"Welcome to the McCain Ranch"
'The Sharpshooter' aka 'The Shooting Match'
Hi, my name’s Lucas McCain. This is my ten year old boy, Mark. Welcome to the McCain Ranch. Mark and I came here to North Fork, New Mexico Territory from Oklahoma in 1881 to buy a ranch and to settle. My wife, Margaret passed away when Mark was six years old. Mark and I decided to come to this newly settled land.
Well, it all started one day when we rode upon a ranch for sale. It was known as the Dunlap Place. There were 4,100 acres for sale. We stopped just before entering the yard and I said, “Well, it’s new and mighty fine country, son.” Mark looked over his shoulder. I gave him a weak smile, knowing it was hard for a ten year old to leave everything he had behind to start all over. But, I gently reminded him that there was no looking back.
“I wasn’t really looking back,” he explained. “Just remembering back.”
It was then that I stopped for a moment and allowed him that moment to remember, but after only a moment, I said, “What do you say we start from here?”
I climbed down from my horse to go investigate the inside further while my son stayed on his and began chasing out stray cattle that were in the yard. When I asked him what he thought about the place, he told me he liked it. Then, I couldn’t resist. I picked up some hay and smelled it, closing my eyes to take in the sweet, familiar smell I missed so much. A smile came to my face because I knew we were home. “Well then, I guess we’ve come far enough!” I declared as we headed to North Fork.
We came to North Fork in hopes of talking to the judge about purchasing the land. When we arrived, we discovered there was a Turkey Shoot contest with the 1st prize being $500. I knew that would help us make the first payment on the ranch.
We checked into the California House. I asked the lady behind the desk how I would go about entering the Turkey Shoot. She referred me to Judge Hanavan. He looked down at my rifle and informed me that it was a draw and fire proposition with a five second time limit. "Your not gonna enter with a rifle?” he asked doubtfully. I told him I'd take a try at it. "Ten dollars entrance fee and five hundred dollars first prize," was all he said. I told him that Mark and I decided this part of the country was for us. We were discussing the Dunlap Ranch when Wes Tippert, the uncle of a young sharpshooter walked in.
He asked if I would be competing against his nephew and if anyone wanted to bet money on the pistol shoot. The Judge told him that I had just entered the contest. He told me he'd bet me that his boy could out shoot me or anyone else 5 to 3. I told him that I wasn’t a betting man, to which he replied, “a man that won't bet ain't much of a man." I turned back to look at him, my face suddenly cold and expressionless. I took a step forward, and he looked away suddenly a little afraid. "No offense," he said.
I told Mark to go ahead into the restaurant and order our supper for us. While he was ordering, Vernon, Wes's nephew came in and Mark invited him to join us for supper. They got to talking about how fast Vernon was and Mark told him how fast I was with my rifle. "No man with a rifle is as fast as a man with a six gun," said Vernon.
"My Pa is,” Mark declared proudly. “While we were living in the Nations, they used to call him 'The Rifleman'," said Mark.
Marshal Fred Tomlinson was sitting at the next table looking over the menu when he overheard Mark telling Vernon how fast I was. This caught the Marshal's attention. He didn't bother ordering, he was too eager to tell the Judge the news. This was just what they were waiting for. The Judge headed on over to the Last Chance Saloon to put his money on me.
While they went over to the motel, I came to join Mark and Vernon. I’m proud to say that my son was polite in introducing me to his newfound friend and we had an enjoyable supper together. Vernon informed me that Big Jim owned almost everything in North Fork and I told him that I had heard his name mentioned.
Big Jim Lewis was taking the bets. He still felt that Vernon was going to win the match.
I asked Vernon if he had ever competed in a shooting match before to which he stated, “Just don’t bet against me.” While we were eating, Vernon’s uncle rudely interrupted us and yelled at Vernon about running off the mouth with strangers. This offended me, because my son was no stranger. He was just an innocent child! So, I stated, “He was having lunch with my son.”
