"Welcome to the McCain Ranch"
This was turning out to be one whopper of a year for Mark and I! It
seems the older Mark got, the more trouble we both got in. First we
had that problem up in the High Country where we were both put into
forced labor for a time, then Mark was kidnapped and held for
ransom. Now Mark and I were about to face yet another challenge.
Yes, I said Mark and I. Mark was the center of my latest
You see, Mark and I had gone on this hunting trip for our winter
meat, but we weren’t having much luck!
But before I get to that part of the story, let me tell you about
the goings on in a town called Lordsburg, New Mexico Territory. More
specifically, it was in the Territorial Saloon. There were some men
inside that saloon who were making a lot of trouble. The Sheriff was
outside waiting for some volunteers to come back him up. But one of
the townsmen came up to him and gave him the bad news – these were
all the volunteers! He was fighting the Skull gang, a gang that was
large and powerful. “What do you wanta do? Just stand here and let
Holt Coyle run this town?” The Sheriff asked the townsman. There
were four of them and for members of the gang in there – and the
four in the saloon were drunk.
The Sheriff advised his friend to go to Las Cruises and bring back
the Sheriff and some help to protect them against Coyle and his
gang. When Holt Coyle came, they’d be ready for him!
About that time, one of the men ran out of the saloon. The Sheriff
knocked him over the head with his gun. One down – three to go.
Now, as I was saying while ago, Mark and I were on a hunting trip.
Mark was gathering firewood for a fire. I rode up to him on Razor
and told him I was going over the hill to try to pick up some fresh
tracks. “I’ll have supper ready when you get back,” Mark promised.
“Good! Maybe we’ll have better luck tomorrow!” I stated.
“I hope so,” Mark answered as he watched me leave. But no sooner had
I left when Mark saw a buck scampering through the meadow. He
started to yell for me but realized that he was already too far
away. Mark knew he was supposed to stay by the campfire, but he
couldn’t resist! He followed the deer for quite a ways. He climbed
up on a bluff to see where he was. When he tried to climb down, he
fell off, hitting his head on the rock. He hit is hard enough to be
I rode back into camp after dark to find everything just like that –
dark. Mark hadn’t built the campfire. “Mark!” I hollered, but got no
answer. I called his name again and looked around. “Mark, where are
you?” I was getting mad! That boy was supposed to stay at the
campfire! I bent down near camp sight – he hadn’t even lit the fire.
I set out looking for him. I was able to track him to the bluff. But
when I climbed up on it and shouted his name, I saw nothing and
heard nothing. His trail was gone, and so was he! I had to get help
to look for him.
I hurried back to the camp sight and left Mark a note to stay put
when he got back. Then I got on Razor and took off looking for him.
There’s no telling where that boy was, but one thing was for sure –
he wasn’t where he was supposed to be!
I looked and looked! I rode quite a ways looking for him. I had to
get help! I rode until I finally came to a ranch. I decided to see
if they had seen him or could help me look. But when I got off my
horse and started into the gate, someone fired a shot. I didn’t like
that too much and went for my rifle. “Leave it,” a voice demanded. I
turned to see a man walking up to me. I slid my rifle back into the
boot. “Now, walk away from that horse.
“Look mister, I need help-“ I started. But he fired a shot at me.
“Now, you do as I say or the next one won’t miss!” the man demanded.
I walked away from my horse.
"Now look mister, I need help. What place is this?"
"It's the Skull ranch and you’re lucky to be alive.” Two other men
came up to me. “Now get movin’.” One of the men took my rifle out of
the boot and handed it to the first man. Then they all escorted me
Meanwhile, Mark woke up and was confused at first. He looked around
and finally was able to remember where he was and what he was doing.
He made his way back to the camp only to find me gone.
The men led me inside an elaborate house. A man sat in his chair. "I
found him riding up to the gate," said Pascal – he’s the one who
The man looked at me. "You’re a long ways from anywhere mister,
what's your business?"
I started towards him. "I came for help. I need some riders. My
boy's lost out there somewhere."
"Where?" Ask Holt.
"This side of the low range, about three miles. We were out hunting
and got separated."
