The Writer's Corner
Rifleman: The Early Years
by Andrew Valentino
Enid, Oklahoma. It was going to be another hot day. It always
was, especially in the early days of July. If a person's lucky
though, a cooling breeze would kick up and blow for most of the
day. That's why Lucas got up at the crack of dawn. To beat the
hottest part of the day, he woke up, ate something, and had the
wagon loaded with the fencing supplies early. By the time the
daylight came over the top of the hilltops, he already had his
shirt off, and was stringing the wire from one fence post to
another, half a mile down.
After about two hours of non-stop work, Lucas stopped to wipe
the sweat from his face, when he glanced over to his right,
noticing the two riders as they came over the hill. The two
casually rode over to him, and after glancing at each other,
they looked around. "Howdy" the first one said. "Morning"
replied Lucas. He noticed both riders moving their hands over to
their holstered guns. "We sure are thirsty. Can you spare some
Lucas went over to the buckboard to get his canteen. "Looks like
you're working up quite a sweat there" says the same guy. Lucas
walked over and raised up the canteen just as the second rider
pulled his gun. Surprised, Lucas took a couple of steps back,
and the first rider swung down from his saddle, tossed the
canteen, and drew his gun also. Lucas just stood there, not
knowing what to do. The cowboy came up to him and grabbed at his
pocket. Lucas never carried much money on him, only a couple of
dollar coins. The robber grabbed them out of his pocket, gave
Lucas a smirk, and raised his pistol and hit him once in the
head. The last sight Lucas saw was that nasty expression on the
When Lucas woke, he slowly raised himself up. The pain in the
back of his head shot daggers all thru him. He looked around and
staggered toward the wagon. Reaching out to steady himself,
everything that happened came rushing back to him. He climbed up
onto the wagon seat slowly, and prompted the horses to move.
Still dizzy and in a haze, Lucas headed back to the ranch.
Mr. McDade stepped onto his porch. Another hot day today, he
thought. Starting to organize what his day would be like in his
mind, he saw the dust from way off. A buckboard headed his way.
As it got closer, he recognized the driver. Young Lucas McCain,
what a hard working young man, he thought. Lucky to have him
working for me.
Thinking back, McDade remembers Lucas when he was really young.
His parents were hard working too. They toiled and worked their
small little farm. They were good people, raising Lucas by the
Good Book and teaching him that hard work pays off. Only Lucas
lost his parents some years back. Must have been really tough on
him and his parents, especially after losing his brother,
Abraham when Lucas was only 10 years old. Being good friends
with Lucas' dad, McDade remembered that day like it was
yesterday. That summer they had lost all their crops to a
drought. After all that plowing, planting and back breaking
work, it was all wiped out in one month. Almost unbearable heat
for 4 or 5 weeks and no rain caused the crops to just dry up and
blow away. Trying to salvage anything they could took a lot out
of them. Lucas watched both his father and mother start to lose
their health. It just took too much out of them. That winter his
father became sick, and it wasn't 6 months later, he lost his
mother. Lucas stayed busy while they were ill, trying to replant
small bunches of crop, but he could only grow enough to barely
feed them. A lot of his time he devoted to taking care of his
parents, trying to keep their strength up and tending to their
every need. McDade remembers the letters he would get from
Lucas' mother, while she was so sick, telling him everything.
She must of known she was going to die and wanted to make sure
Lucas might have a place to go and someone to look after him.
McDade will never forget that cold wintry day a few months after
the letters stopped coming, when he heard a horse ride up and
footsteps on his porch.
Opening the door, he found a skinny, frail looking boy, hat in
hand, staring back at him. He was covered in dust and dirt, and
looked plain tired. "Hello, boy. You must be Ben McCain's son".
"Yes sir. I am. My Pa talked about you a lot. Made me promise to
look you up if ever...." Shifting from one leg to the other
nervously, he glanced up to look McDade in the eyes. "...Their
gone sir". The boy choked back tears. McDade felt for him.
That's been a year ago, and McDade often thought that Ben should
be proud of his son and how well they raised him.
Lucas came riding up, and as soon as he got close to the porch,
McDade could tell something was wrong. Barely able to stop the
buckboard, Lucas swayed and almost fell. McDade rushed down and
grabbed Lucas by the arm. "Lucas, you hurt?" Helping him down
off the seat, McDade called out for Margaret. A beautiful dark
haired young woman came to the door. Seeing what was going on,
she dashed over to help. Together, they got Lucas inside and sat
down in a chair.
Margaret saw the blood on the side of Lucas' head. "He's
bleeding. Watch him, I'll go get some water and iodine". McDade
helped Lucas sit up. "What happened boy?" Lucas tried to clear
his head. "I...I was out working on the east forty....when...."
Margaret came back and put a bowl of hot water down, dipped a
rag in it, and started dabbing at the head wound. McDade smiled.
Good ole' Margaret, he thought. She's always right there
whenever Lucas needed patching up. He and his friend, Reef
Jackson, were always fighting with each other or someone in
town. The two guys were best friends, but usually after a couple
of hours of working together, they would wind up taking a swing
at each other. It was all in fun. Except when it came to
Margaret. She was the prize the two of 'em fought for
constantly. Reef and Lucas met when Lucas got hired on, and Reef
took Lucas under his wing, becoming instant friends. Then
Margaret entered the picture. The two began competing for her
attention almost immediately.
Margaret was a 22 year old rugged, yet soft woman who, a few
months ago, lost her home. Her father, Samuel Gibbs owned a
small little place just north of Enid. When Margaret's mother
died in a wagon accident, Sam blamed himself. He'd had a bit too
much to drink that night and didn't see the open gully alongside
the road. The wagon toppled over sideways, and it being
nighttime, Sam couldn't see very well. She died instantly when
the wagon rolled over on her. So Sam began drinking even more.
Margaret and her younger brother pretty much raised themselves
from that point on. When she got a little older, she took this
job cooking and keeping house here on the ranch. When her father
sold the land and the house, she took a room here with her
brother. Reef would make any excuse to come up to see her, while
Lucas admired her from afar. Too shy to actually show his
feelings for her, Lucas paid a lot of attention to her younger
brother. Johnny looked up to Lucas like an older brother.
Wiping blood off Lucas' head, Margaret says "You're always
gittin' hurt. I swear, you need a good woman to take care of you
night and day." It got quiet suddenly. Lucas almost forgot about
the wound, McDade looked surprised, and even Margaret seemed to
just realize what she said. "I'm just saying..." To ease the
moment, she dabbed at Lucas head a little too hard. "Oww" Lucas
tried not to be too loud. "Well," she says, "Tell us what
happened." "A couple of saddle tramps jumped me." Remembering
his money, he reached into his empty pocket."Sit still while I
bandage your head." "They took my money". Lucas exclaimed. And I
was saving that to buy Margaret a flower when I took her to this
Saturdays barn dance, Lucas thought.
