"Welcome to the McCain Ranch"
It’s easy to take for granted that you know your kids. In fact, you can “think” that you know your kids so well that you loose sight when they are really trying to tell you something important. I found myself in such a situation recently.
There were three men surveying for the railroad. Elliot was the head of the three and announced that it was time to stop for the day. While they were loading their equipment in the wagon, Len asked Elliot if he was still holding out. He just simply answered that he didn’t want to hear anymore about it. “We can be in and out of that North Fork bank in just 15 minutes,” Len stated. But Elliot wasn’t interested. “Are you going? A simple yes or no.”
“No,” Elliot answered simply.
Suddenly, Len threw down the stakes he was holding and pulled out a gun. Elliot was just telling Charley that Len was acting like he wanted to kill him when all of a sudden – Bang! – he did kill him.
The day started out simple enough. Mark and I were working together on the ranch. At that moment, we were busy milking our cows so Mark could get some milk over to the surveyors where they were working at. Suddenly, Mark made an announcement that he’d been thinking about being a surveyor when he grew up. “A surveyor huh? Well, that’s a worthy calling, I said.”
“Yeah. And when you’re a surveyor, you get to see the whole country. And not only that, but Elliot says that when you’ve just finished a job and you see that train coming along on that railroad track, boy you feel like a part of history!” I listened patiently, enjoying the imaginations of my son. He had been spending lots of time at the surveyor’s camp talking with Elliot. You know where a boy’s imagination can go when talking!
I told them that made sense. “You think so Pa?” Mark asked. “I mean, for me?”
“Why sure,” I answered. “Only I had it in my head that when you were grown up, you and me…we’d be partners,” I told him as I poured the milk in a bucket.”
Mark agreed and thought so too. “Only, I got to grow up someday!”
Though I wanted us to be partners in the ranch someday, I didn’t want to hold Mark back on his own ambitions and dreams. “Look son, a man’s gotta lead his own life.” I wanted Mark to make sure I couldn’t make him decide on what to do. I poured some of the milk in a milk bucket for Mark to take the surveyors. “So when you bring this milk over to the boys, why don’t you ask them a few questions. You know…like, uh. What do you need to do to be a surveyor? What’s a good surveying school? How long does it take? You know, things like that.
He thought that was a good idea. He seemed eager to get going. Suddenly, I noticed the ladder was up at the top of the hayloft. I had told that boy already to make sure the ladder is laid down when he’s not using it. As he went to lay it down, he reminded me that the packrats would get up there anyhow. “Sure, but there’s no use in sending them an engraved invitation!” I told him.
I gave Mark the milk bucket. He suddenly stopped and told me that Elliot didn’t know what they’d do if they didn’t have fresh milk to drink every morning. “Good,” I answered. “Only today you better carry it over! Last time you brought it over you only got it there with half a pail!
Mark walked over to their camp, but he was disappointed to find that no one was there. He stood outside the tent and looked around, hoping he would eventually find them, but no one came. So he sat the pail down and went inside the tent to sit and wait awhile. He saw a surveying book and laid down to read. But being a boy, after that long walk over he was pretty tuckered and fell asleep.
Meanwhile, Len and Charley were in town collecting their pay from John Hamilton at the bank. As they were collecting their salary checks, Mr. Hamilton commented that everyone was hoping their surveying line would pass through North Fork. “Man proposes, Mr. Hamilton. Heaven disposes,” one of the surveyors commented.
John suggested that he hold on to Elliot’s check until he came to get it, but they told him Elliot had left – a death in the family. Mr. Hamilton was sorry to hear that. Then as Len continued talking to Mr. Hamilton, Charley went to cash the checks and scoped out the safe. Len announced that they would be moving out at the beginning of the week.
When they rode back into the surveyor’s camp, they were unaware that Mark was sleeping in their tent. They discussed how well they had pulled Elliot’s where a bouts off in the bank. They were plenty happy that Hamilton didn’t suspect anything was up. Charley suddenly stated that he didn’t feel right in pulling the job of the next day. “Why? Because it’s Sunday, huh?” Len asked sarcastically. “Well, that’s the way we planned it!” Len said.
