"Welcome to the McCain Ranch"
You know me when it comes to punishing my son, and I don’t try to judge the way others choose to punish their children – that is unless I feel that the way they punish is uncalled for. I’ve never whipped or licked my boy because I’ve always felt there were more effective punishments, and they seemed to have worked with Mark. But when I see two children mistreated the way these two in my story were treated, well, let’s just say that I have a great understanding as to why they did what they did and I hold no hard feelings.
I got involved in this latest family feud when I came into town one night to show Micah some nice birds Mark and I had killed up in the Ringtone. Micah was pretty impressed, but he knew there was a reason I came all the way into town at night to show them to him. “What’s the hitch to it, Lucas. You’ve got that grin!” Micah declared.
"Oh, no hitch Micah, you cook 'em. Mark and I will help you eat 'em."
Just then Ben Tooker barged into Micah's office. "Hattie's store Marshal, broke into. Me and some of the other boys have him trapped on the inside." We hurried over to Hattie's. As we entered Hattie's from the side door, I saw someone run. They leapt over the counter and hid. "Hold it!" I yelled, firing several shots over their head in warning. There was no movement. I kept my gun trained over the counter just in case they were armed. "I can shoot lower,” I warned. There was still no movement. Micah and I moved closer “Come on out of there."
Just then, we saw this person slowly stand up from behind the counter. “Come on-“ I started, but I suddenly stopped. Micah and I stared at each other at what met our eyes – it was a girl!
Micah and I took the girl over to Micah’s office. Micah asked her several questions but she remained silent, not speaking a word. Hattie walked in while Micah was asking her again who she was and where she was from. She didn’t answer. Suddenly, she tried to run out, but I stopped her. “Hold it,” I warned, blocking her way. “No one’s gonna hurt you. Go on back.”
Hattie stared at her. “She’s frightened!” she said
“And oughta be,” Micah stated.
But Hattie meant a different kind of frightened. “No, like an animal waiting to be hurt – expecting it!”
All this time, I had been racking my brain, trying to remember who she was. I knew I had seen her before! Hattie tried to ask her who she was, but she still remained silent. Suddenly, her name came to me: Heller Chase! She was frightened that I figured out who she was. Mark knew her younger brother, David. Micah didn’t know them and asked who they were. “A family of dirt farmers – rock country up at Onion Creek. Dan Chase, you didn’t know him. He died about a year before you came. He left a wife and two kids, Heller here and her brother, David. About a year later her mother remarried.”
Hattie spoke up. “A whiskey-soaked drifter named Bechtol,” she stated bitterly.
Micah sure remembered him! He had put him in jail several times. "Did he send you in to steal?” Micah questioned her. She backed off, suddenly afraid. “Your step father, did he send you in?"
Hattie just stared at her. “I haven’t seen her since Dan’s funeral. Grown up right under our feet.” She smiled at her. Hattie didn’t want to press charges since she didn’t take anything, but he did want to know what she was after.
Heller finally spoke up. "A ribbon. A blue ribbon, for my hair."
I took her home. As I got down from the wagon I told her I’d see her inside. But she didn’t want that. She begged me to go. “Alright, come on.” That was my answer. She had no choice. But as I helped her down I heard yelling and slapping suddenly erupt from inside the house.
Bechtol was slapping David around and Muriel, his wife, was trying to stop him. That’s what I walked in on. He was demanding David to tell him where his sister was. He started to smack him again, but he suddenly turned and saw me standing in the doorway. I wasn’t too happy with what I saw. I didn’t much appreciate seeing children being mistreated that way! He sent David to his room. Then he glared at me. “Well, if that ain’t a picture,” he drawled out.
I looked at Heller, not appreciating the crude language he was using in front of this child. “A picture of what?” I suddenly asked.
"Running off into the night, no word where. Leavin' her kin to fret themselves sick over what might have happened. Way youngins behave these days, no respect for their elders. Enough to make a body turn in his grave with worry. Ain't that right
Mr. McCain?" Bechtol was obviously drunk!
