"Welcome to the McCain Ranch"
This story doesn’t start out in North Fork. Instead, it starts
hundreds of miles away in St. Louis, Missouri where a nice, young
man lived. He was in his room reading book when a knock sounded on
his door. When he turned to
who had disturbed him that evening, he suddenly stood to his feet in
shock. “Father!” he declared, very much surprised.
He hadn’t written that he was coming, but then why would he? He
would have gotten there before the letter had arrived anyhow. He
looked around his son’s room. “So this is where you spent your last
five years.” He was obviously not impressed. “Going to school in the
daytime, keeping store at night.” Ben tried to tell him that he was
graduating, but his father didn’t let him finish. “Your brother Lon
going West to seek his fortune. He’s never written me once, not in
all these years.”
Ben wanted to know why he was in St. Louis. “I’ll tell you. Five
years ago you and your brother left home like thieves in the night.
I had careers planned for you – careers in the army of the United
States, but no you didn’t want that. So, I decided to see what you
made for yourselves.”
“I can’t speak for Lon-“ Ben started.
But his father quickly interrupted him. “No you can’t. Lon’s dead,”
he said very casually. Ben was shocked and saddened by the news. But
his father continued with his story, ignoring his shock. He stated
he inquired with every law officer in the Western Territory and
finally got a reply.
He took out a piece of paper and unfolded it. “It says Lon’s dead,
shot down in a gunfight. Buried there in a place called North Fork.
Signed with regrets by the Marshal and that’s all. But that’s not
enough! My son dead and I don’t know why or who did it. I demand
answers to these questions. I want satisfaction. That’s why I am
here, Ben. You and I are going to this North Fork.”
Ben had walked over and picked up the paper while his father made
his speech. He read it, saddened by the news of his brother. But as
he listened to his father, he suddenly knew what he wanted – to
punish. And his father requested his presence in North Fork. “I
can’t leave,” he said cautiously, knowing what his father’s response
“I said we’re going Ben, and that’s an order.”
But Ben had to stand up for himself. “Father, I’m not going.” It was
very difficult for him to do, but he had no choice. His father
struck him on the back with his whip, stating he should have
expected it since they had disobeyed him all their lives. He would
go alone. “Father,” Ben tried to stop him.
He turned and stared at his son – it was a cold, hard stare. “Don’t
ever call me that again! I have no sons. No sons left at all.” Then
he turned and walked out the door. He didn’t look back.
He arrived in North Fork one day while I was working on mending the
barn. I heard a horse approaching and turned to watch the stranger
ride up. He announced that the road markers were down and wanted to
know if he was on his way to North Fork.
"A few more miles you would have been there,” I answered quickly. I
had been expecting Mark. I was a little worried and upset with him
since he wasn’t home yet. “Say on the way in you didn't see a boy, a
twelve year old on a chestnut mare, did ya'?" He hadn't seen anyone.
He asked if he was missing. "No, late from school," I answered.
I couldn't help notice his Calvary uniform. He introduced himself as
Capt. Josiah Perry, third Illinois. I asked him if he was planning
on visiting North Fork; or was he just passing through. "You might
say I'm going to visit kin," he answered.
Just then, we heard a horse quickly approaching. “That your boy?”
the Captain asked.
“That’s him,” I answered with a hint of annoyance in my voice.
Mark looked at me as he rode up. I motioned for him to tie his horse
to the fence. He just threw the reins over the fence then hurried
over to me, fearful he was in trouble. He quickly greeted our
visitor. I put my hands on my hips and glared at him. "I'm sorry Pa,
but when the fish started biting, well.....I forgot all about the
time. But they'll be good for supper though."
I was in no mood to hear his lame excuses though. "Mark, you were
suppose to be home hours ago! And on the way home you were suppose
to bring my axe blade from the blacksmiths, where is it?" I
continued glaring at him, very upset. There was a lot of annoyance
in my voice.
Mark’s eyes widened as he realized he was in even more trouble.
"Oh...I forgot it too,” he stammered.