“Yea, but you want luck to be on your side!” Charley stated. Mark was sitting up trying to clear the fog out of his brain at this point. “We’ve never planned a job on the Sabbath before!”
“Come on now, that’s rich, Charley! I swear that’s rich. What, are you afraid you won’t get into heaven if-“ Suddenly, they both stopped talking. Mark had just walked out of the tent. They were both surprised, to say the least!
They began questioning Mark innocently to find out if he had heard anything. They wanted to know if they woke him up riding in. “Oh no, I didn’t even hear you! I just woke up,” Mark answered as he looked around for Elliot. He suddenly asked if Elliot was around, but they reported to him that Elliot went back to Chicago. Mark had made good friends with Elliot while he’d been there, so this news took him by shock. He was even more saddened when they announced that he wouldn’t be back. “Did he…tell you to say goodbye to me or anything?”
“Oh, he sure did!” Len answered. “He felt awful bad he couldn’t say it himself!”
Mark left as Len and Charley watched him, questioning looks on their faces. They sure were hoping Mark didn’t know anything!
That afternoon, Mark and I did laundry together. I did the washing and he rinsed them off and hung them on the fence. As we worked together on this chore, Mark got to thinking about earlier. He was remembering things now about their arguing, and he had a bad feeling about the way they were talking. I knew Mark well enough to know he wouldn’t give this up easily, so I tried as sternly as I could, to tell him that I didn’t think there was anything to worry about.
But, he wasn’t going to give up that easily. I reminded him that he was asleep. “Men alone, they get on each other’s nerves!” I tried to explain.
I worked at scrubbing a shirt. “Yeah, but this was different!” Mark stated.
“How different?” I asked. I was really hoping we could stop talking about it soon.
“Well, I don’t know how to explain it,” Mark said. “I have this feeling that Charley wanted Len to do something and Charley knew that he shouldn’t do it.”I tried to explain it away to make him feel better. “Well it could be that with Elliot gone back East, Len’s head man and it irks Charley.”
“Maybe so,” I said. “But I had this feeling that Elliot was having trouble with them.”
“What kind of trouble?” I asked. I knew Mark’s imagination was going overboard again.
“Well…as if he didn’t trust him or something,” Mark answered.
Suddenly, I looked at Mark. I could see the worry on his face and knew he wouldn’t be pressing so hard if he didn’t really believe something was wrong. I decided to ride over there after while and talk to them to see if I picked up on anything. That’s all Mark wanted me to do. He suddenly sounded very excited. I told him that right now I wanted to get the laundry finished! “Well, let’s hurry!” Mark suddenly said as he hurriedly rinsed out a piece of clothing and threw it over the fence.
I stared at my son. That boy!
I did as promised and rode over to the surveyor’s camp. After talking to them, I started for home. Mark was just finishing up the supper dishes when I walked in the door. He hurried over to me to find out what I discovered. “Find out anything, Pa?” he asked.
“Not a thing, son,” I answered as I put my rifle up. Then I asked for a cup of coffee. As I sat down at the table with my coffee cup, I asked Mark if he felt better now. But while I was away, he’d gotten to thinking. You know what that means! “There’s something else.”
“Something you didn’t tell me?” I asked, picking up my cup.
“I just woke up from sleeping when they were a little ways from the tent. But it was about what they were talking about. Well, it was about Sunday. As if they were cooking up something for Sunday and Charley didn’t want to do it!”
I sighed. I was having one of those I wish he’d drop this subject thoughts. But I did my best to try to appease him…again. “I’m sure that can be explained very easily, son,” I answered cautiously.
Of course, you know my boy! He wanted to know how it could be explained. “Well, uh…with Elliot gone back East, they’re short handed. Len probably wanted to go to work and get the job done so they can move out in the first of the week.”
I watched mark carefully, trying to keep my expression soft so he would trust my judgment. But sometimes when kids get ideas in their heads, it take a firm voice. “Well, the way they sounded, it couldn’t be just about surveying on Sunday!” he insisted.
I must admit that I was getting quite frustrated and fed up with my boy! “Alright Mark,” I asked in an irritated voice. “Exactly what did they say?
