"Welcome to the McCain Ranch"
Once when Micah was transporting a prisoner, Mark and I rode into his camp. Naturally, since we weren’t expected, Micah grabbed his gun, ready for a fight. He sure was happy to see me. I told him I’d been trailing him with a wire message: “The Sheriff up at the county seat says you can take your prisoner on into Santa Fe instead of going all the way to Indian Bend.” Micah sure was happy to hear that. I told Micah that Mark and I were on our way to Little Butte to take in the county fair.
It was a pretty cool night and Mark was warming his head by the camp fire as Micah and I chatted. But he turned his head and saw the prisoner. He recognized him right off. “Mr. Renolds!” Mark declared.
That got our attention. Mr. Renolds bolted his head up and looked at Mark. Mark walked closer to him. “Well, don’t you remember me?” Mark asked. Mark reminded him that Mr. Renolds helped him when he was stuck down in a ravine where he was hurt. “Well, for gosh sakes! How ya' been, son?”
Renolds went to shake Mark hand. That’s when his chains were revealed. Mark just stared as he realized Renolds was a prisoner. I explained to Micah that Mark had been bitten by a rattler three years ago. Renolds took him to the nearest town.
“Micah, what are they gonna do to him in Santa Fe?” Mark asked. Micah and I just looked at each other. We both knew what would happen, but neither one of us wanted to tell Mark.
Renolds saved us the trouble. “I’m to be hanged, boy,” Renolds stated.
Mark reacted about as I expected. “Hanged?” Mark ran over to us. “But Micah, he saved my life!” Micah said nothing. How do you explain to a 13 year old the facts of life? Mark turned to me and looked me right in the eye. “Pa!”
There was nothing I could say to help him. “Come on, son. We better be going.” I patted my boy on the back. “Come on,” I coaxed him toward the horses. I wanted to get him out of there. Mark was just too upset about this. But when I told Micah we were going to put up at the river bottom, he wanted me to stay.
"Why not stay here? It will be an hour before you get to the river bottom. By the time you get up a good cookin' fire Mark will be fallin' asleep," said Micah. I looked over at Renolds. Micah knew I was concerned. “Oh, I uh…I wouldn’t be worrying about him. Mark will be safe enough.”
I agreed to stay. I told Mark to get the bedding down and I’d get the grub together. “But I won’t be eatin’, Pa,” Mark answered. “I’m not…very hungry.”
That was a first! "Five hour ride and not very hungry," I asked. Mark looked towards Renolds. I knew that was the reason he lost his appetite. "Alright son, go on."
Mark did as told. As I went to help him finish getting our bedding ready, I spoke. "Nothing like a long ride to make you appreciate beddin' down by a campfire. We both ought to sleep good tonight," I said.
“I guess so,” Mark answered. He was still upset. He looked over at Renolds again. "It doesn't seem fair. It just don't seem fair Pa!" He looked at me then. "Him dying and gettin' nothin' in return for helping me!"
I stood. As I walked back to the campfire, I stated, "Some thing's we just got no answers for," I left him hoping he would fall asleep. I went over to have a cup of coffee with Micah. "The boy’s takin' it hard, Micah."
"Well I can see where Mark might be addin' it up like two and two. Renolds saving his life and loosing his own. To a boy I…I reckon it just don't make sense.”
“Well, there’ll come a time in his life when he’ll find out that nothing in life is so simple as adding two and two.”
Just then, I glanced down at the ground. I noticed Micah’s key to the handcuffs. It must have fallen out of Micah's pocket to his vest. He was glad to get it back.
Mark walked over to Renolds. "Hey boy, you've grown some since saw ya' last."
“I guess I got a little bigger,” Mark stated. “I’ve…heard about you now and then.”
“Oh? I don’t have to ask if it was anything good.”
"I'm sorry to hear about this here predicament that you’re in," Mark said then.
"Like they say, 'make a bed,' it's the one you’re sure gonna lie in.” I watched the conversation worriedly. Mark was so shaken by this. He slowly walked over to the bed roll and laid down. Micah figured it was time to turn in too. We said our goodnights.
Mark was restless – he couldn’t seem to get to sleep. I didn’t have to ask why. I signed. “Mark, I told you before that there is nothing anybody can do about Mr. Renolds.” I suggested he think on something pleasant like the county fair tomorrow. Even that didn’t appease my boy. I hated seeing him this way. "You know son, pretty soon…maybe in the next year or two you'll kinda see things a little differently. Maybe it'll be for the better and maybe it won't. But every boy comes to an age or time when he knows certain things have to be the way they are. It's a good world, Mark, you'll see that. You’ll see plenty of sunshine, but you'll also see some dark clouds comin' your way. It's just the way the world is. Happy times, good times, but always some sad times."
