"Welcome to the McCain Ranch"
A Matter of Faith
The city of North Fork was experiencing a drought. Things were getting rough for everyone. In fact, some families had already given up and more were considering giving up. Mark and I would stay strong and hang out to the end. I knew the drought couldn’t last forever; and one day Mark and I met a man who taught me how to believe.
It all started one hot, thirsty afternoon when I wanted to go to town. Mark was at the well getting some fresh water. I called him to come inside. Mark carried the water up onto the porch and announced that the well was down eight or nine inches. I knew this, but there was really nothing I could do about it. Mark was excited at the prospect of going into town, and I told him we would if he would wash off some of that dirt he had on him.
Well, being the mischievous boy that he is, he decided to work this drought to his advantage. He carried the water over to the sink, then came up to me with a “worried” look on his face. “Pa, you figure…I mean…with the water being so low and all…you figure I oughta waste it?” I knew it wasn’t the water he was worried about! But I simply stated that it wouldn’t hurt for him to skip his washing once. I told him to just change his clothes.
But now, we need to remember who I’m talking about here. He started for the bedroom when another thought hit him. He turned with yet another “serious” look on his face. “Pa, I’ve only got one go to meetin’ and…well, the road’s pure deep with dust. You figure I oughta wear it?” Again, I knew he wasn’t really worried about dirtying up his “go to meetin’” clothes! But I went ahead and let it slide too.
I wasn’t surprised when I saw a look of victory cross his face and he stated, “Clay Bolden can’t never wash no more! Their well’s lower then ours. Says his pa’s ready to quit.”
I knew that lots of people were considering quitting. “Yeah. I guess the drought’s pretty hard on everybody!” Mark stated.
I stopped what I was doing and turned towards Mark. “Everybody but boys,” I answered. That’s when he knew I was onto him. I gave him a look that said a lot of things. He decided to go get the wagon ready in order to avoid my stare. I watched him walk out the door, then shook my head. That boy and his tricks!
We rode into town and I told Mark I knew he had important business and I’d meet him at Hattie’s. Perhaps Mark was feeling a little guilty for trying to pull the wool over my eyes earlier, because he asked, "You figure we oughta spend the money with things going so bad?"
"Well I like to think they'll get better son. And uh…time for candy is mighty short," I answered him with a grin.
Mark was relieved to hear that. I couldn’t deny him small comforts like that! He jumped down to go for his candy and bumped into an old man with a bag of candy in his hand. The candy dropped to the ground. Mark immediately looked up at me to see if I had seen it. I had. Mark apologized to the old man, who stated he wasn’t paying attention to where he was going. He bent over to help him pick the candy up. Still sitting on the wagon seat, I kept one protective eye on my son. After they picked the candy up, the old man offered Mark a piece of candy. Mark was happy and started to reach for it, but I knew he knew better then to take candy from strangers. So sternly, I stated, “He can buy his own.” Mark looked at me, but said nothing. “You were going, Mark. Go on,” I stated.
The old man was a bit offended by my refusal to allow him to share his candy with Mark. “I didn’t mean no harm,” he told me. I knew he didn’t. But Mark would mind his manners like I’ve taught.
Micah came up to me then and I asked him who the stranger was. He said he had just ridden in. “He’s the least I have to worry about!” Micah stated.
Micah motioned toward the saloon and I noticed a man talking to a whole group of men. “Now you look like a real smart bunch of men to me and I’d be seven times the fool if I didn’t tell you the truth right from the start. Now, certainly I get paid by the railroad…” I heard a man saying.
I looked at Micah. And he explained to me what was going on. This guy’s name was Mathers. He was hiring for the railroad, and making the job sound really good. When you have a drought like this with men desperate for money, it would be easy to do!
I came closer to listen to what I considered a bunch of bull. "No, sure… sure… you can stay here. You can stay here and watch the sun burn up your land. You can watch the sun melt the life out of your stock, watch your cattle drop dead, fifteen - twenty - forty head a day. So thin that the bones are coming through - the hides aren't worth the takin'. You can sit here and mortify yourselves or...or you can stop eatin' dust and hire out to the railroad...three dollars a day and keep. Three dollars a day, hard money in your pocket at the end of every week! Come rain, come shine, it's no skin off your noses. Why it’s worth just that to be able to spit at the sun." He told the men they had to sign up for one year that less then that wouldn't pay them or the railroad. "Are you with us?" Asked Mathers.
