The Writer's Corner
A New Day
by Deanne Bertram
This story is a continuation and a conclusion to my story
‘Before Your Time’. I realized that so much was left unfinished.
I recommend reading my previous story to understand the events
that lead up to the beginning of…
Lucas and Mark reined in Razor and Blue Boy as they rode up to
the church. Most all of the town’s folks were sure to attend;
this was the first Sunday that Reverend McCafferty would lead
church services. As more of the folks realized that Lucas and
Mark had arrived; they stopped and waited for them to dismount.
Everyone knew that Mark had gone missing and ended up being a
captive of the Cordova Gang and how he protected little Sarah
McCafferty, but Mark had told no one other than Reverend
McCafferty all the details.
Many people, who Lucas and Mark considered friends, were
standing outside the church; all waited to tell Mark how good it
was to have him home and ask how he was doing. All the women
folk wanted to hug him and kiss him on the cheek.
A little embarrassed, Mark extended his hand and replied each
time, “I’m okay. Thank you for asking.” Finally, he looked to
his Pa, his eyes pleading, “Can’t we go in?”
Lucas put a hand on his boy’s shoulder and pushed him into
church. Micah motioned for Lucas and Mark to proceed to the
front pew, Mrs. McCafferty had requested that the McCains sit
with her and her children.
With the congregation seated, Reverend McCafferty stepped to the
pulpit. A few people settled more comfortably in their seats and
a few coughs were heard from the back of the church.
“Good morning good people of North Fork. I’m Reverend Mark
McCafferty. I’d like to introduce my wife Maggie, our son Jake,
and our daughter Sarah. And thank you for inviting us to North
“Today’s sermon won’t come directly from the bible. I’ve come to
realize that sometimes, a sermon can come from life’s
experiences. After all, isn’t the bible about the life
experiences of Jesus and His Disciples?
“I think that you folks have a right to know about us. My
family…we set out to North Fork, to bring the Word of God to a
town that didn’t have a Minister. We left Cincinnati knowing we
would be strangers in the place we hoped to eventually call our
“Our travels here were fairly uneventful, until the night we
arrived…my wife and I were struggling to get our team through
the raging waters of a flash flood. We foolishly didn’t
understand the dangers that could be present with what we
thought as a harmless thunderstorm. But, from the dark of the
land, a lightning bolt illuminated the landscape. And that’s
when two strangers came into our vision. Without hesitation,
they acted. They knew right away what to do. Without our
askance, they chose to help save my small family. The taller of
the two strangers rescued my wife and myself, when he was able
to rope our mule. However, as the waters pressed against our
wagon, our two children were thrown out the back and into the
waters. It was later that we realized the smaller stranger rode
his horse into the waters and rescued my son. Yet… the waters
still had my daughter. The same small strangers didn’t hesitate
once he realized he had my boy safe. He continued to act, and
jumped from his horse into the waters, waters that very well
could have taken his own life, in an attempt to save the life of
“The smaller of the two strangers was swept away as the tall
stranger watched in horror. As you have undoubtedly heard, he
did rescue the child and while they were out there alone, he
took her under his wings to protect her. But to continued
“We hadn’t even arrived, properly, into North Fork, when a
stranger opened his home to us. Yet, while he was opening his
home to us, his own heart was breaking. That’s when we found out
the other stranger was but a child himself.
“Yes, I’m talking about Lucas and Mark McCain.” Reverend
McCafferty tried to get his thoughts organized before he
continued. “I guess everyone can tell who was the ‘taller’ of
the two strangers.” There were a few hearty laughs from the
“This sermon could be about how a young boy was forced to become
a man before he should have. The child,” turning his eyes to
Mark, “yes Mark, you are a child, and to your father, you’ll
always be his child.”
Mark felt very uncomfortable and looked at his Pa. Lucas nodded
“Since his return, I’ve had a number of occasions to speak with
Mark. He is a child on the verge of becoming a young man; and
like most young men, he is struggling with this new aspect of
his life. During our discussions, he’s told me what he feels
comfortable in talking about. I’ve tried to help him understand
his feelings, his confusion, his doubts, his uncertainties.”
There were murmurs among the members of the congregation and
everyone turned their eyes to Mark. Everyone wondering, what had
the boy endured?