Mark was getting upset with me too. “Well I told yaw', Pa! I couldn’t hear exactly! Well, I’d just been sleeping and they were too far away from the tent.”
That’s it! I had enough. I was obviously not going to satisfy him. Sternly, I told him, “You can’t judge a man by the tone of his voice, Mark!”
He walked away. I hoped that was the end of it. “Well just the same, I know that whatever they were arguing about doing wasn’t right! I know it!”
I didn’t like his tone of voice he was using with me. Nor did I like sitting here arguing about something that wasn’t there half the night! So as I sat my cup down, I tried to keep my voice calm. “Mark, I’ve done everything I can to satisfy you,” I stated calmly. “Let’s forget it, huh?” That was an order, and he knew it from the tone of my voice. He also knew that he was really beginning to push me.
“But tomorrow’s Sunday!” Mark stated.
I looked straight at him and told him that tomorrow was Sunday and the thing for me and him to do was go to church. With that angry tone in my voice, Mark walked away, knowing the subject was closed.
He walked outside and looked towards the barn. I looked towards the door. My boy was up to something, I just knew it! Mark walked to the barn and got his horse’s saddle blanket and saddle. Then he began saddling his horse. My intuition told me I should go check on him. As I walked into the barn, I saw what he was doing. “What are you doing, Mark?” I asked him in a stern voice.
Mark turned and looked at me. He was a bit fearful of getting into trouble, but that didn’t stop him from giving me a smart answer. “I’m saddling my horse.”
“Don’t you think I can see that?” I asked angrily.
Mark knew his answer was inappropriate. “I’m going on a ride.”
“You got more since then that, going on a ride!” I stated sternly. “Sorrow could break his leg in a gopher hole!”
“Well, I’ll be careful, Pa. But there’s something I gotta do!” Mark insisted.
I already knew the what that something was: ride over to the Surveyor’s camp. Mark stood there, knowing I was angry with him. I pushed him out of the way and took the saddle back off his horse. He knew better then this.
“Mark, we’ve been all through it!” I said. Boy, was I getting tired of this!
“But Pa,” Mark continued to argue with me. “I still believe that they are gonna do something!”
I suddenly turned around and sat down. Then I put my hand on his shoulder to help him know I cared. I talked in a calm voice and looked into his eyes. I hoped this would be the end of it. “Mark, I think you were dreaming in that tent. You’re pretty good at it. You remember the time that you fell asleep on the log pile? And when you woke up, you started yelling the house was on fire?” He remembered. “And you remember the time you fell asleep and when you woke up you thought the hired hand had s-“ I started.
Mark interrupted me angrily. That was a mistake. Another mistake was his persistence on this ridiculous story that I tried and tried convincing him was just not true. “I remember, Pa! But this is different!”
I knew I was at the end of my rope. I couldn’t take anymore of him tonight. “Son,” I said suddenly and calmly. “I think you better turn in.”
Mark knew from the tone of my voice that I was fed up. Anymore about it would only cause me to get angry. I settled myself down before I went into the house.
Mark started out the door, but he suddenly stopped and turned around. “You don’t believe me!” He stated. He was very upset and accusing.
I hated being like this with him. “I didn’t say that. It’s just that in this instance,” I started to explain it to him.
But he didn’t want to hear it. “Goodnight, Pa!” He interrupted me. Then he walked into the house. I sat there and thought on our conversation. It broke my heart to be at odds with him, but as a father sometimes I had to be stern.
I didn’t know it, but Mark hadn’t even undressed before he got into bed. After I got in bed, that boy waited until I was asleep. He was pretty mad at me for not believing him, so he quietly got up and stuffed pillows under his covers. Then he grabbed his hat and boots and walked out of the cabin. Mark ran away from home!
The next morning, I got up and fixed breakfast. Then I came back into the bedroom to comb my hair and wake Mark up. I figured announcing that breakfast was ready would get my growing boy right out of bed, but he didn’t budge. I turned and saw his still form in his bed. “Sorry you got your feathers ruffled last night, son. I didn’t mean to be so rough on ya. I guess I was kinda on edge myself.” I continued combing my hair. But he still didn’t budge. I could already feel this day getting off to a rough start!
