The Rifleman
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Fan Fiction

The Margaret Years
Chapter 3 - The Land
Written by Michelle Palmer

One week had passed since the dance at Ann Dodd’s house. Lucas no longer felt the need to grace his presence at the Gibbs house every night, though he and Margaret both wished it could happen. But right now, Lucas had a job to do. He had to contribute his time to the McCain family. Though the proposal hadn’t been made yet, both Lucas and Margaret knew that it was only a matter of time before they became man and wife, at which point they would spend every night together.
Lucas put in hard days all that next week, along with his brothers as they readied the fields for planting. The work was hard and tiring, and Lucas struggled to keep his eyes open long enough to eat supper each night. All four brothers had to be closely watched by the women, who made sure they had their proper eating and cleaning before they lay down for the night.
Friday evening, Lucas happily retired the oxen at 4:30. The field was finally finished and ready for planting, which would begin the next morning. But that evening, Lucas would spend time with Margaret. He took a bath and even put on some “smell good” stuff, at least that’s what little Ruthie called it. She chatted with her uncle as he continued to prim himself in the mirror. Lucas grinned as she informed Lucas that Papa only put the “smell good” stuff on after mama yelled at him.
The moment Lucas rode into the Gibbs yard that evening, Margaret hurried from the door and threw her arms around his neck. She kissed him, regardless of the fact that her ever-watchful brother was standing in the doorway. She assured Lucas in more ways than one that she had missed him. And she gently chastised him for again missing church on the previous Sunday. Since Lucas had been home, he’d yet to darken the doors of the church, and Margaret assured him with sternness in her voice that he would be there the following Sunday.
After dinner, Margaret led Lucas into the parlor. This time, she closed the door and sat very close to him on the couch. Once they were settled, Lucas took his beloved in his arms and whispered sweet words in her ear as they cuddled. Margaret excitedly told him about her week. Lucas announced to Margaret that the plowing was finally done, and in another week, the crops would be in the field. He expressed concern about getting the crops in late, but both he and Margaret knew it had been a hard winter and they had done the best they could.
When the clock struck eight, Margaret squeezed her arms tighter around his middle. She knew he was expected to leave, but she hated seeing him go after having not seen him in a week. He stood up and took her in his arms one last time. After leaving her breathless in the middle of the parlor, he walked out, nodded briefly to Scott, then rode for home.
As was the McCain custom on Saturday, Lucas rode into town for supplies. Lucas was happy at the prospects of helping his brothers tend to the wheat fields over the summer months while working on his own land.
His own land…Lucas hadn’t said a word to Margaret about talking to Johnny Morgan, but he planned to do just that on Monday morning. As he pulled the horses up outside the Hardware store, Lucas looked across the street at Morgan’s office and smiled to himself. Johnny Morgan had been out of law school for only a few months. He had decided to settle here in Enid, seeing as how there was presently no lawyer.  Scott Gibbs had been his first client as he worked at re-establishing the Gibbs estate in case of his untimely death.
Johnny Morgan was about ten years older than Lucas. Still a bachelor, Johnny told Lucas just the other day that he didn’t reckon he’d ever marry. He had never managed to find a woman that would accept his workaholic ways. Women, he said, required a lot of attention, and he was married to his job. Six days a week, Johnny could be found in his office.
Lucas recalled Johnny when he was in school. Lucas himself had been only six when Johnny tipped his hat from his sixteen year old head and declared he would be going away to school. Then he had mounted his horse and ridden away with nothing more than a wave to the children. His father had always wanted him to take over the ranch when he grew up, but as John Sr. had told Lucas once, Johnny was born with a speech in his mouth. He could talk a bee out of honey if given the opportunity.
Six months ago, Johnny’s father had finally passed away. He had sold most of the land except for the piece Lucas was interested in buying.
Lucas whistled as he jumped from the buckboard. But as he stepped up onto the boardwalk, he felt someone run into him and turned to see Samuel Gibbs. His eyes told Lucas that he had once again taken to the bottle. Over the last year, the Gibbs family had come to terms with the new life Samuel was living. At times, Samuel would be at home sleeping on the cot in the corner while working the ranch during the day. Scott would pay him ranch hand wages when he would work. It broke Lucas’ heart to see his Uncle Sam in the state he was in now, but he merely gave Sam a stiff nod and started to walk away. “Heard you was back, Luke…”
“Yeah…” Lucas sneered as he glared at Samuel. “I’m back.”
“Hate me, don’t ya?”
“I don’t hate you, Sam, but I hate what you’ve become,” Lucas answered with a stiff nod of his head. He turned and grabbed his rifle then hurried toward the General Store.
“Wait a minute, Luke.” Samuel grabbed Lucas’ arm. Lucas looked down at his hand and raised his eyebrows as he looked at Samuel. Samuel took his hand away. “No matter what…I’m still Margaret’s father.”
Lucas nodded. “Can’t change that. And she still loves you.”
“Heard you had notions of courting my daughter.”
“I AM courting Margaret,” Lucas answered with a nod of his head. “Now, if you’ll excuse me…”
Samuel again grabbed Lucas’ hand. “You…haven’t asked my permission, Luke.”
“Permission for what?” Lucas grumbled.
“Permission to court my daughter.”
Lucas pressed his lips together. “No. I didn’t.” Then he brushed past Samuel and went into the General Store.
He hadn’t been in the store long before he heard another calling his former designation. “Lieutenant!”
Lucas heard the words from behind him and was suddenly very irritated at all the interruptions. “What?” He spun around. But when he saw the man standing in front of him, his eyes grew wide as he shifted his rifle in his other hand. “Jackson!” Lucas declared with a smile. “Reef Jackson!” He hurried forward and pumped his arm up and down as they chuckled. “How ya been?”
“Doing good!” Reef declared. “I’m doing really good!”
“You finish the war?”
“Sure did! Even got promoted to Corporal before it all ended!” Reef answered. “Just got into town yesterday.”
“Living here now?” Lucas asked.
“Took a job down at the Blacksmith’s for now. My folks…they’ve managed without me this long. I didn’t feel I fit in at the new place anymore.”
“Well…” Lucas smiled. “I tell you what…let me finish with my purchases here, then I’ll meet you at the saloon for a few drinks!”
“Sounds good.” Reef smiled. “Reckon there’s a couple more fellows from our unit down there!”
“A couple more…” Lucas raised an eyebrow. “Who?”
“Majors and Whisker,” Reef answered.
“Majors and Whisker…Did they come in with you?”
Reef nodded. “Some of us stuck together after the war. Whisker came home with me, having no family to speak of. Majors…he had some problems…” Reef lowered his head and shook it sadly. “But Whisker, he’s as ornery as the day you tried to train him!”
“Well then, I’ll finish my purchases and meet you down there!” Lucas promised.
After purchasing all the items on his long list carefully written out by Tiffany McCain, Lucas placed them in the wagon then made his way to the saloon. “Hello, Ike!” Lucas greeted the bartender with a wave of his hand. “A bottle of whisky over here!”
Ike slowly walked over and placed the bottle and glasses on the table. Lucas allowed his grin to widen as he shook Ned Majors’ hand first, then turned to Paul Whisker. “How the heck are you?”
Paul chatted cheerfully, but Lucas noticed the stiffness in Ned’s hand as he shook it, and the scowl on his face. Lucas lost part of his smile as he cocked his head to one side. “What’s wrong with you?”