Big Jim and his men came over to the hotel to size me up. He told me I must have a pretty good reputation. He said that I’ve only been in town for half an hour and there was already $3,000.00 in my favor.” I was a little surprised that the judge had bet on me. “McCain, just how good are you?” Big Jim asked me.
“I’m good enough,” I answered, showing that I wasn’t afraid of him.
“I hope you aren’t too good,” he replied, an unspoken threat laying in his words.
“That would be a might costly for you.” I stood up to leave. When I wasn't interested in what they had to say, one of his men grabbed me. That was a mistake. I quickly jabbed the butt of my rifle into his stomach and slammed my fist into his face He fell to the floor. I flipped my rifle around, letting the men know I was ready for a fight. “You boys might be running this town, but that means nothing to us,” I warned as Mark and I walked out.
We went out to the horses. I think Mark was a bit surprised that I hit that man. “You hit him pretty hard, pa,” he stated.
I smiled. “Well, he was pretty big, son.” Mark was worried that that man would cause problems for us getting the ranch. I told him that the only problem we might have was paying for it, “and I think we’ll have that whipped in short order.”
Vernon, the young 'sharpshooter' was the favorite to win according to his big mouth Uncle Wes. Big Jim stood to win a lot of money if Vernon beat me. He had covered all the bets on this young 'Sharpshooter'. While we were watching the other contestants in the turkey shoot, the Marshal asked to speak to me. I wasn’t sure what it was about, but could tell it was something serious, so I wanted Mark to stay put.
“Mr. McCain,” the Marshal started. “I think there’s something you should know about this town. It belongs to Jim Lewis. “All of it?” I asked, wondering why I needed to know this.
“Well, he tolerates me as long as I don’t give him any trouble.” “I see,” I commented. “No, I’m afraid you don’t. Mr. Lewis has been in this town for four years. During that time, a lot of things have happened.” He continued to tell me that he never looses. I knew he wasn’t volunteering that information and asked him why he didn’t take off that badge. Such things disgusted me. “I’ll tell you why, McCain. Because as long as I wear it, I can do a little good. Not much, but a little.”
It was my turn for the shoot. As I stood to take my turn, Big Jim approached me. The look on his face told me his words were not words my boy needed to hear, so I sent him to congratulate Vernon on his “mighty fine shooting.” Big Jim told me that there was only one man who could stop Vernon from winning the match. “If he does it, I’ll have him killed,” he warned me. But his warning did not bother me in the least. I shot all five shots in the center. It would be a shoot off between me and Vernon.
When I was waiting to shoot the second time, Big Jim made another threat. He called my name, then put one hand on MY boy and another on his gun to show me that he would kill Mark if I won. His ploy worked. He was able to convince me, "The Rifleman" to throw the contest. No amount of money was worth my son’s life, so I threw the match. Mark and the people of North Fork were disappointed that I lost the match. They didn't know I had no other choice. I picked my son up, because I felt a need to have him in my arms after his life had been threatened. Big Jim decided to make sure everyone knew I had thrown the match by offering me my $10 entry fee back. The judge even told me the Dunlap Ranch wasn't for sale anymore.
This fact upset me, and Mark wanted me to explain things. I wasn’t in the mood, so I walked past Mark without an explanation to get our things from our hotel room. While I was gone, Vernon came to talk to me. He questioned Mark about me throwing the match and Mark came to my defense by insisting that I did not throw the match.
Big Jim, his men, and Wes went over to the saloon to celebrate. After buying a round of drinks, Wes wanted his money. "Alright Mr. Lewis, how about paying Mr. Tippert what you owe him!"
"You got your five hundred dollars for winning the match, what else do you want?" asked Big Jim. Big Jim had no intentions of giving Wes any money. Wes removed the letter that Big Jim had sent him from his pocket. The letter read that Big Jim would give him five hundred dollars plus half of all the money won. Big Jim had collected over ten thousand dollars in bets, and Wes wanted five hundred dollars plus his five thousand dollars from the bets. Wes told him if he didn't pay up he would call his boy and turn him loose on them.