I didn’t much appreciate his words. "Look Bechtol, if you've got something to say, say it!" He wanted to know where I found her. “In town,” I answered. He started in again, but I quickly silenced him. “She broke into Hattie Denton’s store, that’s where we found her!” He didn’t believe me. I told him there were a half dozen people who knew she did it.
“Oh, the word of Lucas McCain is all the word a body needs!” Bechtol stated. “So much for bringing her home. Out!” I stared at him. The last thing I wanted to do was leave these children with a drunk, mean man like this. But his wife wanted me to leave. He told me she was beholden to me for bringing her home. There was nothing I could do so I left. It broke my heart to do that too.
I was hardly out the door before Bechtol started yelling at his wife. He didn’t think he was getting the respect from her he deserved. He put a roof over her head, fed and clothed her and her children Suddenly, he reached to get a hold of Heller. She ducked and ran across the room away from him. Suddenly, he grabbed her by the back of her hair and pulled her head back. "Where have you been, tell me,” he demanded.
"I was where he said, in that store,” Heller answered. She was afraid of him.
“After what, I wanna know,” Bechtol continued to pull her hair.
"Whiskey, Whiskey for you,” she answered, but he wouldn’t believe her. "This time for you, all for you. Whiskey to burn out your insides, and maybe....." He took her by the hair and pushed her across the room. He commanded her to get to her room before he beat her. He took off and chased her into her room.
She ran inside and closed the door. He continued screaming at her. She walked over to her bed and laid down. She was upset.. "Did you get? Do you got it with ya'?" David asked as he came over to her. Asked David. He wanted to see “it.”
She said she got caught before she could get it out of the store. She only had time to hide it and she did – in the apple barrel. David wanted to just go back to the store and get it but Heller shook her head. They’d be watching the store carefully after tonight. “Mr. McCain,” she suddenly remembered. “I heard him talking to Miss Hattie about going into the store tomorrow afternoon for some supplies. Tomorrow morning I’ll fix his breakfast and you do things for him.” They would get him good and drunk so he’d fall asleep. That would give them three hours to get into the store. “The next time he beats us or Mama-“ Heller thought.
“I hate him, Heller! I hate him so awful!” David cried.
Heller hushed him. “We’ll be ready for him,” she declared.
The next day Mark was in the barn working on his morning chores. He quickly flung the hay onto the wagon. I walked in and saw him. I couldn’t help but smile at him. I grabbed the rag and began polishing my saddle. “Morning son. You’re going after that hay like you heard the trout are running and…uh…maybe you’d like the afternoon off!” I commented.
“You guessed wrong,” Mark answered. “I knew you were going into town today, so I thought I’d finish my chores and maybe keep you company!” he declared.
“Oh,” I smiled. “Can I guess again?”
Mark acted all innocent. “I told ya'. I thought maybe you’d want me to keep you company!”
“Mm hm,” I said. “It doesn’t have anything to do with maybe…uh…Hattie’s got some of those licorice sticks in, huh?” I smiled as I continued working.
Mark suddenly thought we’d stop by just in case. I didn’t buy it for a second! I knew my boy well enough to know the real reason he wanted to go into town. He started working again, but suddenly stopped as he thought about what happened in Hattie’s store last night. I asked him what he meant. “Well, imagine Heller Chase breaking into Hattie’s store! I just can’t believe it! She always seemed to be so nice! Sometimes when her brother Dave and I used to go fishing, she’d sit next to me and I’d talk with her. Never thought she’d break into a store!”
I listened to all he said. “Well, I can’t blame you for what you’re thinking Mark,” I stated. “But in my mind, what Heller Chase did last night doesn’t make her a criminal. She was only after a hair ribbon.” I turned to Mark. "You know son, sometimes people are pushed into doin' things they wouldn't ordinarily do by circumstances beyond their control and by certain other people." I tried to make that point as clear as possible. I asked Mark if David ever said anything about his home life. Mark said David didn’t talk about it.
