"Welcome to the McCain Ranch"
'The Wrong Man'
There was a carnival in town, and you know where we were. Every child was there that day, I’m sure. And as I would soon find out, some would not be welcome there!
This lawman by the name of Jay Jefferson had ridden into town. Micah recognized his name. He was looking for a man by the name of Pete Dawson. He showed Micah a poster. “40 years old. Blue eyes. Bald…” Micah read from the wanted poster. Micah informed Jefferson that he didn’t know anyone by that name.
“Does anyone in this neighborhood fit this description?” Jefferson questioned Micah.
“That description can fit a lot of men in this town as well as a lot of other towns.” But Jefferson told Micah he wanted to know about this town. Micah told him he knew men that could fit it, but none of them were his man.
Well, Jefferson didn’t exactly like that answer. “Marshall, I don’t like to brag on my name. But it usually meets with more respect then you’re giving me,” Jefferson stated.
Micah only frowned. “Maybe that’s because the legend of the name doesn’t fit the truth as I know it,” Micah stated bluntly. Then he folded up the wanted poster to where the word “dead” could be seen. “This is what your after, isn’t it?”
Since Mark and I were enjoying the carnival and spending some good, quality family time together, I wasn’t aware that there was trouble just lurking around the corner. Mark and I had just watched a show about a wild man of Borneo. Mark asked me if he was really real. “You don’t have to believe it, son, but it makes it more fun if you do,” I stated.
We went to check out the games. I decided to try my luck at an honest game of hitting the bottles. But Mark got very interested in a shell game. The object of this game was to guess the shell that the pea was under. If the person guessed right, they’d get double the money they paid in back. Well, Mark watched for a minute and decided he could do it. "Round and Round the shell goes, where the pea hides, nobody knows, the hands slicker then the eye, Why not double your money," said the operator of the shell game.
Mark hurried up to me. "Pa, I saw where the pea went! Alright if I bet my dime?"
I didn’t think it was a good idea, and I tried to discourage him. "That's a game of chance son," I said.
"But there ain't no chance to it, it's a sure thing Pa."
I knew it wasn’t as easy as he thought, but sometimes it’s better to let a child learn a lesson the hard way. “Are you prepared to loose just in case it’s not a sure thing?” Mark said he knew the eye was quicker than the hand. I didn’t argue anymore but decided to let him try. “It’s your money, Mark.” I stated as I went to watch him.
Mark decided to bet his whole dime. Mark picked the shell with so much confidence. But he picked the wrong shell. I saw the look of shock and disappointment cross his face. I scratched my nose waiting for him to say something and prepared to answer him sternly if needed.
Sure enough, it was needed. “But, I saw it go under there, pa!” he argued.
“You saw it, or you thought you saw it?” I simply asked.
“But I dug five post holes to earn that money,” he complained. I told him he’d have to dig five more, letting him know I didn’t want to hear anymore about it. We live and learn.
I went back over to my “hit the bottle” game. “Here, want to try this?” I asked.
“No,” Mark started to pout.
I wasn’t going to have any of that for sure! “Now just a minute, son. In a way you were lucky back there!” I stated quite sternly. “It only cost you a dime to learn a lesson a lot of men spend a fortune learning.” He wanted to know what that was. I gladly told him. “Well, that you don’t figure on getting anything in this life free and easy. You have to work for it. And even when something seems free…well, you find out it’s not.” I handed him the ball again. This time he gladly joined in, knowing I was right.
Everything was okay in the world again!
Well, I didn’t know it at the time, but Jay Jefferson was right behind us and heard part of our conversation. He went to play the shell game. But instead of betting a couple coins, he bet twenty dollars. The attendant was quite pleased about this. He mixed the shells up. “And where is the little pea?” the attendant asked.
Jefferson picked up two shells and stated it was under the middle shell. This upset the attendant, who asked him why he was picking up two shells. “I called the middle shell. The pea has to be under the middle shell if the game is honest,” Jefferson stated with a sneaky grin on his face. He knew the game wasn’t honest.
The smile never left Jefferson’s face while he insisted the man pay him his money. The man started to argue and said he’d give him his twenty dollars back. Jefferson suddenly pulled his gun out and reminded him that “the hand is quicker then the eye.” The man was forced to pay Jefferson the money he owed.
