There comes a time when we all – adults included – can learn a lesson from a stranger. Well, today was one of those days!
Today, Mark was busy doing laundry on the ol’ scrub board outside when an old r man dressed in rags came walking up to him. Mark was a bit taken aback and…I hate to say…disturbed by his appearance. "Would you sell me a nickel's worth of water? My bottle is plum dry," asked the stranger.
"You can have all the water you want for free. Pa and me couldn't get the name of chargin' for drinking water," Mark answered him. Mark went to prime the pump for water. The old fellow was astounded at the stream of water coming out and shouted for Mark to "stop it up" because the water was a-wastin'.
Mark assured the man the cistern out back was full up year 'round and he needn't worry about some spilling out on the ground.
“Water sure has it over whisky when the time comes,” the old man commented as he took a long drink. He gulped the water down. "Better take it slow" Mark warned. "You're too thirsty."
I taught my boy good manners. He offered the man a shower bath. “All you do is stand under it and yank the rope,” Mark explained. It was the next thing Mark said that got the old man all riled up: “You’ll find some soap and a scrub brush,” he offered. Of course, Mark was just trying to be hospitable.
The broken-down old fellow became offended thinking Mark was putting him down. "You stand there telling me to my face that I smell like I don't belong with human company," he shouted in Mark's face. The man came toward Mark, which made Mark feel quite uncomfortable. He continued yelling at him. “Why, you squeaking little Yankee, I don’t let nobody-don’t go sticking your head off to one side now…”
Well, about that time I rode in to see the man blaring in Mark's face. I didn’t appreciate him talking to my boy like that, and my instincts to protect Mark got the better of me. So, I grabbed my gun and jumped off the horse. “What are you looking for?” I started. But then I saw the man's disposition. He was dirty, smelly, ragged, and broken down. I immediately changed my tone.
My sudden sympathy seemed to anger the old man. “Well, why don’t you go and shoot me with that there rifle gun so you won’t have to feel sorry for me,” he shouted at me. Mark made a face. I could tell he didn’t like the man.
As I came forward, Mark gladly moved out of the way. I think he was real happy I showed up when I did. With sympathy, I asked him to come in for a cup of coffee. I felt it was better to show kindness rather than anger to one so unfortunate.
Frank Blanden was his name. He enjoyed some coffee and eggs at our table. “Ham and eggs,” he commented. “That’s the tastiest eating food the Lord ever put on a man’s table in the garden of satisfaction.” I offered him some Apple brandy to wash it down, but "ferment of the fruit" was "again" his principles.
Frank offered to pay me a five-cent piece for my trouble but I wouldn't take it. When I refused the money he asked me for a job. Mark and I both probably had a bad look on our faces. I just wasn't sure an injured man could handle the kind of work we had on a ranch. Blanden was sure he could do most anything a two-handed man could do. I declined, saying it was only once a year we took on a hired hand. I offered him a dollar of my own to help him until he could find something else. Blanden refused it stating, “Once a man starts taking something for nothing he ain't no man no more, he's just charity.” He threw the money on the table. I felt so sorry for him and what he must have faced in his life.
That’s when he turned and said, “Anyway, you can stop fumigating with that there cigar." Frank could see right thru me. I must admit that I was uncomfortable with his appearance.
As I watched him leave, I slowly sat down at the table. I was so disappointed in myself and how I acted! “Gosh, I sure am glad you didn't take him on, pa," Mark stated.
"Why?" I asked, knowing I wouldn’t like his answer.
"He makes me shiver, he's so ugly and, that arm of his!" Mark stated this. I couldn’t believe such things were coming out of his mouth. I had to put a stop to our attitudes right now, so at that comment I headed for the door. "Where you goin'," Mark asked suddenly.
My response: "To try and hire the both of us a clear conscious."
"Oh, no Pa, please!” Mark begged. “Well, I can't even stand to look at him!"
“Neither can I, son, which means we’re both in worse shape then he is!” With that, I walked out the door to talk to him.
