"Welcome to the McCain Ranch"
A parent doesn’t only have the job of providing for his child and making sure he eats the right foods, gets enough sleep, and goes to school. The hardest part of being a parent is sometimes knowing what his child is thinking and feeling so that if his thoughts are mixed up, he can try to straighten them out, or if the child is upset, he will get to the bottom of it. But there are times that I find I’m just as helpless as the next parent. Sometimes there are things my boy wonders about that I just simply can’t answer. Sometimes he gets so deeply troubled that I don’t know how to help him – but trust that he’ll come to me before it’s too late. There was a lot of these things I’ve mentioned in this story, and I’m happy to say that in the end justice proved to ring true.
Before I start discussing what happened to Mark and me, I wanted to tell you about what happened to a good friend of Mark’s. Joey was traveling on a road when suddenly he saw a man that appeared to be quite ill. Now Joey was always a gentle soul, like my boy, and if there was someone in trouble he wanted to help. He hurried up to the man and asked him if something was wrong. The stranger stated he needed water. “Yeah, sure!” Joey said. But then as he ran to his horse to get the water, this stranger hurried up behind him with a great big knife. He stabbed him and Joey fell to the ground.
Now, here’s where Mark and I come in. We came into town to buy wire for our rabbit problem. The minute we had gotten into the General Store, you know where that boy of mine went – straight to the candy! A nice old lady named Mrs. Avery was in there. I told her the rabbits were eating out of house and home. “Real hungry this year,” I stated. Mrs. Avery noticed Mark looking at the candy and offered to buy him some. But as a parent, I had to make sure my boy’s teeth didn’t rot or he didn’t get sick from candy. “I’m sorry, son. Too much candy-“ I started. Mrs. Avery started to argue with me, but I remained firm. “I’m sorry Ma’am.”
“Well, I’m sorry son, there’s other things!” Mrs. Avery decided. “You still got a taste for cinnamon rolls?” Mark got all excited. There was only so much a father could take without giving in, and they had me over a barrel, though I knew she was spoiling him. She said she happened to have some dough rising, and it wouldn’t take long to bake him up a batch. I looked on without saying a word, though it was clear that I didn’t quite think this was a good idea…”That’s providing you have no objections, of course,” Mrs. Avery was saying now.
“Oh, no objections,” I answered with hesitation.
“Lucas, they’re young for such a small time. You think it’s wrong to be easy with them?” She suddenly asked. She sounded just like a grandmother!
I told her what I thought – if she had one of her own, she’d really spoil him! She smiled and stated she had to go get her husband’s from the barber. Mark and I went to look at the chicken wire.
But when we walked out on the street the mood was suddenly different, and we could tell right away that tragedy had struck. I had no idea how close to home he had struck at the moment though. We had just put the chicken wire in the back of the wagon and I was helping Mark up when suddenly we noticed men gathered on the street, talking in hushed whispers. Those hushed whispers only meant one thing – something terrible had happened.
I immediately walked to the wagon without saying a word. Before I even got there, I realized it was a body. Micah was standing there and immediately lifted the blanket. I stared in horror. It was Joey Merrick. He was just a boy! “I was talking to him yesterday!
” Mark suddenly said in shock. “Just yesterday.”
Micah told me that Ted Penn had found him stabbed up by the 12 mile marker. It’s going to be really hard for his Pa. Ted had gone to tell Roy, Joey’s father.
Suddenly, Roy came running up to the wagon. Everyone stared quietly as he stopped and slowly walked up to the wagon. Everyone felt sorry for him, but no one wanted to be him in this moment – the saddest moment a father could ever face.
Roy approached the covered body ever so slowly. We could tell it was hard for him to even stand. But he lifted the sheet with strength to confirm for himself that his son was indeed done. He began crying as he lowered the sheet. Micah walked up to him and spoke softly. “I’m sorry, Roy.”
That’s really all any of us could do at the moment. Roy suddenly began weeping as he spoke. "He was riding up to Hait Flats, we got family there. He was gonna stay the night. Why would anybody want to kill him? Why? He didn't have any money,” Roy cried.
”He had a gun and a horse," Micah answered matter-of-factly. Everybody knew his horse, and his saddle has his name burnt in.
