"Welcome to the McCain Ranch"
It was a hot day! Mark called me out of the barn when he saw someone
coming. It was a prison wagon.
driver stopped beside our house. One of the guards got down and
walked over to me while the other one stayed on the wagon to guard
the prisoner, Rudy Croft. The man greeted me friendly enough, but I
felt uncomfortable with a prison wagon being on my property. I
quickly asked the guard if there was something he wanted.
He said they had a long way to go with the prison wagon. “We have to
go all the way to Yuma. See, we got a fella in there that’s coming
up-“ He stopped as he looked at Mark. Then he put his hands to his
neck and acted like he was choking – as if Mark wouldn’t understand
that! I looked at Mark, rolling my eyes.
They had a prisoner – Rudy Croft, a real mean boy. “Well, you see we
ain’t supposed to go near no towns with him, you see, and we kinda
need some…supplies.” I told him we could sell him some of our
supplies if it was food they wanted. “Yeah, well that ain’t it
exactly. You see…this here heat…” It became pretty clear what he
wanted. I saved him the trouble from going on.
“Mister, the town of North Fork’s about three miles down the road,”
I warned him. “There’s a Marshal there named Micah Torrance. You’ve
probably heard of him. Now, what do you think he’d say if I rode in
there and told him that the prison wagon came through with a killer
in it. Both the guards were drunk and asked me for whisky?”
“Now friend,” the guard laughed nervously. “You got us all wrong…”
He tried to tell me the heat was the problem.
“Maybe the heat’ll dry you out!” I stated sternly. “Now, get back in
that thing and get off my property! And if I were you, I’d stay
sober the rest of my trip.” He waved at us several times while he
ran back towards the wagon.
Mark and I got back to work.
The guards’ names were Taylor and Potter. Potter was driving,
listening to Taylor complain about it being hot and there being no
whisky. Taylor complained that Potter drank all the whisky while
Potter blamed Taylor for not handling me correctly.
Croft laughed at their arguing. "What are you guys scared? Can't get
a drink when you need one?" He gave an evil laugh. "You let me
go...I'll get it for you!”. He just kept laughing.
"Shut up Croft!" Potter shouted. "You shut up! We'll hang us a few
of those horse blankets over those windows then we'll see who needs
"You ever been to North Fork Taylor?" Potter asked then.
"Well...I've been there. There ain't nobody there that would know
you. We've got a long ways to go...sure would make it easier," said
"Yeah," said Taylor until he remembered the two of them were
supposed to stay with the prisoner at all times.
"Well what can he do...he's all locked up," Potter argued.
"Look...we'll camp in them trees over there. Come nightfall you take
one of these horses...go on into town...get us a couple of bottles
then come on back. If Croft here try anything, nothing’ I'd like
better then to put a bullet in him...as sassy as he's been.”
"Well let's get to them trees!" They drove off laughing.
Taylor went into town, leaving Taylor alone with the prisoner. Croft
started banging his plate against the bars on the wagon. "Potter!
Come on...give me somethin'! I'm half starved.”
"There ain't none for you...what's left I gotta save for Taylor."
"You ain't feedin' me enough to keep me alive!" Croft complained.
“My middles achin' all over."
"So you go aches, they’ll be gone in a few days. They don't waste no
time down in Yuma on the likes of you!”
But Croft kept begging. "Potter...come on, huh? Just give me
something I'm tellin' ya'...I'm hurtin'. I'm half starved."
Potter stood and walked up to Croft. He drew his gun. “You know
somethin’, Croft? There ain’t no one out here except you and me. And
you’re sure getting’ on my nerves!”
"I was just askin', that's all," said Croft.
"You wasn't askin'...you was beggin’. Rudy Croft, beggin' for
beans...now ain't that a laugh!" Potter laughed.
Just then, Taylor rode up.
hadn’t had any trouble. “Nobody seen me – nobody asked no
questions,” he declared as he sat down by the camp fire. “That North
Fork, even the Marshal gone to bed…Just me an that bartender!” They
They both started drinking the whisky. Potter passed out. Taylor
tried to wake him but couldn’t. Now he seemed to be all alone! Croft
go an idea. With Potter passed out and Taylor drunk, he had a good
chance to escape. He started yelling like he was in pain. Taylor
looked toward the wagon. “What’s the matter with you, Croft?”
