"Welcome to the McCain Ranch"
After a hard day’s work, there’s nothing I like better then to sit
down in my leather chair with a good
or my Bible. You know what I mean. It’s that time of day after I
finally get that boy of mine settled in bed and darkness has fallen
over the land, I can just sit down and relax.
Well, that’s what I just happened to be doing on that night. I had
the front door open to cool off the house, as usual, and I was just
really getting into my book when suddenly I heard a noise outside. I
immediately went on guard and decided to check it out. I grabbed my
rifle and went outside, shutting the door behind me for Mark’s
I slowly walked down the porch and looked around one side of the
house. My eyes and ears were alert, listening to every noise and
scanning the land at anything that did belong. I only heard the
night bugs…and silence.
I turned and scanned the front of the land in the same way, looking
over every inch and listening for any noise that may not quite
belong as I walked down to the other end of the porch. I saw nothing
there. I stepped off the porch and scanned over the other side.
Suddenly, there was a gun to my head. “Hold it!” I startled as this
man’s voice spoke in the darkness. Drop the rifle!” I hesitated,
knowing that would leave me defenseless. “Go on, drop it!" I did as
"Alright now, get over to the barn. Move!" As I headed for the barn
I started to turn my head, I wanted to get an idea of what I was up
against. "Don't turn around! There's nothing to see." Suddenly, he
began moaning. I turned to see a young wounded solider. “Hold it!”
he shouted again. “Mister, I don’t want to shoot you, but I will if
I have to! I just want a horse. I’ve got money, I’ll pay for it.”
Suddenly, for the first time I spoke. "And how far do you think
I started towards him to help him. "Stay back!" He shouted.
"Look, your bleeding to death. You won't last half a mile,” I warned
"You just stay were you are, because honest.....I don't wanna.....but
I will.....shoot!" He was scared…terrified and crying.
Suddenly, Mark stepped out onto the porch. “Pa, is that you-“ he
started. I suddenly turned and saw him. I kicked the gun out of his
hand and grabbed him. He cried out in pain. He was really hurt!
I found myself speaking in angry. I was angry that this young
soldier had been shot, angry that he tried to take one of my horses
by force, and angry that my son had disobeyed one of my rules.
"Mark, I told you not to walk in on a situation blind like that!"
"Well I'm sorry but I heard voices, but didn't see anybody…” Mark
started. Suddenly, he saw the man. “Why, he's a solider," he
"He's just a boy," I was frustrated.
“Please-“ he started. Then he passed out. I slumped him over my
shoulder and carried him inside.
We set up a cot for him in the living room and I doctored his wound
on his chest. He groaned and tried to move. “Take it easy, Ben.
You’re in no shape to go anywhere.” He wanted to know how I knew his
name. I grabbed the small Bible from his jacket and read what was
written on the inside. ’To Ben . The Lord is my Shepherd. Mother.’
That’s good advice. Too bad you didn’t follow it.”
He wanted to know what I was going to do. I told him that around
here stealing a horse by gunpoint was still a serious thing. "I'm
sorry, I just wasn't thinking straight. Please mister, I need a
Suddenly, we heard horses outside. Mark ran up to the door and
looked out the window. "Troopers, Pa."
Ben got really upset. "Don't let 'em in! Hide me! If they take me
back the major will kill me!"
I told Mark to look after Ben while I talked to the Soldiers. I
heard a knock at my door. As I approached, by habit I reached for my
rifle, but I thought better of it. I didn’t want to cause any
trouble. So I opened the door and stepped outside, closing the door
behind me. The man that spoke to me was called Lt. Rolfe. He told me
he was looking for a deserter. “Go on in, men.”
I stopped him. “Now just a minute.”
“This is official army business, sir. I suggest you cooperate.” He
was messing with the wrong man. I knew my rights!
“Well, this is no army post,” I stated. “I suggest you ask
permission before you barge into someone’s house!”
They had a pretty good feeling he was here. They found his horse a
mile up the road and he had gone lame. They found Ben’s rifle in my
yard. "Well, Mr. McCain, where is he?"
I sighed in defeat. I had
choice. “He’s hurt. Needs a doctor badly.” I told the lieutenant
that he shouldn’t be moved because he could bleed to death. “I’m
telling you the truth, lieutenant, he’s hurt pretty bad.”