Jeff Borden, the father of the boy Mark was talking about earlier came over to me and wanted my opinion. I always gave my honest opinion, rather others liked it or not. "Well if you're askin' me, I'm stickin' with the land. I know you've been thinkin' to quit Jeff, your boy told mine."
"Comes to an end to what a man can take," Jeff stated. I could tell his faith was gone.
"Nobody says the life is easy. The land gives up hard and takes back fast. You leave it even for a year, you'll find twice the work when you come back - if you come back!" I warned him.
Borden didn’t like my answer. “So I should stay and watch the drought take it all?” he asked. I understood where he was coming from, but I had learned a long time ago that one has to have faith in the land.
“Well, it’ll take a lot, that’s for sure. But it won’t take the land,” I proclaimed proudly as I looked around. “One thing we’ll always have,” I preached, “is the land.”
Just then, Hode Evans, Mathers' partner, walked up to me. "You ain't got no land, mister. All you got is dust," he announced. He then threw a handful of dirt into the air between Jeff and me. It blew in my face and over the brim of my hat. This made me mad! It wasn’t just because he threw dirt at me, but it was because his words were keeping people from having faith. I glared at him and Mathers quickly interrupted before I acted on my anger.
“Gentlemen, gentlemen…we can talk this out!” he stated with a laugh. He announced the drinks were on him. I continued staring at Evans as he walked into the saloon.
"Ain't no harm in takin' a drink," said Jeff as the men piled into the saloon.
Micah motioned for me to follow him into the saloon. Suddenly, the old man from the street came up to me and got my attention. “You was right to stay. You won’t lack no water,” he stated.
Every man in the room turned to hear what he had to say. “If it’s water you want, I can tell you where to find it.”
“Where?” I asked, a little confused.
“Everywhere,” he smiled. Like it says in the Book, ‘His spirits on the face of the waters’. He's everywhere so the water’s gotta be everywhere - just so you believe."
Now, I have to admit that I thought this man was a little crazy! But I felt sorry for him. I offered to buy him a drink. He seemed offended by this though.
Jeff Borden had listened to his words and wanted to know more. So he walked up to the old man, asking him what he was talking about. That’s when the old man mentioned water witching. “You mean looking for water with a willow stick?” I asked then. I was very familiar with this.
“Not looking. Finding,” the old man corrected me. “But you gotta believe.”
Jeff thought it was worth a try. I thought it was a bunch of bull, and I said as much. “Jeff, the way you are right now, you’d go looking in a dark closet for a black cat you knew wasn’t there!” I commented. Jeff stated he had nothing to loose. That’s when I told them about my experience and why I could not believe. “You know, I had someone else say that once. We were real bad off for water and my pa found someone once with one of these witching sticks. He had to pay him $100 to start.”
Borden interrupted me. “Worth it if you’ve got water.”
Just the thought of it after all these years still made me angry. “All we got were blisters from digging!” I replied bitterly. “$100 was big money to us. My ma didn’t get a new dress for three years,” I finished sadly.
“That’s cause you didn’t believe!” Jonas, the old man, stated to me. “It don’t matter what happened before. I can find the water, mister. You just tell me that you believe.” I didn’t want to hear anymore about this. I simply answered that I wish I could believe. My faith in such things was lost through that experience.
I didn’t know it at the time, but Mark had followed Jonas to the saloon. He had then proceeded to sit down outside and listen to our conversation, even peaking under the doors to get a good look-see at the goings on. He knew my rule that he couldn’t come into the saloon, so he pushed my rule as far as he could without breaking it! As I walked out the swinging doors, Mark was kneeled down beside the doors. I turned and saw him. He immediately stood up, knowing he had been caught. "I said I'd meet you at Hattie's," I sternly reminded Mark.
It didn’t take him long to come up with a good excuse! "But, you were here," he stated.