Mark fidgeted with his hat and squirmed in his seat. Lucas put a
comforting arm around his boy. And, young Sarah took Mark’s hand
“In time, I hope he will be able to tell his Pa, in detail, what
he has told me as well as what he has not felt comfortable in
retelling. But, for now, the most important thing is for a
Father to show compassion and be there to support His son. And,
when the time comes, listen. But then, I don’t have to tell that
“This sermon is about a loss of faith. Not Mark’s, not Lucas’,
though by every right, either one of them could be forgiven for
“No, this is about me. See, I left Cincinnati because I heard
that there was a shortage of ministers out west. I believed so
much in God, that I packed up my family in order to share His
Word with others who were not as fortunate to have regular
“Yet, at my first trial out here in this huge country, my faith
wavered. I lost my way. Yes, at times, I witnessed Lucas
questioning God, but he never blamed God. I can’t believe, now,
how quickly I was to blame God. I turned my back on Him. I hated
Many in the congregation were shocked to hear those words.
Revered McCafferty let the congregation quiet themselves before
he continued to bear his sole.
“You see, while I’m not ready to tell you Mark’s story, I am
ready to stand before you and tell you mine.
“You might ask, ‘How can he stand in front of us and say he
hated God?’ You have every right to ask that question. I need
you to know that I am only human. I have faults. I want you to
understand that I’m not perfect and I am fallible. And maybe in
knowing my weaknesses, you’ll see that I’ll never ‘judge’
anyone, but work with you through your troubles.
“I also need you to understand how my faith started to be
restored. It was by the innocence of a child, my own. I had been
reunited with my Sarah. Lucas had found Mark, but had not yet
been really reunite; when Lucas got to Mark he was unconscious
after being thrown from a horse. As the soldier’s led the small
procession and returned to the town with Lucas and Mark, I still
was blaming God. I was mad He had let this happen. That he had
allowed those outlaws to take my Sarah away from me. Yet… as
Lucas and the soldier’s carried Mark into the doctor’s office,
my child asked if we could pray for Mark.”
Taking a moment to shake his head and lower his eyes, Reverend
McCafferty vividly remembered the scene.
“She’d been separated from her family for over a week and I
could feel her trembling in my arms because of her experiences,
yet she showed compassion to, to someone who only a week earlier
was a stranger. My faith in myself crumbled even further.
“Later, I overheard Mark and Lucas talk. I heard Mark tell his
Pa how he was so scared and felt so alone. How he prayed his
father would find him. He had prayed to God for the strength to
help him keep Sarah safe. To keep My Sarah safe.
“After our return to North Fork, I talked with a boy to help him
through his anguish, yet while I thought I was helping him, it
was he who was helping me. Restoring my faith in myself, in
people; and most of all in God.
“With all they were going through, these three stood firm in
their faith; believing without wavering… In witnessing these
three, they reminded me that God can only guide us. It’s what we
choose to do with that guidance in our lives that makes the
difference. If one keeps their hearts open…”
Ashamed of his own guilt, but feeling a heavy weight lifted, the
Reverend wiped the unshed tears from his eyes.
“God’s guidance can take many forms, even the form of a child.”
Again looking to Mark, “Mark, I look forward to our
conversations in the future.
“The lesson from this sermon is that not all lessons are to be
learned from the bible and not all lessons are to be taught by
an adult to a child. Sometimes, adults need to listen to the
children. Children can be great teachers.
“I stand before you to ask your forgiveness. I’ve talked with
Our Heavenly Father and I believe He has listened as I’ve asked
for and feel blessed with His forgiveness. If you choose to
accept me as your new preacher, my family and I would be blessed
to call North Fork our home.”
With that, Reverend McCafferty left the pulpit. As he stepped to
the front row, he reached out for his wife’s hand and looked to
Lucas and Mark, and motioned for them to accompany them out to
the front of the church. Mark felt a tug on his hand and
realized Sarah still had a hold of his hand. He reached down,
picked Sarah up in his arms and set her on his hip. Lucas looked
down at his boy, concerned how Mark was handling what had been
revealed, concerned until he saw Mark’s smile. Then, Lucas
picked Jake up in his arms and followed the McCafferty family
As the members of the congregation filed out of the Church,
everyone stopped and shook the reverend’s hand, hugged his wife,
and welcomed them to North Fork. People also shook the hands of
Lucas and Mark, where in the past they might have ruffled Mark’s
hair or just nodded to him in acknowledgement. Some of the
schools girls blushed and giggled as they walked past Mark. The
older boys from school punched him in the arm. The town had a
new respect for Mark. Yes, in the past, he had been that
mischievous boy, but people were realizing he was growing up,
growing up in front of their eyes.
