"Welcome to the McCain Ranch"
A Friend in Need
There comes a time in a man’s life when he learns what really matters. This was my time. I’ve fought to keep my ranch in the past, and I probably will in the future, but this time it was personal. My son was involved.
I remember it like it was yesterday. It was Saturday. Like every Saturday, Mark and I rode into town for supplies. But today was different – very different. In the saloon across the street, a man sat in a chair by the window. He watched closely for us to appear. He watched us ride in and dismount our horses. Then he watched us walk into the General Store.
The stranger pulled out a letter. Part of it read like this:
“…his name is McCain. McCain and his son usually ride into town around noon on Saturday the boy is always with him. You’ll know McCain by his height and his rifle…”
The stranger smiled. His time had come.
The stranger moved out onto the porch to keep watch on us. Meanwhile, another man by the name of Neff Packer rode into town. He was one of the friendliest men in town and greeted everyone as he rode in. He then walked into the General Store and saw Mark at the candy jar. He was trying to decide which flavor of sour ball to get. Neff came in and helped him make up his mind. When Milly and I walked in from the back of the store, we found both Mark and Neff guilty of snitching candy – it was in their mouth!
Milly couldn’t resist teasing the boy. “Well! How do you like that! I turn my back for one minute and I find squirrels in the candy jars!” Then she asked Mark to help her with the canned goods.
Neff wasn’t afraid to tell me about his problems. “It’s that herd of mine. I’ve got 500 head out at my place – they’re a sickly bunch of cows you never did see…I haven’t got enough grass to feed ‘em. Keep my profit down having to come in here to buy special feed to fatten them up!”
Well, I’d heard all this before! I knew exactly where this was going! I wasn’t going to bite. “Well Neff, at least you have profit.”
Neff laughed. “I don’t have enough land to feed my herd.” He paused as he looked at me. “But then I guess it’s my own fault.” I agreed with him. Got nobody to blame but myself. Me…one of the first ranchers in North Fork and I didn't the sense enough to buy up enough good land."
"Neff," I said. “Mark and I worked very hard building up that ranch, it's our home. We don't ever figure on selling it." I smiled at him, letting him know that was my final answer! Neff acted offended and asked me if he said anything about me selling our place. “Oh, you didn’t have to. It was written all over his face.” We looked at each other and laughed. He felt that’s what he got for being too easy-going. “My friends know me too well. But then I guess it’s better to have good friends then…good cattle.”
On that note…”Good seeing you, Neff…” I jumped off the counter and held up the bag of supplies. I told Mark to go back to the ranch when he finished helping Milly – I’d be home after the Council meeting.
Neff watched me leave. "There goes a fine man, hard working, loving father, civic minded and a good friend," said Neff.
“Yes sir,” Pa stated proudly.
"Yes sir, makes me proud to know a man like your Pa."
Mark did just as he was told. He headed for home after leaving the General Store. But he was suddenly stopped on the road when the stranger from town blocked his passage. “Hello, kid,” the man greeted him.
It’s no surprise that my boy was startled, to say the least! “Do I know you?”
The man laughed. “No, I don’t reckon you do.” Mark asked him if he wanted something. “Yes there is. Uh…I wanta ask you something. You wouldn’t want to see anything happen to your dad…would you now?”
The stranger’s question surprised Mark and upset him a little. “What are you talking about?” he suddenly asked.
Again, the man laughed. “Well now…uh…let’s just say that unless you do what I tell you…Your daddy…He ain’t gonna live very long.”
Mark didn’t like the sound of that. “Mister, I gotta go!” He tried to ride away, but again, the man stopped him. He declared Mark was going no where. “Now, I don’t know how much plainer I can make it to you, boy. But what happens to your daddy from now on…that depends on you.” He jabbed a finger in Mark’s chest.
“But I just left him in town!”
“Maybe boy…Maybe…” The man answered. “But right now you don’t know where your Pa is. Now you just ride along with me and everything will be alright. Now come on.”
Mark didn’t want to go. “I can’t go with ya'!”