I set the comb down. “Come on, son. Let’s forgive and forget!” I walked over to the bed and started to pull the covers off of him. But I froze, realizing that my boy wasn’t there. Pulling the blanket back, I saw the pillows stuffed to make it look like he was in bed. I lifted the pillow and held it, not realizing that things were that bad the day before.
Worriedly, I walked out of the bedroom and toward the door. I grabbed my hat and rifle and stepped out onto the porch. “Mark!” I yelled. Maybe he just wanted to sleep in the barn because he was angry with me. At least I hoped that’s all it was! “Mark!” I hollered again. I made my way for the barn. But he wasn’t there.
Suddenly, I saw the empty stall. His horse was gone.
My boy had run away from home!
I quickly saddled my horse and went looking for my boy. Surely he didn’t stray off too far!
I rode over to the surveyor’s camp first. That would be the most likely place. As I rode up, I asked them if they’d seen Mark. They wanted to know what happened to him since he usually brought the milk. I didn’t really want outsiders to know about our family problem, so I said, “Nothing. He got up before I did. Guess he went for a ride.” The day before they had told me they were going to work. When I asked them why they weren’t working, Len stated that Charley had talked him out of working. “Driving to church, huh?” I asked. Len simply nodded. I told them to tell Mark I was looking for him if he happened by.
I looked everywhere I could possibly think of for Mark. Then I rode back to the ranch. I was a boy once too, and every child has tried to run away at some point. But we always came home unharmed. I decided to give Mark a little time to work this out. But as I took my saddle back inside the barn, I suddenly noticed the ladder was back at the loft.
My boy was back home, safe and sound.
I was glad for that, but he was still hiding from me, afraid he would be punished if he revealed himself. But then I realized something else. He was going to great lengths to punish me for last night. I played back part of the conversation from last night in my head – when I reminded him of his dreaming. “But this is different, Pa! Honest!” He tried to tell me. He was persistent, but I didn’t listen. I looked up into the hayloft again. I wanted to tell him I loved him, but I needed to get to the truth first. Then I’d know how to handle Mark. If they were going to do something, it would be in town. I wanted to talk to Micah anyhow.
With that, I went to town.
While I was riding in, unbeknown to me, Len and Charley came in the back way and made their way to the bank.
The street was quiet. I could hear the church bell ringing, announcing that church was starting. But Mark and I wouldn’t be there today. We had a problem to solve. I tied my horse in front of Micah’s office. Then I saw him. “You going to church?” I asked. Micah said he was. “Well, if you see Toomey, will you tell him I’m picking up the bridle he’s fixing for me and dropping off another one?” I asked. He said he would. I suddenly came up behind him as he started toward the church. “You won’t forget will ya?” I asked. I told him I had to use it as an alibi for coming into town.
Suddenly, Micah knew we were having a family crisis. “Where’s Mark?” He asked.
“Well you see Micah, Mark ran away from home,” I suddenly announced. Micah was suddenly concerned. I assured him he was back home, but that didn’t keep me from being concerned about why he ran away from home in the first place. I wasn’t exactly sure how to approach this problem! “When I left home, he was hiding up in the hayloft.”
“You’re giving him time to come down on his own,” Micah stated.
That was part of it. I didn’t want to tell him what the other part was just yet. “Micah, did you ever run away from home?” I needed advice!
“Well, I remember once my dad gave me a good larrupin’ and I decided I needed to get even with him someway, so…uh…I took out. Well, after trampling around long enough in the heat until my tongue was kinda hanging out, I decided I wasn’t getting near as even with my Pa as much as I was punishing myself more. So I just turned around and went back. And what’s more, I knew that all I would get for my troubles is another good larruping’.”
“And did ya? Did you get another larrupin’?” I wanted to know how his father dealt with this problem.
I was surprised at his answer. “No, but I kinda wished I had. Instead, Pa let me in the house and had everyone treat me as though I’d never been away. Kinda took the wind right out of my sails.”
“What did your Pa whip you for in the first place, Micah?” I suddenly asked.
Micah told me that there were some apples missing from the barrel and he thought Micah had done it because he had done it before. I thought on this as he started for the church. But I suddenly stopped him with one final question. “Did you swipe the apples?"
