"Welcome to the McCain Ranch"
It was always nice to see people from my past – back before my wife had died. I never tire of seeing them. They are small reminders of those days before I suffered that great loss. This time was no different. I welcomed him with open eyes!
Well, let me tell you how I realized he was in town. You see, I was in the bank making a deposit while Mark was relaxing in the wagon enjoying his candy. Sweeny came by just then and asked him if he’d seen the Marshal. Mark told him he hadn’t. So then Sweeny comes on into the bank to get some change. “Five hundred dollar bill?” John exclaimed
I was a bit surprises too! “What are you charging for beer these days, Sweeny?” I asked.
Sweeny announced that Colonel Craig was back in town. “He’s fleecin’ everybody from here to Sunday!” I wondered why he didn’t throw him out. Sweeny said he had to catch him at it. "If you see Micah, would you send him over quick?
"I've got a feeling this lambs gonna fight back,” Sweeny fretted.
"Oh, who is he?" John asked.
"A stranger who rode in this morning. He calls himself Lariat Jones." Sweeny hurried out.
I turned and stared at Sweeny’s retreating figure. “Lariat Jones?” I suddenly declared with a surprised smile. John asked me if he was a friend of mine. “You might say that John!” I hurried outside. I stepped outside and looked down the street. I was so excited that my old friend was here! “I’m going over to Sweeny’s, son. I’ll be right back,” I told Mark as I started down the street. Mark sure did look board!
As I walked through the doors, I saw Lariat strike a match on his boot and light his cigar. Then he laughed. I smiled as I came inside. It certainly was my friend! The steaks were pretty high! The colonel suddenly said, “These Yankee cigars just don’t stay lit!” Lariat watched him very closely as he pulled a match from his pocket. Inside his jacket pocked was the Ace of Spades.
I walked further inside as I smiled, watching my old friend, Lariat, play poker. He took a drink and bit into a lemon, then he said, “Colonel, I’m gonna do you a favor. Now, you can’t beat this hand, so if I were you I wouldn’t try.” But the Colonel didn’t take the hint. The stakes had gone from $50.00 to Lariat’s $200 to the Colonel’s $300.00. Now, this was one serious game! There were several men sitting around watching with much interest. We all wondered how this game would turn out. Lariat called.
The Colonel laid down his hand and spread out the cards. He had a royal flush in spades. “I don’t think you can beat that, son.”
But Lariat smiled slyly as he laid down his hand with confidence. He laid down three aces, then he paused for a second before laying down the fourth card – The ace of spades! “You’re wrong, Colonel,” Lariat smiled.
"Well sir, it appears that one of us is a cheater," the Colonel stated with challenge in his voice.
“That’s the way it appears,” Lariat replied with a smile. He reached over and picked up the Colonel’s Ace. Then he tossed it up in the air, drew his gun, and fired a shot – right through the middle! As it floated down Lariat grabbed it and looked at it. Then he went back to the table, put his foot up in the chair, and showed the card to the Colonel. "Which one of us Colonel?" He held his gun on the Colonel. A friend of the Colonel backed up and started to draw on Lariat. I kicked his arm and knocked his gun out of his hand. I then pushed him aside.
Lariat suddenly turned to see who had come to his defense. He sure was surprised to see me! "Well Luke!” He walked towards me, still holding his gun on the Colonel. “Well, how ya' been, Luke?" He smiled at me.
“Pretty good, Lariat.”
“How’s Mark?” He crossed his arms, no longer paying attention to the card sharks.
“Oh, he’s growin’,” I answered. The Colonel and his friend started to edge towards the door. I flipped my rifle to show them I meant business. “What do you wanna do with these two, Lariat?” I asked.
He didn’t stop looking at me but said, “Oh whatever you think.”
I aimed my rifle at them. “Now wait, wait, wait,” the Colonel started.
"We shoot card sharks in this part of the country mister." I informed him. He told us he was just getting ready to leave if he could just get his hat. He grabbed his hat and said good day. We laughed.
“You’re a sight for sore eyes!” I declared as I slapped Lariat on the back. Lariat wanted to know what I was doing around here. “Well, I live here.”
“In North Fork?”
“Well you’re kidding! This is too good to be true!” We certainly were glad to see each other! I told him Mark and I were going to take him back to the ranch for supper. “You look like you could use some bachelor cookin’.”
Lariat groaned. “Luke, that’s what’s wrong with me – ten years of bachelor cookin’!” Lariat declared.
As we were leaving, a man named Matt Wymerman stopped Lariat. Lariat introduced us and told Wymerman that he’d meet him a little later at the hotel. I was curious to know who his friend was, but he told me he’d tell me about it later.