All I had to do was call his name, and he started running from me. He couldn’t run very well and I tried to catch up with him, causing him to fall. “What did you run for?” I asked him.
He stated that he thought I was planning to “Put on” him. When I asked him why, he stated, “For fun maybe!” I offered him a job at ten dollars a month with room and board. He stated “Half pay for half a man, fair enough!” I couldn’t believe this man! He had problems for sure.
I simply told him that “Cash is our short crop.”
As we carried in an old broken bed, Blanden stated, “And I could just sleep right over there in that there stall!” I told him we didn’t bed men in stalls, to which he responded, “What, are you afraid I might poison your stock?”
Blanden had an attitude for sure. The proud Rebel wasn't taking in charity from the likes of this Yankee. He had no use of his left arm that caused him a lot of pain, but he didn't talk about it. He didn't want any sympathy from anyone. He'd make his own way with no help. He'd prove he was just as much a man as any two-armed healthy man. So, I let him prove his point. He could start proving he was a man by repairing the old bed Mark and I brought into the barn for him to sleep on. “Broken down bed for a broken down man,” he stated.
I didn’t want to feel sorry for him anymore. And I didn’t want him to feel sorry for himself anymore. So I stated, “Well, that depends on the way you fix it.”
When I brought the clean linens out later, he was laughing. When I asked him what was funny, he stated, “A man as big as you raising posies alongside a porch.” I told him it was on the count of my wife’s love of marigolds. That’s when Blanden started talking about his wife and her dying of hunger after he returned from the civil war. “There ain’t a night that I ain’t minded of a sunrise fog just a laying over a stand of hardwood,” he began reminiscing about his home back in Tennessee.
The next day Blanden got an early start on the field behind the barn. I found Mark sitting on his horse, watching him with a grim look on his face. "Why don't you get off and give him a hand?" I suggested. I couldn’t believe my son was selfishly watching without working himself!
"Not me," answered Mark, "There's a nest of yellow jackets right by where he’s working."
I stared at him, shocked. “Yellow jackets? You didn’t warn him?”
“I don’t like to go near him, pa!” he exclaimed. His dirt and disfigured arm scared the boy. At that point screams came from the field. Blanden found that nest of yellow jackets and they were in his shirt. He danced around for a bit trying to get them out. I helped as best as I could. Blanden stopped, thinking they were all out, but then they started up again. I had to rip the shirt off Frank to stop the wasps from stinging him - it couldn't be helped. I wasn’t prepared for what I saw, but I think Mark was more shocked then I was. There stood a figure of a body, tangled and infected, an open oozing wound. Mark rode away in disgust.
“I told Blandon to go in the house and get one of my shirts to put on. I walked down to talk to Mark.
I found him near an old tree not far from the house. "Sorry son, but sooner or later you had to find out," I explained tenderly as I bent down next to him.
"Why did I? I didn't want to," Mark felt anguish. “Pa, his shoulder wasn’t healed!” Mark cried.
"Not only poor Blanden's shoulder, but I mean all the ugly, useless suffering in the world. In time you'll learn to accept it and bring it into balance with the good things." "I'll never be able to Pa!” Mark cried, hopeless.
I laid my cheek next to his forehead. "You will son because you have to. It's the price you pay on staying alive and in your right senses, it's manhood. And I can promise that when you come to the far end of it, you’ll raise your old hands to bless this wonderful life you’ve been given, taken all together with the roast beef, and the moon rises, and a boy and his father riding out in the morning, after you’re grown up to be a father yourself.” I stood him up and dusted him off.
Suddenly, a group of what looked like Army cavalry came riding toward the ranch in a fury. “Pa, look!” Mark exclaimed.
“Calvary patrol,” I stated.
“Look at them,” Mark said.
“The size of that white-“ I said.
“Gosh, ain’t they fine?” Mark stated.
