Although Micah and I hadn’t lived in North Fork very long or known each other for that long, we had become like best friends! He filled a place in me that made me feel more complete, and I think I was able to help him through the hard times. He was my best friend and I would do anything for him – even lay down my life. One eerie, dark day I had to do just that.
It all started that morning when I rode into town after seeing Mark off to school. I had just turned the corner by the church and stopped. The street was so quiet – too quiet! Not a person could be seen. Not a building was open. Not a sound could be heard. In the distance, I saw one lonely horse hitched up to the hitching post. Outside the Marshall’s office, Micah leaned against the hitching post with his rifle in hand, ready to use it if he should need to.
I immediately drew my rifle from it’s boot before starting the slow ride down the street. As I rode, my eyes darted up and down the street, looking for the culprit of North Fork’s sudden imitation of a ghost town.
The trotting of my horse could be heard all the way down the street. I stopped in front of Micah’s office. “What’s going on, Micah?” I asked as I got off my horse. My voice echoed up and down the street, waking up any living thing that may have existed around the dark corners.
"Dan Maury's in there," he replied. A solemn look sat on his face. Extreme tiredness laid in his eyes. His voice held tiredness and fear. Maury had been sent to Yuma prison five years ago. The man had been the one who crippled Micah’s arm. “Now he’s here to kill me,” Micah stated.
The town had been this way ever since Maury had ridden in the night before. Micah had been forced to stand out there with his eyes trained on the saloon all night. No one offered to stand with him. “I can’t say as I blame them. Nobody in this town’s good enough to stand against Maury and they all know it,” Micah explained. I thought he was letting our citizens off the hook too easily. I was mad that my friend had been left out here all alone to fight a battle he can’t fight! But I was here now. I’d stand beside my best friend as long as necessary.
I watched the saloon, a stressful frown on my face. Not a sound came from the saloon. Maury was in a chair asleep while Micah stood out on this lonely street fearing for his life. Sweeny stood behind the bar, trying to figure a way out of this death trap. He even tried to sneak out, but a mouse walking across the floor would wake this outlaw up. After waking up, Maury walked back over to the bar and Sweeny immediately gave him another bottle.
I wondered how long he would stay in there. Micah knew that as long as he had his shot gun, Maury would stay in there. “He’s had a lot of time to think in Yuma. Could be he’s just having a little fun and sooner or later he’ll get tired and ride on out.” Micah’s voice held a lot of doubt. My thinking held a lot of doubt. I couldn’t take a chance on my friend’s life.
"And if he doesn't?" I asked.
“Lucas, I can’t use my badge for a personal grievance,” Micah stated.
“Micah, if Maury is here to get revenge-“ I started.
Micah’s frustrated voice held a lot of anger and worry. “Lucas, I can’t just go in there and take him! He hasn’t done anything.”
I looked back toward the saloon. The whole situation just didn’t sit right with me. If no one else was going to do anything, I sure would. I wasn’t one to sit around and wait for something bad to happen. “Well, I’ll see what I can do,” I stated as I started across the street. Micah started to argue, but I kept walking.
I walked over to the doors with confidence. But before barging in, I stopped at the door to size up the situation. Sweeny looked straight at me. His face held tiredness. I could tell he’d been standing there, fearful of what this man might do all night. I was glad I had ridden into town so I could help my two friends who had been living in fear the last several hours. I didn’t even have to think about what to do.
I barged inside, holding my head up high. I didn’t hesitate a second, but walked up to the bar and sat down. “Beer, Sweeney,” I stated in my normal, confident voice. I didn’t hesitate a second, but walked up to the bar and sat down. I loudly laid down my rifle on the bar so he could get a good look-see of it.
As I started drinking my beer, Maury turned and stared at me. He looked me up and down, an evil grin laid on his face. He turned and leaned his back toward the bar, but kept that rough look on his face the whole time he talked. “You know, while I was rottin’ away in Yuma, we use to sit up all night sometimes just talking. And every now and then someone would start remembering about a big ugly Sodbuster with a rifle like that one. They called him the Rifleman. His gun was faster than any side arm in the territory. Is that true Sodbuster?"
I didn’t even look at him. I couldn’t. He made my skin crawl! “You want proof?” I simply asked.
“Suppose I told you I just happen to come in here for a drink of whisky? What would you say to that, Sodbuster?” Maury asked me then.
I still wouldn’t look at him, but again simply answered, “Well, I’d say that if anything happens to Micah Torrance you'll answer to me.”
