The Rifleman
"Welcome to the McCain Ranch"

'The Challenge'
Episode 28


There comes a day when your friendships are tested, when you find out exactly where the citizens of a town stand, and how much you mean to other people. This is an event that revealed these truths to Mark and I.
The Rifleman - The Challenge - Episode 28
Well, it all started out fun. Mark and I were just finishing up our shopping in the general store. Hattie had a jar of candy free for the taking and Mark had been helping himself while I was talking to Micah. Micah and I had made plans to go hunting that next Sunday. It was your typical afternoon. “Let’s get moving, son, before you make yourself sick!” I said as I watched Mark grab yet another piece of candy from the jar.

Hattie found the situation amusing. “I put that candy there to build good will. Surprising how much more caster oil I’ve been selling lately!” Hattie smiled that sweet, grandmotherly smile she does so well!

When she offered Mark another piece, I had to put my foot down. I didn’t want to deal with no stomach aches or rotting teeth! I told Mark to come on as we started out the door.

By the way, Micah had gone in the back of the store to look for more bullets.
As I started out the door, two men suddenly barged in. One of them had a gun drawn, which pushed me back into the general store. I backed up slowly, a little surprised these men were holding up the general store. “Are you sure you’re not making a mistake?” I asked. “The bank’s down the street!” I informed them, hoping they would go away.

"There ain't no mistake mister, I've got good reason for what I'm gonna do, now I'm gonna do it!" The gunman sneered.

Suddenly, there was some commotion coming from the back room. It was another cowboy with his gun held on Micah. He was shoving Micah around. "Look what I found. I got me a Marshal," said Davey.

“You did real fine, kid. Real fine.” Jake Pardee, the leader, then took the butt of his gun and knocked Micah out.

I naturally wanted to help my friend, but the one they called the Professor stepped in with his gun on me. All I could do was watch. Watch and think about how I was going to get my friends out of this situation!

Pardee was strutting around trying to look real tough. I just stood there and watched. My heart sank when I realized he was aiming to hold Micah and Hattie hostage. He ordered all the rest of us out. Part of me wanted to stay there and help my two friends. The other part of me wanted to get my son out of there. I knew it wasn’t my decision to make though. I started to go out the door, anxious to get my boy out of there.

But Jake stopped me at the door. He pointed the gun straight at me. "I'm Jake Pardee.  Reckon' you heard of me" he said, using that tough voice of his.

“Break your heart if I said I didn’t,” I said back in my equally tough voice.

He laughed.  “I’d just know you was lying through your teeth. It would take more then five years in the state pen to make folks forget what I left them to remember. I can still tree a town as easy as pickin' my teeth.” He sure was trying to act tough! But he didn’t scare me.

"You don't have to impress me," I said.

“Well now,” he said in an agitated voice. “You’re mighty high headed, mister! You don’t got enough sense to be scared! Is that it?” he asked me.

“Maybe,” I answered shortly.

“There's something I want you to teThe Rifleman - The Challenge - Episode 28 ll around, mister. We are here to get food, ammunition, supplies. I’m holding the marshal and the woman. If anyone in this town gives us any trouble, them two are as good as dead. Now, when we’re ready to leave, we’ll take ‘em with us. You stay off our trail. When I decide it’s fittin’, I’ll let ‘em loose.”

I started to leave, but then stopped and looked him straight in the eye. "You're holding all the cards, mister. Don't over play them. You know why? Without them you wouldn't be much." Then I walked out of the store.

He burst out laughing at what I said. But then my words echoed in his brain again and he lost his smile. “Did you hear him?” Jake asked getting angry. “Nobody talks to me like that!” Davy tried to calm him down, but Jake would not be calmed.

I walked over to the buckboard and reached for my rifle. Mark asked me what I was going to do. “It’s what North Fork is gonna do, son. Pardee set himself up against the whole town,” I answered him as I prepared my rifle. Then we started up the street, the townspeople following close behind.

