"Welcome to the McCain Ranch"
You know me when it comes to punishing my son, and I don’t try to
judge the way others choose to punish their children – that is
unless I feel that the way they punish is uncalled for. I’ve never
whipped or licked my boy because
always felt there were more effective punishments, and they seemed
to have worked with Mark. But when I see two children mistreated the
way these two in my story were treated, well, let’s just say that I
have a great understanding as to why they did what they did and I
hold no hard feelings.
I got involved in this latest family feud when I came into town one
night to show Micah some nice birds Mark and I had killed up in the
Ringtone. Micah was pretty impressed, but he knew there was a reason
I came all the way into town at night to show them to him. “What’s
the hitch to it, Lucas. You’ve got that grin!” Micah declared.
"Oh, no hitch Micah, you cook 'em. Mark and I will help you eat 'em."
Just then Ben Tooker barged into Micah's office. "Hattie's store
Marshal, broke into. Me and some of the other boys have him trapped
on the inside." We hurried over to Hattie's. As we entered Hattie's
from the side door, I saw someone run. They leapt over the counter
and hid. "Hold it!" I yelled, firing several shots over their head
in warning. There was no movement. I kept my gun trained over the
counter just in case they were armed. "I can shoot lower,” I warned.
There was still no movement. Micah and I moved closer “Come on out
Just then, we saw this person slowly stand up from behind the
counter. “Come on-“ I started, but I suddenly stopped. Micah and I
stared at each other at what met our eyes – it was a girl!
Micah and I took the girl over to Micah’s office. Micah asked her
several questions but she remained silent, not speaking a word.
Hattie walked in while Micah was asking her again who she was and
where she was from. She didn’t answer. Suddenly, she tried to run
out, but I stopped her. “Hold it,” I warned, blocking her way. “No
one’s gonna hurt you. Go on back.”
Hattie stared at her. “She’s frightened!” she said
“And oughta be,” Micah stated.
But Hattie meant a different kind of frightened. “No, like an animal
waiting to be hurt – expecting it!”
All this time, I had been racking my brain, trying to remember who
she was. I knew I had seen her before! Hattie tried to ask her who
she was, but she still remained silent. Suddenly, her name came to
me: Heller Chase! She was frightened that I figured out who she was.
Mark knew her younger brother, David. Micah didn’t know them and
asked who they were. “A family of dirt farmers – rock country up at
Onion Creek. Dan Chase, you didn’t know him. He died about a year
before you came. He left a wife and two kids, Heller here and her
brother, David. About a year later her mother remarried.”
Hattie spoke up. “A whiskey-soaked drifter named Bechtol,” she
Micah sure remembered him! He had put him in jail several times.
"Did he send you in to steal?” Micah questioned her. She backed off,
suddenly afraid. “Your step father, did he send you in?"
Hattie just stared at her. “I haven’t seen her since Dan’s funeral.
Grown up right under our feet.” She smiled at her. Hattie didn’t
want to press charges since she didn’t take anything, but he did
want to know what she was after.
Heller finally spoke up. "A ribbon. A blue ribbon, for my hair."
I took her home. As I got down from the wagon I told her I’d see her
inside. But she didn’t want that. She begged me to go. “Alright,
come on.” That was my answer. She had no choice. But as I helped her
down I heard yelling and slapping suddenly erupt from inside the
Bechtol was slapping David around and Muriel, his wife, was trying
to stop him. That’s what I walked in on. He was demanding David to
tell him where his sister was. He started to smack him again, but he
suddenly turned and saw me standing in the doorway. I wasn’t too
happy with what I saw. I didn’t much appreciate seeing children
being mistreated that way! He sent David to his room. Then he glared
at me. “Well, if that ain’t a picture,” he drawled out.
I looked at Heller, not appreciating the
crude language he was using in front of this child. “A picture of
what?” I suddenly asked.
"Running off into the night, no word where. Leavin' her kin to fret
themselves sick over what might have happened. Way youngins behave
these days, no respect for their elders. Enough to make a body turn
in his grave with worry. Ain't that right
Mr. McCain?" Bechtol was obviously drunk!