What could I say? “We got stores to buy,” I stated. Micah watched us walk off, a big grin on his face. He knew that boy of mine had just pulled another fast one on me!
We had finished our shopping at the general store. When I came out with more supplies, I caught Mark daydreaming. I didn’t feel like hanging around town all day, and he knew he was supposed to be helping. I was already in a bad mood from earlier. So I gave him a stern look and asked, "Sack too heavy?"
"I can handle it," Mark answered. He threw the sack down and took the can from me to put up. "Pa, you figure that old man was lying? I mean about finding water and all?" He asked suddenly.
"No, I wouldn't say he was lying. Sometimes people get ideas,” I answered honestly.
"Sure would like to see how he does it," said Mark. "Figure I could ask him sometime?"
I looked at him sternly. "You save your breath for coolin' your soup!" I retorted. Mark moved away to put something in the wagon. I immediately regretted what I said and pulled Mark back. I knew I had sounded harsh. “I didn’t mean that disrespectful to him, Mark,” I suddenly stated.
“I sure wished you liked him!” Mark commented. Mark liked everybody.
“Oh I do. I like him. He’s a nice old man, but you can’t always go by your feelings. I know he means well, but he could do folks a lot of harm.” Mark was standing right beside me as I told him this.
“Harm?” Mark asked unbelievably.
I had to explain. “Getting their hopes up about the water. They’d just end up feeling worse then they did before.” I could tell that Mark still didn’t believe me. It didn’t matter. I handed him the can of kerosene and stated, “That’s how it is!”
While Mark and I were loading our wagon, Jonas walked out of the saloon. Hode was getting edgy. This railroad was a big business and Hode didn’t want anything standing in his way. Mathers tried to stop him from doing anything, but Hode wasn’t a good listener and went outside after Jonas. He quickly grabbed Jonas and pushed him into an alley.
Meanwhile, Mark wasn’t doing his work again. When I came out with more supplies, he was casually standing in the back of the wagon eating his candy. “Watch your work, boy.” I stated sternly. My voice was edgy and he knew he was about to cross the line. So he put the bag of candy in his pocket and started to get back to work.
Just then, he looked up and saw Jonas being beaten. He got my attention and I looked in the direction he was looking in. I saw Jonas being roughed up and grabbed my rifle to go help him. I rushed up to Hode and slammed him up against the wall. “Alright, start walking!” I ordered.
I helped Jonas up and offered to walk him to the hotel to make sure he got there safely. “I don’t stay at no hotel. I just bed down in any old place,” he answered.
Mark started to suggest what I was thinking. I was a neighborly man, so I told Jonas that he should come stay with us for the night. Mark was very happy when he accepted and ran to hitch up his mule to the wagon.
As I was helping Jonas to the wagon, Jeff Borden and a group of men walked up to me. "Lucas, we’ve been lookin' for ya'! We've been thinkin' over. We figured it would be worth it to give him a chance."
That put a smile on Mark's face, but I still thought the whole thing was ridiculous! “When?” I asked.
“Tomorrow morning. My place,” Borden announced. “You gonna be there?” he asked Jonas. Jonas was scared and didn’t answer. Borden asked him again.
Jonas moved further behind me.
I answered for him. “He’ll be there.” I was so frustrated! I saw Mark just standing there so I turned and told him the mule needed tying. Then we rode out of town on my buckboard.
As I was fixing supper, Mark was following Jonas around our yard looking for water. I came to the door at one point to see what was going on and simply shook my head. I knew Mark would be disappointed, but this is the only way he would ever find out this truth, so I let him go without any explanation. While Mark was sharing his candy with Jonas, he asked him why Hode had jumped him. “He was workin’ for the other fella. Figured if I was to find water, that it’d spoil their chances to hire out for the railroad.” Mark was worried he could stop him tomorrow. He thought Jonas could tell me.
But I was apparently the enemy who didn’t believe. I wasn’t going to win any popularity contests with Jonas or my son today!
After Jonas ate some candy, he tried looking for water again. "You believe I can do it boy?" Mr. Jonas asked.
"Well sure I do!" Mark exclaimed.