“Cool as a skunk in the moonlight!” Pardee said about me.

“Maybe he doesn’t know they wrote a ballad about you once,” The professor pointed out.

The professor was angry at Pardee. He didn’t understand what he was trying to prove. They had broken Pardee out of jail and shaken off one posse already! “Now you’ve deliberately set a whole town on our backs!” The professor had wanted to wait until dark when the store was closed. They could have been on their way without stirring up a hornet’s nest.” The professor was getting more angry just thinking about it. He took the candy jar in his hand and threw it against the wall, shattering it.

Pardee suddenly went up to Hattie. He demanded her to tell him who I was. For some reason, I had really gotten under his skin. Hattie told him my name and he wanted to know if I was someone special. Hattie was so scared. She didn’t want to answer the questions, but the fact that he had a gun forced her to. Still, she only said as much as she had to. “He’s just a rancher,” she stated.

Davey had really been thinking about me since I left. He suddenly remembered that I had a reputation with my rifle. “I’ve been hearing about him clear down to Denver. He’s supposed to be faster with it than any man with a six gun.”

Jake took this piece of news as a new challenge. What better way to prove he was still good then to go up against someone like me. Davey and the professor wanted to leave, but Jake didn’t . “Jake, we need you . You’re daring. You got a lot of nerve. We weren’t anything without you. But I’m not going to risk my life to satisfy any of your hair brained whims!” The professor stated.

Jake had his mind made up. He was going to do things his way. He wanted to prove something to himself. He wanted to prove he was the same man he was five years ago. In five years a man could forget who he was. After a while he began to wonder if he was the same man. That was something he had to find out.

We were having a meeting to decide what to do. Everyone agreed to have me step in as acting deputy while Micah was being held hostage. I stepped up and took charge of the meeting, my rifle in hand. “Well folks, aside from forming up a posse and hunting down ParThe Rifleman - The Challenge - Episode 28 dee once we know Micah and Hattie are safe, there isn’t much we can do,” I announced with defeat. But Mr. Weltz didn’t like this. He wanted us to do something besides sit and wait. “This is my town and I’m ashamed for it! Everybody knuckling down to three measly gun tuffs!”

I wasn’t any happier about this situation then anyone else. Those were my two friends in there, and I wanted nothing more than to rush in there and save them, but my hands were tied at the moment. So I said, “None of us are too happy about it. But I think we can survive the humiliation.” Mr. Weltz was still upset and kept speaking up demanding something be done. He didn’t seem to understand, so I put it bluntly. “One wrong move and Hattie and Micah will be dead for a long, long time!”

At the moment, I thought it was best to sweat it out and deal with things as they came up.

But Sweeny spoke up then. He told us about a saloon Jake had held up when he was in Galveston.  He was kill crazy, even then. “What makes you so sure that he’s going to keep his word about Hattie and Micah?” Sweeny asked me.

I wasn’t sure. There was no other choice. I couldn’t figure out why they were still in that store. I thought they’d get their supplied and then move on! I didn’t know what to do, so I told the town folks to give the store a wide berth. I didn’t want to give them any reason to use their guns.

We didn't know if he would keep his word about Hattie and Micah, but we had no other choice. I told the town folks to give the store a wide berth. Not to give them any reason to use their guns. We just had to wait it out.
The saloon started playing the Jake Pardee’s ballad. A ballad we would listen to for the rest of the night.

The tension could be felt all up and down the street. No one would sleep. There was a lot of pacing going on. The street grew dark, but still the people hung around to see what would happen. Everyone was worried about Micah and Hattie. I felt the pressure, but couldn’t do anything. As darkness settled over North Fork, the tension continued to rise.

Mark and I were at the wagon. Mr. Hannaberry was getting tired of waiting. I told Mark I was taking him to the hotel. It would be a long night for me! My son boldly spoke up, “I won’t be much use to you there, pa!”

He knew better then that! I didn’t even have to comment, but simply stated, “Well, you’re going to be anyway.”

