The Rifleman
"Welcome to the McCain Ranch"

The Spiked Rifle
Episode 49

No matter what, Mark always comes first. With any decision I have to make, The Rifleman - The Spiked Rifle - Episode 49my boy goes into it. When it comes down to it, saving Mark’s life is at the top of that priority. I guess that’s why sometimes it’s so easy to bluff me. When I’m not one hundred percent sure where my boy stands in the odds, I don’t gamble with his life.
I guess I could be an outlaw’s dream if that fact got out.

There was an outlaw once who knew that from the start. And he is part of my story tonight.

It all started when a man named Clay Fallmont was on his way into North Fork to ride shotgun on the stagecoach that would be carrying a lot of money. But there were three outlaws waiting for him. The head of the gang was named Austin Stark, and he ordered his two men to shoot Clay. They both shot and Clay fell from his horse. When they went to check on him, it was clear that they had both hit their target. But before the men continued on their travels to North Fork, Stark ordered one of his men to bury him. They didn’t want to do it, but he was insistent that they do it anyway.

“There will be $20,000.00 on that stage tomorrow, and I intend on obtaining it with as little risk as possible,” Stark stated. “Bury him!”

When Mark and I were leaving town, Micah told me that John Hamilton, the bank president, wanted to see me. “I need your help,” John stated after he let us into the locked bank.

“Well, you’ve got it. You know that,” I assured him.

But that was before I knew what the favor was. He wanted me to ride shotgun on the stage the next day. I immediately held up my hand. “Now, wait a minute John-“ I started.

John held up his hand to stop me. “I know you don’t hire your rifle out and I took you at your word. I hired Clay Fallmont.”

Even Mark knew who Clay Fallmont was. I told John that he had never had a stage held up. “What do you need me for?”

John looked at his watch. Mr. Fallmont was supposed to arrive at noon. I reminded John that a lot of things could have held him up. “All I want is some insurance. I’ve got to ship out $20,000.00 to the Federal Reserve in Albuquerque. Now please, stay in town until the morning. I’ll pay the hotel bill!” John begged me. “If Mr. Fallmont shows up, well good! If he doesn’t, well you’ve got to ride shotgun for me, Lucas.”

John was a good friend, and I knew that $20,000.00 was a lot of money to leave unguarded. I also knew that John trusted me more then most. “Well, the way you tell it, I guess I do!” I stated. “But I sure hope Fallmont shows up! Look John, we’ve got a lot of chores to do at the ranch and I don’t like the idea of putting them off.”

Stark and his men were in the hotel restaurant eating when Mark and I arrived. But I wouldn’t find out about him until later!
We walked into the hotel. Eddied already had a room for us. I guess John was pretty sure I would say yes! "Mr. Hamilton tells me you might be riding shotgun tomorrow."

I told him only if Fallmont didn't show up. Eddie asked me if we were going right up to our room or eating first. I started to answer, but Mark, my growing boy, only had one thing on his mind at the moment. “Well, what’s for dessert, Eddie?” he asked.

Eddie bent towards Mark to tease him. “Eh, chocolate cake,” he answered, pretending it wasn’t something that would appeal to Mark.
“Let’s go eat!” Mark declared.

I agreed and Mark and I walked into the dining room. Mark immediately picked up the menu and started looking for it as I hung my hat up. The way he was acting, one woThe Rifleman - The Spiked Rifle - Episode 49uld think I never fed him! I turned and grabbed his hat from off his head to hang it up. That boy!

As I walked in, one of Stark’s men whispered, “I know him.” Then after Mark and I sat down he begged Stark, “Let’s get out of here!” But Stark sent his two men off while he sat to finish eating.

“Well, what are you going to have?” I asked Mark, who was intently studying the menu.

“Chocolate cake?” He tried.

“No, I mean in front of that,” I stated sternly.

Mark looked at me, putting on his cutest face. “More chocolate cake?”

“More chocolate cake?” I mocked him. Then I grabbed the menu from his hand. He knew he would never get away with that! “You’re gonna have meat, potatoes and vegetables,” I ordered for him. Then since he didn’t seem to be in a sensible mood tonight, I ordered for him. “Lots of vegetables!” I told the waiter as he approached our table. “Roast beef and potatoes for two, milk for the boy, coffee for me later. Hm?”

I know I was sort of rude to the waiter, but I was frustrated that I was having to hold off on all the work we had at the ranch.