I felt sorry for the kids. “Well David and his sister don’t have it too easy at home, Mark. Their step father is a pretty hard man to live with! Even Mark had seen him coming out of the Last Chance Saloon – that’s where he spends most of his time when he’s in town!
We worked silently for a few moments, but then Mark got to thinking on something else. "You know pa, I'm kinda lucky,” he suddenly stated.
That sort of caught me off guard for a moment, so I turned to him. “How do you mean?”
“Well, I know Dave can't talk to his Pa like I can to you. It kinda helps a fella when he can talk things out. Instead of havin' to keep them to yourself. You know what I mean."
That boy of mine! My golly, he surprises me sometime. "I know what you mean.” Oh boy, did I know what he meant, and it made me proud to hear him say that about me. That did it! My boy was coming with me. There’s no way I could leave him at home after a speech like that! “Well come on sprout, I thought you were going to keep me company."
Mark pitched a few more pitchforks full of hay then sat it down and walked out of the barn with me. He put his arm around me, suddenly feeling lucky to have me as his father. It felt nice to be so loved and appreciated!
When we got into town, we started into Hattie’s store. But I stopped at the door, mighty surprised to see David and Heller there. I certainly hadn’t expected to see them there today! They told me “he” sent them to find the price on chicken feed. “Oh?” I didn’t quite buy their story. “The feed store’s across the street.”
Heller was admiring the hair ribbons in the window. She had never had one in her life. “Well, a girl oughta have a ribbon it seems!” I declared, deciding to buy her one.
“Oh, I wouldn’t ask you ! Not ever!” Heller said suddenly.
“Couldn’t be much,” I assured her with a smile.
As she walked in, she started admiring everything in the store. “David, look at them things! Dresses, have you ever seen so many dresses? And shoes, and hats and…and over there food! Oh, all them sacks and cans of things to eat and even a barrel of apples!” I enjoyed watching her excitement.
“Ribbons, Hattie,” I suddenly stated. “Blue one’s!”
I laughed at her as she continued on her magnificent excitement. “If I had me a dollar, you know what I’d do? I’d buy me one of those and some of those and a big box full of licorice all over with sugar!”
Suddenly, Hattie saw David digging through the barrel of apples. We didn’t know it at the time, but she was disrupting their plans. Hattie immediately starting searching through the apples to find him a really good one. Suddenly, Heller grabbed one of the ribbons off the counter. "This one," she shouted. "Oh, Miss Hattie, can I please have this ribbon, please? Would you tie it in the back for me in a bow?" I smiled at her excitement. I never knew a hair ribbon could make a girl so happy!
Hattie went to tie the ribbon for Heller while David went back to digging through the barrel. Suddenly, he pulled a gun from the barrel and stuffed it inside his shirt.
Mark had been watching him. He stared at the boy as he stuffed the gun in his shirt. He turned to say something to me, but wasn’t quite sure if he should or not. Suddenly, Bechtol busted into the store, yelling as usual! “Get back to the farm!” he demanded his step-children. He grabbed the hair ribbon from her hair. “She don’t need no handouts from you, McCain,” he shouted. "If she wants something, I’ll buy it! You’re a hypocrite, McCain! You hear my words? A hypocrite! You and all the rest of your kind in this mud hole! Righteous venom." “I’ve seen your eyes. Don’t tell me I ain’t! Looking down on me and mine.”
I simply stared at him as he talked, never saying a word. I turned and told Hattie I’d be back later. He continued his drunken yelling at me as we got on the wagon and rode off.
When David and Heller got home they ran to the barn with the gun and put bullets in it. If their step-father took to them again they were going to use the on him. They were tried of being beaten every day. David knew he’d start in on them when he got home from town, but Heller thought maybe he wouldn’t. “It’s the only way to be rid of him…his beating us, the way he makes us live! Makes Mama live!” Heller cried.
“Well, this will stop him!” David said as he continued putting bullets in the gun.”