“I don’t want to argue the point, Mr. McCain. You don’t seem to
realize that harboring a fugitive’s a serious offense!” the
Lieutenant started to warn me.
“Oh, don’t be ridiculous! I’m just helping a wounded man!” I argued.
“Then let it go at that!” the Lieutenant ordered. “Now, do we have
to force our way in?” I stepped aside. I didn’t want anymore
trouble, and I definitely didn’t want to go up against the United
I was suddenly curious, though, to know what he had done. I was a
bit shocked to find out that his only offense was stealing water.
I’d never heard of anything so ridiculous in all my life! Major
Damler had put the troops on half rations, an exercise to prepare
the troops for the desert. Haskell was careless, he ran dry early.
He was caught stealing water from the supply wagon. “It’s a matter
of discipline,” the lieutenant explained. I wasn’t buying it!
Shooting a man for stealing water just didn’t make since!
The soldiers brought Haskell out. "You know what you're letting me
in for, sir? You know what he'll do to me?" Haskell was upset,
terrified at going back.
"I'm sorry Haskell, I have my orders, mount up." Yeah right! He was
sorry! The whole thing made me mad.
I watched them haul the scared boy off. I knew things wouldn’t be
easy for him. "Lieutenant, is that all soldering means to you?
Orders?" I asked angrily.
"I go by the book," The Lieutenant answered.
"There's lots of books. That boy's got one. You ought to read it
sometime." The Lieutenant just looked at me, and then walked away.
The next morning, Mark was so excited about the army being in town
that he could hardly concentrate on his breakfast. I had to sit
there at the table with him just to make sure he didn’t make himself
sick! As I came over to the table with my coffee, Mark was drinking
his milk as fast as he could. “Mark, stop bolting your food, son,” I
Mark wanted to go fishing. That’s why he was eating so fast. He
asked me if he could go and I told him yes. He was planning on going
down to the Valley Lake. Suddenly, he got very excited. “Do you know
that Stevie said he caught a fish that was 2 pounds down there?”
Mark held his hands apart to show me the size. According to his
hands, that fish was a lot bigger then 2 pounds!
“Two pounds?” I questioned, eyeing his hands. Mark adjusted his
hands, moving them in closer together. “Oh,” I said.
Mark quickly took another bite of his food as he wondered how old he
had to be to join the army. I eyed him curiously. “You want to join
the army?” I asked. Mark stated there was nothing wrong with that as
he took another bite of food. “No, but you still have to wait a few
years, and stop eating so fast, huh?”
Then he turned to the uniforms, stating that he liked them. He asked
me if I used to wear one. “I did. I was in the Calvary too,” I
answered. Of course that excited Mark too! He was just in an excited
I told Mark to just think about going fishing right now. “And when
you get back,” I started when Mark suddenly started eating his food
fast again. “Mark, not so fast with the food, son!” Boy, was I
getting tired of nagging him about that! “When you come back from
fishing, I want you to clean up that barn you haven’t touched in a
Mark said he would. “So I can go fishing then?” He sure did want to
make sure he wasn’t hearing things! He started to jump up and hurry
off. But he still had food in his bowl, and he sure knew better then
that! “Mark,” I stopped him.
food. Don’t waste it.”
When I got to town, Micah invited me over to his office to have some
lemonade that Hattie had made for him. It sure sounded good. It was
a hot day. As we started over to his office I couldn't help but
notice the soldiers riding around. That was because one of them
almost ran me over! They were stopping here in North Fork on their
way west to restock. The troop's had camped down at the flats and
the major set up headquarters in the hotel.
Another horse and rider raced by. “I haven’t seen this much action
around a command post since Gettysburg!” I declared.
Micah suggested I meet the Major. I wasn’t interested in meeting
him; I had a taste of his methods last night! I told Micah about the
deserter they found at my place the night before “hurt, scared; they
treated him like he was John Wilkes Booth."
“Sounds like the same boy then, Micah stated. He told me that the
Major requisitioned his jail and made it his own personal guard
house. “The boy’s in there now on bread and water – lucky to get
that,” Micah commented. I suddenly headed for the jail. I was
concerned about the treatment this boy was getting!
