"Welcome to the McCain Ranch"
The Wyoming Story
As you know, I was in Arizona. Mark and I were separated from each other for a long period of time, and this was definitely a trial for both of us.
Milly and Micah were responsible for taking care of Mark, and he sure was causing a lot of worry! One morning Micah grabbed a cup of coffee and walked outside his office to enjoy the nice morning they were having. Milly walked down to him and greeted him with one of her pretty smiles. “Morning, Micah.”
"Mornin' Milly, coffee?"
Milly smiled her thanks. "No thanks.” She hesitated before asking the question. “Have you seen Mark?"
"Not since yesterday."
"He's probably gone out to the ranch again," Milly worried. "Have you heard from Lucas," she asked casually.
"No I haven't," Micah answered, obviously not wanting to discuss that subject with Milly.
Milly was worried about Mark. "If he doesn't come back soon, I'm afraid that boy will turn sick, he's so lonesome."
"I feel for him the same as you do Milly," Micah stated.
"He just seems convinced that...that his father will never come back," Milly mumbled. He had told Micah the same thing. Milly spoke without looking at Micah. "Micah...you know where Lucas is, don't you?"
"Yes Milly, I know where he is," he answered casually.
"Well then in the name of heaven, why don't you tell us?" Milly cried. "I mean...at least tell Mark."
He didn’t look at her, but answered. "Last month when Lucas was wiped out along with everyone else he got himself a job. A job that he'll earn enough to start all over again.”
"What kind of a job?" Milly demanded to know. "Where?"
"That information could cost Lucas his life Milly." He turned to her. "Now...uh...forget what I told you." Milly turned and looked at Micah, finally understanding what was going on. She was sad for Mark but knew they were doing the right thing. She nodded and went back to her store.
I casually walked down the street. I had to act normal – like nothing was out of the ordinary. I wasn’t quite sure if I should go into the trading post now or wait awhile. But I was anxious to get this over with. I had to get back to my boy! I walked past the trading post at first, but then turned and walked inside to tell Forbes I’d take the job.
Finny stood outside the Marshal’s office and looked at Micah’s note he had found in the Marshal’s drawer explaining my coming to work for the Marshal. He wasted no time, but hurried across the street to the saloon. Finney hurried up to the bar and ordered a double drink. Aggie walked up to him. “Finny, are you starting all over again? Or are you just chasing away last night?”
He laughed. “Aggie, this could be my ticket out of here! Yes I do!” He unwrinkled the piece of paper in his hand. “That’s it, that little old piece of paper!” He finished his drink and quickly hurried to the trading post. He was anxious to tell McKee the good news. But when he ran into the office he froze. I was sitting there and that was something Finney wasn’t expecting to find.
He backed away from me as McKee told him he was busy. "I need to see you Mr. McKee, it's important," said Finny. McKee told him to take it up with Ross. By then Ross had a hold of Finny taking him out of McKee's office. "No, your makin' a mistake...no, let me go...you'll be sorry McKee."
I reminded McKee that Finney had stated it was important. “To him it’s always important and it’s always the same idea about getting into my whisky barrels.” McKee sat down in his chair.
He got right down to the heart of the matter. Now, I was trying to look tough, so I sat in the armchair sideways with my legs hanging over the arm and my gun planted firmly upright in front of me. I wanted to be sure I was convincible. McKee pointed out that I didn’t waste any time coming to him. “A man tells me there’s fast money to be made, I don’t waste time. Wanta tell me about it?”
He did. “They Cheyenne pay in gold – gold in return for guns and ammunition – guns and ammunition which I supply.” I asked where I fit in. “There’s a supply train coming in tonight.”
I think I understood. “You mean you rob your own supply train?” He collected the insurance. “Oh, and then you sell the guns and ammunition to the Indians, and they in turn use them on the cattleman, huh? And in the end you wind up with the cattle?” I laughed. “You know, I once robbed a bank in Salina. Killed the cashier. Gunned my way through the whole town and made off with over $4,000.00 in cash. I thought I was pretty smart. But you, Mr. McKee, take the cake.”
Just as I suspected, that got him to bragging and boasting on himself. I asked him to tell me about tonight. “About sixe miles out, the supply train comes to a place called Cheyenne Trail. There’ll be two drivers, six armed guards. I don’t want any of them to come out of that wash alive.” This sounded pretty bloody. I couldn’t help asking if he had to kill them all. “Well, let’s put it this way, the Cheyenne wouldn’t let them live. That’s who’s gonna get blamed for it.”
He pointed to tell me and told me I was pretty good with the rifle. “Pretty good?” I asked, lifting the rifle up. He asked me if I could take three of the armed guards. I stood and went closer to him looking all tough and confident. “What do you think, McKee?” He smiled and shook my hand.
The deal was on!