He leaned over towards Mark and looked him right in the eye. “Boy, if you give me any trouble, you’re daddy is gonna get killed and it’ll be your fault! “ He forced Mark to go with him. They traveled to the Old Wolf Canyon Relay Station. Mark didn’t like going there – he also didn't’ like not knowing what this was all about.
Carl was the stranger’s name. He ordered Mark inside off the horse. He promised Mark he wouldn’t be harmed if he did everything he was told. When he ordered Mark off his horse, Mark hesitated. But Carl insisted. Mark had no choice but to obey.
After the council meeting, I rode back to the ranch. I was surprised to find that Mark wasn’t there when I got back from town. It was after dark, and I was worried. Mark knew he was to be home by dark. I paced the floor and grew more and more frustrated the longer he was gone. Finally, I decided to go looking for him. I grabbed a pencil and paper and wrote a note:
When you get home, stay here. I've gone looking for you.
Then I headed back to town to look for him. Little did I know that the minute I left, Carl tore down my note and replaced it with his own.
My first stop was to inquire with Milly and Micah on Mark’s whereabouts.
I then headed into town to check with Milly to see when Mark left town
or if he mentioned anything about going somewhere before he left. I asked Milly several times if she was sure she didn’t know where he was. She assured me that he left here and rode back to the ranch just like I told him to. That wasn’t a good enough answer for me. This was my boy I was talking about! “Then he must be some place between here and the ranch,” Micah stated. “Maybe his horse went lame.”
I knew Micah was trying to calm me down. “Even so, Micah, why did he leave the road? I certainly didn’t pass him on the way in.”
Milly tried to make light of it for me as well. They both knew how worried I was. "You know how boys are. Maybe he took a short cut!"
Micah didn’t waste anymore time. "Come on...we'll find him. I'm sure he's alright!” Milly grabbed my arm. "Lucas, let me know...please?" I told her I would. Micah and I rode off.
Meanwhile, Carl returned to the hideout. Mark was locked in a closet and very frightened. He was screaming for help and banging on the door. Mark was afraid he wouldn’t come back. He wondered where Carl had gone. All Carl would tell him is that he had some business. “Why won’t you tell me what this is all about?”
“Kid, you know all you have to know,” Carl stated. He told Mark to go to bed. Mark wasn’t too happy about the whole situation. He decided to wait until Carl fell asleep then sneak out. He tired that very thing when he thought it was safe. But the room was dark and he couldn’t see too clearly. He made a noise and Carl jumped. “Hey!” Carl angrily pointed a finger at Mark. “You go out that door and it’ll be the same as pulling a trigger on your old man! Now get to sleep.”
Mark’s plan had failed and he was sorry it had. He had no idea what was going on. I’m sure he was terrified.
We rode all night, but there was no sign of him. We went back to the ranch to see if Mark happened to come home. I didn’t even have to get off my horse to discover the answer to that - the note I had left was still there. By this time, I was very tired and worried. “Maybe he didn’t see it,” Micah tried to give me hope. “Maybe he’s inside.”
I doubted that, but I called his name anyhow. “You’ve been yelling yourself hoarse all night – up one gully, down the next.” Micah knew I was exhausted.
“Yeah,” I sighed. I went in the house to check for him. He never answered my calls, nor had his bed been slept in.
Micah got off his horse and walked up onto the porch. He glanced at the note. Then he did a double-take. He ripped the note off the wall and read it closely. When I came out onto the porch to announce no success, Micah handed me the note. “Maybe this is why.”
I read the note:
Five Thousand Dollars. For the return of your son. Have money within twenty four hours and wait for further instructions…
My heart began racing as I read these words. I felt the air leave my lungs and I didn’t think I’d ever be able to take another breath! I could hardly read the words out loud! I stared at Micah as the reality began to sink in. “What is this, Micah?” I asked desperately. “Is this somebody’s idea of a joke?
Micah forced the reality to overtake any hope I was still holding on to. “I don’t think this is any joke,” Micah stated.
I stared down at the note again. “Somebody has Mark and they…” I stopped, unable to finish the thought out loud. I began gasping for air again. “Who’d do this Micah?” I asked desperately. “What kind of people would…would…” Oh, I couldn’t even think straight enough to put my thoughts into word! Fear ran through my very being!