I didn’t much appreciate his words. "Look Bechtol, if you've got
something to say, say it!" He wanted to know where I found her. “In
town,” I answered. He started in again, but I quickly silenced him.
“She broke into Hattie Denton’s store, that’s where we found her!”
He didn’t believe me. I told him there were a half dozen people who
knew she did it.
“Oh, the word of Lucas McCain is all the word a body needs!” Bechtol
stated. “So much for bringing her home. Out!” I stared at him. The
last thing I wanted to do was leave these children with a drunk,
mean man like this. But his wife wanted me to leave. He told me she
was beholden to me for bringing her home. There was nothing I could
do so I left. It broke my heart to do that too.
I was hardly out the door before Bechtol started yelling at his
wife. He didn’t think he was getting the respect from her he
deserved. He put a roof over her head, fed and clothed her and her
children Suddenly, he reached to get a hold of Heller. She ducked
and ran across the room away from him. Suddenly, he grabbed her by
the back of her hair and pulled her head back. "Where have you been,
tell me,” he demanded.
"I was where he said, in that store,” Heller answered. She was
afraid of him.
“After what, I wanna know,” Bechtol continued to pull her hair.
"Whiskey, Whiskey for you,” she answered, but he wouldn’t believe
her. "This time for you, all for you. Whiskey to burn out your
insides, and maybe....." He took her by the hair and pushed her
across the room. He commanded her to get to her room before he beat
her. He took off and chased her into her room.
She ran inside and closed the door. He continued screaming at her.
She walked over to her bed and laid down. She was upset.. "Did you
get? Do you got it with ya'?" David asked as he came over to her.
Asked David. He wanted to see “it.”
She said she got caught before
she could get it out of the store. She only had time to hide it and
she did – in the apple barrel. David wanted to just go back to the
store and get it but Heller shook her head. They’d be watching the
store carefully after tonight. “Mr. McCain,” she suddenly
remembered. “I heard him talking to Miss Hattie about going into the
store tomorrow afternoon for some supplies. Tomorrow morning I’ll
fix his breakfast and you do things for him.” They would get him
good and drunk so he’d fall asleep. That would give them three hours
to get into the store. “The next time he beats us or Mama-“ Heller
“I hate him, Heller! I hate him so awful!” David cried.
Heller hushed him. “We’ll be ready for him,” she declared.
The next day Mark was in the barn working on his morning chores. He
quickly flung the hay onto the wagon. I walked in and saw him. I
couldn’t help but smile at him. I grabbed the rag and began
polishing my saddle. “Morning son. You’re going after that hay like
you heard the trout are running and…uh…maybe you’d like the
afternoon off!” I commented.
“You guessed wrong,” Mark answered. “I knew you were going into town
today, so I thought I’d finish my chores and maybe keep you
company!” he declared.
“Oh,” I smiled. “Can I guess again?”
Mark acted all innocent. “I told ya'. I thought maybe you’d want me
to keep you company!”
“Mm hm,” I said. “It doesn’t have anything to do with
maybe…uh…Hattie’s got some of those licorice sticks in, huh?” I
smiled as I continued working.
Mark suddenly thought we’d stop by just in case. I didn’t buy it for
a second! I knew my boy well enough to know the real reason he
wanted to go into town. He started working again, but suddenly
stopped as he thought about what happened in Hattie’s store last
night. I asked him what he meant. “Well, imagine Heller Chase
breaking into Hattie’s store! I just can’t believe it! She always
seemed to be so nice! Sometimes when her brother Dave and I used to
go fishing, she’d sit next to me and I’d talk with her. Never
thought she’d break into a store!”
I listened to all he said. “Well, I can’t blame you for what you’re
thinking Mark,” I stated. “But in my mind, what Heller Chase did
last night doesn’t make her a criminal. She was only after a hair
ribbon.” I turned to Mark. "You know son, sometimes people are
pushed into doin' things they wouldn't ordinarily do by
circumstances beyond their control and by certain other people." I
tried to make that point as clear as possible. I asked Mark if David
ever said anything about his home life. Mark said David didn’t talk
I felt sorry for the kids. “Well David and his sister don’t have it
too easy at home, Mark. Their step father is a pretty hard man to
live with! Even Mark had seen him coming out of the Last Chance
Saloon – that’s where he spends most of his time when he’s in town!