“Am I breaking the law? Am I doing something wrong?” He had the nerve to ask that question? “Just your being here is wrong!” I stated, still looking straight ahead. I had to keep my cool…
“Why? I served my time. I’m a free man, Sodbuster. Just like you. You know what I think? I think the marshal’s got you all riled up about nothing. That’s what I think! He’s across the street right now just waiting for me to start something. Now, Sodbuster, why would I want to start something? If I ain’t fool enough to go against that rifle of yours, I’m sure not going to go up against a shotgun, especially one like the marshal’s, with steel balls in it. Now you take last night. I rode into town and I came in here with a pure thirst for drinking whisky. In fact, I was so thirsty I stayed here all night. Ain’t that right bartender?” Sweeny didn’t answer. “Then come daylight this morning, I look across the street and what do you think I saw? Old Micah standing there with that shotgun of his. I bet you he was standing there all night long knowing I was in here. What do you suppose would happen now if I was to develop a real thirst and stayed here maybe three or four days? And all night too? Micha’d sure get sleep, an old man like that! I bet you he’d just fall asleep on his feet. Then I could walk up to him, take his shotgun away, and he’d have nothing left but that sidearm of his! Just like it was five years ago.”
I had stayed silent all this time, drinking my beer and listening to his threats against Micah. With each word that left his mouth, I grew angrier. Suddenly, I had had enough.
"That's enough, you're riding out right now," I told him.
"Is that you or your gun talking?" Maury had the nerve to ask.
I showed him. I angrily picked up my rifle and shot the whisky bottle. Just as fast, I shot the whisky glass right out of his hand. Both shattered. Maury stared in disbelief as he let my message sink in. I didn’t give him much time to think. “Now you hear me and hear me good!” I demanded. “Like I said, anything happens to Micah Torrance, you answer to me. I don’t care where or when or how, you answer to me! Now get out of here!”
He got my message and started for the door. “Maybe they’ll be more friendly in the next town,” he stated before he walked out.
As Maury started untying his horse, he said, “I want you to remember something Marshall. You aren’t always gonna have him to hide behind.”
We stood and watched him ride down the street and disappear around the corner. The street was still dark and quiet, but soon I hoped there would be people again and the town would get it’s life back. Micah was still worried. “You think he’ll be back?”
“No, I don’t think so,” I stated. “He’s got a lot of respect for that shotgun of yours and he’s already had a taste of this rifle. I’ll be in from time to time and Mark will be coming back and forth to school. If there’s any trouble, I’ll know about it.
I got on my horse, waved at Micah who still looked tired but less worried, then rode out of town. Whatever I had come to town for would have to wait!
That afternoon, I had wood to chop. I wasn’t aware of a man in the bushes watching me. The man had a shot gun. He fired two shots at me. The first one wounded me, but I was still on my feet. The second one knocked me out. I lay still on the ground as he rode away.
The town hadn’t recovered from Maury’s arrival yet. Everything was still eerie…quiet. Micah was trying to get some rest in his office. Because of the silence, it was easy for him to hear the rider outside. He went to the window and what he saw caused his face to once again sag in a tiresome worry. He would not get any sleep again that night. Micah grabbed his shotgun and went back outside to watch the saloon.
The minute Mark rode home from school, he knew something wasn’t right. As he started to climb off his horse, he noticed my rifle still leaning against the barn where I had been chopping wood. He walked over to it and touched it, as if it would tell him where I was. Then he saw something on the ground where I had been lying. It was blood. I’m sure fear gripped my little boy’s heart as he called for me but got no answer. My poor boy didn’t know where I was.
Mark ran to the house, fear gripping his heart, to look for me. But the sight that greeted his little eyes was enough to stop him dead in his tracks. “Pa, you’re all shot up! Who did it?” he gasped.
I was leaning against the sink. I was dizzy and in serious pain! In my weakened condition, I could hardly stand. “I don’t know, son.” I gasped out. “I was chopping firewood and-“ Suddenly, the pain intensified and I started to go down. Mark caught me and steadied me. Then he grabbed a chair and helped me sit down.
“The doc should see this! Can you make it to town?” Mark asked as he tenderly laid his hand on my cheek. I told him to get the buckboard ready.
When you are devoted to someone, you can do amazing things! That’s the only way I can explain Mark’s hitching up the buckboard in record time and lifting me up into the back. As Mark started to climb up onto the seat, I told him to get my rifle. He started to argue, but I was still his father, regardless of my inability to care for him at the moment. “Do as I say, son,” I moaned. Without any further arguing, Mark got my rifle.
He drove the horses as fast as he could. He was jumping off the wagon as quickly as he stopped. “Pa’s been shot!” he screamed in the quiet street. His little voice echoed up and down the street, arousing Maury who had been quietly drinking in the saloon. Mark ran to get the doc from the hotel as my dear friend, Micah, lifted me from the buckboard. I weakly put my arm around him, but he practically carried me inside. He asked me who did it, but I didn’t know. I could hardly answer his questions, I was so weak.
