"Welcome to the McCain Ranch"
Now, I must admit that I’ve had some strange turn of events in my life, but if someone were to tell me that I’d be experiencing Mark’s grandmother coming to visit, getting in the middle of a shootout on my ranch that had absolutely nothing to do with me, being held hostage but the man I ended up helping, and watching my son tearfully say goodbye to his grandmother all in just one day, I would have called that person crazy!
But that’s just what happened. Just wait until you hear this one – it’s a doozy!
First of all, let me tell you something about some of the men that will soon become a big part of my story. There were some men fast asleep around a smoldering campfire. Some of them were using bank bags full of money as pillows, so they were obviously bank robbers. But suddenly, they were awakened by the sound of someone chasing their horses off. When one of the men reached for his gun, the man that had snuck into their camp said, “You’re not fast enough.” He held a gun on them.
He orders the man to toss him the money bag, but when he tries to go for his gun, the unwelcomed guest suddenly shoots him dead. The outlaw named Stinger tosses him the money bag and he gets on his horse with another friend of his. Then they ride off, thanking them for the money.
You see, Mark and I were in town one day to pick up supplies. It’s all innocent, you say. What could possibly happen in the General Store? Ah, but your last name isn’t McCain! Actually, Mark was trying on a new coat – that boy grows out of everything so fast! Hattie had just gotten in “the latest fashion” from New Orleans. Ha! You should have seen this coat! Mark had it on, but there was no way I was going to buy something so…loud! And when I checked to see how it fit, it would wrap around him twice!
As we joked around about the coat, Hattie went over to help a man named William Havecourt. He would come into North Fork to check his mail every so often. Suddenly, Hattie turned to me. "Lucas, this is Mr. Havecourt. A refined gentleman of taste and discrimination. This is Lucas McCain and his son." We shook hands. "Luke lives on a ranch nearby Mr. Havecourt. He doesn't get much chance to keep up with the latest fashions for young men. I want you to tell him what you think of that jacket."
As he studied it, I could tell he was trying to find something pleasant to say about it.. "It's lively," he finally answered.
That was nicer then anything I was thinking about it. After an answer like that, I knew I wasn’t buying it. I immediately started pulling the thing off of Mark "Hattie don't you think you could find him something a bit more conservative?" I asked.
"Yah,” Mark commented then. “Like a barber shop pole with sleeves!” We both laughed at that, but Hattie failed to see the humor in it..
She was obviously a bit annoyed with us, and she grabbed the coat from us. "That's all you men know about style," she said as she walked away. I gratefully thanked Mr. Havecourt for coming to our rescue.
Now, here’s where it starts to get a bit interesting. Mr. Havecourt opened the letter Hattie had given him, and he suddenly had a concerned expression on his face, not that me and Mark noticed. We were too busy being pests to Hattie! Suddenly, Mr. Havecourt wanted to know when the next stage from the President Jefferson Express due from the East. She told him it would stop in Willow Springs in about an hour. Luis was anxious to leave town and continue on their way, but Havecourt suddenly announced that he couldn’t leave yet. “Billy, what we did to Stinger is more pleasure then robbing the bank in the first place. Porque will follow our tracks like an Apache! This is no place to stop!” Luis explained anxiously.
But Havecourt handed Luis the letter. The news in the letter was pretty big, and Havecourt wasn’t sure how he was going to fix it. But as we drove off, Havecourt long face suddenly turned into a laugh and he announced that he had an answer to his problem. Now, what do you want to bet that his answer involved me?
You see, when Mark and I got back to the ranch, we were unloading our wagon. Mark, holding an armload of packages, suddenly asked me when we were going to apologize to Hattie for teasing her. “Tomorrow,” I answered with a grin. “How’d you know what I was thinking about?” I suddenly asked.
“I guess we think alike,” Mark answered as he started for the house. I watched him leave with a big smile on my face. But as I picked up a big sack and started for the barn, Mr. Havecourt suddenly came out from nowhere holding a gun on me. “Turn slow, Mr. McCain.”
I turned and stared at him wondering what this was all about. I turned to see that Havecourt’s friend, Luis, had my son. They got my rifle from the wagon. I demanded to know what was going on. “Just so we don’t have any misunderstandings, I’m better known as Billy Saint John.”
“Billy Saint-“ Mark started. I turned and gave Mark a hard look, warning him to stay quiet.
Suddenly, Billy asked Mark how old he was. I demanded to know what his age had to do with this. “Well, if he’s going to be my son, I oughta know how old his is,” Billy announced.