Holt got up, he started to walk around the room. "You boys feel like
taking a little ride, lookin' for a lost kid?" There were no takers.
“It appears they’re not interested.”
All I cared about right now was finding my boy! "Look mister! I've
got to find him, if he's hurt or can't....."
"Shut up!" Holt yelled. I did. "That's better." Holt looked at my
rifle that Pascal was still holding. "Is that his gun?" He took my
rifle from Pascal. Holt told me to sit down.
"Look mister if you won't help me at least..." I started.
But he interrupted me. "Do as I say, McCain...sit down!" I sat down.
"Sure, I know you. This gun of yours has quite a reputation, even
down here." He sat down. "You’re lucky Pascal, they call this one
"The Rifleman. My name is Holt Coyle; does that mean anything to
"Skull Ranch, Holt Coyle, they go together," I answered.
"Did you know this was the Skull when you came in here?"
"Not until he already had a gun on me."
"Too bad! But since you already know me and of my ranch, you must
also know that no one leaves here alive, unless I say so.” He threw
my rifle to Warren and told him to keep an eye on me and to kill me
if he had to.
He started outside. I jumped up and went over to him. “My boy’s out
there! Would you listen to reason?” Warren stopped me. He stuck my
rifle in my chest. He ordered me to sit down.
Holt ordered his men to go find Mark and bring him back here. He was
going to find out if I was as good with my rifle as everyone said I
Mark had gone back to camp. He found the note and built the fire,
waiting for me to come back. He heard horses approaching. “Pa? Pa,
over here!” he yelled. He jumped up, but saw Holt’s men there. “Oh,
I thought you were my Pa.”
“Luke McCain your father?” one of the men asked him. Mark said I
was. “Alright boy, saddle up!”
"What for?" Mark asked. Mark started to back up, but they grabbed
him. “Wait! You can’t do this! I gotta wait for my Pa,” Mark
declared. But they forced him to go with them.
I sat in the chair trying to figure out what was going on. He
offered me something to eat and drink, but I declined. All I wanted
was to go find my boy! I wasn’t in the mood for food, drink, or
conversation. He bragged about making his own cactus wine – he
didn’t like going into town to get stuff when he could grow it right
“You see, I like to keep my ranch self-sufficient. We raise our own
beef, make our own food, bake our own bread. Everyone here has a
“So I’ve heard,” I answered.
“And just what have you heard?”
“Skull Ranch – Haven for every outlaw and saddle tramp in the
country,” I answered.
“And the law can’t touch us.” He finished off his drink and started
pouring another one. With a smile, he bragged again. “We’ve even got
our own cemetery. A boot hill for law men. Right Warren?”
Warren bent over me as he spoke. “And we bury ‘em deep!” We heard
horses ride up. Warren left to keep them outside until Holt was
ready for them.
“Of course not every lawman is buried in the cemetery who should be.
In Lordsburg there’s one that bothers me – quite a little thorn in
my side. You know what he did? Some of my boys were in town having a
few drinks…relaxing a little. He threw them into jail.”
“That’s his job,” I stated.
“Perhaps. But it’s my job to see that he doesn’t do it again.
Tomorrow I’m going into town and get his boys out. That’ll be no
trouble. But that sheriff – that little thorn…he does trouble me.
He’s a very brave man or a fool. One compliments the other, wouldn’t
you say, Mr. McCain? Of course, it wouldn’t be fitting for him to be
executed for breaking my law by just anybody. But if he were to be
executed by the greatest rifle of all…that indeed would be a great
and fitting honor. Don’t you agree, Mr. Executioner?”
I stood up from my chair hardly believing what he was saying. Coyle,
you’re out of your mind!”
That made Holt mad. He hurried to his door and opened it. “Take a
look outside!” I did. Mark was there being held by two men.
“Pa!” Mark cried and tried to run to me. Suddenly, I was hit over
the head and fell to the ground – out cold!
Holt ordered Mark locked in the barn. Then he looked down at me.
“Amusing, isn't it? Lucas McCain, Skull executioner!”