“Taking things like that, a man’s got to be loco!” Roy cried. "Stabbing the boy for no reason, who could do a thing like that?"
"Brud Evans, maybe. “He broke away from the Marshal a couple days ago while they were transferring him to Yuma. I got it in a telegraphy. He’s killed that way before, sometimes for less reason to it. It just happens it was Joey he found. Could have been almost anybody” Micah answered.
The street was quiet as everyone watched this father in mourning. I cannot even begin to imagine what he was going through. I hoped I never would. Roy continued crying. Micah calmly suggested he go on home. He’d take care of the body. Roy walked away, heart broken and alone.
After he left, I told Micah I’d stay and help him. "Mark, think you can take the buckboard home alone?" I asked my son. He nodded sadly, but didn’t move. I patted him on the shoulder, trying to put some normalcy back into his suddenly confused mind. "Start the fence, will you?" He stood still, staring at the covered sheet. “Micah will drop me off later.”
Mark slowly started for the wagon. But then he turned. "I sure feel sorry for Mr. Merrick," he said in a quiet, sad voice.
I knew he was struggling with this, and he didn’t want to be alone. But I had to help Micah, and I decided that it would be best to send mark on his way. "Seems like a man has to face his worse times alone, son." Mark turned and headed for home.
Mr. and Mrs. Avery had sat on their buckboard and listened to the whole thing. They looked at each other with concern, then slowly drove away. They drove to their house and stopped. Mrs. Avery turned to her husband. “We could be wrong, Walt. We could! Now, the chances are he ain’t no where near.” She tried desperately to reassure her worried husband.
“He wasn’t to far away when he killed the boy,” he answered.
“Are you so sure it was Brud?” She asked.
He looked at her. “Are you sure it wasn’t,” he asked.
She couldn’t answer. They both knew the truth, but neither wanted to say it aloud. After they got down from the wagon, she turned to him. “It just ain’t possible! Now, he can’t know we’re here! He don’t know where we run to or what name we took!” she insisted.
They weren’t going to run anymore – they couldn’t!
With her head held high, Mrs. Avery went inside to start on baking those rolls for Mark. But they walked in the door and came face to face with Brud Evans, their son. “Hello Ma, Pa…” They stared at him in horror. He walked towards them. It wasn’t a happy reunion.
When I got home, I helped Mark with the fence. But Mark’s heart wasn’t into his work. He was visibly upset and I felt sorry for him. This is one hard part of my job – telling Mark I didn’t have all the answers to his questions. “Still thinking about today?” I asked softly as I looked worriedly at my struggling son. Mark nodded. “I kinda figured.” I stayed quiet, giving Mark the opportunity to tell me what was on his mind.
"Joey never hurt anybody, why did it happen to him?" Mark asked. He was almost at the point of tears. I felt so bad for my boy and wished I could take his pain and loss away.
I also wished I could give him an answer, but I couldn’t. "I don't know Mark,” I answered. My voice sounded broken as well. It was a hard thing for a father to admit he couldn’t help his son understand such a senseless act.
“Well, there should be some reason to it, not just folks getting hurt or killed without no cause, loosing the one’s that mean the most to them like we lost Ma and-“ I had been listening sympathetically. But at his mention of his mother, my head suddenly popped up. After all these years it still hurt him, and there was absolutely nothing I could do about it. Mark suddenly realized that hit me hard and apologized.
“That’s alright, Mark.” I stood and came to kneel next to him, hoping my physical closeness would lend him some sort of comfort he so desperately needed. "Listen son, it's just human nature to wonder about things. Don't ever be scared to ask questions. But you gotta remember one thing. There are questions we don't have the answers to. That's the way it is and we just have to do what we can and, well, try to get along with the answers we do have."
Mark stared straight a head. His eyes held a deep sadness. “I can’t forget the way Mr. Merrick looked,” he stated. Suddenly, he turned to me, a deep concern was on his face. "Pa, if anything would ever happen to you-“ He started.
I stopped him as I looked straight into his eyes. "It won't son, it won't,” I tried to assure him with a calm, soothing voice. He was dwelling on this too much. I knew I couldn’t let him brood. I told him to put his mind on something else, like cinnamon rolls.