This amused Big Jim, so he pretended to make Wes one final bet. He told him if he could put a forty-five slug through the picture above the bar he would get his money besides another thousand. Wes agreed and drew his gun to do just that. That’s when Big Jim shot him in cold blood.
Vernon was waiting for me when I came down with our things. "Listen Mr. McCain. There's something I want to ask you and I'd like a straight answer,” Vernon demanded. I ignored him. I was in no mood to talk about the match anymore. I was ready to leave this town. I had thought we had found our place, and was upset that things hadn’t turned out for me and Mark. But Vernon insisted and told me about the talk around town that I threw the match. The woman behind the desk stated that I didn’t throw the match. Then my boy stated, “He did the best he could. He just wasn’t good enough.”
Just then Carl, one of Big Jim's men walked in and told Vernon to come over and get his uncle's body, he just got himself killed. He told Vernon that his uncle had tried to outdraw Big Jim. Vernon didn't believe him. He was angry, and stated he would be over to collect his money. When Vernon started to leave, Mark pleaded with him not to go. I knew these men were setting him up for the kill, and I knew that he was a kid that wasn’t as good as he thought he was.
I turned to Vernon and got right in his face. I said in the meanest voice I could, "Vernon! You asked me if you beat me fair and square in that match. Do you still want an answer?" "Yes," said Vernon. "Why you wet nosed, two bit little punk, you couldn't whip me in ten years. So don't go spouting off about going into that saloon!" I yelled at him. He tried to get away from me but I grabbed him and shoved him up against the stairs. “Now, you shut up and listen!” I stated. I put a softer look on my face as I said my next words, and my voice grew quieter, “I want you to stay here. If I don't come back, that boy of mine is your responsibility. You get on our horses and get out of here. Do you understand? I'm not askin' you Vernon.....I'm tellin' ya'."
He agreed. I went over to Mark and told him to get the horses packed and to wait for me. I could tell my boy was scared and didn’t want me to go. I didn’t say so, but there was a chance I wouldn’t come back. I bent down to get eye-level with my boy and looked straight into his eyes so that he knew I loved him. We stared deeply into each other’s eyes for a few seconds. There was nothing I could say. I grabbed my rifle and headed out without another word. As I walked toward the saloon, I cocked my rifle.
They were waiting and watching for Vernon. Carl told Big Jim that it was me coming to face him. They had a plan in order. When one of his men passed me a drink they were supposed to fire on me.
I walked into the saloon, walked up to the bar, and laid my rifle down, keeping my hand on the lever. I told Big Jim I came for the boy's money.
“Well,” said one of his men with a smirk on his face. “It looks like they sent a man to do a boy’s job.”
Big Jim didn’t move. “You have a choice, McCain. You can walk out of here and walk out of town or hang tuff and face a shoot out.”
I was onto their plan. “Well,” I stated with a serious look on my face. “A proposition like that deserves a little thought.” I started sizing up of the situation right then. He offered me a drink. I agreed, knowing what would come next.
Just then one of Big Jim’s men slid the whiskey bottle down the bar. As the bottle slid, I shot it POW! It shattered and killed the man at the table.
I flew under the bar and cocked my rifle. Carl then drew on me and I shot him POW! The cowboy sitting at the table drew on me and I shot him POW!
Another man ran out the side door, I shot at him POW! I missed! I stayed hidden behind the bar as I cocked my rifle again.
Now, it was all between me and Big Jim. I managed to shoot Big Jim POW! I only wounded him. The man who had run out the door came at me from behind the door and started shooting at me. Suddenly a shot rang out from behind me – a shot that killed the man behind the door. I turned to see Vernon standing there. He hadn’t obeyed my orders. Big Jim took this opportunity to shoot Vernon. I simply turned around and pulled the trigger POW! That shot killed him.
