"Welcome to the McCain Ranch"
It was a quiet and dark night in North Fork. Micah walked toward his jail as a deputy sat outside guarding the jail. He looked around nervously and told Ben and Nils to go have their dinner. Micah told them to take their time. He’d be in with me. “Hey Marshal,” a man called from the back.
Micah opened the door to the jail and walked inside. A man was playing solitaire. “You tell one of them deputies to bring me in a steak. I’ve been eating this jail slop for four days now and I’m sick of it.”
Micah assured him that the U.S. Marshal from Denver would make sure he got anything he wanted when he got here. “Yeah. I hear they feed you real good just before they put the rope around your neck. But you remember this, they ain’t gonna hang me.” He laughed. “Remember, it’s a long ride from here to Yuma Prison. I’ll kill anybody who tries to take me there. Including you, your deputies, or anybody else that thinks they’re gonna hang…Charlie Gordo!” Micah didn’t say a word. He turned and walked out of the jail, closing the door behind him.
Later, Mark and I met Micah at the hotel for supper. We both ordered steak, potatoes, and coffee. I looked over at my boy who looked as if he were about to hang himself with hit tie! I wondered if he was going to order anything to eat. “Gosh, no Pa…I…I don’t wanna spoil my appetite!” Mark declared. I reminded him that he wasn’t going to a regular supper. “Oh, I know! But they’ll have cake, an’ cookies and stuff like that. An they’re even gonna have some of that new stuff…Ice Cream!”
Mark started tugging at his tie again. “Just cuz I’m goin’ to Lucille Bandy’s birthday party…I…I don’t see why I have to wear a tie!” Micah reminded him that the tie was his idea. “I look alright?” Mark asked then.
“Fine…Fine…” Micah nodded his approval.
Mark suddenly picked up his water and gulped it down. “What are you so nervous about, son?” I asked suddenly.
"Who's nervous?" Mark asked quickly. He looked at Micah nervously. “What time is it?” Micah took out his pocket watch and told Mark it was ten minutes until 7. Mark sighed. “Well, I…I better get goin’.
“Mark, the party is no ‘til seven thirty. Only takes five minutes to get there,” I reminded him. Boy, he sure was acting funny!
“I know, but I don’t’ wanna be late!” Mark stood up and hurried toward the door. “Mark? Didn’t you forget something?” Mark looked around and grabbed his hat. Then I held up the gift.
I couldn’t help but give Micah a look as he took the gift. Oh, to be 13 again! “Have a good time, son.”
Mark turned to leave, but suddenly he came back to me. In a low voice, he spoke. His words were nervous! "Pa...how come girls make fella's feel like...well, you know...all butterflies inside? Even worse than the first time you try to rope a calf."
I tried to keep from laughing as I explained. "Well Mark…” I started as I tried to come up with a good answer. “I guess the best way to explain it is that.....with girls it's knowin' that you might get roped back.” From the look on my son’s face, I’d say that wasn’t exactly the answer he was looking for. “Have a good time son." After Mark left Micah and I had ourselves a good laugh.
Micah and I went to meet the stage. He was really nervous – it was late. I told my friend that he was letting Gordo bother him too much. “I haven’t eaten or slept right since Gordo’s been in my jail.”
“I know.” We watched as the stage drove in. “Well…I guess you’ll sleep tonight.” I gave my friend a relieved smile.
When Preston rode up, he explained that they were 3 hours late in leaving Pagosa Spring that morning – they sure had a time trying to make up for time. We watched the passengers get off the stage. “Didn’t you have another passenger?”
I listened as Preston delivered the sad news. “No, Micah. The lawman from Denver didn’t make it.”
“What do you mean he didn’t make it?” Micah asked then.
“Well, when we were ready to leave for Pagosa Springs this mornin’, he wasn’t there so I went to look for him. I found him lying dead in his room.”
“What?” Micah was shocked.
“He was shot, Micah. The Sheriff up there, he questioned everybody, but nobody had seen or heard anything. Told me to go on. Said he’d notify Denver and they’d probably get a hold of you.”
I was curious about the other passengers. Preston told me they were a couple cattlemen from Denver. I could tell Micah was really worried. I assured him they’d send another Federal Marshal for him. “All you have to do is keep him here.”
