"Welcome to the McCain Ranch"
Men working in hard-labor at the New Mexico Territorial Prison –
that was the scene as this story begins. Two men in the office spoke
of seven of the men out working. They had all been sentenced to die
in Yuma. They were to be transported by wagon to Yuma, making one
stop for food and supplies – in North Fork.
And that’s how Mark and I got into our latest mess.
The evening started out pleasant enough – Mark was grooming himself
in the mirror while I was saddling up the horses. As I came back
inside to tell Mark to get his ready on. But I stopped at the door
and put my hands on my hips as I declared, “Well, when I went
outside five minutes ago to saddle the horses, you were coming your
hair. Still at it, huh?”
Mark continued with his grooming. “Well, we’re gonna have supper at
the hotel tonight, I gotta slick up for it. You know that,” Mark
“Now just a minute, young fella! We’re going into town to get me a
new leaver for my rifle at the gun shop. I didn’t say anything to
you about eating at the hotel,” I stated as I came inside to wash my
But Mark had it all figured out all ready! “Well, I figure you
didn’t have to just come right out and say it,” he commented. “So, I
just added up two and two and got five!” He stated this with one of
his genuine smarty smiles. “That’s all.”
“How do you mean?” I asked as I continued washing my hands.
Mark walked over to the table. “Well, we haven’t eaten dinner yet
“And it’s five o’clock and we haven’t brought in any mean from the
smokehouse. You haven’t asked me to peel any potatoes or shuck any
corn. And it’s about an hour’s ride into town and it’ll take about
half an hour to get your rifle fixed, another hours ride back and
that’s about 7:30. And we never eat that late, do we?” Mark said
this while he tucked his shirt in.
I must admit that I was pretty amazed by my young son’s reasoning. I
started over toward him as I started folding the towel I had used to
dry my hands. “I must admit you’ve got it all figure out,” I stated.
But then I had the dreaded question he always hates to hear about.
“But there’s one thing I don’t understand.”
“What’s that?” Mark suddenly asked.
“When are you going to do your homework?” I asked as I gave him my
“Well, I already did that,” Mark answered.
I had a little trouble believing that since it usually took lots of
threatening to get him to do his homework each night – that was
usually one of our small battles in the McCain house. “You-“ I
started, surprisingly. “When?” I then questioned doubtfully.
Mark put his jacket on as he answered. “Oh this afternoon when I
came home after I heard you tell Micah that we were gonna eat supper
with him!” He of course said that with that smarty smile on his
“Ew!” I declared as I playfully hit him with the dishtowel. Mark
started laughing and I gave him a big grin as I grabbed my riddle
and headed out the door.
While I went to get my rifle fixed, I sent Mark to get the things we
needed at Hattie’s. Hattie locked up the store when Mark was done
and headed over to the hotel herself to have supper with Mrs.
Sweeny. That’s right – Sweeny was married!
As Mark walked down the boardwalk, he saw a strange looking wagon
ride into town. The two riders got out of the wagon and walked into
the hotel. Now we all know Mark and how curious he is about things.
I reckon I had never told him about prison wagons, and he had no way
of knowing what it was. So he slowly made his way towards the wagon
to see what it was all about. Cautiously, slowly, and curiously,
Mark walked closer and closer to the wagon.
The men inside – prisoners on their way to be hung in Yuma – saw
Mark approaching. They felt like animals in a cage and wanted to
grab Mark in an attempt to escape.
As Micah and I stood on outside the gun shop, I was checking the new
leaver on my rifle when suddenly I looked up and saw him getting
frighteningly close to the prison wagon. “Mark!” I yelled in
Mark turned to look at me. Suddenly, one of the prisoners grabbed
him and held him up against the wagon. Mark was scared. I rushed up
to them and jammed the butt of my rifle into the prisoner’s hand,
forcing him to let go of my son.
The prisoner cried out in pain. “Hey you sodbuster!” the prisoner
I grabbed Mark’s hat and turned to look at my son. I was pretty
upset with him as I hurried over to him. "Mark, what are you trying
to do?" I asked angrily. Mark just stood there and stared at me,
trying to catch his breath. "Answer me boy," I demanded.