We worked silently for a few moments, but then Mark got to thinking
on something else. "You know pa, I'm kinda lucky,” he suddenly
That sort of caught me off guard for a moment, so I turned to him.
“How do you mean?”
“Well, I know Dave can't talk to his Pa like I can to you. It kinda
helps a fella when he can talk things out. Instead of havin' to keep
them to yourself. You know what I mean."
That boy of mine! My golly, he surprises me sometime. "I know what
you mean.” Oh boy, did I know what he meant, and it made me proud to
hear him say that about me. That did it! My boy was coming with me.
There’s no way I could leave him at home after a speech like that!
“Well come on sprout, I thought you were going to keep me company."
Mark pitched a few more pitchforks full of hay then sat it down and
walked out of the barn with me. He put his arm around me, suddenly
feeling lucky to have me as his father. It felt nice to be so loved
When we got into town, we started into Hattie’s store. But I stopped
at the door, mighty surprised to see David and Heller there. I
certainly hadn’t expected to see them there today! They told me “he”
sent them to find the price on chicken feed. “Oh?” I didn’t quite
buy their story. “The feed store’s across the street.”
Heller was admiring the hair ribbons in the window. She had never
had one in her life. “Well, a girl oughta have a ribbon it seems!” I
declared, deciding to buy her one.
“Oh, I wouldn’t ask you ! Not ever!” Heller said suddenly.
“Couldn’t be much,” I assured her with a smile.
As she walked in, she started admiring everything in the store.
“David, look at them things! Dresses, have you ever seen so many
dresses? And shoes, and hats and…and over there food! Oh, all them
sacks and cans of things to eat and even a barrel of apples!” I
enjoyed watching her excitement.
“Ribbons, Hattie,” I suddenly stated. “Blue one’s!”
I laughed at her as she continued on her magnificent excitement. “If
I had me a dollar, you know what I’d do? I’d buy me one of those and
some of those and a big box full of licorice all over with sugar!”
Suddenly, Hattie saw David digging through the barrel of apples. We
didn’t know it at the time, but she was disrupting their plans.
Hattie immediately starting searching through the apples to find him
a really good one. Suddenly, Heller grabbed one of the ribbons off
the counter. "This one," she shouted. "Oh, Miss Hattie, can I please
have this ribbon, please? Would you tie it in the back for me in a
bow?" I smiled at her excitement. I never knew a hair ribbon could
make a girl so happy!
Hattie went to tie the ribbon for Heller while David went back to
digging through the barrel. Suddenly, he pulled a gun from the
barrel and stuffed it inside his shirt.
Mark had been watching him. He stared at the boy as he stuffed the
gun in his shirt. He turned to say something to me, but wasn’t quite
sure if he should or not. Suddenly, Bechtol busted into the store,
yelling as usual! “Get back to the farm!” he demanded his
step-children. He grabbed the hair ribbon from her hair. “She don’t
need no handouts from you, McCain,” he shouted. "If she wants
something, I’ll buy it! You’re a hypocrite, McCain! You hear my
words? A hypocrite! You and all the rest
of your kind in this mud hole! Righteous venom." “I’ve seen your
eyes. Don’t tell me I ain’t! Looking down on me and mine.”
I simply stared at him as he talked, never saying a word. I turned
and told Hattie I’d be back later. He continued his drunken yelling
at me as we got on the wagon and rode off.
When David and Heller got home they ran to the barn with the gun and
put bullets in it. If their step-father took to them again they were
going to use the on him. They were tried of being beaten every day.
David knew he’d start in on them when he got home from town, but
Heller thought maybe he wouldn’t. “It’s the only way to be rid of
him…his beating us, the way he makes us live! Makes Mama live!”
“Well, this will stop him!” David said as he continued putting
bullets in the gun.”