As they got closer, I recognized General Phil Sheridan. I stood at attention and saluted me. I had served under the General at Yellow Tavern to the end of the war, 19th Indiana, as a Lieutenant.
General Sheridan was looking for a place to bivouac for the night and I welcomed them to our home.
I walked with Mark to his horse. “Life sure is funny,” Mark stated.
“What do you mean by that?” I asked Mark as I lifted him up onto his horse.
“Well, Blandon and now Sheridan. One, a poor, raggedy old Private from the Confederates, and the other a big, important General from the North. Tonight they’ll both be staying in the same house together.” I smiled as I watched him ride back up towards the house.
The General enjoyed the use of our home and our shower bath. I told them there was a hotel in North Fork they may have been more comfortable with, but I was informed that the General preferred to conduct his inspections without fanfare. As I was talking to the army officers, Mark called me over. “Blanden’s drunk!” he announced to me.
“Drunk? Where’d he get it?” I asked.
“He changed his mind about your apple brandy!”
I stood in the doorway of the barn and watched him. He was drunk all right! In fact, he was ready to finish off my horse liniment. I stopped him and told him he’d burn a hole in his stomach. Of course he didn’t think it should be any of my concern. “I just wanted something to keep me warm for the road,” he stated. I was surprised that he was planning on leaving.
Blanden stared at me in disbelief. “You ain’t expecting me to stay on the same property with them Yankee bluecoats, are you?"
I reminded him that he was hired to furrow out the field. He was too drunk to argue with so I put him on the bed. Frank agreed to stay as long as he didn't have to "come within sight nor smell of them Yankee Bluecoats." He thought they carried on like they thought “they was the kings of the land.”
Later that night Sheridan shared stories of his past campaigns with his men as they sat in the yard. Mark brought them some coffee and stopped to listen. He was fascinate with these blue coats’ tales. Sheridan suddenly realized Mark was there. “Son, do you think you know who I am?”
Mark smiled, proud that Sheridan had stopped to question him. He wanted to make a big impression. “Yes sir, my Pa learned me,” he answered. “I can even say all seven stanzas of Sheridan’s Ride:
‘Up from the South at the break of day, bringing to Winchester fresh dismay. The affrighted air with a shudder bore, Like a herald in haste to a Chieftain’s door. The terrible grumble, the rumble and roar, Telling the battle was on once more. And Sheridan, 20 miles away.'
I was so proud of my boy! I listened to him recite this poem with a smile on my face, only having to mouth him a word once or twice. Mark recited the poem with hand motions and excitement in his voice! But after only one stanza, Sheridan stopped him. “’Sheridan 20 miles away,’ now that’s what a man gets for trying to serve his country. They write poems about him!” Sheridan declared. “I wish it were true, but it wasn’t. Cause when your front breaks, a field commander doesn’t come dashing up through the route on a big, black horse, yelling and waving a saber. He rides forward real slow, praying maybe, and all those scared, worn out boys has a chance to see him, calm and sure, like a parade.”
While Sheridan was making his speech, Blanden walked in. This could get ugly! "Howdy General, nice to see you again," says Blanden, as he proceeds to tell the General they had met before - at Missionary Ridge.
“I was there,” Sheridan states. “How do I know you were?”
“You Bluecoats broke ranks and advanced against orders, and you come up from the rocks with the first scramble of them. Both sides could hear you holler over the top of the guns.”
Sheridan wanted more proof, so he asked what he had in his right hand. “A big pistol gun.” As for the other: “The same as now.”
His men knew he was there! He told the General he was from the Confederate States. “You stopped to have one right down in front of my rock hole. And you were looking straight up my sites, I just couldn’t have missed.” Blanden got really quiet. “For some reason, I…I hung fire.” Then he got angry again. “But you never waited, though, not a snap second! You glimpsed me and right then you blowed out my shoulder. Well, here I is.”