"Well...I...I...I'm sorry Pa. I...I just wanted to find out what it
was. I didn't mean to get so close," Mark answered.
But I didn’t want to hear his lame excuses. I was angry that he had
frightened me so by foolishly allowing his curiosity to take over.
"You got no business going anywhere near that wagon," I shouted at
him, still angry.
Suddenly, grandfather Micah jumped to Mark’s defense, and I suppose
he also brought me back to my senses. "You can't blame the boy
Lucas. After all that things got no business being in the street in
the first place.” Micah had a protective arm around Mark. I’m not
sure if he was trying to protect him from the prisoners or from me.
"It's a prison wagon Mark. It comes by here once a year on it's way
to Yuma. Those men in there – they’ve got nothing to loose. Even
using a boy to try and get loose," said Micah.
I suddenly realized that I had gotten bent out of shape and allowed
my fear to take over instead of explaining the dangers to Mark. I
apologized to him, explaining that he had given me a big scared.
Then I lovingly smiled at him and plopped his hat back on his head.
“That’s alright, it was my fault,” Mark said as he adjusted his hat.
But Micah suddenly declared it was nobody’s fault except the guards.
Mark informed him they headed into the hotel.
After Micah headed off to find the guards, I laid a protective hand
on Mark’s shoulders. “How about you and me having a steak before we
head home?” I suggested, remembering that we were going to eat at
the hotel with Micah. I could feel that Mark was still quite shaken
from being grabbed.
“Yes sir!” Micah declared enthusiastically.
“It’ll make both of us feel better,” I declared as we headed past
the prison wagon. I kept a protective arm around my son.
Just as we started to head for the hotel, Dorf, the leader of the
prisoners, hollered to me. "Hey sodbuster. Nobody hits my hand and
gets away with it. I'll kill ya', ya hear? If I ever get out of this
cage, I'll kill ya'.” His words shook Mark up all over again and I
protectively hurried him away, holding him even closer to me. “ Ya'
hear me, I'm gonna kill ya. I'll get you, wait and see,” the
prisoner continued yelling. I pushed Mark into the hotel as quickly
as I could. I didn’t want my boy exposed to anymore of that!
Dorf was dying to get his hands on me. He was getting tired of
sitting in that wagon like he had been doing for three weeks. He
didn’t like that they were being treated like animals. “I’m getting’
out of here!” he declared to the doubtful prisoners.
Micah went in to talk to the guards. He watched as the waiter
brought them an old bowl of scraps. Micah questioned the food they
were giving the prisoners, stating that they got a mess allowance.
But the guard couldn't see spending too much money on the likes of
those prisoners. Every one of them was going to Yuma to be hung.
They told Micah that this was there last supply stop. As soon as
they ate they would pick up their supplies and head out.
Hattie overheard them. "The supplies store is closed. Won't be open
until seven in the morning," she declared
. The guard said that they would have to wait. "You take the wagon
back out on the trail where it belongs. One of you can come in the
morning to get what you need," Micah ordered.
"Whatever you say Marshal. As soon as we have them fed and have
dinner,” the guard answered him.
"While your at it, get that thing off the streets so it don't offend
anybody. You can put it along side the hotel." said Micah. Micah
then came over and sat with us. “Bring me a cup of coffee!” I told
“And two glasses of milk,” I called after him.
The guard took the food out to the prisoners. They acted like
animals as they ate. The guard started backing the wagon up like
Micah had requested.
The guard still inside the hotel was telling us about the prisoners.
“Seven of them we got. Bad, all bad!” he declared as he ate at the
table beside us. I didn’t think it was exactly table conversation,
but he just kept on. “Now you take that Dorf and his buddy, Fitz.
Hm. They just don’t come no meaner! They robbed a bank up in Kansas,
and just because there weren’t enough money in the bank as they
thought there should’ve been, they just killed ‘em all. Mm Hm,
cowards, cashiers, customers – just gunned them down! I ain’t never
seen a meaner lot what they is! Never!”