I took a deep breath and was about to give him a piece of my mind,
but suddenly, our visitor decided to put in his two cents. "A visit
to the wood shed would sharpen his memory. Man or boy, strict
discipline is the only way to teach them.”
"Thanks for the advise, but I'll raise my boy my own way,” I stated.
"I've reared two of 'em. Two boys. They disobeyed my wishes and went
their own ways. If I had beaten some sense into them when they were
young, I might have gotten better then I've received. They've left
me with bitterness and heartache. You listen to me McCain,
discipline that boy
or the same thing will happen to you. Good day!" Then he gave his
horse a hard slap and raced off for town. Mark and I had looked at
each other, knowing that his sons must have had it rough – which was
probably part of their problem!
As he rode away, Mark stared after, wondering who he was. I told him
he was just a stranger looking for directions. I sat down as I
prepared to discipline my own boy. "He sure was mean," Mark stated.
"He must have been hurt pretty bad.” Then I grabbed Mark by the arm
and turned him around to face me. “Mark, what am I gonna do with
you?" My voice suddenly became hard and he knew he was in deep
Mark suddenly lowered his head, not wanting to look at the
disappointment and anger on my face. “Well…whatever you say, Pa. I
know it was wrong.”
“Yeah, knowing is one thing; and doing it again is another,” I told
him sternly so he’d understand why I was punishing him so strictly.
Then I delivered my punishment. “Now, for the next week you’ll come
home right after school and you’ll have some extra chores,” I stated
sternly as I looked at him straight in the eye. "Right now, get back
on that horse, go back into town and get my axe blade from the
blacksmiths and don't dawdle, come right back."
I continued looking at Mark sternly. I wanted to make sure he knew
just how upset with him I was. He nodded his head, but I could tell
he didn’t mush like the punishment. "Yes sir.” Then he handed me his
string of fish. “Here we'll have these for supper. Alright?" Before
I could say a word, he jumped on his horse and raced back into town.
Now, I’m not quite sure how this happened, but somehow I was the one
who ended up cleaning his fish. He sure was a sneaky one! I smiled
as I looked at his fish knowing I had been beat again! That boy!
When Mark got to the blacksmiths, my axe blade wasn't done. He
wasn’t too happy to hear. He knew he was already in enough trouble
with me at home, and if he didn’t get back soon he’d be in even more
trouble. But he also knew he would be in trouble if he showed up
without the axe blade. He paced the floor impatiently. Nels finally
told him to relax and he’d be done in just a few minutes. "Yeah, but
you don't understand. Pa wanted me to get right back."
"So, I'll just explain to him that I didn't find time to finish the
work like I promised. Lucas will understand." He threw Mark a coin
and told him to go get himself some candy and by the time he got
back, he’d have the blade ready. That made Mark happy. He thanked
Nils and ran off to the store..
Meanwhile, Captain Perry was over at Micah’s trying to get his much
desired information, but Micah kept insisting that he had told him
everything he knew in the letter. He couldn’t believe that Micah
didn’t know who had killed his son. “My son’s life meant that
little.” He couldn’t accept that.
"All I can say Captain is, the case is close." He didn’t see any
good in digging up all the details.
“All I’ve got left of my son is details! I want to know how he died
and why,” the Captain explained
"You may not like what you hear," Micah warned him. He told Micah he
came a long way to hear whatever it was. "Alright," said Micah.
"Your son was involved in a criminal attempt to extort money. When
he found out his plan wasn't going to work, he forced a gun fight,
hoping to kill the man who stood in his way."
The Captain was more concerned with how his son died. He wanted to
know if he was a coward. Micah told him it was a fair fight. He also
told him the other man happened to be a bit faster. The Captain
wanted to know who 'the other man' was. Micah told the Captain to
let it rest there. He still wanted the name but Micah wouldn't
budge. "I said it was a fair fight, naming names won't help
“I just wanta see this man and talk to him.”
But Micah knew better. I warned the Captain against causing trouble.