Mark was quiet as he reflected on my words. “Good night, son.”
The camp was quiet as we slept. But suddenly a mountain lion came into the camp and upset the horses that were staked out together. I awoke at the sound and got up and grabbed my rifle. “Micah,” I called. Micah sat up. When he did, the key to the handcuffs fell out of his pocket. “Micah, I think there’s a mountain lion bothering the horses!” We both ran to the horses with orders for Mark to stay there.
Renolds sat up and looked over towards Micah’s bedroll. He saw the key to the handcuffs laying there. He looked over at Mark. Mark was busy looking towards us, wondering what was going on. Renolds slowly eased his way to the key, undetected by Mark. He could just barely reach it. We were too busy with the horses to notice anything and Mark was too busy watching us.
But then Mark turned around in time to see Renolds get loose. He started to call out to us. “Wait!” Renolds said suddenly. “All I want is a couple of minutes. You’d a died that day if I had thought of my own skin instead of yours. Two or three minutes for saving your life, that’s not too much to ask. You were in a bad way that day. Real bad.” Renolds started walking off. “If you would’ve died, that’d be the end, but I stuck my neck out for ya'.” Mark stayed quiet. “Thanks.” Renolds ran off.
Mark sat down on his bedroll. He knew he’d be in trouble and he just sat there waiting for it. Micah and I walked back into camp after we decided the mountain lion was gone. As soon as we got back into camp, Micah noticed his prisoner was gone.
He ran over to where he had left Renolds and found his key in the dirt. "My key, he had my key! I must have lost it when I got up! I guess I take the prize for stupidly.”
I glanced at Mark. He just sat there looking very guilty "Mark, did you see what happened here? Did you see Renolds find the key?"
Mark couldn’t look at me as he spoke. "I wasn't lookin' at him.”
"You must have seen him leave. There must have been time to call out or...run to us.” Mark remained silent. That was another clue that he was guilty. Anger boiled inside me at his silence. "Mark answer my question! Could you had called out, or run to us?" I yelled. I was angry…really angry! But Mark said nothing, nor did he look at me. He just sat there and nodded his head.
I ran over and stooped down beside him. I got right in his face as I yelled angrily at him. “Are you saying you deliberately kept quiet? You deliberately left Renolds escape?"
"Pa, I couldn't call out, I just couldn't! He saved my life, Pa!" He looked me right in the eye as he spoke those words to me.
But I was angry. My boy knew better! "Mark, Renolds was a prisoner an outlaw! You had no right to let him get away, not when you could have stopped him by callin' out to Micah or to me." I was furious.
I guess he felt bad for Mark as any grandfather would. He didn’t like seeing me yell at Mark. “It’s not his fault, Lucas,” Micah tried to excuse Mark. “He feels he owes Renolds a debt and it’s got him a little mixed up.”
Not even my good friend could ease my anger. "There's no mixing up right or wrong, Micah!" I turned back to Mark. “You get our things together,” I ordered him.
I turned to Micah. I figured Renolds headed for the badlands. Micah said he'd go on ahead and track Renolds.
Mark didn’t like my yelling at him. "I’m Sorry Pa!." That’s all he could say? After everything he did?
"One thing for sure.....we're not going to the county fair this year!!!!! I'm taking you over to Abe Merar's. You’re gonna stay there. I'm coming back to help Micah track your friend!" My words upset Mark.
It was daylight by the time we got to Abe’s place. I asked him if he would mind my leaving Mark with him for awhile. “Micah and I have to head north after a prisoner who got away from us last night.” I was still very, very angry at Mark. There would definitely be a long talk when I had time later to really give him a chewing out.
Abe said he’d be glad to have Mark around. He had several jobs he could use Mark’s help on. Good! The boy needed to work! Mark said he’d be glad to help him. I turned to Mark again and glared at him. “Be back when I can,” I stated angrily.
We just looked at each other. "I'm sorry Pa!" I didn’t say a word, but turned and rode away.
Abe watched the interchange between the two of us and knew Mark had been causing trouble. “Pa’s all riled up at me.” Abe said he wished he had a young fellow to get riled up at. “I’ve never seen my Pa so mad.” He started to explain to Abe about what happened. But he didn’t get very far. As he turned to tie up his horse, he saw Renolds standing in front of them, holding a rifle on them.
“All I know about this squirrel gun I found in your barn, old man, is that it’s loaded. How straight it shoots, we’ll both be finding out if you do one thing the wrong way!” Then, Renolds ordered both Abe and Mark into the house.
