"Welcome to the McCain Ranch"
A parent teaches his child the best he can. In the end though, it’s up to the child to obey. I had to watch my son go through a learning experience where he learned the value of my teachings the hard way. Someone had to die for him to learn this lesson. And as a father, I had to force myself to stand back and watch him struggle with what I hoped would be the biggest battle of his life.
It happened one day while I was in the barn. I had Mark chopping and stacking wood up outside and never ever dreamed he would be getting himself – or others – into trouble. Mark was on his way to put wood in the house when his friend, Charlie, showed up with his cousin Fred from Santa Fe. Charlie had told Fred about my rifle, but Fred thought he was a liar. Mark was always proud to brag on me. “Nope!” He smiled really big as he stated proudly, “Why, at fifty feet my Pa can drivel six nails with it in less then three seconds.” Fred wanted to look at it. Mark hesitated, stating I didn’t like anyone touching it. “He says a firearm isn’t a play toy.” They begged him, but Mark wouldn’t give in…at first.
Finally, Fred said, “Oh, forget it Charlie! Your friend’s gun shy. Probably ain’t nothin’ special anyway!”
Fred’s words got to Mark. “Nothing special, huh?” Mark suddenly asked. “Well, you just get set to put your money where your mouth is!’
Mark hurried inside and picked up my rifle. Fred hurried over and grabbed it from Mark. He started messing with it. He wondered what the ring was for. Mark got nervous and tried to take it from Fred, but Fred pulled it away from him, declaring he knew all about rifles. He turned from Mark and cocked the lever. Mark begged Mark to give him the gun, but he pushed the lever down.
Charlie fell to the ground. Both boys turned and looked in horror.
I heard the shot and ran out of the barn. I went and grabbed the rifle out of Fred's hands. "Give me that! This rifle's no toy boy!" I turned to Mark and started yelling at him. "I told you a thousand..." I suddenly stopped when I realized the boys weren't paying any attention to me. They were looking at Charlie lying on the ground. When I realized Charlie had been shot I laid down the rifle and rushed over to him.
As he lay on the ground, I examined him to see if he was alive. In horror, I realized the truth. I picked the boy up into my arms and walked over to the boys. “This boy’s dead!” I put it bluntly.
Lou, Mark and I attended Charlie's funeral. Mark was taking it pretty hard. We walked quietly out of the graveyard. "That's the end of Charlie. Just lying in a box with rocks and dirt over him.”
I hurt for my boy, but there was nothing I could do about it. It was a tuff way to learn a lesson! "Let's go home son."
"Sure. Go home and step over the spot where he was killed with your rifle.” Mark stared at my rifle as he spoke those words.
I had to be honest with him – to make him see the truth. “Don’t blame the rifle, Mark. It didn’t trigger itself.” Mark said nothing. He just stood there looking very lost. “It was an accident, son. Don’t let yourself brood. That can twist a man’s mind until he can't think straight anymore.” I put my hand on his shoulder and again suggested we go home.
“Uh…Pa?” Mark stopped me. He turned and looked at me. The look in his eyes was…very painful for me. “I don’t want to go home right now. Would you mind? I…I’d just like to ride somewhere by myself for awhile.”
He was hurting. I knew I couldn’t just hug his hurt away. “See you at supper.” I watched my son leave with a heavy heart. Lou invited me back to the hotel for coffee. I nodded. I helped her in the buggy, then started around to the other side. I stopped and looked at my rifle. Then I got in the buggy and we rode off for town.
In town, a man walked into the saloon. He was a big, tired man and asked for a whisky and water chaser. Sweeny asked for two bits. The stranger only had 20 cents. Sweeny said it would cover it this time. The stranger asked if there was a hotel there. Sweeny suggested Lou would let him do some chores for a meal. The stranger got all defensive, stating he wasn’t a dishwasher. “I don’t work for no women! I’ve got some advice for you, beer boy! Don’t crowd your luck when you’re talking to strangers!”
