"Welcome to the McCain Ranch"
Men working in hard-labor at the New Mexico Territorial Prison – that was the scene as this story begins. Two men in the office spoke of seven of the men out working. They had all been sentenced to die in Yuma. They were to be transported by wagon to Yuma, making one stop for food and supplies – in North Fork.
And that’s how Mark and I got into our latest mess.
The evening started out pleasant enough – Mark was grooming himself in the mirror while I was saddling up the horses. As I came back inside to tell Mark to get his ready on. But I stopped at the door and put my hands on my hips as I declared, “Well, when I went outside five minutes ago to saddle the horses, you were coming your hair. Still at it, huh?”
Mark continued with his grooming. “Well, we’re gonna have supper at the hotel tonight, I gotta slick up for it. You know that,” Mark answered.
“Now just a minute, young fella! We’re going into town to get me a new leaver for my rifle at the gun shop. I didn’t say anything to you about eating at the hotel,” I stated as I came inside to wash my hands.
But Mark had it all figured out all ready! “Well, I figure you didn’t have to just come right out and say it,” he commented. “So, I just added up two and two and got five!” He stated this with one of his genuine smarty smiles. “That’s all.”
“How do you mean?” I asked as I continued washing my hands.
Mark walked over to the table. “Well, we haven’t eaten dinner yet have we?”
“And it’s five o’clock and we haven’t brought in any mean from the smokehouse. You haven’t asked me to peel any potatoes or shuck any corn. And it’s about an hour’s ride into town and it’ll take about half an hour to get your rifle fixed, another hours ride back and that’s about 7:30. And we never eat that late, do we?” Mark said this while he tucked his shirt in.
I must admit that I was pretty amazed by my young son’s reasoning. I started over toward him as I started folding the towel I had used to dry my hands. “I must admit you’ve got it all figure out,” I stated. But then I had the dreaded question he always hates to hear about. “But there’s one thing I don’t understand.”
“What’s that?” Mark suddenly asked.
“When are you going to do your homework?” I asked as I gave him my stern look.
“Well, I already did that,” Mark answered.
I had a little trouble believing that since it usually took lots of threatening to get him to do his homework each night – that was usually one of our small battles in the McCain house. “You-“ I started, surprisingly. “When?” I then questioned doubtfully.
Mark put his jacket on as he answered. “Oh this afternoon when I came home after I heard you tell Micah that we were gonna eat supper with him!” He of course said that with that smarty smile on his face!
“Ew!” I declared as I playfully hit him with the dishtowel. Mark started laughing and I gave him a big grin as I grabbed my riddle and headed out the door.
While I went to get my rifle fixed, I sent Mark to get the things we needed at Hattie’s. Hattie locked up the store when Mark was done and headed over to the hotel herself to have supper with Mrs. Sweeny. That’s right – Sweeny was married!
As Mark walked down the boardwalk, he saw a strange looking wagon ride into town. The two riders got out of the wagon and walked into the hotel. Now we all know Mark and how curious he is about things. I reckon I had never told him about prison wagons, and he had no way of knowing what it was. So he slowly made his way towards the wagon to see what it was all about. Cautiously, slowly, and curiously, Mark walked closer and closer to the wagon.
The men inside – prisoners on their way to be hung in Yuma – saw Mark approaching. They felt like animals in a cage and wanted to grab Mark in an attempt to escape.
As Micah and I stood on outside the gun shop, I was checking the new leaver on my rifle when suddenly I looked up and saw him getting frighteningly close to the prison wagon. “Mark!” I yelled in warning.
Mark turned to look at me. Suddenly, one of the prisoners grabbed him and held him up against the wagon. Mark was scared. I rushed up to them and jammed the butt of my rifle into the prisoner’s hand, forcing him to let go of my son.
The prisoner cried out in pain. “Hey you sodbuster!” the prisoner cried out.
I grabbed Mark’s hat and turned to look at my son. I was pretty upset with him as I hurried over to him. "Mark, what are you trying to do?" I asked angrily. Mark just stood there and stared at me, trying to catch his breath. "Answer me boy," I demanded.
