buried her head into
Mark’s chest with him rubbing her back, as she hiccupped again.
“You’re safe and home,” Mark stated and kissed the top of her
head. “Are you warm enough?”
Hope nodded as she cuddled closer to Mark while he continued to
hold her close, rubbing her back and upper arm.
Quietly Hope asked, “Are you sure the boys really alright?”
“Yes,” Mark whispered in return. “Ma and Pa are keeping the
children for the night and Gwen’s helping them.”
As the warmth welled deep inside Hope, she started caressing her
hands across her husband’s chest, up his neck and around the
back of his head; she pulled his head close to hers and
passionately kissed Mark. Their cuddling turned to making love,
with more than just their hearts intertwined. Any last trace
from Hope’s exposure to the elements faded as both experienced
the warmth of their shared desire and passion.
Hope woke later in the morning to feeling quite ill. She moaned
as she rolled over in bed.
“Hope, are you okay?” Mark asked as he woke.
“My head hurts and I feel so dizzy,” she answered. “And I really
have to relieve myself.”
“Stay in bed and let me get the fire going, I’ll bring a chamber
pot and fix you some coffee,” Mark answered.
“Coffee? You know I don’t…”
“You will today and believe me, it tastes better with lots of
sugar…” Mark stated as he pulled on his long johns.
From under the covers, Hope watched Mark open the front grate to
the pot-bellied stove; she cringed at the sound of metal grating
metal. Each thud of wood landing in the bottom of the stove
sounded louder than she ever remembered. Mark pulled on his
jeans and left the bedroom, closing the door behind him, only to
return a few moments later with the chamber pot, before leaving
again. After slipping into a nightgown and crawling back into
bed, Hope grabbed at her head when she heard the coffee pot and
the cooking pan bang as Mark set them to the stove, she pulled
the pillow over her head and held it tight, trying to block out
the sounds. Realizing it was little use, Hope propped the pillow
up and laid her head back down on top of it and pulled the
blankets tight around her.
The coffee and oatmeal Mark was fixing were almost ready when
Mark turned at hearing a knock on the front door and saw it open
to admit Lucas.
“How is Hope this morning?” Lucas asked.
“She’s awake and a little hung over,” Mark sheepishly answered.
“Then I’ll report back to Milly,” Lucas replied.
“How are the boys, and Mykaela?” Mark asked before Lucas could
“Asking when they can come back home. We told them this
afternoon, if their Mama was up to it.”
“I’ll let you know around lunch time,” Mark answered as he
spooned the oatmeal from the pot into a bowl.
Carrying the tray with breakfast, Mark returned to their bedroom
to find Hope sitting up in bed with the blankets pulled around
“And just WHY am I hung over?” she demanded and cringed at the
loudness of her own voice.
Embarrassed, Mark stated, “We kind of got you drunk yesterday
“We! You and who else?!” Hope cringed and hiccupped, pulling her
hand to cover her mouth.
“Hope, we needed to warm you up, you were so cold. Pa brought
over a bottle of brandy yesterday.”
“And?” Hope spoke quieter.
“And you probably had about three cups worth,” Mark steeled
himself for her outburst.
“Three cups?! On an empty stomach?!” she hiccupped. “Oh, my
head,” Hope moaned.
“There was only so much that we could do to warm you up from the
outside,” Mark stated.
“From the outside… I vaguely remember… we…” Hope’s eyes grew
wide. “Mark! You got me drunk and… and… this morning…”
“I’ll admit to getting you a little drunk,” Mark stated as he
set the tray with the oatmeal at his wife’s lap. “But as for
what happened earlier this morning, that was your doing,” Mark
couldn’t stop the laughter as he looked at the expression on his
“Yep. But I can’t say that I didn’t enjoy every minute of it.
I’ll have to remember to…”
“Don’t you dare! Mark McCain, how could you?!”
Taking on a somber tone, “Because if we didn’t’ get you warmed
up by drinking all that brandy, you could have become sick with
pneumonia or even died. A body can’t survive long with a
temperature as low as yours was. Remember, I went through
something similar when I rode to Marionette to get the doctor…
When Ma was giving birth to Gabby. Besides, we are married. And
what we do in this bed…” Mark stated with a devilish grin. “Now,
eat your breakfast,” he ordered.