Micah got a special mailing from the U.S. Marshal in Tucson. The stagecoach driver told Micah he’d been passing those out all along the line. Micah opened it. I walked up to him just then wondering what it was. It reported that a man named Vantine busted out of jail in Tucson just before his hanging. I watched a short little man get off the stage. “Any description?” Micah and I both stared at the little man, and he stared at us.
“6 foot, 2…200 pounds, 38 years old, light complexion. He gunned down both deputies that had him in custody. “ He was supposed to find 10 men to join the federal posse. I wanted to help him, but I was really worried about Mark. Micah understood. Right now, my place was at home with my grieving son. As I left, Micah started rounding up men for the posse.
When I got home, Mark was setting the table and had the stew cooking on the stove. I came in cheerfully, hoping he was doing better. Casually, I informed him we should get to bed early, we had some fencing to work. I looked over at Mark. He wasn't paying any attention to what I was saying. I had to reach out to him – to break through his mood. "Your ride today help you clear things up?"
He didn't answer me. He just told me supper was ready. He had only set the table for one. “Have you eaten?” I asked as I walked over to the table.
Again, he evaded my direct question. “I…I’m not hungry right now, Pa.” He turned to walk away.
“Mark!” I grasped the back of the chair and looked at him. “You and I aren’t like this. When there’s a problem we usually talk it out.” Mark just said he needed to get to bed. I watched my boy walk to the bedroom door. He opened the door and started to walk in. “Mark, shut the door and turn around, please,” I ordered in a calm voice.
He obeyed me because he knew he had to. “There’s nothing to talk out, Pa!” Mark declared.
“I want you to get what’s bothering you off your mind, son.” I turned and looked at him.
"That's what's bother me! I can't stand to look at it anymore!" Mark yelled as he pointed to my rifle.
"Mark...there's been times if I hadn't had that rifle, you might not have been born."
"I Wish I hadn't been!" Mark cried.
I couldn't believe what I had just heard. His words shocked me to say the least! "When I hear you say that about the life your mother gave you, I...I know your not yourself." I walked over and picked up my rifle. "You know son...when I was a boy...your grandpa gave me a knife. It was something I had been yearning for, for a long time." All the time I'm telling him this story I am handling the rifle. "My mother didn't want me to have it. Anyway, I found me a choice piece of wood and I set out carving a pipe rack for my Pa. I guess I got careless because the knife slipped and I cut myself. It was a bad cut. I threw the knife down and just ran home. It took a long time to stop the bleeding. But when it did stop.....my Pa asked me where that knife was. I told him I never wanted to see it again. You know what he did? He told me to go out and find it. Well I found it alright, the only thing was, I couldn't pick it up. I just stood there and looked down at it, until my Ma came along. She picked it up...she closed it...she put it in my hand. And she looked at me and she said...'I'm not afraid anymore son and you mustn't be'."
I looked down at my rifle. Holding it firmly, I drew my finger to myself. “Commere, Mark.” Mark walked over to me slowly. “Don’t you be afraid. Take the rifle.” I held it out to him.
Mark backed away. “No…please, Pa.” He turned his head away – couldn’t even look at it!
“Mark…” I walked towards him. “Take it!”
“I can’t! I can’t!” He gasped. “Don’t you understand, pa? I get sick just being near it!”
“Take the rifle, Mark!”
“No!” Mark screamed. He turned and ran into the bedroom. I walked up to the closed door. I started to go in, but figured I’d done enough damage for one night. I really didn’t know how to reach him. That hurt.
Lou was in the hotel kitchen with Mr. Fitch, a dress salesman. She had just settled on buying a new dress and told him she’d pay it in the morning for it. After Mr. Fitch went up the back stairs to his room and Lou started straightening up, a knock sounded at the back door. She was surprised to find that her late night visitor was Mark. “Mark, what are you doing here this time of night?” Lou asked. Mark avoided the question by complimenting her on her new dress. “Is something wrong?”
Mark sat down his bag and told her nothing was wrong in an unconvincing voice. “I’m just going on a trip and I…well, I thought I’d get an early start from town. I didn’t think you would mind if I stayed here until morning.”