"Well...I...I...I'm sorry Pa. I...I just wanted to find out what it was. I didn't mean to get so close," Mark answered.
But I didn’t want to hear his lame excuses. I was angry that he had frightened me so by foolishly allowing his curiosity to take over. "You got no business going anywhere near that wagon," I shouted at him, still angry.
Suddenly, grandfather Micah jumped to Mark’s defense, and I suppose he also brought me back to my senses. "You can't blame the boy Lucas. After all that things got no business being in the street in the first place.” Micah had a protective arm around Mark. I’m not sure if he was trying to protect him from the prisoners or from me. "It's a prison wagon Mark. It comes by here once a year on it's way to Yuma. Those men in there – they’ve got nothing to loose. Even using a boy to try and get loose," said Micah.
I suddenly realized that I had gotten bent out of shape and allowed my fear to take over instead of explaining the dangers to Mark. I apologized to him, explaining that he had given me a big scared. Then I lovingly smiled at him and plopped his hat back on his head. “That’s alright, it was my fault,” Mark said as he adjusted his hat. But Micah suddenly declared it was nobody’s fault except the guards. Mark informed him they headed into the hotel.
After Micah headed off to find the guards, I laid a protective hand on Mark’s shoulders. “How about you and me having a steak before we head home?” I suggested, remembering that we were going to eat at the hotel with Micah. I could feel that Mark was still quite shaken from being grabbed.
“Yes sir!” Micah declared enthusiastically.
“It’ll make both of us feel better,” I declared as we headed past the prison wagon. I kept a protective arm around my son.
Just as we started to head for the hotel, Dorf, the leader of the prisoners, hollered to me. "Hey sodbuster. Nobody hits my hand and gets away with it. I'll kill ya', ya hear? If I ever get out of this cage, I'll kill ya'.” His words shook Mark up all over again and I protectively hurried him away, holding him even closer to me. “ Ya' hear me, I'm gonna kill ya. I'll get you, wait and see,” the prisoner continued yelling. I pushed Mark into the hotel as quickly as I could. I didn’t want my boy exposed to anymore of that!
Dorf was dying to get his hands on me. He was getting tired of sitting in that wagon like he had been doing for three weeks. He didn’t like that they were being treated like animals. “I’m getting’ out of here!” he declared to the doubtful prisoners.
Micah went in to talk to the guards. He watched as the waiter brought them an old bowl of scraps. Micah questioned the food they were giving the prisoners, stating that they got a mess allowance. But the guard couldn't see spending too much money on the likes of those prisoners. Every one of them was going to Yuma to be hung. They told Micah that this was there last supply stop. As soon as they ate they would pick up their supplies and head out.
Hattie overheard them. "The supplies store is closed. Won't be open until seven in the morning," she declared
. The guard said that they would have to wait. "You take the wagon back out on the trail where it belongs. One of you can come in the morning to get what you need," Micah ordered.
"Whatever you say Marshal. As soon as we have them fed and have dinner,” the guard answered him.
"While your at it, get that thing off the streets so it don't offend anybody. You can put it along side the hotel." said Micah. Micah then came over and sat with us. “Bring me a cup of coffee!” I told the waiter.
“And two glasses of milk,” I called after him.
The guard took the food out to the prisoners. They acted like animals as they ate. The guard started backing the wagon up like Micah had requested.
The guard still inside the hotel was telling us about the prisoners. “Seven of them we got. Bad, all bad!” he declared as he ate at the table beside us. I didn’t think it was exactly table conversation, but he just kept on. “Now you take that Dorf and his buddy, Fitz. Hm. They just don’t come no meaner! They robbed a bank up in Kansas, and just because there weren’t enough money in the bank as they thought there should’ve been, they just killed ‘em all. Mm Hm, cowards, cashiers, customers – just gunned them down! I ain’t never seen a meaner lot what they is! Never!”
Dorf smelled the food in the bowl. “Rotten! That’s what it is – rotten! Just like that stinkin’ guard! Just like that sodbuster! I’ll get my hands on him! And when I do-“ He was so angry that he just broke the bowl in two.