I guess Mark was getting tired of waiting because as we came out of the saloon Mark pulled up in the rig. I introduced him the Lariat, assuming he remembered him. I had my arm around my friend and was grinning from ear to ear.
“Lariat?” Mark tried to think.
"You were knee high to a spotted colt. That was a long time ago,” Lariat stated.
"Well how do you do?" Mark smiled and shook his hand.
"He's the image of her Luke."
“I know,” I stated. I hear that a lot.
I told Mark we were taking Lariat to the ranch for dinner. “Meet ya' there!” Lariat exclaimed as he jumped on his horse and raced out of town.
Mark stared at him. “But Pa, he doesn’t even know the way!”
I climbed up on the seat. “Well, that makes no different to Lariat, son. Let’s go!” Mark hurried the horses.
I didn’t know it, but Wymerman was certainly interested in me! “So that’s Lucas McCain, the town’s leading citizen,” he stated as he watched us leave town. “Couldn’t be better, could it Doyle?”
After supper, Lariat was showing Mark some of his famous card tricks. He shuffled the cards then spread them out in a straight line on the table. ‘Now, we’re gonna play a little game, boy. I want you to take a card, any card at all.” I smiled as I watched. Mark picked up a card and held it in his hand. “That card is the four of clubs.”
Mark was a bit leery and very shocked that he could name the card. He looked at me and we both laughed at the boy’s wonderment. Lariat had him pick up another card and he named that one too. Mark didn’t see how it was possible. “Is that a trick deck or somethin’?”
Lariat assured him it wasn’t. “You know why I play cards, Mark? Because I enjoy it. I never use a trick deck or a marked deck! Why that’s cheating! It’s much more fun to play cards for skill. Much more fun to win fair. And it’s, uh, better all the way around.”
That was a pretty good lecture! I don’t think I could have done better myself. I came to sit down at the table, informing Mark he needed to get the dishes done. To my surprise he gave me no argument.
“He’s a fine boy, Luke.” Lariat just couldn’t get over how well Mark was doing.
“I know,” I stated proudly. Lariat got up and started putting his holster and hat on. He was fixing to go back to town. I asked him how long he was planning on staying. He said it depended on his meeting. “Don’t tell me you’re getting ready to settle down!” I exclaimed. That would be great! “What made you choose North Fork?”
Lariat turned and looked at Mark. He suddenly had that look in his eye as he started an elaborate story for Mark’s benefit. “Well Luke, you won’t believe this, but I was just ridin’ along. Over here was North Fork. Over here was Banick. And in back of me shootin’ like blazes was a reservation full of Apache Indians!”
“No!” I exclaimed in mock astonishment.
“Yeah!” Lariat answered in mock assurance. You know, they took my horse. The next thing I knew they had me hung from by my heels from a Chickasaw tree.”
Mark was totally taken in by what Lariat was saying. “What’d you do then?” He asked in excitement.
“Well, I took out my deck of cards, son. And I said Jacks are better, fellas. Had ‘em beat within half an hour, took to North Fork and here I am!” He suddenly pulled a card out of his sleeve. “Fate.”
Lariat and I laughed. Mark was so surprised that he dropped the pan he was drying. “Sorry, Pa!” he suddenly exclaimed. I told him to wash it again. Then I turned back to Lariat and told him I hoped he’d stay.
“Well maybe I will, Luke. Ten years of wondering is a long time. Well, I better get back to town.” He had a meeting. "This may or may not be a witches brew."
Mark, of course, wanted to know what he meant by a witches' brew. “Oh, that was a kind of warning signal we used to have, Mark.”
Mark looked toward the door again. “Do you like him?” he asked.
“Oh yes I do!” I put my arm around Mark’s shoulder. “He’s wild and he’s footloose, but I guess he’s the closest friend I ever had. You see, he was in love with your mother too, and when she picked me, things never went right for him.”
Mark studied on my words for a second. Then in a surprised voice, he said, “You mean, he could have been my Pa.”
I smiled "Could have been," I answered. But I was certainly glad I was his Pa!
Lariat met with Wymerman that night. “I’ve been following your career closely, Lariat. You’ve been running some of the most successful gambling houses in the southwest, but you’ll never have a opportunity like this. North Fork is ripe! There’s more cattle money coming to this town in the next six months than any other city in the territory.”
Lariat was aware of all that. “And I’ll stay, but only on my terms.” He wanted an equal partnership. They shook on it. "Now remember, this house is going to be run straight, nothing fancy," said Lariat.
