It was after church on Sunday that I had invited Lou out to the ranch to go for a ride on horseback. We left Mark back at the ranch to finish his chores that he didn’t get completed on Saturday. As we were riding, Lou’s hair was whirling around in the wind; she had forgotten her hat back at the ranch. I wanted to go back and get it but she said that she would be okay without it.
Suddenly we heard Mark yelling to us. He was calling for us to wait. In his hand, he was holding Lou's hat. “Well, it looks like Mark found a good excuse to postpone his chores!” I declared.
Lou smiled. “Just the same, it’s still a nice thought!”
We were watching him race towards us when Blue Boy took a mis-step over an uneven place in the ground, and in trying to regain his balance, the cinch on the saddle broke and Mark went for a really bad tumble. Without hesitation, I raced Razor to back to Mark. As I jumped off Razor and ran to Mark’s side, he was laying face down on the ground, shaking his head. I asked him if he was hurt as I turned him over to sit up. He said he was alright. I helped him get to his feet. I looked away from Mark as Lou rode up behind us. As I turned back to Mark, his legs suddenly gave way and Mark fell back to ground. "You are hurt son...where?" I asked him worriedly.
"No...I'm not hurt, Pa...It's my legs...I can't move 'em! Feels like I don't have any." Mark’s voice couldn’t hide his fear. "Feels like I don't have any legs at all!"
I left Lou with Mark while I raced back to the ranch to get the buckboard to get Mark home. My mind couldn’t focus, I was scared for my boy. We got Mark back to the ranch. Lou stayed with Mark while I rode hard to get the doctor.
Later that evening, after Doc Burrage had examined Mark in the bedroom, Lou and Doc were sitting at the table, and I was pacing. I couldn’t bring myself to sit down. "Doc.....I just don't understand. If his backs not hurtin' and there's no other physical injury, why can't he move his leg?" I was upset.
"Being thrown this morning put the nerve that controls his legs in kind of a spasm. They're paralyzed until that nerve relaxes," said Doc Burrage.
“Well, how long will that be, doctor?” I asked.
“I don’t know.”
I got even more upset and wanted an answer. "I don't know...there is no sure cure for this kind of an injury," Doc explained. “Mineral baths is the most effective treatment I have ever heard of. Where was I going to find a mineral bath for Mark? Then I happened to remember Missions Springs. It was an old burned down Mission near the Mexican border. They had hot mineral baths. “I don’t know, Lucas. That’s dangerous country.”
I got angry! This was my son we were talking about. "What do you mean you don't know? There's Mineral baths there.....will they or won't they help Mark?" All he could tell me was that it might help Mark.
That was enough for me. “Lou, will you help me get Mark ready?”
“Mm hm,” Lou answered. “And I’m going with you!”
“Yeah. I figured you would,” I said.
Before long we were on our way. The closer we got to the mountains the colder it got. I asked Mark if he was warm enough. He said he was fine. I asked him if he was tired. He said he was, but not much. “Well, the roughest part of the trip is over. We oughta be there by tomorrow.”
I hurt for my boy. I wanted to take him in my arms to tell him everything was going to be okay, but I was scared. I understand gunshot wounds and stabbings, and even illnesses, but nerves and paralysis; I couldn’t get my mind around. Could my hugging my boy cause him more harm. He’d taken after his Ma so much, being so much slighter of build.
We finally reached Mission Springs. I carried Mark to one of the springs and Lou rolled up his pant legs. We put Marks legs in the springs. We waited. After a while, we pulled his legs out of the water, and dried them down. But he didn’t feel anything. I was desperate for my boy to walk! I told Mark to try and move his toes. I watched, but nothing moved. “Go on, son. Go on!” I pleaded.
“I just can’t, Pa!” Mark stated.
I was discouraged. “This is only the first treatment. We’ve got to have lots of patience,” Lou told me. I knew she was right. It was just hard watching my son suffering. A father couldn’t help but hope.
I guess I expected a miracle right away.
The sun would be setting soon, so I went to cut some wood for the fire when I noticed riders in the distance. I went back to the camp to get my rifle. Lou paused in building the campfire. “Is there something wrong?”
“I’m not sure, but I…better play it safe,” I answered.