"You just take it easy the rest of the day, there boy. I'll get
Reef to go pick up anything you left at the fence line" says
"They must of just been passing thru, looking for trouble" said
Margaret. Lucas' pride kicked in. "They took me by surprise, or
I might have been able to take 'em." "You might have gotten
yourself shot!" blurted Margaret.
Just then, Reef came running in. "I saw Luke come back with the
wagon, what's going on?" Then he noticed Lucas with his head
bandaged. "You okay?" "Yeah, got a bump on the head. Mostly my
"Reef, take Lucas back to his bunk and let him rest awhile."
"Yes sir, Mr. McDade" Seeing the concern in Margaret's face,
McDade says "Uh, you want to check in on him later, to..you
know, make sure he's okay?" Margaret looked at him sheepishly
and nodded. Then she took the bowl and rag off to the kitchen.
A couple of days later, Lucas and Reef had to go into town for
some supplies to patch a hole in the barn, when he thought he
recognized someone. "Be right back" he said to Reef.
Walking over to the saloon, he looked inside. There at a table,
were the two guys that robbed him. Anger took over, and as Lucas
slammed the swinging doors open, he stepped up to the table.
"You two enjoying yourselves," Lucas sneered. Both looked up,
but only one recognized him. "Say, ain't you that sod buster
that helped us out when we needed whiskey money?" He looked at
his partner and they laughed. They both had too much to drink.
"The way I figure it, you owe me two one dollar coins" As Lucas
said this, he tensed, ready for action. They won't get the drop
on me this time, he thought. "Well now, sod buster, you think
you're big enough to collect?"
"Yea," says the other one, "you ain't packin' no sidearm, how
you figuerin' on doin' that?" Before either one of them could go
for their guns, Lucas overturned the table and brought his right
foot up and connected with the one cowboy. Catching him right in
the chest, he fell back, in a daze. Lucas grabbed the other
one's right arm just as he was reaching for his gun. Drawing his
arm back, Lucas got the guy square in the jaw. It knocked him
outside, into the street. Forgetting about the other cowboy,
Lucas followed the first one outside. He went over and grabbed
him by his collar and lifted him up, when he heard a voice
behind him. "You are one dead sod buster." It was the other
cowboy. Lucas heard the sound of the pistol hammer cocking back.
Then he heard a shot. Before he could feel a bullet, or even
turn to try and dodge it, he heard the cowboy hit the ground.
Turning, he saw Reef with his gun out. When Lucas looked over,
the other cowboy was face down. "Couldn't let you go and get
shot up, now could I?" Reef said. "Thanks" Lucas said. He
reached into the pocket of the first cowboy and took out three
or four dollar coins. Taking only two dollar coins, he stuffed
the other ones back into the pocket. "That evens us up Mister."
Leaving the guy standing there, Lucas went back to Reef. "You
know, if you carried a pistol, you might be able to take better
care of yourself." Reef said. "I don't like pistols. I got me a
Winchester back at the bunkhouse, and I plan on practicing with
it a little, when I get a chance." Lucas replied. Keeping a
glance at the cowboy in the street, Lucas watched him as he went
over to his horse, climbed on and rode off. Well, he thought,
that's the end of that.
"What in tarnation is so important about the two dollars,
anyway?" asked Reef. "I aim on spending it on Margaret, when I
take her to the dance." "What? I was gonna' ask her myself" says
Reef. "Oh you were, were ya'?" Lucas stopped and squared off,
facing Reef. "Ya' darn tutin' I was! You know she fancies me.
Not a tall, ugly sod buster like you!" Reef had a half smile on
his face. He loved to stir Lucas up. He knew he had a short
fuse. "Sod buster?! Why if I didn't need your help with these
supplies, I'd put ya' to sleep for awhile!" Lucas knew Reef was
teasing him, so he went along with it. He reached over and
pushed Reef on the shoulder. Reef looked at him a second, then
took a swing at him. Lucas ducked, and came up with an
openhanded punch, lightly tapping him on the shoulder. Then the
fun began. The two of them tumbled out into the street, rolling
around swinging at each other without really wanting to hurt the
other. They got to laughing at each other, got up and dusted
themselves off, and went on over to the supply store.
Later that evening, after Lucas and Reef got back to the ranch
and unloaded the supplies off the wagon, Lucas went in to wash
up for supper. When he finally made it into the house, he headed
for the kitchen. When he got close, he heard voices. It was Reef
and Margaret talking. He eased up to the doorway to listen. "I
really wish you would come to your senses and tell that boy
you're sweet on me" It was Reef. "But I ain't." Margaret
replied. "I done told you I don't feel the same way about you
that you feel about me. Besides, I think Lucas is more of a man
than you realize. He's grown up more than you care to notice."
"He's still a boy compared to me" says Reef. "I can make you
happy". He grabbed Margaret by the arms and tried to kiss her.
She pushed him away. That's when Lucas decided to make a little
noise and let them know that someone else was there. When he
came around the corner into the kitchen, Margaret was walking
over to the counter to deal with something. Lucas glanced over
at her, then at Reef. "Am I too late to get something to eat?"
"No", Margaret said nervously, "I'll throw some stew together."
She hardly looked over at Lucas or Reef. Feeling the tension in
the air, Lucas said "Say, is that friend of yours been asked to
the dance this Saturday night yet?" Margaret gave him a sort of
blank look, obviously her mind was not on the conversation. "Ann
Dodd?" Lucas reminded her. "Oh, Ann. No, she hasn't been asked
yet." "Well now Reef, are you plannin' to ask her?" Reef shot
Lucas a look that wasn't very pleasant. Then he gathered his hat
up off the chair and just walked out.
That night, in the bunkhouse, Lucas was lying on his bunk and
looked up at Reef in the bunk above him. "Say, Reef. You
asleep?" Reef was quiet for a couple of seconds, then said "No,
"Do you suppose it's possible for two people to be in love with
the same woman?" It was quiet again for few seconds, then Reef
sat up. "Yea, I suppose." Silence. "Why are you asking me such
"Well," says Lucas, "I think two friends should be upfront and
honest with each other, so in a situation like this, each one
knows where the other stands." "You sure got a way of
simplifying things, boy" Reef replied.
"Sometimes a 'man' sees things pretty clear". Lucas hoped that
when he said that, that Reef got his message. All Reef could say
Lucas laid there for another hour tossing and turning, a lot of
worry on his mind. Finally he got up and stepped outside to get
some fresh air. He noticed a shadow on the edge of the porch at
the house, and walked over to see who it was. Margaret stood at
the edge, a shawl around her shoulders to warm her from the
chill in the night air.
"Margaret? Is that you?" Lucas stepped up onto the porch.
Margaret didn't answer right away, lost in thought. Lucas
stepped up behind her. "Am I bothering you?" he asked. "Luke,
you ever look up at the sky and wish?" Lucas looked up. Not
wanting to interrupt her, he didn't answer. She went on.