"I plum forgot," Mark stated, his voice calmer. It even held a little excitement in it. I told him to hurry and get washed up. He would still have time to ride over there and back before dark.
I watched him leave, hoping my being there had done him some good. I knew there would be other moments like these, and in time he would come to realize that death was part of living.
At the Avery’s, Brud was making himself right at home. He stated that a guy named Pete had told him where his folks were. A couple years ago he saw them in town and started asking around. “I’ve been more or less countin’ on ya',” Brud stated as he looked at his father. “I figured I might have a place to hold up.”
"We don't want you here," Walt answered as he walked over to his wife.
"Oh, Now Pa, your not going to turn out - your own loving son," Bud answered.
"We have no son," said Mrs. Avery.
Brud stated that Mr. and Mrs. Avery had no son, but Mr. And Mrs. Evans had a fine son. He suddenly stood and came over to them, threatening them. “If you turn me over to the law, everybody’s gonna know who you are! Now that would be throwing away kinda a lot, wouldn’t it?” He stated as he leaned in toward them. “You built a pretty good house here. You got friends. People got respect and likin’ for you.
Suddenly Mr. Avery told him he was bad – there was no good in him. “I hold you high in respect too, Pa!” Brud shot out. They begged him to go away and leave them in peace.
Suddenly, they heard a horse approaching. It was Mark. Brud wasn’t happy to see him coming up. Mrs. Avery grabbed the pan of cinnamon rolls and Brud ordered her to get him out of there. The met him on the porch. Mrs. Avery handed him the whole pan as they tried to quickly hurry him off. Mr. Avery offered to put them in his saddle bag.
Mark suddenly turned and offered to do some chores for them. They were an older couple and I had taught him to always give our neighbors a helping hand. Mrs. Avery immediately told him there were no chores for him, but Mark wouldn’t accept that answer. She didn’t want to trouble him, she said. “Oh, it’s no trouble! I could use the exercise. I’ll see how you’re fixed,” Mark stated.
They tried to stop him, but Mark’s a pretty insistent boy. He ran to look for the ax so he could cut some firewood. But when he walked past the barn with the ax, he heard a horse. He glanced inside as he passed by, but then he stopped dead in his tracks.
It was Joey’s saddle and horse in plain sight. Suddenly he dropped the ax and hurried inside. He examined the saddle and horse closely. It was Joey’s – his friend who had been murdered. He stared in horror as the realization hit him hard. He was concentrating on his new revelation so hard that he didn’t hear the man come inside.
“Does that bother you boy?” Mark suddenly heard from behind him. He quickly turned and stared at the man walking toward him. He couldn’t say anything. Brud walked up to Mark. “I’m…uh…staying with the Avery’s for a spell. Old friends, you might say. They use to be kinda close to my folks.” Mark looked toward the Pinto pony. An unspoken question stood between them. "You figurin' I killed that fella? Maybe I took his horse and saddle?” He leaned down so he was looking right into Mark’s face. “You know, it could be that the killer stopped me too. Could be he made me swap horses with him. There’s a lot of things you gotta think on, boy.”
Mark was terrified – to terrified to speak. Brud got right in his face. Their faces were only inches away from each other’s. “Now, let’s suppose that I did kill him. That would make it kinda tough on them harboring out a criminal.”
Mark suddenly found his voice. There was a moment of brevity inside him. “Well, not if it was against their will,” he managed to stammer out
“Well, I like that! Speaking straight out – I like that fine! Alright – Alright, not if it was against their will.” Brud suddenly leaned in even closer to Mark and rested his hand on the post behind him. Mark suddenly felt very intimidated. “Only you’re not gonna tell anybody, because if anybody comes riding up here, you know what I’m gonna have to do to them two in the house! You know, boy! And it’s gonna be just the same as if you murdered them yourself!” Mark was so scared, he was shaking! “And you don’t want to do that, do ya'? So you’re just gonna forget that you ever saw me? Ain’t you?” Mark was gasping for air, he was so scared. “Ain’t you?” Brud yelled again. Mark nodded. “I like you boy, you’re real smart!” He patted Mark on the back. “Now get, boy!”