“If only Papa was here!” She cried. She ran and grabbed the gun from her brother. “I’m not sure that we should!” she said suddenly. He tried to grab the gun from her but she put it in a cabinet and closed the lid. “We’re gonna give him another chance. When he comes home we’re gonna talk to him and tell him how we feel! Maybe if we tell him how we feel he’ll change!” Her brother was angry, crying. He knew it would do no good, but she didn’t want to resort to violence unless she had to.
“He won’t change! Not ever!” David screamed. “Only with that!” He ran out of the barn.
Heller began crying. “Help me, Papa! Help me!” she cried.
Later that evening Mark was in the barn working on chores, but he wasn’t concentrating on them. He had something on his mind. I came out and told him the sun was going down early so we needed to hurry and get the wagon unloaded. He was distracted and knew I had said something, but wasn’t sure what I said. I repeated it to him and he came over to the wagon. I could tell something was bothering him as he got up on the wagon and started working. When I asked him if something was wrong he told me no, but I knew better. “ I hope you’re not upset because I didn’t answer Bechtol back there in town. You know, if I did tangle him, Mark, all I would have been doing is bringing myself down to his level. The way I figure to handle a situation like that is…the best thing to do is walk off and ignore it.” I spoke these words calmly as I looked into my son’s eyes so he’d understand.
Mark thanked me for explaining that, but that wasn’t what was bothering him. “Well, what is it then?” I asked him. The way I asked let him know that I expected an answer.
"What it is, is…if…if a person sees something and it's none of his business and if what he sees is wrong, well, does he keep shut up about it, or does he tell?" Mark asked.
"Well if it's wrong, what do you think?" That was my answer.
Mark thought on that for only a second before he told me what the problem was. "Well, it wasn't the apples he was after. David Chase, today in Miss Denton's store. He pulled a gun out of the apple barrel. He stuffed it into his shirt. I saw him.”
I was confused. He wasn’t making much since. “What are you talking about, Mark?”
“Well, you know when Heller chase was priming with all those ribbons? Well, she was really trying to hold your attention while Dave snuck over to the apple barrel and pulled out the gun!” I could tell Mark was confused on what was going on to.
I started thinking on this, wondering what was going on. “Gun in an apple barrel,” I mumbled.
“Well, I don’t know how it got there, but I know it was a gun!” Mark stated. I knew he was telling me the truth, but I wasn’t quite sure what it was all about. I did know that I had to get to the bottom of this before someone got killed. Those children had no business with a gun! I told Mark I’d be back later as I started to leave.
But then I stopped and turned back to Mark. There was one more thing I had do before I left. “Mark,” I reached out and touched him. He turned and looked at me. I smiled into his eyes. “You did right to tell me.” Then I grabbed my rifle and left.
Things were really heating up at the Chase farm! Bechtol wasn’t home yet, but it was obvious the whole family was growing in fear, knowing he would be home soon; and when he did come home, there would be yelling and hitting. Muriel wondered where he could be – he hadn’t been gone for this long before. She was afraid he might have stumbled and hurt himself on the way home. "He'll come home, Momma, he always does,” Heller stated, not happy that he would be coming home.
"Heller, baby. You gotta understand something. I ain't a pretty woman. I've never been. I was something to your Pa. But when he died, I got so lonely. I wanted to make a home for you and David. Kids need a Pa to guide 'em." Suddenly, she was interrupted by his hollering. He was home.
He hollered for them to come out of the house as he continued drinking his whiskey. “Miserable worthless mess!” He continued yelling at them, not letting them say a word. He was very drunk and they couldn’t understand all he was saying. “Miserable worthless mess, what are you good for? That’s what I wanta hear! Except bleeding a man of his strength and his life. After what I’ve done for you, what’s my reward, huh?” He angrily threw off his hat. “Nothing!" "A wife that's next to worthless, a daughter that’s no better then a teasin' flirt and a lazy good for nothing son....where's that boy?"