Stark stood up then and walked out to Eddie. “That’s a nice looking boy,” he stated to Eddie as he watched Mark and I talk at the table.

Eddie looked in our direction. “Oh Mark. Yes, they don’t make ‘em or raise ‘em any better. His pa sees to that.”

Stark then went over to the saloon where his men were waiting. They were nervous about my riding shotgun on the stage. They had overheard me tell Eddie about it at the hotel earlier. They informed Stark that I handled the rifle like a six-gun. “We would have been better off with Fallmont,” one of his men stated.

“Out of the frying pan and into the fire. Is that it?” Stark asked them.

They wanted to call off the whole thing. They were scared of me. But Stark had a plan – a plan that would lead to my tough decision. Stark held up a kitten he had found outside the saloon. “Mr. McCain is about as dangerous as this kitten!”

I was sure disappointment to see that Mr. Fallmont didn’t show up the next day. That meant that I was obligated to ride shotgun. Mark sat on his horse as I climbed up into the seat of the coach. “Don’t forget now. You come in every day before dark to stay at Hattie Denton’s,” I gave Mark my strict orders. I told Mark to just do the daily chores at the ranch. I smiled at Mark as we pulled out.

I didn’t know it at the time, but Stark motioned for one of his men to ride off in the direction Mark was going.

We traveled for quite awhile. I kept my eyes on the road all around us, watching for anyone wanting to hold up the stage. I never saw anyone.
But they were behind us. Stark and his men were being very sneaky about following us.

We arrived at a relay station where we would stay for thirty minutes. I cautiously looked around for anything suspicious, but saw nothing. There was something about $20,000.00 that made a man nervous! Some of us were talking about the nice country we had when suddenly the stagecoach driver saw a rider approaching. He called to me and I immediately grabbed my rifle. When he approached, he said hello to me and called me by name. My guard immediately went up.

“You want something, mister?” I asked. He got off his horse. I came towards him, training my rifle on him. “I asked you a question!”

“Yes, the strongbox,” he answered as if it was the most normal thing in the world. “Please. I’m not armed.”

The man from the stage asked Stark if he was loco. “I’ve got $3,000.00 cattle money in that box!”

“A bonus!” Stark smiled. “All the more reason why I want it. You see, this is a hold up,” Stark staThe Rifleman - The Spiked Rifle - Episode 49ted as he looked at me. "You could very easily pull that trigger and kill me… and your son."

That immediately got my attention. “My son?” I said as fear entered me. “Where is he?” Hadn’t I just left him in town? How did they get to him so quickly?
“At your ranch. But he’s not alone. There’s a friend of mine there with him. If he doesn’t hear form me in two hours, well unfortunately he’ll have to kill the boy.”
He was being a bit humorous about this, but I didn’t find anything funny about it. I angrily cocked my rifle, ready to blow him away and go after the men who were holding my son. He backed off a bit.

“Two hours, huh? It’s at least three hours hard riding to my ranch!” I declared as I became even more angry and confused as to what to do. Could he be bluffing?
But Stark wasn’t done yet. “That’s precisely why I decided to make it two. Now, if you decide to be a hero, Mr. McCain, you kill me and save the money,” he smiled. “But you still can’t make it back to your ranch in time to save your boy.” Then he told me he could save Mark with a signal and a relay rider.
"He's bluffing," Barton declared.

“You think I am, Mr. McCain? If you do, you can merely press that trigger.” I put my finger on the trigger. After his threatening my son’s life, it wouldn’t take much for me to pull that trigger. “Of course you would be taking a big gamble on your son’s life!” Stark told me that it was my son’s life against the money.

I must say that I didn’t know what to say. I was still in shock while I was riding on the stagecoach all this time; my son’s life was in danger. But then I suddenly heard Barton state, “I’ve got money in that strongbox too, mister! You ain’t bluffing me!” Then he raised his gun to shoot Stark.

I knocked the gun right out of his hand. I was angry and worried for my boy. “If your gonna call his bluff, you better put in a lot more then money in this pot, mister!” I declared.

I knew what I had to do. If I had any doubts left, Mrs. Hardy took them away from me. "Give it to him Mr. McCain. Give him whatever he wants. The life of a child isn't worth all the money in the world. I know the boy's mother is gone, so I'll speak for her. I have two of my own and another on the way. We don't suffer the pain and anguish and the love and wonder of birth to give forth a child's life to be wasted. A life to be bargained for money. You can replace money, but you can't replace a life of a child." said Mrs. Hardy. Her voice held the desperation in it that only a parent could express.