“It would serve you right if I got pregnant…” Hope pulled her
hand to her mouth as she hiccupped again.
“Would just go to prove how much I love you… Can I put a request
in for another set of twins?” Mark laughed as he asked.
“Can you talk a little softer until I feel better,” Hope asked
as she put her hand to her head.
“Alright,” Mark whispered. “Pa said the boys were anxious to
come back home, I told him I’d be over around lunch to let them
know if you were up to it.” Mark handed Hope a cup of hot
coffee. “Drink, you’ll feel better.”
“Oh, even with sugar it tastes bitter,” Hope complained and
After seeing that Hope ate the entire bowl of oatmeal and drank
the entire cup of coffee, Mark insisted that Hope slide back
down under the covers and sleep the rest of her hangover off.
Quietly he placed more wood into the pot-bellied stove in their
As promised after lunch, Mark bundled himself up and headed to
his parents’, to check on his children.
“Where’s my family?” Mark cheerfully called as he closed the
door behind him.
“Papa!” his three sons called.
“Is Mama okay?” Josh asked.
“She’s going to be just fine. How about you boys? Are you up to
keeping Little Ted and Levi company this afternoon. Your Mama
still needs to sleep.”
“We come home?” Eli asked.
“Maybe after supper,” Mark replied as he finished hugging his
Mark stood to take his daughter from Milly, “And how’s my Emmy?”
She clapped her hands and stated “Mama.”
“Not until later,” Mark answered.
“Mama.” Mykaela called.
“She’s sleeping,” Mark stated.
“Yes, Mama’s sleeping.”
Milly came up behind Mark and took Mykaela into her arms, “As
you should be too. It’s time for your naps. All of you!”
“Grandma,” Mark’s boys complained.
Little Ted offered, “Don’t do you no good. She says I have to
take a nap too,” as he walked to his bedroom.
Mark walked to the table, where his sister sat. “So Gabby, what
are you working on?”
“A com-po-ze-shun,” Myra stated. “I have to write a com… compa…”
“Composition?” Mark asked.
“That’s it, a composition! I have to write a story,” Myra
“On what?” Mark asked.
“On paper! How else?”
“No, silly,” Mark leaned over and tickled his sister, “What’s
your story about?”
“My family,” Myra answered.
“That’s a big story.”
“Whew! Don’t I know it,” Myra stated. “Is Hope really going to
“Yeah, she will be. She just needs to sleep off, uh, sleep some
more today. Tell you what, why don’t you take your homework into
your bedroom for a while. I need to talk with Ma and Pa.”
“Okay.’ Myra hopped down from the chair and carried her books,
paper, and pencil into her bedroom.
Milly returned to the front room after seeing the younger
children to bed for their naps.
“How is she really?”
“Ma, she’ll be fine. She just needs to sleep, she, uh, woke up
feeling, well… drunk.”
Lucas let out a short laugh, but quickly changed his expression
as he saw the look Milly gave him.
“Lucas McCain, I’ll have you know Hope has probably never had a
drink of liquor in her life and you… You made Mark force her to
drink enough to get her drunk! There are other ways to warm a
person up from the inside. Beef or chick broth… Hot cocoa…
Soothing yet warming. Men! You reach for liquor without thinking
of the repercussions…” Milly continued to chastise her husband
and her son for agreeing with his father.
Tuesday afternoon, Mark had returned to town to stand his shift.
Seth was placing more wood in the pot-bellied stove and Johnny
was just getting ready to head for home. Mark looked up from
reviewing the stack of wanted posters on his desk to see Percy
Bullock entering the office.
“Hey Percy! Been a while. How are things at home? How are Tessa,
Shawnee, Mabra, and your father?”
“Things seem to be a little more ‘tame’ at my home than at
yours,” Percy stated.
A perplexed Mark answered, “I don’t understand.”
“Last Friday, I assigned the students to write a composition
over the weekend.”
“I know, Gabby told me it about it Sunday, said it was supposed
to be about her family. So what does that have to do with how
things are at your place versus mine?” Mark started to take a
drink of coffee from the cup that sat on his desk.