Sheridan felt regret. But he couldn’t remember every “Johnny Reb” he shot at in combat. Sheridan told Blanden he was sorry for what happened. Then Blanden announced it was the south’s turn as he pulled out a small gun. He wanted to exact revenge on this man who had ruined his life. He was throwing out some pretty big threats, telling the General he’d have no face “You’re a big, wordy man, high and mighty. Well, say something now. Whatever it is, it’s gonna be your last talking between here and purgatory.”
I naturally grabbed my rifle, ready to help out if needed, but Sheridan ordered me not to shoot – he’d handle it.
As he lit a cigar, he asked, “What are you hanging your fire for this time?”
“To see you sweat like I sweat,” he answered.
But this didn’t faze Sheridan any. “Me? Every day of my life I do sums in my head, Johnny. Casualty totals from every battle order I ever issued. You expect me to be afraid of what might come out of that little hole?”
Blanden wasn’t ready to give up though. “You’re a big man. You’d like to go on licking your gravy.”
Sheridan got angry then. “I’ve done my gravy licking, Johnny Reb. The plate’s clean. Tecumseh Sherman shielded the Union, Grant’s left side, and me, the spear of victory in his right hand. Can life hold anything to match that from here in?” Sheridan asked Blandon what he would know about a fight. “Sniveling, weak-kneed yokel, skulking in the rocks while your comrades are dying like flies….not so easy for the Stars and Bars you fought under. You disgraced and betrayed it.”
Blanden told him he was lying. “Who was the Johnny Reb had Phil Sheridan in his sites and flinched the shot that might have tipped the whole balance of the war in favor of the Confederacy? You, Johnny Reb, you.”
Sheridan’s speech got to him. “I don’t know what. I don’t think clear no more, It’s true like you say…I…I shamed my kin. I ain’t nothin’ to nobody!”
Sheridan felt guilty. He was sorry for the things he said in anger. “Soldier, your Johnny Reb himself. You’re born enough for a full division.” Blanden’s self confidence was crushed for sure now. Sheridan put a hand on his shoulder and spoke to him kindly. “Son, I know of an old white-headed college president, name of Robert E. Lee would be almighty proud to shake your hand.” He wanted Blanden to know that everyone got scared and stalled. He himself had nightmares at night about the war, reliving it over and over.
“You rag-tailed scarecrows held the mightiest army in the history of warfare. You held us, Johnny, to the last razor edge you were laying down. Swords and bayonets blunted, hearts and the Union broke.” I was proud to see that the General had helped restore some of Blanden’s confidence in himself.
He wanted to look at the shoulder he had shot off. At Sheridan's orders Colonel Stroud, the surgeon, took a look at Blanden's shoulder. The surgeon felt his injury could easily be fixed with surgery but ole Frank wasn't about to go through that pain again! Sheridan assured Frank that he would be asleep during the surgery and wake up getting well. Blanden was agreeable to this.
Sheridan stared throwing out orders. He requisitioned a wagon and team from me. Then he ordered some of the men to escort Blanden to the Galveston Base Hospital, signed in as one of his own special veterans. The General's staff thought it out of order to send a full Colonel and a Lieutenant to escort a Rebel Private, but Sheridan insisted. "I am carrying out the last and greatest order of my war-time Commander-in-Chief, bind up the nation's wounds!"
The next morning, we saw them off. We were excited to see Blanden getting the help he needed. I think he’ll be much happier when his shoulder is all healed. Mark happily said goodbye to Blanden. “Be sure and come back soon as your arm is all well,” he called as the wagon drove away. This tickled Blanden and he promised he’d come back to see us.
I was surprised. Was this the same son that couldn’t stand to even look at the man the day before? “Mark, I want you to tell me something honest,” I stated as I walked up to him. “Did you mean what you just said to Blandon?”