“If only Papa was here!” She cried. She ran and grabbed the gun from
her brother. “I’m not sure that we should!” she said suddenly. He
tried to grab the gun from her but she put it in a cabinet and
closed the lid. “We’re gonna give him another chance. When he comes
home we’re gonna talk to him and tell him how we feel! Maybe if we
tell him how we feel he’ll change!” Her brother was angry, crying.
He knew it would do no good, but she didn’t want to resort to
violence unless she had to.
“He won’t change! Not ever!” David screamed. “Only with that!” He
ran out of the barn.
Heller began crying. “Help me, Papa! Help me!” she cried.
Later that evening Mark was in the barn working on chores, but he
wasn’t concentrating on them. He had something on his mind. I came
out and told him the sun was going down early so we needed to hurry
and get the wagon unloaded. He was distracted and knew I had said
something, but wasn’t sure what I said. I repeated it to him and he
came over to the wagon. I could tell something was bothering him as
he got up on the wagon and started working. When I asked him if
something was wrong he told me no, but I knew better. “ I hope
you’re not upset because I didn’t answer Bechtol back there in town.
You know, if I did tangle him, Mark, all I would have been doing is
bringing myself down to his level. The way I figure to handle a
situation like that is…the best thing to do is walk off and ignore
it.” I spoke these words calmly as I looked into my son’s eyes so
Mark thanked me for explaining that, but that wasn’t what was
bothering him. “Well, what is it then?” I asked him. The way I asked
let him know that I expected an answer.
"What it is, is…if…if a person sees something and it's none of his
business and if what he sees is wrong, well, does he keep shut up
about it, or does he tell?" Mark asked.
"Well if it's wrong, what do you think?" That was my answer.
Mark thought on that for only a second
before he told me what the problem was. "Well, it wasn't the apples
he was after. David Chase, today in Miss Denton's store. He pulled a
gun out of the apple barrel. He stuffed it into his shirt. I saw
I was confused. He wasn’t making much since. “What are you talking
“Well, you know when Heller chase was priming with all those
ribbons? Well, she was really trying to hold your attention while
Dave snuck over to the apple barrel and pulled out the gun!” I could
tell Mark was confused on what was going on to.
I started thinking on this, wondering what was going on. “Gun in an
apple barrel,” I mumbled.
“Well, I don’t know how it got there, but I know it was a gun!” Mark
stated. I knew he was telling me the truth, but I wasn’t quite sure
what it was all about. I did know that I had to get to the bottom of
this before someone got killed. Those children had no business with
a gun! I told Mark I’d be back later as I started to leave.
But then I stopped and turned back to Mark. There was one more thing
I had do before I left. “Mark,” I reached out and touched him. He
turned and looked at me. I smiled into his eyes. “You did right to
tell me.” Then I grabbed my rifle and left.
Things were really heating up at the Chase farm! Bechtol wasn’t home
yet, but it was obvious the whole family was growing in fear,
knowing he would be home soon; and when he did come home, there
would be yelling and hitting. Muriel wondered where he could be – he
hadn’t been gone for this long before. She was afraid he might have
stumbled and hurt himself on the way home. "He'll come home, Momma,
he always does,” Heller stated, not happy that he would be coming
"Heller, baby. You gotta understand something. I ain't a pretty
woman. I've never been. I was something to your Pa. But when he
died, I got so lonely. I wanted to make a home for you and David.
Kids need a Pa to guide 'em." Suddenly, she was interrupted by his
hollering. He was home.
He hollered for them to come out of the house as he continued
drinking his whiskey. “Miserable worthless mess!” He continued
yelling at them, not letting them say a word. He was very drunk and
they couldn’t understand all he was saying. “Miserable worthless
mess, what are you good for? That’s what I wanta hear! Except
bleeding a man of his strength and his life. After what I’ve done
for you, what’s my reward, huh?” He angrily threw off his hat.
“Nothing!" "A wife that's next to worthless, a daughter that’s no
better then a teasin' flirt and a lazy good for nothing
son....where's that boy?"
He turned to look for David and saw him in their dingy garden
working. He yelled for David to come up to him, but he didn’t move.