“Yeah. Like Ted Burks up in Salinas a couple of years ago,” Micah stated. “He had Gordo locked up. Just one night, that’s all. They killed Ted, one of his deputies, and a couple of townspeople getting him out. The same thing happened in Waco six months ago. Lucas, I need more help!” I could tell my friend was really scared. I agreed to stay and help him. I went to see if Mark could stay at the Benson’s until I got back.
Ben was standing guard in front of the Marshal’s office. When Micah walked by, he wondered where the Marshal was. Micah gave him the news. "What do you mean he was killed?" Ben asked as he walked inside.
“Just what I said,” Micah answered. Nils walked in then. Ben told him the news.
“Then that means someone is coming after him, just like he’s been saying!” Nils declared.
“Looks that way,” Micah stated. Ben wondered how many. “Hard to tell. Maybe one, maybe a dozen. Who knows?”
Ben walked over to the window. He was really nervous! He turned and looked at Micah. He told Micah he’d do deputy duty anytime he was needed. When he heard he needed a deputy, he had come right over. Micah agreed. Ben tried to say what he needed to say, but he couldn’t. Micah saved him the trouble. “You don’t have to tell me, I know. A man with a wife and four kids. It’s alright, Ben. You go on home.” Ben felt bad, but he had to think of his family. He took off the deputy star and tossed it on the table.
“Micah? I’ll take the door,” Nils stated.
Ben’s leaving worried Micah even more. He was very thankful Nils was staying to help.
When I got back, I asked Nils to bed Razor down for me. Nils ran to do that while I went inside to talk to Micah. I questioned Micah on Ben’s drinking on duty. I had seen him heading toward the saloon. “Ben’s not on duty,” Micah announced as he picked up the star. I understood and took the deputy star. I pinned it on the right side of my shirt. "You’re supposed to wear that over your heart.”
"I've got a big heart Micah."
Just then Gordo hollered for Micah. He wanted to talk to Micah. I followed Micah inside as they talked. Gordo said he was getting lonesome. He announced that he overheard the talking and that he knew the Marshal from Denver wasn’t coming. “Seems like he went and got himself killed or something? Now who’d do a thing like that? You know, pretty soon there ain’t gonna be a lawman left!” He laughed.
I glared at him. I saw no human in this sick man! "Your name is Luke McCain, ain't it? They call you 'The Rifleman'. You know, you and me…we’d make a good team together." Micah told him to shutup. “I’ll bet you they’re out there right now, just breathing down your neck.”
Micah turned around and walked out. I was right behind him. “I’ve been listening to that for four days! It’s enough to get on a man’s nerves!” Micah declared.
I studied on this situation. Then I questioned Micah on the two cattlemen that got off the stage. Something just didn’t seem right with them! Micah thought they were respectable looking. “I don’t think they’d arrive in town just as big as life if they has something besides cattle on their minds.”
“Well…It won’t hurt to find out.”
Micah looked at me. “Lucas, there’s another stage arriving in the morning and another one in the evening. Besides that, there are people coming and going through town all the time. Now, I can’t stop and question all of ‘em!” I asked him if he minded me checking around. He told me to go ahead. I walked out the door. But as soon as Nils announced he was back, Micah shouted, “Lucas, I’m coming with ya!”
We had just started toward the saloon when I noticed Ben’s horse. We hurried to see what was going on. We found Ben slumped over. He was barely alive. Micah wanted to know who did this. Ben tried to speak, but he couldn’t. He died.
I watched them take his body off. Sweeny was there with us. I just had to question him again! “Sweny, you didn’t hear anything? You didn’t see anything? Nothing at all?”
Sweeny was upset. “Lucas, I told you. Ben came in for a drink. We talked for a few minutes. Then he left for home. That’s all.” We had already questioned Nils. He had seen the same thing. Ben had come out, got on his horse, and rode off. About five minutes later, the two cattlemen left the saloon and went straight to the hotel.
I told Micah to take the lantern. I wanted to check out the scene of the crime – just in case we overlooked something. I studied the ground. Ben was dragged in here.
Micah agreed. "Yeah...maybe they’re out there right now, breathing down out necks."
“You quoting Gordo again?" I asked.
"Yeah...I guess I am," Micah fearfully. Just then someone shot at us, hitting the lantern and knocking it over. We heard horses retreating.
I looked out into the darkness. “Well, I guess that answers your question.”
Nils heard the shot and came running. He wanted to know what was going on. Micah asked him who was guarding the prisoner. Nils stuttered sheepishly that nobody was.