I came up as Jefferson was walking away from the game with his forty dollars. I watched in surprise as Carnie threw something at him and knocked him out. Then Carnie went over to Jefferson and tried to get his forty dollars. That’s when I cut in. I had seen enough to know that the money was legally Jefferson’s. I hurried over to Carnie and told him that wasn’t his money as I lifted him away from the passed out Jefferson.
I bent down to help Jefferson (not knowing who he was at the time) when Carnie suddenly turned around and gave me a punch! Naturally, I wasn’t going to let him punch me and get away with it, so I punched him back. All of a sudden, I was faced with three men in all fighting me. These Carnie brothers sure did like to stir up trouble! I did my best to fight them all off, and I was doing a pretty good job I guess. Nevertheless, I was certainly glad when my friend Micah showed up and shot a couple shots in the air! Everyone froze, knowing the fight was over. "Alright, that's enough," Micah proclaimed. “Now you men pack up your gear and get out of town!” Micah ordered.
“That was sure some humdinger of a fight!” Mark stated. I’m glad he enjoyed it because I certainly didn’t!
Suddenly we heard a man being beaten. We went to investigate and found Jefferson pistol whipping the Carnie brother that had knocked him out. Micah quickly put an end to his rough treatment.
"All in a days' work, aye friend?" said Jefferson as he patted Mark then walked away.
Micah asked me if I recognized him. Then he informed that was Jay Jefferson. This impressed Mark so much that he begged me to let him go talk to him. I gave him permission, but told him to meet me in the lunchroom later.
“The great man himself comes to our town for a visit, and let’s hope a short one!” Micah complained. I was a bit surprised at his attitude.
“Didn’t he clean up Cedar Grove when six other men before him had failed?” I asked, still not understanding the problem.
Micah stated he did it by clearing out the opposition. “If anyone got out of line, he didn’t stop to ask questions. He just shot ‘em!” Micah continued telling me other stories about him killing and ambushing people that got out of line. I hadn’t ever heard that side of the story. Micah stated that was the problem. Everyone thought he was operating on this side of the law. Micah then told me why he was here – he was looking for an outlaw named Pete Dawson.
When he gave me the description, I stated, “That could be Curly Smith.”
“Or Frank Hardy,” Micah stated. “I don’t think it’s either one of ‘em!”
I left to go eat lunch. Meanwhile, Jefferson had made his way to the lunchroom too. He was looking for a poker game. Curly Smith was sitting at the table and agreed to play a game with him. Mark had walked into the café shortly after Jefferson had. He was staring at him. Finally, Jefferson turned to him and asked him if something was wrong. Mark told him he just wanted to ask him a question. “Ain’t that sort of a funny place to wear a gun?” Mark asked.
Jay Jefferson enjoyed being in the lime light, so of course he played it up. “It isn’t how or where you carry a gun, son. It’s what you do with it when you need it.” Quicker then a snap of the fingers, he drew the gun out on my son and pointed it right in his face. Mark was only shocked for a half-second before he smile at Jefferson’s technique. “In a hurry. I keep the gun barrel greased. That way she comes out slick and fast!”
Mark asked for one of his bullets, and Jefferson gave him one. Mark felt like he had just met a real celebrity!
After Mark left, Curly made a very wise remark. “If that boy’s daddy had seen you drawn on him, he’d cut you in half!” he warned him. But Jefferson didn’t seem worried. He stated that I knew the difference between a friendly move and an unfriendly one. Curly was right – I would have done some sever bodily damage on that man if I had seen it. As it so happens, I walked in while they were having this conversation.
Mark was admiring the bullet as I sat down. “Jay Jefferson’s quite an impressive man, huh Mark?” I stated when I sat down. I reminded him that being fast on the gun wasn’t a quality to be proud of unless it was tied up with good intentions. I’m not sure he was paying attention. He was too impressed to have one of his bullets.
That boy of mine! I even had to remind him AGAIN to take his hat off!
While we were eating lunch, Curly and Jefferson were busy with their cutthroat game. Jefferson was really watching Curly. He even wanted to know how long he had live in North Fork. He said Curly reminded him of someone he used to know. They played a hand. Jefferson finally called the game. He had 2 Kings, 2 tens, and a seven in his hand. Curly was pleased. He had beat with an all heart flush. He reached out to take the money when Jefferson stopped him. "Not good enough, full house, kings over 10's.” Here’s the problem: he didn’t show Curly his cards. Curly wasn’t happy and stated he hadn’t seen the cards. “They were there for you to look at,” Jefferson stated.