You know, my boy never ceases to amaze me! He stated, “Pa, he got me to thinking. Well, you was in the war too. It could have been you got his arm all shot up.” I put my arm around him. This was another proud moment as a father!
piddlin' stuff.....Royal Dano played the Confederate Soldier - Private Frank Blanden in 'The Sheridan Story'. He appeared in several episodes of "The Rifleman" ~ 'A Matter of Faith' as Jonas Epps the rain maker ~ 'A Case of Identity' as Aaron Wingate. He was the man who was searching for his long loss son, Robert. 'Honest Abe' as Able "Abe" Lincoln. Able suffered a mental shock during the civil war and as a result believes he is Abraham Lincoln. 'Day of Reckoning' as Reverend Jamison. He was the minister who was once a crooked outlaw.
In later years he again appeared with Chuck Connors in a made for TV movie called "Once Upon A Texas Train." I find it interesting that out of all the things he done - he never appeared in "Branded"—I wouldn't be afraid to bet he was all booked up.
He appeared in many movies. A few were "The Outlaw Josey Wales," "Back to the Planet of the Apes," "Cahill ~ U.S. Marshal," "The Undefeated" and "Killer Klowns From Outer Space." "Savage Sam" to the voice of Marley's ghost in "Mister Magoo's Christmas Carol." As far as TV appearances, he has done oodles and oodles of guest appearances. Royal Dano has done the role Of Abraham Lincoln many of times. He did Lincoln's voice for Walt Disney's Hall of Presidents in both Disneyland and Disney World. First Presidents exhibit at the World's Fair 1960. His voice is still used today. Provided the voice of Disney's audioanimatronic Abraham Lincoln in "Great Moments with Mister Lincoln," presented as part of the State of Illinois pavilion during the 1964-65 New York World's Fair. Royal Dano very convincingly portrayed Lincoln.
Lawrence Dobkin appeared in four episodes of "The Rifleman" ~ 'The Sheridan Story' as General Phil Sheridan. 'Knight Errant' as Don Chimera del Laredo ~ he was the guy with the sword. 'The Gaucho' as Juan Argentez, the Gaucho's father. 'The Day a Town Slept' as Ben Judson. He was the man who beat Micah in the election for Marshal of North Fork
He directed 'The Tinhorn' - 'Jealous Man' - 'Day of Reckoning' - 'The Executioner' & 'Man from Salinas'. Writer of the episode 'The Actress.' He also directed some episodes of "Branded." Besides doing this, he appeared in many other shows and films. Again another "The Untouchables" guest star.
Did you know that Lawrence Dobkin played General Phil Sheridan in both "The Rifleman" and "Cheyenne?"
In "Cheyenne" he played General Phil Sheridan in 'Gold, Glory, and Custer.' This time he is presiding officer at a court martial hearing involving Custer's Last Stand. Thanks PJH!
William "Bill" Megis
has appeared in three episodes. The first episodeDeputy Phil Rogers - remember him? He's the Deputy that offered Lucas safe passage to Silver City when he went to testify. We can understand why Lucas turned him down, being that his first witness got killed while he was guarding him. The last episode he appeared in was 'The Anvil Chorus,' as Sam Benson, he's the guy that went to get his guns from Nils when Nils was acting deputy marshal and Nils called him Lucas.
was 'The Sheridan Story,' as Colonel Cushman. He was in
'The Second Witness,' as
Alden ‘Stephen’ Chase as Medical Col. Stroud. I'm not even gonna try & list this Cowboy's credit, you have to see them for yourself! IMDB
Fritz Ford appeared in many episodes of "The Rifleman." He was also a stunt double for Chuck Connors on "The Rifleman" along with many other TV Series/movies as "Branded"—"Arrest and Trial"—"99 and 44/100% Dead"—"Soylent Green"—"Tomahawk Trail"—"Captain Nemo and the Underwater City"—"Target: Embassy"—"The Legend of Sea Wolf."
He was sometimes credited as Fritz Apking. He played football for the University of Washington.
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
Frank Wilcox as Colonel Cass.
You've heard Lucas' story, now hear
Bloopers for this episode & other episodes
The Retired Gun
around The McCain Ranch