"Be at the saloon tonight at eight o'clock tonight. Ross will pick you up.”
"I'll be there,” I promised. Then I left.
Finny was sitting at a table in the saloon drinking again. Aggie went to sit by him and told him that some day he was going to kill over on the whiskey. She then asked him about the ticket out of here from this morning. She was curious to know about it. “That it?” She pointed to the whisky. “If it is, Finny, you know your train’s going around in a great big circle?”
“Well, I know something and it would be worth plenty to the right people. But they don’t care. Nobody cares about Finney, but I still know.” Aggie wanted to know what he knew. He hesitated on telling her. She promised him a while bottle of whisky – a great big one – if he told her what he knew. Finney started thinking on this. He looked at the letter again.
I went back to my room to get cleaned up. As I was at the sink, the door opened. Aggie walked in and shut the door loudly. I looked in the mirror and saw her standing there. “I didn’t hear anybody knock,” I stated, thinking she was being rude to just bust right in. She stated that one key fit all the doors. I told her to go back to her room.
She slowly walked up to me. “Mr. McCain, is that the way you talk to the ladies in North Fork?” I suddenly turned to look at her but said nothing. “Oh, I didn’t tell McKee if…uh…that’s what you want to know.” I didn’t know what she knew, so I fished her for more information. “Tell him who you’re really working for.” I asked her who I was really working for. “The government,” she answered as she stood beside me. “You were hired by that marshal back in New Mexico. Oh you know, he’s got a real nice name. Micah. Micah Torrance?”
She knew everything. This wasn’t good. "Alright Aggie, it's your move, what do you want?"
"Easy tall man. When you leave...I wanna go with you. Oh I'll be good to you Lucas. Honest I will." She was trying to seduce me.
"Oh....you and me, huh," I said.
"You and me," she answered. She kissed me. "That's how it will be," she promised. "You'll take me?"
I surprised her by putting my hand over her mouth. "Alright Aggie...I’m sorry - I'm gonna have to play this hand my way."
I went to the marshal and told him everything. He wasn’t happy. In fact, he was nervous as he tapped his pencil on the table. It was really getting on my nerves and I wondered how long he was going to keep it up. “I don’t like it. If she knows about it, somebody else knows about it.” I figured it was a chance we were going to have to take, but he didn’t agree with me. He was afraid it was too dangerous for me.
I argued with him – he’d already told me enough to hand him. We just had to catch him in the act. “Just…uh…make sure there’s no slip ups on your end. I don’t want to end up in that wash with a bullet in my back.” He agreed to go on with the plan. I went to get something to eat. As I walked into the saloon to wait for Ross, Finney bumped into me on his way out.
Little did I know that he was on his way to the hotel to find Aggie, whom, by the way, I had tied up in a chair in my room. It was for her own protection as much as for mine. She managed to make enough noise so Finney heard her cries and busted into my room. He immediately began ungagging and untying her. She was really mad at me!
But Finney had other concerns. He was sorry that she had gotten him drunk and tricked him into telling her what he knew. But she told him to save it. “All I want to do right now is to get back at that mealy mouthed-Oh, you just wait till McKee hears about this!” Aggie was really mad!
But Finney told her she couldn’t tell McKee. “Now Aggie, listen to me. McKee ain’t no good. Now, you know that. Look at the way he treated you all this time, and look what he done to me. Now, that McCain fellow, he’s here to get McKee. Let him.” Aggie still wasn’t agreeing with him. “Oh, don’t tell McKee!”
Suddenly Ross was in the doorway and heard the end of the conversation. ‘Well now, ain’t this nice. I come to see McCain and look what I find.” Aggie and Finney both were standing in front of him, very afraid. What don't you want her to tell McKee?"
Finney tried to tell him there was nothing, but Ross didn’t believe him and hit him over the head with the gun. Aggie gasped as Ross turned to her. Ross turned to her. "Now, how about you?" Ross closed in on her. "You're gonna tell me, ain't cha' Aggie?" Ross put his hands on her shoulders.
Finney was still conscious on the floor. “No,” he cried. “Aggie, no!”
Ross bent over and beat him until he passed out. Then he turned on Aggie like a snake. She was suddenly very afraid and couldn’t speak.
Everything was going as planned, or so I thought. I waited in the saloon drinking coffee until Ross came. He just stood at the door and motioned for me to come on. Silently, I grabbed my hat and followed him out. The Marshal watched us leave. He also saw Finney stumble out of the hotel. He hurried over to discover that Finney had been badly beaten.
The minute I walked into McKee’s office, he announced that he was glad I hadn’t changed my mind. I wondered if there was any reason I would. “No, but some men do strange things with the money they earn,” he answered. I wanted to know what he meant. “Well, McCain, I've been thinking. You know, you don't strike me as a professional killer.”
I cautiously looked from Ross to McKee. “Well, I’d say that was in my favor.”