Dorf smelled the food in the bowl. “Rotten! That’s what it is –
rotten! Just like that stinkin’ guard! Just like that sodbuster!
I’ll get my hands on him! And when I do-“ He was so angry that he
just broke the bowl in two.
But as he threw it down, Sanchez picked a piece of the bowl up and
showed them an idea he had of using it as a weapon. Dorf smiled
evilly. He loved the idea! The other five prisoners started to fight
while Dorf and Sanchez waited to get their hands on the guard and
force him to open the door.
Sure enough, as soon as the fighting started the guard got off to
calm them down. He walked right into their trap. He yelled at them
to stop their fighting. The he turned to move away. Dorf and Sanchez
hit him over the head with the pieces of broken bowl, knocking him
unconscious. They grabbed his keys then let him drop.
All seven prisoners were now running free. Dorf grabbed the guard’s
gun then ordered the other prisoners to drag him off.
The guard in the hotel decided to go check on the other guard. It
was taking him a long time to move the wagon. When the guard got to
the doorway he realized it was quiet out on the street – too quiet!
As he walked up to the wagon to investigate, Dorf hit him over the
head with the gun and they dragged him off as well.
Dorf sent Sanchez to get the guns at Micah's office. Sanchez started
for the horse. Dorf stopped him. He then sent Gibbons to watch the
back door of the hotel. Sanchez wanted to leave.....now. Dorf had
Frost break into the Gunsmith's and ammunition and then over to the
store to get decent cloths and decent food for them. “Then I have a
score to settle with that sodbuster before I ride out!” he
“We ain’t got time,” Frost warned him.
“We’ll make time!” Dorf insisted. He was delivering all the orders!
Then he told the other two he'd meet them back at the saloon.
“Do you know what you’re doing?” Sanchez asked.
“I know,” Dorf stated. “And it won’t take long! That sodbusters
gonna be sorry the day he was born."
Meanwhile, Micah, Mark and I were still in the restaurant eating.
Mark was certainly ready to eat a whole pie! Micah suddenly stated
he needed to get back to work. As he got up to leave, Hattie stopped
him. "Micah, you let us know when that wagon’s gone. May and I are
not leaving here until it's off the street."
But then Hattie changed her mind. She was very uncomfortable "On
second thought, I'll open up the store again after we're through
eating and they can get what they need and clear out. Why it isn't
fitting for a thing like that to be near decent people."
When Micah came out he saw the quiet, dark street and the lonely
prison wagon. The men weren’t screaming. The guards were no where in
sight. It didn’t take him long to realize that something was
wrong…very wrong! Micah suddenly heard a noise coming from the
General store. “Alright, hold it!” he cried. But they began firing
shots at him as he hid behind the empty prison wagon. Many, many
shots were fired as I sat there in the hotel restaurant.
I grabbed my gun without a word to Mark and raced out. The men had
all made it to the saloon. A shot was fired at me as I stood outside
trying to figure out what was going on. Suddenly, Micah hollered for
me to cover him so he could get back over to me. I fired off a round
of shots to hold them back until we were safely back inside the
As we stood inside the doorway of that saloon, Micah stated that all
seven of those prisoners had gotten out of that wagon.
Some of the men were nervous, but Dorf knew they had the back
covered so we couldn’t do anything. “You can hold this town just
because you got a score to settle with that sodbuster!” One of the
All the others wanted to leave but Dorf made the decision to stay.
He wanted me. "We'll leave when I say," Dorf declared. Then he
turned and ordered Sweeny to get them something to eat and drink.
“They must be waiting for something, Micah,” I stated calmly. “Or
else they would’ve cleared out of here a long time ago.” Micah said
we needed more help. Right now the odds were in the favor: 7 against
2. I went to see if I could sneak out the back of the hotel, but as
I stepped into the doorway a shot was fired, barely missing me.
There was no escape.
When the men in the saloon heard that shot they were suddenly afraid
that I had killed the man in the back. Dorf had to prove he was
still there guarding us.