Lucas invited the McCafferty family to join him and Mark for
lunch over at the Mallory House hotel. Mark put Sarah up on Blue
Boy as Lucas put Jake on Razor. The McCains and the McCaffertys
walked over to the hotel.
As they sat down at the table, the reverend turned to Mark and
apologized if he had made Mark uncomfortable with his words. “I
needed the congregation to know how humbled I was and was
sincere when I asked for their forgiveness.”
“I understand, but gee, did you have to lay it on so thick?”
Mark said while grimacing about what was going to happen when
school restarted in a few weeks. He hoped everyone would just
forget about it.
Mark and Maggie McCafferty and their family were settling into
the parsonage and getting to know the people of North Fork. They
had truly become part of the community, not just a preacher’s
family. It seemed everyday, a different family was inviting them
over to dinner. No one asked any questions about the first
Sermon, conversations drifted to many different topics; the
weather, ranching, babies being born, and questions about back
East. How North Fork compared to some of the bigger cities.
Excitement as the railroad was heading out West.
The McCafferty children were spending a lot of time out at the
McCain ranch before school started. Mark was teaching them how
to ride and teaching them about ranching. They loved it. Lucas
noticed that Mark seemed to walk a little taller of late.
‘Was he walking taller or had he just grown that much?’ Lucas
asked of himself.
Mark never lost his patience with these children. There was more
laughter around the McCain Ranch, laughter of multiple children,
not just one.
As he sat on the front porch of their home, smoking a thin
cigar, and listening as the sounds of night replace the quieted
sounds of day, Lucas was pleased to know how well the three
children were getting along, yet, he longed… What if Margaret
hadn’t miscarried their second child… What if Margaret hadn’t
died…, What if….
‘That’s the problem with “What ifs” you can get lost with them,’
Lucas thought to himself.
The new school year had been in session for a few months. As
promised, Mark picked up Sarah and Jake and walked with them to
school each day, many days leading them as they sat in the
saddle on Blue Boy. Mr. Griswold had returned to North Fork
after a summer visit to his own family back east. One day,
shortly after Halloween, he was grading papers over lunch when
he came to Mark McCain’s assignment. It just now dawned on him
that there had been a remarkable improvement in Mark’s grades
this school year. He sat back and tried to reflect on just when
the change had occurred.
It was a few days later when Mr. Griswold decided to go outside
and observe the children during recess. As he walked around, he
noticed how the two McCafferty children had taken to Mark. They
seemed to idolize him. He couldn’t fault them; he had heard that
Mark had saved both of their lives. And Mark seemed genuinely
attached to them, he didn’t act irritated at having youngsters
tag along behind him all the time. At lunch, the boys were
playing stickball, however Mr. Griswold didn’t see Mark in the
group. This gave him cause for concern. Mr. Griswold then
noticed the older schoolgirls standing under the tree, giggling
and pointing to the side of the schoolhouse. As Mr. Griswold
walked to the side of the building, he paused as he saw Mark had
all the young children sitting around him. They were focusing
intently on what Mark was telling them. He continued to watch
for a few minutes without interrupting.
Mr. Griswold was curious. In school year’s past, Mark would
spend time with the boys his age, playing games and making plans
to torment the girls. Finally, he couldn’t squelch his curiosity
and approached Mark from behind, he realized Mark was reading to
Sarah and Jake, and the others. None of the children looked away
from Mark, their full attention was wrapped up in what he was
reading. As Mr. Griswold’s shadow fell over Mark, he quickly
stood up and accidentally dropped the book. Mr. Griswold bent
down and picked up the book.
“Mark, as I’ve said before, each book has a soul.” Remembering
their first encounter with ‘juju beans’ in a book. “No sense
letting this one get dirty.” Then he looked at the title My
First Alphabet. This is not the Mark McCain I remember, Mr.