As Jonas walked over the ranch with the willow stick, he suddenly stopped and his stick started jumping. Mark got rally excited and immediately started yelling for me. I immediately thought something was wrong, so I rushed outside with my rifle in hand. Before I even got to them, Mark was yelling, “Pa, he did it! He did it! He found water!” Mark was so excited!
I stopped. I had had enough of this nonsense and wanted to see it all end. So I told him I wanted to see it.
Mr. Jonas simply stood there looking at his stick. He knew he had no water to show me. I reached out and touched the stick. Sternly for Mark’s benefit as much as to inform Jonas, I stated, "I made it a rule never to trick the boy."
Mark was disappointed, but sometimes lessons are hard to learn. "Supper's on. I tapped Mark on the shoulder. “Let's go eat son.” Mark knew that meant to follow me inside. As far as I was concerned, the subject was closed for now.
At supper, Mark could tell Mr. Jonas was upset. I didn’t much feel like talking either. Jonas wasn’t eating and Mark was trying to make conversation, encouraging Jonas to eat. “You oughta try it, Mr. Jonas. Pa’s got a real way with cornbread. Even some of the women folk come by to ask.”
I could believe him! I sighed in frustration, but didn’t say a word. Mark was quiet for a moment. Then he started again. “You know this is the first deer meat we’ve tasted in nearly two months? Things have been really scarce since the drought.”
There was still silence. Mark tried again. “You know, I grew these beans. Pa says they’re about the best he ever-“
That was it! I could take anymore of his jabbering. So I interrupted him. "Mark it's not polite to force a guest!" I stated sternly. "Food’s there. If he's hungry he'll eat."
Mr. Jonas was feeling down and didn't have much of an appetite. Mark asked Mr. Jonas if he liked to play checkers after supper. "Thank you boy! But I'm going to be busy! Yes sir. I've been thinkin' on it and ain’t you nor nobody gonna say me no!" He then seemed excited and started to eat. Mark smiled, happy to see Mr. Jonas suddenly in a better mood.
After supper Mark and Mr. Jonas were setting on the porch. I came to the door way and told Mark it was time to start thinking about bed. He argued with me, stating it was too warm in the house. I gave in, knowing that until this whole mess with Mr. Jonas and the willow stick was over, nothing would be normal. I told him he had to go to bed soon.
Mr. Jonas was working on making a different type of stick. Mark asked him if he thought it was going to work. "You just keep thinkin' it will son," he stated. Mr. Jonas had changed his mind and decided to use elm instead of willow since willow didn’t seem to be working. I still thought the whole thing was a waste of time!
Suddenly, I heard a horse neigh. I knew there was somebody out there. Still standing in the doorway, I casually reached for my rifle and started to tell Mark to get inside. But before I could even finish my sentence, a shot rang out. Mark and Jonas immediately laid down on the porch. I fired several shots to distract the man. I yelled for them to get inside. As I threw the lantern into the yard to put the light out, Mark ducked between my legs to get inside. I went inside and shut the door. The man was shooting. He shot my window out. “Stay where you are!” I ordered Mark and Jonas. Then I blew the lantern out so the shooter wouldn’t be able to see us.
I ran to the window and snuck out the window. It was Hode. "You first McCain! That rifle don't give you no odds this close!"
I snuck up behind him, my rifle ready for action. He thought I was still inside. "Come on out!" yelled Hode.
"I'm out!" I announced from behind him. He turned to shoot me, but I was faster. One single shot was all it took. He was dead.
"Pa?" Mark called, hopping I answered.
"It's alright, son," I called.
Mark came out to see who I had shot. "That's him,” Mark stated. “He didn't want Mr. Jonas to find any water.”
"I know,” I answered sadly. I turned to Mr. Jonas. “It comes hard to me killing a man. I hope you can prove I had good reason." My voice held a lot of doubt and resentment.
The next day, everyone was gathered in town for the big event. They were talking before heading out to the Borden Ranch. Mathers was really laughing it up.
Micah heard his laugh while locking up his office. “An early start for an early finish!” Mathers was declaring at Micah walked across the street. “I expect that old man to give up around about noon. Then we can devote the rest of the day to uh…business.” He sounded really confident. He saw Micah and asked, “You gonna ride on out to the miracles of the waters?”