On my way back to Micah, Mrs. Sweeny suddenly stopped me. “My
husband’s over there in that saloon.”
“I know that,” I answered.
“What’s gonna happen to him?” she asked. “What do those men want?”
“That I don’t know.”
The prisoners kept insisting on leaving but Dorf wouldn't budge.
They wanted to grab the horses down in the stable and leave. "No!
Ain't you forgettin' they were wanna hang us? I ain’t forgettin'
those months and years we spent in that hole. How those guards beat
us like we were animals. That sodbuster smashed my fingers. That's
the last man that's ever gonna touch me.” Dorf suddenly turned
angry. "Now shut up and get back to your drinkin'." They knew there
was no reasoning with him.
I was still trying to figure out what those prisoners were waiting
around for. “Well for Heaven’s sakes, ask them!” Hattie suddenly
declared. Leave it to a woman to give us a simple solution!
“Well, that’s one way to find out,” Micah stated. Then he yelled to
them....."Hey, you in there. Ya' hear me?"
"We hear ya'," Dorf hollered back.
"What do you want?"
"Whose askin'? Is that you Marshal?"
"That's right," Micah called.
"Well now your a real smart man Marshal. You can see that from where
were standing there ain't much in this street we're gonna miss,"
"We can see that. What do you want?" I asked then.
"That you sodbuster? I'll tell you what I want. I want you! That's
all, just you! You and me. We got a little score to settle."
“What’s he talking about?” Micah asked then.
I stayed squatted behind the door to the hotel, but realization
crept through me. “Oh,” I said. “He’s the one that grabbed Mark!”
“Come on, sodbuster! Let’s get this settled! What do you say?” Dorf
insisted. I thought he was pretty crazy!
Dorf was still standing pretty much alone. The other prisoners
wanted to just get out of there. They didn’t want to stick around
while he tried to settle some personal score with me. Suddenly, Dorf
called Sweeny over to him. He held the gun to his hand and called
out to us. "Hey sodbuster, look here. You to Marshal. See what I got
here? I got a little baldheaded bartender. He's so scared he's
shakin' all over. Fact is, he's so scared he’s liable to make me
pull the trigger on this gun I'm holdin' to his head."
Upon hearing this, Mrs. Sweeny came running the door crying and
yelling. I grabbed her and pulled her back inside. She was
hysterical, afraid they would kill her husband. But I knew we had to
play things safe – their way. Hattie gently consoled her and got her
calmed down. I could understand how she felt. Sweeney was May's
I crept back behind the door and hollered out to him, “Alright, let
him go! He’s done nothing to you!”
“I know that!” he answered me back. “And I won’t do anything to him
either if you come out like I say. If you don’t, this town’s gonna
need a new bartender! You or him!”
That was my choice. I looked around at my friends who stared back at
me – Micah, Hattie, Mrs. Sweeny, and yes…Mark. What was I going to
Frost was angry, telling Dorf he was loco. Dorf had been putting up
with his mouth all night and suddenly couldn’t take it anymore. He
shot him down. Bang!
The shot rang out through the night. May Sweeny clung to me and
burst into tears, thinking they had killed him. I turned and saw
Sweeny still standing in the doorway with a gun pointed at him. I
consoled her, forcing her to look and see that her husband was still
okay. "He's alright, he's standing there. Look.....look for yourself
"Don't hurt him please," May screamed at them. She suddenly turned
to me. "It's you they want! Why don't you do something. You can't
let him die."
I turned and looked at my son. I could tell he was very worried
about this. “Yeah, it’s me he wants,” I stated worriedly. I looked
at my best friend and he knew what I had decided to do.
“Lucas-“ he started. But then he stopped. We both knew the truth –
we had no other way out.
"Alright! What do you want with me?" I asked. Mark wasn’t too happy
with my decision either.
"Sodbuster, remember what I told ya? You hurt me, all I want to do
is hurt you,” Dorf answered.
“You’ll kill him anyhow, huh?” I asked.
