"Welcome to the McCain Ranch"
We all come face to face with things we have to fight in our life. I know I’ve come up against many things, and though I don’t like fighting against things, I know it’s part of staying alive. But when death came face-to-face with my son one day, it was harder than anything I ever faced!
You see, it all started one day when Mark and I were in town. There was this man named Ward Haskins who had a reputation of forcing people to gunplay when he wanted to get rid of them. One day, he was coming out of the saloon when he saw his next victim, a man named Flecker. As he stood by his pony, Haskins stated that he had something that belonged to him. He told Flecker to drop it in the dirt and ride out of town. Flecker refused and Haskins told him to turn around. Both men knew what he wanted and how it was going to end.
Mark and I were loading supplies in the wagon when he shot Flecker. I hurried over to check the man just shot. He was still breathing, so while everyone else stood around gawking, I picked him up and carried him to the doc’s office. “Is he a friend of yours?” Haskins had asked me. I didn’t even know the man “Then why bother?” I don’t guess a man like him would understand!
I told Mark to wait for me in the buck board while I took him to the doc’s office. Doctor Burrage couldn’t do much for the man, unfortunately. I thought he was trying to talk, and my good friend stated, “He probably wants to know how much the bill is…that is if he ever intends on paying a cent of it.” Unfortunately, both lungs had been punctured.
“My horse. Take care of my horse,” Flecker requested.
“Don’t worry, he’s all right,” I assured him. “Why did Haskins gun you down?” I wanted to know.
Flecker was struggling to breathe. I begged Doc Burrage to help him, but he got sarcastic and stated, “I could advise him not to tangle with Haskins. But I think it’s a little late for that.” I told the doctor he was being a pompous fool – that he should help the man. To which he replied, “I’m just a doctor, Lucas. Not a saint!”
Flecker was talking again. “My boots!” he moaned in between gasps.
“What was it between you and Haskins?” I wish I could find out. Haskins had to be stopped from killing innocent people!
He only answered, “My boots!”
“What was your quarrel?” I tried again.
“I died with my boots on!” he said. Then he died.
I didn’t understand why he was using those as his last words! “Chalk up another one for Haskins,” Doc Burrage announced. “You wanta take charge of the body?”
I sighed. “I didn’t know him, doc.”
Doc Burrage was surprised. “I thought he was an old friend of yours! You lugged him in here.” No one seemed to understand that I had a big heart!
“Nobody else would. I figured he deserved a chance,” I commented.
“If you see anyone else foolish enough to tangle with Haskins, just carry them to the undertaker.” The doc suggested that I stay out of whatever was going on or I would end up dead. I offered to go see Toomey for a coffin, but doc said he’d do it. “We work together all the time. Sort of a professional association!” he declared.
“You’re not half as mean as you act, doc!” I stated.
When I got out to the wagon, Mark was petting the pony. I knew what was in my boy’s head, so I wasn’t surprised when he asked, “Can we keep him? He’d be good company for my sorrel.” At first, I wasn’t so sure that was a good idea. The horse belonged to that man, which happened to be Mark’s next point! “Well, you can see he’s got good qualities!” Of course, it always was hard to say no to my boy! Especially since his heart was in the right place!
So, I said, “Well, I guess we can take care of him for awhile,” which of course brought a big smile to his face. That was reward enough for me!
One day, we were working on building our porch. Mark brought over some boards for me and commented on how much work it was. I reminded him to brush the palomino pony so his coat would get shiny. Mark went to the barn to do just that.
I continued working on the porch, but realized Mark had not brought me the right boards. So, for some unknown reason, I picked up my hammer and went to find a long enough board. I heard a horse approaching and looked up. It didn’t take me long to discover it was Haskins riding up. I figured he wanted trouble. “Joe Flecker had something that belonged to me. I figure you have it now. I’d like to have it back.” Well, so that’s why he was here!
“Flecker? I don’t know the name,” I stated, stalling him.
“I mean that broken down saddle tramp I had to shoot in self defense the other day.” (Self defense – ha!) “Why don’t you give me that paper?” I don’t know why he thought I had it. I could tell he was about to threaten me.