It was all over.
I quickly laid down my rifle and went to check on Vernon. His face showed signs of pain, but I was relieved to find that he was only shot in the wrist. It looked like Vernon's shooting days might be over, but this was something Vernon couldn’t face, so he insisted it would be alright.
I saw the Marshal and doctor come in, and I didn’t want another confrontation, so I turned to leave, but Vernon stopped me. He had a pleading look on his face, as if he wasn’t sure where he was going to go from here. "Mr. McCain, will you do me a favor? If that boy of yours…Mark...ever gets any funny ideas, you tell him that I said he was the lucky one." That made me proud, and I smiled at him. I gave him a pat and said, "Alright I will. Good Luck to you son!"
As I was walking out, I saw Mark obediently waiting for me by the horses. I know he was anxiously waiting, wondering if I was one of the victims. I could tell he was afraid I had been killed, because tears were streaming down my boy’s cheeks. When I saw that, I tried to smile. I loved that boy! I saw a relieved look replace the fear as he realized I was okay. I walked towards him and he ran into my waiting arms. We hugged and kissed each other, happy that God had allowed us to stay together and see us through another ordeal. “Are the horses ready?” I asked Mark. Mark suddenly got a sad look on his face. He didn’t want to leave anymore than I did. But I didn’t feel we were welcome in this town.
As we made our way for the horses, Judge Hanavan approached us and told us that North Fork could use people like us in this new growing town. I smiled and turned to Mark, bending down and smiling at him. I asked him a silly question. “What do you say, son? You still want that ranch?” His only reply? “Yahoo!” Then we put our arms around each other and walked back towards the hotel with the judge to buy our ranch.
*Sam Peckinpah was the creator of "The Rifleman" and he wrote
'The Sharpshooter' — 'Home Ranch'
He wrote & directed 'The Marshal' — 'The Boarding House' — 'The Money Gun' — 'The Babysitter'
piddlin' stuff.....Leif Erickson played Big Jim Lewis in this episode of 'The Sharpshooter.' He later went on to star in his own TV Western ~ "High Chaparral" as Big John Cannon. He and Chuck Connors also appeared together in "Branded." Before "The Rifleman" and "Branded" they appear with John Wayne in "Trouble Along the Way." A tall, beefy, deep-voiced character actor who was a band singer and trombone player before getting into movies in 1935. While serving four years in the Navy during World War II as a combat photographer, he was shot down twice while in flight, both times he was wounded.
Dennis Hopper played Vernon Tippert in this episode of 'The Sharpshooter,' he was the young sharpshooter. He was also in another episode of "The Rifleman" — 'The Three-Legged Terror' as Johnny Clover, a teenager who vandalizes the classroom in the North Fork school. I'm sure we all know who Dennis Hopper is! Does anyone remember him in "Cool
d Luke?" How about "True Grit" — "Giant" or "Rebel Without a Cause" Oh I know - "Easy Rider" ~ maybe "Speed"- he sure was a mean dude in "Speed" ~ what part do you best remember him in? As well as his acting/directing talents, Hopper was a skilled photographer and painter, having had his works displayed in galleries in both the United States and overseas. He was additionally a dedicated and knowledgeable collector of modern art and had one of the most extensive collections in the United States.
Sidney Blackmer played Judge Hanavan. He appeared as the Judge in three episodes. He was in ~ 'The Sharpshooter' ~ 'The Safe Guard' & 'The Photographer' ~ I really liked this character! Too bad he didn't do more on "The Rifleman."
Remember him in "Tammy and the Bachelor?" How about "Rosemary's Baby?" Or maybe it was one of the Shirley Temple movies?
He was a Tony-award winning actor who played Teddy Roosevelt in seven movies. He is best remembered for his role as the warlock/coven-leader, Roman Castevet in Roman Polanski's Rosemary's Baby (1968).
Blackmer has done so many things, I'm sure you've seen him in several of them.