But as he threw it down, Sanchez picked a piece of the bowl up and showed them an idea he had of using it as a weapon. Dorf smiled evilly. He loved the idea! The other five prisoners started to fight while Dorf and Sanchez waited to get their hands on the guard and force him to open the door.
Sure enough, as soon as the fighting started the guard got off to calm them down. He walked right into their trap. He yelled at them to stop their fighting. The he turned to move away. Dorf and Sanchez hit him over the head with the pieces of broken bowl, knocking him unconscious. They grabbed his keys then let him drop.
All seven prisoners were now running free. Dorf grabbed the guard’s gun then ordered the other prisoners to drag him off.
The guard in the hotel decided to go check on the other guard. It was taking him a long time to move the wagon. When the guard got to the doorway he realized it was quiet out on the street – too quiet! As he walked up to the wagon to investigate, Dorf hit him over the head with the gun and they dragged him off as well.
Dorf sent Sanchez to get the guns at Micah's office. Sanchez started for the horse. Dorf stopped him. He then sent Gibbons to watch the back door of the hotel. Sanchez wanted to leave.....now. Dorf had Frost break into the Gunsmith's and ammunition and then over to the store to get decent cloths and decent food for them. “Then I have a score to settle with that sodbuster before I ride out!” he announced.
“We ain’t got time,” Frost warned him.
“We’ll make time!” Dorf insisted. He was delivering all the orders! Then he told the other two he'd meet them back at the saloon.
“Do you know what you’re doing?” Sanchez asked.
“I know,” Dorf stated. “And it won’t take long! That sodbusters gonna be sorry the day he was born."
Meanwhile, Micah, Mark and I were still in the restaurant eating. Mark was certainly ready to eat a whole pie! Micah suddenly stated he needed to get back to work. As he got up to leave, Hattie stopped him. "Micah, you let us know when that wagon’s gone. May and I are not leaving here until it's off the street."
But then Hattie changed her mind. She was very uncomfortable "On second thought, I'll open up the store again after we're through eating and they can get what they need and clear out. Why it isn't fitting for a thing like that to be near decent people."
When Micah came out he saw the quiet, dark street and the lonely prison wagon. The men weren’t screaming. The guards were no where in sight. It didn’t take him long to realize that something was wrong…very wrong! Micah suddenly heard a noise coming from the General store. “Alright, hold it!” he cried. But they began firing shots at him as he hid behind the empty prison wagon. Many, many shots were fired as I sat there in the hotel restaurant.
I grabbed my gun without a word to Mark and raced out. The men had all made it to the saloon. A shot was fired at me as I stood outside trying to figure out what was going on. Suddenly, Micah hollered for me to cover him so he could get back over to me. I fired off a round of shots to hold them back until we were safely back inside the hotel.
As we stood inside the doorway of that saloon, Micah stated that all seven of those prisoners had gotten out of that wagon.
Some of the men were nervous, but Dorf knew they had the back covered so we couldn’t do anything. “You can hold this town just because you got a score to settle with that sodbuster!” One of the prisoners declared.
All the others wanted to leave but Dorf made the decision to stay. He wanted me. "We'll leave when I say," Dorf declared. Then he turned and ordered Sweeny to get them something to eat and drink.
“They must be waiting for something, Micah,” I stated calmly. “Or else they would’ve cleared out of here a long time ago.” Micah said we needed more help. Right now the odds were in the favor: 7 against 2. I went to see if I could sneak out the back of the hotel, but as I stepped into the doorway a shot was fired, barely missing me. There was no escape.
When the men in the saloon heard that shot they were suddenly afraid that I had killed the man in the back. Dorf had to prove he was still there guarding us.
On my way back to Micah, Mrs. Sweeny suddenly stopped me. “My husband’s over there in that saloon.”
“I know that,” I answered.
“What’s gonna happen to him?” she asked. “What do those men want?”
“That I don’t know.”