“What do you mean your son?” I suddenly asked.
But he didn’t eve answer my question. “Eleven, nearly twelve? That’s just about right. And the name will be Peter. Peter Havecourt.” I thought he was crazy! But he wasn’t done surprising me yet! He told me I was going into town with him to meet the stage from Willow Springs. I told him he’d have to spell it out for me. I had no idea what was going on!
"Alright. M-O-T-H-E-R." He handed me a letter from his pocket. “It seems her doctor told her to live with my aunt in California, but she decided to stop off on my ranch to visit her son and her grandson. Now her grandson, that’s what makes it awkward. I didn’t think it would hurt to write and tell her I’d gotten married and had a son, she’d like that. Later on I told her my wife had died, but I kept up the story about having a son.”
See, I told you it was a pretty crazy story! I wanted to know how long this farce was supposed to go on. He said she’d leave for San Francisco tomorrow. “Let’s go,” he ordered.
‘Now wait a minute,” I said. “What about Mark?”
“Peter!” he reminded me as he cocked his gun. “Get used to it. Peter stays here and as long as you do what you’re told, he won’t get hurt.” That made me mad, his threatening my son…
We went to town. As we waited for the stage, Billy was kind enough to remind me that Luis, a short-tempered man, was with my son. He suddenly turned around to watch the stage come in. I took the opportunity to grab his gun hand and twist it tightly behind his back. Then I grabbed his gun. “Alright St. John,” I sneered at him. I held the gun to his back as we watched an older lady get off the stage.
She climbed from the stage and came to give Billy a big hug. She was certainly happy to see him! “William! Oh, William! After all these years – let me hug you and hold you and look at you! And be thankful that God let me live long enough to be with you again.” She had a beautiful smile! Billy introduced us. “I’ve fallen in love with your wonderful country. It’s vastness and beauty is overwhelming!” Before she would leave, she had to thank the driver.
I must admit that this was one lovely, kind woman! In fact, after she walked away, I holstered Billy’s gun and said, “I don’t know how somebody like you wound up with a lovely lady like that for a mother. I’m going to go along for a day. Remember, no tricks, huh?”
Mark and Luis were in the yard when we got back to the ranch. Mrs. Havecourt met Luis first, then she turned toward Mark. “This must be Peter,” she smiled. “Do you have a kiss for your grandmother, dear?” I think it’s reasonable to see why Mark didn’t take this too well. He was frightened of her, a complete stranger, suddenly wanting to be so personal with him. He didn’t know what to do, so he turned and ran. I turned and looked after him, feeling bad that he was in this situation.
Billy wasn’t happy with Mark’s actions. He ordered me to tell Mark what our understanding was. I told him to make sure his friend knew what the score was. Then I went to find my boy and talk to him. Sometimes when he was upset he went to the barn, but I looked inside and didn’t see him anywhere. I found him beside the barn. As I approached him, I thought on what I was going to say.
"Mark, I made an agreement with Billy, I told him I'd go thru with this,” I quickly announced. He suddenly looked at me. I could tell he didn’t want to do this. “Only because of his Mother,” I added for good measure.
"It's hard, I never had to do anything like this before," said Mark. Neither had I. “What about him?” Mark asked.
“Billy? He’s trying to work it so his mother won’t find out about him. That’s the one thing in his favor. She’s a mighty fine lady, Mark.” I could tell Mark was still not too interested in doing this. But I suddenly felt very sorry for Mrs. Havecourt and couldn’t stand the thought of her find out the disappointing truth after all these years. “Then will you take a chance at it? Make like it’s play acting?” I pleaded with him. “It shouldn’t be too hard. After all, son, you never knew your own grandmother and I’m thinking any boy would be mighty proud to have such a fine lady as his real grandmother.” I smiled warmly at him, hoping my smile would show him everything would be okay.
Mark just looked at me and sighed. He still didn’t want to do it. He looked at me and I knew he would do as I asked. We said nothing. I just got up and started for the house. Mark followed close behind me.
One good thing about having Mrs. Havecourt there – we had one heck of an excellent supper that night! She was interested in learning more about “Peter,” and at one point, Mark even mentioned that he had a picture of his mother she could see. But when Mark started to get it, Billy decided he’d show me that he could pull this off and offered to get the picture himself. Mark had mentioned the picture was on the desk, but as Billy looked around the room he couldn’t find it.
I suddenly realized he was having trouble and came to his rescue, reminding him that he had asked me to put the desk in the bedroom the day before.