“That’s a chance you’ll have to take! If you don’t come out, I’ll
kill him. If you try anything funny I’ll kill him. You come out and
face me, maybe I will – maybe I won’t. And sodbuster, you ain’t in
any position to argue!”
That was my choices. “What happens afterwards?” I asked.
“We ride out of town, Dorf answered.
May suddenly clung to me again and begged me not to do it. “You
heard him, May. We’re in no position to argue,” I answered her.
“Hattie?” Hattie took May back inside. “Micah, the one in the back –
watch out for him, huh?” I can’t say that I wasn’t nervous – I was!
I took one more look at my boy then started out the door.
I stepped out onto the boardwalk. Dorf stepped out, leaving Sweeny
guarded by some other prisoners. “Well, you came out just in time.
That bartender didn’t have long to live,” he announced.
“You mean you’d kill him just to get back at me for something?” I
asked. I never would understand cold-blooded murderers, or any other
kind for that matter.
He started in on my smashing his knuckles. He had sworn nobody would
ever lay a finger on him again. “What did you expect me to do,” I
suddenly asked. “Stand by that wagon and let you get your hands on
He was tired of my talking. “Stop the blabbering and let’s get on
with it!” he ordered.
“How do you want it?” I challenged him.
He handed one of the other prisoners his gun. I set my rifle down.
We started down the street toward each other. Then we stood in front
of each other and turned around. He delivered two hard punches to
me, knocking me to the ground. I tripped him and knocked him down on
the ground with me. He punched me again and again and again as he
was on top of me.
Micah looked around the back and saw the prisoner on guard there. He
told the waiter from the restaurant to watch the front as he made
his way to the back. As we continued rolling around on the ground,
Micah hit the butt of his gun over the head of the prisoner guarding
the back and knocked him out cold.
That only left five.
Dorf fought dirty…really dirty! He punched me all the way up against
a building. Then he threw a chair at me. I moved just in time and
the chair slammed through the store window. I punched him hard out
onto the street, then threw myself on top of him as we again rolled
around on the ground.
Suddenly, he had his arms around me and was squeezing me around my
middle really hard. I cried out in pain,, desperately trying to get
away from him before he crushed me to death. I had no choice. I
violently thrashed my head up against his, knocking him back.
We delivered some more punches until he finally knocked me into the
water trough. He held my head underwater trying to drown me. I
fought hard and got my head out from the water. Again, he pushed my
head under and held it there. Somehow, I managed to turn him over to
where he was now the one in danger of drowning. I jerked him out of
the trough and gave him one last hard punch.
Micah suddenly ran over to the prison wagon and shot his gun off
right over them. That spooked the horses and got them to running,
killing Dorf and leaving us with only five prisoners. Shooting
erupted and I rolled across the street to my rifle. Bang! Bang! I
fired to fast shots, killing one prisoner. That left us with three.
Bang! One quick shot from Micah killed another one. Now we only had
two. They surrendered. It was over.
Sweeny and May ran out and met in the middle of the street. They
embraced, relieved to be in each other’s arms once again.
Mark slowly walked over to me, not quite believing it was over. I
was exhausted – emotionally and physically exhausted. I was still
kneeled on the ground. Mark stood over me and looked down at me. Our
eyes held each others. Then Mark put his arm around my neck and I
laid my head against his middle as I gasped breaths of air in relief
and closed my eyes.
I was alive. I had made it through!
The next night I was working on the pump…again! Mark was restless.
He was still up reading in his schoolbooks. I looked over at him.
“It’s way past your bedtime, Mark,” I stated sternly.
“I know,” he said. “I just don’t seem to be tired.” He slowly walked
over to me. “Alright if I stay in here and watch for awhile?”
Normally I would have sent him on to bed, but somehow I knew
something was bothering that boy, so I simply answered, “Suit
yourself,” and waited for him to open up to me.
take him long. “Pa, is it possible to loose a town?” he
suddenly blurted out.
“Loose a town?” I asked as I looked at him. Then I suddenly realized
he was thinking about what happened to those prisoners last night.