“Lucas-“ Micah’s calm voice was trying to calm me.
“Five Thousand Dollars! That’s impossible! Anybody that knows me knows that I don’t have that kind of money, Micah!” I didn’t know what I was going to do. I again began gasping for breath. “Why me?” I crumpled up the terrible note. “Why my boy?” Micah didn’t answer. “Why Micah?” I cried out loudly as I hit the post on the porch.
Micah ran toward me and put a hand on my back. “Lucas! Lucas Boy! Calm down now…Take it easy. Now, we’ve just got to try to figure this thing out rationally.” I hardly heard what he was saying. I had other thoughts on my mind. Micah knew he had to calm me down – at to get me talking sense and thinking rationally. I was way too upset. He took me into the house for some coffee so we could decide what to do from there.
“Micah, what am I gonna do?” I suddenly felt hopeless.
“We’ll figure something out,” Micah promised me. “Come on, boy.”
It was Sunday, but that didn’t stop me from getting John Hamilton at the bank to discuss this matter. “That’s an awful lot of money, Lucas.” I asked him if I could get it. John said even if he made a loan on the ranch, he couldn’t get nearly enough money for me. That’s not the answer I wanted to hear and John knew it. "It isn't my money to give Lucas. It belongs to the depositors...and I don't have enough of my own personal funds on hand to do any good." said John.
Just then, Neb ran in and demanded to see John. He was beside himself with worry for my boy. “Lucas, I just heard. It ain’t true – it can’t be!” Micah assured him it WAS true. “Well, it’s your boy, Lucas. I can’t tell you what to do…But I’ll help you any way I can. And if it comes down to the money, you can count on me. I’ve got it.”
I thanked him, but I couldn’t take his money. Micah and I went to get a posse together to go looking for Mark. We searched all day with no luck. At this point, I was really exhausted. But I couldn’t rest until I found my boy. We all rode back into town to see if there was any word. Micah told the members of the Posse to get something to eat and rest. Micah told Pete we’d be riding out in an hour. “Half hour!” I declared as I turned around. I had a stern look on my face. They knew I wanted to waste no time.
Micah understood. “Half hour.”
I turned to go into Micah’s office. “Lucas?” Milly called as she ran up to me. I saw the silent question in her eyes. I just shook my head without speaking. If I spoke, I’d burst out crying. Then I turned and hurried into Micah’s office. Milly turned to Micah. “Surely you must have found some trace!” She pleaded with Micah to give her some hope.
"We've covered every square inch of territory for twenty miles around. Every house, gully, you name it!" Micah answered, dashing her hopes.
"It's like the boy vanished into thin air," Neff commented. “Whoever’s got him…where ever they’ve got him…it’s some place we don’t know about and can’t find!”
"Micah! Micah read this! I found it behind the door." I ran out of his office holding another note. Micah read it out loud. Here’s what the note said:
"Get rid of the posses. Tell McCain to bring five thousand cash to the old relay station in Wolfe Canyon. Come alone, don't try anything. Leave money in sack by door to station house. Turn around and ride out. The boy will be turned loose when your gone."
I listened as Micah read the words. I felt the tears stream down my face and out my nose. I couldn’t keep them from coming. I looked down at Milly. She saw my tears. I could tell she wanted to take my pain away. Nobody could. The longer Mark was gone, the harder it got to hang on. The words brought terror to my heart – terror I only felt when I was afraid for my boy’s life. I cried.
The relay station was half-way to Santa Fe. Micah assured me he could get fifty men surrounding the place and take the men holding Mark. “No, Micah. I have to go alone. They’ve gone this far. I can’t chance what they’ll do .” I shook my head. I knew what I had to do. I had to get that money for my boy. “Mark comes first. But…Where am I gonna get…” I couldn’t think…it seemed like an impossible situation! I began gasping for breath again as I though on this. I had to get that money for my boy somehow…someway…
Then I remembered. Hope filled my heart. I turned to Neff. “You always wanted to buy my place, didn’t ya'?”
“Now wait a minute-“ Neff started. But I didn’t have time for argument.