They went inside. Renolds wanted food, water, and a horse. He turned and saw a handgun hanging on the wall. He wanted that too. “Now, you be real obliging and there won’t be any trouble,” he said as he strapped the gun on. When Mark came inside, he just sat at the table and stared straight ahead. Renolds told Mark to fill up the canteens.
Renolds left the room. Able stayed standing and Mark stayed at his seat at the table. Neither moved. When Renolds walked back into the room, he said, “Didn’t you two hear me?”
Abe refused to just hand stuff over to him. Renolds walked up to him and slapped his hat down on the table. “Now look. That sheriff and the boy’s father are about a half mile north.” He pulled out the handgun. “Now, the sound of this won’t carry more than a hundred yards. Now, do we understand one another?”
Able answered him. “I’ll say it again. You take it, but I’m giving you nothing.”
Mark watched the interaction silently. Renolds cocked the pistol. He suddenly became fearful for Abe. “You better do what Mr. Renolds says.” Abe moved slowly toward the door.
Renolds turned to Mark. “Hey, I hope your father didn’t take it out of your hide. “
“My Pa’s never hit me,” Mark yelled.
Renolds laughed. “I’m glad you didn’t have to do any woodshed yelping over me.”
Just then, Renolds saw that Abe was going for his rifle. Renolds turned and shot him in the shoulder. Mark hurried over to him and grabbed on to him. Renolds wasn’t too sympathetic on shooting him. “He’s only nicked. You can’t hurt these old buzzards,” he declared rudely.
Renolds went to the kitchen to get some food. He told Mark to get the canteens filled. Mark stood his ground. He declared he was taking care of Abe first. He helped him over to a chair and bandaged him up.
Meanwhile, Micah and I were following Renolds’ trail. He was leaving an easy one to follow, which bothered us. If he had stuck to the rocks, he could have kept us guessing. We decided to go check on the creek up ahead fast.
Renolds came back inside. Mark was still tending to Abe’s arm. Renolds told Mark to stop messing with him and get the canteen’s filled. “We got a long way to go today.”
“We?” Mark asked.
“Yeah. You’re going with me as far as the border. “This boy’s father shows up, you tell him I’m holding a STRONG hold card. I want no rifle bullets flying around my ears…if he catches up with us.” Renolds looked toward Mark who was still standing there. “I tell you once more to fill those canteens, I’m not gonna be using words.” Renolds looked Mark right in the eye when he said that.
Mark knew he’d done all the stalling he could do. He went to do as he was told. Mark went to the pump to fill the canteens, but then he noticed kerosene sitting there. He looked toward the house to make sure Renolds wasn’t coming yet, then he filled the canteens with kerosene. He knew that would slow Renolds down. He had to stall so Micah and I would catch up to them.
Renolds was taking everything he wanted. He even wanted Abe’s tobacco. Abe refused to give it to him so Renolds helped himself. Abe was angry with him and let him know it. Renolds stepped outside. Abe followed him to the door to give him one last warning. "Anything happens to that boy his Pa will hunt you down.”
"Nothings gonna happen to him, he's just my insurance that I get to the border. A matter of fact, I like the kid," said Renolds.
Renolds walked toward Mark who was holding the canteens. “You mean you still haven’t filled-“ he started as he grabbed the Canteens. But then he realized they were full and told Mark they had to get going. They left.
As Micah and I worked on tracking Renolds, we figured he was heading toward the ranches to get a horse. Abe Merar’s place was the closest. “Right where I left Mark!” Micah and I took off.
Mark and Renolds rode a ways, then Renolds wanted to take a rest. Mark was really quiet. Renolds could tell something was bothering Mark (like being kidnapped was nothing to be worried about). “Nothing’s bothering me,” Mark told him. Renolds then told Mark to take it easy on the water – it’s all they had until they got to the border.
Renolds took the cap off his canteen and took a big drink. He spit it out in disgust. Mark immediately backed up. He knew Renolds would be coming after him now! "Kerosene!" he yelled. He headed for Mark's canteen. Mark backed way off, afraid of what Renolds would do to him. He smelled what was in Mark’s canteen. "Kerosene!" He angrily threw it at Mark. Mark caught it. "You figured on slowing us down, didn't you boy? Well you did! In fact you slowed yourself down to a stop." Renolds then started for his gun.
Mark flinched, expecting to be shot for what he had done. "Kerosene!" This time, Renolds said it with laughter. He laughed hard as if it was the funniest thing in the world. "Kerosene! It took guts, boy! I like that! Wait until the boys hear that, they won’t believe it!!" Renolds knew they wouldn’t be able to make it across the badlands without water. They’d have to go east. There was a ghost town, about ten or eleven miles.