“Blackmail’s out of my line Haskins!” I stated. Suddenly, Haskins pulled a gun on me. I raised my hands. Thankfully, I still held the hammer in my hand, so I used it as a weapon and knocked the gun out of his hand then socked him right in the face!
I couldn’t believe the gull of this man! He stared at me, as if he couldn’t believe someone could be as threatening as him. Then I picked up the gun and emptied the bullets out of it. While he was still lying on the ground, I threw the unloaded gun down to him. "I don't know what Flecker had on you and I don't care. But nobody walks on me on my own place, Haskins. Now think it over while your ride back to town. Maybe it will save you another trip."
Haskins got up to leave. He went over to the fence to untie his horse. Suddenly, Flecker’s horse bit him on the hand. I was really beginning to like this pony! He stared at the pony before getting on his horse and riding off.
Mark had seen the last part as he came out of the barn. Unsurprising to me, he had lots of questions, which I of course tried to answer. “Pa, what makes a man like him so mean?” he asked.
I went back to working on the porch. “Well, it’s hard to tell, son. Something must have happened to him a long time ago when he was a young man, maybe.”
“Or when he was a boy, maybe,” Mark stated.
“You know Mark, people usually aren’t born mean and bad. They usually go that way because someone does something to them.” I took this as a learning opportunity. I questioned him about a puppy Jimmy Peterson had gotten for his birthday. Mark remembered that Jimmy had been rough with the puppy, and when he grew, he became a mean dog. They had to get rid of him because he grew into a mean dog. “That’s kinda the way it is with Haskins. Only, he’s gotten to the point where killing a man means nothing to him.”
Mark stated he understood. But I wasn’t sure he did. “You see, a man is different from an animal. He’s got a conscience. That means he knows right from wrong. Just because he’s been hurt doesn’t mean he’s got a right to take that hurt on anyone else.” I decided that I would go into town the next day and dig up the reason why he decided to take his meanness out on us.
The next day I got ready to go into town. I was really surprised that Mark didn’t want to go to town with me. “It’s not like you to miss a trip into
“I wanted to stay and take care of the pony,” Mark remarked. I’m certainly glad I decided to pursue this conversation!
“Oh? Something wrong with him?”
“Well, he’s been acting kind funny like he’s sick. He wouldn’t eat this morning and won’t let me ride him. He keeps on bearing his teeth and whinnying.” I could tell that Mark was really concerned. I decided I should stop by and see the vet about it while I was in town!
When I got to Doc Burrage’s office, I realized that the door was locked. Something must have happened. “Go away, the place is closed!” Doc Burrage announced when I knocked on the door.
“Open up, doc!” I called.
“Very delicate operation going on,” he called.
I knew he was lying, so I decided to use some…um…friendly persuasion! “It’s me, McCain. Open the door or I’ll do it for ya!”
That got the desired result. When I came in, I was surprised to see Doc Burrage drinking whisky. He started in on me as soon as I walked in the door. “Couldn’t find another corpse to carry in here?”
“It’s a little early in the day, isn’t it?” I commented on his drinking. He stated that it was his own personal prescription. “I only take it when I need it. I don’t wait until it’s too late.”
“Bad night last night?” I asked.
“People around here never call a doctor until they see the vultures circling the house. Then they hate me because I can’t help.” I could tell something had really upset him. He offered me a drink, but I had something important to talk about. I had really been thinking about Flecker’s last words – about his boots. I wanted to see his belongings to see if I could come up with any clues. Haskins had torn them all apart. I looked at the boots. “He kept talking about his boots before he died. What-“ I looked at the first boot and found nothing. Then I looked at the second. Suddenly, I noticed that the sole wasn’t right. I grabbed a scrapple and cut the sole of the boot. There it was – a wanted poster on Haskins! “Our friend Haskins is wanted in Kansas for two killings,” I commented.
“Stay out of it, Lucas!” Doc Burrage warned. “Burn it, bury it, throw it away…forget you ever saw it. I don’t wanta loose my only friend!”