“Well, seems I didn’t get my wife drunk over the weekend…”
Mark spit out the coffee and coughed as he had already started
“What?!” Mark demanded, eyes wide open, shocked.
“You what?” Johnny asked with a strong laugh and surprise in his
“Seems Myra wrote about Milly being quite upset when she learned
that Lucas had taken you a bottle of brandy and,” Percy paused,
“you made Hope drink a whole lot of it and got your wife drunk.
So drunk that none of the family could go to church?” Sitting
down on the corner of the desk, with eyebrows raised Percy
asked, “You care to tell me what happened?”
“You got my daughter drunk?” Seth stated with a disapproving
edge to his voice.
Mark leaned back in the chair and ran his hand through his hair,
“I told you what happened over the weekend,” Mark complained.
“You told us about how you headed home on Friday, only to find
Hope and the boys not home from their ride and the storm
stranding them in a shack overnight. You didn’t say anything
about getting your wife… drunk,” Johnny continued to laugh.
“You also mentioned having to shoot off a pack of wolves, too,”
Seth stated with reproach.
“Throughout the afternoon, she had been in and out of the shack,
getting firewood and yes, she did her best to protect the boys
from a pack of wolves. When Pa and I got to her, her jacket was
soaked clear through from the snow. The only time she was near
the fire was to add more wood to it, until we got there. By the
time we found them, her body temperature was so low. After we
got them home, Pa said they…” Changing his tone of voice, “No
one minded when Judge Tanner and his wife forced me to drink
brandy when I went to Marionette…” Mark stated indignantly.
“Well, your sister didn’t write an essay about that, but she did
about this.” Percy stated as he handed the paper to Mark.
After a few moments of reading, Mark asked, “Who else has seen
this?” as he shook his head.
“Just me,” Percy started laughing. “My, oh, my. Mark, I was
quite surprised to read this. You’ll have a word with your
“Guess I need to. This isn’t something that I should keep
between Gabby and me.”
“No,” Johnny Drako laughed. “Boy how I’d love to see Lucas’ face
when he reads that sheet of paper.”
“Thanks a lot Johnny,” Mark dead panned as he watched Johnny
leave the office, laughing.
“Percy, why not talk to Pa when he comes to get Gabby this
afternoon?” Mark asked.
“Because she didn’t right about Milly. She wrote about Hope,
“See ya later, friend,” Mark stated as Percy left the office.
“So,” Seth stated as he stood in front of Mark’s desk and folded
“Seth, she’s recovered. No signs of frost bite, no signs of
taking a cold.”
“She was sobered up Sunday evening. Seth, if it wasn’t so urgent
to get her warmed up, I wouldn’t have given her the stuff. I
remember how I felt after my trip to Marionette. I kept an eye
on her all day until she said she was fine. I’m sorry, what else
can I say? I was worried about my wife and…” Mark’s voice had
taken a tone that he didn’t appreciate his motives in trying to
save his wife’s life being questioned.
“Guess I shouldn’t have come down on you so hard… I probably
would have done the same thing, had I been in your shoes. Still,
she is my daughter…”
“I’ll forget about it, if you will,” Mark offered.
“I don’t think Johnny will let you forget.”
“Well, if that’s the case, I can always say something to Lou…”
“You wouldn’t?” Seth asked, knowing the trouble that Johnny
would get into.
“Hey, she’s always had a soft spot in her heart for me… I can
just say that Johnny’s being… well… Guess I should keep my mouth
Mark was watching out the window when he saw his Pa ride into
town to get Gabby from school.
“Pa!” Mark hollered and he ran out the door, flapping closed his
coat collar. “You have a moment?”
Lucas stopped Blade in front of the Marshal’s Office, “I’m here
to see Myra home.”
“I think Percy will keep her for a few minutes.”
Lucas stepped down from the saddle and walked into the office.
Gladly, he accepted the hot cup of coffee offered to him by
“Thanks.” Lucas walked across the office and sat down on the
edge of Mark’s desk. “So you were the one who wanted a moment of
my time.” He raised an eyebrow as he took a drink from the cup.
“Pa, Percy stopped by this afternoon and showed me the
composition Gabby wrote and turned in yesterday.”