The prisoners kept insisting on leaving but Dorf wouldn't budge. They wanted to grab the horses down in the stable and leave. "No! Ain't you forgettin' they were wanna hang us? I ain’t forgettin' those months and years we spent in that hole. How those guards beat us like we were animals. That sodbuster smashed my fingers. That's the last man that's ever gonna touch me.” Dorf suddenly turned angry. "Now shut up and get back to your drinkin'." They knew there was no reasoning with him.
I was still trying to figure out what those prisoners were waiting around for. “Well for Heaven’s sakes, ask them!” Hattie suddenly declared. Leave it to a woman to give us a simple solution!
“Well, that’s one way to find out,” Micah stated. Then he yelled to them....."Hey, you in there. Ya' hear me?"
"We hear ya'," Dorf hollered back.
"What do you want?"
"Whose askin'? Is that you Marshal?"
"That's right," Micah called.
"Well now your a real smart man Marshal. You can see that from where were standing there ain't much in this street we're gonna miss," Dorf answered.
"We can see that. What do you want?" I asked then.
"That you sodbuster? I'll tell you what I want. I want you! That's all, just you! You and me. We got a little score to settle."
“What’s he talking about?” Micah asked then.
I stayed squatted behind the door to the hotel, but realization crept through me. “Oh,” I said. “He’s the one that grabbed Mark!”
“Come on, sodbuster! Let’s get this settled! What do you say?” Dorf insisted. I thought he was pretty crazy!
Dorf was still standing pretty much alone. The other prisoners wanted to just get out of there. They didn’t want to stick around while he tried to settle some personal score with me. Suddenly, Dorf called Sweeny over to him. He held the gun to his hand and called out to us. "Hey sodbuster, look here. You to Marshal. See what I got here? I got a little baldheaded bartender. He's so scared he's shakin' all over. Fact is, he's so scared he’s liable to make me pull the trigger on this gun I'm holdin' to his head."
Upon hearing this, Mrs. Sweeny came running the door crying and yelling. I grabbed her and pulled her back inside. She was hysterical, afraid they would kill her husband. But I knew we had to play things safe – their way. Hattie gently consoled her and got her calmed down. I could understand how she felt. Sweeney was May's husband.
I crept back behind the door and hollered out to him, “Alright, let him go! He’s done nothing to you!”
“I know that!” he answered me back. “And I won’t do anything to him either if you come out like I say. If you don’t, this town’s gonna need a new bartender! You or him!”
That was my choice. I looked around at my friends who stared back at me – Micah, Hattie, Mrs. Sweeny, and yes…Mark. What was I going to do?
Frost was angry, telling Dorf he was loco. Dorf had been putting up with his mouth all night and suddenly couldn’t take it anymore. He shot him down. Bang!
The shot rang out through the night. May Sweeny clung to me and burst into tears, thinking they had killed him. I turned and saw Sweeny still standing in the doorway with a gun pointed at him. I consoled her, forcing her to look and see that her husband was still okay. "He's alright, he's standing there. Look.....look for yourself May."
"Don't hurt him please," May screamed at them. She suddenly turned to me. "It's you they want! Why don't you do something. You can't let him die."
I turned and looked at my son. I could tell he was very worried about this. “Yeah, it’s me he wants,” I stated worriedly. I looked at my best friend and he knew what I had decided to do.
“Lucas-“ he started. But then he stopped. We both knew the truth – we had no other way out.
"Alright! What do you want with me?" I asked. Mark wasn’t too happy with my decision either.
"Sodbuster, remember what I told ya? You hurt me, all I want to do is hurt you,” Dorf answered.
“You’ll kill him anyhow, huh?” I asked.
“That’s a chance you’ll have to take! If you don’t come out, I’ll kill him. If you try anything funny I’ll kill him. You come out and face me, maybe I will – maybe I won’t. And sodbuster, you ain’t in any position to argue!”
That was my choices. “What happens afterwards?” I asked.
“We ride out of town, Dorf answered.
May suddenly clung to me again and begged me not to do it. “You heard him, May. We’re in no position to argue,” I answered her. “Hattie?” Hattie took May back inside. “Micah, the one in the back – watch out for him, huh?” I can’t say that I wasn’t nervous – I was! I took one more look at my boy then started out the door.
