"Welcome to the McCain Ranch"
It’s easy to take for granted that
you know your kids. In fact, you can “think” that you know your kids
so well that you loose sight when they are really trying to tell you
something important. I found
myself in such a situation recently.
There were three men surveying for the railroad. Elliot was the head
of the three and announced
that it was time to stop for the day.
While they were loading their equipment in the wagon, Len asked
Elliot if he was still holding out. He just simply answered that he
didn’t want to hear anymore about it. “We can be in and out of that
North Fork bank in just 15 minutes,” Len stated. But Elliot wasn’t
interested. “Are you going? A simple yes or no.”
“No,” Elliot answered simply.
Suddenly, Len threw down the stakes he was holding and pulled out a
gun. Elliot was just telling Charley that Len was acting like he
wanted to kill him when all of a sudden – Bang! – he did kill him.
The day started out simple enough. Mark and I were working together
on the ranch. At that moment, we were busy milking our cows so Mark
could get some milk over to the surveyors where they were working
at. Suddenly, Mark made an announcement that he’d been thinking
about being a surveyor when he grew up. “A surveyor huh? Well,
that’s a worthy calling, I said.”
“Yeah. And when you’re a surveyor, you get to see the whole country.
And not only that, but Elliot says that when you’ve just finished a
job and you see that train coming along on that railroad track, boy
you feel like a part of history!” I listened patiently, enjoying the
imaginations of my son. He had been spending lots of time at the
surveyor’s camp talking with Elliot. You know where a boy’s
imagination can go when talking!
I told them that made sense. “You think so Pa?” Mark asked. “I mean,
“Why sure,” I answered. “Only I had it in my head that when you were
grown up, you and me…we’d be partners,” I told him as I poured the
milk in a bucket.”
Mark agreed and thought so too. “Only, I got to grow up someday!”
Though I wanted us to be partners in the ranch someday, I didn’t
want to hold Mark back on his own ambitions and dreams. “Look son, a
man’s gotta lead his own life.” I wanted Mark to make sure I
couldn’t make him decide on what to do. I poured some of the milk in
a milk bucket for Mark to take the surveyors. “So when you bring
this milk over to the boys, why don’t you ask them a few questions.
You know…like, uh. What do you need to do to be a surveyor? What’s a
good surveying school? How long does it take? You know, things like
He thought that was a good idea. He seemed eager to get going.
Suddenly, I noticed the ladder was up at the top of the hayloft. I
had told that boy already to make sure the ladder is laid down when
he’s not using it. As he went to lay it down, he reminded me that
the packrats would get up there anyhow. “Sure, but there’s no use in
sending them an engraved invitation!” I told him.
I gave Mark the milk bucket. He suddenly stopped and told me that
Elliot didn’t know what they’d do if they didn’t have fresh milk to
drink every morning. “Good,” I answered. “Only today you better
carry it over! Last time you brought it over you only got it there
with half a pail!
Mark walked over to their camp, but he was disappointed to find that
no one was there. He stood outside the tent and looked around,
hoping he would eventually find them, but no one came. So he sat the
pail down and went inside the tent to sit and wait awhile. He saw a
and laid down to read. But being a boy, after that long walk over he
was pretty tuckered and fell asleep.
Meanwhile, Len and Charley were in town collecting their pay from
John Hamilton at the bank. As they were collecting their salary
checks, Mr. Hamilton commented that everyone was hoping their
surveying line would pass through North Fork. “Man proposes, Mr.
Hamilton. Heaven disposes,” one of the surveyors commented.
John suggested that he hold on to Elliot’s check until he came to
get it, but they told him Elliot had left – a death in the family.
Mr. Hamilton was sorry to hear that. Then as Len continued talking
to Mr. Hamilton, Charley went to cash the checks and scoped out the
safe. Len announced that they would be moving out at the beginning
of the week.
When they rode back into the surveyor’s camp, they were unaware that
Mark was sleeping in their tent. They discussed how well they had
pulled Elliot’s where a bouts off in the bank. They were plenty
happy that Hamilton didn’t suspect anything was up. Charley suddenly
stated that he didn’t feel right in pulling the job of the next day.
“Why? Because it’s Sunday, huh?” Len asked sarcastically. “Well,
that’s the way we planned it!” Len said.