Mark obeyed him. He slowly walked toward the barn door, where Mrs. Avery was standing. They stared at each other for a minute as Mark continued to come closer. She suddenly turned away and Mark stopped, trying to figure out what to say. He knew she was in trouble and he was deeply worried and concerned for her. He slowly walked up to her. “I won’t say anything, Mrs. Avery,” Mark promised. “I won’t!” Then he ran off.
Mrs. Avery turned to Brud. “Get out of here!” She warned. “Saddle up and get out! The boy will tell his Pa!”
That night, I had put Mark to bed and was in the other room. But I suddenly heard noises coming from the bedroom. I opened the door and walked inside. Mark was having a nightmare. “Mark?” I called from the doorway.
He continued yelling “Go away!”
I rushed to his bed and sat down. “Mark,” I called gently as I grabbed his shoulders to wake him up. Mark began flinging his arms and tossing his head from side to side. “Please go away! Go away!”
“Mark,” I whispered as he opened his eyes and stared at me. I was suddenly concerned. He was scared.
He looked into my eyes as mine tried to calm him down. Mark suddenly threw his arms around me and held on for dear life. It surprised me a bit. Like any child, he had nightmares occasionally, but this one was bad! I patted his back and smoothed his hair. “It’s alright, son. It’s alright.” He held onto me for dear life and I held him securely in my arms. “It’s been a hard day. You just had a bad dream. I rubbed his back and head, trying to soothe him, letting him know I was here if he wanted to talk. “Want to sit up with me or go back to sleep?” I asked.
“Go back to sleep,” Mark mumbled into my shirt.
“Alright,” I answered. I pulled him away and tried to lay him back down on his pillow. But he threw his arms back around me and held tightly. I continued to hold him securely, patting his back as I talked softly to him. I must admit that it was sort of nice, his needing me like this and clinging to me so securely. I couldn’t keep a small smile of tenderness off of my face. These moments came less often as he grew older. Mark never said a word. I quietly began telling him about a time I was a little boy and my father sat me up and told me a story about a colt.
As I talked, Mark’s arms began relaxing. I knew he was back to sleep. I laid him back down in the bed with a tender smile.
The next morning, I was working on finishing up the breakfast dishes and hurrying Mark up for school. I threw him the left over cinnamon rolls, telling him he could eat them for his lunch. I held the baking pan I had just dried in my hands and tried to give it to Mark to return to her on his way home from school. Mark’s mood suddenly changed. He acted like the pan was a loaded gun. “Oh, I can’t today Pa!” Mark started backing away from him. He was totally nervous and frightened. “We got too many chores to do and-“ Mark suddenly occupied himself with looking for something. He continued talking nervously, not really making any sense. I could tell something was terribly wrong, but I wasn’t sure what.
I sat down on the edge of the table. “Mark, what’s wrong?” I asked, concerned for my young son.
Mark looked into my eyes nervously. “Just let me go to school now, Pa. Please?” He begged.
I could tell there was something really wrong, but I could also tell that Mark was too afraid to say anything to me. So after one more worried look at him, I picked up his pencil from the table and handed it to him. Mark quickly left, leaving me to wonder what was wrong.
Mark was so preoccupied on his way to school that he rode right past Micah without even saying hello. That was unusual for him and Micah called him. Mark turned back and rode back up to Micah. “You must have money in the bank, the way you rode straight past!” Micah stated. Micah was planning on stopping by the ranch for a cup of coffee. He’d been riding since sunup looking for Brud Evans.
Talking about Brud started Mark on thinking all over again. “Joey was my friend!” Mark stated. “He used to help me build my rabbit traps.” Micah commented that Mark’s a lot like Joey was when he was younger. They parted as Micah rode on for the ranch.
But I had left. I was very concerned about Mark’s fears, and couldn’t help but to think it had something to do with the Avery’s. I had to get to the bottom of this so I could help my boy. So when Micah got to our house, he found no one there. But he knew my house was his, so he sat down for a cup of coffee.