I put him to bed and then went back outside and sat…and waited…But I couldn’t make Mark go to sleep. He was restless and soon got up and worriedly watched me from the window.

A couple of Jackford’s hands were in the saloon getting drunk. They started talking about a reward on Pardee. They wanted to try to bust in and take Pardee and his gang so they could collect this reward Sweeny came out to warn me and I hurried in to have a talk with them. “Look,” I said. “If you were just gambling your own lives, I would care. But I’m thinking about Hattie Denton and the Marshal.”

I guess they didn’t like me bossing them, so they started to fight me. I fought back. It was too hard fighting two drunks. I ordered Sweeny to take their guns and sober them up.

Meanwhile, in the store, the three men were still hanging out. They were eating Hattie’s food and messing with her stuff. Hattie stayed in her position behind the counter. Micah was trapped on the floor under the counter. They were acting tough, throwing things just to shove their weight around.

Jake was glad they were all bacThe Rifleman - The Challenge - Episode 28 k together again. He told Davey how lucky he was. “You know, Maybe you have to be told what to do, but it always gets done. You got a big advantage over other men. You don’t have to ham and haul about rather a thing is right or wrong. Whether you can do it or not. That’s a big advantage.” Pardee stated.

Pardee started to suddenly get evil again. “You know, ma’am, if I was to tell Davey here to tear the Marshal’s tongue clear out of his head, he’d just like…” Jake snapped his fingers. “that.” This frightened Hattie. Jake liked frightening people though. “No need to fret, ma’am. I’ve got plans for the Marshal.”

Micah finally spoke up for the first time. “You think your purely the devils’ own delight, don’t you son?” Micah stated. “Your season’s about over. The five years you’ve been locked away could just as easily been 500! Soon they’ll be stuffing men like you to put in a museum. Underneath, they’ll put up a sign: Western Bad man is extinct. Have your fun now. You don’t have much longer.” Micah’s words were angering Pardee.

The professor found Micah’s words truly funny. “The social historian. He’s got you pegged as an anar…”(well, I don’t know how to say the word)…Jake didn’t know what it meant either, so the professor defined it for him. “Oh um, something that’s dead, but refuses to be laid to rest.” At this point, Jake came toward the professor, having been angered to the point of action.

He had no words to say, so he simply grabbed the professor by the shoulder and snapped the professor in the face with his finger. The professor merely looked at him, then laughed a long, leering laugh.

Davey could tell Jake was upset. He tried to make him feel better by telling him he was better then other outlaws. But Jake didn’t want words. He wanted action. He wanted to prove that he was still the same evil person he’d always been. “I need more than words,” Jake suddenly stated.

Everything had been so quiet all night. But suddenly, three shots sounded off in the night. John Hamilton rushed over to me. He was afraid Hattie and Micah had been shot. I knew he hadn’t done that. That would have been like trumping his own ace. He had a big itch to go up against me. He wanted to prove something. “That I’m still me. And nothing’s changed.” So he went to the door and called me over.

I didn’t know it at the time, but Mark was watching the whole thing from the window.

“When it gets light, you and me, we’re gonna have it out,” Jake announced.

That didn’t make any since to me, and I asked him why. He simply stated, “Because it suits my fancy,” he stated. He wanted to see how good I was with this rifle. “Now you be here. If you don’t, the marshal and the Denton woman are gonna be dead when you find them,” I threatened me.
The burden on me had just increased considerably.

Suddenly we hear three shots ring out from the store. John Hamilton ran over to me. He asks if I thought he might have shot Hattie and Micah. I didn't think so. He needed them. He wanted to prove to himself that he was still the same man he was before he went to jail. "McCain," said Jake. He wanted to talk to me. He wanted to have it out with me when it got light. If I didn't show up Hattie and Micah would be dead.”

I quietly stood there with a frown on my face. I couldn’t believe this. What was I going to do?

