"Welcome to the McCain Ranch"
Dark Day at North Fork
Yet another trial was about to hit my boy and me. It was another of those trials that would either make us stronger or hurt us, and you know us – there’s hardly anything that gets us down! Why, look at all the storms my son and I had already weathered together!
As I was putting the blasting powder in the back of the wagon one day, Mark came racing in from school. He shouldn’t didn’t miss much time getting home, I told him as I grinned. He knew was going over to the south acre to clear the field. “You bet I didn’t! I wouldn’t miss this for nothing!” Mark declared.
I reminded him that he could watch, but from a safe distance. “Can I help?” he begged.
“Not with blasting powder, son,” I told him firmly. He agreed, knowing arguing would get him no where. I asked him if he'd run into the house and get the coil of fuses lying on the table. While he went to get the fuses I finished loading the wagon. I had moved the blasting powder to make room for the tools. I didn't notice that some of the powder had leaked out of the barrel. I was too busy watching my son and smiling at him. I went back and got the tools. Just as I was about to put them in the wagon Mark came running out of the house. I didn't pay much attention to what I was doing and dropped them into the wagon. With the friction from the tools and the loose gunpowder, it exploded in my face.
I fell to the ground as I grabbed my face and screamed in pain. The pain was excruciating. Mark ran over to me. “Pa!” He cried. He bent down next to me as I kept my hands to my face. It hurt so bad – felt like my whole face was on fire! “Pa!” Mark cried again. He grabbed my hands and forced them from my face. I couldn’t open my eyes – everything burned and the light made everything worse! I threw a hand over my eyes. Mark grabbed me and hugged me as he realized that it was really bad!
Mark wasted no time in getting me to the doctor. I was surrounded by my friends as the doctor worked on me. Milly, Micah, doc and Mark were all there with me, worrying. The doc must have given me something to calm me down because I just laid on his hospital bed as he put cream on my eyes and wrapped a bandage around them. “Lucas is in shock, but he’ll be alright as soon as the pain eases a little,” he assured everyone in the room. “Nothing broken so far as I can see. I don’t want him moved out of here for two days at least. That way I can keep an eye on him. Maybe by that time he’ll be ready to go home.” Milly put a hand on Mark’s shoulder as they looked at each other silently.
Doc asked Mark why I had let the powder blow up right in my face. Mark assured him worriedly that I didn’t let it happen. “Well, don’t make no difference,” Doc stated. “Powder does some strange things sometimes. Unfortunately the explosion went straight
"Dr. Burrage, Please...what are you trying to say?" Milly begged to know. She was very worried about me.
The Doc walked over to Mark and put his hand on his shoulder. "Mark, you love your Pa...don't you?"
Mark had tears streaming down his face. "Yes sir," Mark answered.
"And he loves you too. That's gonna matter a heap."
"Doc?" Micah questioned with just that one word. But his unspoken question was obvious – everyone in the room had the same question.
"I only know what I see Micah, and that ain't good," Doc answered him. "Of course, rest, care, things might change. I’ve seen it happen before. But it’s just that we don’t know much about things like this.” Doc laid a gentle hand on my eyes as he spoke.
"But you said he'd be alright," Mark cried.
The doc hated giving bad news, but it had to be done. "He'll mend, that's what I said. As to the other...well...that's up to the almighty. You see boy...” The doc hesitated. It was hard for him to announce this about his friend. “Your Pa is blind."
"Oh my God," cried Milly as she grabbed Mark by the shoulders to comfort him.
"Blind," Micah repeated quietly. It was hard for any of them to believe this.
"No human eye was made to look straight into a powder blast, it's just like the wind blowing out a candle." said Doc.
"Oh no!” Mark cried as Milly pressed her head against his. “No! Not Pa! Not my Pa!" Mark began crying even harder as he broke away from Milly’s embrace and ran over to where I was laying. He laid his hand on top of mine and laid his head on my chest as he wept.
The two days passed and doc said I could go home. Every one was such a big help! Micah went to get our wagon from the livery so Mark could load the supplies. Nils commented that it was amazing he was able to fix the wagon up considering….”How is he?” He asked.