The captain suddenly stood up and turned around to face Micah. "His
name!" the Captain demanded sharply while hitting his quirt on
Micah stood firm. "Goodbye Captain Perry." Reluctantly the Captain
left the Marshal's office, but he wasn't satisfied yet. He headed
over to talk to Nils. Nils didn't remember anyone by the name of Lon
Perry or any killing either. He asked why it was so important to
him. The Captain told him he was the boy’s father. He told the
Captain to go talk to the Marshal - e might be able to help him.
That just brought the Captain back to square one. The Captain walked
Just as he was leaving he saw Mark heading for the blacksmith's.
Mark was chomping on a big bag of candy. "Well son, I didn't expect
to see you up and around so soon," said the Captain.
Mark ignored the statement, pretending he didn’t know what he was
talking about. "Well I was just gonna pick up some things for my Pa
and get right back. He's probably missing me already."
He started to leave, but the Captain stopped him "You...ah...don't
happen to know the way to Willow Springs do you?"
"Oh sure, I can draw it for you in the dirt."
"Well, fair enough," said the Captain.
Mark bent down and gave him the directions. "First of all, you know
the road your coming into town on? Instead of going straight ahead
you turn right. Keep on following it," said Mark.
The Captain listened, but suddenly interrupted him as he got down to
the real question. "I see. You know, you’re a smart young fella. I
wonder if you can help me. You know, last July, a man was killed in
this town. In a gunfight. The name of Lon Perry." At the mention of
his name, Mark remembered. He started to get up, suddenly feeling
uncomfortable with talking to this man. He knew I would appreciate
him telling what he knew. But the Captain stopped him and again
asked him the same question.
"Well, I don't know.” Mark hesitated.
"Ah sure you do," said the Captain. "Smart young fellow like you’d
remember a gunfight."
The man’s smooth talking paid off. He was saying things a boy liked
to hear. "What do you want to know about it?"
"Well.....I'd just like to know who killed him. You see I've been
wanting to thank whoever did it."
That got Mark’s attention. "You wanna thank him?"
"That's right. See I've been looking for Perry myself. Oh he was a
mean one he was. Now it looks like someone in your town done me a
"Looks like you've come to the right person," Mark declared. Perry
laughed with anticipation of hearing the killer’s name. "See it was
my Pa who shot him."
"McCain?" Perry suddenly asked.
"Yep. This Perry, he challenged him and Pa tried to avoid a fight
but, he had no choice."
The Captain stood up. "You've been real helpful, son. Real helpful."
"Is that all you want?" Mark asked, but he just turned and walked
away, hitting his quirt against his boot in anger.
Mark didn’t understand what was going on. He found the whole think
I had gotten tired of waiting for that boy and decided to ride into
town after him. I headed straight towards the blacksmith’s. “Mark!”
I started to yell.
But Mark jumped in before I could say anymore. "It wasn't ready Pa.
You can ask Nils."
"He's right Lucas, but it's ready now," Nils confirmed Mark’s
I allowed that to slide, but told Mark to get the blade because we
had to get home.
As we headed out of the barn Captain Perry approached me. Being
friendly, I said hello to him. But he was angry and tried to hit me
with his quirt. I grabbed his arm, a bit surprised at his reaction
to my greeting. "It was you that killed my son McCain."
Protectively, I pushed Mark back into the barn as I faced this man.
"I don't know what you’re talking about Captain.” He drew his gun on
me and I told him that he better explain.
“Lon Perry was my boy!” he exclaimed.
“Lon-“ I started. Then I stopped, suddenly remembering who he was
talking about. Lon Perry was involved in a scheme with another
detective to kill me so a desperate father could claim Mark as his
own son. (A Case of Identity) “He forced it. There was nothing else
I could do.”
Mark suddenly got a look of shock on his face as he realized he had
He knew all about his criminal scheme, but that’s now what was
bothering him. He continued to hold the gun on me. “But you were the
one who killed him!” the Captain sneered at me. “My boy did wrong,
McCain, I know that, and he’s dead for it. If he was alive I’d
punish him. He disobeyed me. Yes, Benjamin and Lon, both of them! I
had plans for him, but no, he had to come out here and get himself
killed! But that’s not gonna be the end of it – it can’t be!”