Croft’s yelling became louder. “Help me, I can’t stand it!” He
yelled. Taylor got up and went to investigate what was wrong.
Taylor got to close to the wagon and Croft grabbed him in a choke
hold from behind. He demanded Taylor to give him the key to the
wagon, and Taylor did. Croft managed to get the lock off the door
while still holding tight to Taylor. Then he slammed the door open,
knocking Taylor to the ground. He jumped out of the wagon and
started to run.
Taylor grabbed his gun and fired. He hit Croft. He fired two more
times as Croft ran off. He quickly went and woke up Potter. They had
a big problem!
They searched all night and well into the next day until they were
too tired to search anymore. They couldn’t find him anywhere! Potter
figured he was holed up somewhere. He figured the buzzards would get
him eventually. “What are we gonna do?” Taylor asked.
“Oh no,” Potter answered. “What are you gonna do once we get to
Yuma? What you gonna tell ‘em, letting him get away like you done?”
But if Taylor was going to go down, so was Potter. “Look, you was
drunk to. Maybe they’d want to hear that!”
They had to find him – alive or dead. They couldn't go to Yuma with
an empty wagon. They would be facing five years in Yuma Prison. “We
gotta get him,” Potter stated. Then he stopped as an idea formed in
his head. “Or someone to take his place.”
“What do you mean someone to take his place?” Taylor asked suddenly.
“You aiming to drive to Yuma with an empty wagon?” Potter asked. “We
find somebody…mess him up some, who’s to know the difference? Croft,
he ain’t never been to Yuma. Ain’t nobody there that knows him. So,
who’s to say who we’re bring in?”
Taylor was catching on. He had someone in mind. "That big mouth
Sodbuster yesterday. He's got yeller hair, about the same size as
Croft. Like you say, if we mess him up some, who’s gonna know the
difference? We can get back at the sod buster – threatening us like
Potter smiled. “You know something, Taylor. Sometimes you got real
brains!” Potter declared. They both went running back to the prison
wagon laughing. They thought they had come up with the perfect
I was working on the wheels to the buckboard when they rode in. To
say I was a little surprised to see that prison wagon back today
would be lying. I was very surprised – and suspicious! They pulled
up right next to my wagon. The other man – Potter – did the talking
this time. He wondered where Mark was, figuring he was at school.
“Yeah,” I answered. “I thought you were on your way to Yuma.”
Potter climbed off the wagon, stating they got to thinking about
what happened yesterday. “We figured we oughta stop back by and
apologize. Now, we know we did the wrong thing, and…uh…we just don’t
want you to get the wrong idea.” He smiled at me.
Taylor stated they did need some supplies – not whisky. “If you
could help us out, we’d be mighty appreciative.”
I was still suspicious. “You’re supposed to carry enough supplies
when you start out,” I argued.
told me Croft was a big eater and ate a lot more then they figure
he’d eat. They just wanted a little flour and cornmeal. I just
wanted to get rid of them! “Alright, let’s go get what you came
I started for the house. Suddenly, Taylor called out to me,
“Friend!” I turned to look at him. Potter came up and hit me from
behind. I fell to the ground – out cold! Then they lifted me up and
locked me in the prison wagon. As they locked it up, they laughed
figuring that by the time they got to Yuma, they wouldn’t know who
they had in there!
Croft had been hiding in my barn this whole time. He cracked open
the door and peaked outside. He laughed, happy to see that I was
taking his place.
When I came to, I was confused to find myself in the cage of the
prison wagon. I could hear the two men washing up down at the creek.
They were still drunk. They walked up to me when they realized I was
awake. Potter walked up to the wagon and started unscrewing the top
on his canteen. “Here, you want a drink?”
I reached my hand out to take the canteen, but he pushed my hand
away. “Wait a minute!” He poured some water in his hand and it ran
right through. “Oh, now looky there! That ol’ water just won’t stay
put!” He teased me.
“What do you think you’re doing?” I asked them.
“We ain’t doing nothing,” Potter answered with an evil grin. “You’re
doing us a favor!” Taylor agreed wholeheartedly with him. “Yeah, you
see last night that…uh…that Croft, he done got away from us…uh, yeah
he sure did. But we figure he didn’t get too far because he’s
carrying a bullet in him…You know them…coyotes. Well, we figure they
got him by now. Well, that don’t help us none. Taylor and me.”