I went part way down the mountain to get a closer look. To my horror, the men I spotted were three armed convicts with a prison guard for a hostage. I hurried back to the camp and bent down to talk to Lou quietly. There was no reason to upset Mark. “Three escaped convicts with a prison guard for a hostage,” I announced.
“Convicts? Here?” I told her they had probably escaped from Yuma prison. They were probably here for water.
I told her there wasn't much cover where we were at and that our best bet would be to head for the trees and stay out of sight until they leave. I put out the camp fire as Lou gathered up our things. I went to where Mark was sitting against a boulder; I picked him up and carried him to the buckboard. I tucked Mark in good and tight to keep him warm. “Hurry, Lucas!” Lou declared impatiently. She was worried.
Lou and I got in the seat and drove the buckboard away from the springs; the only hope my son had for recovering. I hid the buckboard in among some bushes and trees a distance from where we had been, but it was still too close for my comfort. I took my rifle and went back to check on the progress the convicts were making towards the springs. Hoping and praying all the time that they would keep right on riding by. They decided to camp for the night not too far from where we had originally camped.
The prisoners talked about what they were going to do once they got across the border – get Mexican girls, eat…
As the sun set and night fell, it was getting colder and colder. I was getting frustrated. We couldn't build a fire. We didn't want to alert the convicts we were there. So we just waited. They had built a fire, which helped me to keep my eye on them the best I could. Yet, seeing that fire angered me. My boy needed those springs. Rance, the leader of the gang was getting edgy. He said the place gave him the creeps, it was like a church to him.
When they bedded down for the night I went back to check and see how Lou and Mark were doing. Lou was worried about Mark. She said he needed more than blankets, he needed a warm fire and warm food inside him. “I know.”
“It’s gonna be freezing up here soon!” Lou declared.
“I know that too, Lou.”
“Bricks need to be heated. We’ve got to have a fire!” Lou insisted.
“NO!” I said quietly. “They’d spot it.”
She said that maybe after they have eaten maybe they would leave. I told her I didn't think they had any food. She thought maybe we could offer them some, maybe make them a deal. "Lou.....convicts don't leave witnesses to point their back trail." I snapped at her. She looked discouraged, but I had no words to offer her. Right now we just had to go unnoticed as long as possible. I’d never felt so helpless in my life, except… when Margaret took sick and died. Guess down deep inside I was worried that this was more than just a spasm, what if it was something else. I couldn’t lose my boy too.
After the convicts had beaten the guard unconscious, they tied him up for the night before they fell asleep. Sometime during the night the guard woke up and saw that the three convicts were sleeping. He quietly got to his feet and tried to sneak out of the campsite. He didn't get very far when Rance woke up to see him walking out. He ran after him. The other two convicts woke up and went to see what the commotion was. There was Rance, shoving the guards face in the dirt. He was getting even for some of the treatment that was put on him. With the hand Rance was leaning on as he was pushing the guard’s face down with the other, he noticed that there were ashes around the dirt and that they were warm. “Somebody was camping here just two or three hours ago.”
They spotted fresh wagon tracks - our wagon tracks. They knew someone was there and didn't want them to know it. "There ain't many of them or they wouldn't be hidin'," said Smiley.
"Where there's a camp there's usually food," said Dove. Rance told Smiley to get rid of the guard. Then they decided to look for us.
Mark was falling asleep sitting in the back of the wagon. I was having trouble keeping him awake. "You've got to keep your eyes open Mark! You've got to stay awake...if you don't you'll freeze!" He wasn't responding. The only way I could get him to wake up was to slap him across the face. I didn't want to, but this was my son's life, I had no choice. Down deep, it hurt me more to slap my son. "I'm sorry son...but you've got to stay awake to stay alive! Do you hear me Mark? Force yourself son...Force yourself!" I begged him desperately.
“I’ll try,” Mark mumbled.
I told Lou get some food into Mark. Lou went to get some beans. I stood there helpless, pleading with Mark to stay awake. I finally got him to wake up and I told him to make sure he stayed awake. He said he would. When I walked away, Lou was feeding Mark. I had to go see what our situation was.
As I went to check on the convicts, I came to another realization. They knew we were here. I saw two of the convicts looking for us. I stayed hidden as they looked.