Charles Arnt played Wes Tippert, Vernon's Uncle. In the original script Wes was described as a tall, wiry old man, grey-haired, dust-grayed clothes, dirty hands, red drinker's face (as if we could tell in black & white), flabby stomach—an old fat man growing thin.
Charles Arnt was the president of the Triangle Club at Princeton University (1929) and founded the University Players with Henry Fonda, Josh Logan and Jimmy Stewart.
He started show business in 1933 until 1962. He was a character actor in more than 200 films. Nothing on him from 1962 until his passing in 1990. Wonder what he was doing all that time? He appeared in several show.....such as "Black Saddle" — "The Texan" — "Maverick" — "Bourbon Street Beat" — "Sugarfoot" — "Hawaiian Eye" — "Alfred Hitchcock Presents."
R.G. Armstrong played Sheriff/Marshal Fred Tomlinson in two episodes of "The Rifleman" — 'The Sharpshooter' and 'The Marshal.' Do you remember what happened to him in 'The Marshal'?
The roles I remember him best in are "Friday the 13th" - the TV Series — "The Predator" and "Purgatory." I really enjoyed "Purgatory!" How about you? He has done so many, many things. Armstrong has a masters' degree in English from the University of North Carolina, and trained at the famed Actors Studio in New York.
Kathleen Mulqueen played Nancy Hanavan in the 'The Sharpshooter.'
In this episode she was Judge Hanavan's wife/sister/daughter [?] and the clerk at the hotel. In the original script — Nancy Hanavan was suppose to be Judge Hanavan's daughter. Her description was to be a good looking young woman, competent and vital. In the original casting Nancy Hanavan is a much older woman, no way she could be his daughter? They must have been thinking of the episode 'The Marshal' where Abby Dalton played Nancy Moore - the Marshal's niece who tended the desk at the hotel.
Kathleen Mulqueen also appeared in three more episodes — 'Angry Gun' as Mrs. Peterson - the lady who was on the stage — 'Eddie's Daughter' as the woman standing outside the stage depot. She was talking to Eddie before the stage came in - she gasped when she saw Lil stepped off the stage & 'The Actress' as the Landlady - she was the lady who tended Jacob until Lucas could fetch his wife. She played Mrs. Mitchell, Henry's Mother in Dennis the Menace. Kathleen Mulqueen was a musical comedy actress. Called by one critic "The most beautiful girl on Broadway."
Mickey Simpson played Carl Lamprey in this episode of 'The Sharpshooter' - he's the one that got Lucas' rifle barrel in his stomach. He also played Tub in 'The Indian.' He was one who grabbed Mark and called him a liar when Mark left it slip and tried to cover up it up that their new Deputy United States Marshal was an Indian. He was a well-muscled, former and considered a boxing career. He fought two fights in Los Angeles in 1939, both of which he lost. He served in the US Navy as a Shore Patrolman during WWII and then returned to Hollywood. He was typically cast as a villain in numerous low-budget auctioneers, adventures, and Westerns of the '40s, '50s, and '60s. Before making his screen debut with a bit part in "Stagecoach." He appeared in motion pictures and on television in a career that lasted from the 1930s to the 1960s. He appeared in many popular films, as well as several classic television series such as "The Lone Ranger" — "Bonanza" — " The Virginian" — "Cheyenne" —"The Big Valley," just to name a few.
Virginia Aldridge as the waitress in the restaurant of the hotel. She has appeared several TV Westerns such shows as "Cheyenne" — "Zane Grey Theater"
"Wagon Train" — "Star Trek" as Lieutenant Karen Tracy - "Father knows best" — "The Alfred Hitchcock Hour" and movies such as "High School Big Shot" — "Riot in Juvenile Prison" and "The Gnome-Mobile." Virginia went on to become a writer for such popular series as "Dallas" — "Fame" — "Knight Rider" and "Beauty and the Beast."