He turned to look for David and saw him in their dingy garden working. He yelled for David to come up to him, but he didn’t move. That made him angry and he took off after him. He trampled through the garden as Heller and Muriel tried to stop him, but he flung them off, roughly. He grabbed him and began shaking him as he screamed at him “Your gonna get the lickin' of your life,” he yelled as he dragged David into the house and threw him across the room.
Everyone knew this would be a bad beating – maybe for all of them. Heller ran to the barn to get the gun. Bechtel grabbed a rope off of the wall. Heller began screaming at him, knowing he was going to use it on David. Bechtel punched her so hard that it pushed her across the room, almost knocking her to the floor. He rushed to David, angry as ever.
“Get away from him,” Heller ordered from the door. She held the gun on him.
“You stay out-“ Bechtel started, but he stopped in mid-sentence when he saw the gun.
"You beat us! You make us into something not even human. You call us names you are yourself till there no escape from the fear of you. Not even in sleep." Bechtel told her to put the gun down before he took the rope to her. She cocked the hammer to let him know she meant business.
“Wait a minute,” he backed away. “You’re not thinking. If it weren’t for the softness in me, I’d whack the breath out of ya'! Now, you give me that!” he held out his hand.
She told David to get away from him. When he was safely against the wall, she fired the gun over his head. She stared at the gun. The actual shot had scared her. He began backing away, telling her that if she was doing this because of the things said about him she was wrong. He was desperate, trying to explain that he was doing the best he could, though he may have done some things that needed improvement. “Well, what I’m saying is…no man is perfect!” he cried. Heller cocked the hammer again.
He stated that he tried to be a good father to her. She fired the gun again as she cringed. He cringed in fear and ran to Muriel. He kneeled before her and clung to her, begging her to help him. Heller turned, keep the gun trained on him. He begged and pleaded for her to help him – he was still trying to justify himself. Muriel ran to David and put her arm around him, still afraid of him.
He was on his knees in front of Heller, begging her not to kill him. “You do this, but you won’t change me!” he cried. “I’ll change! I swear it, I’ll never lay a hand on you again! Not a hair on you head or the boy or…never again! I’ll steal for ya…anything you want! Or even-“ She cocked the Hammer as tears ran down her cheeks. Every word that came from his mouth made her more angry, more desperate to kill him. “No! No don’t shoot me! I beg you! I beg you, please!” he cried.
I rushed into the door at that moment. She looked up at me. “Don’t do it,” I warned her. But she looked back at him, her hands were shaking so bad. He was on his knees silently pleading for his life. His head was in his hands. He was terrified.
"Kill him, kill him,” screamed David.
"You do and you'll spend the rest of your life suffering for it,” I told her in a calm voice.
I don't care!" Heller cried.
I turned to Muriel. "Muriel, for heavens sake, tell her!" My voice held a bit of desperation in it.
She started to cry. "I can't Lucas!" This family had been through so much. They all just wanted it to end, even if it meant committing murder. I knew I wasn’t going to get any help from her. She had been through so much. She didn’t know what to do anymore.
I turned to Heller. She was my greatest concern at the moment. "What is it you want Heller, to make him suffer the way he's made you suffer?"
"Yes!" she cried.
"Well, look at him, don't you see what he is? A freighted terrified man. You let him live and he'll suffer the rest of his life. That's why he turns on you. Trying to make you fear him the way he fears everything and everybody. Terrible thing, fear, it gnaws at you. Eats away what strength you've got till there's nothing left.
“Let him live?” she asked, still crying. She couldn’t hardly even stand that thought.
I nodded. “The cruelest punishment you can give him." There was silence as she thought on this. I just looked at her as her hand began shaking. I held my hand out to her, silently asking for the gun. As I reached for the gun, she handed it to me. I grabbed it by the barrel, gently smiling at her to let her know she made the right choice.
I knew I’d do everything in my power to save them – to help them start the healing process.