Wymerman agreed. “I wouldn’t want to offend your friend, McCain.”
“Forget my friend McCain, Matt. Just don’t do anything to offend me!” Lariat said as he walked out the door.
The name of the saloon was to be called “Silver Dice Saloon.” I was in Micah’s office talking to him one day. I asked him if he knew about this partnership and gambling house that was opening. He didn’t. All he knew was that Wymerman was planning on opening a saloon. “They moved in like real professions, Lucas Boy. There’s not much we can do about it.” Micah was pretty upset – he felt the men had been really sneaky about it.
I turned and sat down. “Look Micah, Lariat’s a friend of mine. If you want me to vouch for him, I will.” He asked me about Wymerman, and I told him I didn’t know him.
“Well, I did a little checking up. It seems Mr. Wymerman was run out of Abilene last year for running a crooked gambling house…among other things.”
I didn’t want to believe this was the man my good, trustworthy friend had partnered up with, so I asked Micah if he was sure it was the same man. “It’s kind of an unusual name, Lucas boy.”
I hurried over to talk to my friend. “Your…uh…partner, Wymerman, how long have you known him?” He said long enough. I just said it straight. “We don’t want a crooked game in North Fork.”
For the first time, Lariat wasn’t smiling. He suddenly became defensive. “Well, thanks for your confidence, Luke.” He was offended. He turned to walk away.
But I didn’t want any hard feelings between us. “Now look. Look, it’s just that…well this town means a lot to me, Lariat.”
"Well this place means a lot to me, Luke." He then walked away from me, upset.
It was night time and I was standing outside enjoying my cigar. Micah declared that everything seemed to be going good, perhaps Wymerman had changed his spots – those were Micah’s words, not mine. I went into the saloon. Standing just inside the door, I scanned the room looking from one side all the way around to the other. It sure did seem like a happy place to be! When Lariat saw me, he came over and invited me over for a drink. “All I wanted to say is, uh, I wish you luck.” We drank to that.
Suddenly, he started talking about a fight we had with two cowhands, a Shivaree we had thrown, and Sam, an old friend of ours. I knew he was trying to make things right with us, but the truth was, we were a lot different now. I had lost track of a lot of our old pals. “You know how it is when you have a boy,” I stated. “I mean…uh…things change.”
Lariat frowned. “Yeah, I guess they do.”
“People change to,” I commented lightly. It was kind of a sad thing – us loosing our closeness because we took different roads in life. We just looked at each other. He knew exactly what I was saying. I started to leave but he stopped me.
“Luke? Luke, you haven’t finished your beer.”
I asked him about Wymerman. “You must know his background.”
“Luke, I give ya' my word. Luke, I give you my word. This house is run straight.” I smiled as I started drinking my beer again.
Suddenly, Wymerman was there stating how pleased he was to see me. I had nothing to say. It was time for me to leave. But as I started to leave, a disturbance erupted. A man was insinuating that they were playing with a marked deck. I felt that trouble could quickly erupt over something like that. I had to say something to Wymerman – to let him know just where I stood. I walked back up to him. “I’ve been assured this is a straight house. If we find it’s crooked, we’ll close you down. Fast. Remember that.”
“Get out of here, Luke,” Lariat muttered angrily.
As I left, Lariat asked Wymerman if he was getting fancy. He said he wasn’t.
As soon as I got to my horse, I heard a gunshot from inside the new saloon. I grabbed my rifle and ran over there. I broke through the crowd and kneeled beside a dead man. “What happened?” I asked Wymerman.
“He tried to draw,” Wymerman stated.
I pushed back the coat to reveal the dead man hadn’t been carrying a gun. “With what?”
Micah, Sweeney, John and I gathered at Micah's office to discuss what had just happened. As far as we could see the deck was not marked. Witnesses said it looked like Fred was going to draw his gun. “Well, you all know how he was. He would accuse his own mother of cheating him.” Micah stated.
“Ay, but he didn’t have to die for it, Micah!” John declared.
“John is right!” Sweeny stated. “If it hadn’t been Fred it would’ve been somebody else sooner or later.”
I suddenly saw myself turning against Sweeny to defend my friend. “I’ve seen a share of killings in your place too Sweeny!” I yelled. Micah started to get on to me but Sweeny stopped him stating he naturally wanted to see them closed down. He felt that he didn’t have a voice here.
"We all have a voice here," said Micah. "Now listen to me Lucas. We all know Lariat's your friend. Sometimes a man's friend is like a reflection of himself and he wants it to be good. He's ashamed if he isn't." He spoke these words harshly to me.