"For some men it would be. But for you, no. You know, you strike me more as a man who plays both sides against the middle."
Ross suddenly pulled a gun on me. I was shocked, to say the least, and demanded McKee to explain what was going on. He said it should be obvious. “Are you sure there isn't something you wanna tell me?"
“Such as?” I asked. McKee didn’t answer, but stood and walked toward a closed door while Ross held a gun on me.
McKee smiled at me before slowly opening the door. I stared, shocked and upset. Aggie sat on the floor, badly beaten and barely alive. "Aggie never was any good at keeping secrets. You're through McCain. Nobody knows anything." He hit me hard, which sent me stumbling across the room.
“Nobody, huh?” I warned him. “Nobody but the Marshal, McKee!”
But McKee knew that the Marshal needed proof, which he’d never gotten until now. “You’re his proof. But you’re gonna be dead.” He hit me right in the stomach. I doubled over in pain. He hit me again, and again I groaned. “The supply train is coming through unharmed, but you’re gonna disappear. That’ll give the Marshal something to think about!’
Aggie knew she had to cause some sort of disturbance. She used every ounce of strength she had left to slam the door shut.
That gave me the opportunity I needed. As the two men turned to look at the door, I managed to kick them away from them and grab my rifle. At the same time, the door opened and the Marshal walked in. But these two were mine! All mine! “Lucas!” the marshal shouted.
One of the men fired a shot and the Marshal fell to the floor. I fired two Bang! Bang! They were both dead! It was all over.
I checked on the Marshal. He said he was alright. I patted him, glad he’d survive, then made my way to the closet where Aggie was. I sat down my rifle on the table and opened the door. “Aggie,” I whispered as I stared at her badly beaten body from the doorway. I slowly lowered myself to the floor and untied her hands. “Aggie,” I whispered again.
“Lucas,” she mumbled weakly. She couldn’t even open her eyes. “He…he made me tell…McKee…I wasn’t gonna.” She could hardly talk, she was so weak.
I touched her face sympathetically. I was sorry this happened. “That’s all right,” I whispered. “It’s all right.”
“Lucas…I wish…I was going away…with you.” The life left her and her head bent to the side.
She was dead and I was very saddened. I had caused her death.
Now that my work was done here, it was time to go home. I was very anxious to see my boy. I knew how much Mark was hurting when I left and I was concerned. Now I could tell him everything! I knew he would understand why Micah and I had to be so secretive.
The Marshal held the wanted poster on me as we walked down the boardwalk. He asked me if I wanted it as a souvenir. “No thanks, Marshal,” I stated as I grabbed the poster from him. “The other place I’ve ever been wanted is New Mexico Territory – North Fork!” I folded it and gladly gave it back to him. “And that’s where I’m headed to right now!” There was no power on this earth that would stoop me going straight back to the one I loved and who needed me the most!
Finney had my horse for me. He handed me the reins and I jumped on and told everyone good luck. As I rode down the street, I turned and waved one last time before disappearing. The Marshal headed back to his office. And Finney…well, Finney headed right straight back to his home: the saloon!
But Mark had no way of knowing I was on my way home. His heart was aching more and more for me everyday. Things were getting really bad for him.
Milly was outside her store bagging up some grain when Micah and Nils came by. Nils had something important to tell Milly. “Well, you understand, Miss Milly. I thought you knew or I wouldn’t have done it!” he stated.
“Done what?” Milly asked. “I’m afraid I don’t understand!”
“It’s about Mark,” Micah answered.
Rafe is actually the name Micah called Nils today…anyway, he anxiously told Milly that Mark had brought his saddle horse and traded him in for a plow mule. Nils gave Mark the difference in cash - $15.00. “But what would Mark want with a plow mule?” Milly asked.
Micah reported that Mark told Nils he wanted to try a little farming at the ranch. Milly thanked him. Then she and Micah headed for the ranch.
On my way home, I came across some men driving cattle. It was sure nice to see cattle in the land again! I smiled – that was my second love! I couldn’t resist stopping by to see about buying a couple cattle. It would do Mark a lot of good to see me show up with some cattle – give him some hope and maybe even help me amend our relationship a bit faster!
Mark was busy working at the ranch, sweeping off the porch and such. Micah and Milly arrived on a wagon and Milly immediately stood up to holler at him. “Mark, what on earth are you doing?” Micah laid a firm hand on her, motioning for her to sit back down and listen to what Mark has to say before giving any orders.
She slowly sat back down. “I’m cleaning the place up,” Mark announced.
"Well, wouldn't it be a lot easier to wait? I mean.....till you father comes back?" Micah asked.
"He's not coming back," Mark answered sadly.
"Oh Mark," Milly cried sadly.
"Well...it's been most of two months. He hasn't written - no word. Didn't wanna be a dirt farmer. There are no cattle around here.”