I didn't know how long I could hold them off. When I went to hide in another spot Rance saw me. He wasn't sure if I was alone or not so he decided it would be best to come at me from three sides. He had Dove circle around to the left and Smiley went the other way. Rance was going to keep me busy from the front. Rance shot at me and I fired back. Rance kept me busy by firing at me while the others closed in. Then Smiley started firing at me and then Dove. I put up a pretty good fight. I shot at Dove and my bullet ricochet off a rock and nicked him. Smiley and Dove went back to where Rance was. Their plan didn't work. They hadn't figured on how good I was with my rifle. They had to find another way to take me. Rance decided they would wait for the temperature to drop, knowing I wouldn't light a fire. I didn’t want to give away Lou and Mark’s location. Soon, they would be able to see me with the full moon. All they had to do was wait until I froze and then walk in. Dove told the other two to get some sleep; that he owed me something for wounding him. Rance and Smiley returned to their campfire to get warm and to get some rest while Dove kept me busy. It was getting colder and colder. And if I were getting that cold while moving around, I couldn’t imagine how cold Mark must be, just sitting there.
Things had quieted down some and I decided to check on Mark and Lou. I put my arm around Lou’s shoulders and led her away from Mark. “Are they coming?” I told her that they were waiting on us to freeze to death. "It'll be morning soon and it’ll be warmer," said Lou.
"Lou...Mark can't last 'till morning and my hands are getting so stiff I can’t fire a gun.” I put my hands on her shoulders and spoke softly to her. Her faces were very close together as I spoke. “Now look...I want you to take the buckboard and make a dash for it while I draw their fire."
"No,” Lou whispered. Then as the realization of my request hit her, she screamed, “NO!"
I grabbed her. "I don't want Mark to hear this!" I told her as quietly as I could.
"I won't leave you!" Lou stated passionately.
"Lou...there is no chance in the world for all three of us to get out of here alive." I pleaded with her.
"Then none of us will...I won't go without you!"
"Lou, listen to me...I want life for my son. You've got to help me give it to him. You're the only one who can! Lou...please! Please!" I’m not a man to beg, but this was my son’s life. She looked at me hurting, not wanting to leave me behind.....but she knew what Mark meant to me and how important what I was asking of her, was to me." She nodded her head and walked away.
As I waited, I remembered the times I had sent Mark away in the past. The Ordeal in the desert or trying to get Jax and Andy to jail after murdering an old timer and shooting me or when we came up against the Skull Ranch. The only times I never wanted Mark at my side was when I realized there was no way both of us could survive. Knowing in those moments that I may never see him again. Never see him grow up, fall in love, get married, have children of his own. But regardless of me, I wanted those things for my son. Leaving him in the care of those who would see that he was raised right, be it Micah, or Hattie, or Millie, or now Lou! I wanted my son to have life!
While I was talking with Lou, Smiley went back to the camp and told Rance and Dove that there hadn't been a sound out there for over an hour. The three of them left their camp to come look for us.
Lou and Mark were ready to leave. I handed Lou the reins. “No matter what happens, Lou, you keep going.” Lou nodded.
I then walked to the back of the wagon to get one last look at my son before they left. He was trying so hard to stay awake, but I knew the cold was winning out. I saw him as the young boy when we first arrived in North Fork, to the young man he was becoming now. I couldn’t speak to him. If I had, my emotions would have come out and he’d of known what I was planning.
The three of convicts decided I must be too frozen to fight. Rance slowly started toward my area. He got a little ways and then motioned for the other two to come ahead. I was waiting and watching for them. They were out in the open. They didn't expect what happened next. First I shot Smiley, then Dove and Rance last. Relief flooded my body.
It was over!
The next day, we worked hard on Mark’s feet again. Lou was trying to cheer Mark up as she told him stories of her “Dear Old Father”, but it wasn't working. He still couldn't walk. He hung his head, looking down, shoulders slumped, wringing his hands. Lou told Mark a story about climbing trees. “Well, I won’t have to worry about…climbing anymore trees!” Mark declared
Lou came over to me as I returned with the firewood. I asked her how Mark was. “The same. I think he’s losing all hope,” Lou answered. “Talk to him, Lucas.