“Nobody!” I grumbled as we all three ran back to Micah’s office. We rushed to the jail. We were surprised to find Gordo was still in his cell. He was lying in the bed. "Howdy Marshal, what's going on out there? I keep hearing gunshots. That deputy, he come in here and told me that the other fella got himself killed. Is that right?"
"How many are out there Gordo?" I asked.
He laughed. “Well, I remember in Salinas, 12 and uh…down in Waco five...no, seven. But don’t you suppose, Marshal, they’re just out there having some fun riling you up before they kill you?” We left him alone.
We went out to Micah's office. Micah lit into Nils. "You know better than to leave this office unguarded! The back door is doubled locked but that won't stop them!" Nils apologized. He started to explain, but he was nervous…upset…maybe even scared. Thee was a lot of tension in the room. He told Micah he needed to get away for a few minutes. He needed a drink.
“Yeah, you look like you need a drink!” Micah declared angrily. Then his voice gentled. “Oh Nils…You…ah…you’re coming back?”
"Sure I'm comin' back!" Nils rushed out the door. I grabbed his rifle from him as he walked out the door. I told Micah I still wanted to talk to those two cattlemen. Since Nils had left, Micah had to stay here in his office.
They were at the hotel eating a late supper. I greeted them, asking them if they were the two cattlemen who cam in on the Denver stage tonight. They announced they had come here to buy some cattle. “I’m beginning to wonder.
I assured him I was a deputy, not the Marshal. “Oh I’m sorry. Is that a safe job now?” they asked. “It seems like lawmen in this part of the country don’t live long.” They were referring to what happened in Pagosa Springs. “Well, that and what happened here tonight. That other Deputy…Say…who is this Gordo anyway? Bartender over at the saloon said you have him over at your jail.”
“You never heard of ‘em?” I was a bit surprised.
“Our business is cattle…not outlaws.”
I decided to investigate that further. “Well now, my business ain’t lawman either. I’m a cattle rancher myself.” They were happy to hear that – even wanted to get together and do some business with me. The man introduced himself as Dave Chester. The other man was Karl Hollis.”
I told him my name. “Just what is it you’re looking for in the way of cattle?” I asked then.
“Any at all,” Chester declared. What you got? The beef market is high in Denver.” This was turning into a very interesting conversation after all!
“Yeah, I guess it is,” I stated as I thought on this. “Well, if you fellows are gonna be around, soon as I’m free maybe we can ride out to my place and look over the stock.” I left and headed back to Micah’s office.
Gordo called for Micah again. This time he wanted a drink. As I walked into the office, I called out for Micah. He turned from Gordo. “In here, Lucas.” That was a mistake. Gordo grabbed him. I picked up a box of shells and studied them.
Suddenly, I heard a noise from the back. I ran to the back to find Micah in a headlock. I rushed over and punched Gordo hard. Then I grabbed Micah and hurried him out of the cell block, closing the door behind us.
“ignorant ape!” I’m gonna kill you sodbuster! Nobody ever hits Charlie Gordo and live to tell about it!" "I'm gonna kill you.....do you hear me?" We listened as he continued yelling that stuff over and over. Boy, he was really mad!
“How long is this gonna last?” Micah asked then.
I turned and looked at him. “Micah, how long would you say it takes to build up a cattle herd?” Micah looked at me, wondering what I was talking about. “Well…six months ago, this territory was hit with the worst hoof and mouth plague in its history. There weren’t enough cattle left to fill one loading pen.”
“So, now that we’ve barely started to build up our herd, along come two cattlemen who wanna buy our stock…to me that adds up to either they don’t know the cattle business or…they are not in the cattle business.”
Micah shook his head. He had a very tired look on his face. “Sometimes I don’t think this job pays enough.” I could be wrong. “Best we figure, you’re right!”
Just then, Nils stepped out of the saloon and started back toward Micah’s office. He was shot and fell in the street. We heard the shot. I hurried to the door and opened it. Nils was in the street, shot. “Micah!” More shots came from a room in the hotel. Nils was shot again. I fired several shots into the window, but didn’t get the man.
“Cover me, Micah!” I yelled as I ran out onto the street. I helped Nils into the saloon. More shots fired. I ran out of the saloon to face the gunfire. I was shot. I groaned and fell facedown in the street. I was out cold.