Lou knew there was something going on, but she played along with Mark until she could get to the truth. She invited Mark to sit down at the table so he could give her his opinion of her apple pie. While she got the pie out of the oven, she casually asked him where he was taking a trip to. Mark wasn’t sure. “I mean, there are a lot of different places I haven’t been to.”
“Oh, I envy you, Mark! Travel is a wonderful thing!” Lou declared. She turned from him. “As a matter of fact, I’m surprised your father didn’t mention it this afternoon.” Mark wanted to change the subject so he complimented Lou on how good her pie smelled. Lou turned around, scooted a chair out from the table, and sat down beside him. “Mark, does your father know you’re taking this trip?” Mark got really quiet. He suddenly looked so lost. “I’m your friend. I won’t pry, but I do want you to know I want to help.” Mark just looked at her. “You want to talk about it?” Mark started crying. Lou put a hand on his shoulder and waited for him to talk.
Micah had gotten a posse together. He was talking to them outside the gunsmith shop. They couldn’t start going through the brush until daybreak. Until then, they’d wake up every rancher and check for missing horses. Their orders were dead or alive. Vantine was watching from above as the posse rode out. With the marshal gone, you had the run of the town!
When I realized my son had run away, I hurried into town hoping he was there. I didn’t have to look too hard. His horse was tied just outside the hotel. I walked into the hotel. Lou was in the front lobby. “Lou, that’s Mark’s horse outside,” I announced. She’d been expecting me. “He’s here, isn’t he?” She said he was in room five. “Did he…say anything?”
“He told me his feelings about the rifle. And he asked me for $25.” I stared at her. “Travel expense to California.”
I couldn’t believe this! “California!” I mumbled.
“Go along with him a little. Don’t force things right now, Lucas.” I reminded Lou that running away from a problem wasn’t the right answer. She knew that. “But does a big galoot like you have to hear the right answer every time?” She was getting at something. I asked her what. “I think you’re gonna have to make a choice.”
“What do you mean?”
“Between putting your rifle aside for a time or giving up your son for a longer time.” I looked at my rifle as I heaved a sigh. Then I looked toward the stairs. “What are you going to do?”
Well, for starters, I wanted to talk to my son. “Have you got a key to number five?” I asked. Lou told me there was no lock on the door. I started to go up the stairs, but then I looked at my rifle. Maybe the talk would be easier if I didn’t have my rifle. I put it safely behind the check-in desk. I wasn’t so preoccupied that I didn’t notice the pretty new dress Lou had on though. I complimented her on the dress.
“I’m glad you like it,” she smiled at me. “I bought it from the dress salesman.” I started to go up the stairs. She stopped me as she said, “He had one that was all red beads. What there was of it. But I was afraid I’d make trouble among the customers!”
Oh, a man’s mind could wonder…”Yeah, you might have at that!” I declared with a knowing grin.
Mark was sitting on his bed looking really lost when I opened the door. His back was to me. He turned and saw that it was me and turned back around. “Can I come in?” He just said sure. I walked inside and closed the door as I spoke. “Lou told me she loaned you $25.” I took some money out of my shirt pocket. “I thought you might need a little more to carry you where you were going.”
Mark didn’t waste any time getting to the heart of the matter. “Uh…didn’t you bring your rifle?” I told him I left it downstairs.
While I was talking to Mark, Loud was downstairs working in the kitchen. She heard a noise and turned to investigate. There it was again. Slowly, she made her way to the doorway and peaked out. When she closed the door, she found a man standing behind the door. She let out a startling gasp and asked him what he was doing down there. He wanted her to give him something to eat. “Breakfast is served from six to nine tomorrow morning!” Lou declared. “And use the front door next time.”
“Now look sister,” he said as she started to walk away. She turned to find him holding a gun on her. I ain’t always so mannerly before I et. You countin’ on being the female around here, you start countin’ again!” She warned him that if he used that gun they’d hear him outside. “I think you’re right! But I don’t just see what good that would do you with your head blowed off, huh?”