Brud was still at the Avery’s being very verbally abusive toward his parents. “The trouble with Pa is he’s small. Never did anything big in his life!” His words hurt his parents. Think small, live small, do small…Pa, did you ever do one big thing in your whole life?”
Brud suddenly heard a horse. He hurried to the door and saw me coming. He asked his parents who it was and they told him. Brud suddenly grew angry, thinking maybe Mark had told. He pulled out his gun. "You’re wrong, that boy never told," Mrs. Avery insisted. “Well, would Lucas be coming here alone if he knew? Or wouldn’t he stop and get the Marshal first? Don’t add killing to killing, Brud!” She begged, clinging to him.
Brud ordered her to let me in. She had no choice. As she opened the door, I stepped in and greeted them with a smile. I handed Mrs. Avery the pan. “All gone but the pan,” I stated. “Thought you might want it back. Mark would’ve brought it back himself, but he was kind of upset. I would have said it was too many cinnamon rolls, except I ate most of ‘em myself.” I continued smiling, but I could tell there was something wrong. “I kind of got the notion he was worried about you. Fact is, I’ve been a little worried myself – you two living out here alone. If there’s anything wrong-“
Mr. Avery suddenly became hysterical, crying out that there wasn’t anything wrong. I continued. “-That’s what neighbors are for. If you need help-“
Mrs. Avery suddenly interrupted me, assuring me they didn’t need any help. “-All you have to do is ask.” I was suddenly very concerned. They were terrified, and I could tell. They were as terrified as my son. I knew there was something wrong, but they insisted for me to go. “Alright, Mr. Avery.” I hesitated, trying to think of some way to find out what was wrong. But suddenly I saw a broken handcuff. I barged in, suddenly giving them no choice in the matter. I picked the handcuff up and stared at it, putting the pieces together in my mind.
“If you’re smart, McCain, you won’t try to move!” I suddenly heard from behind me. I slowly turned around and saw a man standing there pointing a gun straight at me. “Now, suppose you hand that rifle over to me, butt first!” That was an order, and I knew it. I looked at the Avery’s, putting the final pieces to the puzzle into place.
Meanwhile, my boy had finally come back to his right senses and hurried back to the ranch to warn me. But when he walked in, he saw Micah sitting at the table drinking coffee alone. “Where’s Pa?” Mark suddenly asked, deeply concerned. Micah didn’t know. Mark had told him I was home.
“Well he was. He didn’t say he was going anywhere,” Mark answered. Micah thought maybe Mark had misunderstood me. “Well, he was standing right here holding the baking-“ Mark stopped, suddenly panicked. “The baking pan!” He ran over to the kitchen, but it wasn’t there. “The baking pan’s gun!” Mark suddenly shouted as panic sat in. “Pa must be over at the Avery’s!” Micah looked strangely at him, not sure what was going on. “Well don’t you understand, Micah, he might get killed!” Mark was suddenly terrified for my life.
“What are you talking about?” Micah asked Mark.
“Well, Brud Evans is hiding out at the Avery’s!” Mark suddenly announced. “I saw him there! He’ll think that I told him!”
Micah suddenly laid a hand on Mark’s shoulder to calm him. He looked straight into his eyes. “Mark? Mark, you saw Brud Evans?” Micah asked calmly.
“Honest! Please believe me, he’s over there!” Micah hurried out the door with Mark right behind him.
I was over there alright! Brud wasn’t being too nice to me either. “You gonna keep on saying that?”
I returned his question with one of my own. “You gonna keep on asking?” I asked.
“McCain, you’re a real hard man to do business with!” Brud stated. “Yes sir, you are really hard to do business with!” He had me sitting down in a chair. He reached out and slapped me across the face.
He wanted the truth. I told him no one knew he was there, but he wouldn’t believe me. “Now we’re gonna walk out in the back a ways, cause I don’t wanta have to stain Ma’s nice clean carpets.” We all stared at him. He was planning on killing me. “What do you want me to do? Let him high-tail it to the Marshal?”
“Well if I don’t, the boy will!” I declared. I knew my son.
“Well, you’ve been saying he wouldn’t tell,” Brud stated.
“Unless I don’t come home!” I answered him. “He’s not stupid. If he finds that baking pan gone he’s gonna know where I took it.”