I walked out of the dining room in time to hear Curly state, “I didn’t see your cards, so as far as I’m concerned, I’ve been cheated!”
This upset Jefferson and he stood up, preparing to take on a fight. I had to intervene and fast! I put an angry look on my face, stomped forward and grabbed Curly by the arm. “Why you old fraud! You can play poker, but you can’t afford to pay me back the twenty dollars you owe me, huh? Well, maybe I’ll take it out of your hide!” With that, I drug him out of the café and down the street.
I thought Mark was right behind me, but Jefferson had stopped him before he got out the door. “Your pa’s a pretty smart man,” Jefferson stated.
“Yes sir,” Mark stated proudly. “There ain't no flies on my Pa!
Jefferson succeeded to tell Mark that it was his duty to give a law enforcement officer any information asked for. Then he showed Mark the wanted poster on Pete Dawson.
I didn’t know this was going on. Had I known, I would have made double sure that Mark had followed me out there. After I got Curly outside, I apologized to him for man handling him, but told him he was about to get himself hurt. As soon as I mentioned Jay Jefferson’s name, Curly decided that Jefferson hadn’t been lying. I told him I would apologize for him then went to find my son.
As I walked back into the door, I heard Mark telling Jefferson where Frank Hardy lived. “That’s enough Mark!” I stated, angry that this man had turned to my innocent son for information. I came inside. “Do you often look to youngsters for help?” I accused, not appreciating him using my son’s respect for him to get what he wanted.
Jefferson started giving me some bull about it being the responsibility of every citizen to help him, regardless of the age. I took the poster and looked at it. “Forty years old, huh? Frank Hardy’s 50 if he’s a day!” I stated.
I didn’t think the picture was much to go on, but Jefferson apparently didn’t need a picture since he used to know Pete Dawson back east. I watched in anger as he walked out the door and, no doubt, rode off toward the Hardy ranch!
Jefferson did show up at Hardy’s ranch. He barged into Hardy’s house and was recognized right away. There was a thousand dollar reward out on him. Jay stated that he had only made one mistake in his life and was still paying for it. Jefferson began looking at Hardy’s bank statement and commented on how much money he had. Finally, he asked him how much would be worth his while to go back and report him dead and buried. Jefferson would do just that if Hardy paid him $2,000.00.
Mark and I were hanging around in town waiting for Jefferson to get back. I was concerned that Hardy would turn out to be Pete Dawson and that Jefferson would kill him. Mark asked to go to the Blacksmith’s and I told him not to get into trouble.
Micah and I started talking about Hardy. I was remembering when Hardy and I rode together on the spring round up. Hardy had started talking about his family and such when he suddenly clammed up. This had me worried. “Could be Jefferson’s got another feather in his cap,” Micah commented.
But suddenly, Jefferson was riding back into town. “Maybe not,” I said.
“Empty handed,” Micah stated a bit relieved.
“Ain’t that a shame!” I said sarcastically. I must say that I was quite relieved to know Hardy wasn’t the man.
“He’ll be leaving now and taking trouble to some other town, which I’m so everlastingly grateful!” Micah stated.
I agreed, then I headed for the stables to pick Mark up.
If only I knew where Jefferson was headed. He barged into Curly Smith’s hotel room and called him Pete Dawson. “You’re mistaken, sir. That isn’t my name!” Curly worriedly argued.
“It is now,” Jefferson answered with a grin.
Suddenly, there were two shots that rang through the air. I rushed to the hotel to see what was going on. By the time I got there, there was a whole crowd outside the room. I pushed the gawkers out of the way so I could get inside to investigate the problem.
Jay Jefferson was in there. “Pete Dawson,” Jefferson stated. “Otherwise known as Curly Smith.”
“You played poker with him this morning. Why didn’t you take him then?” I had trouble believing this man’s story. The situation was quite fishy to me! “Well now, you gave me the impression you had known him for a long time!” I questioned him further.
Jefferson stated that his chin whiskers and mustache had fooled him. With that, Jefferson walked out into the hall.
Naturally, Mark had heard the gunshots and was curious about what was going on. But I didn’t want him underfoot or gawking like the others, so I told him to wait for me in the hall. He was disappointed, but he obeyed.
Micah was examining Curly. “Two bullets right through the heart,” Micah concluded.
Well, Mark did go out in the hall, but he started talking to Jay Jefferson. Of course, Jefferson was trying to feed my son some bull about how he had no other choice but to shoot him. As I was coming out into the hall, I heard Mark state, “Well, he shouldn’t have tried to resist arrest!”