Ned’s hand shook as he poured whisky in his glass and guzzled it down. He slapped the glass on the table, but refused to look at the others. Lucas raised his eyebrow and looked at the other men, who merely shook their heads. Slowly, Lucas drank the whisky in his own glass, then poured another. “You look really good, Lieutenant! Really good!” Paul declared as he gave him a playful punch. “Ain’t seen ya since your brothers took you home.”
Suddenly, Ned slammed his glass down and shoved himself away from the table. He hurried to the bar and banged his hand on it. “Give me my own bottle, Barky!”
Lucas turned back and looked at his friends. “What happened to him?” he asked as he nodded his head backwards toward Ned. “He was always so cheerful.” Lucas took another swig off his own whisky. “I always remember him being a nice kid when we were growing up.”
“Yes.” Reef answered. “Lucas…after you left, some of our men were captured and sent to a prison camp. Ned was badly treated. He was thrown into a hole and locked in a tiny cage. They gave him bread and water, but that’s it. Ned went crazy in there, Luke. It left him broken on the inside, and nothing we do has helped him.”
“I’m sure that breaks his mother’s heart…”
“His mother thinks he’s dead, Lieutenant,” Paul stated.
“Name’s Luke. I’m no longer a lieutenant.” Lucas poured himself another drink and guzzled it down. He turned when he heard Ned banging his hand on the bar again. “He always like this?”
“When he’s not sleeping.” Reef shook his head. “He’s a very…lonely and broken man, Luke. It’s almost like he…he wants to die.”
Lucas lifted an eyebrow. He slowly stood from the chair and went to stand beside his childhood friend. “Ned…” Lucas nodded toward him.
Ned didn’t turn, but simply took another drink. Lucas took the bottle from him and filled up his own glass. After swallowing the whisky, he said…”I just heard about what happened to you. I’m sorry.”
“Sorry…” Ned muttered bitterly. “You’re sorry, huh???” He slammed his glass down, causing it to crack. Suddenly, Ned swept his arm across the bar, sweeping it clean of various bottles and glasses, all of which feel to the floor with a crash. Then he quickly reared back to punch Lucas. Lucas was alert and able to grab his arm and hold it tight, but suddenly got a punch in the jaw with Ned’s other fist. “What happened to you?” Ned slurred out in an angry shout. He looked Lucas up and down in disgust. “You…our leader who’s supposed to lay down his life…”
“I did!” Lucas shouted suddenly. “If you remember right, I was declared dead after…”
“You weren’t dead!” Ned argued. “You were in some cabin being doctored, then you got to go home because of your injuries! You…you got to come home to…to your family while the rest of us fought for our lives! Those Rebs captured us and dragged us away. They made me cry every day while you…YOU…” Ned turned back toward Lucas and screamed in his face. “You got to lay in your nice, comfortable bed with your big, loving family all around you! You should have been in that prison with me! You should have…” Ned eyed him up and down. “I see nothin’ wrong with ya.”
“My leg was busted!” Lucas shouted. “I had cuts and bruises all over my face from the explosion! Still have the scars to prove it. I almost died many times. Ned, I…”
“I don’t want to hear it!” Ned shouted. He reared back and punched Lucas hard before Lucas could react. The punch forced Lucas across the room where he landed on a table, then on the floor. Ned rushed over to him and grabbed him by the shirt. “I was in prison…I was beaten and starved every day…every day I was there while you enjoyed laying in a nice bed with your family around!”
“I didn’t ask to be discharged!” Lucas shouted in his face. “They forced me to! I WASN’T GIVEN A CHOICE!”
“Neither was I!” Ned shoved Lucas back. Lucas groaned as he hit the wall with a hard thud.
“Now look, Ned. I want to be your friend!” Lucas tried to stand again, but Ned came at him.
Lucas bolted to his feet and punched Ned hard in the mouth. Before anyone could react, the two men were going at it. They each delivered hard punches and threw the other across the room. Tables and chairs were broken during the scuffle. Lucas had Ned pinned on the ground and he raised his fist to punch him again.
Lucas’ hand froze in midair. He lifted his head and watched as Marshal Williams slowly walked into the room. The Marshal held his gun and looked around. “Alright, what’s going on here?”
Lucas released Ned and stood up. Both men were breathing hard as they held fists to their mouth and coughed. Marshal Williams stepped closer to Lucas and sniffed his breath. “Drunk…” he muttered. “Luke, you know better!”
“Marshal, I…” Lucas started.
“Ike, what’s the amount you’re gonna charge these two?”
“Fifty dollars!” Ike declared. “Each!”
“What???” Lucas shouted. “Ike, you saw him start it!”
“Yeah.” Ike shook his head. “And you SURE didn’t try to stop it!”
Marshal Williams looked from Ned to Lucas. “Well?”
“I ain’t got no fifty dollars!” Ned shouted.
“Luke?” Marshal Williams coaxed.
“You know I don’t have it!” Lucas answered hotly.
“Alright.” Marshal Williams nudged his gun toward the doorway. “Luke, you lead the way. You know where the jail is.”
“Oh now, Marshal…” Lucas started.
“Get to walking!”
Lucas watched as the key turned the lock in his cell. He grabbed the bars and shook his head. “I’m supposed to go to the Gibbs’ for supper tonight!” He argued with the Marshal.
“Well, I don’t think you’re going to make it.” Marshal Williams hung up his keys. “You’ll be in jail until Ike gets his fifty dollars.”
“Oh now, this is ridiculous!” Lucas sneered. “Ned started it! He was drunk and you…” Marshal Williams merely shook his head. “Where am I going to get fifty dollars?”
“I sent the deputy out to tell your family.”
“YOU WHAT??????”
Lucas sat on the cot and ran his hands through his hair again. He had only had about four shots of whisky, so he knew he wasn’t drunk, but he also knew that unless someone got him out of there tonight, he’d have a lot of explaining to do to Margaret Gibbs. Lucas shook his head and sighed. He couldn’t believe this was happening! That’s what he got for trying to help out a friend. Lucas heard the front door of the jail open late afternoon. He jumped up, hoping that he would soon be bailed out so he could hurry over to Margaret’s.
But there was no such luck.
The door to the jail opened and Marshal Williams walked in. “Just sent the deputy over to get you a tray from the restaurant, Luke. Seems you’ll be spending the night here.”
“What are you talking about?” Luke asked. He was sure someone in his family would have mercy on him and bail him out.
“You’re brother said he’ll bring the bail money in the morning…along with your Sunday-go-to-meetin’ clothes.  He thinks you should spend the night in jail and think about what you did…” Marshal Williams turned to leave. But he turned back around and allowed a slow, easy smile to spread across his face. “Oh…he also told the deputy that they’ll let Margaret know of the reason for your…uh….delay. Take it from a married man, Luke…come tomorrow, the worst part of your punishment will begin.”
Lucas groaned as he laid his head against the bars. Could this evening get any worse???
Lucas didn’t sleep well that night. He was thinking on so many things. Not only did he have to look forward to his brother’s stern lecture about his being too wild to settle down, but he would have to face Margaret. Lucas suddenly wished he was back in the war facing the enemy rather than Margaret Gibbs. He was going to have to do a lot of explaining – and he’d have to start with why the Marshal deemed him drunk…She wouldn’t take kindly to his admitting that he had been drinking whisky instead of taking the supplies home to his family.