Stark thanked her for pleading his case so eloquently. He knew he had me. He knew that from the moment he got here. I couldn’t voice my answer. I was too emotional – too worried about my boy, and too angry that my son was being used as some sort of weapon!

I looked up at the driver in silence. He didn’t hesitate for a second, but dropped the strongbox down on the ground.

“Thank you. Now open it.” I just stared at him. I couldn’t believe scum like this was allowed to walk on God’s earth! “Please.” I slowly walked over to it and shot the lock off of it.

He loaded the money into his saddle bag as I stood there and hopelessly watched. He thanked me for cooperating. “What about my boy?” I asked. Mark was the only thing on my mind right now. I had to see him…to know he was okay!

“Ah yes…your boy.” I didn’t even like the way he said that! As if he was a side note – something that was easily forgotten. HeThe Rifleman - The Spiked Rifle - Episode 49 called to another man, Gustavo, that was waiting a little ways off. Gustavo rode up. Stark told me he’d give the signal to release Mark in fifteen minutes. “Mr. McCain, I know what you’re thinking. After we are out of sight, you intend to mount up and follow me. Don’t. Because you see, Mr. McCain, I’m horribly trustworthy. Ask anyone who knows me.”
My only thought right now was to check on Mark. Then if he was okay, I would go after him. If he wasn’t okay, I’d go after him in time.  I didn’t like what he was saying now. “Meaning what?”

“That for all you know, the boy might be dead right now.” I grabbed him. I wanted nothing more then to wipe that smug smile off his face – especially when he was making such statements against my son! “I said might be.” I released him…roughly. “The only way you’re going to know for certain is to ride back to your ranch and find out,” Stark reminded me.

As he continued talking, I loosened the cinch on his saddle. I was hoping he’d fall off, and at the least, it would slow him down. Because I had every intention to go after him!

“Are you gonna let him ride out like that?” Barton asked.

“Shut up, mister!” the driver ordered.

“You did right, Mr. McCain,” Mrs. Hardy stated.

“There isn’t a man in North Fork who will blame you!” The driver declared to me.

I couldn’t take in their words. I was watching Stark ride off before taking off for my son. But suddenly Barton was mad, blaming me for all this. “All that money besides my $3,000.00!” He complained. He stated he was going after Stark.

I suddenly came unglued. I hurried up to Barton and grabbed him by the jacket. "Now look. You’re not drawing any cards in this game mister. Not while my boy’s life is in danger.” I ordered Zack to get the stage ready to roll. “And you climb aboard and you stay there until you get to where your ticket says your going!” I pushed him away angrily.

There was a horse tied to a tree. I jumped on him and took off for the ranch. I rode as hard as I could back to my ranch. When I rode into the yard, everything was quiet and still. I was frightened. Mark was my world and if anything were to happen to him…

I couldn’t even call out his name. I was afraid he wouldn’t answer. I looked in the barn, but didn’t see him. Then I raced toward the house, praying he was there.

But suddenly I heard a horse whinny. I turned toward the corral. Slowly, I walked up to the horse. “Blue Boy,” I said very quietly. Fear was over every inch of my body. Suddenly I saw him. He was laying facedown in a haystack. I ran to the fence, too scared to walk in – afraid of seeing something I couldn’t deal with. My heart beat fast. “Mark,” I called.

He didn’t move. My heart was beating fast now. Fear gripped me. He hadn’t answered. “Mark!” I yelled this time.

Suddenly, he moved! My precious son moved! He turned and saw me. “Pa,” he said, shocked to see me.

I opened the gate and rushed over to him. “Are you alright, son?” I asked as I grabbed a hold of his arm. “Are you alright?” I demanded to know as I began looking all over his body, still not ready to believe that he was fine.

“Well sure. I just fell asleep and I did most of my chores,” Mark said. He still was confused as to why I was there.

“So you’re alright?” I asked. “Nobody…nobody hurt you?”

“Hurt me?” Mark stared at me, shocked. “Who would want to hurt me?”

“You mean…” I sighed a huge breath of relief. Reality was starting to sit in now. “You’ve been here alone this whole time?”

I realized I had been bluffed. But in that same instance, I knew that if ever another man was to use mThe Rifleman - The Spiked Rifle - Episode 49y son as a weapon again, they would win. Mark was the most important thing to me.  Mark wanted to know what happened to me riding shotgun.