"I'll sell it to you now."
"Now wait a minute, Lucas" Neff started to argue again.
"Five thousand dollars Neff!" He tried arguing with me again. I wouldn’t take no for an answer. "I need the money!" I yelled.
"Alright, alright! I'll take a note on your place," Neff finally agreed.
"Now!" I yelled. Micah grabbed me and led me to the bank.
John couldn’t hurry with the money fast enough! I wanted to get my boy back – the sooner, the better! I stuffed the money in the bag. I told John I’d sign the note when I got back. “It wouldn’t be fair to Neff if something happened to ya',” John declared.
“Something’s already happened!” I said as I signed the note. I was nothing without my boy! Nothing!
Micah started in again about sending somebody with me, but I said no. Neff jumped up and said maybe he should ride along with me. “I’m going alone, Neff, like the note said. That’s final!” I answered sternly. I couldn’t chance my son’s life.
“I’ll have half the town ready and we’ll get him…soon as Mark’s safe,” Micah assured me.
I was the one giving the orders. I stared at Micah. “You wait here until I get back, Micah!”
They watched me leave. "Neff, that was a nice thing you did for Lucas," said Micah.
Neff brushed him off. "If you can't count on your friends when you need them, then what good are they.” He went to the saloon to get a drink.
It was cold in there. He wanted a fire, but Carl refused. He wanted Mark to eat, but Mark refused. “Alright, suit yourself. Only, you get sick or something I’m responsible and I’m not gonna like it!” Carl declared.
Mark turned and stared at him. "I wanna go home!" He yelled. The man went back to eating his beans from a can. “How much longer are we gonna stay here?” Mark asked then.
“Not much longer. Maybe you’re Pa be coming for you tomorrow."
Mark sprung forward filled with hope. "Pa, here?" Mark was trying to understand what was going on. "Are you going to be here to?"
"Yeah until I finish my business with him, then I'll be leaving."
"What business?" Mark asked.
"You ask too many questions kid, now come on and eat!" Mark knew what Carl was planning. He was worried. "Sorry kid, but that's the way it's gotta be.”
I rode like the devil to get that money there. I arrived early the next day. Carl was waiting for me out on the porch with his gun in hand. Mark walked out onto the porch. “You said my Pa would be coming.”
“That’s right, kid.”
Mark looked nervously at the gun. “You…you won’t need that.”
“Yeah.” Carl smiled. Suddenly, they heard a horse coming. It was me.
“Pa!” Mark gasped.
“Shut up!” Carl demanded.
But Mark loved me. He wanted to warn me. “Pa!” he yelled.
Carl put his hand over Mark’s mouth and drug him inside the house. Mark fought him the whole way. He warned Mark that if he fought, he’d kill me. Mark turned and stared at him. Carl demanded Mark to get back into the closet. Mark didn’t want to go. But he didn’t want anything to happen to me either. Mark didn’t like being locked in there and started banging on the door. “Help! Anybody!” Mark screamed. “Help! Help!”
When I got up close to the house, I took the money bag and held it out so the person holding my son could see it. I waited in anticipation for something…anything to happen. It did. Carl shot the money right out of my hand. I slid off my horse and fired a shot onto the roof of the barn where the gunshot had been fired. Then I turned and ran toward the shed. I fired a couple shots. I could see him standing on top of the roof. I decided to make my way into the barn so I could get a better aim. Firing shots as I ran, I shot several holed into the roof.
Finally, he rolled off the roof and fell into the dirt. He was dead.
I ran toward the house, desperately hoping my boy was there and was safe.
But by this point, Mark was in tears. He had heard the shots and feared the worst. “Help…anybody…help,” Mark cried quietly as he leaned against the door.
I ran inside. “Mark!” I cried desperately. Pa suddenly yelled from a closet. I dashed toward it, desperate to hold my son in my arms and look at him so I’d know he was alright. I ran and opened the door. Mark was standing there. Oh, how beautiful he looked!
Mark jumped into my arms and threw his arms around my neck as he cried. I held him tight and thanked God. Finally, he pulled away from me. I held onto him as we stared into each other’s eyes. "Thank God you’re alright, Son,” I said passionately.