As he waited for sleep to come, Lucas’ thinking shifted to Ned Majors. He had known Ned for a long time. After he, Johnny Drako, and Andy Gibbs had rode off for war, Ned Majors had met up with them on the trail. Ned had been so full of life then. He wasn’t a drinking man, and attended church quite regularly. But now..he was changed. Lucas had heard stories about the prison camps and the horrors that had happened there. He understood why Ned was the way he was, but he wanted to help his friend any way he could.
Lucas fell asleep with these thoughts in his head.
It seemed only a moment later when he heard the loud noise of the marshal running his gun across the bars. “Time for breakfast!” The marshal made sure to make this announcement as loudly as he could, adding to the agony his prisoners were already feeling.
Lucas sat up and pressed a hand to his forehead. Even though he hadn’t been drunk the night before, his head was still aching. After breakfast, he laid back on his cot and closed his eyes, hoping the aching would go away before his brother arrived.
“Lucas McCain,” Marshal Williams unlocked the door to his cell. “You’re free to go.” Lucas slowly sat up and slipped into his boots. He wondered which brother had been made aware he was in the slammer. As he walked out of the jail, he saw Abe standing there with his arms folded and an accusing look on his face. He groaned. Of all the luck!
“You owe me fifty dollars, baby brother!” Abe said as he glared at Luke. “And I just may take it out of your hide later!” Abe’s voice was loud. Lucas pressed a hand to his forehead and again groaned. “But my wife ordered me not to yell at you until AFTER church, so right now, baby brother, you get yourself on out back and get dressed. We’ll talk about this, this afternoon.”
“I’m not a child!” Lucas shouted as he grabbed his rifle from the Marshal. “I’m a twenty-two year old man and I don’t need a lecture!” Lucas put his hat on, knowing his words were going on deaf ears. No matter how old he got, his brother would always see it his God-given duty to lecture Lucas on the transgressions he had performed. “And I’m in no mood to go to church!”
He started out the door, and was almost all the way out when Abe’s voice stopped him. “You DO value your life, don’t you?”
Slowly, Lucas turned around. “What’s that mean?”
“It means…that if you think you’re in trouble with me, it’s NOTHING compared to Margaret. She’s very, very mad at you and declared that you BEST be in church this morning…if you knew what was good for you.”
“YOU TOLD HER I WAS IN JAIL????” Lucas shouted as he put his hands on his hips.
“No.” Abe grinned. “Peter did.” He nodded toward the door. “Church starts in fifteen minutes. You best hurry.”
As it turned out, Lucas hurried into the church as the congregation was just finishing their first song. He slipped into the seat beside Margaret who, after one short look at him, turned her head toward the front, slipped slightly further away from him, and refused to look at him again.
Lucas felt an empty space on the pew that morning. Margaret refused to sit anywhere near him and kept her arms folded and her eyes intent on the preacher. The expression on her face assured Lucas that he was indeed in a whole mess of trouble with his intended. When church was over, she stood and turned to look straight at Lucas, who was blocking her way from getting out of the pew. Then after one long look, she lifted her head. Lucas felt the sting of that look as he gulped and moved aside so she could brush past him. Boy, she WAS mad!
As Lucas walked out of the church, he started toward Margaret, but stopped when he heard Margaret declare to his family that she would walk. He didn’t miss the glance in his direction as she stated, “I could use the exercise.”
“But it’s a long way!” Lucas tried to argue with her.
Margaret walked down the road angrily. Her arms were crossed and her shoulders straight as she boiled with anger against him. Her feet practically stomped, reminding him of a child who was just told to go to his room. “Honey, would you stop and listen?” Lucas begged as he hurried up behind her, but she walked on as if she never heard him. “Alright, I’m stupid! I’m a fool! I was WRONG!” Margaret walked on. “What do you want me to say???” He suddenly shot out angrily.
He knew getting angry at Margaret wouldn’t help his case any. So he quickened his steps to stay beside her as she continued walking down the road. Finally, he had quite enough of her angry marching and reached out and grabbed her arm. “Stop!” He shouted. She turned and glared at him. “I’m sorry…I didn’t mean to yell.” He sighed. “Don’t I even get a trial before my sentence is passed?”
“Mr. McCain, the McCain’s have been so kind as to invite me over for lunch. After lunch, I will listen to what you have to say.” Margaret’s tongue clicked as she spoke the words in a cool, controlled voice.
“You’re going to walk all the way to Peter’s house?” Margaret didn’t answer him, but turned and started walking. “Alright…Margaret, I don’t like you’re walking this far…Please…Please let me ask Peter to stop and let you ride with him. I’ll walk.”
Margaret stopped and turned to him. “Very well.” Lucas turned and waited for Peter to drive up. He held up his hand for him to stop the wagon, then Margaret climbed in the back of the wagon and lovingly picked up Ruthie, setting her snuggly in her lap. She looked at Lucas. “You may take the next wagon.”
Boy, Abe wasn’t kidding when he said she was upset with him. She was boiling mad, and he wondered which she was more upset about – his drinking in the saloon, or his being thrown in jail. He didn’t reckon he would ask her that question, because he probably wouldn’t like the answer.
He ended up riding in Jeremiah’s wagon as Abby, their two year old daughter, chatted off words that Lucas could hardly understand. When he got to the farm, he waited outside with the other men while the women finished getting lunch ready. But they didn’t mention his infractions from earlier. Perhaps they planned to wait until Margaret had her turn at him to see if there was anything else for them to chew.
After Jeremiah delivered the Sunday prayer, Lucas ate as an uncomfortable silence sat around the table. Finally, he cleared his throat. “I suppose I owe an explanation…” Nobody even looked up at him. “Now look…I know I’ve done some stupid stuff in the past but I have a good reason this time!”
  Some of the children talked among themselves, but the adults remained silent as Lucas cleared his throat to speak. “Luke…” Abe said without looking at him. “Of course I want to hear your explanation, but not in mixed company.”  Abe looked toward the children, giving Lucas a very firm warning that he didn’t want the children to know of their current family problem. Lucas nodded his head and went back to quietly eating.
After lunch, Lucas stood and wiped his mouth off. He had had quite enough of this silent treatment and aimed to put a stop to it. “Margaret, I’ll take that walk now,” he said gruffly as he held out his hand to help her from the chair. Margaret nodded as she accepted his hand and stood from the chair. Then she snapped her hand away and walked toward the door. Lucas grabbed his hat and…He looked at the rifle he had just lifted from the hook. Slowly, he put it back on its hooks and walked out the door.
They walked in silence for awhile. When they made it to the creek, Lucas offered for Margaret to sit, but she just stood by the tree with her back to him. Lucas took off his hat and held it in his hand. “May I explain?” Margaret nodded. “I was in town getting supplies yesterday when I saw an old buddy from the war. Then he told me two other of our war companions were down the street at the saloon.”
“And naturally, you just had to go.” Margaret said her words coldly.
“Yes.” Lucas slapped his hat against his thigh and rolled his eyes. “My life is here now, Margaret. I love you and my family. I want to build my life with you by my side but…Honey, I can’t just erase the past from my head.” Lucas lifted an eyebrow after getting no response from her. “You remember Ned Majors?”
Slowly, Margaret turned around and looked at Lucas. “What’s he got to do with this?”