“Oh, doc’s turning him loose today,” Micah answered happily.
“Well, I mean, how’s he taking it?” Nils asked.
“Well, you know Lucas.” Micah started to leave but turned back to assure Nils I’d be in to pay him as soon as I could. “Oh, tell him to forget it, Micah! Why Luke’s a – Well, Luke’s a good friend.” They both knew, though, that I’d be in to pay anyhow.
Micah drove my wagon over to Milly store and the doc packed my bag. I was coming into his office from the back room and couldn’t even seem to get the dang curtain open! Doc came over to help me, but I didn’t want his help. “I remember what this office looks like, doc!” I declared as I knocked a pitcher off his desk and it made a loud clang to the floor.
“Well, remembering what it looked like don’t give you any right to smash it up!” Doc declared. I apologized. “And that’s another thing!” Doc led me over to a chair and sat me down. “Now, you start feeling sorry and your gonna be doing that for the rest of your life!” Doc declared. “Stop feeling sorry for yourself!” I told him that was easy for him to say, but he wasn’t done lecturing me yet. “If you weren’t the man you were, you’d be dead right now! The shock would have killed you before they could have brought you to me. Your face is not gonna be scarred and your alive. You’ve got that to be thankful for!”
I didn’t want to hear any of this blasted bull! “There’s different ways to be alive, doc!” I answered angrily.
“A lot of men go through life blind as bats. Then there’s the other kind without eyes, born blind. They can see a lot more then most people. You understand me?” I started to say something, but doc put a hand on my shoulder to silence me. “Now, you have a lot of friends who care for you. You got your boy. They’re gonna be watching…praying for you to see what your gonna do!” The way doc was talking, I was on trial!
Doc knew I could live blind if I’d stop being angry with myself. I was ready for this conversation to end! I didn’t like being lectured to like this. Doc commented that Mark was coming. The sound of my son’s name suddenly sent a desperate fear through me. “Doc! Doc! Now Doc! Commere!” I begged as I stood up suddenly. I grabbed him and put my face right in front of his. “Now you tell me, Doc. Is there a chance? Any kind of a chance?”
“Of course there’s a chance!” Doc answered. “In a week we’ll take the bandage off then we’ll know more about it. In the mean time, don’t you temper with them, because the least little light – any kind – that’s your worst enemy.” I nodded, understanding.
Mark walked in and asked if I was ready. I turned toward his voice. “All set, son.”
I thanked the doc. Mark started to grab me, but I stopped him, telling him I was alright. As we started out the door, I could smell him. I turned and faced him. “Micah,” I smiled.
“Well, who else?” Micah asked.
“I’m fine, Micah, fine,” I assured him. I walked out onto the boardwalk. Mark started to tell me where the buckboard was. I knew it was over a Milly’s I’d hitched that team up enough to know the smell and the sound all it’s own. I started across the street, almost getting ran over by a horse and wagon. Micah and Mark ran out to grab me. “What are you trying to do?” Micah yelled at me.
“You should have waited, Pa!” Mark yelled at me.
“I’m sorry,” I said. “Well, what I mean is…” I laughed nervously, trying to keep my pride in tact. But it sure wasn’t easy! “I guess this isn’t going to be as easy as I figured.” Micah told me it would take time. Mark was really upset and wanted to take my hand. I knew that’s what he needed. “Yeah, son. You…you do that.”
Mark and Micah helped me across the street and up onto the boardwalk. People were staring – it wasn’t everyday that the Rifleman went blind. I could feel their stares as Mark started to help me up into the wagon. Milly hurried up to us then. I greeted her. She smiled as she spoke, but it was hard for her. She had fixed some sandwiches and chicken for us – we’d be hungry when we got home. I thanked her. “Son, uh…fried chicken!” I commented to my boy who had a special taste for fried chicken.
Milly handed the basket to Micah then grabbed my hand. "Mark's gonna take good care of you," she assured me.
"Well sure he is Milly...sure he is," I smiled at her.