As we slowly started up the stair to the motel, I quietly told Mark to get my rifle. This time the doc argued, but I wouldn’t listen. I knew there was trouble and I would protect my friend even in my dying breath! “Mark, you hear me?” I said in the sternest voice I could muster under the circumstances. Mark did as he was told.
Mark had been so busy getting the doctor that he hadn’t noticed the ghost-town like image of our town. The street was still silent. Not a person could be found. Not a building was open. The silence was eerie, worrisome. Mark questioned Micah about it, but he didn’t want Mark to worry anymore then he already was, so he brushed it off.
The doc gave me something that made me very drowsy. It took away my dizziness, though. I could hardly move. I could hardly talk. All I wanted to do was sleep. Mark wanted me home, and doc said he could take me home tomorrow if I didn’t get a fever. Then doc assured Mark he was across the hall, should he be needed.
“I guess you’re going to be alright, huh, pa?” Mark said. He was relieved. I know he had been worried sick about me.
“I guess so,” I mumbled. I think I was more asleep at this point.
“Well then sleep, like the doc said,” Mark bossed as he took over taking care of me. Then he tenderly tucked the covers over me. He looked at me tenderly for a moment, so thankful I was alive. Then he did something that he saw me do to him hundreds of times before – he kissed me good night. He may think I didn’t know about it, but that meant a great deal to me and I’ll never forget it!
While I was sleeping, Micah was sitting outside his office. He was becoming totally exhausted, and fought giving in to that exhaustion. Maury sat at a table by the window where he could stare at Micah, just waiting for him to nod off in sleep. The eerie silence that still laid over the town didn’t help matters any. Maury’s stares really made Micah uncomfortable. Between that and his extreme tiredness, Micah was loosing his senses. He laid his gun down on the desk and sat down in his chair. It was only a matter of moments before he was asleep.
When the medication I had taken earlier started wearing off, I woke up. The room was dark and I was really hurting. But the first thing I thought of was Micah. I wasn’t sure what was going on, but I sensed Maury was back. So I forced myself awake. Ever so slowly, I pulled the covers away and sat up. My body screamed in pain as I did it. I turned my head to see where my boy was, and was grateful to find him fast asleep in a chair nearby. That was one worry off my mind.
I slowly stood up and quietly walked over to the window. I peered out the window down onto the street but didn’t see Micah over there. Everything looked calm and peaceful. I turned to walk back to bed, but then stopped. Everything was too peaceful. I turned back toward the window and sat down in the chair. That horse was back in front of the saloon. That only meant one thing.
Maury was back.
I sat and kept my eye out the window, ready if Maury started to make a move. I wasn’t sure that it wasn’t already too late to help Micah, but if it wasn’t, I was going to be there no matter what!
Maury took one more drink before peering out the window one last time. Micah was asleep now. So he cautiously made his way across the dark, empty street to kill my best friend. Peering out the window, I saw Maury leave the saloon and slowly walk across the street. Fear clinched me. I didn’t know how I would make it down there, but I would. I had to help my friend. So, slowly standing up form the chair, I made my way across the room for my rifle. It took every bit of strength I had left to cock that thing. I only had one hand I could use. Opening the door, I made my way down the stairs as fast as I could.
Maury was able to make it into Micah’s office. He grabbed the shotgun from the table. Then he slammed the door. Micah suddenly woke up “Maury!” Micah said groggily.
“That’s right, Marshall. It’s me,” he said as he looked at the shotgun. “"Too bad you fell asleep. You were gonna use this on me, weren't you?" He fired a shot through the window. It left a big, gaping hole. The shot echoed all the way down the empty street. “That would have blown a big hole in me, wouldn't it?"
Micah knew he would have to face Maury in a gunfight alone. “Alright, where do you want it?" He asked as he slowly stood up from his desk. Defeat registered all over his face.
Maury smiled a victorious smile. “Same as before, Marshal. Out on the street.”
“I don’t have the hand I used to have, Maury. I guess you know that,” Micah reminded him. There was nothing fair about this!
Maury laughed. “I know that.”
“Get out there!” Micah ordered.
By the time I made it to the bottom of the stairs, I had little energy left. I wasn’t even able to hold up my rifle, so I knew shooting it was out of the question. I felt total hopelessness. Still, I proceeded to go out onto the street. I would die trying to save this man.