“He joined my regiment when I did. Ned…he never made it too far up the ranks, but he was a sweet, caring man. He’d give you the shirt off his back if you needed it and you know that.” Lucas lowered his head. “Well, all that’s left of him now is a cold, bitter, broken down old man. He drowns his sorrows in whisky. I made the mistake of trying to talk to him and…and he didn’t want to talk so he punched me.”
Lucas paused. Margaret nodded. “Go on.”
“Well now…I’m a man, Margaret. I can’t just stand by and let a man punch the cr…uh…the living daylights out of me! I have to fight back, and I did. The Marshal walked in and caught us and threw us both in jail. And that’s the gospel truth, Margaret!”
“I see.” Margaret narrowed her eyes a bit as she looked at Lucas. “So…you didn’t have anything to drink?”
Lucas immediately lowered his head. “Well, I…I had a few whiskies.”
“I see.”
Lucas again slapped his hat on his knee. “Now wait just a dog gone minute, Margaret Gibbs!” Lucas said a bit louder than intended. He closed his eyes and took a sigh. “I’m a man, and nothing you ever do is going to change that fact! If you wanted a perfect man, then why you stuck on me? I’m as imperfect as a man can get! And if you want me to stand here and tell you I’ll never mess up like this again, I can’t do it! If a man wants to have a few drinks with his friends, I think he’s entitled to those…just like a woman wants to get with her girlfriends and have tea…”
A small smiled played on the corner of her lips. “Lucas McCain…You can hardly compare tea with…with spirits!” Her eyes gave her away as they sparkled at him. She knew he was right. She had taken him back for who he was and had no right to force him to change.
“No…I reckon not.” Lucas chuckled.
Margaret shook her head. “Oh Lucas…What am I going to do with you?” Her smile grew. “I love you just the way you are, I reckon. But I do hope someday you can calm down just a little…”
“With you around…I don’t think I’ll have a choice.” Margaret’s eyes laughed as they stared into his. “So…do I have your forgiveness?” He asked as he took a step toward her. “Can I have a little kiss?”
Margaret stepped away from Lucas just a bit and turned away. Lucas enjoyed her playing hard to get. It made him love her even more. “Well ma’am…if it helps my case any…” Lucas put his hands on her shoulders and lowered his head close to her ear. “I’m planning on talking to…to Johnny Morgan tomorrow about a very important matter.”
“Oh?” Margaret asked as she turned her head sideways. His lips were so close to her cheek that she felt his hot breath against it. “What matter would that be?”
“Well…” Lucas scratched his head, the rested his hand back on her shoulder. His voice grew rather husky as he spoke his answer. “Well now, Margaret…You see, there’s this piece of land I want to buy for my…OUR…home and my…OUR ranch. I’m hoping to purchase it tomorrow.”
Margaret turned around to look into his eyes. Lucas never removed his hands from her shoulders, so they were now in an embrace. She lifted her face toward his and saw the twinkling in his eyes. “You’re really…really going to talk to him tomorrow?” There was excitement in her voice.
Lucas nodded. “I really am.”
“You mean…it’s really going to happen?” Margaret’s eyes moistened as she asked the question. “You’re really going to…to buy our ranch?”
“Well…the land, anyhow. I’ll still have a house to build and a barn and…and cattle to buy, but…” Lucas nodded. “As soon as the house is built, I’ll…” Margaret smiled into his face. “So do you reckon that you can forgive an imperfect man such as myself?” Lucas brushed her cheek with his lips as he smiled into her face. “Ya reckon you can overlook my…my drinking once in a while…and my temper and…the fact I have a record?”
“Well…” Margaret lifted her hand to his shirt and toyed with the top button. “I suppose I could…But I would appreciate it if you stuck with the softer drinks instead of that hard stuff…”
“Like beer?”
“Actually, I was thinking more along the lines of uh…tea.” Margaret grinned. Her lips were only an inch away from his now.
“TEA?” Lucas groaned. “I’ll make a compromise with you, darling. I’ll choose beer over whisky when I can…I ain’t making any promises, mind you…as long as you don’t make me drink…TEA!”
Margaret laughed as she slowly drew her arms around his neck and locked her hands behind his head. “It’s a deal, Lucas McCain.” She drew his face down to hers and gave him a long, slow kiss. After their lips finally parted, she raised her eyebrows and said..”So, when you talk to Mr. Morgan tomorrow…are you going to try and ask him to take fifty dollars off the price?”
“Fifty dollars?” Lucas asked.
Margaret nodded. “That was your bail money…right?”
“Oh you!” Lucas chuckled as he kissed her again. This time after they parted, Lucas rubbed his thumbs along her cheeks as he looked deeply into her eyes. “You know…one thing about sure is fun to make up!” Margaret blushed. Lucas laughed as he drew her against him and gave her a big hug. “And I’m glad you’ve chosen to accept me…and all my imperfections, darling.”
Nothing more was said as the two turned and looked out over the creek as they discussed their hopes and dreams for the future.
It was late afternoon before Lucas and Margaret returned to the McCain farm hand-in-and. Actually, they were more like arm-in-arm as they stood close together and walked into the yard. “Well…” Peter muttered with a grin on his face. “I’m guessing that they kissed and made up!” Of course, this went without saying since the look the couple was given the other was answer enough.
Abe pushed himself off the corral fence and moseyed over to the couple. “I take it all is better?” Abe asked as he cocked his head to one side. The happy couple didn’t answer as Lucas forced his hand out of Margaret’s. “Luke, why don’t you let Peter take Margaret home now? I think we need to have a talk…brother-to-brother.”
“Abe, now…I’m too old to be lectured. Margaret and I talked about it and…”
Abe held up his hand. “Please, Luke. I think we need to talk.”
Luke turned and took Margaret’s hand. “I’ll see you later.” Margaret nodded, then she turned and walked to the wagon with Peter. Lucas stood and watched her leave. Finally, Abe cleared his throat. The two brothers slowly walked toward the corral fence.
“Things…uh…are getting pretty serious between the two of you,” Abe observed quietly.
Lucas smiled. “Yes. I suppose they are.”
“You…thinking on popping the question?”
“Soon, I hope,” Lucas answered.
“Luke…you remember when you were about thirteen or so and you started asking questions about…uh…you know…stuff?” Lucas slowly turned his head around to look at his brother. Abe cleared his throat. “You started asking about the opposite sex.”
“Yes.” Lucas nodded as he raised an eyebrow, wondering where this was going.
“And Pa told me and Peter to handle the questions?” Lucas nodded again. “Well uh…we may not have told you everything you needed to know.”
“Abe…” Lucas held up his hand. “I think I know how it all works now. I’m not exactly sheltered anymore.”
Abe held up his hand. “Luke, a woman is special and she deserves the utmost respect. You need to…”
“Abe, I don’t need to hear this!” Lucas declared.
“You’re going to hear it, so please stay quiet!” Abe cleared his throat again. “If Pa were here, I’m sure he’d be doing the very same thing. Now…it’s important to respect any woman. But Margaret…well, you need to respect her. Once you are married, you’ll have your whole lives to spend together as one. On your wedding night, you will give yourself to each other and it will be special. But until you stand in front of a preacher and say ‘I Do,’ it’s best to uh…reserve most of the physical expressions of love until then.”
“Are you saying I can’t kiss her?” Lucas asked suddenly.
“Of course not, Luke. But…I’m just saying that it may be best to…well, to…restrain yourself from getting too physical.”