Mark figured they could’ve taken the town away from us. “They
could’ve taken it physically, Mark, but they couldn’t have kept it.
Takes more then just guns to hold a town. No son, the time a town or
even a country is really lost is when the people who live in it get
careless and stop paying attention to how it’s being run.”
Again, Mark surprised me by blurting out, “Oh, you mean like the
Roman Empire!” I turned and looked at my child. He never ceased to
“Your up to that already?” I asked a bit shocked. He said Miss.
Adams started them on it last week. “Well then you know the value of
studying your history. Now, you were a hundred percent right when
you said ‘like the Roman Empire.’ By knowing the mistakes people
have made hundreds of years ago, we can learn a lesson and profit
from not making the same mistakes ourselves.” I thought on that
myself as I spoke these words to my son.
“I hope so,” Mark stated. I suddenly turned and stared at my young
son. He hoped so? That was an odd response to one of my inspired
lectures! I reckon I was putting him to sleep as usual because he
suddenly yawned and stated he could go to sleep now. “Goodnight,
As he disappeared into the bedroom, I said, “Goodnight, son.” Then I
thought about his “I hope so” comment and shook my head.
piddlin' stuff.....Don Megowan
as Dorf, the prisoner who grabbed a hold of Mark outside of the
Don Megowan: "Coolest Father in the World"
An interview with his daughter Vicki
appeared in two episodes ―
A Matter of Faith as Hode
Evans, he's the cowboy who beat on Mr. Jonas and threw the dirt
at Lucas ― Seven as Sanchez, he was
one of the condemned murderers who escaped and took over the
town of North Fork.
The '7' Prisoners
There were five actors who appeared on The Rifleman that were
regulars on Bonanza — do you know who they are?
Hal John Norman appeared
in two episodes ― The
Pet as the father of the little girl that had anthrax,
he was also in Seven as Frost one of the
The '7' Prisoners.
appeared in two episodes ―
Seven as one of the prison guards, he's the one in the
beginning of the episode that fed the prisoners ― The Sixteenth Cousin
as Vic Adler, he's the cowboy who asked if they (Soto and Hikaru
Yamanaka) wanted to fight with guns or their hands tied behind their
John Cliff was the second prison
guard, the one who ate in the dining room of the hotel.
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
Bill Quinn appeared in thirty-eight episodes as Sweeney the owner/bartender of The North Fork Saloon.
Sweeney was first introduced to The Rifleman in The Marshal.
Do you know Sweeney's first name?
Have you ever heard anyone call him by his first name? I think I heard
May (Sweeney's wife) call Sweeney, Bill. You would think May would know her husband's name.
Was this a blooper and May used Bill's real name by mistake?
Helen Beverly as May, Sweeney's
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.
appeared in four episodes ― The Mind Reader as John Hallager, he was
the man killed that Billy Mathis (Michael Landon) was accused of
The Coward as Ben Smith,
the Trail Boss of the cattle drive ―
as the warden of the
New Mexico Territorial Prison ―
Deadly Image as
Len Richards, he was the one who
accused Lucas of killing his brother.
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
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. Sometimes Archie was a stand-in for Paul
Max Wagner appeared in four episodes ―
Blood Brother as John Stoddard, he was the man who was
dying when Mark and Lucas brought him into town, the man Micah despised ―
The Spoiler as one of the townsmen — Seven as
Prisoner Gibbons — Strange Town as one of the townsmen.
The '7' Prisoners
Bob Whitney as the Diner Proprietor. He is the man who came running
out of the hotel shooting to help Lucas. He was a stand-in much like
Ralph Moratz, which means he dressed like the actor and in between
shots his job was to stand there to get the lights and everything
right. This means that he was constantly employed and his parts were
generally bigger like in the episode Seven.
George Bruggeman appeared two
The Coward as one of Ben Smith's cowhand ― Seven
as one of the seven prisoners.
You better watch your P's and Q's" —
In the colonial days, drinks were served in pint or quart sizes. If
a customer was getting too rowdy, the bartender would say "Mind your
Ps and Qs."
You've heard Lucas' story, now hear Mark's