Suddenly, Mrs. Avery suggested he ride out. “I’ve got five, six hours head start with him dead,” Brud answered with his guns still pointing at me.”
Suddenly Mr. Avery told Brud they’d hold me there. All he had to do was give him the rifle and they’d hold it on me until he was gone. “You mean you’d do that for me?” Brud suddenly asked.
“For him,” he answered. I sighed. I was hoping for a different way, but there was nothing I could do. I was saddened that their own son was so much against them they couldn’t even help him! He agreed to do it. He handed Mr. Avery the rifle.
“Well, you wanta kiss your boy goodbye?” Brud suddenly asked Mrs. Avery. She turned away in disgust.
Suddenly, we heard horses riding up. Brud ran to look out the window. It was Micah and Mark. “That kid brung him!” He ordered his father to give him the rifle.
But Mr. Avery threw it to me before Brud could grab it. He stared at his father in shock. “You mean you’d help him?” Brud asked. “You’d let your own flesh and blood-“
Bang! Brud fell over dead. I shot him when he tried to shoot me. I had instant regret. His mother and father watched me shoot and kill their son in their own home. I watched Mrs. Avery hurried to her deceased son and bent down to mourn for him. I suddenly felt remorse and started to apologize to them. “You had to, Lucas,” Mr. Avery answered.
It was a sad thing to see two wonderful people to have such tragedy. As Mark, Micah, and I started to leave, Micah asked them if they were sure they wanted him buried on their land. Mrs. Avery looked at her husband. “The truth had to come out sometime. He is our son.”
"No power on earth can change that," Walt stated sadly. With that, we rode off towards home.
So you see, folks, this was a series of tragic events that rocked me as a father to the core. We don’t have all the answers for our children, and sometimes children are too afraid even to come to us at times, no matter how much they love us. But I suppose we just have to keep our hearts open to them and hope that they do come to us with their problems before it’s too late.
piddlin' stuff.....Skip Homeier played Brud Evans. He's the one who killed Joey.
Ellen Corby played Mrs. Avery in this episode of The Spoiler and as Mrs. Morgan in this episode of The High Country.
Chubby Johnson appeared in three episode of The Rifleman ― The Horse Traders as Kansas Sawyer, he originally bought the stallion, but then took it back ― The Spoiler as Mr. Avery, he was the father of The Spoiler, Bud Evans ― Guilty Conscience he was the Old Man.
Ralph Moody appeared in a total of twelve episodes of The Rifleman beating John Anderson and John Milford out at eleven episodes. He appeared in nine episodes as Doc Burrage and in three other episodes. The Visitors as Jonathan Dodd — The Spoiler as Roy Merrick and The Hangman as Eban Muchen.
Doc Burrage: Six Years and a Day ― The Actress ― Dark Day at North Fork ― The Mescalero Curse ― Man from Salinas ― Quiet Night, Deadly Night ― Mark's Rifle ― Conflict ― Requiem at Mission Springs.
Doc Burrage was a regular character ~ how many different actors played Doc Burrage? Can you name them?
Malcolm Cassell played Joey Merrick, the boy who got killed.
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
Earl Spainard was in ten episodes ― Day of the Hunter as one of the townsmen ― Silent Knife as a barfly ― The Assault as one of the townsmen - A Friend in Need as Harry the Bartender - Two Ounces of Tin as one of the townsmen ― Outlaw Shoes as one of the townsmen ― Guilty Conscience as one of the townsmen, you can also see Earl in the bar in Stud City ― Short Rope for a Tall Man as one of the townsmen ― The Spoiler as one of the townsmen ― None So Blind as one of the townsman.
Jack Stoney appeared in eight episodes as a townsmen ― Obituary ― The Legacy ― The Horse Traders ― The Spoiler ― The Deserter ― The Hangman ― A Time for Singing ― Strange Town as a townsfolk at Droshek Town.
Nick Borgani appeared in three episodes ― The Spoiler as a townsmen ― Lariat as the card dealer ― Nora as a poker game spectator.
Hans Moebus as a Townsman in The Spoiler.
Bloopers - The Spoiler
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
The Horse Traders
around The McCain Ranch