“You mean…” Lucas sighed. “No rolling around in the hay with her?” Abe heard the familiar sarcasm in Lucas’ voice.
“Something like that.”
Lucas smiled. “Abe, I assure you that I have every intention to make sure I show her respect. I won’t do anything to…dishonor her.”
“I know.” Abe sighed. “I reckon I just remember back to when Julie and I were courting. You have so many different emotions and…I’ve never seen two people more in love, Luke. You and Margaret have something special and it goes well beyond the physical expression of love. But…” Lucas leaned over the corral, suddenly feeling very uncomfortable. “But…I reckon that I’ve watched you two together and I see that look on your face. I see you steal kisses and keep your arm tightly around her.” Lucas lifted from the corral and started to argue, but Abe quickly held up a hand. “It’s normal…the feelings you are feeling, but take it from someone who knows…it’s easy to get carried away.” Lucas lifted an eyebrow. “That’s all I’m going to say.” Abe was glad his beard and the darkness hid most of his reddening.
“Well…I’ll admit that at times it’s hard to release her, but…” Lucas shook his head. “I could never…never…” He stopped as he felt the heat in his own face.
“And about your wedding night…” Abe cleared his throat, feeling uncomfortable again. “Luke, the wedding gift Margaret has for you comes in the bedroom that first night. You must be gentle and patient. Don’t expect too much…”
“Why are you telling me this?” Lucas suddenly asked. “Why are we having this conversation tonight? I haven’t even asked her to marry me yet!”
“Well…I reckon because I see just how serious you two are getting, and that you’re spending a lot more time together…alone.” Abe raised an eyebrow at him. “I just…just don’t want to see either of you get hurt. And I didn’t handle the talk too well when you were thirteen. We explained the mechanics of sex to you, but we didn’t explain the truths like we should have. Just remember that a woman’s body is off limits…from the neck down…until you are properly married.” Abe grinned. “That’s as bluntly as I’m going to put it.”
“Oh…” Lucas blushed as he turned away from Abe. He suddenly wondered if maybe he had been inappropriate toward her. “I understand.” Lucas smiled, assuring himself he had been a gentleman…At least, Margaret hadn’t complained, and he was pretty sure she would if he got out of line. “Thanks.”
“Sure.” Abe smiled. “Okay, now that THAT’S over with…and consider that discussion permanently shelved…no last minute sex talks with you the night before the wedding!”  
“Well, I guess its good practice for you Abe. You have four sons you’ll have to have this talk with.” Lucas winked. “Unless you would like me to talk with them.”
“Uh…no…I think I’ll handle that myself!” Abe cleared his throat. “I have something else to discuss with you.”
Lucas took a cigar from his pocket and lit it as he slid down to sit on the ground. He leaned against the corral fence and waited for Abe to speak. “Have you done any more thinking on uh…the land?”
Lucas raised an eyebrow. “I told you as soon as the crops are planted I was going to look into it.”
“I know. They’ll be done next week.”
Lucas nodded. “I plan on going to see Johnny Morgan first thing in the morning.”
“Then you’ll need your inheritance,” Abe declared.
“My inheritance…” Lucas laughed. “What inheritance?”
“We may not be well off, Luke…but there’s some money…Pa wanted the land split among the four of us. Peter got his share, I got mine…and Jeremiah got his. Your share was divided up among the three of us and we’re all putting in the money that land would cost. Plus the money in Pa’s saving’s... It’ll be enough to help you get the ranch started.”
“I’ll take the money for the land, but the money in Pa’s savings…It belongs to the farm.”
“No, Luke. We all discussed it. We want you to have the money. We want to see your dream come true.”
“I have enough money saved up to buy the land. That’s all I’ll need tomorrow.” Lucas took a long puff from his cigar. “As a matter of fact, I’m surprised the land’s still for sale.”
“If you want the truth, Luke…I think Morgan’s been holding out for you. He sort of wants you to take that land off of him.” Lucas gave Abe a surprised look. “His father wanted you to have the land so badly. He refused to sell it to anyone else, stating he wanted to sell it to you. Then after he died and Johnny took over the selling…he knew what his father’s wishes were and hoped you would come back to claim the land.”
Lucas smiled. “I can’t believe everyone waited for me…through the year…through this last year. You all believed I’d be back.” Abe smiled and shrugged. “I hope to have that land tomorrow.”
“Another thing, Luke…I don’t think getting in drunken fights and getting thrown in jail is showing Margaret and Scott you are ready for marriage.”
Lucas grinned. “I know what you mean. Margaret was pretty upset but…it was all innocent.” Lucas proceeded to tell Abe about Ned Majors. The two men slowly stood and continued talking. Lucas felt a bond growing between him and his oldest brother that night. Finally, Laura interrupted their conversation with a message from Julie for Abe to get home on the double.
Lucas grinned as Laura started declaring the four boys were out of control and needed his firm hand. Laura also declared that she KNEW Abe would deliver it because she’d felt it more than she ever wanted to. Lucas laughed as he watched the two walk toward Abe’s home. He loved the fact that Laura considered Abe her father now.
Lucas turned and walked toward the barn. He had a big day tomorrow!

Drip Drip Lucas woke Monday morning to feel wet drops fall on his nose. He opened his eyes and looked up at the ceiling of the barn. Drops of rain dropped from the ceiling. “Oh no!” Lucas grumbled as he pulled the blanket over his head. He could hear the rain pouring outside. Lucas peaked out from under the blanket and again peered up at the ceiling. He groaned again as large drops of rain plopped on his head. Then he rolled out of bed.
After dressing, he made his way to the house. Peter had offered to let him have his old bedroom back, but Lucas declined stating Peter and Tiffany deserved their privacy. Besides, he was planning on building a shack on the land as soon as he purchased it. “Mornin’,” Lucas grumbled as he took down a coffee cup and filled it with coffee.
“What happened to you?” Peter asked as he looked his brother up and down.
“Barn’s leaking,” Lucas grumbled. He turned and lifted an eyebrow at Peter. “Not exactly my favorite way to wake up.”
“Oh yeah…I’ve been meaning to fix that.” Peter shook his head in mock sorrow for Lucas’ suffering.
“Yeah…” Lucas grumbled as he sat down at the table and picked up the newspaper. But he was too nervous to even focus on the words. He stood up and grabbed his coffee cup as he went over to the window. “Cursed rain…” Lucas mumbled.
“Hey, don’t knock it! It’s an excuse not to plant today!” Peter declared.
Tiffany turned and looked at her husband. “And this is coming from the man who woke up two hours ago declaring the rain’s the worst thing that can happen during planting season!” She shook her head.
“Papa, up!” Ruthie suddenly cried. Peter lifted her up and walked over to stand behind Lucas.
“What’s so important for you to curse the rain? Heard you were blowing us off today.”
Lucas nodded. “I am. Going into town for business.” He shook his head. “I just wish I didn’t have to go in the rain. I’ll have to use the buggy.”
“What sort of business?” Peter asked.
“I’m going to go see Johnny Morgan.”
“Gee…” Peter sat his daughter in the highchair. She started screaming at the top of her lungs because she didn’t want to sit in it. Peter lifted her up, gave her a firm slap on the backside, then sat her back in the high chair. Ruthie’s scream turned into a whimper. It was a firm reminder that her father wouldn’t take her screaming. Peter turned back to his brother. “You really must have gotten yourself in trouble Saturday afternoon!”