“This is the composition about her family?” Lucas asked.
“Yeah. I take it that Ma didn’t read the essay?”
“She hasn’t had to check Myra’s work in some time. She does a
lot better in school than you did at her age… I’m sorry Mark,
that wasn’t fair. At her age, it was just the two of us and we
“Pa, that’s not the point. It’s just that, well… the subject she
chose kind of got me in trouble with the school teacher.”
“Got you in trouble? How?”
“Gabby chose to write of what happened this weekend.”
“A matter of the two of you getting my daughter – drunk!” Seth
added as he affected an air of displeasure, yet enjoying the
look of discomfort that appeared on Lucas’ face.
“Myra wrote.. But she…”
“Evidently, Ma was scolding both of us loud enough that Gabby
heard her, through the bedroom door. Pa, I think you and Ma need
to have a talk with her…”
Lucas pushed his hat back on his head. “Oh my, how do I tell
“How do you tell Ma? How do I tell Hope? Luckily, Percy was the
only one who saw the essay, but Johnny was in here when Percy
arrived. You’ll talk with Gabby tonight?”
“We’ll talk with her. Mark, all I can say, you were never this
“Have a good night. I’ll be home tomorrow and I’ll see that
Gabby gets home after school.”
“Speaking of wives…” Mark averted his eyes, and faked looking at
the wanted posters again, as he spoke to Seth.
“You and Lilah. It’s been a couple of months since she returned
to North Fork and I hear tell you’ve been seen escorting her
around town and she’s taking up residence at the boarding
“Mark, we’re just two people who enjoy each other’s company.”
“I seem to remember hearing someone else saying the same thing,
before he finally asked Pa for permission to marry Miss Hattie,”
“Mark, what’s between Lilah and me, if anything, is our
business. I don’t see how it’s any of your concern,” Seth stated
a little flustered.
“Well, I think it is my concern, since she may become my wife’s
“OUT!” Seth hollered as Mark ran from the office.
“I got rounds to do. I’ll be back once you’ve had a chance to
cool down,” Mark called laughingly.
Watching Mark run from the office, Seth leaned back in his chair
and thought how it had been nice having the company of a woman
for supper and going to church. He had been surprised when Lilah
showed up in the middle of the influenza outbreak. After she
stated she had to leave, it didn’t surprise Seth when he asked
if there was anything really keeping her in Laramie. What did
surprise Seth was her response, “No.” She left shortly after
Mark and Hope’s birthday and returned after the New Year.”
Wednesday afternoon, Mark met his sister as she stepped down the
steps from the schoolhouse.
“Hi Gabby. You ready to go home?” Mark called.
“Guess so,” she answered.
“You upset with me?” Mark asked.
“I don’t want to talk about it. Just see me home,” Myra stated
as she grabbed the saddle straps and pulled herself to the
stirrups and got in the saddle.
On the way home, Mark tried to entice his sister into
conversation without any luck.
As they rode into the yard, Mark stated, “If you’re going to
continue to pout, get inside and start your homework. I’ll take
care of the horses.”
As Myra entered her home, Hope was exiting the door, carrying
Mykaela, “Good afternoon Myra.”
“I got homework to do.”
“Myra?” Hope called. Without receiving any response, Hope looked
to Mark. “What’s wrong with her?”
“You don’t know?… Let me take care of BlueBoy.”
“No son, I’ll take care of him. You talk with Hope,” Lucas
stated as he came from the barn and took BlueBoy’s reins.
“Ma didn’t tell…” Mark stopped talking when he saw his Pa try to
hide a grin and shake his head.
“Tell me what?” Hope asked.
Milly stepped to the porch and said, “We’ll keep the boys here,
until you’re through.”
“What does everyone else know that I don’t?”
“Come on, I have a tale to tell you.”
Lucas was walking across the yard from the barn to his house
when he heard Hope yell, “She did what?” Lucas couldn’t keep the
smirk from his face as he entered his home. He could only
imagine what Mark was having to say to calm his wife.
The Next Step — Vengeance
This is a story based on the TV
series The Rifleman
Here are some other great stories. Enjoy!
around The McCain Ranch