When we got over there, it was obvious that this was a very sick
soldier. I told the guard to open up and let me in but he told me he
couldn’t. Micah and I didn’t give him a choice. I hurried in and
checked him. It was very disappointing to see that he was still
wearing the bandage I had placed on him last night. He was still
carrying the bullet and was burning up with fever! Micah told me he
had gotten Dr. Burrage the night before but they wouldn’t let him
in. I immediately announced that I’d get him back here. “This is
army business, Lucas.”
I suddenly turned and glared at Micah. “Would you let it pass,
Micah?” Micah knew he wouldn’t. “If that Major doesn’t like it, he
can take it up with me later!” I declared as I started out the door.
He’ll take it up with you now!" The major declared. I stopped in my
tracks and looked up to see the Major and Lieutenant standing before
me. He reminded Micah that he left strict orders not to allow anyone
in that cell. Micah reminded him that this was his jail. “You treat
your prisoners as honored guests?” the Major asked.
“No, like human beings,” Micah answered.
Suddenly, the Major rudely asked for my name. The Lieutenant was
happy to give him that information, along with the fact that they
had found the wounded soldier at my ranch the night before. “Yes,
your concern for my prisoner is quite extraordinary, Mr. McCain.”
I wasn’t going to allow him to intimidate me! “No more then
anybody’s concern for a sick man!”
But he thought it was. I was disregarding his orders today and
harbored a fugitive last night. I told him I didn’t have to explain
anything to him because I wasn’t under his authority. “Be thankful
for that,” he stated. “Get this straight, Mr. McCain, once and for
all. If there are anymore interferences, I’ll put you in there with
He tried to threaten me, and Micah didn’t like that. "Lucas is a
civilian. You got no say over him or anyone else in North Fork."
But the Major wanted to have the upper hand, so he threatened to
declare marshal law. This guy was something else! He started to
leave, but I wasn’t finished with him yet! “Wait a minute! Prisoner
or not, that boy still needs a doctor!” I declared.
"Perhaps you're right Mr.
McCain. It would be more appropriate if he faces a firing squad on
his feet,” the Major replied.
His words caught me totally off guard. I was appalled at his words!
"Firing squad? What for - stealing water?" I asked in shock.
“For desertion,” the Lieutenant answered.
This was getting worse by the second! I was angry. "That must have
been the fastest court martial in history! Or did he even have one?"
The Lieutenant asked me to leave.
As I was running my errands I saw the guard from the cell carrying
out his punishment. He had to walk the street in the hot sun for
four hours. I sure was beginning to like this Major less and less!
“How’d that man ever become an officer? He’s not fit to command a
flock of sheep!” I stated.
“That’s the army for ya',” Micah stated.
I knew better. “I pulled my hitch. I’ve seen a lot of officers…tough
as they come! But I’ve never seen them treat their men like…like
cattle!” I stated angrily.
We went into the Saloon to drink a beer. As I was sitting there, the
Major and Lieutenant walked in to have a drink. I must admit that I
wasn’t too happy to see them in there! I was sitting there trying to
ignore him, but he didn’t want me to ignore him. “Does my presence
at this bar annoy you, Mr. McCain?” he asked. I told him there was
plenty of room for all of us. I also refused his offer for a drink.
“Have one with me then,” the Major requested firmly.
Micah decided he didn’t want to be there anymore. He left.
The Major came up to me and asked me if I was afraid of him. I
looked him up and down once before answering. “Most folks are only
afraid of things they don’t understand, Major.”
“And you understand me?”
“Some,” I answered.
He wanted me to persuade my neighbors to be more cooperative. He
stated that he had started a military campaign that obviously should
take precedence over civilian affairs. “I have enough trouble
without these petty annoyances.” He asked me if I was in the army. I
told him from Bull Run to Five Forks. I was a Lieutenant. “Oh, you
understand the responsibilities of commands, problems.” I told him I
had a few.