That made him angry and he took off after him. He trampled through
the garden as Heller and Muriel tried to stop him, but he flung them
off, roughly. He grabbed him and began shaking him as he screamed at
him “Your gonna get the lickin' of your life,” he yelled as he
dragged David into the house and threw him across the room.
Everyone knew this would be a
bad beating – maybe for all of them. Heller ran to the barn to get
the gun. Bechtel grabbed a rope off of the wall. Heller began
screaming at him, knowing he was going to use it on David. Bechtel
punched her so hard that it pushed her across the room, almost
knocking her to the floor. He rushed to David, angry as ever.
“Get away from him,” Heller ordered from the door. She held the gun
“You stay out-“ Bechtel started, but he stopped in mid-sentence when
he saw the gun.
"You beat us! You make us into something not even human. You call us
names you are yourself till there no escape from the fear of you.
Not even in sleep." Bechtel told her to put the gun down before he
took the rope to her. She cocked the hammer to let him know she
“Wait a minute,” he backed away. “You’re not thinking. If it weren’t
for the softness in me, I’d whack the breath out of ya'! Now, you
give me that!” he held out his hand.
She told David to get away from him. When he was safely against the
wall, she fired the gun over his head. She stared at the gun. The
actual shot had scared her. He began backing away, telling her that
if she was doing this because of the things said about him she was
wrong. He was desperate, trying to explain that he was doing the
best he could, though he may have done some things that needed
improvement. “Well, what I’m saying is…no man is perfect!” he cried.
the hammer again.
He stated that he tried to be a good father to her. She fired the
gun again as she cringed. He cringed in fear and ran to Muriel. He
kneeled before her and clung to her, begging her to help him. Heller
turned, keep the gun trained on him. He begged and pleaded for her
to help him – he was still trying to justify himself. Muriel ran to
David and put her arm around him, still afraid of him.
He was on his knees in front of Heller, begging her not to kill him.
“You do this, but you won’t change me!” he cried. “I’ll change! I
swear it, I’ll never lay a hand on you again! Not a hair on you head
or the boy or…never again! I’ll steal for ya…anything you want! Or
even-“ She cocked the Hammer as tears ran down her cheeks. Every
word that came from his mouth made her more angry, more desperate to
kill him. “No! No don’t shoot me! I beg you! I beg you, please!”
I rushed into the door at that moment. She looked up at me. “Don’t
do it,” I warned her. But she looked back at him, her hands were
shaking so bad. He was on his knees silently pleading for his life.
His head was in his hands. He was terrified.
"Kill him, kill him,” screamed David.
"You do and you'll spend the rest of your life suffering for it,” I
told her in a calm voice.
I don't care!" Heller cried.
I turned to Muriel. "Muriel, for heavens sake, tell her!" My voice
held a bit of desperation in it.
She started to cry. "I can't Lucas!" This family had been through so
much. They all just wanted it to end, even if it meant committing
murder. I knew I wasn’t going to get any help from her. She had been
through so much. She didn’t know what to do anymore.
I turned to Heller. She was my greatest concern at the moment. "What
is it you want Heller, to make him suffer the way he's made you
"Yes!" she cried.
"Well, look at him, don't you see what he is? A freighted terrified
man. You let him live and he'll suffer the rest of his life. That's
why he turns on you. Trying to make you fear him the way he fears
everything and everybody. Terrible thing, fear, it gnaws at you.
Eats away what strength you've got till there's nothing left.
“Let him live?” she asked, still crying. She couldn’t hardly even
stand that thought.
I nodded. “The cruelest punishment you can give him." There was
silence as she thought on this. I just looked at her as her hand
began shaking. I held my hand out to her, silently asking for the
gun. As I reached for the gun, she handed it to me. I grabbed it by
the barrel, gently smiling at her to let her know she made the right
I knew I’d do everything
in my power to save them – to help them start the healing process.
Micah arrested him. “It’s about time we were done with that Bechtel!
Wife beater, child beater, sending those kids
thieving! It’ll be a hat full of seasons before he sees the sunny
side of prison walls again!” Micah stated as we climbed up onto the
wagon to go home. Suddenly, Micah saw David and Heller coming
towards us. He knew they wanted to talk to me so he excused himself.