“Yea, but you want luck to be on your side!” Charley stated. Mark
was sitting up trying to clear the fog out of his brain at this
point. “We’ve never planned a job on the Sabbath before!”
“Come on now, that’s rich, Charley! I swear that’s rich. What, are
you afraid you won’t get into heaven if-“ Suddenly, they both
stopped talking. Mark had just walked out of the tent. They were
both surprised, to say the least!
They began questioning Mark innocently to find out if he had heard
anything. They wanted to know if they woke him up riding in. “Oh
no, I didn’t even hear you! I just woke up,” Mark answered as he
looked around for Elliot. He suddenly asked if Elliot was around,
but they reported to him that Elliot went back to Chicago. Mark had
made good friends with Elliot while he’d been there, so this news
took him by shock. He was even more saddened when they announced
that he wouldn’t be back. “Did he…tell you to say goodbye to me or
“Oh, he sure did!” Len answered. “He felt awful bad he couldn’t say
Mark left as Len and Charley watched him, questioning looks on their
faces. They sure were hoping Mark didn’t know anything!
That afternoon, Mark and I did laundry together. I did the washing
and he rinsed them off and hung them on the fence. As we worked
together on this chore, Mark got to thinking about earlier. He was
remembering things now about their arguing, and he had a bad feeling
about the way they were talking. I knew Mark well enough to know he
wouldn’t give this up easily, so I tried as sternly as I could, to
tell him that I didn’t think there was anything to worry about.
But, he wasn’t going to give up that easily. I reminded him that he
was asleep. “Men alone, they get on each other’s nerves!” I tried to
I worked at scrubbing a shirt. “Yeah, but this was different!” Mark
“How different?” I asked. I was really hoping we could stop talking
about it soon.
“Well, I don’t know how to explain it,” Mark said. “I have this
feeling that Charley wanted Len to do something and Charley knew
that he shouldn’t do it.”
I tried to explain it away to make him feel better. “Well it could
be that with Elliot gone back East, Len’s head man and it irks
“Maybe so,” I said. “But I had this feeling that Elliot was having
trouble with them.”
“What kind of trouble?” I asked. I knew Mark’s imagination was going
“Well…as if he didn’t trust him or something,” Mark answered.
Suddenly, I looked at Mark. I could see the worry on his face and
knew he wouldn’t be pressing so hard if he didn’t really believe
something was wrong. I decided to ride over there after while and
talk to them to see if I picked up on anything. That’s all Mark
wanted me to do. He suddenly sounded very excited. I told him that
right now I wanted to get the laundry finished! “Well, let’s hurry!”
Mark suddenly said as he hurriedly rinsed out a piece of clothing
and threw it over the fence.
I stared at my son. That boy!
I did as promised and rode over to the surveyor’s camp. After
talking to them, I started for home. Mark was just finishing up the
supper dishes when I walked in the door. He hurried over to me to
find out what I discovered. “Find out anything, Pa?” he asked.
“Not a thing, son,” I answered as I put my rifle up. Then I asked
for a cup of coffee. As I sat down at the table with my coffee cup,
I asked Mark if he felt better now. But while I was away, he’d
gotten to thinking. You know what that means! “There’s something
“Something you didn’t tell me?” I asked, picking up my cup.
“I just woke up from sleeping when they were a little ways from the
tent. But it was about what they were talking about. Well, it was
about Sunday. As if they were cooking up something for Sunday and
Charley didn’t want to do it!”
I sighed. I was having one of those I wish he’d drop this subject
thoughts. But I did my best to try to appease him…again. “I’m sure
that can be explained very easily, son,” I answered cautiously.
Of course, you know my boy! He wanted to know how it could be
explained. “Well, uh…with Elliot gone back East, they’re short
handed. Len probably wanted to go to work and get the job done so
they can move out in the first of the week.”
I watched mark carefully, trying to keep my expression soft so he
would trust my judgment. But sometimes when kids get ideas in their
heads, it take a firm voice. “Well, the way they sounded, it
couldn’t be just about surveying on Sunday!” he insisted.
I must admit that I was getting quite frustrated and fed up with my
boy! “Alright Mark,” I asked in an irritated voice. “Exactly what
did they say?
Mark was getting upset with me too. “Well I told yaw', Pa! I
couldn’t hear exactly! Well, I’d just been sleeping and they were
too far away from the tent.”