Micah arrested him. “It’s about time we were done with that Bechtel! Wife beater, child beater, sending those kids thieving! It’ll be a hat full of seasons before he sees the sunny side of prison walls again!” Micah stated as we climbed up onto the wagon to go home. Suddenly, Micah saw David and Heller coming towards us. He knew they wanted to talk to me so he excused himself.
They wanted to tell me how grateful they were that I helped them, even though they had tricked me into helping them commit a crime. "It gives me a, sorta a powerful strong feeling," said Heller.
"Well thank you Heller, I'm mighty glad to hear that,” I stated. She seemed surprised. She needed some self confidence. “If I were to ever have a daughter I’d want her to be exactly like you," I stated proudly. My words surprised them, but they needed some pleasant surprises after all the disappointments in their lives. “You tell your mother we’ll be up from time to time, huh? Maybe we can even get her summer crop to grow, huh Dave?” I smiled at them.
Dave smiled. His confidence was finally being restored. “It’ll grow, Mr. McCain. It’ll grow!”
Piddlin' stuff.....Peter Whitney appeared in nine episodes ― Eddie's Daughter as Tracey Blanch, he's the big dude who came looking for Lil ― Mail Order Groom as John Jupiter, he was the Mail Order Groom, the one that Jess Profit (John Anderson) kept picking on ― Heller as Andrew Bechtol, the mean stepfather ― Strange Town as Ott Droshek, he ran the Strange Town ― The Queue as Vince Fergus, again he was the bully, the instigator who picked on Wang Chi ― Long Gun From Tucson as John Holliver, he was the cowboy who came back for revenge ― Lou Mallory as Neb Jackman, the Pa of the Jackman clan ― Gun Shy as Vantine, he was the man who was holding Lou hostage ― Which Way'd They Go? as Neb Jackman, the Pa of the Jackman clan.
Gigi Perreau appeared in two episodes ― Heller as Heller Chase, she almost killed her evil step-father ― Death Trap as Carrie (Vicki) Battle, she was the daughter of an ex-gunslinger turned doctor.
Don Grady appeared in two episodes ― The Patsy as Jeff Barrows,the boy that kept trying to beat up our Mark ― Heller as David Chase, he's the boy that stole the gun from Hattie's store to kill his stepfather.
How many of the Mouseketeers appeared on The Rifleman?
K.T. Stevens was in five episodes ― Heller as Muriel Bechtol, she was married to that evil Andrew Bechtol ― The Fourflusher as Molly Fenway, she was married to a sharecropper who entered his colt in the horse race ― Face of Yesterday as Nancy Clay was the wife of the man he killed in the Civil War ― Honest Abe as Emma Lincoln, the sister to Able Lincoln who claims that he's the Great Emancipator Molly Fenway in End of the Hunt as Granny Mede, Reef Jackson was her nephew, Lucas knew them from when he lived in the Nations.
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.
Sid Gilman played Ben Tooker. He was the man in the beginning of the episode who told Micah and Lucas that somebody had broke into Hattie's store and that they had him trapped on the inside.
Sid Gillman is a member of the College Football Hall of Fame and the Pro Football Hall of Fame. 'Sid' Gillman — Football Coach
John Barton appeared in five episodes ― The Sharpshooter as a Townsman ― Eddie's Daughter as a Townsman ― Heller as a Townsman ― The Lonesome Bride as a Barfly ― Meeting at Midnight as a Townsman.
Ethan Laidlaw appeared in The Rifleman quite a few times unaccredited ― The Indian as a townsfolk — The Mind Reader as a townsman in the audience — Legacy as the man at the funeral — The Coward as a Diner Patron — Heller as a townsfolk — The Grasshopper as a passenger on the train — Strange Town as a townsfolk at Droshek Town — The Silent Knife as a townsfolk — Short Rope for a Tall Man as one of Crown's Henchmen — Honest Abe as a townsman — Two Ounces of Tin as a townsfolk ― The Day the Town Slept as a townsman.
This is part of an article from Look Magazine June 21, 1960
The Star Stands In Chuck Connors ― Stands in for Peter Whitney
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