Micah told Mark to take me on home now. But Mark could tell Milly and I needed a moment. He hurriedly stepped away from us. Milly gently laid her hand on my cheek as I turned my other cheek toward her. She kissed it tenderly, allowing her lips to linger there a few moments. “Everything’s gonna be alright, Lucas,” she assured me.
I smiled and nodded. I thanked her, and then turned to get up on the wagon. My foot slipped. I had shown my hopelessness right in front of those I loved. Milly wanted to help me up, but hesitated, now wanting to hurt my pride even more. I finally managed to get up on the seat.
I was ready to go. I couldn’t take the sympathetic faces any longer. I called for Mark several times. He wasn’t there. Being blind, it worried me that I couldn’t reach out touch him. It made me more anxious for his welfare. Mark knew that and hurried over to me. He hurriedly climbed up into the wagon, assuring me he was there. “Let’s go,” I ordered.
Milly and Micah stood side by side watching us leave. Milly felt so helpless in helping me. "Oh Micah, he's so...so proud," she cried.
But Micah was suddenly distracted. He saw a man get off his horse and slowly strut into the saloon. Milly noticed his sudden distraction and wanted to know what was wrong. Micah just told her nothing and started across the street. He went into the saloon and walked up to the man at the end of the bar. “Solby, isn’t it? Jack Solby.”
Solby turned and looked Micah up and down. “That’s right, Marshal,” Solby answered as he turned back to his drink. “Something I can do for you?” Micah asked him how long he’d be in town. “I come and go as I please, Marshal. Stay as long as I like,” Solby answered. “Nobody wants me. Cause I haven’t done nothing. I spent six years in Yuma prison making it that way.” Micah thought he got off easy. Solby nodded as he turned back to his drink. “That could be. But it’s over and I spent my time. Now I’m as free as the wind.”
“And the wind blew you right into North Fork, huh?” Micah asked.
“Not exactly, Marshal. You see, I was over in Hobbs when I heard. That’s a days ride from here. Sure shame.” Micah didn’t understand. “The accident, Marshal. What happened to McCain. McCain,” he laughed and put a hand to his face. “McCain and me…we know each other from way back. I reckon you know about that.” Micah had heard that he’d shot me. “Yeah, I shot him, but not good enough. He shot back – lamed me. That’s how he came to find me. Sent me off to Yuma…for six years.”
“Solby, what ever was between you and McCain was over years ago,” Micah stated. Solby stated Micah was right – he just came by with a natural curiosity. “Lucas McCain, the Rifleman…Carrying his rifle – not having the eyes to see how to use it. He lifted his glass to Micah. Micah turned and walked out. He had to warn me.
That night back at the ranch, I walked out onto the porch to get some fresh air. I was much happier being safely at home on my own ranch. But I was curious to know if I could see anything. Since it was dark, I lifted the bandage from my eyes and waved my hand in front of my face. Nothing – absolutely nothing! I pulled the bandage back over my eyes.
Suddenly I heard a horse approaching. I turned and called to Mark. When he came out to check on me, I asked him who was coming. I was happy when Mark announced it was Micah. Micah rode up to the porch and tied his horse to the post, greeting us. I wondered what brought him out there at this time of the evening. He commented that things were quiet, so he thought he’d come and check on us. “That’s fine,” Mark stated. “You can keep Pa company while I finish the dishes.” Mark offered Micah some coffee, but he didn’t want any.
After Mark went back inside, Micah commented that it was a fine evening. Alright – no coffee? “Why’d you come out?”
Micah wasted no time. He looked behind him to make sure the door was closed, then he announced it. “Jack Solby’s in town.”
As soon as I heard that name, I grabbed the post in fear. That was bad news for me. “Heard about your accident.”
“Jack Solby,” I whispered his name bitterly. “He wrote me once from Yuma prison telling me he was coming around when he got out. He never showed up. That figured unless the odds were in his favor.” I laughed nervously. “I guess they are now.”
Micah tried to brush it off. "Oh it could be he just wants to plague you Lucas. After all...no man in his right mind..." His voice trailed off. He didn’t want to finish the thought.