“Peter…” Lucas rolled his eyes at his brother. “I’m going in to talk to him about the land.”
“Oh? So you’re really going to do it?” Peter patted his brother’s shoulder. “Good for you.” He took the cup of coffee Tiffany offered to him. After taking a sip of it, he asked, “So, did you ask Margaret to marry you?”
“Peter!” Tiffany exclaimed from the stove.
“No,” Lucas answered shortly.
“Oh…you can always just go to the Justice of the Peace…”
“No he cannot, Peter McCain!” Tiffany declared as she turned and shook the spatula at him. “And you should know that after all the trouble you got in over that!”
“I’m not eloping with her. I’m going to make sure she has the…” Lucas stopped. “And I’m NOT talking about this with you!”
The family sat down to eat breakfast. When breakfast was over, Lucas hurried into the back bedroom and grabbed a string tie. He tried several times to tie it straight, then allowed Tiffany to straighten it while he put his jacket on. Peter had the buggy hitched up for him when he got out into the yard. As Tiffany held Baby Willie and Peter held Ruthie, they watched him leave the yard, waving as if he were going off to war.
The rain had slacked by the time Lucas got into town. He whistled as he made his way to the small office Johnny Morgan had sat up practice in. Lucas tied the buggy to the hitching post, took off his hat, then slowly made his way inside. “Be with you in a minute!” Lucas heard from the back. He started pacing back and forth as he waited nervously.
Johnny exited his office. A slow, easy smile came across his face when he saw Lucas. “Luke!” He shook his hand. “I was wondering when you’d get around to coming to see me! Come in!” Johnny went to pour himself a drink. “Would you like something?”
“Oh no…I think I had enough spirits for one week. I…ended up in jail Saturday night because of that stuff.” Lucas chuckled. “But I’d take jail over an angry woman any day!”
“I understand.” Johnny sat down and pulled out a cigar. After lighting it, then lighting one for Lucas, he asked, “So…what can I do for you?”
“I think you know.”
Johnny nodded. “I’ve been holding out for you. Pa wanted you to have that section ever since you were eighteen. He said you had such a look in your eye when you looked at it that he thought you’d choose it over a beautiful woman.”
Lucas chuckled. “Oh no I wouldn’t! I’ll take Margaret over the land any day.” Then he sobered. “I was sorry to hear about your father. He was a good man.”
Johnny suddenly grew uncomfortable.  He toyed with his cigar as he stood and walked over to the window. “Yes. Well…the stroke he had three years ago really did him in. It was just a matter of time.” He turned from the window. “I know I’ve had the price high, but I’ve been holding out for you. Pa wanted you to have that land more than anything.”
Lucas cocked his head to one side. “I’m actually surprised you sold it all. I thought maybe you’d want to save that last section for a house of your own.”
“Pa was always sorry he didn’t have another son. I never had any interest in ranching and he knew it.”
“He didn’t hold it against you. He was really proud,” Lucas stated.
“Oh yes he was.” Johnny nodded. “Five hundred dollars.”
“What?” Lucas suddenly asked as he stood from the chair.
Johnny turned. “I’ll sell it to you for $500. Take it or leave it.”
“Five…” Lucas swallowed hard. “Are you…sure?”
Johnny turned and smiled at Lucas. “I’m sure.”
Lucas dug in his pocket as his heart swelled. He counted out five hundred dollars and slapped it on the desk. “SOLD!” Lucas declared with a heavy emotion in his voice.
Johnny slowly walked back over to the desk and picked up the money. “You…always carry five hundred dollars cash around with you?”
“Don’t trust banks,” Lucas answered. “Too many being robbed right now.” Lucas turned away. He felt his eyes moisten. His voice was heavy with emotion. “Got the papers?”
He heard Johnny open a drawer and take out some papers. Lucas wiped the tear that was on his cheek and turned around. Johnny held out the pen to him. Lucas came to the desk and slowly read over the paper. “4200 acres! 4200 acres, and it’s all mine…” Lucas swallowed the lump in his throat. His hand shook a bit as he slowly signed his name. He watched as Johnny signed his name to the paper then stood up straight. “Done.”
“So…that’s it?” Lucas asked. “The land’s…” He swallowed. “It’s mine? Just like that?”
“Just like that.” Johnny held out his hand to Lucas. Lucas shook it firmly as he smiled. “I’ll have your copy of the deed drawn up next week. I’ll bring it to you.”
Lucas suddenly wanted to jump up and down like a kid who got his first rifle at Christmas, but he held himself in check and nodded like a man would do. He thanked Johnny again then left the office. “Lucas!” Lucas turned to see Emily. She hurried up and hugged him. “You’re in town awful early!”
“I’m on my way to see Margaret.” Lucas looked up at the sky and saw that the clouds had left. Blue sky stood above them. The sun had entered the blanket of blue and was quickly drying up the rain. “I’ve something important to discuss with her.” He took off his jacket and laid it under the seat. Then he untied his tie. “But first…I’ve an errand to run!”
Emily folded her arms and watched her brother go over to the dress shop. She shook her head in wonder. A week ago when he went to buy Margaret a dress for the dance she had to practically drag him in there kicking and screaming. But today he was practically skipping into the shop.
Lucas hurried inside. “Show me the purtiest thing you have…but practical…Something she can ride in and not have too much trouble.” Lucas declared. “I want her to be the talk of the town!”
Betty, the dressmaker, stood up and smiled. “Special occasion, Luke?”
“You could say that!” Lucas declared with a nod of his head. Betty held up a blue dress with white lace around the edge. “It would look wonderful with a pinafore. She held up a pinafore with green flower print on it. “I think this would look beautiful on her.”
“I’ll take it! Wrap it up, will ya?” Lucas scribbled out a note to put with the dress. He smiled, wishing he could see the look on her face when she opened it. But no…he would come later for her.
Margaret blew hair out of her face and stood from the floor she had been scrubbing when a knock sounded at the door. Today was her floor scrubbing day and she still had a lot of work to do. All the other women were off doing their own chores outside. Margaret hurried across the room and wiped her hands on her apron while she opened the door. “Yes?”
She saw Richard, son of the dress maker standing on her doorstep. “Miss Gibbs, Ma asked me to get this to ya right away!” He held out a package, then turned and hurried away. She shook her head at his bashfulness then closed the door. After setting the box on the table, Margaret unwrapped the paper and opened the lid. A gasp escaped her. She picked up the note and read the words.
Put this on and be ready in an hour. I’ll be by for you then.
The back door opened and closed. Amanda stepped into the living room and saw Margaret standing over the package with the note in her hand. Her other hand was at her mouth. “Margaret, what’s that?”
Margaret slowly turned around. “It’s from Luke. He wants me to put this dress on and be ready in an hour. What’s it all about?”
Amanda turned and looked at her husband. “I don’t know but…” She folded her arms as she directed her question as Scott. “How is it that YOU never did romantic thing like this when we were courting?”
Scott suddenly looked uncomfortable. “Dumb kid…He makes the rest of us men look bad!” Then he straightened up and put an arm around Amanda’s shoulders. “Well…I was just making sure you saw the real side of me. This…” He shot a hand toward the dress. “This isn’t the real Lucas.” He shook a finger at his sister. “His showering you with attention isn’t going to last once you’re married!”
“Oh, posh!” Amanda exclaimed. “You just go right in there and put that dress on!”