“Ah, you don’t meat that, doc!” I stated as I put the paper in my pocket. Then I decided to get to the bottom of the other mystery. "What happened to you that you're drinking so early in the morning?”
“Last night they brought me a little 8 year old girl. I had to watch her die. Yesterday afternoon, a 16 year old boy. That’s 2 kids in the same day!”
“Death is part of a doctor’s business. You can’t save them all,” I assured him softly.
“I could have saved these two if they had called me soon enough! They got a new cure. People don’t know about it. The great scientist spent years working on a serum.” I wrinkled up my brow. I was getting a little concerned now. He continued though. “I sent all the way to Philadelphia for it. These stupid plow pushers won’t give me a chance to use it.”
I felt so bad for the doc and for those unaware of the cure. "What'd the kids die of Doc?" I asked with obvious piety on my face.
"Anthrax," he said.
That word hit me in the face like a ton of bricks! “Anthrax,” I repeated. The conversation I had with my boy earlier flashed through my head. Fear gripped every line in my face, every bone in my body, every thought in my mind.
"We've got an epidemic starting." He kept talking, but I didn’t hear any of it. Like I said, the threat of death on your own child is hard to face. I rushed out the office without an explanation. The pony was sick, and I had to hurry home to check on my boy! Nothing else in the world mattered at the moment.
Meanwhile, back at the ranch, Mark was really worried about the pony. He was a ten year old boy and didn’t know about such diseases as anthrax. If I had been there maybe I could have stopped it from happening. Mark, because he was worried about the pony, sat down next to him to console him. He gently put his hand on him to pat him. The pony was very irritable, so he reached his head around and bit him. Of course, this shocked my boy! He couldn’t understand why the pony would do such a thing.
Mark got up and slowly walked out of the barn as he rubbed his hand. He turned and looked at the pony, concern lying heavily on his face. Then he walked into the house, perhaps to wash off the bite. That’s when my boy was faced with the second danger of his life in one day! He came face to face with Haskins.
Haskins smiled at him. “Nobody answered when I knocked, so I thought I’d look around. You mind?”
Mark didn’t answer. He simply sat down in a chair. He was terrified, I know, but there was nothing he could do. “Where’s your father? We’ve got some important business.” Haskins asked. Mark kept quiet, so Haskins grabbed him by the shirt and stood him up in the chair. “I said, where’s you father?”
Frightened, Mark swallowed and managed to answer, “He’s in town.”
“That’s better,” Haskins stated. “Now, tell me where he keeps his important papers.”
Mark got brave. “No!” he stated sternly.
But Haskins insisted. “I don’t like that word! Now try again!” Mark couldn’t say anything else. So he simply turned his head to look at my desk. Haskins ran and started dumping out drawers to find the paper. Mark ran out to hide in the barn and wait for me.
Haskins kept going through my house looking for the wanted poster. When he heard me coming, he hid behind the door. I jumped off my horse and ran inside. “Mark?” I called. When he didn’t answer, fear again rushed through my being. “Mark?” I shouted in fear. I knew something wasn’t right!
Haskins came up behind me, holding a gun on me. “Don’t move, McCain! Drop that rifle!”
That’s when I knew I had another problem. "Where's my son?" He was all that mattered right now.
"Drop it, I say – real slow!" I let the rifle fall to the floor. Mark walked towards the house. He knew I was in there.
"I'll take that paper you got from Flecker," he said.
I tried to stall him. "Haven't you already found it?"
“I mean it, McCain,” he stated. I had to stay alive to save my boy! I didn’t’ know what had happened to him! So, without any argument, I handed it over to him. I didn’t care about that right now. “Who else knows about this?” he asked. I told him no one. “But you read it. You must have!”
“Yes, I read it.” I didn’t know it, but Mark was standing right outside the door listening. Fear gripped him when he heard the next words.
"I'm gonna kill you McCain!"
I had to think fast. Had I known at the time what happened to Mark and that he was standing outside the door, I might have changed my words. “There’s no point in killing me, Haskins!” I stated. “I’m not gonna turn you in. There’s no need to. Flecker’s pony nipped you the other day. That horse has anthrax. That’s always fatal, you know that.” When Mark heard this, he looked down at his bite. I know he was so frightened!