They wanted to tell me how grateful they were that I helped them,
even though they had tricked me into helping them commit a crime.
"It gives me a, sorta a powerful strong feeling," said Heller.
"Well thank you Heller, I'm mighty glad to hear that,” I stated. She
seemed surprised. She needed some self confidence. “If I were to
ever have a daughter I’d want her to be exactly like you," I stated
proudly. My words surprised them, but they needed some pleasant
surprises after all the disappointments in their lives. “You tell
your mother we’ll be up from time to time, huh? Maybe we can even
get her summer crop to grow, huh Dave?” I smiled at them.
Dave smiled. His confidence was finally being restored. “It’ll grow,
Mr. McCain. It’ll grow!”
Piddlin' stuff.....Peter Whitney
appeared in nine episodes ― Eddie's Daughter as
Tracey Blanch, he's the big dude who came looking for Lil ― Mail Order Groom as John
Jupiter, he was the Mail Order Groom, the one that Jess
Profit (John Anderson) kept picking on ― Heller as Andrew
Bechtol, the mean stepfather ― Strange Town as Ott Droshek,
he ran the Strange Town ― The
Queue as Vince Fergus, again he was the bully, the instigator
who picked on Wang Chi ― Long Gun
From Tucson as John Holliver, he was the cowboy who came back
for revenge ― Lou Mallory as Neb
Jackman, the Pa of the Jackman clan ― Gun Shy as Vantine,
he was the man who was holding Lou hostage ― Which Way'd They Go?
as Ned Jackman, the Pa of the Jackman clan.
Gigi Perreau appeared in two
Heller as Heller Chase, she almost killed her evil
Death Trap as Carrie (Vicki) Battle, she was the daughter of an
ex-gunslinger turned doctor.
Don Grady appeared in two episodes ―
as Jeff Barrows,the boy that kept trying to beat up our Mark ―
Heller as David Chase, he's the boy that stole the
gun from Hattie's store to kill his stepfather.
How many of the Mouseketeers
appeared on The Rifleman?
K.T. Stevens was in five episodes ―
Heller as Muriel Bechtol, she was married to that evil Andrew Bechtol
Fourflusher as Molly Fenway, she was married to a sharecropper who entered
his colt in the horse race ― Face of Yesterday as Nancy Clay
was the wife of the man he killed in the Civil War ― Honest
Abe as Emma Lincoln, the sister to Able Lincoln who claims that
he's the Great Emancipator Molly Fenway in End of the Hunt as
Granny Mede, Reef Jackson was her nephew, Lucas knew them from when
he lived in the Nations.
Hope Summers appeared in
sixteen episodes as Hattie Denton, owner of The General Store.
Hattie was first introduced to The Rifleman in Eight Hours to Die.
Sid Gilman played Ben Tooker.
He was the man in the beginning of the episode who told Micah and
Lucas that somebody had broke into Hattie's store and that they had
him trapped on the inside.
Gillman is a member of the College Football Hall of Fame and the Pro
Football Hall of Fame.
'Sid' Gillman — Football Coach
John Barton appeared in five
episodes ― The Sharpshooter as a Townsman ―
Eddie's Daughter as a Townsman ―
Heller as a Townsman ― The Lonesome Bride as a
Barfly ― Meeting at Midnight as a Townsman.
Ethan Laidlaw appeared in
quite a few times unaccredited ―
as a townsfolk — The Mind Reader as a townsman in
the audience — Legacy as the man at the funeral —
Coward as a Diner Patron — Heller as a townsfolk — The Grasshopper as a passenger on the
train — Strange Town as a townsfolk
at Droshek Town —
The Silent Knife as a townsfolk —
Short Rope for a Tall Man as one of Crown's Henchmen —
Honest Abe as a townsman —
of Tin as a townsfolk ― The Day the Town
Slept as a townsman.
This is part of an article from Look Magazine June 21, 1960
The Star Stands In
Chuck Connors ― Stands in for Peter Whitney
Bloopers - Heller
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