I didn’t make him – I finished it for him. "-would shoot a blind man, huh?" Micah assured me that the town wouldn't stand for that. “He wouldn’t do it in town,” I stated harshly.
Micah was really worried about me. “Then I’ll stay out here or deputize a man to stay out here with ya',” Micah assured me. But for how long could he do that? Solby had nothin' but time.
"Lucas, those bandages will be coming off, in a week. Things might be different then. Dr. Burrage-" my friend started.
But I didn’t want to hear it. “Dr. Burrage doesn’t know!” I interrupted him. “Now, you go ahead and watch Solby in town. I’ll be ready for him out here.” I wasn’t sure how, but this was my problem.
Micah let me have it my way, but he made sure to let me know that he had deputies watching Solby around the clock. “Then why’d you come out here bothering me for?” I asked. Didn’t he realize how hard this was for me?
“Because I thought you oughta know, that’s all!” Micah answered. Mark came out then. He was all done with the dishes. Micah knew the conversation had to end so he left.
Mark watched him leave. Then he crossed his arms and declared, “I kinda get the feeling he doesn’t think I can take care of you. Him coming all the way out here like he did.” I tried to assure Mark that he was a good friend, so worrying came naturally.
I knew Mark was worried about me. “When he can stop worrying – natural or not! We’ll make out.”
I turned to Mark and smiled at him as I asked him to read to me for awhile. He was happy to do that – I was letting him take care of me and that’s what Mark needed right now. My boy was so protective! Mark started inside. I reached out to grab a hold of him, but he wasn’t there. Mark turned and saw me struggling to touch him. He hurried and grabbed my hand as he led me inside.
That night after I sent Mark to bed, I thought I’d work on using my rifle. I held the rifle up steadily then tried to flip it. But there was a lantern in the way. My rifle hit it and it crashed on the table.
Mark hurried out to see what was going on. “Pa, what are you doing?” He questioned. He hurried over to the table and found the broken lantern. “Pa, if that lantern had been lit…” he started.
I was so frustrated! Doing normal, everyday things was impossible, and I hated Mark seeing me this way! "Go to bed son,” I ordered. I may be blind, but I was still the parent.
But Mark didn’t obey me. In face, he talked back. "No Pa! Your the one who should go to bed! What were you doing with this rifle?"
I was so frustrated! I couldn’t stand feeling shamed in front of Mark this way! "Go to bed Mark!" I yelled.
The tone of my voice scared Mark. "Yes sir," he answered as he backed away.
I suddenly realized what I had done. I reached for him, but he wasn’t there. "Son...Son...Son...” He finally walked back where I could grab him. I grabbed him by the arm and worked at setting myself in a chair so I could talk to my boy face to face. “Come here Son." My voice was soft and no longer angry.
"Mark, I didn't mean to speak to you that way. I-” I assured him. I hated being this way! It was so frustrating!
Mark understood. He knew this was frustrating for me. "That's alright Pa...just tell me what's the matter."
"Of course I should tell you what's the matter."
"Mark.....I'm gonna need your help."
"You know all gotta do is ask," said Mark. I told him to take me into the bedroom and I'd tell him everything.
The next day, Mark and I set out to work on my skills with the rifle. He threw tin cans, told me where he threw it, then I would shoot. We worked hard on this! Before long, I was able to hear my target before I shot. “Your ears are getting better then a rabbit’s!” Mark declared.
“Well, I hope they aren’t getting that big!” I joked as I reloaded my rifle.
Just then I heard someone riding up. I was really edgy and immediately drew my gun in the direction of the approaching rider. “Who’s that?” I yelled.
Mark grabbed my rifle and pushed it upwards. “It’s Micah, Pa,” Mark assured me.
Micah wanted to talk to me alone. I put my arm around Mark’s shoulders. “Oh, if it’s about Solby-“ I patted my boy on the back. “Mark knows.”
“Solby spent three days in the saloon trying to drink up all the stock and talking big about what’s gonna happen when he meets up with ya'.” He stopped.
“And?” I asked, keeping my arm firmly around Mark.