I didn’t understand what this had to do with me. "Did you think you
could kill my son and not be punished for it, the same as I would
have punished him if he was alive?" The Captain yelled angrily. I
warned him to think a minute – he didn’t really want to punish me,
but he insisted that he did.
"Take your punishment like a man. You’re under my command now." said
“Don’t do it, Captain,” I
warned. He cocked his gun. I quickly kicked the gun out of his hand.
I grabbed him and started to punch him, but I couldn’t. So I gave
him a hard shove, pushing him to the ground. I called to Mark to
come on, and e headed for our horses.
Luckily Micah came when he did. He got there in time to stop the
Captain. He was going for his gun. "I'm locking him up until he
cools off," Micah as he grabbed Perry’s gun.
"You better try and talk some sense into him Micah,” I warned
angrily before rode off.
As Micah lifted him off the ground, the Captain stated, “You know,
he should have taken his punishment It would’ve been better for him
if he had!”
While Mark and I were eating supper that night, I noticed that Mark
didn’t seem to be very hungry. For a growing boy like Mark to not be
hungry meant something was wrong. I was concerned and asked him if
something was bothering him. “Pa? Uh…before you came into town
today, well…the Captain stopped me and started asking me a lot of
questions about who killed Lon Perry.”
I suddenly looked my boy sternly in the eye. “You told him?”
“Well, he tricked me!” Mark declared. I continued staring at him.
“He said he wanted to thank the person who did it because…well,
because he’d been looking for him himself.”
“Oh son, that didn’t give you any cause to tell him,” I stated
sternly then went back to eating.
“Well, I guess I was kinda proud that you were the one.” I suddenly
gave Mark a hard stare.
"Proud?” I asked angrily. Mark suddenly turned his head away,
knowing he had again done wrong. “I've taught you always, there's
nothing to be proud in the killing of a man, no matter who he is or
what he's done."
He apologized, but the damage had already been done. Mark couldn't
understand why the Captain wanted to punish me when he hated his son
so much. “Well Mark, sometimes a man trained like the Captain has
been…well, he gets to living by the book. You see, in the army
there’s a book of rules to study and follow to the letter. A lot of
that book has to do with discipline – keeping his men in line and
forcing obedience. Well, with Captain Perry, it seems he’s got
discipline all mixed up with retribution. In his mind, somebody’s
gotta pay for what …well, what he thinks his son did to him. Now his
son is dead and…he’s turned to me.”
Mark listened, but wasn’t sure if he understood that or not; I
wasn’t sure I had it right either. “Now, you better finish your
supper or start clearing the dishes, huh?” I warned.
Mark decided he would eat his supper after all!
Micah brought Captain Perry’s supper to him. He started to leave
when the Captain asked Micah to stay and keep him company. Micah was
happy to oblige. Micah wasn’t sure how long he was going to keep him
there. The Captain was due back at his post in four days and it was
a four day ride. “I can’t help that, Captain,” Micah simply stated.
The Captain figured Micah thought he went “out of his head” today.
Micah simply nodded. “Well, that could be true,” the Captain
answered sadly. “Seeing my son’s grave this morning did something to
me.” He asked Micah if he had any children, Micah answered no with
regret. “Well, I would have to say you’re lucky. Those of us who
have children have to be lucky to turn out well.”
Micah didn’t agree with him. “Oh, I don’t know. I’ve seen plenty of
them grow up. Not too many of them go wrong!”
“Well, you could be right. Maybe it’s just my own hurt talking. You
see, I dreamed that they’d carry on the Perry name in the service,
but they wouldn’t give me that. No, and then I find Ben’s no more my
son then an army mule and I hear Lon’s dead – just an outlaw. Well,
nothing else left except feeling hate and striking out at things.”
His face held much regret and hopelessness.
Micah sort of understand his wanting to go after the killer no
matter who’s fault it was. But then Perry told Micah what he wanted
to hear. “Well, a man might feel that way at first. But then his
reason ought to take over. I can’t say I blame McCain. Very likely
he couldn’t help it.”