"Sometimes when I stare long enough, I can see my life like I
wish it was. My Mother and Father sitting out on the old porch
we had, rocking in their chairs, me and Johnny sitting at the
edge of the porch, listening to the noises of the night. I felt
so secure then. I felt like nothing would ever change. Like it
would go on forever."
Lucas knew how she was feeling. There were a lot of times, when
he was alone that he took himself back in his mind to pleasant
times with his parents. He felt alone more than he would ever
admit. To himself or anyone else. All he could think to say was
"I know how you feel." Margaret turned to look at him for the
first time since he stepped up to her, glanced into his eyes,
and dropped her head. "Do you?"
Lucas never felt such feelings for someone in his life. His
heart felt like it was on fire. He wanted to just grab her up in
his arms. Resisting, he just stood there. Not knowing what to
say next. Margaret sensed that Lucas was uncomfortable, and
looked up at him again. He could tell how she felt. He saw it in
her face, in her eyes. She stared right into his soul. She
stepped forward a small step, and put her arms around him. "Oh
Lucas, I miss my parents so." Lucas stood there for a second or
two, then slowly put his arms around her. "I know. I miss mine
too." She looked up into his eyes again, and he could not resist
the urge this time. He kissed her. They kissed for a minute or
two, then Lucas pulled away. "You're father might come out her
and get the wrong idea."
"My father...", she hesitated. "My father knows full well I'm in
love with you, Mr. Lucas McCain." With that, she kissed him
The dark shadow outside the bunkhouse slowly moved. After
hearing the entire conversation, Reef filled with anger.
The next morning, Reef was acting kind of strange. He didn't
speak much to Lucas. He avoided being around him as much as
possible. Lucas noticed this right away. He thought maybe it was
because of their talk they had the other night. Lucas was
willing to give him some distance for a while, but later on
during the day, the silence got to him. After all, Reef was his
best friend. They had been through a lot. Just before the lunch
bell rang, Lucas was working in the barn, when Reef came up to
him. He had the rifle that Lucas kept underneath his bunk in his
hand. "Lucas, I been thinkin'. What are you going to do with
this rifle? I noticed that you put some kind of lever on the
thing and added a ring to the firing handle. You plan on joining
the circus with this thing?" Lucas grabbed it out of his hand.
"This is what I been working on. It fires faster that way.
Besides, what are you doing messing with my stuff?" Reef was
acting like he wanted to pick a fight. "Well, what you will
probably do with this thing is shoot your foot off!" He stepped
back like he was going to draw. "You been practicing with your
"I been using my spare time to practice." "I don't think I've
ever seen you shoot a gun. Much less a rifle. Let's just see how
good you've got." Lucas noticed a funny look in Reef's eyes. Had
he been drinking? He took a step back, lowered his rifle, and
looked at Reef. "I don't plan on showing you anything. I got
work to do." Lucas turned to walk away. He had taken a few steps
when a spot of dust kicked up at his feet. Reef had shot at the
ground. Lucas stopped, not turning around. He was very careful
not to raise the rifle. He did not want to let Reef think he was
going to fire it. Sure, he had been practicing. He was very good
at hitting his targets. But he was not about to get cornered
into a fight. Especially with Reef. He just stood there, with
his back to Reef. Waiting.
"You know I love her, don't you?" Reef yelled.
"I'm sorry Reef. I never intended to get in your way. It just
happened." Still with his back to Reef, Lucas waited. Somehow,
he could feel the tension in the air. He felt the anger coming
from his best friend. "I'm going to have to take her the hard
way." Reef yelled. "You better use that thing if you can." Lucas
still just stood there. So many things was running through his
mind. He did not want to die, and he did not want to have to
kill his friend. Walk away, he heard in his mind. It was as if
he could hear his father talking to him. Walk away whenever you
can. But if cornered, be a man, his father always taught him. So
Lucas took another step forward, not wanting to turn around and
face Reef. He knew when he did, one of them would not walk away.
He heard the shot, and immediately felt the searing pain as the
bullet hit him in the back left shoulder. Everything began to
swim around. He fell down to his knees, stunned. His mind was
racing. How could Reef do this to him? Then he heard the scream.
It was Margaret. Lucas turned, bracing himself up with his right
arm. Margaret was standing on the porch, with her hand covering
her mouth. She must of heard the shot. Lucas watched through a
cloudy haze as Reef holstered his gun and went over to her. He
grabbed her by the arm and started to drag her off the porch.
Lucas had no idea where he was taking her. Still fighting to
keep from passing out, Lucas used all his strength to stand
upright. He felt the bullet spreading a fire throughout his
body. It hurt so bad. But all he could thing about was Margaret.
He gripped his rifle close to him, and started forward.
Margaret was fighting with Reef. She jerked away from his grasp,
and was headed for Lucas. Reef panicked. He just stood for a
second, realizing what he had done. He had attacked the woman he
loved, and shot his best friend. He watched as Margaret ran
toward Lucas. He looked over at Lucas, staggering over toward
him. Lucas could easily shoot him, and rightly so. But he hadn't
even raised his rifle. Sorrow flooded Reef. He was as much in
shock about what he had done as Lucas must be in having his
friend shoot him. All Reef could think to do was run. He dashed
into the barn, threw his saddle on his horse, and rode out like
the devil was on his tail. Not looking back, he left.
Margaret caught Lucas as they both got closer. Before he passed
out, Lucas looked over at the dust Reef was leaving as he rode
out. I'll find you someday Reef. And when I do, I will kill you,
Two or three months had passed. Lucas' shoulder was completely
healed. After Mr. McDade had found out what had happened, he was
going to go into town and get the marshal to get a posse
together and go looking for Reef. But Lucas asked him not to. He
said someday he would run across Reef and settle the score.
Margaret was at Lucas' bedside the whole time he was wounded.
When he found the strength to stay out of bed for more than a
couple of hours, Lucas decided to go back to work. Margaret and
him had gotten even closer during his recuperation. One night,
after McDade had gone to bed, Lucas and Margaret were on the
porch looking up at the stars again. Lucas was sitting on the
edge of the porch, with her leaning against him. He could feel
the warmth of her body next to him. They were just talking. "Do
you plan on settling down and gettin a ranch of your own
someday?" Margaret asked. "When I find the right place, and the
right woman" replied Lucas. He was smiling down at her. She knew
he was joking with her. She knew just about everything about
him. Sometimes it sort of scared Lucas, it seemed like she knew
more about him than he knew of himself. She looked up into his
eyes, and smiled back. "Oh, really?" she said. Beginning to feel
nervous, Lucas squirmed a little. Margaret felt he had something
on his mind. "You got something to say, Mr?" she said.