Micah saw me fall. His eyes were grieved. “Lucas!’ Micah cried. “Lucas Boy!” He started out his door to help me, but he was shot in the shoulder. He grabbed it and went back into his office, closing the door behind him. He was trapped.
The two so-called cattlemen decided it was time. They left the window. Micah blew out the lantern and broke the window out so he could hold his shotgun out the window. He was scared.
A laugh erupted from the cellblock. “You out, Marshal? Are you still alive, sodbuster?” Gordo called.
Micah turned and looked at me laying still out on the street. “Lucas Boy,” he called softly. But I didn’t move. He was grieving for me. He didn’t know if I was alive or dead. A horse neighed. Micah looked up to see a man coming up the street with the horses. “Alright, hold it!” he ordered. “Stay right were you are!” Micah looked up to see the two cattlemen coming out of the hotel.
“Marshal, you hear me? You better throw that gun outside, and keep yourself from getting killed!”
“You might try to take Gordo, but you’ll have to face thisshotgun first!’ Micah told them. All three men started firing over and over…Micah stayed low and allowed them to shoot. Several bullets hit the windows. Over and over the gunshots sounded. Finally, Micah raised up and peered out the window. He fired his two shotgun blasts, but hit nothing. More gunshots erupted. Micah went to reload.
He was hit. He fell to the floor gasping. He was hurt bad.
The men slowly and cautiously made their way to the Marshal’s office. One man stuck his rifle in my face, but I was out cold. They rushed inside and knocked Micah out. “Sure didn’t make good sense, Marshal,” one of the men said as he picked up the keys. He turned to the other men. “Save him for Gordo.” He took Micah’s keys and headed for the back to release Gordo.
Micah tried to lift his head, but he was hurt too bad. Micah saw Gordo standing over him – free. “Well Marshal…Looks like you’re troubles are all over. Ol’ Charlie Gordo ain’t gonna be around here no more!”
Micah lifted his head off the floor. Gasping, he said, “Gordo, someday they’re gonna…catch up with you!”
One of the men told him to finish Micah off so they could leave. “I don’t wanna finish him off. I want him alive. So he can tell everybody what Charlie Gordo done. And you’ll tell ‘em, won’t you, Marshal?” He roughly lifted Micah off the floor. “You tell ‘em good.” He dropped him back to the floor…hard. It hurt Micah. “So long.”
They walked outside. They stood over my body. “Quiet, ain’t it?” Gordo commented. He handed off his gun. “I guess I’m not gonna need this anymore.”
They didn’t know I had come to. I waited until they turned and started to walk to their horses. Then I lifted up and turned over. I held my rifle in my hand and fired. I killed the third man. The two so-called cattlemen went for their own guns, but I fired several shots one after the other. Hollis and Chester were dead. Only Gordo was left. Gordo tried to shoot me with his rifle, but I fired first. He fell over…dead.
Four men…all dead…laid in the street now.
It was over. They were all dead.
But was that all that was dead. I had to find out! “Micah!” I breathed. Then I walked into his office. Part of me didn’t want to know – the other part had to know.
I saw him lying there on his floor. I sat down my rifle and grabbed him by his vest, pulling him up. "Lucasboy, I thought you were…" Micah said. He was happy to see me alive.
I leaned him against his desk, and breathed a sigh of relief! I was afraid for him! I didn’t know what to say! It took me a minute to speak. "How bad are you Micah?"
"I had worse," Micah answered. "Gordo?"
"He said that you'll sleep tonight.” It was hard to keep my emotions in check! I wanted to weep with happiness that my friend was alive! I looked at Micah and smiled. “So will I." Because when my best friend has a problem, so did I!
The next day, Mark and I were sitting outside Micah's office. I had a bandaged wrapped around my head. Mark sighed. “Mark, you don’t mind staying in town a few days until Micah gets on his feet, do you?” I asked.
“Oh, no Pa!” Mark declared as he leaned back in his chair to relax. "Staying in town is like a vacation to me.”
“Maybe so, but you still have to go to school.”
“Yeah, I know,” Mark answered a bit less enthusiastic! “Of course, after school I can always help Lucille Bandy break that new Pino colt that she got for her birthday.”
That reminded me. I had to tease my young, adolescent boy! "Mark you never did tell me, how was Lucille's birthday party?"
Mark sat straight up in his chair, suddenly excited about it. "Oh Great! Oh boy, we had a swell time Pa! They had a..." He suddenly realized I saw his excitement. He sat back in his chair and folded his arms. He got subtle all of a sudden. "Oh it was alright, I guess. But you know…”
"All those girl?" I asked.