We had another town meeting. John was upset. He slammed his hand down on the desk in defeat. “There’s no real point to this meeting!” he yelled. “We can’t let Lucas stand up to this man! We can’t ask a thing like this to anybody!”

Every person in the room left. They were leaving the burden on me and me alone. I would have to face Jake alone the next morning. John was angry. He felt so sorry for me. I had a son to raise, and I could die. “There is a reason why this should be my affair,” I simply stated. I knew John didn’t understand. I had two friends in that store who could die if I didn’t face this man. I had to do it.

And I had to make my son understand. I think that was the hardest challenge of all!

Mark didn’t understand. "They are your friends and they don't care what happens to you?" Mark cried.

“They’re just being realistic, son,” I stated honestly. I was pacing the floor. I didn’t want to leave Mark alone in the world, but I couldn’t be a coward and walk away from this either.

“But you might get killed,” Mark said.
The Rifleman - The Challenge - Episode 28
I had to make him understand! I had to get it through his head that I wasn’t the only one who was in danger of dying! "What about Hattie and Micah?" I asked him.

Mark knew that I had to put my friends first. “But still, there must be some other way!” He was scared for me. He didn’t want to loose me – the only parent he had left in the world! I didn’t want to leave him either, but I had to make him understand.
“No Mark, there is no other way because of this (I held up my rifle). You know Mark, it would gall Jake Pardee if I was the smartest lawyer or the biggest rancher. But he can’t stand to think that I might be as fast and as deadly with my rifle as he is with a six gun,” I tried to explain.

“But you never shot anyone unless you had to! Never went looking for a fight,” Mark continued be confused.

“Well, Pardee’s not one for splitting hairs, Mark,” I explained. “Look, I know how raw of a deal this is for you. But I don’t know what else to do.” I was now sitting next to him on the bed. My hand rested gently and protectively on his shoulder as I looked into his eyes. "I guess it will be this way until the land is settled and men don't look to their guns for survival."

Suddenly, some of the softness on my face left. I had something to tell him, and I had to be stern. “Mark, you know I don’t want you to watch.” Mark knew this. The whole thing was frustrating for him. The next thing I said was hard to even think about, but I had to thinking about it. So did Mark. “If anything happens, son, you can always trust John Hamilton. He’s a good friend.”

The whole time we talked, we both knew this could be our last moments together. But neither one of us had voiced that concern until now. My spoken words were more then Mark could handle. He suddenly threw his arms around me and hugged me tight. I didn’t want to leave him. I wanted to come back to him.

There was silence in the store. Everyone was growing very tired. Finally, Hattie spoke up. “I hope he doesn’t come! I pray to God he doesn’t!” She cared deeply for me and didn’t want me killed over something useless like this.

“If you kill us, you’re just a dirty murderer. Nothing to brag of. Nothing to build your reputation up with. You’re just a dirty, no good murderer!”

Jake was very angered by Hattie’s words. He was about to hit her when suddenly I appeared on the street. I wanted to get this over with. I held my gun tightly as I came up the street. I looked like a brave warrior as I walked up the street with my rifle ready for action. But my mind was in the hotel on my son. I had to face this man and live.

I watched as Jake walked out onto the street. His to buddies stood by the window with their guns drawn. Mark sat at the window, shaking, as he watched me in what could be my final moments.

It was time for the face off. I held my rifle up, ready to shoot if he was to draw. Jake was in the stance, preparing to draw. I held a hateful expression on my face as I looked straight into his eyes.

Jake stood there for an eternity. I raised my rifle higher as I continued to stare at Jake, boring my eyes into his. Mark looked away as the final seconds approached.

Suddenly, Jake’s face became frightened. I wanted in wonderment as he buckled and fell to the ground. He started crying like a child. I lowered my rifle and walked up to him. “I had to find out. I had to know. I was scared they did it. I felt they turned me yellow in that jail.”

