"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 see 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 would be.
“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 trouble.
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 anything."
“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's desk.
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 - he might be able to help him. That just brought the Captain back to square one. The Captain walked away, disgusted.
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 favor."
"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 pretty odd.
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 excuse.
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 been tricked.
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 the Captain.
“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?” Micah asked.
"As an officer and a gentleman," said Capt. Perry. Micah let him out.
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 threatening me.
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 warning him.
“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 first."
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 matter?"
"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 understand."
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 grudge!”
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 rifle boy,"
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 tomorrow morning."
"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!
piddlin'stuff.....Don 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 - Lucas McCain.
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 eight 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 Townsman.
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