"I........", he looked down at her and hesitated. She really
felt something was going on. She raised up to look him square in
"I want to get married." he said. "Oh?" "Anybody special in
mind?" she got a half smile on her face, but tried to hide it
from Lucas. "Sort of." He straighten up and looked at her. "I
would like us to get married." He got this serious look on his
face. He waited, his heart skipping a beat. It seemed like an
eternity. "I'm waiting for the right man to come along." She did
not look him in the eyes. Then all of a sudden, she raised her
face to his and looked at him. "And I think he has". They sealed
it with a kiss.
The quiet little wedding didn't have a lot of people there.
McDade was very pleased that the two of them were getting
married. He was so happy that he gave them a dozen acres on the
north forty as a wedding present. Lucas had a lot of plans for
their place. He planted a lot of crops, and even had a dozen or
so head of cattle. Margaret and him were going to be very happy
together. They worked together hard, and spent most of their
time together. McDade thought he'd never seen two happier
About a year later, Lucas was coming in from plowing an area
where he planned on planting some corn. Usually Margaret had
supper ready on the table by the time Lucas had washed up. But
when he came in the door that evening, there was no food on the
table. Thinking that unusual, Lucas called out to Margaret. She
stepped into the room from their bedroom, with a strange look on
her face. Lucas looked at her, and asked if she was okay. She
got a funny expression on her face. "Lucas dear, how would you
feel about someone coming to visit us?" she asked. "That would
be nice. Anybody who you know will be good enough for me to
know." "Well, this someone will require a lot of attention."
Lucas, kind of half thinking about what else to plant alongside
the corn, nodded his approval. He went over to sit down at the
table. "What's for supper?" he asked. Knowing that Lucas didn't
have a clue, she teased him some more. "You might want to get
used to mashed potato's and other soft food." Looking over at
him from the sink, she said with a smile, "for awhile anyway."
Lucas thought a second, then looked up at her with a puzzled
expression. Starting to ask her just what she was talking about,
he noticed the beaming smile on her face. Then it finally sunk
in. Was she talking about what he thought she was talking about?
He stared at her. "You mean?....." "I think I'm going to have
your baby." She stood there in front of the sink waiting for his
reaction. Lucas just sat there for a couple of minutes letting
all of this sink in. Then he got a smile on his face that he
thought might be bigger than the Grand Canyon. He jumped up and
let out a yell that could be heard clear across the territory.
He rushed over to her, grabbed her up in his arms, and let out
another yell. He kissed her, and let her down to the floor
slowly. He stared into her beautiful brown eyes, and could only
think of one thing to say. "I love you more today than ever."
They kissed again. "Now let me go, I got supper to fix." she
said, straightening her hair. "No way. I'll fix supper from now
on. You need your rest." Lucas said, still beaming.
Nine months later, Margaret was lying in bed, a blanket over
her. As much as Lucas pampered her, she fought back by doing
things around the ranch that she really should not have done.
She started having pains early on in the pregnancy. Lucas made
her stay in bed the whole last month. He waited on her, tended
to her every need. He would come in late at night after looking
after the cattle, and tending to their crops. But when he came
into the room with Margaret, he got a burst of energy just
thinking about the baby she was soon to have. The local mid-wife
had taken a few hours off to go home to feed her family. She
planned on returning by the crack of dawn the next day. Lucas
was washing up by the kitchen sink, when he heard Margaret cry
out. He rushed into the room, panic on his face. Margaret was
gripping the headboard. Sweat was pouring off her face. She was
trying to be brave, but the pain she was going through was
showing on her face. Lucas knelt down by her bedside, wanting to
help her in anyway he could. Margaret looked over at him as if
to say Help me! Then she let out a scream that sent a wave of
fear all through Lucas. He pulled the blanket down, and just
knew that it was time. He went out to the kitchen and got some
water and put it on the stove. He went back to Margaret, and she
was in even more pain than he would of thought possible for one
person to handle. "Luke, I think...it's time." she mumbled. A
shot of pain must of went through her, she suddenly stiffened
and gripped the headboard even harder. Lucas knelt down in front
of her, not sure if he really knew what to do. He said a prayer,
and Margaret screamed.
The mid-wife got off the buckboard in front of Lucas's house the
next morning. She had brought some extra sheets and some
homemade soup. She knew that Margaret would really like her
soup. She stepped up to the door to knock, when she heard a baby
crying. She rushed into the house and straight into the bedroom.
There, sitting in the rocking chair that Lucas had put there
months earlier, sat Lucas. With a big smile on his face, he was
holding a little bundle of blanket. When she went over to him,
she heard the baby cry again. Looking down, she saw the face of
a beautiful baby boy. Lucas didn't say a thing for a moment.
Then he looked up at her and said "My son, we plan on calling
It took Margaret several weeks to recover from her delivery. She
felt so weak that Lucas insisted that she stay in bed. He helped
take care of Mark. He was up three or four times a night,
checking on her and Mark. Whenever Mark started crying, he was
the first to wake up. He knew that Margaret needed her sleep to
build up her strength. After the local doctor finally told her
that she was strong enough to get out of bed, Lucas still would
not let her do too much.
Johnny, Margaret's brother, was now old enough to take off on
his own. He was visiting Lucas and Margaret to say goodbye. He
had always wanted to be a rodeo rider, he had dreamed about it
since he was a little boy. So now that he was old enough, that
was exactly what he was going to do. He spent most of his time
holding Mark and talking about the rodeo company that he had
signed up with. That morning, he said his sad goodbye's, hugged
Margaret, and left. Margaret cried for awhile, after all, they
had been very close growing up. It was also on all of their
minds that their father, Samuel, hadn't been there to say
goodbye. He had just up and disappeared shortly after selling
the farm and being sure that Margaret and Johnny had a place to
Things were quiet for the next couple of months. Mark seemed to
be getting stronger and growing like a weed. Margaret slowly
regained her health. The delivery took a lot more out of her
than her or Lucas had known.
Then one bright day, Johnny came riding back into town. Lucas
was at the livery stable, getting his plowing blade sharpened,
when he saw him ride in. Johnny looked tired, and a lot worried.
Lucas walked up to him as Johnny got off his horse in front of
"Hey, Johnny boy. Good to see you. You just get in, or have you
been out to see Margaret already?" "Howdy there Luke. No, I came
right into town. Got some business to tend to. Might not even
have time to make it to the ranch." Johnny never looked up at
Lucas. He seemed upset, yet tried not to show it. Lucas could
tell. He had a fairly good way of reading people. Especially
Johnny. He had been around him so much as Johnny grew up, he
could read him. "Johnny, what's wrong?" Lucas walked up closer
to Johnny, but he tried to walk away. Lucas reached out and
touched his shoulder. "Johnny, if there is something wrong, you
may not owe me an explanation, but Margaret should know." "Luke,
I sort of got myself into some trouble. I got drunk back up in
Wyoming, and got involved in these poker games. I guess I lost,
and didn't have enough money to pay up, so I got into it with
some of the locals. Well, you know how it goes......." Johnny
was really upset. "Johnny, you know better than to start
gambling. So where you headed?" asked Lucas. I don't know yet
Luke. I been thinkin' about going down to Mexico and doin' some
work down there." "Only trouble is, I think some of the cowboys
I was in the game with are trailing me."