“Oh, but I have the floor!” Margaret argued.
“You just forget the floor! I’ll tend to it.” Amanda turned and saw her husband’s narrowed eyes. “And don’t you start! Once Luke and Margaret are married, I’ll have to clean the floor anyhow. Certainly can’t depend on that little sister of yours to do the work!”
“I don’t know that I like the idea of Margaret and Luke spending so much time together! I…”
“Now Scott Gibbs, you’re just jealous because Lucas has romantic notions and you don’t! You watch your tongue or I’ll put you to work scrubbing this floor!”
“Oh no ma’am!” Scott declared as he bent down and kissed her. “I’ve cattle to rear. At least they don’t make me look bad!” Scott put on his hat and hurried out the door.
The knock sounded on the door. Amanda hurried forward to answer it. Lucas stood in the doorway with his hat in his hand and a wide smile on his face. When Amanda appeared, he lost part of his smile. So much for sweeping Margaret off her feet as soon as she opened the door! “Come on in!” Amanda invited him as she swept her hand inside.
“Oh, uh…No…” Lucas licked his lips. “I just came for Margaret.” Amanda called for Margaret. Lucas heard a door open and close. Margaret appeared beside Amanda, causing Lucas’ grin to return to his face. “Hello there…” Lucas spoke in a husky voice. The smile on his face told Margaret he was definitely approving of the dress she was wearing. “Ya ready?”
“Where are we going?” Margaret asked as she blushed at the loving look in Lucas’ eye.
“Oh, uh…” Lucas licked his lips again. “We’re going…going to…for a ride, I mean.”
Margaret looked outside the door and saw the reason for such a casual, full dress. They were going to go on a horseback ride. Margaret smiled when she saw the bay mare that had belonged to her brother tied next to his. She hadn’t gone riding with Lucas in a long time and she was so looking forward to it. Margaret grabbed her riding hat and fastened it on in the mirror. Then she accepted Lucas’ hand and stepped outside.
Lucas helped her up onto her horse then mounted his own. “Where to, Mr. McCain?” Margaret asked.
Lucas grinned. “Follow me!”
They rode for quite awhile. At first, Margaret thought they were going into town, but Lucas turned on the other fork of the road – the one that would take them around the town of Enid. The further they went out of town, the more her heart began beating. Could they possibly be going to visit Ann? Lucas stopped just a mile from the Dodd ranch and turned in his saddle. He winked at Margaret then declared, “I bet I can beat ya!”
“I bet you can’t!” Margaret declared as she bent down way low in the saddle.
“Ready?” Lucas asked with a chuckle.
“I’m ready!” Margaret shouted. Lucas took off without saying go. “Hey!” Margaret cried.
She had been racing Andy’s horse ever since he left for war with the others. After he died, she worked even harder at racing him. Meanwhile, Lucas’ horse had gotten hardly any riding in and had become pretty lazy. This made passing Bullet a snap. Margaret raced past him and rejoiced as Lightening Bolt came to a stop several paces before Lucas.
Margaret laughed as she took off her hat and shook her hair free. “Beat ya! Serves ya right for cheating!”
“I didn’t cheat!” Lucas narrowed his eyes at her. Then he bent toward her and put a hand on her cheek. “I let you win.” Lucas took Lightening Bolt’s lead rope and led both horses onto the land across from the Dodd Ranch. Then Lucas jumped off his horse and put his hands to Margaret’s waste as he helped her down.
“Lucas, what are we doing here?” she suddenly asked.
“Oh Baby…” Lucas put his hands to her face and stared lovingly into her eyes. “I could hardly wait to tell you!”
“Tell me what?” Margaret asked suddenly. She thought she knew, but her heart wouldn’t allow her to believe it.
Lucas grabbed her hand. “Follow me!”
“What about the horses?” Margaret asked.
“Let them graze! Come on!” Lucas hurried ahead, pulling Margaret behind him. She had no choice but to follow him all the way on top of the hill. “I wanted to show it to ya. I wanted you to see it!”
“Lucas, we’ve been here before!” Margaret declared as her heart started beating fast. She could hardly breathe, hoping what she thought was true was really true.
“But this time it’s different!” Lucas stopped at the top of the hill then turned and grabbed her hands. He squeezed them tight as his eyes clouded. “Honey…This…This is our land!”
Though she had hoped to hear it, the breath caught in her throat when he actually said the words. “Our land?” Margaret asked in a shaky voice.
“Yes, honey. It’s ours…” Lucas swallowed hard. “All 4200 acres of this is OUR land, Margaret!”
“Our land?” Margaret’s eyes filled with tears. “Our land?” She jumped into his arms and threw her arms around his neck. Lucas swung her around as they started laughing. “Oh Lucas!”
Finally, Lucas sat her back on the ground, but his arms stayed around her. “Oh Darling…We’re going to…” Lucas put a hand to her wet cheek. “We’re going to build ourselves a house here! And raise our children here!”
“Oh Lucas…I…I love you!” She kissed him on the lips. “I love you….I love you…I love you…” She said those words a dozen times, and each time she gave him a quick kiss. Finally, Lucas kept his arms firmly around her and pressed his lips to hers. He was speechless. He could hardly get the words to leave his throat, so instead of saying the words, he said them with a kiss that left no doubt in Margaret’s mind.
Lucas released her and hurried to show her what his plans were. “Right here…Here’s going to be the kitchen! And here…here’s where the living room will be!” Lucas ran from place to place to show her. “A parlor right here! And right here…” Lucas grinned really big. “Our bedroom.”
Margaret blushed. “No Lucas…” she said softly.
“Oh Lucas…I don’t need a parlor and a living room! I want it simple! Let’s just make a simple house with a main room and a small kitchen attached to it…Then a couple bedrooms.” Margaret took Lucas’ hand and led him forward a bit. “Right here can be a porch where we can sit and look at the stars.”
“I love it!” Lucas kissed her. Then he pressed his hands to her face. “Oh…but honey…I want…I want you to have what you’re accustomed to!”
“No!” Margaret shook her head. “I don’t want a fancy house! I don’t want a parlor where children aren’t allowed and I have to polish and dust…I just want a simple home…A home as simple as they come! That’s all I want!”
“If you’re sure…” Lucas nodded.
“Oh, I am, Lucas! I really am!”
Lucas grabbed her hand and ran further away. “Here…here’s going to be our barn! And here will be a shed…And over here a smokehouse…And there I’ll make a corral and…”
Margaret laughed. “Oh Luke…How long? How long will it take?”
“I don’t know!” Lucas shook his head. “But I’m going to build you a home, Margaret. I’m going to build it with…” Lucas held up his hands. “With these two hands. I’m going to put all the love into it I can! And then…when the time comes…” Lucas dropped to his knee and took her hand. “I’ll go to your brother and ask him for your hand in marriage.” He kissed her hand then stood up. “And then I’ll ask you that very important question…” Lucas pressed his hands to her cheeks and kissed her long and passionately.
A throat cleared.
Lucas and Margaret jumped apart and spun around. They saw Anne and Hal standing there. Ann had a big grin on her face as Hal chuckled softly. “We heard you two all the way up at the house!” Hal declared. “Did you finally ask her?”
“Not yet…” Lucas smiled. “But we do have an announcement.” Lucas put an arm around Margaret’s shoulders as she tried to force the red from her face. “I bought the land this morning.”