“Well, I thought it was a big bluff until earlier this morning.” He punched one of Micah’s deputies – nearly killing him. Then he slipped out of town. I thanked Micah. He said he was staying around the ranch as much he could until I got my eyes back. Micah really cared about me.
I couldn’t argue with him. “Alright, if you insist,” I answered.
“You’re a good friend Micah.” I told Mark to take Micah in and give him some of that hot soup on the stove. I was going to wash up.
“Alright. And I’ll save enough for you,” Mark answered.
I laughed. “That’s what I was afraid of!”
I slowly made my way over to the wash stand. I set my rifle down right next to me and took the bowl off the nail. Micah and Mark watched me. “Hey, he’s doing real well with himself!” Micah commented.
“He’s doing fine,” Mark answered proudly. “Pa said with the yard being the last thing he saw…why, it kinda sticks in his mind like a picture.” They walked inside the house and left me alone to wash up.
But even as they walked in the door, Micah didn’t want to take his eyes off of me. He quickly made his way to the back door and opened it so he could watch me. My friend was indeed very worried for me! He felt it was his job to protect me.
But as I started washing up, I heard twigs snapping and footsteps crunching loudly. I stopped and turned my head, knowing that the moment of truth had arrived.
Micah still had his eye on me from the doorway, but Mark told him to get a cup and try some of his soup. Micah turned and came inside to do just that.
I went back to my washing, pretending I hadn’t heard anything. But then I knew he was there. I didn’t have to see – I knew. I lifted my head. "This is gonna make it real easy for you, isn't Solby?"
Solby stopped, surprised at my words. "I heard you was blind McCain. How did you know it was me?"
"I can smell ya'! The years haven't erased your stink."
He had heard that people who couldn’t see learned other ways. I kept my back turned to him. He stared at me and sneered, “I’ve been waiting for this a long time! Six years!”
“Yeah,” I commented softly. “Yeah, six years is a long time.”
Solby drew his gun and told me to finish my washing. I heard the click of his gun. I went for the basin of water and tipped it over. That was good. Solby thought I was helpless which is just what I wanted him to think!. He started to laugh. “The great McCain – blinded!” He was so busy laughing that he didn't see me go for my rifle. I turned and shot at the sound of his laughter. I shot several times, fearful that I was missing and he’d kill me.
But I hit him. He fell to his knees and stared at me in surprise. Then he fell over – dead.
Micah and Mark heard the shots and ran out.
I stood there. I heard no sound…nothing…I was terrified – there was only darkness. I didn’t know what had happened. “Solby?” I called softly. There was no answer. Fear gripped me even harder. “Solby!” I screamed.
Micah told me to take it easy as he ran over there. Mark came up beside me. I grabbed and hugged him. I was shaking – I was so scared. Micah announced he was dead. I laughed, relieved that the terrifying experience was finally over. "Son...do you have anything stronger in the house then soup?"
I grabbed Mark as he led me into the house, but Mark kept looking back. He couldn’t believe what had happened. Micah picked up my rifle and stared at it. I think he was a little surprised at my own power too! That made three of us!
The week ended and it was time for my bandages to come off. Dr. Burrage slowly unwrapped the bandages from my eyes as Mark, Micah, and Milly stood anxiously watching. Micah kept a firm arm around Mark for support.
I tried to slowly open my eyes as I stood. It was hard after being closed for a week, but I worked at it until they finally fluttered open. Everything was blurry…at first. “Lucas?” Doc called.
I turned toward the sound of his voice and reached my hand out. Mark, Milly and Micah looked blurry, but the longer I stared, the more in focus they became. They all looked worried about me. They were afraid of the outcome.
Mark waited, but soon grew impatient. His eyes filled with tears. “Can you see?” He demanded to know.