That’s it! I had enough. I was obviously not going to satisfy him.
Sternly, I told him, “You can’t judge a man by the tone of his
He walked away. I hoped that was the end of it. “Well just the same,
I know that whatever they were arguing about doing wasn’t right! I
I didn’t like his tone of voice he was using with me. Nor did I like
sitting here arguing about something that wasn’t there half the
night! So as I sat my cup down, I tried to keep my voice calm.
“Mark, I’ve done everything I can to satisfy you,” I stated calmly.
“Let’s forget it, huh?” That was an order, and he knew it from the
tone of my voice. He also knew that he was really beginning to push
“But tomorrow’s Sunday!” Mark stated.
I looked straight at him and told him that tomorrow was Sunday and
the thing for me and him to do was go to church. With that angry
tone in my voice, Mark walked away, knowing the subject was closed.
He walked outside and looked towards the barn. I looked towards the
door. My boy was up to something, I just knew it! Mark walked to the
barn and got his horse’s saddle blanket and saddle. Then he began
saddling his horse. My intuition told me I should go check on him.
As I walked into the barn, I saw what he was doing. “What are you
doing, Mark?” I asked him in a stern voice.
Mark turned and looked at me. He was a bit fearful of getting into
trouble, but that didn’t stop him from giving me a smart answer.
“I’m saddling my horse.”
“Don’t you think I can see that?” I asked angrily.
Mark knew his answer was inappropriate. “I’m going on a ride.”
“You got more since then that, going on a ride!” I stated sternly.
“Sorrow could break his leg in a gopher hole!”
“Well, I’ll be careful, Pa. But there’s something I gotta do!” Mark
I already knew the what that something was: ride over to the
Surveyor’s camp. Mark stood there, knowing I was angry with him. I
pushed him out of the way and took the saddle back off his horse. He
knew better then this.
“Mark, we’ve been all through it!” I said. Boy, was I getting tired
“But Pa,” Mark continued to argue with me. “I still believe that
they are gonna do something!”
I suddenly turned around and sat down. Then I put my hand on his
shoulder to help him know I cared. I talked in a calm voice and
looked into his eyes. I hoped this would be the end of it. “Mark, I
think you were dreaming in that tent. You’re pretty good at it. You
remember the time that you fell asleep on the log pile? And when you
woke up, you started yelling the house was on fire?” He remembered.
“And you remember the time you fell asleep and when you woke up you
thought the hired hand had s-“ I started.
Mark interrupted me angrily. That was a mistake. Another mistake was
his persistence on this ridiculous story that I tried and tried
convincing him was just not true. “I remember, Pa! But this is
I knew I was at the end of my rope.
I couldn’t take anymore of him tonight. “Son,” I said suddenly and
calmly. “I think you better turn in.”
Mark knew from the tone of my voice that I was fed up. Anymore about
it would only cause me to get angry. I settled myself down before I
went into the house.
Mark started out the door, but he suddenly stopped and turned
around. “You don’t believe me!” He stated. He was very upset and
I hated being like this with him. “I didn’t say that. It’s just that
in this instance,” I started to explain it to him.
But he didn’t want to hear it. “Goodnight, Pa!” He interrupted me.
Then he walked into the house. I sat there and thought on our
conversation. It broke my heart to be at odds with him, but as a
father sometimes I had to be stern.
I didn’t know it, but Mark hadn’t even undressed before he got into
bed. After I got in bed, that boy waited until I was asleep. He was
pretty mad at me for not believing him, so he quietly got up and
stuffed pillows under his covers. Then he grabbed his hat and boots
and walked out of the cabin. Mark ran away from home!
The next morning, I got up and fixed breakfast. Then I came back
into the bedroom to comb my hair and wake Mark up. I figured
announcing that breakfast was ready would get my growing boy right
out of bed, but he didn’t budge. I turned and saw his still form in
his bed. “Sorry you got your feathers ruffled last night, son. I
didn’t mean to be so rough on ya. I guess I was kinda on edge
myself.” I continued combing my hair. But he still didn’t budge. I
could already feel this day getting off to a rough start!
I set the comb down. “Come on, son. Let’s forgive and forget!” I
walked over to the bed and started to pull the covers off of him.