“A few? Ho ho ho, Mr. McCain! If you only knew what I’ve been
through, what I had to put up
Carelessness, stupidity, incompetence…I’m given raw men and expected
to carry out important assignments – impossible assignments. During
the war at Chancellorsville…” He asked me if I was there. I slightly
shook my head. “Defeat. We could have won. I’d have done it! It was
a rebel battery in the woods. I was sent to clear it out. Let’s all
take the battery, and it would have been a decoration of field
promotion. And they broke! My men broke! They turned and ran! It was
my responsibility. I had to take blame for their incompetence, their
cowardness. It won’t happen again, McCain! Not this time!
Discipline!” He banged on the bar. “Discipline, that’s the key. Make
machines out of them. Make them obey without thinking! There won’t
be another Chancellorsville for me!”
I stared at him, not quite believing what I heard. I shook my head
in disbelief. And he thought I understood him? I had to tell him
what I truly thought. “Major, a minute ago I said I wasn’t afraid of
you. But right now I am…afraid of your kind. Afraid of what you can
do hiding behind that uniform and that rank! You’re the machine,
Major, something that is inhuman. Those men didn’t break – they were
shot to pieces! They died and all you can think about is your rotten
promotion and yourself. And now you’re using those men out there to
feed your ambition. You’re building a career on corpses.”
He stopped me, telling me that was enough. He didn’t want to hear
anymore. “I wish it was,” I stated. Then I stood and walked out
after giving him one more hard look.
After I left the saloon, I got on my wagon and started to leave when
I saw the guard suddenly collapse from heat exhaustion. I ran over
to help him like any normal human being would do. Micah came over to
and we quickly helped him by giving him a drink from his canteen.
Then we helped him up.
The Major and Lieutenant stood by and watched the whole thing. I
looked hard at him, daring him to say anything. “Lieutenant, add an
hour to this man’s tour. No one gave him permission to rest,” the
Major ordered. I threw the canteen at the Lieutenant and hurried
off. This man was really getting under my skin!
“The Major better not lead any attacks,” Micah stated sarcastically.
“They might mistake him for an apache.
"He's sick, Micah. Not fit to command,” I commented.
Micah figured it didn’t mean much to his superiors, but I begged to
defer. “I think it would if they knew,” I stated. I headed for the
Micah and I were at the Blacksmith’s later when the Lieutenant and
his soldiers approached announcing that I was under arrest.
Naturally, Micah wanted to know what for. “Military regulations
forbid unauthorized communications,” the Lieutenant announced.
This was getting annoying! “Lieutenant, it's time you stop playing
an officer and start thinking like one. Damler’s is a sick man –
much too sick to be responsible for the lives of his men," I stated.
He told me that wasn’t up for me to decide. "I know. That’s up to
General Bradshaw. I only sent him the facts. You…uh…saw the
telegram?" I asked him if he thought I lied. He wouldn’t answer, but
simply ordered me to come with him.
Micah stepped in front of me, jumping to my defense. “It’s alright,
Micah,” I stated. “They can’t make it stick!” I went with him
When I got there, the Major had all his soldiers lined up and he had
Private Haskell escorted into the street from the jail.
As soon as I walked up, he started in on me. “Mr. McCain, last night
you sheltered a man you knew was a fugitive, a deserter,” he
“All I knew was he was hurt,” I answered. But he ignored me.
“You resisted the man who was sent to capture him,” he accused next.
“Major Dalmer, I’d resist anybody trying to break into my home! Even
you!” I stated then.
Again, my words fell on deaf ears. “Today you forced your way in to
see the prisoner against my express orders, then sent a telegram to
my superior officer.”
Again, I defended my actions. “A man’s life is at stake, and I just
want to make sure he’s judged fairly!”
“I charge you with aiding and abetting a fugitive and obstructing
the enforcement of military law! You are therefore under arrest.
You’ll be sent to the garrison at Santa Fe for trial.” That was the
grounds for my arrest.
I was getting angry. “I don’t give a hoot about your kind of
military law! You got no jurisdiction around here!” I argued.
He started to remind me that he was on a military campaign. Micah
reminded him that he wasn’t fighting anyone around North Fork.
“Seems that I am,” the Major answered. “Very well. Since you leave
me no choice, I declare martial law! You and everyone in this town
are subject to my order.” There was a lot of grumbling from the
North Fork citizens.