Griswold thought to himself.
“I’m sorry, Mr. Griswold, I didn’t’ hear you come up behind me,”
Mark tried to explain.
“That’s okay Mark. Guess I shouldn’t have startled you.” He
handed the book back to Mark, turned and walked back to ring the
School continued for the day and was later dismissed, but still,
Mr. Griswold couldn’t place his finger on exactly what was
occurring, but knew he had a few questions to ask.
“Mr. McCain,” said Griswold as all the children rose to leave.
“Yes sir?” answered Mark.
“Would you stay after for a few minutes?”
Mark motioned for Sarah and Jake to go outside and told them to
wait for him. Then he walked to the front of the classroom,
unsure what he had done wrong. He hadn’t remembered doing
anything to get himself into trouble, except dropping the book.
“Mark, I just wanted to talk to you about happened over lunch
today. It surprised me at first. You sure are a different Mark
McCain than the one who left this schoolroom before summer.
You’ve done some growing up. “
Mark was unsure what to say. Uncomfortable with the thought this
discussion was going to lead to the events of the summer and he
wasn’t ready to talk to anyone else, especially since he hadn’t
come to terms to talk to his Pa about it.
Mr. Griswold continued, “Rest assured Mark, I’m not going to pry
into this summer. Since I saw you at lunch, I started thinking.
I realized recently that your schoolwork has improved as is
reflected by your test scores. I’ve also been pleased with how
the younger children have recently shown an improvement in their
own grades and now I see that it wasn’t all because of my
tutelage. What I am going to ask, if you’d be interested, I
think you’d be an excellent teacher’s assistant, to help out
with the younger children. They seem to take direction from you
a little easier than me.”
“Mr. Griswold, I’m not ready yet. I’m still a kid.”
“Mark, I seem to remember the Reverend McCafferty saying that
children can be great teachers. All you have to do is to
continue what you did at lunch today. I’ve witnessed sparkles in
their eyes when they answer my questions correctly. They are
excited. They don’t see you as a school teacher because you’re
closer to their age. They kind of take to you as their big
brother. You make learning fun.
“I think I need to talk to my Pa.” Marked looked down at the
floor, unsure what to do.
Realizing there was an internal struggle that Mark was
experiencing; Mr. Griswold thought how to bring Mark back into
the present; it appeared Mark was going to bolt like a startled
jack rabbit. “Mark, this improvement in your studies, I think it
has something to do with your friendship with Percy Bullock. Am
“Yes sir.” Mark’s eyes started to shine again. “His home is full
of books, thick books. Wonderful literature as his Pa says.
Percy’s father has been reading from them to Percy and me. I
remember the first time I took Percy home and saw all those
books. I told Mr. Bullock ‘You must think we’re pretty ignorant
Mr. Griswold replied, “Mark, I’ve always thought of you as a
bright boy, if you’d just apply yourself to your studies. I’m
glad you’ve proven me correct. I also think that with your
improved attitude towards school, you’re smart enough to take on
some advance studies. I’d be willing to work with you over
recess on your new studies and you can work with the younger
children over lunch on their spellers and readers.”
“I don’t know.” Mark still didn’t feel he wanted to take on any
grown up responsibilities.
“Mark,” came his Pa’s voice from the back of the room. Lucas had
arrived just as school was being dismissed and after not seeing
Mark come out, he walked into the classroom to overhear the
entire conversation. “I think this is a decision you need to
make for yourself. But if you’re looking for my permission, you
have it. Mr. Griswold, it pleases me to hear your words to my
b…, my son. I’ve always taken pride in seeing that he received a
Mr. Griswold spoke to Mark, “Take your time. You don’t have to
give me an answer right away. I’ll see you in the morning.” And
all three left the classroom.
Lucas and Mark rode back to the ranch, side by side, after
dropping Sarah and Jake off at the parsonage.
After dinner and the dishes were washed and put away, Mark sat
down opposite his father and started to read part of his
homework assignment for the night. Lucas was reading his bible
and every now and then, when Mark looked at his Pa, he could
tell his attention was wandering. Mark was concerned, when his
Pa usually read the bible, his eyes never strayed from the words
printed on the pages.
‘Unless he was trying to come up with some way to set me back on
the right path after getting into more mischief than I should,”
Mark thought to himself.
