"Welcome to the McCain Ranch"
A Friend in Need
There comes a time in a man’s life when he learns what really
matters. This was my time. I’ve fought to keep my ranch in the past,
and I probably will in the future, but this time it was personal. My
I remember it like it was yesterday. It was Saturday. Like every
Saturday, Mark and I rode into town for supplies. But today was
different – very different. In the saloon across the street, a man
sat in a chair by the window. He watched closely for us to appear.
He watched us ride in and dismount our horses. Then he watched us
walk into the General Store.
The stranger pulled out a letter. Part of it read like this:
“…his name is McCain. McCain and his son usually ride into town
around noon on Saturday the boy is always with him. You’ll know
McCain by his height and his rifle…”
The stranger smiled. His time had come.
The stranger moved out onto the porch to keep watch on us.
Meanwhile, another man by the name of Neff Packer rode into town. He
was one of the friendliest men in town and greeted everyone as he
rode in. He then walked into the General Store and saw Mark at the
candy jar. He was trying to decide which flavor of sour ball to get.
Neff came in and helped him make up his mind. When Milly and I
walked in from the back of the store, we found both Mark and Neff
guilty of snitching candy – it was in their mouth!
Milly couldn’t resist teasing the boy. “Well! How do you like that!
I turn my back for one minute and I find squirrels in the candy
jars!” Then she asked Mark to help her with the canned goods.
Neff wasn’t afraid to tell me about his problems. “It’s that herd of
mine. I’ve got 500 head out at my place – they’re a sickly bunch of
cows you never did see…I haven’t got enough grass to feed ‘em. Keep
my profit down having to come in here to buy special feed to fatten
Well, I’d heard all this before! I knew exactly where this was
going! I wasn’t going to bite. “Well Neff, at least you have
Neff laughed. “I don’t have enough land to feed my herd.” He paused
as he looked at me. “But then I guess it’s my own fault.” I agreed
with him. Got nobody to blame but myself. Me…one of the first
ranchers in North Fork and I didn't the sense enough to buy up
enough good land."
"Neff," I said. “Mark and I worked very hard building up that ranch,
it's our home. We don't ever figure on selling it." I smiled at him,
letting him know that was my final answer! Neff acted offended and
asked me if he said anything about me selling our place. “Oh, you
didn’t have to. It was written all over his face.” We looked at each
other and laughed. He felt that’s what he got for being too
easy-going. “My friends know me too well. But then I guess it’s
better to have good friends then…good cattle.”
On that note…”Good seeing you, Neff…” I jumped off the counter and
held up the bag of supplies. I told Mark to go back to the ranch
when he finished helping Milly – I’d be home after the Council
Neff watched me leave. "There goes a fine man, hard working, loving
father, civic minded and a good friend," said Neff.
“Yes sir,” Pa stated proudly.
"Yes sir, makes me proud to know a man like your Pa."
Mark did just as he was told. He headed for home after leaving the
General Store. But he was suddenly stopped on the road when the
stranger from town blocked his passage. “Hello, kid,” the man
It’s no surprise that my boy was startled, to say the least! “Do I
The man laughed. “No, I don’t reckon you do.” Mark asked him if he
wanted something. “Yes there is. Uh…I wanta ask you something. You
wouldn’t want to see anything happen to your dad…would you now?”
The stranger’s question surprised Mark and upset him a little. “What
are you talking about?” he suddenly asked.
Again, the man laughed. “Well
now…uh…let’s just say that unless you do what I tell you…Your
daddy…He ain’t gonna live very long.”
Mark didn’t like the sound of that. “Mister, I gotta go!” He tried
to ride away, but again, the man stopped him. He declared Mark was
going no where. “Now, I don’t know how much plainer I can make it to
you, boy. But what happens to your daddy from now on…that depends on
you.” He jabbed a finger in Mark’s chest.
“But I just left him in town!”
“Maybe boy…Maybe…” The man answered. “But right now you don’t know
where your Pa is. Now you just ride along with me and everything
will be alright. Now come on.”
Mark didn’t want to go. “I can’t go with ya'!”
He leaned over towards Mark and looked him right in the eye. “Boy,
if you give me any trouble, you’re daddy is gonna get killed and
it’ll be your fault! “ He forced Mark to go with him. They traveled
to the Old Wolf Canyon Relay Station. Mark didn’t like going there –
he also didn't’ like not knowing what this was all about.