I didn’t know what to think or do. I just listened to him in amazement.
Suddenly, the professor fired two shots from the store window, shooting Jake in the back and killing him. He was angered that Jake had put them through this.
Davey was upset and confused. Jake was his friend and the professor had killed him. He quickly turned and killed the professor. But he didn’t know what to do now. He had always been The Rifleman - The Challenge - Episode 28 told what to do. Now, he had to decide for himself. “Jake, Jake…tell me what to do! You gotta tell me what to do!” Davey yelled out in desperation. “Say something, will you Jake?”

Micah told Davey it was just him alone now. Davey turned and pointed his gun at Micah. “I gotta kill you. That’s what Jake told me to do,” he cried. He was still very confused.

I knew this man had been told what to do his whole life. I felt sorry for him. “I’ll tell you what to do, son," I said softly through the window. "Drop that gun.”

Slowly, I walked through the door. “Go on son, drop it,” I said. My voice stayed calm. He needed that. Jake dropped it and I told Hattie to pick it up. I think he was relieved it was over. I walked over to him and grabbed his other gun. Then I bent down to untie Micah, relieved he was still alive.

“Bout time you were getting here, Lucas Boy!” Micah said, relieved.
Suddenly I heard a voice that was like music to my ears. “Pa!”

I immediately turned and opened my arms. Mark flew into them and I held him tight. I was so happy to have my boy back in my arms again. Mark drew away from me and turned to look at Micah. He was happy to see him again too.

But then I got another hug! Everything was right in North Fork again. Micah and Hattie were safe and Mark got to hold on to me once again!


piddlin' stuff.....Adam Williams appeared in six episodes ― 'The Challenge' as Jake Pardee, the leader of the gang and the one who thought he had to prove himself ― 'The Score is Even' as Jax, he was the one in charge and the one who told Andy to kill the McCain's ― 'The Prisoner' as Corporal Troc a ex-Confederate officer and the aide to Major Aaron King ― 'The Anvil Chorus' as Platt, the leader of the gang ― 'The Executioner' (which he wrote) as Russell Ganaway, he was a former friend of Lucas's, just released from jail and the one who hid the stolen money on the McCain Ranch ― 'The Old Man Running' as Jeb Sherman, the leader of the gang and wanted for killing a railroad agent.

John Durren appeared in two episodes ― 'The Challenge' as Davey Pardee, Jake's brother ― 'Bloodlines' as Stump Malakie, he was the one brother/son who got killed in the saloon.

Les Tremayne played the Professor in this episode, the older gentleman who was part of Pardee's gang.

Mel Carter appeared in eight episodes  'End of a Young Gun' as an outlaw, he rode with Hank Fulton ― 'The Safe Guard' as Walkerman, one of the guys who help rob the bank ― 'The Challenge' as a cowhand in the saloon ― 'The Woman' as Jed Healy, the one who shot his Pa ― 'The Journey Back' as Arnie Grady as one of the brothers that Will Temple threw off his ranch ―  'Outlaw's Shoes' as Jeems, he was George Vale's partner and the one who shot Lucas and grazed him in the head ― 'Lou Mallory' as Bo Jackman ― 'Death Never Rides Alone' as Mark Jones.  Gee.....does this set any records?

Michael Harris appeared in three episodes 'The Sister' as the man who was talking to Earl Battle in the beginning of the episode 'The Challenge' as the cowhand in the saloon 'The Anvil Chorus' as Ed Bundy, he was the cowboy whose wife just had a baby boy.

Hope Summers appeared in sixteen episodes as Hattie Denton, owner of The General Store.  Hattie was first introduced to The Rifleman in 'Eight Hours to Die'.

Ian Murray played Harley Hannabury in seven episodes ― 'The Challenge''Blood Brother''Obituary''Meeting at Midnight''The Hangman' 'The Illustrator' ― 'The Fourflushers' as one of the townsmen.

Bill Quinn appeared in thirty-eight episodes as Sweeney the owner/bartender of The North Fork Saloon.  Sweeney was first introduced to The Rifleman in 'The Marshal'.