What was with this man trying to influence my son? “Mark,” I called, perhaps a bit too harshly. “Come along, son!”
As I went outside to the horses, Mark commented that if Jefferson hadn’t come to town, no one would have ever known Curly was really Pete Dawson. I didn’t know it yet, and I voiced that opinion out loud. Mark was a bit taken back by my comment. I wanted to say more, but first I wanted to see exactly where my boy stood, so I asked him a question. “How would you feel if you found out Jay Jefferson isn’t the great man you think he is?”
“Why pa, you should say things like that! It ain’t like you to go talking bad about people for no reason.” Mark answered. Okay. I got my answer, so I decided to say nothing more about it. I told Mark I’d be back later and to meet me back by his horse. Then I mounted up and rode out to Frank Hardy’s ranch to see what he had to say about this.
After arriving there, I thought I’d start our with casual talk…sort of to break the ice. Then I asked him to ride into town with me. “There’s been some trouble, and I was thinking you could help me straighten it out. We’ve got a distinguished guest from the east in town. His name is Jay Jefferson.” I saw the look of guilt on Hardy’s face. That’s when I knew my suspicions were right.
He merely stated that he had heard of him. I knew I needed to get a little more direct. “Ever meet him?”
I could tell Hardy was really shaken by our conversation. “Yeah. As a matter of fact he was out here this morning. He…he thought I might have been someone he was looking for,” Hardy answered.
"An outlaw named Pete Dawson?" I asked.
He said he thought that was the name. Guilt was all over his face, and I decided it was time to deliver the final blow. “Well, about a half hour ago, Jay Jefferson shot and killed Curly Smith. He claimed Curly Smith was Pete Dawson.”
The final blow had met it’s mark. My final piece of news really shook up Hardy. I watched his face as the truth registered. His entire face was suddenly filled with regret and sorrow. His hush money had contributed to the death of an innocent man, and he would have to live the remainder of his days with that thought. He looked like he was about to cry. I was right. He was Pete Dawson.
Jay Jefferson ordered Micah to send information back to Missouri swearing to the fact that he had killed Pete Dawson. He and Micah were just coming out of Micah’s office when Hardy and I rode up.
"Micah, Frank's got something he wants to tell you," I announced.
"My name’s not Frank Hardy. It's Pete Dawson and I'm wanted in Missouri for robbery. I guess I'm part to blame for Curly's death,” Frank announced with regret.
Jefferson was listening. Suddenly, he knew that we knew the truth. He pulled out his gun and warned us all to stay right where we were. Mark came up in time to see this. Micah tried to place him under arrest but Jefferson took his gun. “Looks as if I got in a little over my head this time. Got a little too greedy,” Jefferson commented. Then he told me to hand over my rifle.
He told me to toss it to him. Obvious he didn’t know that I was a legend with this rifle and tossing was the wrong thing for him to tell me to do. But I obliged him. As I tossed it, I flipped it. It hit him his gun hand and knocked the gun right out of his hand. I was able to knock him out.
Mark stood at his head and stared down at him. It was easier for him to see it for himself then if I had tried to explain. Mark had a very disappointed look on his face as he realized his idol was a fraud.
It was finally over – another problem resolved. We were getting ready to leave. “Well Mark, I guess you learned that you can’t always believe everything you hear,” Micah stated.
Mark smiled. “I know, Micah. But don’t you think it’s more fun if you do?” Micah laughed and patted Mark on the back.
Micah told me the reward money would be coming to me. I had forgotten all about that money. I felt bad for the whole situation…Curly’s unnecessary death, Hardy’s past catching up to him… “Say,” I started. “Isn’t Curly Smith’s son working his way through law school back east?”
Micah nodded. “Well, send it to him. He could use it.” I didn’t want that blood money!
Mark didn’t like that too much. He never said no when money came his way. "That's an awful lot of money to be giving away, isn't it Pa?" He argued.
"Yes it is son, but I don't think we'd enjoy spending money earned that way do you?" I asked sternly. This was just another one of those growing up opportunities for my son!
"I'll have to think about that one Pa!" Mark answered. Micah and I laughed at his statement. That boy! Then we rode off for home.
piddlin' stuff.....Lyle Bettger played Jay Jefferson in the episode 'The Wrong Man'. He appeared in another episode as Holt Coyle owner of the 'Skull' Ranch.