"Just how much money are you into them for?" asked Lucas. "Oh,
three or four...." he mumbled. "Hundred?" Lucas was almost
afraid to ask. "Now Luke, it's really nothing to worry about..."
"How much Johnny?" Lucas was not going to give up until he got a
straight answer from Johnny. Sheepishly, Johnny looked down at
the ground, and mumbled "..thousand." "What?!" Lucas could not
keep the surprise out of his voice. Then, before either one of
them could say anything else, four riders came casually riding
in from across the way. Nobody really paid that much attention
to them. They rode up, all of them dismounted, and headed toward
the saloon. But by the way Johnny reacted to them, Lucas knew
that he knew them. Not saying a word, the four guys went into
the bar. Johnny started to get back on his horse to ride off.
Lucas grabbed his by his arm. "Do you know them guys?" He asked.
"Luke, please don't tell Margaret you saw me this away. I got to
head out. Fast." "Johnny, you should of learned a long time ago,
you can't run from your problems."
Two of the riders came back out of the bar and walked over to
their horses. It was obvious that they were getting between the
road out of town and Johnny and Lucas. Lucas looked up at them,
trying not to let them know he noticed them. He reached over to
his saddle and pulled his rifle out of its holster. By the time
this had happened, the other two cowboys had come out of the
saloon and casually walked behind Lucas and Johnny.
"Hey, you!" One of the cowboys yelled. "Are you that Johnny
Gibbs fella' that run out on a gamblin' debt?" Lucas knew that
they were all ready to draw their guns. Johnny glanced over at
Lucas and called out. "Look fellas, I planned on paying off.
I've just had a run of bad luck lately." Lucas stepped out from
behind his and Johnny's horses. He knew Johnny had a sidearm,
but didn't know how well he could use it. "Why don't you just
get back on your horses and ride out?" Lucas said it more as a
command than a question or a suggestion. "What business is it of
yours, sod buster?" The same cowboy seemed to be the spokesman
for all four of them. "Give the boy a chance to come up with the
money. There doesn't need to be any gunplay." Lucas was hoping
they would listen to reason.
"Step away, sod buster. This is between us and him." Lucas
gripped the ring on his rifle and slung it in a circle, cocking
it immediately. Planting his feet firmly on the ground, he was
judging the distance between him and the two guys behind him and
the two in front. He was not going to be the first to start
shooting. But it was plain that they were out for blood. The one
who did all the talking drew first. Lucas fired, cutting the two
down in front of him so fast, that when Johnny turned and fired
at one of the men behind them, Lucas had already hit the ground,
rolled over and came up in a half standing position and fired at
the fourth cowboy. When the dust had settled, all four of the
riders were dead. Johnny walked up to Lucas and said "I didn't
want this to happen."
"Four men are dead 'cause you got a gambling problem. You better
hope that Margaret never finds out about this." Lucas was angry
at Johnny and at the same time relieved that they were okay. But
anger came out when he said "I got business at the livery."
Walking away, not even glancing back at Johnny, all Lucas could
think about was Margaret and Mark. People were running out to
see what was going on, and going over to the dead cowboys.
That night, after Lucas had gotten home and tended to the
chores, he and Margaret were eating supper when they heard a
rider coming up. Lucas looked over at Margaret, and stood up to
look out the window. It was Johnny. Lucas sat back down, not
even looking over at her. Footsteps on the porch, then a knock.
"It's Johnny" was all Lucas could think to say. Margaret knew
there was something wrong. She saw it in Lucas' face. Getting
up, Margaret opened the door and stepped out. Johnny stood there
with his hat in his hand. "Hi there, Margaret."
"Johnny, I'm so happy to see you." Margaret gave him a hug. "You
look tired, and hungry, want some supper?"
"I think Luke is upset with me" said Johnny. "And does he have a
reason......" Margaret was waiting for Johnny to tell her,
rather than try and force it out of him. She knew how he was, he
would tell her eventually. "I sort of got myself in a mess, and
it caught up with me. Luke had to kinda' help me out." Margaret
looked up into his face. "You know I love you Johnny. You are
always so headstrong. Jumping into things before thinking....."
It's going to be alright." She pulled at his arm. "Come on in
and have some supper." She led Johnny into the house, and he
glanced at Lucas and reluctantly sat down opposite him.
"Howdy, Luke." Johnny looked over at him. "I....I'm sorry about
this afternoon." Not replying, Lucas got up from the table and
went into the bedroom to check on Mark. Margaret brought a plate
of food over, put it in front of Johnny, and stepped into the
bedroom. "Lucas, what is it?" Lucas was standing over Mark. "Why
don't you ask your brother?" Lucas said. "Lucas," she stood next
to him, "I know how Johnny can be. But you have to understand
that his is my brother and I love him. I have to stand by him no
matter what. He's blood."
"I know, Margaret, I love him too. But when is he going to
settle down and act like a man?" "I seem to remember not too
very long ago a young cowboy that had some wild oats to sow. Got
himself into a lot of scraps too." She looked at Lucas. "I love
Johnny, but if you are too uncomfortable with him here, I will
respect your wishes and ask him to leave." Lucas looked at
Margaret, love flooding onto his face. The anger he was feeling
seemed to just rush away. "He is your brother, and I guess I do
see a lot of me in him when I was not to much younger." Margaret
pushed up to Lucas. She raised her hand to his face. Lucas
kissed her hand and they both went back into the kitchen. Johnny
was eating and looked at them. "Luke, Margaret, I can leave if
your a mind. You don't owe me anything." Lucas looked first at
Margaret, then to Johnny. "You stay as long as you need to." The
three of them sat at the table and finished eating.
Johnny got word about a month later about a rodeo job up state
somewhere and was off again. He went and picked up Mark, kissed
him on the forehead and then gave Margaret a hug. Looking at
Lucas, he shook his hand. "Thank you Luke. I appreciate all
you've done for me." "And I won't let you two down. I plan on
getting me a stake and settling down. Soon." Lucas and Margaret
stood on the porch, arm in arm and watched him ride off.
Months passed. The ranch was doing well. Lucas was able to turn
a good profit selling off some of the crops that the three of
them couldn't eat or store for the winter. He also got good
prices for some of the livestock that he took to auction. Things
were looking up. Margaret would get letters from Johnny every
once in a while, telling of his adventures with the rodeo. Mark
was growing up faster and faster everyday. Months turned into
years, and soon Mark celebrated his fifth birthday. He's
beginning to look more and more like Margaret, Lucas thought
every time he looked at him. One night, after they had finished
supper, Lucas and Margaret were sitting near the fireplace
reading the Bible, when they heard a rider approaching. Lucas
got up, looked out the window, and stepped outside. It was one
of the townsfolk. "Howdy, Steve." Lucas recognized him from the
"Howdy, Lucas." Steve dismounted and walked up to Lucas, shaking
his hand. "Got a favor to ask of you and Margaret." "Anything.