“Well what do you want me to do?” I suddenly asked. I was so frustrated that I may have to turn on my old friend.
“Not a thing, Lucas Boy. I just want you to understand. Because if they are running a crooked game they’ll cut their own throats, and your friend Lariat will be right in the middle.” I knew he was right, but it was rough having to admit something like that. “As a matter of fact, I’d say Saturday oughta give us the answer. It’s the end of the month and that’s when Marody and the Bar-Q boys’ll be in with $5,000 in cattle money. I wouldn’t want to tangle with ‘em, not with a rigged game.”
It was Saturday night. Lariat was loosing bad. Wymerman was quite unhappy about it too. He wanted to talk to Lariat in his office right away. "A few more pots like this and we'll be out of business," Wymerman complained. He felt they could have a killing with all that bar Q money out there. He wanted to know what was wrong with him. Lariat told him he was having a bad night.
“We can’t have bad nights like this!” Wymerman exclaimed. “Thos cowpokes…loose with $10,000.00.”
Wymerman tried to hand Lariat a Mark deck but Lariat wanted no part in it. “Don’t suddenly get moral with me. That’s my money out there on that table, and you’re gonna get it back!” Wymerman suddenly nodded to Doyle who held a gun on Lariat. He took Lariat’s gun. “Or else we dissolve this partnership the hard way!”
Lariat knew he didn’t have much choice. He took the cold deck and headed back to his poker table. The two men watched him. He knew he had no choice. As he looked around, he realized that one false move would mean his death. He was beginning to realize just how bad of a deal he had made.
When I got into town that night, Micah commented that he hadn’t seen me at the hotel. You see, Mark and I usually ate at the hotel on Saturday nights, but my boy had gone fishing, so we had fish for supper instead. I was anxious to know how things were going inside. Micah told me that Marody was about to clean out the house. “You mean the game’s on the level?” I must admit that I was pretty shocked!
“Looks that way, Lucas.”
I went inside and walked up to Lariat’s table. He wasn’t looking too good. I must admit that I felt sorry for him. He looked up at me with a desperate expression. “Luke,” he acknowledged me.
I gave him a friendly smile. “How’s it going?” I asked.
“Like a witch’s brew,” he answered.
I suddenly frowned and looked around. I understood his signal and started sizing up the situation. I saw Wymerman and Doyle standing on each side of the table, watching carefully. Something was about to happen, and I was immediately on guard to assist with that something.
"You’re right Morody, you just put us out of business." Morody and his men started laughing because they were sure they had won. But then Lariat threw down his hand. “Full house.” He laid down 2 8’s and 3 Kings.
“That don’t make any sense,” Morody stated. Doyle started to draw but I grabbed him and pushed him back against the bar.
Lariat suddenly stood up. Wymerman came forward. “He cheated you, with a cold deck!” he declared. “If you don’t kill him, I will.”
I quickly threw Doyle’s gun to Lariat. Lariat grabbed it, turned around and fired. He killed Wymerman. I felt bad for Lariat. He looked so defeated. We had changed! I laid my hand on his shoulder, letting him know there were no hard feelings. I felt bad for him having to kill a man.
The day came when Lariat had to leave. I tried to talk him into staying since the cattle business was booming. “Oh, cattle raising ain’t for me, Luke!” I told him that there were a lot of other opportunities here. “I hear that Bannock is just down the road,” Lariat stated.
I knew he had to leave. We couldn’t live in the past. I smiled. “Bannock’s a fine town too,” I stated.
“Ten to one I make it ‘fore sunset!” he declared.
“Ten to one you do!” I stated as I watched him ride off.
Lariat was getting ready to leave town. I tried to talk him into staying. He wasn't interested. He bet me he could make Bannock before sunset. I bet him he could.
That evening I was finishing up the dishes while Mark sat at the table playing with a deck of cards. He thought he was ready to show me the card trick. "Pick a card, any card," he said. I did and hid it from his view. He thought really hard, then he guessed the ten of hearts.
“Sorry, son. The eight of clubs.” I threw the card down.
Mark was frustrated. He thought he had done everything Lariat had taught him to do. I sat down to talk to him. “Tell me something, Mark. How long have you been practicing that trick?” He told me about a week. “About a week, huh? And how long do you think Lariat practiced before he got it down pat? I can tell you, a lot more then a week. It takes a lot of studying and a lot of practice to learn even a card trick right. Just like it does to, well, to break a horse or even to handle a plow smooth. So I think you better put your time into something worthwhile like studying your schoolbooks, especially practicing these arithmetic lessons!" I picked up his math book and smacked it down in front of him.