He became one of the screen's better villains, especially in westerns. How many of you remember him from Cecil B. DeMille's "Greatest Show on Earth?"
Gordon Jones played the Carnival Barker. He also played loud mouth - greedy - whiskey salesman Vince Medford in 'Stopover.'
Big, beefy character actor best known as Brit Reid in "The Green Hornet" film serials and Mike the cop on the Abbott and Costello TV shows. You might remember him from the Abbott and Costello show. He played Mike the Cop. He was only 52 when he died but his list of credits for that time frame are remarkable.
Frank Sully played the second spieler, Carnival Barker. [spieler is a barker, at a circus side show]
He appeared in over 240 films between 1934 and 1968. Sully was often cast as a heavy or villain throughout his career. He had a recurring role in "The Virginian" as Danny the bartender.
Robert H. Harris played a duel role in this episode ~ Col. Beauregard 'Curly' Smith / Frank Hardy / Pete Dawson. He was the man Jay Jefferson was looking for. He later appeared in another "Rifleman" episode, ' The Tension' as Ezra Martin. He was the father of Clemmie [Harry Dean Stanton] & Gavin [Jack Elam]. Another "Untouchables" star.
His real name was Robert H. Hurwitz in New York . He appeared extensively on television series. From 1953-1956 he played Jake Goldberg in "The Goldbergs." He also made many Guest Appearances in many other TV series. These include eight appearances in Alfred Hitchcock Presents between 1956-1961 and six appearances in Perry Mason between 1958-1965. He also has appeared in other television series such as "77 Sunset Strip"—"Ben Casey"—"Rawhide" to name a few.
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.
Fred Krone actor & stuntman appeared in 'The Wrong Man' as a Brawler. To quote action director William Witney: "Fred was a legendary stuntman know for his fisticuffs." "The best screen brawler I've ever used." Baseball gave burly Fred Graham his start in motion pictures. In 1928 he was working for the MGM sound department and also playing semi-pro baseball on the side. The studio was making a murder mystery called "Death on the Diamond" (1934), starring Robert Young and Nat Pendleton. Graham was hired to tutor Young and Pendleton in the fine points of the game, and doubled Pendleton in the catching scenes. This started him on a more than 40-year career as a stuntman and actor.
Roydon Clark as a Brawler at the carnival. He was a stuntman, stunt coordinator, actor & second unit director or assistant director in many of his movies. He was a stuntman for James Garner, Roy Clarke & Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade besides many others.
Jack Perkins as a brawler at the carnival. He was a stuntman and often cast for his ability to play drunks and also a heavy.
Whitey Hughes appeared in several episodes of "The Rifleman." In this episode he was one of the townsmen. This is just one of many episodes Whitey was in.
Oklahoma born, one of the smallest of Hollywood stuntmen, he often doubled as a woman, most notably in "The Stuntman" where he can be seen in a dress, jumping over a cliff while holding an umbrella. A regular member of Sam Peckinpah's company, he often acted small speaking roles as well as supervising stunts and wrangling for the director.
Whitey was the uncle of Billy Hughes Jr.
Fred Aldrich appeared in “The Rifleman” several times. ‘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 and 'The Wrong Man' as one of the townsmen at the carnival.
He has appeared in another episode of "The Rifleman" - 'A Matter of Faith' as a cowboy in the crowd.
He has appeared in several TV series - "Have Gun - Will Travel" - "The Untouchables" - "The Rifleman" - "Perry Mason" -"I Love Lucy" and has appeared in over 170 movies. He has done just about everything from Comedy to Sci-Fi.
Rod McGaughy was an actor and a stuntman. He was in several episodes of "The Rifleman" - 'Lariat' as a Card Player - 'The Baby Sitter' as a Barfly - 'The Spiked Rifle' as Henchman in the Bar - 'The Woman' as Old Man Healey's Henchman - 'Short Rope for a Tall Man' as One of Crown's Henchmen/Mob Member and in 'A Matter of Faith' as a cowboy in the Crown gang - 'The Wrong Man' as one of the townsmen at the carnival and in 'The Money Gun' as one of the townsmen.
He has appeared in a lot of the TV Western Series in the 50's thru the 80's. He also as done several movies such as "The Apple Dumpling Gang" — "Blazing Saddles" & "The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance."
You've heard Lucas' story, now hear Mark's
Bloopers for this episode & other episodes
The Deadly Wait
around The McCain Ranch