Now Micah didn’t have the same doubtful attitude I had. “You seem mighty sure nothing’s going to happen!” Micah observed. Micah suddenly realized that Hode wasn’t there. He asked Mathers where he was. “Well, I’ll tell you. Sometimes he’s pretty unpredictable.”
About that time Borden rode in and stated I should have been there by now. He was getting mighty impatient and high-strung. He even sputtered at the Marshal! When Borden discovered that I rode in alone, he immediately demanded to know where Mr. Jonas was. I told him he and Mark took the shortcut to Borden’s ranch since it was a mile shorter. “Why didn’t you take it?” he asked impatiently.
“I got business with Micah." I pointed to the body in the back of my wagon. Micah walked over to my buckboard and lifted the blanket. He frowned at what he saw. Then he called Mathers over to look. Mathers gave a short laugh. "Well, I told you he was unpredictable," he stated.
"You didn't say he was dead!" Exclaimed Micah.
I told Micah he tried to kill the old man last night. I then turned to Borden and said, “And these are the ones you were going to do business with."
Of course, Mathers immediately jumped to his own defense. "Gentlemen, I didn't have nothing to do with this!" he exclaimed.
I seriously doubted that! "You were his partner," I reminded him, making him guilt by association.
"In business, but not murder! I didn't leave the hotel last night, you can ask the clerk." Micah couldn't charge Mathers, but he could run him out of town. Micah asked Borden if that was okay with him and he agreed. Everyone immediately started toward Mathers, he turned around and ran as fast as he could out of town.
I turned around to face Jeff. “Jeff, you made the right move,” I praised him.
Jeff was still counting on the old man. That made my heart sink that he was putting all his hope in a pipe dream!
When we all got out there, I noticed that Mark was sticking close to Jonas. “The Marshal ran Mathers out of town. That puts it up to you!” Borden stated to Jonas.
“It ain’t easy,” Mr. Jonas was nervous. “I have to look around.”
Borden simply stated, “I have 1200 acres! Help yourself!”
Jonas looked around. Then he looked at Mark for support. I watched doubtfully as Jonas started walking around with the willow stick. There was no sign of water. Every second that passed, Jonas got more nervous and discouraged. The men watching got more upset. After awhile, it was getting really hot with still no sign of water!
Borden impatiently walked over to Jonas. Mark, Micah and I followed close behind. “I can’t seem to…something’s not right…I just can’t…” Jonas stammered around. He was very upset and ashamed of himself.
“Can’t!” Borden shouted, frustrated.
“He never could,” I spoke up.
Mark turned around. He was still sticking up to this man. "He's scared Pa!" I immediately put my hand on his shoulder in frustration to silence him. I couldn’t believe my son was still believing when the proof was right there in front of him!
Borden was still yelling as Mr. Jonas. "I ought to put a bullet in ya' myself!" he declared.
There wasn’t a happy person on that whole ranch! Everyone’s temper was flaring. Jonas suddenly yelled back, "Ain't nothing you can do to me that he ain't done worse to me already!" He looked at me to indicate my lack of faith was what was keeping us from getting water.
This had to end! It was getting out of hand. "Look ole' timer…" I started.
But he interrupted me. "No. When you kill a man its over and done with. But if somebody don't believe in a man, he looses faith in himself. Even back home if somebody didn't believe I couldn't find no water."
"Well you did it yesterday! I saw ya'. You can do it again, I know. Please, Mr. Jonas." Mark pleaded. I wished I could keep this truth from hurting Mark, but I knew this was the best way for him to learn.
Mr. Jonas looked at Mark. Mark had so much faith in him! I thought I saw a small smile on his face, but I could be wrong. Whatever the case, Mark’s words of believing in him encouraged Mr. Jonas to try again. Mark had enough faith for us all!
Mr. Jonas walked off with his willow stick. He was going to try again. We watched, waiting for the last hopes to fade into the dry dirt.
Suddenly, Mark shouted "Mr. Jonas!" He ran up to him. "I was thinking…maybe some candy." Mark opened his bag of candy for him. Mr. Jonas took a piece of candy and then started off again.