I turned toward him and stared. My eyes came into clear focus. I saw Mark standing there terrified, anxiously waiting to hear my words. A smile suddenly broke out onto my face. “Yeah son, I can see!” I announced happily. I held my arms out to him and hurried toward him. Mark threw his arms around me and we held each other. “I can see!”
piddlin' stuff.....John Milford appeared in eleven episodes ― (Hmmmmm.....does this set any record or maybe there's a tie or maybe someone did more then John? Who could the other Cowboy be?) ― The Blowout as Ross Porter, one of the Porter brothers who was after Al Walker ― The Coward as Dub, he was the one who was reading from George's Journal and making fun ― The Horse Traders as Jonah Winters, he was the dude with the knife ― A Time for Singing as Bro Hadley, he dude who was a bit slow ― Meeting at Midnight as Morgan ― The Pitchman as Marsh Watson, he was the one who tied Mark up ― Baranca as Hadley, he was the one who killed Sanchez ― Dark Day at North Fork as Jack Solby, he tried to kill Lucas when he was blind ― The Clarence Bibs Story as Reade, he was one of the cowboys edging Clarence on to kill Tanner ― The Journey Back as Jess Grady, as one of the squatters, he was the one who held the rifle on Will Temple ― The Assailants as Lt. Price, the soldier in charge.
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.
Ralph Moody appeared in a total of twelve episodes of The Rifleman beating John Anderson and John Milford out at eleven episodes. He appeared in nine episodes as Doc Burrage and in three other episodes. The Visitors as Jonathan Dodd — The Spoiler as Roy Merrick and The Hangman as Eban Muchen.
Doc Burrage: Six Years and a Day ― The Actress ― Dark Day at North Fork ― The Mescalero Curse ― Man from Salinas ― Quiet Night, Deadly Night ― Mark's Rifle ― Conflict ― Requiem at Mission Springs.
Doc Burrage was a regular character ~ how many different actors played Doc Burrage? Can you name them?
Bill Quinn as Sweeney the owner/bartender of The North Fork Saloon. Sweeney was first introduced to The Rifleman in The Marshal. He has appeared in 39 episodes of The Rifleman as Sweeney the Bartender.
Joe Higgins played Nils Swenson. Is it Nils or is it Nels/Niles? What is his last name.....Swenson/Svenson aka The Blacksmith? Joe Higgins holds the record for playing Nils or was it Niles or Nels? There were four episodes that Joe did not play Nils or was it Niles or Nels?
He played the bartender in Strange Town — Rafe the blacksmith in The Wyoming Story part 2 — Short Rope for a Tall Man as Henry Schneider the horse thief — Stopover as Scotty the Stagecoach Driver.
Stopover was the only episode to run one day over schedule.
Archie Butler — Stuntman — Stunt coordinator — Actor - Archie has been in more episodes then anybody with the exception of the regular cast and he probably was in more episode then some of them. ~Arnold Laven
Remember him in The Sharpshooter? Remember when Lucas shot the whiskey bottle and it shattered into pieces? Archie was the cowboy who slid the whiskey bottle to Lucas. Sometimes Archie was a stand-in for Paul Fix.
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 tree house pictures)
*A friend of mine, Sylvester, who is blind, sees things that we don't see, but with his ears. Some blind people are more sensitive to sound and listen more closely. Here is his summarization of what Lucas was experiencing during this episode.
In this episode, which depicts, Mark and Lucas together as a gunpowder blast temporarily blinds Lucas; to me is not only very poignant, but represents very accurately on both sides how blindness, can affect a family relationship. Mark was very warm and concerned about his father, without smothering him. Lucas, although temporarily blind, reacted in a very intelligent way, in spite of his dilemma. The script was very respectful covering an unfortunate circumstance which happens to people who are blind. The show was not hysterical, nor did it overdramatize the problem. The script was straight forward and very balanced in its approach to a human dilemma. I am a blind person; I feel I should know.
Congratulations to The Rifleman family for a script well written. Thank you Sylvester!!!!!
Read what Sylvester had to say about The Quiet Fear
Bloopers - Dark Day at North Fork
You've heard Lucas' story, now hear Mark's
Character Actors Index Page
Have you ever been watching TV or a movie and wondered who is that guy?
Bloopers for this episode & other episodes
The Lost Treasure of Canyon Town
around The McCain Ranch