Meanwhile, three men rode into town. I bet you can’t guess who they were! One of the men stated, “I just remembered, he used to talk about a town like this where he picked up his mail.” Another one of the outlaws stated there were a dozen towns like this between here and Santa Fe. They went to get a drink in the nice, quiet saloon before going to ask some questions.
Back at the ranch, Mr. Havecourt and I were just finishing moving my leather chair when we suddenly heart a gunshot from outside. My boy had gone outside with Luis, so my instincts kicked in. I ran for the front door, grabbing my rifle on the way out. “What happened?” I demanded to know. Come to find out, Luis had misfired his gun. Thankfully no one was hurt.
But suddenly, we heard a gasp from behind us. We all ran over to Mrs. Havecourt to see what was wrong. She assured us nothing was wrong and announced that breakfast was ready.
That night, Mark is sitting up in bed trying to think on everything that’s happened. He heard a knock at the bedroom door. It was Mrs. Havecourt bringing him in some warm milk for a bedtime snack. Mark smiled at her and thanked her. He took a sip of it. “You’re gonna be leaving in the morning, aren’t you?” Mark asked. She nodded and wondered if he’d miss her. Mark thought on that question for a minute. “I think so…grandmother.”
She smiled at that. “That’s the first time you’ve called me grandmother.” She stood up and left. Mark sat there thinking on that. He wasn’t quite sure what to make of that.
The next morning came too soon for Mrs. Havecourt. She suddenly found herself wanting to stay longer, which was only natural. But Billy, her own son, couldn’t hear of it! “Well, that’d be nice mother, but I’m afraid that ranch life is a little rugged for you. I’ll tell you what, later on when you’re feeling better, I could send for you.”
I watched and listened silently. I couldn’t understand how any man could look his mother in the eye and lie to her like that! It made me mad.
Mrs. Havecourt then turned to say goodbye to mark. “Would you mind if I say goodbye to you here? Stations are, well all those people in a hurry, one never has the chance to say the right thing.” She was crying as she said goodbye.
Suddenly, she fainted. I caught her before she fell. I carried her into the bedroom and laid her down, thinking she had fainted and a little cold water would wake her up. “Saying goodbye, it breaks her heart,” Luis commented.
But as I examined her, I could tell this was more then just a fainting spell. There was something seriously wrong with her. I told Mark to go to town for the doctor. I was worried about this nice woman who had brought such happiness into our lives in just the hours she was here. But as I turned to look at Billy, he was worried about his own skin. He told Luis to go with Mark to make sure he didn’t bring back anyone else.
Unfortunately, Luis's going into town with Mark would cause even more problems. You know those men from the saloon? Well, they saw Luis.
They brought the Doc back. Mark was sitting at the table looking really worried. Billy was pacing the floor. He was really nervous. “Why couldn’t she stay in Boston! Why did she have to come out here?” Billy was angry that his life was being disrupted this way. He was thinking only of himself – not about his mother and what could be wrong with her.
His angry, selfish words hurt Mark badly. “You’re no good!” Mark declared. He cried. “You’re just no good!”
He didn’t deny it. “You’re right, kid. I’m no good. But I like it that way. I want it to stay that way. Why did she have to come?”
I was getting quite sick of this worthless no good man. He didn’t deserve a mother like her, and that was for certain! “You can’t understand that, can you?” I suddenly asked angrily.
The minute the doc came out of the bedroom Billy demanded to know what was wrong. Doc Burrage stated it was a lot worse then she had led him to believe. “Her lungs are beginning to fill. I would say she hasn’t more then an hour to live.”
Billy just seemed angry about this news. But Mark…I reckon he suddenly realized what this woman meant to him. He jumped from the chair and threw his arms around me as he started crying. “Take it easy, Mark.” I tried to comfort him. I was angry that Billy wasn’t this upset – a practical stranger was mourning for her while her own son didn’t. I held Mark and patted his back, trying to give him comfort.
"She can't die doc. Don’t you see she can’t die?" That was the extinct of Billy’s mourning for his mother.
Suddenly, several gunshots were fired in the house. Mark and I hit the floor and I protected Mark in a close embrace. When the gunshots ceased, I ordered Mark to stay there and to stay low. Billy and Luis were kneeling by the window looking outside. I grabbed my rifle and crawled over to the door. “Billy! Billy Boy!” I suddenly heard from outside.
“Like an Apache, he trails!” Luis stated.