Carl was the stranger’s name. He ordered Mark inside off the horse.
He promised Mark he wouldn’t be harmed if he did everything he was
told. When he ordered Mark off his horse, Mark hesitated. But Carl
insisted. Mark had no choice but to obey.
After the council meeting, I rode
back to the ranch. I was surprised to find that Mark wasn’t there
when I got back from town. It was after dark, and I was worried.
Mark knew he was to be home by dark. I paced the floor and grew more
and more frustrated the longer he was gone. Finally, I decided to go
looking for him. I grabbed a pencil and paper and wrote a note:
When you get home, stay here. I've gone looking for you.
Then I headed back to town to look for him. Little did I know that
the minute I left, Carl tore down my note and replaced it with his
My first stop was to inquire with Milly and Micah on Mark’s
I then headed into town to check with Milly to see when Mark left
or if he mentioned anything about going somewhere before he left. I
asked Milly several times if she was sure she didn’t know where he
was. She assured me that he left here and rode back to the ranch
just like I told him to. That wasn’t a good enough answer for me.
This was my boy I was talking about! “Then he must be some place
between here and the ranch,” Micah stated. “Maybe his horse went
I knew Micah was trying to calm me down. “Even so, Micah, why did he
leave the road? I certainly didn’t pass him on the way in.”
Milly tried to make light of it for me as well. They both knew how
worried I was. "You know how boys are. Maybe he took a short cut!"
Micah didn’t waste anymore time. "Come on...we'll find him. I'm sure
he's alright!” Milly grabbed my arm. "Lucas, let me know...please?"
I told her I would. Micah and I rode off.
Meanwhile, Carl returned to the hideout. Mark was locked in a closet
and very frightened. He was screaming for help and banging on the
door. Mark was afraid he wouldn’t come back. He wondered where Carl
had gone. All Carl would tell him is that he had some business. “Why
won’t you tell me what this is all about?”
“Kid, you know all you have to know,” Carl stated. He told Mark to
go to bed. Mark wasn’t too happy
about the whole situation. He decided to wait until Carl fell asleep
then sneak out. He tired that very thing when he thought it was
safe. But the room was dark and he couldn’t see too clearly. He made
a noise and Carl jumped. “Hey!” Carl angrily pointed a finger at
Mark. “You go out that door and it’ll be the same as pulling a
trigger on your old man! Now get to sleep.”
Mark’s plan had failed and he was sorry it had. He had no idea what
was going on. I’m sure he was terrified.
We rode all night, but there was no sign of him. We went back to the
ranch to see if Mark happened to come home. I didn’t even have to
get off my horse to discover the answer to that - the note I had
left was still there. By this time, I was very tired and worried.
“Maybe he didn’t see it,” Micah tried to give me hope. “Maybe he’s
I doubted that, but I called his name anyhow. “You’ve been yelling
yourself hoarse all night – up one gully, down the next.” Micah knew
I was exhausted.
“Yeah,” I sighed. I went in the house to check for him. He never
answered my calls, nor had his bed been slept in.
Micah got off his horse and walked up onto the porch. He glanced at
the note. Then he did a double-take. He ripped the note off the wall
and read it closely. When I came out onto the porch to announce no
success, Micah handed me the note. “Maybe this is why.”
I read the note:
Five Thousand Dollars. For the return of your son. Have money within
twenty four hours and wait for further instructions…
My heart began racing as I read these words. I felt the air leave my
lungs and I didn’t think I’d ever be able to take another breath! I
could hardly read the words out loud! I stared at Micah as the
reality began to sink in. “What is this, Micah?” I asked
desperately. “Is this somebody’s idea of a joke?
Micah forced the reality to overtake any hope I was still holding on
to. “I don’t think this is any joke,” Micah stated.
I stared down at the note again. “Somebody has Mark and they…” I
stopped, unable to finish the thought out loud. I began gasping for
air again. “Who’d do this Micah?” I asked desperately. “What kind of
Oh, I couldn’t even think straight enough to put my thoughts into
word! Fear ran through my very being!
“Lucas-“ Micah’s calm voice was trying to calm me.