I didn’t have time to talk about that right now. I was worried for Mark. I had to go after this scum, but I couldn’t leave Mark here by himself – not for a second. I ordered him to go inside and get cleaned up, then ride in and stay with Hattie. I couldn’t tell him the truth right now – the words were still to bitter for me to talk about. Mark asked me about the chores. “Forget the chores, son! Go into Hattie’s and wait until I come for you, son!” I begged him desperately as I continued touching him and looking into his eyes.

Then I went to saddle Razor. Mark asked me how long I would be gone. “As long as it takes to call a man’s bluff,” I answered. My anger was now returning.
Stark and his men were racing off pretty fast. I think they knew as soon as I found Mark unharmed that I would be coming after them. But as they raced, Stark’s cinch did give way, sending him tumbling. He ordered one of his men to keep the saddle with him, then they rode on a ways before making camp.

I immediately rode back to the relay station when I left the ranch. I studied the hoof prints in the dirt. I was now thinking more clearly and was easily able to pick up Stark’s tracks. I took off in the direction he rode off in. I continued riding in the dark, soon coming up on the place that Stark’s cinch had finally given way. It confirmed that I was still going in the right direction.

Stark and his boy's made camp. His men went to bed while he stayed up repairing the cinch. He was nervous about me, and for good reason.

I was happy for the full moon. It meant I could continue my tracking at night. It was easy for me to find them with three sets of tracks. I left Razor off in a distance as I realized they had left the trail, probably to camp for the night. I tracked softly, not making a sound. Soon, I saw a campfire in the distance. As I hid behind a fallen tree, I saw two men sleeping in bedrolls. I looked at the horses. Stark’s horse wasn’t there. I sure hoped I hadn’t been tracking the wrong ones! I slowly and quietly made my way into the camp.

I saw the broken cinch. This was the right place. I trained my rifle on the two figures in the bedroll.    "Alright boys, wake up, slow and easy."
Nobody moved.

I pulled the covers off of one of the men. He was dead! I stared at him in shock.

I went to check the other one. He was dead too. He had a knife in his back. Stark had killed them while they slept. He was purely evil.
I hurried off, unsure of where Stark was.

By morning, Stark had made his way into Willow Springs. He had walked inside the saloon with his saddlebags full of money. I rode in not long after he got there. I saw his horse in front of the saloon. Stark was playing high stakes in his poker game. “He’s bluffing!” I stated. “But don’t call him on it. You won’t be able to keep the money. It’s not his.”

I stood there, rifle in my hand. “Hello, Mr. McCain.”

I was angry…very angry…his time was up. “Get up!” I ordered. But he just sat still. I flipped my rifle to show that I meant business. People started to scatter, aware that I wasn’t afraid to use my rifle if I needed to.

Stark slowly stood up as the other men got up and got out of my way. “There’s nothing to fear. You know I’m not armed,” Stark stated. I told him to come on, but he wanted to proudly show me his cards.

“Move!” I demanded again.

“And what if I don’t, Mr. McCain? What will you do? Kill me in cold blood? You can’t. I could, but you can’t!”

I moved towards him, warning him he was coming with me – conscience or unconscious.

But Stark wasn’t ready to give up his spotlight yet. “Gentlemen, this is Lucas McCain. He’s got quite a reputation as the Rifleman. The man who kills him would increase his reputation quite a bit.” I wanted to stop him before someone took him up on that. “Conversation is my only weapon, Mr. McCain. Allow me to use it!”
He turned to the men in the saloon. "I'll pay $3,000 to anyone who kills Mr. McCain and I don't mind if you shoot him in the back," he announced.
I looked around. “If anyone moves, you’ll get my first bullet!” I warned him.

“And if I come with you, I’ll go to the territorial prison. I’ve been there, Mr. McCain. I know what it’s like. I’ll take my chances. I suddenly sensed someone drawing behind me. I quickly turned. Bang! That man got off the first shot.

I shot three rounds at him, shooting the gun from his hand. “Mr. McCain,” Stark said.

I turned. He fell dead. I turned back and looked at the man behind me. He had killed Stark. I immediately went to the table and gathered up the stolen money.
I couldn’t help myself. I turned over the cards. Stark wasn’t bluffing. He really would have won.

Still frustrated at the entire situation, I laid the money on John’s desk. “There you are, John. Every cent he bluffed me out of. I’m sorry-“
But John interrupted me. “Sorry? For getting the money back?” John asked.
The Rifleman - The Spiked Rifle - Episode 49
“No,” I stated. “For letting it get away in the first place.”