"I guess your right," said Mark. “But ya' know, I bet that trick of pulling a card out of the air, I bet that took a lot of Lariat’s worthwhile time."
"You’re right. You can bet when I was your age I didn't spend a lot of time reaching out like this to…make a card appear." Suddenly a card appeared in my hand.
You should have seen the look on his face. He grabbed my hand and pleaded with me, "Pa, will you show me?"
"First you do those lessons. You get every problem right, I'll show you."
"Yes sir!" He grabbed his book and started on his homework.
piddlin' stuff.....Richard Anderson appeared in six episodes ― One Went to Denver as Tom Birch an old friend of Lucas' ― Lariat as Lariat Jones, an old friend of Lucas', he too was in love with Margaret ― Miss Bertie as Duke Jennings, the cowboy that Miss Bertie had a wanted poster on ― Flowers by the Door as Jason Gowdy, the lady killer ― Millie's Brother as Harry Chase, the man who claimed he was with Millie's Brother when he died ― The Bullet as Griff, the owner of The Lucky Chance Casino in Los Cruces.
The Rife in which Lucas threw at Tom Birch at the end of the episode was a 'rubber rifle'. Chuck took it home and left his kids play with it.
George Macready appeared in two episode ― Eight Hours to Die as Judge Zephaniah Burton who was out for revenge ― Lariat as Matt Wymerman who was the owner of the crooked gambling house.
Steve Conte played Doyle Black. He was Wymerman's partner.
Dayton Lummis appeared in two episode of ― Lariat as Colonel Craig, he was the cheater in the beginning of the episode playing cards with Lariat Jones ― Illustrator as Jake Shaw, Hanna's father.
James Flavin played Morody the cowpoke at the end of the story who broke the bank.
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.
Bill Quinn appeared in thirty-eight episodes as Sweeney the owner/bartender of The North Fork Saloon. Sweeney was first introduced to The Rifleman in The Marshal.
Beverly Ann Englander as Miss Carlisle the dance-hall girl.
Garry Walberg as a card player/a friend of the Colonel.
Whitey Hughes was a well known and respected stuntman, he appeared in twenty-seven episodes of The Rifleman and still counting. Whitey had over a 50-year career as a stuntman and stunt coordinator, he has been praised as one of the top stuntman in Hollywood. Whitey was the best of the best!
Jack Tornek appeared in six episodes — New Orleans Menace as Tiffauges Rider ― Legacy as the preacher — Lariat as the card dealer — Baranca and on of Baranca's Angels ― The Vaqueros as one of the townsmen and Quiet Night, Deadly Night as one of the townsmen.
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.
Snub Pollard appeared in two episodes ― Lariat as a card player ― Sins of the Father as the Drunk in the Saloon who witnessed the of killing Shep Coleman.
Dick Rich appeared in two episodes — The Young Englishman as the Line Boss, he was the one who Waggoner told to watch the road & the first one to get shot — Lariat as Fred the disgruntled card player.
Nick Borgani appeared in three episodes ― The Spoiler as a townsmen ― Lariat as the card dealer ― Nora as a poker game spectator.
Fred Coby appeared as a Card Dealer in Lariat.
John Breen appeared in six episodes ― The Safe Guard as a Townsmen ― The Lariat as a Waiter as a townsmen ― The Clarence Bibs Story as a townsmen ― The Jailbird as a townsmen ― The Indian as a townsmen ― The Martinet as a townsmen.
Frank Baker as one of the Gamblers.
Rod McGaughy was an actor and a stuntman who 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.
Jack Clinton as the Bartender.
Russell Custer appeared seven times ― None So Blind as a Townsman ― Woman from Hog Ridge as a Townsman ― The Lariat as a Gambler ― The Vision as a Cowhand ― Panic as a Townsman ― The Jailbird as a Townsman ― A Case of Identity as a Townsman.
Paul Kruger appeared in three episodes ― Eight Hours to Die as the sheriff from Claypool Panic as one of the gang from town who came out to Lucas' ranch to help burn it down ― Lariat as a gambler.
Sam Harris as a Gambler.
Les Raymaster has appeared in seven episodes — Duel of Honor as a Barfly ― The Coward as a townsman ― Honest Abe as a townsman — Nora as a townsman — A Case of Identity as a townsman — The Lariat as a gambler ― Dead Cold Cash as a townsman.
How many cowboy's other then Lucas also cared for Margaret?
There was Reef Jackson — episode #162 ― End of the Hunt, Tom Birch — episode #25 One Went to Denver and Lariat Jones — episode #67 Lariat.
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Bloopers - Lariat
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