I stepped out onto the boardwalk. Dorf stepped out, leaving Sweeny guarded by some other prisoners. “Well, you came out just in time. That bartender didn’t have long to live,” he announced.
“You mean you’d kill him just to get back at me for something?” I asked. I never would understand cold-blooded murderers, or any other kind for that matter.
He started in on my smashing his knuckles. He had sworn nobody would ever lay a finger on him again. “What did you expect me to do,” I suddenly asked. “Stand by that wagon and let you get your hands on my boy?”
He was tired of my talking. “Stop the blabbering and let’s get on with it!” he ordered.
“How do you want it?” I challenged him.
He handed one of the other prisoners his gun. I set my rifle down. We started down the street toward each other. Then we stood in front of each other and turned around. He delivered two hard punches to me, knocking me to the ground. I tripped him and knocked him down on the ground with me. He punched me again and again and again as he was on top of me.
Micah looked around the back and saw the prisoner on guard there. He told the waiter from the restaurant to watch the front as he made his way to the back. As we continued rolling around on the ground, Micah hit the butt of his gun over the head of the prisoner guarding the back and knocked him out cold.
That only left five.
Dorf fought dirty…really dirty! He punched me all the way up against a building. Then he threw a chair at me. I moved just in time and the chair slammed through the store window. I punched him hard out onto the street, then threw myself on top of him as we again rolled around on the ground.
Suddenly, he had his arms around me and was squeezing me around my middle really hard. I cried out in pain,, desperately trying to get away from him before he crushed me to death. I had no choice. I violently thrashed my head up against his, knocking him back.
We delivered some more punches until he finally knocked me into the water trough. He held my head underwater trying to drown me. I fought hard and got my head out from the water. Again, he pushed my head under and held it there. Somehow, I managed to turn him over to where he was now the one in danger of drowning. I jerked him out of the trough and gave him one last hard punch.
Micah suddenly ran over to the prison wagon and shot his gun off right over them. That spooked the horses and got them to running, killing Dorf and leaving us with only five prisoners. Shooting erupted and I rolled across the street to my rifle. Bang! Bang! I fired to fast shots, killing one prisoner. That left us with three.
Bang! One quick shot from Micah killed another one. Now we only had two. They surrendered. It was over.
Sweeny and May ran out and met in the middle of the street. They embraced, relieved to be in each other’s arms once again.
Mark slowly walked over to me, not quite believing it was over. I was exhausted – emotionally and physically exhausted. I was still kneeled on the ground. Mark stood over me and looked down at me. Our eyes held each others. Then Mark put his arm around my neck and I laid my head against his middle as I gasped breaths of air in relief and closed my eyes.
I was alive. I had made it through!
The next night I was working on the pump…again! Mark was restless. He was still up reading in his schoolbooks. I looked over at him. “It’s way past your bedtime, Mark,” I stated sternly.
“I know,” he said. “I just don’t seem to be tired.” He slowly walked over to me. “Alright if I stay in here and watch for awhile?”
Normally I would have sent him on to bed, but somehow I knew something was bothering that boy, so I simply answered, “Suit yourself,” and waited for him to open up to me.
It didn’t take him long. “Pa, is it possible to loose a town?” he suddenly blurted out.
“Loose a town?” I asked as I looked at him. Then I suddenly realized he was thinking about what happened to those prisoners last night. Mark figured they could’ve taken the town away from us. “They could’ve taken it physically, Mark, but they couldn’t have kept it. Takes more then just guns to hold a town. No son, the time a town or even a country is really lost is when the people who live in it get careless and stop paying attention to how it’s being run.”
Again, Mark surprised me by blurting out, “Oh, you mean like the Roman Empire!” I turned and looked at my child. He never ceased to amaze me!