What's the favor?" "We got a couple of sick people in town, and
was wonderin' if Margaret could come into town and help take
care of them for a spell. The Doc's out east and we're short
handed. I know it's askin' a lot, what with your young one here,
but it sure would help us out."
Before Lucas could go ask her, Margaret, overhearing the
conversation, came onto the porch wiping her hands on her apron.
"I would be glad to help out. What do you need me to do?" "It's
gonna' mean spending a few nights in town. That okay with you
Lucas?" asked Steve. "I guess we can manage a few nights. Me and
Mark can be bachelors for a spell." Lucas smiled at Margaret.
"That okay with you?" He knew the answer before he even asked
it. Margaret was a kind, warm hearted woman who would do
anything for anybody. That is one of the things that made me
fall in love with you, Lucas thought.
The next morning, Lucas was up early and out doing the chores
around the ranch, while Margaret fixed Mark some breakfast. As
soon as Lucas was done he would be in to eat also. Mark was
still in his pajamas while he sat there with his fork in hand.
"Ma, can I go out and help Pa wif' the stuf he's doin'?"
Margaret looked over at him, and smiled. "What a big boy you are
turning into. Why you sure can." Mark started to jump out of his
chair. "No, young man. You finish your eggs first." Margaret
said. Mark made a funny face. "Oh Ma!" he said, slumping back to
pick up the fork again.
Lucas came in, dusted his pants off a little, and went over to
the table. "Oh no you don't" scolded Margaret with a smile on
her face. "You just march yourself outside and wash up first. I
declare, between the two of you a woman's work is never done!"
Lucas smiled back at her, and went over and kissed her, turned
on his heels and went outside. Wiping her hands on her apron,
she followed him outside to the porch. "Luke, I need to talk to
you." Lucas was at the water pump. He noticed the serious look
on her face. "What's the matter? Luke......Lucas, are you sure
you and Mark will be okay for a couple of days?"
Lucas walked over to her and took her in his arms. He kissed her
again, then looked at her. "Yes, I think we can manage for a
couple of days. Besides, if anything comes up, I'll just pack
Mark up and run him into town and find you." They walked back
into the house arm in arm.
The town was vacant. Anyone who didn't have to be in town,
stayed home. There were at least a dozen people who had come
down with sickness. With the Dr. still out of town, Margaret and
the few women who helped her could only guess at what the
illness was. The symptoms seemed to point toward...dare she even
think of it.....smallpox. High fever and rashes covered most of
the people. The hotel had been cleared out of anybody who was
not sick or helping with the sick. Three women besides Margaret
were there. They needed lot more help. But most people were
scared. Margaret, not even thinking about the consequences, just
concentrated on her duties.
After putting Mark to bed early, Lucas rode into town to see if
he could help in any way. As he rode in, he noticed the deserted
town. A quarantine sign had been put up on a post just before
you got into the main road. Lucas slowly rode up to the hotel.
He stepped up to the door, which was shut. His knock was
immediately answered by one of the women there. "Ma'am, can I
come in?" Lucas asked. "No, absolutely not. This place is off
limits to anyone not sick or helping out." The woman looked so
tired. Lucas thought maybe she hadn't slept in hours. "Are ya'
here to help?" "Anyway I can." replied Lucas. Hearing Lucas'
voice, Margaret came rushing out of one of the rooms downstairs.
"Lucas, please, don't come in. I got my hands full with chores
here." She came up to the doorway, and smiled at him. "Besides,
you need to be home with Mark. How is my boy?" If Lucas thought
the first woman looked tired, he tried not to show the surprise
in his face that he felt. Margaret seemed to be holding up okay,
but he could tell that she was very wore out and on the brink of
"He's sleeping. I won't be gone long. I guess I just wanted to
see you." Lucas did show on his face the love and respect he
felt for her. Standing there looking at her husband, Margaret
had a rush of love pour over her. She dearly loved this man. He
was strong, loving, and always there for her. "I don't mean to
be short with you, my love. I've just been so busy, I haven't
even had time to breath." She stared into his eyes. She knew
that she did not even have to speak the love she felt for him.
They had this way of communicating just by looking at each
other. "I love you. But I got to get back to work. I think we're
going to lose someone. "The fever..." she hesitated..."this
fever they have just won't let them get their strength up."
Lucas gave her a worried look. "Is it...?" He was afraid to
speak the word out loud. Margaret knew what he was going to say.
"I think so. Not much we can do for them, except make them
comfortable and try to get the fever to break." "How are you
holding up?" Lucas asked. Margaret wiped her forehead, and
sighed. "As well as expected, I suppose." She realized she was
starting to show her tiredness. Straightening up, she seemed to
gain a second breath. "You get home to our son, I will let you
know when everything is better." As Lucas reluctantly turned to
walk away, Margaret became overwhelmed with a sense of sorrow.
"Luke.." He turned to face her. She half smiled at him and he
felt it clear down to his heart. "...I love you. And tell that
boy I love him too." Lucas smiled back. "Everything's going to
be okay." As Lucas walked away, Margaret slowly closed the door,
watching him as he got on his horse.
About an hour after Lucas had ridden out, six or seven riders
came into town. One of the riders turned to the others and said
"See, the whole town is empty. I even hear'd they got no
sheriff. We got us a perfect hide out from them lawmen." Holding
the quarantine sign in his hand, he threw it down into the dirt.
They rode up to the saloon and went inside.
The next morning Lucas was fixing breakfast for Mark when he
heard a rider approaching the house. As he stepped onto the
porch, he recognized him right away. Samuel Gibbs, Margaret's
father. It been at least six years since her or Johnny had seen
or even heard from him. He came up and sat on his horse for a
minute like he couldn't think of what to say. Lucas walked over
to the edge of the porch. "You Margaret's father?" He already
knew the answer. "Yep, reconn' I am. She around?" He had heard
that she had married. "As a matter of fact, she is not." Lucas
looked at him suspiciously. "You need something?" "Now, do I
need somethin' to come see my daughter?" Samuel got off his
horse. "No, I guess not. And as much as I don't like how you
treated Margaret and Johnny, I got no grievance against you.
You're welcome till Margaret says otherwise." Lucas led him into
the house and they both sat down at the table. Samuel stared
over at Mark while the boy was rubbing the sleep out of his
eyes. "This here your boy?" asked Samuel. "This is Margaret and
my boy." Lucas looked sternly at Samuel. "Your grandson." Mark
looked up at Samuel and smiled. Lucas walked up and put his hand
on Marks shoulder. "This is your Grandpa." Mark looked up at
Lucas, then climbed down from the chair and walked up to Samuel.
He reached out and gave Samuel a hug. Awkwardly hugging Mark
back, Samuel was glad to start the talking again. "Where is my
daughter?" "There's a smallpox outbreak in town and she's
helping out." "Ain't that a might dangerous bein' around all
those sick people?"