I walked up to Mark then. “I'm sorry Mark,” I said gently. “For you and him both."
“There ain’t nothing now, Lucas. There ain’t nothing left,” Borden started moaning again.
Why could he see what I saw? “Except the land,” I tried arguing with him again. “This drought can’t last forever.”
“Long enough to burn me out. I’m through.” Borden confessed sadly, defeated.
Suddenly, Jonas’s stick started shaking. He shook so hard that his knees buckled and he fell to the ground. We hurried over to him to see what was going on.
Suddenly, a loud clap of thunder sounded our. We looked up at the sky and watched lightening flash across the sky! Borden stared up at the sky with the rest of us. “It’s…it’s coming out rain!” he said softly, not quite believing it was true.
Suddenly raindrops began bouncing off the dry dirt. “It’s coming out rain!” Borden shouted longer, prouder and happier.
It was suddenly pouring. People were rejoicing, throwing up their arms in joy and praise as they stood still and allowed the rain to fall on them.
Even I stood still, allowing the rain to hit me all over. I looked around at the sudden happiness that came over the crowd that had just moments before been filled with despair and worry. Everyone was laughing and hugging each other. Borden helped Jonas from the ground so he could rejoice with us. I held my hands up, smiling as the rain fell harder and harder!
We must have stood there for a long time, praising God and rejoicing for the rain! People shouted and laughed in happiness. They were still hugging each other and dancing.
Suddenly Mark’s voice sounded loud and clear in my ears. "You believe him now Pa?"
I was so happy. Our drought had ended. I looked at him, knowing my faith had been restored. “You got any of that candy for me?” I asked.
Mark started to reach in his pocket. But he suddenly realized what I was telling him. I had been wrong in doubting. Mark had helped Jonas restore my faith to believe that sometimes the impossible was possible! Mark laughed. We put our arms around each other as we soaked in the rain!
Later at the ranch, it looked like it was about to rain again. Mr. Jonas was a friend, and we wanted him to stay. But he commented that it was dry up north and he needed to go restore more faith. Mark and I stood together as we watched him ride away. “He’ll sure have a lot of believers now!” Mark commented.
I looked down at my son. I was so proud of him for believing in something so strongly that he stuck to that belief, even when his own father tried to discourage it. I stated, “All he needed was one!”
And that folks, is how an old man and my son restored my faith in the impossible!
piddlin' stuff.....Royal Dano appeared in five episodes ― The Sheridan Story as the Confederate Soldier, Private Frank Blanden in ― A Matter of Faith as Jonas Epps the Rain Maker ― A Case of Identity as Aaron Wingate, he was the man who was searching for his long loss son, Robert ― Honest Abe as Able "Abe" Lincoln, Able suffered a mental shock during the civil war and as a result believes he is Abraham Lincoln ― Day of Reckoning as Reverend Jamison, he was the minister who was once a crooked outlaw.
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.
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?
Michael Hinn as Jeff Borden. He was the townsmen who asked for Lucas' opinion about the land when Mathers was trying to get the ranchers to sign up with the railroad. He also appeared in Bonanza in an episode of the same name.....A Matter of Faith. He had appeared in many westerns.
Rod McGaughy has appeared in nine episodes ― The Dead-eye Kid as one of the cowboys looking for Mahoney ― The Wrong Man as one of the townsmen at the carnival ― The Woman as Old Man Healey's Henchman ― The Money Gun as one of the townsmen ― A Matter of Faith as a cowboy in the crowd ― The Spiked Rifle as Henchman in the Bar ― The Lariat as Card Player ― The Baby Sitter as a Barfly ― Short Rope for a Tall Man as One of Crown's Henchmen/Mob Member.
Fred Aldrich appeared in four episodes — Eight Hours to Die as a spectator at the hanging ― A Matter of Faith as a cowboy in the crowd — The Challenge as a Barfly — The Wrong Man as one of the townsmen at the carnival.
Jack Lowell as one of the townsfolk.
"And the Spirit of God hovered over the face of the waters..." (Gen. 1:2)
Bloopers - A Matter of Faith
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 Money Gun
around The McCain Ranch