My heart ached to see my son this way. I hurt as much for him now as I did when he contracted Typhoid. I knelt down next to him. I just looked at him, trying to get a sense of exactly how he was feeling. Then I spoke. "You know son, they have missions like this all over California. The northern part of the state clear down to the Mexican border. Some day maybe you and I can..."
He stopped me. "Pa...it's no good...I can't walk...I can't walk!" He sounded so hopeless! I could tell he wanted to cry, that he saw himself a cripple for the rest of his life.
"No you stop that and you listen.....you are gonna walk! It may take a long time, but you are going to walk son! I know you're frightened.....but we're gonna see this through! All three of us! You just gotta have a little faith!"
I pulled his legs from the springs and started to massage them. Maybe a little harder than I should have, but his self pity was upsetting me. I’d not raised my boy to give up.
“It doesn't matter how much I bathe you in these springs or how much I rub your legs with my hands, it's gonna be up to you in the long run! You've got to believe that and you've got to try! You've got to keep believing and keep trying!" I happened to look up at Mark, to see if what I was saying was getting through to him. Mark’s expression hand changed. He wasn’t looking at me, he was looking at his legs. “What is it?”
"Pa...I think I can move my toes...but my legs...they feel funny! They hurt Pa!"
“Do your legs hurt?” Mark nodded. I stood up and put my hand out and told him to stand up. He just sat there looking at me. I know he was scared and confused. "Mark stand up," I yelled as I grabbed him and pulled him to his feet. My heart leapt when, as I let go of his arms and stepped back, I realized he could stand on his own. I saw hope in his eyes. Now I just had to get him to try to walk.
I backed up and held out my hand to him. "Come. Come on son." I kept saying these words over and over as I encouraged him. He slowly took a step and then another. He made it close enough to me that he collapsed in my arms.
“I can walk! I can walk, Pa! Mark, Lou, and I stood there embracing in one big hug. Quietly I was thanking the good Lord for answering my prayers.
piddlin' stuff.....Dean Fredricks played Rance was, the leader. He also appeared in another episode of "The Rifleman"—'Squeeze Play' as Phil Carver. He was the one with the studded leather cuffs.
He played Crowfeather in the TV mini series "Daniel Boone" and a Comanche Chief in "Savage Sam" and Detective Curtis in "Them!" just to name a few. He made several guest appearances on "The Adventures of Rin Tin Tin." He also appeared in many of the classic TV Westerns.
George (Goober) Lindsey played The Dove, he was the one who was gonna get him a Mexican girl, one that fights. I'm sure we all know this character. He is none other then Goober from "The Andy Griffith Show" &"Mayberry R.F.D."
Remember him on "Hee-Haw?"
Lindsey has a Bachelors Degree in Bioscience from the University of Alabama and was a science teacher before deciding to become an actor.
Dal Jenkins played Smiley. He was the one who wanted to eat. He has done a lot of things such as—"Thursday's Child"—"The Manhunter"— "Bad Charleston Charlie"—"Pushing Up Daisies"—"The Rookies"—"Cade's County"—"O'Hara, U.S. Treasury"— "Mission: Impossible"—"Lancer"—"Here Come the Brides"—"Will Penny"—"The Iron Horse"—"Batman"—"The Legend of Jesse James"—"The War Lord"—"Rawhide"—"Zebra in the Kitchen"—"Young Fury"— "The Greatest Story Ever Told"—"Bonanza"—"Invitation to a Gunfighter"—"The New Interns"— "Destry"—"Temple Houston"—"The Gallant Men"
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)
Patricia Blair played the hot-tempered Irish lass who was a razor-sharp businesswoman, Lou Mallory, owner of The General Store, Madera House, a farm and several parcels of land. Patricia Blair appeared in 17 episodes as Lou Mallory and was introduced to "The Rifleman" in "Lou Mallory."
Ralph Moody appeared in a total of 12 episodes of "The Rifleman" beating John Anderson and John Milford out at 11 episodes. He appeared in 9 episodes as Doc Burrage and in three other episodes. 'The Visitors' as Jonathan Dodd — 'The Spoiler' as Roy Merrick and 'The Hangman' as Eban Muchen.
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?
You've heard Lucas' story, now hear Mark's
Bloopers for this episode & other episodes
around The McCain Ranch