Micah commented that it seemed his attitude had changed. The Captain
looked Micah straight in the eye and told him he was done with me
and this town, and all he wanted to do now is get back to his post.
Micah started to leave as the Captain watched on hopefully. His plan
had worked. Micah turned around and came back over to his cell.
“Captain, will you give me your word you’ll cause no more trouble?”
"As an officer and a gentleman," said Capt. Perry. Micah let him
While the Captain was getting ready to leave, his son Ben arrived in
town. He headed for the Hotel to find his father. While in there
Captain Perry got on his horse and rode out of town. Only then did
Ben show up when he heard his father had been arrested for
Micah told him he had been there, but he had let him go, and Micah
assumed he was going back to his post. Ben told Micah he heard about
the trouble with me and he wanted to apologize for his father’s
actions. He then left and headed out to our ranch.
I had gotten Mark settled down in bed for the night and was just
relaxing with a book when I heard
a horse quickly approaching. I had had enough trouble today and was
on edge between having to punish my son and then what happened in
town. So I jumped up and hurried to the window. When I looked up and
saw a stranger quickly approaching, I grabbed my rifle, opened the
door and rushed out onto the porch, hold my rifle on him.
He introduced himself to me as he looked down at my rifle. He told
me he was looking for his father. Angrily, he answered, “Well, he’s
not here! Now, what’s this all about?” Like I said, I was on edge
already and was expecting anything!
He looked down at the rifle. “I didn’t come here to make trouble,
Mr. McCain, but I would like to talk to you.” I suddenly realized he
wasn’t looking for trouble, so I invited him inside. He said he had
heard what happened in town today.
“I went to the jail to see my father, but the Marshal had just let
him go,” he explained as I put my rifle back in it’s holder by the
door. I’m afraid he’s headed here.”
I invited him to sit down. “I don’t think Micah would’ve released
him if there was any harms still festering in him,” I stated calmly.
He doubted that I was right – he knew his father. I thanked him for
“It wasn’t just for you, Mr. McCain. I’d like to prevent anything
from happening to my father.” I commented that he wasn’t an easy man
as I sighed, remembering what had happened earlier. “I know, and I
feel somewhat responsible for it. I should’ve stopped him from
coming to North Fork.”
“Sometimes stopping a man bent on something the way your father was
is feared impossible,” I told him gently.
But he had finally decided to come out here because he felt he was
responsible for everything. I figured it was his brother, Lon, who
was responsible for the Captain’s actions today. “That was only part
of it. You see, Mr. McCain, since I was very young, I had one
ambition. One I was afraid to tell my father about. I wanted to be a
minister, so I entered divinity school.” He had never told his
father. “A few days ago when my father came to St. Louis to take me
with him, I wanted to tell him, but I knew how he’d take it. So I
just said I couldn’t go. I couldn’t tell him the real reason was
because the next morning I was being ordained.”
That surprised me a bit. “You’re an ordained minister now?”
He showed me the minister’s color. He had taken it off before
entering North Fork, afraid of letting him see it. “I didn’t want to
hurt my father any more then I already had.”
“What do you plan to do when you see him?” I simply asked.
He stood up. “Help him if I can.” He walked across the room. “The
day I put that collar on I thought about the duties and
responsibilities that went with it. I'm suppose to lead my flock,
help heal their souls, ease their afflictions. I realized then that
if I was ever to help anyone, I'd have to start with my father
I stood up and walked over to him. "Reverend Perry, are you gonna do
it with the collar on or off?" I held the collar out to him.
"On, Mr. McCain." He took his collar from my hand and placed it
around his neck.
Suddenly, the Captain was outside yelling for me again. "McCain," he
yelled. "McCain." I ran to the door and looked out the window. It
was him alright. I grabbed my rifle and started to open the door,
but Reverend Perry hurried over to me. “Mr. McCain, please…without
the rifle! There will only be bloodshed.”
I nodded and sat my rifle down on the table. Just then, Mark came
out of the bedroom. The yelling had awaken him. "Pa, what's a
"You stay here son,” I ordered sternly. “You stay right here." Then
Ben opened the door and we went onto the porch.