I woke up later that night and found myself laying in the hay in the
barn. My hands were tied behind my back. I got up and went to the
front door, trying to open it. It was locked. It was no use – no
matter how hard I tried, it wouldn’t budge! Mark was up above in the
hayloft. He heard me moving around and crawled over to look through
a crack in the floor. “Pa?” Mark called.
I looked up. I could have sworn I heard his voice! I slowly walked
back into the barn and looked up. “Pa?” There it was again! I picked
up the pace.
"Mark, is that you?" I asked in a loud whisper.
“You alright?” Mark was close to tears. He was really trying to hold
it together for me!
“Yes son,” I answered. “I’m alright.”
"What do they want?"
“I don’t know, Mark.” It was a lie, but I couldn’t tell him the
truth. I had to get him out of there, and if I told him the truth,
he’d never leave! "What happened to you this afternoon?"
"I saw a big buck and chased it, I slipped into a ravine, guess I
got knocked out. Then when I finally got my senses back you were
already gone. And those…those men came...." he started to cry. "Oh
Pa, it's all my fault."
"Forget about that,” I stated. “Now listen to me." I stepped up on a
bale of hay so Mark could hear me better. "Is there any way you can
get out of there son?"
Mark looked around. "There's a boarded up window. Maybe I could
break through and drop to the ground. But Pa, I couldn't leave you."
"Don't worry about me, you've got to get out of here and get help.
Now can you do it? What about your pocketknife, do you still have
it?" I told him to try and pry through the window.
"I’d try but...I just can't leave ya' Pa," said Mark.
I understood why he didn’t want to, but I had to be firm with him.
It was the only way to keep my boy safe and get help! "Mark, you'll
do it, that's an order son, you do it! You've got to get out of here
and get help, that's the most important thing." He wasn't sure why
this was all happening. I told him this was the Skull Ranch that was
all he needed to know. He remembered me telling him about it. “Well,
that’s all you have to know. Now, get to work on that window!” I
“Yes sir.” I could hear him working.
I stood there in silence and listened. He made a loud noise. “Be
careful, son.” Mark tried to be quieter. I stood in anticipation as
I listened to him quietly tear the boards away. I heard the door
opening. I knew I had to go now. Mark was on his own. “Careful,
Mark!” I jumped off the bale of hay and hurried over to the door so
they wouldn’t suspect anything. The door opened. Two of Holt’s men
came in to take me up to the house. Pascal said he’d check on Mark.
I hoped Mark had gotten away.
Pascal went into the hayloft and found that Mark had indeed broken
through. He left his knife behind.
Pascal wasted no time in reporting the news. I stood there as Holt
looked at the knife. “Your kid’s pretty good with this thing. Ally
had a hard time getting it away from him." And just to be sure he
doesn’t get any new ideas, he’s gonna stay right here with him when
we go into town tomorrow. Is that clear?”
I had no idea if Mark was captured or not. “Alright, whatever you
say. Just don’t harm my boy!” I begged.
The next morning, a man was traveling and stopped to get some water.
He was by a large pond when he saw Mark stumbling to get water. He
was near sick from thirst and fell face down in the water to drink.
The stranger got off his horse and grabbed Mark out of the water. He
was drinking too fast and had to stop him. Mark could hardly tell
him who he was. He passed out.
We were getting ready to leave. I asked to see my boy, but Holt said
no. I’d see him when he got back. I didn’t like that answer, but
then I was in no position to argue. “I can assure you don’t have to
worry about him. Unless you decide to do other then I said.” I
turned and looked at the other men. “No doubt they’ll be expecting
us in Lordsburg. I’m looking forward to that. They won’t do
anything. They’re a frightened people. I want this to be a lesson to
them. They’ll be only one killing. The Sheriff. I shouldn't have to
remind you, it's the sheriff's life against that of your boy,
“I’m gonna find out if your reputation is justified.” He took my
rifle and emptied out the chamber. He left only one bullet. “One
bullet’s all you should need.” Then he looked at me and grinned
evilly. “Oh, if you should miss…” He allowed the statement to die.
“…But you won’t.”