“Pa, you seem preoccupied this evening. Have I done something
“No, Mark, you’ve not done anything wrong. I am proud of you,
proud that you’re my son.”
Lucas’ thoughts seemed to drift again.
“Pa?” inquired Mark.
“I know you might think that what I’m about to say, might seem a
little too adult for you, but I want you to understand. It’s
just that, I’ve seen how you’ve taken to the McCafferty
children. And to hear the laughter from the three of you around
the house, well, it’s something that I never thought I’d hear
within these walls. I’m sorry that your Ma passed and you were
left an only child. Maybe I should have tried to find a woman to
marry and become a Ma for you. Then hearing Mr. Griswold’s words
today…. As for your education…..” Lucas faltered. He knew he
didn’t want to push Mark into doing something that Mark thought
was a ‘grown up thing’. Especially since Mark still hadn’t come
to terms to tell him about events of the summer, but this was an
opportunity that Mark couldn’t pass up; an opportunity to better
“Pa, it wasn’t your fault my Ma died. And you’ve been many
things to me. You’ve had to be both my Pa and my Ma. I consider
you my best friend, my teacher, and my confidant…” Mark
hesitated, he realized now might be the right time to talk to
his Pa about the ordeal. Lucas spent the next several hours
listening to his son. Even though it had happened several months
before, every detail was still brilliant in Mark’s memory. But
Lucas noticed that Mark was calm in his retelling, that the
words Mark was saying showed a maturity in his son. He wanted to
stop his son and tell him to forget about all the bad memories.
Hearing Mark talk of his ordeal did cause him an emotional pain,
and that’s why Mark had hesitated to talk.
‘That boy of mine sure wants to protect me,’ Lucas thought, but
he knew his son needed to talk and he listened more intently;
knowing this might be the final step towards Mark finally
putting the matter in the past. Lucas now had a better
understanding of just how much growing up Mark had done when he
was missing. And why he asked to be “my little boy” again that
Sunday and why he was now hesitant to accept Mr. Griswold’s
Morning came and Lucas found that Mark was already up, dressed
for school, and re-checking a few math problems before
“Son, never seen you so eager to do your studies.”
“Pa, after our talk last night, I realized that I can’t stop
myself from growing up. Some days I feel I want to grow up to
make sure you’re proud of me and that you can trust me to do
things around the ranch. Other days I want to be your little boy
again.” Mark paused as he looked his Pa in the eye. “I will grow
up, that’s what life is all about. The lessons learned. You’ve
spent my whole life teaching me right from wrong. Impressing on
me the importance of a good education. Mr. Bullock opened my
eyes to literature and the more I listened to him read, the more
I understood what you’ve been teaching me all along.
“The words written in all those books, the history, the
creativity…. Someone took the time to put it all in writing. As
I drifted off to sleep last night I realized my eyes have been
opened to a whole new world. I want to be a part of the future.
I can’t do that if I insist on staying a child.
“Yesterday, when Mr. Griswold asked me to help him with the
younger children…” Mark paused.
“Just how did you become the pied piper of North Fork?,” his Pa
asked, not knowing if he really wanted to know the answer, but
he couldn’t help ask the question.
“At first it started just with Sarah and Jake, they were having
trouble making new friends with some of the others and were
unsure of themselves, so I just started making their lessons
into games with them. Next thing I knew, I had a few more
youngsters, and then I had all the youngsters surrounding me.
The eagerness in their eyes…, Pa its….” Mark stopped to think
about what to say next.
“Pa, I saw the look in Mr. Griswold’s eyes when he asked me to
be his assistant and it reminded me of you, when I’ve done
things to make you proud of me. I think, maybe, I can handle
growing up a little bit more today. That is, if you’re ready to
let me grow up a little too. I want to accept Mr. Griswold’s
invitation for advanced studies and I want to help him out with
the younger children. Maybe they won’t try to get out of their
studies quite as much as I did.”
Yes, a new day had dawned in the life of Mark McCain. New
adventures and new struggles yet to be experienced awaited him.
Please be sure to check out the sequel to this story —
His Father’s Son
This is a story based on the TV
series The Rifleman
Here are some other great stories. Enjoy!
around The McCain Ranch