But when Ben came out, the Captain grew more agitated, stating he
had only come to see me. “Father, I’ve come to take you home with
me,” Ben stated gently. Ben walked up to the horse while his father
denied him. “Father, look at me!” he begged.
The Captain did look at him. Ben touched his collar. "This is why I
couldn't go with you. This is what I wanted. Please try to
But the Captain suddenly became very agitated. He shoved at Ben.
"Out of my way!" he shouted. Ben fell to the ground and the Captain
rode his horse up to the porch where I stood, staring in disbelief.
How could a father be so cruel to his own child? "You ready McCain?"
he shouted at me.
“Go on home, Captain,” I ordered. “I’m not gonna help you push this
Mark had been standing in the doorway listening and watching. He was
suddenly frightened. He turned and grabbed my rifle off the table.
The Captain told me that he had challenged me and I should prepare
myself – meaning I should get my rifle. "Pa," Mark suddenly called
out, frightened by the Captain’s words.
"Stay where you are son," I ordered Mark.
But the Captain tried to give Mark his own order. "Give him his
Captain Perry took his gun from his holster. "Don't force me to
shoot an unarmed man, McCain." He then aimed his gun at me.
Mark couldn’t stand it anymore. "Pa, he means it!" He yelled as he
threw my rifle to me. I shot several times on the ground by the
horses hoofs causing the horse to throw the captain. Mark ran to me
and threw his arms around me. Ben was by his fathers side.
As he sat on the ground, the Captain stared at me in confusion.
"Your boy...disobeyed you," he stated.
"Yes he did Captain,” I answered as I securely held my boy in my
arms. “But out of love." I looked down at Mark and he lifted his
head and stared into my eyes, knowing he had done right.
"The boy did it out of love father, can't you understand that?"
Ben’s voice held hope as he spoke.
Father and son looked at each other. Then the Captain turned and
looked at me. He saw us – Mark and me – father and son with our arms
around each other. Mark was smiling proudly at me, relieved our
latest ordeal had come to an end. It was obvious we were in love.
"Benjamin, lets go home,” he said. It was over and the Captain had
learned a lesson.
We said goodnight to the Captain. Mark walked into the house ahead
of me without saying a word. I put my rifle back in it’s holder and
grabbed my book. “You better get back to bed, son,” I said as I sat
down in my chair to read.
But Mark wasn’t quite ready to
go to bed. He had something to say. "You know Pa, I just realized
something." He sat down on the arm of the chair as he looked at me.
"This is one time a son taught his Pa a lesson."
"Oh you mean the Reverend and Captain Perry.” I laid a hand on
Mark’s back. “Well, that can happen sometimes Mark."
Mark suddenly turned and looked straight into my eyes. "Oh...oh of
course, I know between us who does all the teachin'." Mark was
teasing me and I knew it.
I suddenly got a really serious look on my face. "You know something
son?” Mark moved in closer, thinking I was about to give him a new
revelation. I touched his hair. “I think we oughta get you a haircut
"But right now, uh…goodnight." I smiled at him.
“Night,” he stated as he went to bed. I watched him go, laughing.
That’s my boy! And boy, do I love him!
Dubbins played Ben Perry. He was the son of Capt. Josiah Perry.
He was the ordained minister.
John Hoyt appeared in two episodes ―
Three Legged Terror
as Fremont, Johnny's uncle ― The Martinet as Capt. Josiah
Perry, the former army captain
who came to North Fork to kill the man who shot down his son in a gunfight -
Richard "Dick" Alexander played Nels
the Blacksmith in four episodes ― Smoke Screen —
The 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?
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.
John Breen appeared in
six episodes ― The Safe Guard
as a Townsmen ― The Lariat as
a Waiter as a townsmen ― The Clarence Bibs
Story as a townsmen ― The Jailbird as a townsmen ― The
Indian as a townsmen ― The Martinet as a townsmen.
George Tracy appeared in three
episodes of The Rifleman ― Assault
― The Martinet ―
A Time for Singing as a
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