"She's doing fine. The Doc's supposed to be back any day now,
and they need tendin' to till he gets back." Looking over at
Samuel, Lucas said "We can ride in and let her know your back,
if you plan on stayin' for a bit."
"Let's eat first." Samuel seemed nervous to think of facing
Margaret after all these years.
When the three of them rode into town, they heard the noise
first. It was a lot different than the last time Lucas had been
there. Gun shots were going off every couple of minutes, and you
could hear the yelling and laughter from far away. Lucas pulled
the buckboard up and saw the cowboys standing in the street and
along the wooden walkways. A few of them were sitting in chairs
outside, a bottle of whiskey in their hands. It seemed like a
big party was going on. Parking the wagon outside the supply
store, he told Samuel to watch Mark. He hopped down off the
wagon and grabbed his rifle. Walking over to the hotel, he saw a
couple of the women looking out the window, fear on their faces.
One of them came up to the door and opened it slightly.
"Lucas, we got us a mess of trouble." she said to him. "Where
did they come from?" asked Lucas. "They rode in awhile after you
left the other day. Just started drinking and carrying on. Been
like this ever since." "Can I talk to Margaret?" "Just a
minute." The woman disappeared for a moment, and brought back
Margaret. "Oh Lucas, I am so glad to see you." She looked on the
verge of tears. "Those men are causing a lot of trouble, and
they even tried to come in here a few times, but a couple of
them believed us when we told them that it wasn't safe." "I'll
try to talk to them" Lucas said. Starting to walk away, he
remembered one of the reasons he had come into town. "I guess
this is not the best time to tell you, but your father is out
here." Margaret took in a gasp of breath. "Pa?!" Catching
herself before she could rush out to see him, she said "Tell him
to keep his distance. Tell him I love him, and we need to sit
down and have us a long talk." Thinking she added "Tell him I
still love him despite....." she choked up. Lucas looked at her
meaningfully and said "You tell him when this is all over."
Walking away, he headed towards the wagon. "Samuel, take Mark
and go into the general store and wait for me."
One of the drunk cowboys walked up to Lucas and reached for him.
"Hey, you here to get some trouble? Cause we got plenty of it."
He laughed and shot his gun off into the air. Lucas glanced
around to try and remember just where he saw the other cowboys
standing. "Don't you think you've had enough to drink?" Lucas
asked. "I don't think it's any of your business, sodbuster."
said the one. Noticing that a fight might happen and liven
things up some more, a few of the other cowboys started to
gather around. Lucas looked at them as they walked up. At least
five of them in the street as well as he could tell. The odds
were not in his favor. Talking didn't seem to be what they
wanted. "There ain't no law here, so who's to say what we can
and can't do?" asked the same cowboy.
"I just think that you've had enough. There are sick people
here, and it might not be a good idea to be too close to the
hotel. If it's what we think it is, it's catchin'." "Well you
just never mind, sodbuster. This here is my town now. I declare
it for me and my gang." Before anything else could be said,
Lucas heard one of the women from the hotel let out a scream. He
turned and rushed over to the door. He could hear in the
background the cowboys laughing and calling him yellow. Not
caring about the danger, he ran into the lobby. Margaret was
lying on the floor and two other ladies were bent over her.
Lucas dropped his rifle next to her, and pulled her up in his
arms. He could feel the heat pouring out of her as soon as he
picked her up. Looking around for someplace comfortable to lay
her, he saw a couch. He laid her down gently and one of the
women brought over a wet rag. Putting it on her forehead, Lucas
feared the worst. He looked up at the woman with a pleading
expression. "She's come down with the fever." was all she could
say. Lucas knelt down next to Margaret and hugged her. The woman
standing over Lucas got some more water and rags and began to
bath her face. "Leave her, I'll tend to her." she said.
Lucas got his rifle and walked back outside. Glancing over to
make sure Samuel and Mark were still in the general store out of
harms way, he tensed. Anger and fear welled up inside him. If he
lost Margaret....no, don't even think that way. Desperation
built up. A scared look crossed his face. I can't lose her he
kept thinking. The cowboys standing in the street that were
talking to him earlier, mistook the look of fear on his face.
"Hey, sodbuster, I think you might be afraid of us. Let me end
that for you." With that, he drew his gun. Lucas slung the rifle
to load it, and fired at the cowboy. Before he could even blink
to see that the bullet had hit its target, the other cowboys had
began firing. Lucas' mind shut down. Instinct took over. These
men were out to kill him and take over the town. Three men hit
the ground as Lucas rapidly fired his rifle. A couple of gunmen
came running out and Lucas dropped to one knee and fired off
three or four rounds, dropping them. One stepped out from behind
a horse and fired. The bullet hit Lucas in the shoulder, but he
didn't even feel it. He turned and fired and the gunman fell.
The other two cowboys ran to their horses and rode off. Lucas
stood there still in a daze. Margaret was all he could think
about, and Mark. He turned and ran over to the general store.
Samuel stepped out with Mark in his arms. They were both okay.
Lucas didn't say a word, just turned and went back over to the
hotel. Margaret was lying on the couch, sweat pouring off her.
Lucas walked up and took the wet rag from the woman that was
there. Without saying a word, she left. Lucas knelt down and
rubbed her face. The face that always smiled at him was looking
up at him. "Luke, I must have passed out for a spell. I got
to..." She tried to get up. She had no strength. Lucas pushed
her back down gently. "You lay still. You need some rest." Lucas
spoke softly. He smiled down at her. Samuel came up close to the
door to the hotel. "Lucas, I'm takin' the boy home. I'll wait
there for you and her." Hearing his voice after all those years,
Margaret raised up slightly. "Pa, I'm so glad your back."
The next day, a couple of the women came into the room that
Lucas had carried Margaret to. "How is she?" one asked. Lucas,
sitting by her bed, leaned over Margaret and dapped a cold rag
over her face. Not even looking up, he responded, "Her fever
still hasn't broke." They could hear the concern and fear in his
voice. The other woman turned at the sound of footsteps in the
hall to the hotel. She gasped in surprise when she saw the
doctor walk in. "Oh Doctor! Are we ever glad to see you!"
Lucas jumped up on his feet and pushed past the two women. He
came up to the doctor in a panic. "Doc, my wife's got it bad.
Can you help her?" Desperation filled his voice.
The doctor went into the room and felt of Margaret's forehead.
He took a few things out of his medical bag. He turned and said
to the women "I'm sorry it took so long to get back from up
north. I got some good news though. There might just be a cure
for this disease." Working while he examined Margaret, he
continued. "I need a lot of things though." He started barking
out orders. The women were more than willing to let him take
over. While he was gone, they had lost seven or eight of the
patients they tried to help. They took off to get supplies for
the doctor. Lucas grabbed him by the arm. "Is she going to be
"I don't know young man. She's had this high fever for too
long." "I'll do what I can" With that, he went about his duties.