But I froze, realizing that my boy wasn’t there. Pulling the blanket
back, I saw the pillows stuffed to make it look like he was in bed.
I lifted the pillow and held it, not realizing that things were that
bad the day before.
Worriedly, I walked out of the bedroom and toward the door. I
grabbed my hat and rifle and stepped out onto the porch. “Mark!” I
yelled. Maybe he just wanted to sleep in the barn because he was
angry with me. At least I hoped that’s all it was! “Mark!” I
hollered again. I made my way for the barn. But he wasn’t there.
Suddenly, I saw the empty stall. His horse was gone.
My boy had run away from home!
I quickly saddled my horse and went looking for my boy. Surely he
didn’t stray off too far!
I rode over to the surveyor’s camp first. That would be the most
likely place. As I rode up, I asked them if they’d seen Mark. They
wanted to know what happened to him since he usually brought the
milk. I didn’t really want outsiders to know about our family
problem, so I said, “Nothing. He got up before I did. Guess he went
for a ride.” The day before they had told me they were going to
work. When I asked them why they weren’t working, Len stated that
Charley had talked him out of working. “Driving to church, huh?” I
asked. Len simply nodded. I told them to tell Mark I was looking for
him if he happened by.
I looked everywhere I could possibly think of for Mark. Then I rode
back to the ranch. I was a boy once too, and every child has tried
to run away at some point. But we always came home unharmed. I
decided to give Mark a little time to work this out. But as I took
my saddle back inside the barn, I suddenly noticed the ladder was
back at the loft.
My boy was back home, safe and sound.
I was glad for that, but he was still hiding from me, afraid he
would be punished if he revealed himself. But then I realized
something else. He was going to great lengths to punish me for last
night. I played back part of the conversation from last night in my
head – when I reminded him of his dreaming. “But this is different,
Pa! Honest!” He tried to tell me. He was persistent, but I didn’t
listen. I looked up into the hayloft again. I wanted to tell him I
loved him, but I needed to get to the truth first. Then I’d know how
to handle Mark. If they were going to do something, it would be in
town. I wanted to talk to Micah anyhow.
With that, I went to town.
While I was riding in, unbeknown to me, Len and Charley came in the
back way and made their way to the bank.
The street was quiet. I could hear the church bell ringing,
announcing that church was starting. But Mark and I wouldn’t be
there today. We had a problem to solve. I tied my horse in front of
Micah’s office. Then I saw him. “You going to church?” I asked.
Micah said he was. “Well, if you see Toomey, will you tell him I’m
picking up the bridle he’s fixing for me and dropping off another
one?” I asked. He said he would. I suddenly came up behind him as he
started toward the church. “You won’t forget will ya?” I asked. I
told him I had to use it as an alibi for coming into town.
Suddenly, Micah knew we were having a family crisis. “Where’s Mark?”
“Well you see Micah, Mark ran away from home,” I suddenly announced.
Micah was suddenly concerned. I assured him he was back home, but
that didn’t keep me from being concerned about why he ran away from
home in the first place. I wasn’t exactly sure how to approach this
problem! “When I left home, he was hiding up in the hayloft.”
“You’re giving him time to come down on his own,” Micah stated.
That was part of it. I didn’t want to tell him what the other part
was just yet. “Micah, did you ever run away from home?” I needed
“Well, I remember once my dad gave me a good larrupin’ and I decided
I needed to get even with him someway, so…uh…I took out. Well, after
trampling around long enough in the heat until my tongue was kinda
hanging out, I decided I wasn’t getting near as even with my Pa as
much as I was punishing myself more. So I just turned around and
went back. And what’s more, I knew that all I would get for my
troubles is another good larruping’.”
“And did ya? Did you get another larrupin’?” I wanted to know how
his father dealt with this problem.
I was surprised at his answer. “No, but I kinda wished I had.
Instead, Pa let me in the house and had everyone treat me as though
I’d never been away. Kinda took the wind right out of my sails.”
“What did your Pa whip you for in the first place, Micah?” I
Micah told me that there were some apples missing from the barrel
and he thought Micah had done it because he had done it before. I
thought on this as he started for the church. But I suddenly stopped
him with one final question. “Did you swipe the apples?"
Micah smiled at me. "No Lucas boy, I didn't." That made me really
stop and think about things.