“Five Thousand Dollars! That’s impossible! Anybody that knows me
knows that I don’t have that kind of money, Micah!” I didn’t know
what I was going to do. I again began gasping for breath. “Why me?”
I crumpled up the terrible note. “Why my boy?” Micah didn’t answer.
“Why Micah?” I cried out loudly as I hit the post on the porch.
Micah ran toward me and put a hand on my back. “Lucas! Lucas Boy!
Calm down now…Take it easy. Now, we’ve just got to try to figure
this thing out rationally.” I hardly heard what he was saying. I had
other thoughts on my mind. Micah knew he had to calm me down – at to
get me talking sense and thinking rationally. I was way too upset.
He took me into the house for some coffee so we could decide what to
do from there.
“Micah, what am I gonna do?” I suddenly felt hopeless.
“We’ll figure something out,” Micah promised me. “Come on, boy.”
It was Sunday, but that didn’t stop me from getting John Hamilton at
the bank to discuss this matter. “That’s an awful lot of money,
Lucas.” I asked him if I could get it. John said even if he made a
loan on the ranch, he couldn’t get nearly enough money for me.
That’s not the answer I wanted to hear and John knew it. "It isn't
my money to give Lucas. It belongs to the depositors...and I don't
have enough of my own personal funds on hand to do any good." said
Just then, Neb ran in and
demanded to see John. He was beside himself with worry for my boy.
“Lucas, I just heard. It ain’t true – it can’t be!” Micah assured
him it WAS true. “Well, it’s your boy, Lucas. I can’t tell you what
to do…But I’ll help you any way I can. And if it comes down to the
money, you can count on me. I’ve got it.”
I thanked him, but I couldn’t take his money. Micah and I went to
get a posse together to go looking for Mark. We searched all day
with no luck. At this point, I was really exhausted. But I couldn’t
rest until I found my boy. We all rode back into town to see if
there was any word. Micah told the members of the Posse to get
something to eat and rest. Micah told Pete we’d be riding out in an
hour. “Half hour!” I declared as I turned around. I had a stern look
on my face. They knew I wanted to waste no time.
Micah understood. “Half hour.”
I turned to go into Micah’s office. “Lucas?” Milly called as she ran
up to me. I saw the silent question in her eyes. I just shook my
head without speaking. If I spoke, I’d burst out crying. Then I
turned and hurried into Micah’s office. Milly turned to Micah.
“Surely you must have found some trace!” She pleaded with Micah to
give her some hope.
"We've covered every square inch of territory for twenty miles
around. Every house, gully, you name it!" Micah answered, dashing
"It's like the boy vanished into thin air," Neff commented.
“Whoever’s got him…where ever they’ve got him…it’s some place we
don’t know about and can’t find!”
"Micah! Micah read this! I found it
behind the door." I ran out of his office holding another note.
Micah read it out loud. Here’s what the note said:
"Get rid of the posses. Tell McCain to bring five thousand cash to
the old relay station in Wolfe Canyon. Come alone, don't try
anything. Leave money in sack by door to station house. Turn around
and ride out. The boy will be turned loose when your gone."
I listened as Micah read the words. I felt the tears stream down my
face and out my nose. I couldn’t keep them from coming. I looked
down at Milly. She saw my tears. I could tell she wanted to take my
pain away. Nobody could. The longer Mark was gone, the harder it got
to hang on. The words brought terror to my heart – terror I only
felt when I was afraid for my boy’s life. I cried.
The relay station was half-way to Santa Fe. Micah assured me he
could get fifty men surrounding the place and take the men holding
Mark. “No, Micah. I have to go alone. They’ve gone this far. I can’t
chance what they’ll do .” I shook my head. I knew what I had to do.
I had to get that money for my boy. “Mark comes first. But…Where am
I gonna get…” I couldn’t think…it seemed like an impossible
situation! I began gasping for breath again as I though on this. I
had to get that money for my boy somehow…someway…
Then I remembered. Hope filled my heart. I turned to Neff. “You
always wanted to buy my place, didn’t ya'?”
“Now wait a minute-“ Neff started. But I didn’t have time for
"I'll sell it to you now."
"Now wait a minute, Lucas" Neff started to argue again.
"Five thousand dollars Neff!" He tried arguing with me again. I
wouldn’t take no for an answer. "I need the money!" I yelled.