“Have you ever seen a human that’s got it? First he gets chills. Then it turns to fever and he starts to burn up. And his brain begins to rattle and ache. Gradually, he goes mad with the pain. Not very pretty to watch, Haskins!” Mark heard every word I said. My boy was getting more and more fearful!
“Your lying! Your stalling for time. You’ve got no proof that horse’s got anthrax!” Haskins accused me.
Oh, how I needed to go find Mark and make sure he was okay. “He’s sick,” I stated with fear in my voice. “There’s an epidemic. If you don’t believe me, he’s out in the barn. Go look at him.”
That’s just what Haskins wanted to do. He held the gun on me all the way out there. After we were out of the house, my boy came in. He was searching for a way to save me. He saw my rifle on the floor and grabbed it, then he slowly made his way to the barn.
I walked to the stall where the pony was. Haskins took one look at him. At this point, he was foaming at the mouth. Haskins shot him. I used that opportunity to knock the gun out of his hand. We struggled. The whole time, Haskins was trying to get back to that gun, and the whole time I was trying to keep him away from it. He finally gave me a hard punch and I landed right inside the barn door. Haskins was by the gun and was able to grab it. It was in that instant that I knew I would die.
But Mark was going to do whatever he had to in order to save me. He ran to the barn door and shouted, “Pa, your rifle!” I turned and grabbed it, then I shot. Haskins had the gun raised to me when I shot. He fell over dead. My boy had saved my life!
Everything was quiet as the smoke from the gun floated around the barn.
“You alright, pa?” Mark asked with tears in his voice.
“Yeah, I’m all right, son.” I forced out. I got up on shaky feet and bent down to see if he was dead. Tears were on my face. I wasn’t crying out of gratitude that I was alive. But I was also crying because my boy had saved my life. He had come through for me at the moment I needed him most! “Poor pony,” Mark cried. “I guess he’s luckier to go this way then…then from…from Anthrax!” he said sadly.
It was in that moment that I knew he had heard the conversation. I had to find a way to get the truth from him without scaring him. “I’m sorry you had to see this, son.” I was crying again. “I’m sure glad you showed up with that rifle when you did.”
“I didn’t do nothin’!” Mark cried. I think it was at that moment that I knew something was very wrong.
“You saved our lives is all,” I stated. “We make a good team, son.” I stood up and walked over to him. “We’re gonna last a long time, as long as we look out for each other.” I put my hand on his shoulder.
Mark turned away from me. I saw the sadness and fear in his eyes. “Let’s go in, pa.”
He wasn’t acting right. “Somethin’ troubling you, Mark?”
“I’m just tired, I guess. It’s been a pretty tough day!” I placed my hands on his shoulders. He couldn’t even face me. I had to help my boy!
“Well, maybe we should sit down and talk it over,” I suggested. Mark hesitated. “Come on,” I insisted.
“There’s nothing to talk about.”
“Now haven’t we always agreed to tell each other everything?” Mark nodded.
“You seem awfully worried about something, Mark!”
“It’s just seeing the pony get killed and Haskins holding a gun on you that worried me,” Mark stated, but there was heavy worry on his voice.
I knew there was more! I knew something was very wrong here. “You never lied to me before. Is there anything else?” I asked tenderly.
Suddenly, I watched my boy as his eyes filled with tears. The tears ran down his face and he started crying. Slowly, he lifted his hand up to me to show me the bite. I grabbed his hand and held it. Tender fear gripped my entire being. “The pony did this?” I tried to stay calm for his sake. “How long ago?” I could hear the fear in my voice.
“Just a little while ago,” Mark answered as tears continued to run down his cheeks. “And I heard you telling Haskins that people always die from it. I didn’t wanta worry you about it!”
Love filled my heart. I tenderly laid his hand against my cheek as I thought about the torture my words had put him through. “Oh son, I…” I looked at him…” I was just stalling Haskins. Doc Burrage has a serum that’ll cure this!”