“What’s that got to do with me?”
Taylor said they remembered how I treated them yesterday. “And you
know what? We got to thinkin’ that you look kinda like that
Croft…You know, yeller hair, big an’ all, so you’re doing us a
I was taking Croft’s place. I couldn’t believe what they were
saying! "You're out of your mind! You'll never get away with it!" I
“Don’t you be telling us what we can do!” Potter demanded. “By the
time we get to Yuma, you gonna be Croft, far as anybody’s concerned!
Then we’ll probably have you believing it too!”
I couldn’t believe what was going on!
Mark came home from school that afternoon. “Pa, I’m home!” He
called. But I didn’t answer. He noticed the barn door open, but
didn’t see me anywhere. “Pa, where are ya'?” Suddenly, a man grabbed
Mark by the front of the shirt. It scared Mark something awful. “Who
are you?” He asked in a shaky voice.
“Never mind who I am, kid!” It was Croft.
“What are you doing here?” Mark asked then. “Where’s my Pa?”
“Your Pa ain’t around. He’s gone. He’s doing something – something
for me, kid. He’s helping me out!” Croft kept his face only inches
from Mark’s. “Now, won’t you be like your Pa? Just…help me out?”
Mark pulled away and shoved Croft up against the wall. Croft still
had a hold of him, but he cried out in pain. “I don’t know what
you’re talking about,” Mark stated. “My Pa doesn’t know you – if he
did, I’d know you too.”
I ain’t got time to argue! Now, are you gonna help me out?”
Mark was scared as the man tightened his hand on Mark’s shirt, but
he was brave at the same time. He said no. He didn’t know who he
was. He asked the man how he got shot. “You wanta know everything
don’t ya'?” His grip tightened on Mark. “Alirght…alright, Kid…I’ll
leave you be – won’t bother you no more…Just…just get me a gun…There
must be a gun around here somewhere! I’ll get me a horse out of the
barn here. I’ll be long gone.”
Mark said no again. Again, the man demanded a gun. Mark broke loose
from him and started running toward the house. Croft started after
him, but collapsed face-down just outside the barn. Mark took a
couple steps toward him, but wasn’t sure if he was dead or not. He
ran to get Micah.
That night, we were stopped for the night. Taylor and Potter were
eating supper around the campfire. “Hey, how about a drink of
water?” I called.
Taylor stood and started to bring me a drink, but Potter stopped
him. “What’d you say?” Potter asked.
“I asked for a drink of water,” I answered.
Potter smiled and stood up, whisky bottle in hand. He walked over to
me. “You know how much water there is between here and Yuma?” he
asked. “There ain’t none. None to speak of, that is. And what we got
over there, why…why, it’s gotta last. Now, if your real thirsty,
why…you can take a swallow of this here whisky.” He laughed at me,
saying no one’s gonna know it wasn’t Rudy Croft they hung. “And you
ain’t gonna be in no condition telling him they was wrong!” I told
him he’s have to kill me first.
Micah and mark rode back out to the ranch. Mark showed Micah where
he had left Crop. He hadn’t known what to do. “You did the right
thing,” Micah assured him. Then he drew his gun and started into the
Suddenly, Mark called out to Micah. They found Croft laying on the
porch to the house. “He didn’t get very far,” Micah stated.
Micah started looking for some identification. “If…if he’s done
something to Pa, how are we going to find out?” Micah wasn’t sure.
They found his name strapped on him – Rudy Croft, Mark read. “Why,
this is the man they had in that prison wagon yesterday! What did he
mean…he said that…Pa was doing a favor for him!”
“I don’t know,” Micah answered. “But, come tomorrow we better find
that wagon.” Micah and Mark had some work to do!
Meanwhile, Taylor and Potter were hanging out at the campfire. They
had some left over beans so Taylor started to bring them to me, but
Potter stopped him, stating I wouldn’t eat until he said – and then
it would be just enough to keep me breathing. They had about a week
of traveling left.
But Taylor’s conscience was working on him. “I don’t think we’re
doing the right thing,” he commented. Potter laughed at him. “Now,
supposing what he says is true. Supposing we get him to Yuma and
they find out what we done? What happens?”