“Your up to that already?” I asked a bit shocked. He said Miss. Adams started them on it last week. “Well then you know the value of studying your history. Now, you were a hundred percent right when you said ‘like the Roman Empire.’ By knowing the mistakes people have made hundreds of years ago, we can learn a lesson and profit from not making the same mistakes ourselves.” I thought on that myself as I spoke these words to my son.
“I hope so,” Mark stated. I suddenly turned and stared at my young son. He hoped so? That was an odd response to one of my inspired lectures! I reckon I was putting him to sleep as usual because he suddenly yawned and stated he could go to sleep now. “Goodnight, Pa!”
As he disappeared into the bedroom, I said, “Goodnight, son.” Then I thought about his “I hope so” comment and shook my head.
piddlin' stuff.....Don Megowan as Dorf, the prisoner who grabbed a hold of Mark outside of the prison wagon.
Don Megowan: "Coolest Father in the World"
An interview with his daughter Vicki
Bing Russell appeared in two episodes ― A Matter of Faith as Hode Evans, he's the cowboy who beat on Mr. Jonas and threw the dirt at Lucas ― Seven as Sanchez, he was one of the condemned murderers who escaped and took over the town of North Fork.
The '7' Prisoners
There were five actors who appeared on The Rifleman that were regulars on Bonanza — do you know who they are?
Hal John Norman appeared in two episodes ― The Pet as the father of the little girl that had anthrax, he was also in Seven as Frost one of the The '7' Prisoners.
Paul Sorensen appeared in two episodes ― Seven as one of the prison guards, he's the one in the beginning of the episode that fed the prisoners ― The Sixteenth Cousin as Vic Adler, he's the cowboy who asked if they (Soto and Hikaru Yamanaka) wanted to fight with guns or their hands tied behind their backs.
John Cliff was the second prison guard, the one who ate in the dining room of the hotel.
Joe E. Benson appeared in The Rifleman many times, probably more times than listed. Sometimes credited & sometimes not.
*Please note: In Dark Day at North Fork he appeared as two different characters - as one of the townsmen & the bartender.
Joe was a good friend & a neighbor of Chuck's. He helped Chuck build a tree house for the boys and also help build the addition onto the house which was later called the den. (One of the several tree house pictures)
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.
Do you know Sweeney's first name? Have you ever heard anyone call him by his first name? I think I heard May (Sweeney's wife) call Sweeney, Bill. You would think May would know her husband's name. Was this a blooper and May used Bill's real name by mistake?
Helen Beverly as May, Sweeney's wife.
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.
Robert Bice appeared in four episodes ― The Mind Reader as John Hallager, he was the man killed that Billy Mathis (Michael Landon) was accused of killing ― The Coward as Ben Smith, the Trail Boss of the cattle drive ― Seven as the warden of the New Mexico Territorial Prison ― Deadly Image as Len Richards, he was the one who accused Lucas of killing his brother.
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.
Max Wagner appeared in four episodes ― Blood Brother as John Stoddard, he was the man who was dying when Mark and Lucas brought him into town, the man Micah despised ― The Spoiler as one of the townsmen — Seven as Prisoner Gibbons — Strange Town as one of the townsmen. The '7' Prisoners
Bob Whitney as the Diner Proprietor. He is the man who came running out of the hotel shooting to help Lucas. He was a stand-in much like Ralph Moratz, which means he dressed like the actor and in between shots his job was to stand there to get the lights and everything right. This means that he was constantly employed and his parts were generally bigger like in the episode Seven.
George Bruggeman appeared five episodes of The Rifleman ― The Coward as one of Ben Smith's cowhand
― Seven as one of the seven prisoners ― The Promoter as a spectator at the shooting match ― Miss Bertie as a Barfly ― The Mescalero Curse as the Hangman.
The '7' Prisoners
You better watch your P's and Q's" — In the colonial days, drinks were served in pint or quart sizes. If a customer was getting too rowdy, the bartender would say "Mind your Ps and Qs."
Bloopers - Seven
You've heard Lucas' story, now hear Mark's
Character Actors Index Page
Have you ever been watching TV or a movie and wondered who is that guy?
Bloopers for this episode & other episodes
Woman from Hog Ridge
around The McCain Ranch