Harlan Warde appeared in eighteen episodes as John Maysfield Hamilton, President of the North Fork Bank.  He was first introduced in 'The Safe Guard'. In this episode North Fork's Bank was first established and John Hamilton was new to North Fork.

John Maxwell as Sam Weltz, the older rancher at the meeting.

Jimmie Booth was in five episodes ― 'Shivaree' as a Barfly ― 'The Indian'
as one of the townsmen 'The Challenge' as as one of the townsmen ― 'The Three Legged Terror' as one of the cowboys at the picnic ― 'The Coward' as the cowboy sitting at a table in the restaurant of the hotel.

King Mojave appeared in nine episodes ― 'Duel of Honor' as Ed Simmons, one of the passengers on the stagecoach ― 'The Safe Guard' as Charlie the bank teller ― 'The Sister' as one of the cowboys watching the fight ― 'The Challenge' as a customer in the store ― 'The Photographer' as a cowboy on the Jury ― 'The Wrong Man' as the hotel clerk and a townsman ― 'The Obituary' as a townsman ― 'The Illustrator' as the man getting off the stage ― 'The Grasshopper' as the man in the booth who sold the tickets.

Whitey Hughes was a well known and respected stuntman, he appeared in twenty-seven episodes of The Rifleman and still counting.  Whitey had over a 50-year career as a stuntman and stunt coordinator, he has been praised as one of the top stuntman in Hollywood.  Whitey was the best of the best!

Fred Aldrich appeared in four episodes
‘Eight Hours to Die’ as a spectator at the hanging ― 'A Matter of Faith' as a cowboy in the crowd — 'The Challenge' as a Barfly 'The Wrong Man' as one of the townsmen at the carnival.

Joe Polski appeared in two episodes ― 'The Challenge' as a cowboy in the saloon playing cards ― 'The Woman' as a cowboy in the saloon.

Jesse Wayne appeared in twenty-three episodes as Johnny Crawford's stuntman.  Not sure who doubled for Johnny in the episode of 'Requiem at Mission Springs' but he is a possibility, especially after that bad tumble Mark took.

Jack Perry as one of the townsmen.

Tom Kennedy'Death Never Rides Alone' as one of the townsmen at the saloon - 'The Assailants' as one of the townsmen - 'Gun Shy' as a the townsman/man getting off of the stage - 'The Decision' as one of the townsmen - 'The Executioner' as the man reading the newspaper - 'Day of Reckoning' as a churchgoer - 'Guilty Conscience' as one of the townsmen - 'Which Way'd They Go?' as a barfly - 'Outlaw's Shoes' as one of the townsmen - 'The Challenge' as one of the townsmen - 'None So Blind' as one of the townsmen - 'A Young Man's Fancy' as one of the townsmen - 'End of the Hunt' as one of the townsmen.
You can see Tom in The Rifleman many times, probably more times then listed.  He always went unaccredited, but not here at the ranch.

Do you know who sang "The Ballad of Jake Pardee?"
Bill Lee sang for many movies and voice over's. He started out in a group called
"The Mellomen" who sang for Glenn Miller, Jack Benny, and Walt Disney. In this same group is another great voice we all know, Thurl Ravenscroft, who is the voice for "Tony The Tiger". Bill voiced over for some well known movies, "The Sound Of Music", "South Pacific", and "101 Dalmations" to name a few. Thanks Frank C. for this info!
Listen to this song closely—It's part of the Jake Pardee Ballad—do you know what saloon is being sung about here? ♫ Thanks Glenn Gilbert!

(*Please be patient while this song loads, it may take a few seconds to load but is well worth the wait!
Please note..... when clicking on the link to this sound wav - it will download to your computer.)

The Ballad of Jake Pardee
Music by Herschel Burke Gilbert
Lyrics by Alfred Terry
Sung by Bill Lee

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You've heard Lucas' story, now hear Mark's
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