“You forgetting what they’ll do to us if we ride in with an empty
wagon?” Potter asked.
Potter wanted a better idea. “I say we make a deal with him,” Taylor
suggested. “Providing he keeps his mouth shut, we let him go and
then we take what’s coming to us.” I leaned forward. I knew
about to happen.
Potter spoke then. “You know, Taylor, you just gave me an idea.
Well, he ain’t the only one that liable to have a loose lip about
what’s happened out here.” Potter sat down his bottle and slowly
drew his gun out. “Well, you’ve been sprouting chicken feathers the
past few hours.” He cocked the gun. “And I’m getting worried about
ya'.” Taylor laughed nervously, stating he wasn’t going to say
anything. “Yeah. Yeah, you’ll keep your mouth shut, alright!” I
stared in disbelief as Potter shot Taylor twice. Taylor fell over –
“Potter, your out of your head!” I declared.
Potter stood and walked over to me. “You know, he just gave me an
idea,” he commented. “Did you hear what he said?”
“I heard,” I answered accusingly.
“Yeah. Well, come to think of it, it might be a mistake hauling you
into Yuma – at least alive, it would. Now let’s see…I’ll tell ‘em
you escaped, which you did – you being Croft. And while you was
doing that, why…you shot poor Taylor there. So naturally, I just had
to shoot you. That way, I was just doing my duty and protecting my
own life.” This guy was sick! He told me to get back so he could
open the doors.
“Why not right here?” I asked. “Why go to all the trouble?”
“Why, you was escaping, remember?” He opened the doors, then ordered
me to come out and not try anything. I stepped out of the wagon, but
walked backwards so my front was to him. “Turn around,” he ordered.
I wouldn’t do it. “I said turn around!”
“I was supposed to be escaping, remember?” I reminded him. “A man
running away would have to be shot in the back, wouldn’t he?” I
continued walking backwards. “You shoot me in the front, you’d have
a hard time explaining it!” The whole time, I made my way over to
Suddenly, I slapped the horse. The horse started forward. I jumped
on and over the horse, tackling Potter. We struggled and I knocked
the gun out of his hand. Reaching out, I grabbed the gun and pointed
it at him. “Get up and start walking,” I ordered.
I made him get in the prison wagon. I locked it up nice and tight –
this was better! He was
afraid, wondering what I was going to do. “You’re gonna have a long
time figuring that out yourself, Potter,” I answered.
He started begging me as I hurried over to the campfire to get a
long drink of water. Boy, was I thirsty!
It was morning when I started heading back towards North Fork. Mark
and Micah saw me driving the prison wagon. “Pa!” Mark cried as he
ran his horse down towards me. My boy sure was happy to see me
alive! “Pa, where have you been? What are you doing with that
wagon?” Mark asked.
“I’ll tell you all about it when we get back to the ranch, son,” I
answered. I turned to Micah. “You had your coffee yet, Micah?”
His answer? "Now you don't think I'd miss my coffee just because you
got yourself in a little trouble?"
I smiled. He wasn’t fooling anyone! I knew they hadn’t stopped at
all since I was discovered missing! "No...of course not,” I answered
as I started the prison wagon on down the road.
*A very good episode.....I think this should have been a two part-er
with Taylor and Potter getting to Yuma with Lucas as Croft and then
go from there for part 2 - what cha' think?
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'.
Dabbs Greer is one of your most well known character actors. He has been in the business for over five decades. He has appeared in
The Rifleman eight times ― Outlaw's Inheritance
as Marcus Trimble, the lawyer from Santa Fe ― Boomerang as
Sam Elder, the elderly gentleman who was about to loose his ranch ―
Panic as Brett, the towns trouble maker ― The Jailbird
as Farley Weaver, the man just released from prison ― The Promoter as Jack
Scully, the man who was taking bets on Reuben
Miles ― The Wyoming Story (1 &
2) as Finny and The Stand-In as Taylor,
one of the prison guards.
Charles Cooper played Will's older brother
Hank Fulton in this episode of End of a Young Gun. He also
appeared as Rudy Crofts in The Stand-In, he was the
prisoner who escaped ― Matt Yordy in Honest Abe, he was the
man who kept picking on Abe ― Larsen the bartender in I Take
You've heard Lucas' story, now hear Mark's
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