I started toward my horse, but I heard my little boy’s voice in my
head again. He had said he thought they were cooking something up
for Sunday. There was one place in town that I could think would be
worth risking your neck for – the bank. I owed it to Mark to make
I walked up to the window and peered inside. I didn’t see anything
amiss…at first…but then I looked again. There was a mirror. And in
that mirror was the image of Len backed up against the wall with his
I walked away, not letting on that I had seen anything. They thought
they had pulled off their hiding and went back to working on opening
up the safe. They wanted to hurry before they got caught.
I got on Razor and acted like I was leaving. But I didn’t. Instead,
I rode the horse behind the bank and got off. Slowly and quiet as a
mouse, I snuck up to the side entrance of the bank. I stood outside
the door and listened…waited until they had the safe open and was
emptying the contents. I wanted to catch them red-handed with the
Slowly, I started to turn the knob. The door was locked. It wouldn’t
I stood back and aimed my rifle at the door. Two quick shots and the
door flew open! I had caught the two men by surprise. My rifle
pointed at them as soon as the door opened. They put their hands up
in the air in surrender. “Alright, boys. Let’s go wait for the
Marshal!” I ordered.
“Don’t shoot!” Charley begged. “Don’t shoot.”
“Come on. Walk easy.” I kept my gun trained on them.
Suddenly, I came to a humbling reality. My son was right. I had been
wrong not to believe him.
I raced home after taking care of the boys. I was anxious to see my
son and make things right with him again. Mark heard me ride up. He
stared out the window. He was a little afraid of what would happen
when I walked in the door, so he tried to act natural. When I walked
in, he was sitting at the table eating a sandwich. "I'm glad you
found something to eat, son," I said as soon as I walked inside. I
put my rifle in it’s holder, plopped my hat down on the table and
took a seat in my leather chair.
"Where have you been?" Mark asked casually.
"Well, I rode into town to pick up the bridle Nels was fixin' for
me." I answered back just as casually. I decided to take Micah’s
approach and not mention his running away. But my confession would
come soon enough.
"Oh.” Mark was disappointed. He had hoped I was out looking for him
and solving his mystery.
That’s when I made my confession. "By the way Mark, you were right
about those surveyors.”
"What do you mean," Mark suddenly asked, hope returning to his
"They tried to rob the bank a little bit ago. That's what they were
figuring' on doing on Sunday." That’s as close to a “You were right”
as I could get.
With a sigh of relief, Mark said "That's great!"
“That’s great?” I suddenly asked. “That they tried to rob the bank?”
Mark laughed, knowing things were getting right with us again. “You
know what I mean.”
“Of course I do, son,” I stated quietly. I was still humbled from
not believing my own son. I should have listened
him closer. Maybe his running away could have been avoided.
Mark started to take a bit of his sandwich. But he was suddenly
overcome with guilt. He wasn’t willing to ignore the fact that he
had done wrong. "I'm sorry Pa. I know I shouldn't have run away but
I thought that....." His voice drifted off.
I didn’t want to talk about it. I knew we had both learned a lesson
in this. I should listen to my son when he has something to tell me,
and Mark can’t run away from his problems. “No need to explain son,”
I told him. I suddenly understood perfectly!
He started to take a bit again. But after such an argument, there
are certain things that a boy needs to hear from his father. He
needed to know that he was loved. “Did you miss me?”
"Did I miss you? Let me put it this way. I love you more than
anything else in the whole world." I answered with much feeling in
my voice. I needed to say it as much as he needed to hear it. There
was no problem so great that we couldn’t solve with a little bit of
That made Mark’s day. He suddenly smiled really big and took a bite
of his sandwich. I smiled at him too as I lit my cigar. Things were
suddenly right with us again.
Piddlin' stuff.....Mike Kellin
as Len Sommers, he's the one who killed Elliott.
Lin McCarthy played Charley
Burns. He's the one who help Len rob the bank.
Harlan Warde appeared in eighteen
episodes as John Maysfield Hamilton, President of the North Fork
Bank. He was first introduced in The Safe Guard. In
this episode North Fork's Bank was first established and John
Hamilton was new to North Fork.
Ted Otis as Elliot Hodgins, the surveyor who got killed.
Lucas' story, now hear Mark's