But Mark had so much fear that he couldn’t believe me. “You don’t need to tell me if it ain’t so, pa,” he stated as tears continued to run down his face.
“It’s so, Mark,” I stated as my voice cracked.
Mark sat still and allowed my words to sink in. As the realization that he didn’t have to die came over him, relief flooded his heart and he burst out crying. I waited until he was ready, then he threw his arms around me in sweet release of all his pent up emotions. My heart hurt for what that little boy had gone through. He was more worried about how it would affect me then himself. As I listened to my boy cry, I tried to get my own emotions under control. Then I picked him up and carried him out of the barn. “Come on, son! Let’s go” I stated as I headed for my horse to take him to the doc’s. I think he cried all the way there.
We both watched as Doc Burrage brought over the long, scary needle. I put on a good front for Mark, but I sure wish the needle didn’t have to be so big! Doc Burrage was good with kids, so he made sure to keep Mark in a conversation while giving the shot. “A very famous doctor named Pasteur invented the serum, Mark.” He stuck the needle. Both Mark and I flinched. I’m not sure who it hurt worse! “You’re gonna be a doctor when you grow up?”
Mark was still trying to recover from the shot. It hurt pretty bad, I imagine! “I thought about it,” Mark answered. “But I’d rather work with my pa. We make a good team,” Mark said proudly.
Of course, I couldn’t keep a prideful smile from my face. That was music to a father’s ears!
I continued smiling at Mark. “It didn’t hurt a bit, did it?” Doc Burrage stated.
I looked at Mark and waited for his reaction. Mark looked at Doc Burrage like he was crazy. “Huh?” he replied.
We all burst out laughing. The day had been so tense that we both needed that laughter, and it felt good to finally be able to laugh with my boy again on a day when his life was threatened! After all, I’d say that was one of the hardest life and death situations I’d faced in a long time, and I was relieved it was over.
piddlin' stuff.....Edgar Buchanan appeared in six episodes. Five episodes as Doc Burrage ― The Pet ― The Second Witness ― The Trade ― The Deadly Wait ― The Angry Man and as Grandpa Fogarty in The Long Goodbye.
There were two doctors before Doc Burrage although neither of them were ever named or given credit. Those two episodes were The Sharpshooter and The Marshal. In End of a Young Gun Lucas told Hank he would go get Doc Sedley? Doc Burrage was first introduced to The Rifleman in The Pet.
Doc Burrage was a regular character ~ how many different actors played Doc Burrage? Can you name them?
Robert J. Wilke appeared in six episodes ― The Marshal as Florry Sheldon, he was one of the Sheldon brothers who wanted to kill Micah ― The Pet as the heavy Haskins, the dude who killed Flecker.
Bill Erwin who played Flecker, he's the man lost the gunfight with Haskins.
Hal John Norman appeared in two episodes ― The Pet as the father of the little girl that had anthrax, he was also in Seven as Frost one of the The '7' Prisoners.
Do you know who played the little girl that died of anthrax in this episode?
My mom played in episode 15, The Pet, and was the little girl who died from Anthrax. Her real name then was Penelope Sue Carver. You have a tiny picture on one of your pages where someone is carrying her. Sincerely, Jamie (Jamie is Penelope's daughter) Thanks Jamie!
Robert H. Robinson has appeared in thirteen episodes ― The Safe Guard ― Duel of Honor ― New Orleans Menace ― The Gaucho ― The Pet ― The Photographer ― The Mind Reader ― The Patsy ― Legacy ― Shotgun Man ― Day of Reckoning ― Suspicion ― Hostage to Fortune. He played a townsmen in all these episodes except one and that is Duel of Honor as as John Bradley, a passenger on the stage.
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.
Jesse Wayne appeared in twenty-three episodes as Johnny Crawford's stuntman. Not sure who doubled for Johnny in the episode of Requiem at Mission Springs but he is a possibility, especially after that bad tumble Mark took.
Fritz Ford appeared in twenty episodes and still counting. Besides acting in The Rifleman he was also a stunt double for Chuck Connors.
Bloopers - The Pet
You've heard Lucas' story, now hear Mark's
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