The man that found Mark was the one who had gone for more help to
fight the Skull gang. He couldn’t bring anyone back – the Sheriff
had reported he couldn’t spare anybody. Mark could hardly speak or
stand – he was so sick and tired. Mark had managed to report he had
escaped from the Skull Ranch though. “It’s my Pa. You gotta help
him! They got him!” Mark declared between gasps of breath.
There were just two of them – the Sheriff and the other guy. The
other two volunteers had disappeared. “You gotta help my Pa!” Mark
begged. “They could kill him.” The Sheriff was sorry he couldn’t
help me. He had to stay here and wait. He was disappointed that he
hadn’t been able to get help from Las Cruises. He had to keep Holt
from getting his men out of jail.
We came riding into town. Everyone scattered – they didn’t want to
be around when the shooting started. The deputy saw them coming and
told the Sheriff. Mark followed them out onto the porch. They warned
him to get back inside.
But Mark saw me riding with the Skull gang. “Pa!” Mark said quietly.
He started for me, but the Sheriff stopped him and pushed him back
inside the jail. He was mad.
“What are you trying to do, son? I thought you said your Pa was a
prisoner out at Skull!”
“He was!” Mark was confused.
“Then what is he doing with Holt Coyle? What’s he doing riding in
with him?” Mark didn’t have the answers. He was confused.
“I don’t know! I don’t know!” When he got his chance, Mark sprang
for the door. "Pa, Pa, Pa!" He ran out into the street.
I was happy he had escaped, but worried he was in my line of fire.
"Get back son!" I yelled. “Get back, son!”
The deputy ran after him and took him back inside. One of Holt's men
shot at them. I took my rifle and hit him with it. I knocked him off
his horse. I jumped off my horse. Holt kept trying to shoot at me.
With all the shooting going on the horses were all over the place.
Holt couldn't get me. I finally got an opening and shot Holt. Then
Pascal started to shoot at me. I shot him. He fell off his horse –
dead into the dirt.
The sheriff and the deputy came out and arrested Warren.
Mark came out then too. He saw me still standing and okay in the
street. Mark ran to me and gave me a big hug as he cried. He was
glad I was okay and it was over. So was I!
We made plans with the Sheriff and Deputy for the next morning. The
Sheriff pulled something out of his pocket. "You see this Mark?"
"Yeah, what is it?" Mark asked.
"It's a map I made of the parts here 'bout. I made it when I was
just about your age. Haven't used it for many, many years."
"What do you need a map for?" I asked.
"Gonna show you both where there's more antelope then you've seen in
"That's right!" Said Applegate. "You came for antelope we'll see you
"Well what are we waitin' for?" Mark asked excitedly.
"Boys right, that's why we came!" We all took off to go hunting
"Holt Coyle invites
you to stop by The Skull Ranch"
piddlin' stuff.....Lyle Bettger
appeared in two episodes
The Wrong Man as Jay Jefferson,
he was the
corrupted marshal who was looking for an outlaw with a
price on his head ― Skull as
Holt Coyle, the owner of the notorious Skull Ranch that
has become a haven for outlaws.
Thomas Brown played the Sheriff of
John Alvin played Applegate. He was
the deputy and the one who found Mark at the pond.
Lewis Charles appeared
in three episode ― The Indian as Slade, the man
who was responsible for the brutal murder of a rancher
and his family ― One
Went to Denver as Eban Tate as the cowboy who guarded the safe and in
this picture played checkers with Micah ― Skull
as Pascal, one of Hoyt Coyle's men.
Don Drysdale played Warren. He
was the one who the sheriff and the deputy took into custody.
Skull — Don Drysdale as Warren
George Willeford played Mallery,
one of Holt Coyle's men, the cowboy in black.
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
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
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 &
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
Does anybody know if the Asian server at the
Skull Ranch is named
Yuki? Does anyone know anything about this person?
*Did you know.....JohnnyCrawford made an
interesting remark about this episode. He said, "I've been counting
ever since the show started the number of times I've said, Pa! Pa!
With this script it makes 847'." ~By
George, That WAS George by Richard K. Shull - The
Indianapolis Times, December 31, 1961
Bloopers - Skull
You've heard Lucas' story, now hear
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
around The McCain Ranch