The Major ordered the Lieutenant to carry out Private Haskell’s
sentence. “You got no right to do this!” Micah stated. “He wasn’t
even given a trial!”
“You have your orders, Lieutenant,” the Major stated. Nothing
happened. “Lieutenant, did you hear me?”
The Lieutenant spoke up. "I'm sorry sir. I can't."
The Major got angry and told the Lieutenant to consider himself
under arrest. He told the Sergeant to take over.
Nothing happened. The Lieutenant walked up to him, again ordering
him to carry out the sentence. When he wouldn’t do as ordered, the
Major decided to do it himself. “Ready arms,” he said. But the
soldiers didn’t move. They stayed at attention. “Did you hear me?
Ready arms!” Still, nothing happened.
He looked around at the
group of soldiers. “That’s an order,” he said. But then he suddenly
shouted, “That’s an order!”
The whole street was silent as the Major suddenly realized he had
lost all their respect. He lost it entirely as he looked around at
all the people staring at him. “You’ve all gone mad!” he stated in
disbelief. He walked past me, giving me one last look, then he
Mark, Micah and I watched the soldiers that afternoon. They all
stood on the street as the Major walked out of the jail. I reckon a
man facing such a future would want to hold on to what little
dignity he had left. Thankfully, the Lieutenant allowed him to leave
with that little dignity he had left. General Bradshaw had sent a
telegram, recalling the Major to report to him in Santa Fe. The
Major assumed his services were more valuable elsewhere.
"Lieutenant, remember, the key to command is a firm hand,
discipline!" After one more salute, he was escorted out of town.
As we watched, Mark made a comment. "He sure is something, isn't he
Pa? Just the sorta officer I wanna be."
I was surprised by Marks remark. My mind was so focused on the Major
and his demise that I immediately jumped to the conclusion that he
wanted to be like the Major.
“Who son?” I suddenly asked, thinking maybe we’d have to have a
heart-to-heart talk that night.
“The Lieutenant!” Mark stated as if I should have known that.
“Oh.” I looked at Micah and breathed a sigh of relief. The
Lieutenant smiled and saluted Mark. I shook my head at my boy.
Cornthwaite as Major Damler, the mean Major who was
going to have Ben shot.
Harry Carey Jr. appeared in two
The Deserter as Lt. Paul Rolfe
― The Journey Back as Lt.
In both episodes he played a
Lieutenant and in both episodes his orders were to bring back a
Ron Hagerthy as Ben Haskell, The Deserter.
Baynes Barron appeared in two
― The Deserter
as Trooper Kirk, the solider who fell over in the street because of
the heat and no water ― The Spiked Rifle
as Gus/Gustavo, one of the men who was a member of Austin Stark's
Bill Quinn appeared in thirty-eight episodes as Sweeney the owner/bartender of The North Fork Saloon.
Sweeney was first introduced to The Rifleman in The Marshal.
Richard "Dick" Alexander played
Nels the Blacksmith in four episodes ― Smoke Screen —
Martinet — The Deserter and Meeting at Midnight.
How many actors played Nils or was it Niles or Nels? Was it Swenson
or was it Svenson?
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.
appeared in three episodes, two of them as a townsmen ―
The Woman ― The Deserter
― Woman from Hog Ridge
as one of the Boyle Clan.
Jack Stoney appeared in eight episodes
as a townsmen ― Obituary ― The Legacy ― The
Horse Traders ― The Spoiler ― The Deserter ―
The Hangman ― A Time for Singing ―
Strange Town as a townsfolk at Droshek Town.
Cap Somers/Frederick "Cap / Fimp" Somers appeared in
episodes of The Rifleman ―
Day of the Hunter
as one of the townsmen ― The Deserter
as a card player ― The Vision
as a cowhand ― Woman
from Hog Ridge as a townsmen ― The Martinet as one of the townsmen
― The Decision as one of the townsmen ―
Which Way'd They Go
as the bartender ― The Anvil Chorus as one
of the townsmen.
Richard LaMarr appeared in three
A Time for Singing as
a Townsman ― The Deserter as a Townsman and
Closer Than a
Brother as a Townsman.
Joe Garcio appeared as a Townsmen in
two episodes ―
The Deserter ―
Lucas' story, now hear Mark's
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