Matthew McCue as the old townsman. Matthew also was in 'The Photographer' as a juror and as one of the townsmen. He appeared in over sixty episodes of "Gunsmoke" usually as a waiter. Matthew was an often went unaccredited. He was bit actor who worked in TV and films from 1950-1966. Besides "Gunsmoke" he appeared in many other TV shows.
Howard Wright as the man standing by the target.
George Sowards as one of the townsmen. George was an actor and a stuntman. He appeared in "The Rifleman" four times - 'The Clarence Bibs Story' as one of the townsmen - 'The Promoter' as a boxing spectator – 'The Fourflusher' as one of the townsmen – 'The Sharpshooter' as a barfly.
You name it, this cowboy was in it!!!!!
Archie Butler—Stuntman—Stunt coordinator—Actor - Archie has been in more episodes then anybody with the exception of the regular cast and he probably was in more episode then some of them. ~Arnold Laven
Remember him in 'The Sharpshooter?' Remember when Lucas shot the whiskey bottle and it shattered into pieces? Archie was the cowboy who slid the whiskey bottle to Lucas.
Jesse Wayne was a Stuntman for "The Rifleman" in 23 episodes. Besides a Stuntman, Jesse also performed behind the scenes as an Actor - Second Unit Director or Assistant Director - Special Effects - Miscellaneous Crew - Director - Camera and Electrical Department - Cinematographer - Archive Footage
*'The Sharpshooter' was originally an episode from the "Zane Grey Theater" This particular episode was the pilot for "The Rifleman". "The Rifleman" made its debut March 17, 1958. The first episode was written by Sam Peckinpah. He originally done this script for "Gunsmoke," but was turned down and was told it was a piece of crap! He had thought that this was one of the best things he had written. So he took it back and reworked it. Dick Powell at Four Stars Production bought it as the pilot for "The Rifleman". Thank goodness for Dick Powell, we may have never known Chuck Connors as "The Rifleman!"
Did you know the original title for 'The Sharpshooter' was called 'The Shooting Match?'
Did you know that originally he was to have a six shooter and that It was Arthur Laven who came up with the idea of Lucas having a son. Lucas had to have a reason to throw the contest. Otherwise he would have bucked up against Big Jim Lewis & his men.
So if the Turkey shoot was on October 12 — the McCain's must have gotten into North Fork on the 11th of October — but the plaque on their house said it was rebuilt August 1881?
In the original script Lucas' name was suppose to be John. Lucas was a tall man, about forty—heavy-set, Indian quiet—a man of wry humor, easy friendliness and sudden violence.
In the first episode 'The Sharpshooter' ~ Lucas didn't have Razor—When Lucas & Mark came to North Fork.....what horse was Lucas riding?
Madera House was California House
North Fork Saloon was Last Chance Saloon owned by Big Jim Lewis. That means that Eddie and Sweeney came to North Fork after "The Rifleman." They must have bought these from the estate of Big Jim Lewis.
'The Sharpshooter' episode versus 'Home Ranch'
In the original script Big Jim Lewis and his brother Tom ran North Fork. He even had lines. They never acknowledge a brother or anybody by the name of Tom. His lines were said by Big Jim.
In 'The Sharpshooter'.....what were the rules for the shooting match?
This is the target that Lucas shot when he threw the shooting match.
What was the first meal Mark ordered at the hotel?
Who was the doctor with the little black bag in the saloon looking at Vernon's hand? How many doctors has North Fork had? Doc Burrage
When the original script first came out ― Mark called Lucas Dad instead of Pa. Do you remember which episode it was that Mark really did call Lucas Dad by mistake.....they never cut it out?
Bloopers for this episode & other episodes
Did you ever wonder what happen to Vernon Tippert? Where did he go, what did he do? Here is a great story based on this episode when Vernon returns to North Fork, it's called 'Saving Vernon' by Michelle Palmer.
What a great story, I know you will really enjoy this!
You've heard Lucas' story, now hear Mark's
'The Sharpshooter' article
around The McCain Ranch