"Alright, alright! I'll take a note on your place," Neff finally
"Now!" I yelled. Micah grabbed me and led me to the bank.
John couldn’t hurry with the money fast enough! I wanted to get my
boy back – the sooner, the better! I stuffed the money in the bag. I
told John I’d sign the note when I got back. “It wouldn’t be fair to
Neff if something happened to ya',” John declared.
“Something’s already happened!” I said as I signed the note. I was
nothing without my boy! Nothing!
Micah started in again about sending somebody with me, but I said
no. Neff jumped up and said maybe he should ride along with me. “I’m
going alone, Neff, like the note said. That’s final!” I answered
sternly. I couldn’t chance my son’s life.
“I’ll have half the town ready and we’ll get him…soon as Mark’s
safe,” Micah assured me.
I was the one giving the orders. I stared at Micah. “You wait here
until I get back, Micah!”
They watched me leave. "Neff, that was a nice thing you did for
Lucas," said Micah.
Neff brushed him off. "If you can't count on your friends when you
need them, then what good are they.” He went to the saloon to get a
It was cold in there. He wanted a fire, but Carl refused. He wanted
Mark to eat, but Mark refused. “Alright, suit yourself. Only, you
get sick or something I’m responsible and I’m not gonna like it!”
Mark turned and stared at him. "I wanna go home!" He yelled. The man
went back to eating his beans from a can. “How much longer are we
gonna stay here?” Mark asked then.
“Not much longer. Maybe you’re Pa be coming for you tomorrow."
Mark sprung forward filled with hope. "Pa, here?" Mark was trying to
understand what was going on. "Are you going to be here to?"
"Yeah until I finish my business with him, then I'll be leaving."
"What business?" Mark asked.
"You ask too many questions kid, now come on and eat!" Mark knew
what Carl was planning. He was
worried. "Sorry kid, but that's the way it's gotta be.”
I rode like the devil to get that money there. I arrived early the
next day. Carl was waiting for me out on the porch with his gun in
hand. Mark walked out onto the porch. “You said my Pa would be
“That’s right, kid.”
Mark looked nervously at the gun. “You…you won’t need that.”
“Yeah.” Carl smiled. Suddenly, they heard a horse coming. It was me.
“Pa!” Mark gasped.
“Shut up!” Carl demanded.
But Mark loved me. He wanted to warn me. “Pa!” he yelled.
Carl put his hand over Mark’s mouth and drug him inside the house.
Mark fought him the whole way. He warned Mark that if he fought,
he’d kill me. Mark turned and stared at him. Carl demanded Mark to
get back into the closet. Mark didn’t want to go. But he didn’t want
anything to happen to me either. Mark didn’t like being locked in
there and started banging on the door. “Help! Anybody!” Mark
screamed. “Help! Help!”
When I got up close to the house, I took the money bag and held it
out so the person holding my son could see it. I waited in
anticipation for something…anything to happen. It did. Carl shot the
money right out of my hand. I slid off my horse and fired a shot
onto the roof of the barn where the gunshot had been fired. Then I
turned and ran toward the shed. I fired a couple shots. I could see
him standing on top of the roof. I decided to make my way into the
barn so I could get a better aim. Firing shots as I ran, I shot
several holed into the roof.
Finally, he rolled off the roof and fell into the dirt. He was dead.
I ran toward the house, desperately hoping my boy was there and was
But by this point, Mark was in tears. He had heard the shots and
feared the worst. “Help…anybody…help,” Mark cried quietly as he
leaned against the door.
I ran inside. “Mark!” I cried desperately. Pa suddenly yelled from a
closet. I dashed toward it, desperate to hold my son in my arms and
look at him so I’d know he was alright. I ran and opened the door.
Mark was standing there. Oh, how beautiful he looked!
Mark jumped into my arms and threw his arms around my neck as he
cried. I held him tight and thanked God. Finally, he pulled away
from me. I held onto him as we stared into each other’s eyes. "Thank
God you’re alright, Son,” I said passionately.
Suddenly, I heard a horse approaching. I put Mark down and went to
see who it was. Mark followed me to the window. It was Neff. “Carl?”
Neff called quietly. I watched as he climbed off his horse.