We made it back to Abe’s place and found out Renolds had kidnapped Mark for insurance. “Renolds is pretty sly,” I stated. “If he says he’s headed for the border, I’ll bet he took another trail.” But Abe thinks he really was trying to head for the border.
“Well, he probably felt pretty safe talking about it, Mark along with him as a hostage,” Micah pointed out. We had to get going. I promised Abe we’d send for a doctor as soon as we could.
Mark and Abe made it to the ghost town. Renolds took Mark inside. He lit a lantern to give him a little light while he was waiting there. “Waiting here?” Mark asked.
“Yep. Your father isn’t too far behind us. No sense tangling with him unless I have to. So we’ll part company here.” He got a rope. He was going to tie Mark up so he couldn’t cut short his time in getting out of there. When he went for a chair off a table, Mark tried to run, but Renolds’ grabbed him. Mark started kicking and squirming to get away. But he stopped when Renolds threatened to tap a gun butt of his head.
Micah and I were getting closer. We shouldn’t be too far behind them. “Micah, if he harmed that boy, I’ll bury him right where I find him!”
Renolds got the canteens and started empting them out inside the building they were. He told Mark he was going over to fill the canteens with water. “And if your loose when I get back, I’m gonna hang you by your feet…make sure you stay put.
The minute Renolds left, Mark started trying to get loose. He got up and jumped over to the table where a candle was burning. Maybe he could burn the ropes to get loose. But the table was weak and Mark sat too close to the edge. He accidently knocked the table over. The flame immediately lit the kerosene on fire. He tried to jump on the fire to put it out, but he couldn’t. “Mr. Renolds, help!” Mark yelled. But Renolds didn’t hear him.
It didn’t take long, though, before Renolds smelled the fire. He turned and saw the building Mark was in on fire. He dropped the canteen and hurried across the street. He slapped the horse then ran into the building to get Mark.
When Renolds first opens the door, the fire is big and out of control. He has to back out because the fire is too great. Then he hurries in. “Where are you, boy? Don’t panic! I”ll get ya'!”
Mark is coughing uncontrollably. Renolds picks Mark up in his arms and runs out of the building. He runs out into the street and lays Mark down.
Just then Micah and I rode up. Renolds started to run, but Micah pulled his gun and held it on Renolds. Renolds stood there with his hands up. I saw the fire and Mark laying on the ground. I jumped off my horse and ran over to Mark. “Mark,” I cried as I lifted him up. He was coughing something awful. “You alright, son?” I asked worriedly.
“I think so, Pa,” Mark answered between coughs. Suddenly, he realized that Micah was holding a gun on Renolds. "Pa he saved my life again. Micah can't take him in now Pa, he can't!"
Not again! "Mark this wouldn't have happened if you hadn't interfered, now lets not start all over again boy!" I was glad my boy was going to be okay, but that didn’t keep the anger from my voice.
We put out the fire so the whole town wouldn’t burn. After we were done, I went to say my peace to Renolds. "Renolds, the way I figure it you got a fair trial and a fair sentence. Frankly I don't think you deserve a break because I don't think you'll ever change. But uh...well, you tell him Micah."
"Lucas and I have been talkin' it over. We're all goin' up to Santa Fe together to see the governor. Maybe he’ll think you've got a favor comin' and swap your hangin' for a prison sentence.”
That news sure made Renolds happy. "Well I can't say I object to a nice airy cell instead of stretching some rope. “ He winked at Mark. Mark smiled. I didn’t.
Micah and Renolds went on their way. "I feel better now Pa. Us doin' something in return for Mr. Renolds," Mark declared happily
"Feel better do ya'? Well you just remember when we get home we've got a few things to talk about!" That took some of the joy out of Mark. My boy knew he was in big trouble.
piddlin' stuff....Keith Andes played Renolds. He's the guy who saved Mark twice.
Hank Patterson played Abe Merar, the old man where Renolds and Mark stopped to fill up the canteens.
Wonder if he's any relation to the Merar's in The Score is Even or the Merar’s in The Ordeal?
The Merar Ranch — The name Merar was Arthur Gardner's (producer) grandparents on his mother's side, they lived in Marinette, Wisconsin. Arthur would insert the names of his relatives into the scripts. His cousins would go to see Arthur's movies because they knew that their names would pop up. If you watch McQ, you will find that John Wayne makes a reference to Dr. Merar. (Arthur's grandfather was an optometrist, Dr. Merar.) This is take from Arthur Gardner's book, The Badger Kid. Cowgirl!
Be sure & check the prequel to this episode - Before the Debt by Deanne Bertram
and the prequel The Rattlesnake by Michelle Palmer.
Bloopers - The Debt
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
around The McCain Ranch