Ann threw her hands to her mouth and hurried forward to hug her best friend. Lucas and Hal shook hands. “Congratulations, Luke!” Hal declared.
“You two will come for supper!” Ann declared. She grabbed Margaret. “You can help me while these two men discuss things!” Margaret turned and looked at Lucas. “Oh…I’m sorry…Maybe you two aren’t through uh…celebrating yet.”
Lucas felt his own face growing warm as he realized their display of affection wasn’t missed by this happily married couple. “Uh…no. I think we’re done…” He started to add for now, but was afraid of turning even redder, so he allowed that to drop.
Hal handed Lucas a cigar as they watched the ladies go. “That’s a fine woman, Luke. What are you waiting for?”
Lucas chuckled. “I want her to have a home. And once I ask, I don’t want a long engagement!”
Hal played with the cigar in his mouth then lifted an eyebrow. “Don’t wait too long, Luke. While she’s making wedding plans, you can be working on your house.”
“I want to get a barn up. And I want to make a small shack to live in. That way I don’t have to ride all the way out here every day.” Lucas smiled. “I can stay at Peter’s and help with the crops a couple days a week…Then I can stay out here at the shack the rest of the time.”
“When are you going to start?”
“The planting will be done this week. I say next Monday I’ll start on the shack and barn.”
Hal smiled. “I’ll help you.”
“No…no!” Lucas declared. “I’m going to do it! I’m going to do it all!”
Margaret couldn’t stop smiling! She helped Ann prepare supper that evening as Lucas and Hal walked around the ranch talking and planning. As they ate, she and Lucas continued exchanging knowing looks, and under the table Lucas reached for her hand and gave it a squeeze. Margaret felt her heart swell.
She had wanted to marry Lucas since she was eight years old. Today, they had finally taken a big step that made her really feel that the day was close. It’s really going to happen! She thought this to herself as the others gabbed. But Margaret didn’t hear a thing that was said because her thought were swirling. She tried to imagine the horses and the pigs behind the barn. She thought about the chickens. The chickens! Lucas had forgotten all about building her a chicken coop! Well, she’d just have to see that he did that very thing. And she, of course, would request a piece of land on the side of the house be set aside and fenced in for her vegetable garden she would be in charge of planting. Oh, and of course there would have to be plenty of room for flowers around the house! She imagined marigolds and pansies…Roses and wild flowers…
“Margaret!” Margaret suddenly turned and looked at Lucas. “I said we need to get you home.”
She stood and nodded her head, but the thoughts plagued her mind to the point that it blocked out the words Ann was saying. She could hardly believe that she now had her land with Lucas! This land…this was something they would share together! Oh, on paper the land belonged to Lucas; but her heart was now here – and it would always be. Someday soon she would tell Lucas that. Someday soon, they would be joined together as husband and wife and she would whisper all her heart’s sweet words in his ear.
As the rode back, Margaret was quiet. She continued to think on the future. She imagined the house built and her pouring Lucas coffee every morning. She imagined the fresh milk and eggs she would use every morning to fix him breakfast. She imagined Lucas coming in from the morning chores and walking up behind her to press a soft kiss in her hair. She even imagined her kneeling in her vegetable garden while Lucas worked in the corral grooming a horse. She’d look up and smile at him and he would smile at her.
Her thoughts turned to the future when there would be sounds of laughter in the yard while the children played. A dog would bark, begging for mercy as the children tugged on his tail and tried to ride him. Perhaps in the evening, Lucas would play with the children, laying down on the ground and allowing them to fall on top of him. His chuckles would mix with the laughter of their children.
“Margaret!” Again, Lucas dared to interrupt her thoughts. Margaret turned to look at him. A big smile captured her face. “What are you thinking about?”
Margaret blushed, suddenly feeling bashful about admitting she was thinking about their children. Somehow that seemed so intimate! Instead, she shrugged and said, “Woman stuff, Luke.”
They rode into the Gibbs yard. Lucas helped her from the saddle as Scott came out and took the reins to her horse. His eyebrows popped up as he looked Lucas up and down suspiciously. Margaret wasted no time, however. She hurried up to Scott and hugged him. “Oh Scott, it’s just wonderful! Wonderful!” Margaret declared, her eyes once again shining with tears.
“Margaret!” Lucas’ voice sounded a bit sharper then he meant. Margaret turned and looked at him. “Uh…you go on inside now. I’ll talk to Scott.”
Margaret nodded then hurried inside. “What did you do?” Scott grunted as he led the horse toward the barn. “Ask her to marry you?”
“We have an agreement,” Lucas declared. “I intend to stick to it. Soon I’ll…be coming to you though.”
“Then why is my sister glowing?” Scott asked.
“I bought the land today.” Scott paused as he turned and looked at Lucas. He was a bit shocked at the news. “Well, you knew I was going to try!”
“Wow…” Scott started walking again. “So…this time it’s really going to happen.” He said it as if Lucas was going to die. “You’re really here for good.”
“I’m really here for good,” Lucas declared. “And I’m going to marry her!” Lucas was quite surprised when he saw the smile of approval on Scott’s face.
His family was very happy to hear the news. They knew this was something Lucas had always wanted. Lucas assured his brothers he would help with the crops throughout the summer, but all three brothers assured him they could handle things. Abe and Peter had discussed hiring a couple men when the time of watering in the summer and harvesting in the fall came. They didn’t want Lucas feeling obligated to work the land. It was time he got to his own plans.
Lucas felt a bit of a letdown, feeling  he was no longer needed. But Julie herself came up to him and kissed his cheek. She assured him that he was still needed in the family, but her husband was right. He was about to begin his own life. Ranching was hard work…about as hard as farming…and so was marrying a woman like Margaret. Julie assured Lucas that was the life he needed to concentrate on. He’d always be a McCain, but he was now a rancher.
So when Lucas put the tools in Peter’s barn that Friday afternoon, he couldn’t help but to be a little sad.  He had planted the last of the wheat and tomorrow he would go to town to buy supplies to begin building his barn and his shack he would call home for the next several months.
On Saturday, Lucas whistled as he stood in front of the mirror in the barn and slicked down his hair. He even put on a string tie and managed to get it straight for the first time! As he rode Bullet into town, Lucas sat high in the saddle, proud that something wonderful was about to happen.
Lucas smiled all morning as he want from store to store purchasing various tools and supplies he would need. With the money he had saved up from his years in the war and cattle drives, he had plenty of money to buy the supplies he would need. Abe assured him that although his inheritance wasn’t a large amount, it would be enough to cover his expenses in building his ranch as long as he thought smart. And Lucas planned to do just that!
He even managed to purchase a second hand wagon cheap from a man leaving town with his family. The man was going West and needed a bigger wagon to travel in. He was more than happy to sell it to Lucas. The man even gave him the team, which was well worth more than the price Lucas had to pay. He was really going to have himself a fine ranch!
After Lucas had all his supplies loaded in his new wagon, He hopped up on the seat and clucked to the horses. A tune escaped his whistling lips as he made his way…toward his ranch….
But disaster lurked close by. Lucas didn’t know it at the time. Today, he was on cloud nine but soon…very soon…something would happen that would take some of the joy from Lucas’ whistle. And it would test the love he and Margaret had.
But not today.

The Margaret Years — The Rifle

These stories are based on the TV series The Rifleman
Here are some other great stories. Enjoy!

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