"Lucas will be back - you've gotta believe that,” Milly promised him. “You've gotta have faith.”
"I tried!" Mark cried.
"Well, you must believe in you father...after all, look at what your doing.” Milly spoke softly, still not fully understand Mark’s intentions.
"I figured on maybe movin' back in,” Mark announced then.
"By yourself?" Micah lightly scolded him. "You can't do that Mark. You're staying with Milly...that's the way Lucas wanted it."
Micah’s words angered Mark. "Pa's not here anymore!" He walked over to the plaque I made and stood there looking at it. With tearful emotion he read it out loud. "This house rebuilt by Lucas McCain and his son Mark. Guess that makes it half mine and since Pa doesn't see it fit to live in anymore.....why.....why.....I guess that makes it all mine now." Mark leaned his head against the post and began crying. "Course I'd rather be a cattle rancher, but you can't do that without any cattle. And...and besides...I don't see anything wrong with being a dirt farmer. You eat good...and...and beans...are always good for the market. I like beans...and I was figurin' on some corn too. And who knows...I heard that people are startin' wheat around here." Mark was to emotional to speak anymore.
Milly’s eyes became moist. She felt like crying but had to stay strong for Mark. Micah was forcing his own emotions down. "Mark, please,” Milly begged.
Micah knew he’d have to give Mark some tough love. "When are you gonna do all this boy, after school? You can't do it alone, somebody'll have to help you. Of course there's another thing...dirt farming's a lot like cattle raising. Man's gotta have faith like Miss Milly said. I don't think you've got enough Mark, now that you’ve lost faith in your own father."
Micah’s words horrified Milly "Micah!"
But Micah knew what Mark needed to hear. He knew I believed in speaking plain, honest truth to my boy, and Micah did nothing different now. "Keep quiet Milly," he said under his breathe. "Mark, you're just a boy and I've seen grown men buckle up doing what you're trying to do. Men like Lucas who lost everything they had, except this house and a piece of land - goin' off and doing whatever they can to save it and then coming back trying again. Now Mark, that's faith!"
"I tried to think he'd come back," said Mark. "But how much faith is a person suppose to have? I lost everything when he did, didn't I? I even lost him. What am I suppose to...suppose to...su…"
Mark stopped. He slowly lifted his head. "Pa?"
The sudden change puzzled Milly. "Mark, what is it?"
"Pa?" Mark slowly lifted his head some more as he spoke.
"What's a matter boy?" Micah asked then.
Mark turned his head and looked up the hill. "Pa...Pa!" He suddenly turned and looked up the hill.
He saw me coming down with my horse and the young bull and heifer I had just bought. “Pa!” he cried as he flew off the porch. He ran down the lane as fast as his legs would take him crying my name. I saw him and climbed off my horse. As he continued running, calling my name, I stood and smiled, just enjoying the view of my son running towards me. It was good to be home!
Then I ran toward him. I couldn’t say anything. All I could do was run and smile as we came closer and closer together. He cried my name over and over and I smiled with outstretched arms.
Finally, we met. Mark jumped into my arms and I tightly wrapped my arms around him as he began kissing me. I closed my eyes and ravished in this moment. My son was back in my arms. I kissed him back. We were together again and everything was going to be okay! Praise God!
I can’t tell you how long we stood there like that with my boy in my arms. I didn’t think I’d ever be able to let him go!
We went into town later. I had to buy Blue Boy back and get rid of that ugly ol’ plow mule! I wasn’t a farmer, after all! My boy and I – we were partners in a ranch! We were ranchers!
I gave Nils the 15 dollars back, as well as an extra dollar for feed. Nils tried to refuse the dollar, but I insisted. “That new heifer I brought back is gonna increase our herd right quick! I announced proudly.
Nils was happy to hear that. “Before you know it, they’ll be cattle all over the range again! Just like before” he declared happily.
As we started walking towards Milly’s, I talked to my boy. "Son, tell me something. Do you think you would have liked being a dirt farmer?"
"Well...no more then you liked going to Wyoming,” Mark answered. I had to agree with him there!
Then Micah spoke up. "You know something Mark? Your horse is gonna look a lot better under you then that mule.”
"Yup,” Mark agreed. “And you know something Micah? You were right about what you said."
That sure got my curiosity! "What was that?" I asked.
"Oh just a little something between Mark and me," said Micah. I guess that was something I didn’t need to know about!
Suddenly, Milly called to me. “Supper’s on the table. You boys coming?”
She sure didn’t have to ask Mark twice! "Yes ma'am! Last one’s a rotten egg!" Mark stated excitedly. He handed Micah Blue Boy and the two of us started racing.
I guess that made Micah the rotten egg! But then, I think that’s the way he wanted it…
You've heard Lucas' story, now hear Mark's
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