I couldn’t believe this! He was scum! I went to the door and flipped
my rifle as I walked out. Neff saw me and gasped. He wasn’t
expecting to see me. “Lucas!” He backed off a little bit, obviously
in shock. He laughed nervously. “Well…what happened?” I didn’t say
anything. “Hey, is Mark alright?” I stepped off the porch and slowly
began walking toward Neff, my rifle read to fire if need-be. I
remained silent. “Alright, I apologize. But I couldn’t let you face
things alone.” He must think I was really stupid! I continued my
cold, hard stare as I continued walking up to him. “After all, I
have an interest in this too, you know…My money…
I couldn’t say anything. I couldn’t believe someone could be so low!
I continued slowly walking towards him. Neff began getting nervous
and wondered what was wrong. I heard the door behind me open, but I
motioned for Mark to stay there. I didn’t want him involved in this.
Neff begged to talk this matter over with me. I kept coming forward.
He started begging as he slowly took his gun out and held it in the
air to show me he wasn’t going to shoot. He started offering me
money. I got closer and closer to him. He saw the rage on my face.
I stood in front of him in anger and slapped him hard across the
face. He gasped and fell to the ground. I had no words for him – he
deserved none! I watched as he laid face-down in the dirt crying.
Mark ran up to me, looking down at Neff. He understood what had
happened. Neff turned and looked up at us as he cried. “Everybody
liked him so much,” Mark spoke.
I was angry…and hurt…I continued staring at him, still unable to
believe what had happened. “Everybody like him so much,” I mumbled
now he was nothing!
Later that day at Micah’s office, Micah was having trouble believing
the facts. "It just doesn't figure, a man like Neff. Who would have
"That's what he was counting on Micah," I said.
Mark had done a lot of thinking about this. "Seems like you can't
even trust your friend.”
Milly wasted no time in correcting him! "Oh now wait a minute Mark.
You can't judge all your friends by Neff Packer!”
Mark too had felt betrayed. "I don't know.”
"You don't know?” I asked, trying to sort out his thinking for him.
“Well take Milly and Micah; they'll your friends, right?"
"Right," said Mark. "You trust them, right?"
"Right," said Mark.
"Take me; I'm your friend to, right?"
"No, you’re my Pa,” Mark answered.
We laughed. I understood that! "Well let’s say I'm a friendly Pa,
We all started laughing.
Baer appeared in two episodes ― A Matter of
Faith as Walter Mather, the man doing the hiring for the
railroad ― A Friend in Need as Neff Parker, he was
the man who arranged Mark's kidnapping so he could get Lucas' ranch.
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.
Lee Farr appeared in two episodes —
Home Ranch as
Sam Montgomery, he was the cowboy who dragged Lucas with the rope ―
A Friend in Need as Carl Avery,
he's the cowboy who
worked for Neff Parker and held Mark for ransom.
Joan Taylor played Milly Scott. Milly
bought The General Store from Hattie Denton. Hattie had to leave to
go and help her sister in Denver. Joan Taylor appeared in eighteen
episodes as Milly Scott and was introduced to The Rifleman
in Miss Milly.
National 1970s late night talk show host
appeared as a member of the posse in A Friend in Need as Pete. Tom
Snyder stated to boost ratings that were beginning to lag The
Rifleman had local personalities to have a very small parts in
Tom Snyder, a familiar face on late night television, was Tom Snyder
was born in Milwaukee and got his broadcast start in a radio
newsroom after graduating from Marquette University. He became a
national figure in 1973 when he was named anchor of Tomorrow, a
late-night television talk show that was replaced by Late Night with
David Letterman in the early 1980s. After Letterman jumped to CBS,
however, he hired Snyder to host The Late Late Show, which is
broadcast immediately after Letterman's program. Thanks Paul in
Earl Spainard was in ten episodes ―
Day of the Hunter
as one of the townsmen ― Silent
Knife as a barfly ― The Assault as one of the townsmen -
Friend in Need as Harry the Bartender - Two Ounces of Tin
as one of the townsmen ― Outlaw Shoes as one of the
townsmen ― Guilty
Conscience as one of the townsmen, you can also see Earl in the
bar in Stud City ― Short Rope for a Tall Man as one of the
townsmen ― The Spoiler as one of the townsmen ―
None So Blind
as one of the townsman.
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