"Yeah.” Mark suddenly seemed really uncomfortable! “Well, I'll be seein' ya'." I smiled as Mark bolted from his chair and ran off. I laughed as I touched my sore head.
piddlin' stuff.....Lon Chaney Jr. played Charlie Gordo. He was the outlaw that Micah had locked up in his jail.
Remember Lon in "Hawkeye and the Last of the Mohicans" as Chingachgook, Scout?
Of course we remember him and his father Lon Chaney for their presence in horror films. Lon Chaney, Jr., is the only person to have played all four of the classic movie monsters: "The Wolf Man" (1941) (Larry Talbot/Wolf Man) "The Ghost of Frankenstein" (1942) (The Frankenstein Monster) "The Mummy's Tomb" (1942) (Kharis, the mummy) "Son of Dracula" (1943) (Count Anthony Alucard, Dracula's son) How about "Bud Abbott Lou Costello Meet Frankenstein?" Truly a great actor!
*As far as Lucas worst enemies, I'd say Charlie Gordo (Lon Chaney Jr.) is right up there with Dan Maury (Lee Van Cleef) in 'The Deadly Wait'.
"What say you?"
Ross Elliott played Ben Johnson. He was the cowboy who didn't want to be Micah's deputy anymore when he heard what had happened to the marshal in Pagosa Springs. He played in "The Life and Legend of Wyatt Earp" as Virgil Earp ~ "The Virginian" as Sheriff Mark Abbott from 1962-1969.
I don't think there was anything he didn't star in way back when! I remember him from "The Lone Ranger". But I know you've seen this cowboy many of times in many of westerns!
Elliott began his acting career with Orson Welles' Mercury Theater, where he performed in Welles' famed radio program "War of the Worlds."
For all you "General Hospital" fans, he was the first Lee Baldwin. I remember that.....my Mom use to watch "General Hospital."
William Bryant played Karl Hollis in this episode of 'Gun Fire'.
In 'The Apprentice Sheriff', he was Sandy Dixon, he was the cowboy who Dan shot and killed. This is a great actor. He was Jerry in 'Shivaree' - one of the rowdy cowboys. He also was in 'The Assailants' as Trooper Coley.
He appeared in "Branded" nine times as President Ulysses S. Grant.
He also appeared with Chuck in "Ride Beyond Vengeance" as the Bartender.
I loved him in "Hardcastle & McCormick" the pilot - 2 part called 'Rolling Thunder' as Flip Johnson.
Ol' Hardcastle knew the code of the west....."hunt 'em, hear 'em and hang 'em!" Loved that "Hardcastle and McCormick!" To me this was a modern day western. Hardcastle's favorite western star was the 'Duke' and he read 'The Lone Ranger' comic.
Grant Richards played Reed Barnes in 'The Apprentice Sheriff', he's the cowboy who pretended to be drunk and kill Sandy in the saloon. He was also in two more episodes of "The Rifleman." 'Gun Fire' as Dave Chester, a member of Gordo's gang and 'Tin Horn' as John Keeler.
He appeared in "The Untouchables" lots of times.
Preston Price was the stagecoach driver. Lucas called him Preston, but the credits say: Preston Price as Joe ~ This is the only thing I could find on this cowboy.
Joe E. Benson appeared in "The Rifleman" many times, probably more times than listed. Sometimes credited & sometimes not.
*Please note: In 'Dark Day at North Fork' he appeared as two different characters - as one of the townsmen & the bartender.
Joe was a good friend & a neighbor of Chuck's. He helped Chuck build a tree house for the boys and also help build the addition onto the house which was later called the den. (One of the several tree house pictures)
Joe Higgins played Nils Swenson. Is it Nils or is it Nels/Niles? What is his last name.....Swenson/Svenson aka The Blacksmith? Joe Higgins holds the record for playing Nils or was it Niles or Nels? Joe Higgins was in four other episodes of "The Rifleman." He played the bartender in 'Strange Town' — Rafe the blacksmith in 'The Wyoming Story' part 2 — 'Short Rope for a Tall Man' as Henry Schneider — 'Stopover' as Scotty the Stagecoach Driver.
Bill Quinn played 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.
You've heard Lucas' story, now hear Mark's
Bloopers for this episode & other episodes
The Quiet Fear
around the McCain Ranch