Lucas just stepped back and sat down in the chair that he had
put there to be close to Margaret.
Hours passed. And Lucas sat there, staring at Margaret in bed.
The two women came in and gave the doctor supplies, then walked
out without saying a word. The doctor would bend over her and
administer medicine, stand up and not even speak. Finally, he
turned to Lucas. "Mr. McCain, I am going to need you to ride to
the next town." Seeing the look on Lucas' face, he realized this
might be a big order. "I need some more of the serum for this
ailness. I don't think I gave her enough. Her fever still hasn't
broken, so I got to get some more."
Lucas stood up. "Anything doc." Hearing Lucas speak seemed to
bring Margaret out of her feverish stupor that she had slipped
into minutes before.
"Luke..." she said weakly...."Luke, please don't go. I need you
by me. Please?"
Lucas looked at the doctor and then at Margaret. "Of course, I
won't leave you." His thoughts were scrambled. The doctor had to
have more medicine. He knelt down by her bedside, and hugged
"I......need your strength" she said. "We can beat this
together." Lucas looked up at the doctor again. He shook his
head silently. "Please Lucas?" Lucas held her hand for a second,
then she drifted off into a feverish sleep. The doctor motioned
with his head to step outside. They closed the door so Margaret
couldn't hear. "Mr. McCain, I have to give her more of the
medicine. It's to save her life." Margaret groaned. Lucas opened
the door and knelt back down next to her. "I'm right here,
Margaret. I'm not going anywhere." "Get Pa.....get Pa to go for
us.....please don't leave me Lucas." she tried to raise up but
did not have enough strength. Lucas squeezed her hand for
reassurance, then stood up. He called to one of the women to see
if someone could send a rider out to his ranch and bring back
About an hour later, Samuel came into the hotel. Lucas met him
at the bottom of the stairs. He saw the look of fear in Lucas'
face. "Samuel, I'm beggin' you, please ride to Sutton and get
some more of the medicine that Margaret needs. He left some
there as he was passing thru on his way here. I would go myself,
but Margaret begged me not to go. You've got to go!!!" He
reached out and grabbed Samuel by his collar. "For God's sake,
do this one thing for your daughter!" Samuel stood there, like
he had to even give it a second thought. "I think I could make
it in a couple of days. It ain't too far." Lucas reached into
his pants pocket and pulled out a wad of money. "Here is all the
winter stock money I got. Two hundred dollars! Use it all if you
have to, but bring back enough medicine. Take whatever horse you
need from the ranch. But hurry!" He stuffed the money into
Samuels coat pocket and almost pushed him to the door. He saw
Mark standing outside by the neighbor that had been taking care
of him for the last couple of days. Emotion flooded over him as
he looked into the innocent little face that longed to run up
and hug and kiss him. Lucas smiled at Mark as Samuel climbed
into his saddle. "Samuel, please.....hurry.....". He turned back
to Mark and tried to look calm. "Hi, boy." Mark started to run
over to him, but for his own good, the woman held him back.
Straighting up, Mark stood there. "I miss you Pa. How is Ma
feeling?" "Tell her I love her." Lucas glanced over at the woman
and she gently guided Mark away. Lucas turned and went back to
be with Margaret.
Three days had passed. The marker at Margaret's grave read:
LOVING WIFE, MOTHER AND SISTER It was raining when they buried
her, and Lucas stood there staring at those words for hours
after the funeral. Mark had cried, Lucas telling him that his
mother had gone away. He never really understood. He asked his
Pa when she would be coming back. Lucas just hugged him and
cried. Lucas had been very strong when he lost his brother,
Abraham. He had cried, but his parents had explained that he was
in a better place. In the hands of the Lord now, he could recall
them saying. Even when he had lost them, he had been strong.
This was one of the hardest times for him to be tuff. But he had
to, for Marks sake. Margaret had slipped into a coma because of
the fever and only came out of it one time. She opened her eyes
as if to see Lucas' face for the last time. Lucas leaned forward
and kissed her, the taste of her lips on his as she took in her
last breath. The last sight she saw was the face of the man she
Lucas buried her at the top of the hill close to their ranch
that they used to sit and look at. The sun set behind that hill
every night, and she and Lucas would sit, arm in arm and watch.
She often said she had had such a unstable childhood, but since
her and Lucas had married, she felt so safe. So secure. Lucas
looked up as the sun set over the hill. He decided right then to
come up to her grave every night and be with her as the sun went
down. As he stood there, a lot of things were running thru his
mind. Samuel had never come back. He hadn't heard anything from
him. And Johnny didn't even know yet. Lucas would have to sit
down and sent out a letter to his last known address at the
rodeo. How will I tell him? Lucas thought. How can I tell him
that his sister....my wife is gone? Tears welled up in his eyes
again as he felt his heart break for about the hundredth time
since Margaret had gotten ill. How...can I go on? Then he heard
a little voice call out to him. "Pa?" He turned. Mark stood
there behind him. The neighbor woman standing a little distance
"Pa? Are you okay?" He looked like such a grown man. Lucas
looked over at the grave and said "I love you. Our boy and I
miss you." He turned back to Mark. "Pa, I'm worried about cha'.
It might not be good for you to be out here in the rain. Least
that's what you and Ma used to tell me." Lucas felt frozen to
the spot. Mark looked over at the lady behind him, then back at
Lucas. "Pa, I need you." Lucas took a deep breath and stood up
tall. He and his son was all that was left of his family.
Looking over at Margaret's grave again, he said "I'll be back to
visit you tomorrow." He turned to walk away. Turning back, he
added "I promise to raise him the way you would want him to be
raised. I'll make you proud." He put his hat on, and walked over
and picked Mark up in his arms.
"I'm sad she's gone too Pa" Mark said.
"She's never gone Mark, as long as we carry her here, in our
hearts. Someday you'll understand that."
Mark looked at Lucas with a sort of hurt look on his face. "Pa,
I understan'. 'Sides, I got to be grown up to help take care of
you now." Tears came to Lucas' eyes. He stopped and hugged Mark
with all his strength.
Turning back to give Margaret's grave one last look, Lucas
hugged Mark again and they started down the hill.
"Mark.....when your mother passed away, I took you away from
Oklahoma because.....well I.....I couldn't stand the ranch there
anymore. I couldn't stay yet I really couldn't leave.....I kind
of carried it in my heart. I didn't know it at the time,
but.....I was looking for a place just like it. Well I found it
here in North Fork. Same land, same valleys, same hills. This
house we built.....same house.....barn.....same barn. That hill
Mark.....that's the way it use to look in the moonlight, kinda
like a soft blanket of silver on it. The only thing missing is
the cross at the crest that marks your mother's resting place.
Otherwise it's the same hill."
This is a story based on the TV
series The Rifleman
Here are some other great stories. Enjoy!
around The McCain Ranch