Micah smiled at me. "No Lucas boy, I didn't." That made me really stop and think about things.
I started toward my horse, but I heard my little boy’s voice in my head again. He had said he thought they were cooking something up for Sunday. There was one place in town that I could think would be worth risking your neck for – the bank. I owed it to Mark to make sure.
I walked up to the window and peered inside. I didn’t see anything amiss…at first…but then I looked again. There was a mirror. And in that mirror was the image of Len backed up against the wall with his gun drawn!
I walked away, not letting on that I had seen anything. They thought they had pulled off their hiding and went back to working on opening up the safe. They wanted to hurry before they got caught.
I got on Razor and acted like I was leaving. But I didn’t. Instead, I rode the horse behind the bank and got off. Slowly and quiet as a mouse, I snuck up to the side entrance of the bank. I stood outside the door and listened…waited until they had the safe open and was emptying the contents. I wanted to catch them red-handed with the money!
Slowly, I started to turn the knob. The door was locked. It wouldn’t budge.
I stood back and aimed my rifle at the door. Two quick shots and the door flew open! I had caught the two men by surprise. My rifle pointed at them as soon as the door opened. They put their hands up in the air in surrender. “Alright, boys. Let’s go wait for the Marshal!” I ordered.
“Don’t shoot!” Charley begged. “Don’t shoot.”
“Come on. Walk easy.” I kept my gun trained on them.
Suddenly, I came to a humbling reality. My son was right. I had been wrong not to believe him.
I raced home after taking care of the boys. I was anxious to see my son and make things right with him again. Mark heard me ride up. He stared out the window. He was a little afraid of what would happen when I walked in the door, so he tried to act natural. When I walked in, he was sitting at the table eating a sandwich. "I'm glad you found something to eat, son," I said as soon as I walked inside. I put my rifle in it’s holder, plopped my hat down on the table and took a seat in my leather chair.
"Where have you been?" Mark asked casually.
"Well, I rode into town to pick up the bridle Nels was fixin' for me." I answered back just as casually. I decided to take Micah’s approach and not mention his running away. But my confession would come soon enough.
"Oh.” Mark was disappointed. He had hoped I was out looking for him and solving his mystery.
That’s when I made my confession. "By the way Mark, you were right about those surveyors.”
"What do you mean," Mark suddenly asked, hope returning to his voice.
"They tried to rob the bank a little bit ago. That's what they were figuring' on doing on Sunday." That’s as close to a “You were right” as I could get.
With a sigh of relief, Mark said "That's great!"
“That’s great?” I suddenly asked. “That they tried to rob the bank?”
Mark laughed, knowing things were getting right with us again. “You know what I mean.”
“Of course I do, son,” I stated quietly. I was still humbled from not believing my own son. I should have listened to him closer. Maybe his running away could have been avoided.
Mark started to take a bit of his sandwich. But he was suddenly overcome with guilt. He wasn’t willing to ignore the fact that he had done wrong. "I'm sorry Pa. I know I shouldn't have run away but I thought that....." His voice drifted off.
I didn’t want to talk about it. I knew we had both learned a lesson in this. I should listen to my son when he has something to tell me, and Mark can’t run away from his problems. “No need to explain son,” I told him. I suddenly understood perfectly!
He started to take a bit again. But after such an argument, there are certain things that a boy needs to hear from his father. He needed to know that he was loved. “Did you miss me?”
"Did I miss you? Let me put it this way. I love you more than anything else in the whole world." I answered with much feeling in my voice. I needed to say it as much as he needed to hear it. There was no problem so great that we couldn’t solve with a little bit of love!
That made Mark’s day. He suddenly smiled really big and took a bite of his sandwich. I smiled at him too as I lit my cigar. Things were suddenly right with us again.
Piddlin' stuff.....Mike Kellin as Len Sommers, he's the one who killed Elliott.
Lin McCarthy played Charley Burns. He's the one who help Len rob 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.
Ted Otis as Elliot Hodgins, the surveyor who got killed.
Bloopers - The Surveyors
You've heard Lucas' story, now hear Mark's
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Bloopers for this episode & other episodes
Day of the Hunter