Micah and Maury got on the street before I made it out the door. Maury threw the rifle across the road. He never intended to use it. He would use his six shooter, same as Micah. "That's far enough, Marshall,” he announced. “Turn around and draw."
“Maury,” I moaned as I came onto the street. I was so weak I could hardly walk. Pure determination was the only thing that kept me going.
Maury laughed at me. “Looky here! I got a Marshal what can’t shoot, and a sodbuster that can hardly hold his rifle up.” He was finding this all very amusing. "Sodbuster, you're no better off today than you were yesterday by that wood pile."
My thoughts on this were confirmed. “Maury, don’t you ever give anybody an even break?”
Maury only shook his head and laughed.
I whispered to Micah, "Micah, when I walk in front of you, draw your gun and make it good."
I started walking to get in front of Micah. I kept Maury distracted by talking to him so Micah could get his gun out and be ready to shoot. I wasn’t sure if I was going to make it through this or not, but I had to try. “I told you, Maury. I don’t care where or when or how,” suddenly, I was empty of strength. I fell to the ground.
As I fell, Maury drew, but Micah was ready and he was able to shoot first. He shot several times before Maury was finally dead.
I raised my head to see the outcome. Suddenly, my best friend was there lifting me up! "Lucas! Lucasboy.” Micah smiled down at me as he held me by his strong arms. He knew I was okay. But it was more then that. I had laid down my life for him, and he was indeed happy! “Come on. I'll get you into the hotel." Great relief could be heard in Micah’s voice. I was relieved it was over.
Doc and Eddie hurried out of the hotel. Right behind them came Mark. “Pa!” he shouted. I held out my arms to me. I needed to hold him in my arms. It was then that I’d know everything was okay. "Dang blame it Lucas, I told you to stay in bed!" the doc was stating.
I hardly heard him. Mark and I looked into each others eyes. I smiled, but he was still too shaken to smile. So I only held him in my arms, assuring him everything was okay.
The next day Mark and I were getting ready to leave and the Doc told me "just remember what I told you, work that arm and shoulder in easy." He didn't want to come out to my ranch and find me chopping wood or something. I told him not to worry, I would behave myself. Doc told Mark to look after me. I don’t think he needed to tell Mark that. I knew my boy would be watching me like a mother hen watches her chicks!
"Lucas,” Micah started. I looked up at him. “See you around.” I nodded at him and gave him a small smile. I think it was the night before was when Micah realized just how much his friendship meant to me. From that day forward, we were best friends indeed!
piddlin' stuff.....Lee Van Cleef needs no intro at all. I think we can safely say everyone has heard of him. He starred in 'The Deadly Wait' as Dan Maury. He's the bad dude who crippled Micah's arm. He is exceptional in this episode!' The other "Rifleman" episodes he starred in was 'The Prodigal' - 'The Clarence Bibs Story' and 'Death Never Rides Alone.'
He also starred with Chuck in "Branded" in 'Call to Glory' [Blade Rider, Revenge of the Indian Nations] and 'The Richest Man in Boot Hill.'
He appeared in "High Noon," as henchman Jack Colby, a role that brought him great recognition despite having no dialogue. Liked him in "The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance." Numerous Sergio Leone Spaghetti Westerns ~ one he is best known for is "The Good, The Bad & The Ugly." He later starred in his own TV series "The Master," John Peter McAlister, a martial arts & action show. Great actor!
Edgar Buchanan as Doc Burrage. Edgar Buchanan appeared in 6 episodes of "The Rifleman." Five episodes as Doc Burrage and one as Grandpa Fogarty in 'The Long Goodbye.' There were two doctors before Doc Burrage although neither of them were ever named or given credit. Those two episodes were 'The Sharpshooter' and 'The Marshal.' In 'End of a Young Gun' Lucas told Hank he would go get Doc Sedley? Doc Burrage was first introduced to 'The Rifleman' in 'The Pet.'
Doc Burrage was a regular character ~ how many different actors played Doc Burrage? Can you name them?
Bill Quinn as Sweeney the owner/bartender of The North Fork Saloon. Sweeney was first introduced to "The Rifleman" in 'The Marshal.'
He has appeared in 39 episodes of"The Rifleman" as Sweeney the Bartender.
John Harmon as Eddie Halstead owner/hotel clerk of the Hotel Madera. John Harmon appeared in 13 episodes as Eddie Halstead. Eddie Halstead was first introduced to "The Rifleman" in 'Duel of 'Honor.'
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
How many actors played Nils or was it Niles or Nels? Was it Swenson or was it Svenson? See my Blacksmith page.
You've heard Lucas' story, now hear Mark's
Bloopers for this episode & other episodes
The Wrong Man
One Went to Denver
around The McCain Ranch