Lou got the ham from the cupboard. He was laughing about how he’d been watching the posse leave from right above her hotel. He thought it was funny how he’d fooled all of them. Lou picked up the knife on the ham and he told her to give it to him. He’d cut his own meat. She decided to warm him some coffee.
But while he sat at the table, Lou struck the match and held it, wondering if she could somehow- “Hey, when it starts to boil, don’t get any female ideas about spilling it in my lap, huh? We can be lots quieter now.”
While all that was going on downstairs, I was still trying to talk to my son. “Mark, just remember, a rifle is a tool like an ax or a crowbar, it doesn’t have a mind of it’s own either good or bad. We talked about that when I bought you your .22. Of course, if it’s used wrong, someone could get hurt.”
“Someone can get killed,” Mark stated.
Vantine heard some footsteps from upstairs. He asked Lou how many were up there. She told him there were just two – nothing to bother about. He wanted to know who. She said a dress salesman and a man named “Shorty.” Vantine complimented Lou on her desk and how she smelled. He then asked Lou where her “hubby” was. “I’m not married,” Lou answered. He was happy to hear she wasn’t married. Vantine stood up and pulled Lou in an embrace.
Just then, I started down the stairs. “Lou,” I called. Vantine got behind Lou, keeping his arms around her tightly so he could watch me come down the stairs. “What are you doing? Talking to yourself? I just wanted to get a glass of milk for-“ I stopped when I saw the stranger. Then I slowly walked the rest of the way down the stairs. “Vantine!”
I started toward him, but he cocked a gun and pointed it straight at me, ordering me to back up. I had no choice. He pushed Lou down in a chair and looked at me, laughing. “The dressmaker, huh?” He laughed. He wanted the horse and buggy out in the stable. I told him he’d never get through the posse. “But a bride and groom will.” He must have been crazy! He said we were going to Rosswell to get married. He was going to be under the baggage with the gun pointed at Lou’s spine.
I knew he was going to kill both of us after he got away. He said he may spare Lou if she wanted to spend life with him. “Me…I got a real likeness for mean red heads! Especially in a dress like this, huh?” Oh, I was getting mad!
Suddenly, we heard a noise on the stairs. It was Mark wondering where his milk was. “Excuse me,” he said when he saw Vantine.
Vantine thought he was real polite. He told Mark to come on down. Then he revealed the gun. “Where’s your Ma at, son?” Mark didn’t answer. He was surprised at what was going on. “I asked you where’s your Ma?”
I spared Mark from answering. “She’s dead.”
“Aw, that’s too bad,” Vantine declared. “Hey, maybe he’s gonna get a new one, huh?” Vantine declared with an evil laugh. Mark didn’t understand. I wanted to send Mark home. I wanted him out of there! “Oh sure! No one would believe you’d go anywhere without him! Look’s like the kids comin’ along on a wedding trip, huh? Make it a real family affair!” He laughed.
Vantine led us all into the lobby. When we walked in there, Shorty the dress salesman called for Lou. He couldn’t find his soap. Vantine ran to the stairs and ordered Shorty to come down. I started to move, but he saw me and ordered me to stay still. He started coaxing Shorty down the stairs. Shorty came down very slowly. I nodded toward my rifle. Lou turned and looked at it too. We had to get to it!
"I think I'm going to faint!" Lou said suddenly. As she dropped down to the coach, Mark went to see if he could help her. “Under the counter – the rifle!” Lou whispered.
Vantine ran over and grabbed Mark. He pushed Mark behind the desk – right where the rifle was hiding! I watched worriedly. I didn’t like this man pointing a gun at my boy. He demanded to know what Lou had said. Lou rushed up to him. “I said you might kill us all!” Lou yelled.
He pushed Lou back. “You put a maybe in front of that, sister! It depends on how you behave – all of ya'!” He turned to Mark. “You’re gonna behave yourself, aren’t you, son?” Mark gave a short nod. “Oh, I like that!” Vantine backed up toward the stairs where Shorty was standing.