It was Billy’s former business partner. He was yelling for Billy to come out so they could talk friendly. I demanded to know what they wanted. “My head,” Billy answered as he told Luis to go around back where one of the outlaws were surely headed. Then he made an announcement. "McCain we're all in this together. Stinger won't leave anybody alive who could testify against him."
The doc wanted to know what was going on. I told him I’d explain later and to go check on Mrs. Havecourt. But before he could, she walked out the door crying, wondering what was happening. I jumped up and grabbed her, pulling her back into the bedroom. Everyone followed close behind me.
Suddenly, more gunshots sounded. This time they were coming in through the bedroom window. I moved the dresser in front of the window to block the gunshots.
“Billy, Billy! No sense in us fussing like this! I’m thinking about the other people in the house!” Stinger yelled. “It ain’t me, mind. Santos here can get real ugly when he’s mad!”
Mrs. Havecourt was upset about the shooting, but Billy tried to calm her down, telling her the whole thing was a mistake.
I nudged him and motioned him to leave the bedroom. Another shot fired. I ordered him to get Luis and make a break for it. He didn’t want to leave his mother. “Look, I don’t care what happens to you, you bought your ticket a long time ago!” I declared angrily. “But your being in this house is putting my boy’s life in jeopardy.” And that was causing me even more worry! I started to turn back to the window, but I had one more thing to say to him. “Besides, you want your mother to die of a broken heart knowing who and what you really are? You’ve got to draw those men away from here! Now get going!”
He went to go get Luis, but he was dead.
I looked out the window again to see that they had set my wagon full of hay on fire. They were giving Billy just two minutes to come out before they burned him out. Suddenly, Stinger called him Billy St. John. Mrs. Havecourt heard this and knew Billy St. John was an outlaw. “Billy St. John, the outlaw?” she cried.
Billy ran into the bedroom and went over to her. “You’ve heard of Billy St. John?” he asked.
“He isn’t here, is he, William?” she asked.
Billy knew she’d find out soon anyhow. “Yes, Billy St. John is here.”
I was listening from the doorway. She was just about to die and I wasn’t going to allow her to die with a broken heart, discovering that everything she thought about her son was a lie. I quickly came forward. “That’s right, ma’am. I’m Billy St. John,” I quickly announced.
Mark looked at me like I was crazy, but I did what I felt I had to do to help a nice, old lady die peacefully. “I don’t understand,” Mrs. Havecourt said.
“I figured taking a new name and getting a job would start me off on a new life. It just didn’t work out that way.” Deep in my heart, I knew I was doing the right thing. She suddenly told me she felt very sorry for me. She asked me what I was going to do. “I don’t know,” I answered honestly.
I gave Billy a hard look, the I turned and walked out of the room. Billy and I went back to the front door. “Thanks, McCain,” Billy said. I assured him that I hadn’t done it for him. Stinger was yelling outside again, telling Billy that his time was running out.
Suddenly, Billy grabbed the rifle out of my hand and went to the other side of the door. “I don’t want you getting brave on me, McCain,” Billy said. “You can pick this up after I’m gone. I’ll leave it on the porch.”
I couldn’t believe he was being so stupid! I asked him if he thought he could do this alone. “It’s the only way for any of you to come out of this alive. Well, they want me but they’re a lot more interested in the money. I’ll draw them away from the house. You know, with a little luck, I may eve see you again.”
“Times up!” Stinger announced.
Billy stood up. He had his gun pointed at me again. If he wanted to go kill himself, I wasn’t going to stop him! “You really didn’t think I would have hurt your boy, did you McCain?”
“I’ve seen you change over the last twenty-four hours, Billy. If it wasn’t for her, I would have stopped you a long time ago!” I think he knew that – and he knew that I could have.
He opened the door and walked out onto the porch. Gently, he leaned my rifle against the post on the porch, then made his way off the porch. He walked slowly, confidently – or should I say stupidly – toward them. Two quick shots rang out and he fell to the ground – dead!
“Stupid fool,” Stinger mumbled.
They honed in closer to the house. I waited for my opportunity to get my rifle. I watched nervously as two of them edged up around the wagon and one was the side of my house. I knew I had only one chance to kill them. Billy’s stupidity had lessened my odds considerably. It was three against one, and I had to survive for my son.
I leapt out the door, grabbing my gun as I leapt off the porch and rolled, avoiding their shots. Then I swiftly turned and fired my rifle quickly at the two by the wagon. They both fell dead. From the corner of my eye I saw the third outlaw coming towards me. Quick as a whip, I slid my gun around and fired, killing him.
All three were dead.