“Lucas, if it hadn't been a bluff, if anything would have happened to Mark, I wouldn't want to see this money again." John informed me.

I knew he would feel that way. I guess that’s why I had let Stark bluff me. Mark was one thing I couldn’t call a man’s bluff on. Then I shook my head. "That boy! He's my strength and my weakness,” I stated. There was nothing else that made me who I was in this world. Mark always came first – always.

As if he heard me talking about him, he ran into the bank. He wanted to know if everything was alright.

I sure was happy to see my boy! I laid my hand on his shoulder. “Everything’s fine, son!” I stated. “Mount up and we’ll go home, huh?” A bath and sleep – that’s all I wanted right now!

I started to leave. But John stopped me with a final thought. It was quite humbling for a banker. "I was thinking," said John. "I'd like to trade all this and much more for what you've got!"

I agreed with him, but I couldn’t help myself: "I'll remember that the next time he makes a pest of himself."

We both laughed as I walked out the door. I knew that no matter how much of a pest Mark made of himself – and believe me, he could at times – I would never give my boy up. Not for a million Starks!

piddlin' stuff.....Richard Devon has appeared in seven episodes ― The Spiked Rifle as Austin Stark, the leader of the gang and the man who fooled Lucas into thinking Mark was kidnapped ― Blood Brother as Jethroe, the man in charge of the People's Committee who was looking for John Stoddard ― The Grasshopper as Walt Ryerson, the man in the handcuffs who Lucas applied a tourniquet to ― The Silent Knife as Ben Macowan, he was the guy who picked on big Mark ― Miss Milly as Jack Adams, he was the man Milly hired to be her bill collector ― The Most Amazing Man as Lovett, he was the gunslinger who forced Wade Randall into a gun fight. He was so brave until he saw what a good a shot Wade was (with Lucas' help) ― The Stand-In as Gus Potter, the prison guard that passed out when the two guards were drinkin'.

Jack Lambert played John Lance, one of the gang.

 Baynes Barron appeared in two episodesThe Deserter as Trooper Kirk, the solider who fell over in the street because of the heat and no water ― The Spiked Rifle as Gus/Gustavo, one of the men who was a member of Austin Stark's gang.

Harlan Warde appeared in eighteen episodes as John Maysfield Hamilton, President of the North Fork Bank.  He was first introduced in The Safe Guard. In this episode North Fork's Bank was first established and John Hamilton was new to North Fork.

Virginia Christine appeared in two episodes ― The Spike Rifle as Mrs. Hardy, she's the lady that was on the stage and told Lucas to give the man the money, give him whatever he wants! ― The Long Goodbye as Mrs. Darymple the busy body in the General Store.

Fay Roope appeared in four episodes ― Two episodes as Doc Burrage, The Legacy and Panic.  He also appeared as Barton in The Spiked Rifle as the man on the stagecoach that was more worried about his money then Mark and as Jeff Stacey in The Brother-in-law, he was the one willing to pay Johnny Gibbs to throw the contest.

Glenn Strange appeared in six episodes ― The Dead-eye Kid as shotgun guard on the stagecoach, he's the one that shoved Mahoney off of the back of the stage ― Duel of Honor as Cole, stagecoach driver he was the one who did the counting for the duel ― The Woman as Joey, stagecoach driver ― The Blowout as a stagecoach driver ― The Spiked Rifle as a stagecoach driver ― Miss Bertie as a stagecoach driver.

John Harmon appeared in twelve episodes as Eddie Halstead owner/hotel clerk of the Hotel Madera.  He was first introduced to The Rifleman in Duel of Honor.

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.

Charles Conrad as Mallory.  Mallory was in a saloon in Willow Springs where Lucas had hunted down Austin Stark after he robbed the stagecoach.

Rod McGaughy has appeared in nine episodes ― The Dead-eye Kid as one of the cowboys looking for Mahoney ―
The Wrong Man as one of the townsmen at the carnival The Woman as Old Man Healey's Henchman The Money Gun as one of the townsmen ― A Matter of Faith as a cowboy in the crowd ― The Spiked Rifle as Henchman in the Bar The Lariat as Card Player The Baby Sitter as a Barfly Short Rope for a Tall Man as One of Crown's Henchmen/Mob Member.

Maurice "Morry" Ogden as Gunslinger in Saloon.

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