Mark looked at me. I nodded for him to get my rifle. He looked around and finally saw it, but he couldn’t bring himself to pick it up.
Skinny wanted to go back to his room. He turned to go up. We all knew what was about to happen. I watched Mark’s struggle with himself. He stared at the rifle. I kept silently begging him to pick it up. I needed it to save us!
Just then, Vantine cocked his gun. Mark knew he had to save Shorty’s life he reached down and picked up the rifle. “Pa!” he screamed as he threw it to me. Vantine turned and shot at me.
He missed. I shot at him several times. I finally killed him on the stairs. When it was over, all three of us gathered close and just looked at each other. We were glad it was over!
Mark and I went home. I sat in my chair by the fire and watched Mark unpack his bag. He took out lots of apples. “Well, I’ll tell you one thing! You wouldn’t have been hungry!” Mark gave me a short laugh and pulled out a long flannel night shirt. “But you sure would’ve been warm in those in California!” I took a puff off my cigar, then reached for his .22. “You know, son, the only thing you forgot was your .22.”
Mark smiled. “You know I didn’t forget it, Pa.” I smiled, knowing that was true. "You know...what you said about a rifle not having a mind of it's own...I knew you were right...I mean inside of me. I just didn't want to believe it. I guess it was easier to blame the rifle. But I know now! I guess it's all a part of growing up."
Everything is, son,” I stated. “Why don’t you leave that for morning?” We said our goodnights. I watched Mark go to his room. I started to put the rifle back behind the chair. But then I stood up and walked over to the door where my rifle always sat. I sat Mark’s .22 beside my own – that’s where it belonged!
piddlin' stuff.....Peter Whitney appeared in nine episodes ― Eddie's Daughter as Tracey Blanch, he's the big dude who came looking for Lil ― Mail Order Groom as John Jupiter, he was the Mail Order Groom, the one that Jess Profit (John Anderson) kept picking on ― Heller as Andrew Bechtol, the mean stepfather ― Strange Town as Ott Droshek, he ran the Strange Town ― The Queue as Vince Fergus, again he was the bully, the instigator who picked on Wang Chi ― Long Gun From Tucson as John Holliver, he was the cowboy who came back for revenge ― Lou Mallory as Neb Jackman, the Pa of the Jackman clan ― Gun Shy as Vantine, he was the man who was holding Lou hostage ― Which Way'd They Go? as Neb Jackman, the Pa of the Jackman clan.
Patricia Blair as Lou Mallory. Patricia was first introduced to The Rifleman in Lou Mallory. She played a hot-tempered Irish lass who was a razor-sharp businesswoman. She joined the cast in the fifth and final season and appeared in seventeen episodes. Patricia replaced Joan Taylor who played Milly Scott owner of The General Store.
Pat Goldin played Fitch the dress salesman. He has played characters such as a tramp, a waiter, landlord and a salesman.
Bob Hall played the minister.
Jay Nelson played the stage owner/driver. Can't find anything on this cowboy!
Darryl Richard played Fred. He was the one who called Mark "Gun Shy" and the one who Mark was struggling with when the rifle went off.
Jimmy Carter played Charlie. He was Mark's friend who was accidentally killed with Lucas's rifle.
Tom Kennedy ― Death Never Rides Alone as one of the townsmen at the saloon ― The Assailants as one of the townsmen ― Gun Shy as a the townsman/man getting off of the stage ― The Decision as one of the townsmen ― The Executioner as the man reading the newspaper ― Day of Reckoning as a churchgoer - Guilty Conscience as one of the townsmen - Which Way'd They Go? as a barfly - Outlaw's Shoes as one of the townsmen - The Challenge as one of the townsmen - None So Blind as one of the townsmen - A Young Man's Fancy as one of the townsmen - End of the Hunt as one of the townsmen.
You can see Tom in The Rifleman many times, probably more times then listed. He always went unaccredited, but not here at the ranch.
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.
Fred Carson as a member of the posse.
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.
Bloopers - Gun Shy
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 Anvil Chorus
around the McCain Ranch