Suddenly, I heard a horse approaching. I put Mark down and went to see who it was. Mark followed me to the window. It was Neff. “Carl?” Neff called quietly. I watched as he climbed off his horse.
I couldn’t believe this! He was scum! I went to the door and flipped my rifle as I walked out. Neff saw me and gasped. He wasn’t expecting to see me. “Lucas!” He backed off a little bit, obviously in shock. He laughed nervously. “Well…what happened?” I didn’t say anything. “Hey, is Mark alright?” I stepped off the porch and slowly began walking toward Neff, my rifle read to fire if need-be. I remained silent. “Alright, I apologize. But I couldn’t let you face things alone.” He must think I was really stupid! I continued my cold, hard stare as I continued walking up to him. “After all, I have an interest in this too, you know…My money…
I couldn’t say anything. I couldn’t believe someone could be so low! I continued slowly walking towards him. Neff began getting nervous and wondered what was wrong. I heard the door behind me open, but I motioned for Mark to stay there. I didn’t want him involved in this.
Neff begged to talk this matter over with me. I kept coming forward. He started begging as he slowly took his gun out and held it in the air to show me he wasn’t going to shoot. He started offering me money. I got closer and closer to him. He saw the rage on my face.
I stood in front of him in anger and slapped him hard across the face. He gasped and fell to the ground. I had no words for him – he deserved none! I watched as he laid face-down in the dirt crying.
Mark ran up to me, looking down at Neff. He understood what had happened. Neff turned and looked up at us as he cried. “Everybody liked him so much,” Mark spoke.
I was angry…and hurt…I continued staring at him, still unable to believe what had happened. “Everybody like him so much,” I mumbled angrily.
And now he was nothing!
Later that day at Micah’s office, Micah was having trouble believing the facts. "It just doesn't figure, a man like Neff. Who would have figured?"
"That's what he was counting on Micah," I said.
Mark had done a lot of thinking about this. "Seems like you can't even trust your friend.”
Milly wasted no time in correcting him! "Oh now wait a minute Mark. You can't judge all your friends by Neff Packer!”
Mark too had felt betrayed. "I don't know.”
"You don't know?” I asked, trying to sort out his thinking for him. “Well take Milly and Micah; they'll your friends, right?"
"Right," said Mark. "You trust them, right?"
"Right," said Mark.
"Take me; I'm your friend to, right?"
"No, you’re my Pa,” Mark answered.
We laughed. I understood that! "Well let’s say I'm a friendly Pa, huh?"
We all started laughing.
piddlin' stuff.....Parley Baer appeared in two episodes ― A Matter of Faith as Walter Mather, the man doing the hiring for the railroad ― A Friend in Need as Neff Parker, he was the man who arranged Mark's kidnapping so he could get Lucas' ranch.
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.
Lee Farr appeared in two episodes — Home Ranch as Sam Montgomery, he was the cowboy who dragged Lucas with the rope ― A Friend in Need as Carl Avery, he's the cowboy who worked for Neff Parker and held Mark for ransom.
Joan Taylor played Milly Scott. Milly bought The General Store from Hattie Denton. Hattie had to leave to go and help her sister in Denver. Joan Taylor appeared in eighteen episodes as Milly Scott and was introduced to The Rifleman in Miss Milly.
National 1970s late night talk show host Tom Snyder appeared as a member of the posse in A Friend in Need as Pete. Tom Snyder stated to boost ratings that were beginning to lag The Rifleman had local personalities to have a very small parts in the show.
Tom Snyder, a familiar face on late night television, was Tom Snyder was born in Milwaukee and got his broadcast start in a radio newsroom after graduating from Marquette University. He became a national figure in 1973 when he was named anchor of Tomorrow, a late-night television talk show that was replaced by Late Night with David Letterman in the early 1980s. After Letterman jumped to CBS, however, he hired Snyder to host The Late Late Show, which is broadcast immediately after Letterman's program. Thanks Paul in Maryland!
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.
Bloopers - A Friend In Need
You've heard Lucas' story, now hear Mark's
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The High Country
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