So was Mrs. Havecourt’s beloved son.
It was getting close to her time to go. Mark was upset. He didn’t want her to go. Dr. Burrage walked away to leave us alone with this woman who had only entered our life 24 hours ago. She wanted to tell me something. I bent my head over so she could speak softly to me. "When William returns, tell him I decided not to go on to California after all. I'm going to stay here with him…” She looked at Mark and smiled. “…and my grandson." Mark was about to start crying again. "You seemed frightened of me when I first arrived. You aren't frightened of me anymore, are you?"
I watched my son suffer the loss of her as if she were his own grandmother. He was crying again. "No, No I'm not grandma."
"Thank you dear," she said. She closed her eyes and died. She had died a happy woman at her grandson’s side. I wouldn’t have wanted it any other way.
Mark broke down. He threw himself down over her lifeless body and wept. I put a comforting hand on his shoulder but allowed him to mourn. I was glad he was there. She deserved to had someone mourning over her at her death.
I felt so bad for my boy. He had finally found a grandmother to love, only to loose her.
Later that day, I went out on the porch to check on Mark. I must admit that I was a bit concerned about my boy. After all, death was hard for a child to take. I looked around and found him sitting silently and sadly on the side porch. I quietly walked up to him to allow him to talk out his feelings. "Something bothering you, Mark?"
“I can’t stop thinking about him, Pa?” Mark stated. “The kind of a man he was, an outlaw. Do you think he really loved her?”
"Oh he loved her alright son. Ya', know Mark, there's a little bit of good even in the worst of men. Her coming here brought it out in Billy. It’s too bad he had to go to such lengths to prove it to her."
Suddenly, Mark stood up with a big smile on his face. "Ya' know Pa, for a while it was like I really had a grandmother. She sure was a nice lady."
“Yes she was, son.” I agreed as I put my arm around him. “A real nice lady!” Then Mark and I made our way back into the house.
So you see, it was a very strange 24 hours, but I think Mark and I came out of the whole thing loving and appreciating what we had together a lot more, as we have several times before.
piddlin' stuff.....Kevin Hagen appeared in two episodes ― The Prodigal as Billy St. John/William Havecourt, he was the one who took Lucas and Mark hostage and forced them to pretend he owned the McCain Ranch and that Mark was his son ― The Decision as Harry Debers, he was one of the riders who warned Lucas about testifying against Corey Hazlitt.
Josephine Hutchinson played Christine Havecourt. She was the mother of Billy St. John.
Warren Oates appeared in five episodes ― The Marshal as Andrew Shelton, he is the brother who took off his hat and said..... "Why Florry, you ugly old devil. You went & got yourself kilt" ― Bloodlines as Jud Malackie, he's the brother Micah knocked the gun out of his hand ― The Prodigal as Santos ― Miss Milly as Marty Ryan, the heavy of the two ― Day of Reckoning as Will Breen, he's the one wearing the derby.
Warren Oates played a brother in three episodes - Bloodlines - The Marshal - Day of Reckoning.
Lee Van Cleef has appeared in four episodes ― The Deadly Wait as Dan Maury, he's the bad dude who crippled Micah's arm ― The Prodigal as Stinger, he was one of the cowboys after Bill St. John ― The Clarence Bibs Story as Wicks, he was one of the cowboys edging Clarence on to kill Tanner ― Death Never Rides Alone as Johnny Drako, he was the cowboy who stood with Lucas and Micah against Billy Graves and his gang.
Rodolfo Hoyos Jr. appeared in two episodes ― Home Ranch as Pablo, he was one of Jackford's men, the who took the bandanna off of Montgomery's mouth ― The Prodigal as Luis Torre, he was Billy St. John's sidekick.
Hope Summers appeared in sixteen episodes as Hattie Denton, owner of The General Store. Hattie was first introduced to The Rifleman in Eight Hours to Die.
Rhys Williams appeared as Doc Burrage in six episodes ― Blood Brother ― Bloodlines ― Letter of the Law ― A Case of Identity ― Sins of the Father ― The Prodigal.
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?
Joe E. Benson appeared in The Rifleman many times, probably more times than listed. Sometimes credited & sometimes not.
*Please note: In Dark Day at North Fork he appeared as two different characters - as one of the townsmen & the bartender.
Joe was a good friend & a neighbor of Chuck's. He helped Chuck build a tree house for the boys and also help build the addition onto the house which was later called the den. (One of the several tree house pictures)
Blooper - The Prodigal
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
Sins of the Father
around The McCain Ranch