I think all parents have those days when they feel totally inadequate about doing their job. I had one of those days last night. Mark was having trouble with grammar, had a test the next day, and had gotten into a fight. So, this morning I wanted to make sure he remembered our talk from the night before.
Since I was on my way to North Fork to run some errands, I thought I’d drop Mark off at school. I think that if I had known the trouble that lay ahead, I would have ridden right back home, but as it turns out, I think I learned a lesson in the end. It all started at the school:
“All ready for the test today?” I asked Mark as he hopped off the wagon seat.
He had to think about this for a minute. “I…think so.”
I felt that I needed to reassure him. “Well, you’ll do fine,” I told him. “Just sit easy and think straight. Now Mark,” I pointed at him as I grew stern. “You keep out of trouble!”
“I’ll try, but sometimes I just can’t help it.”
“I know,” I said. I knew too well! “But let me give you some advice. Yesterday you butted into an argument between Jeff and Skinny. If you want to keep out of that kind of trouble, you just mind your own business!”
Of course, Mark said he’d try. I told him I’d be done in town by 4:00, so I’d come by and ride him home. He really liked that idea.
When I got into town I couldn't help noticing how rowdy the town seemed. There were several Texas cowhands in town looking for a good time after a long haul on the trail. In fact, when I got into town, they were shooting off their guns. Again, I should have turned around and ridden on home, but I didn’t! After calming the team down, I headed into the general store. There I saw Charlie Willard. I grabbed an apple and had a seat to talk to my friend. He wanted to know how Mark was. Of course, I never miss an opportunity to talk about my boy! “Well, outside of carrying on a running fight with an English grammar book, he’s fine.” I said this with a smile on my face. Then I handed him the list of supplies I needed. “You better add a bag of hard candy to it. Mark didn’t ask for any, but there are some things I boy wants that go without saying!”
Willard said he never met a youngster who didn't have a sweet tooth. This led him up to a problem that he wanted to talk to me about. He told me his son, Dan was back in town. But running the general store with him was too boring. “He’s got himself a new job: acting Marshal of North Fork.” Apparently, Micah had some business up north that he needed to tend to. He swore Dan in as temporary deputy before he left.
I didn’t think there was anything to worry about. But Willard was worried. “One day as Marshal may be too long.” Willard commented.
“Aren’t you laying it on a little heavy, Will?” I asked, still not seeing a problem.
“Dan seems to be using the job just so he can prove himself. Ever since he was dropped from West point on the count of his eyes, it’s been in his crawl to prove to everyone that the academy was wrong – he’s just as good a man as he ever was.”
I still didn’t think there was anything to worry about.
“We got a bunch of Texas Trail hands in town. They’ve been on the trail for three months and are spoiling for a good time. Dan’s been riding herd on them pretty strong.” I thought maybe he had good reason. “Oh, they’ve been acting up some. Mostly high spirits,” Willard stated. “At least it was that way until Dan started pushing them. Now their tone has changed and they’re deliberately making trouble.”
“Well,” I thought. “I don’t like to stick my nose into things that don’t concern me, but if you want, I’ll have a talk with Dan.” Willard was happy to hear that. He said Dan always thought a great deal of me. I hoped he still does!
Well, going against the advice I had just given my son, I walked to the Marshal’s office. Dan was standing in front of a mirror practicing his draw. He asked me how he looked. I replied by saying "I've seen worse. I’ve seen a lot better too."
“Anyone faster in North Fork…” he replied
Personally, I thought he was thinking a little high on himself, but I said, “Well now, North Fork doesn’t cover much territory, son. If you made that claim in Dodge City or Tombstone…” My voice trailed off. I think he got my meaning.
Dan obviously didn’t want me to say anymore about it. He wanted to know what I needed. I told him I stopped by to see how he was doing in his new job. “Oh, couldn’t be better! I had…uh…a few problems at first, but I’m getting things under control,” he answered.
"Problems?" I asked.
“Nothing to worry about. Some Texas cowhands thought they were going to take over the town. I just had to show them they were wrong.”
I commented to him that a man wearing a badge has a heavy responsibility. "You know Dan, I always thought the best way to enforce the law was a firm hand on a slack rein. That way you got control and no one feels the bit in his mouth." I was not surprised when he disagreed with me.
“The way I look at it, you just have to prove that you are better than they are.”
“Could be your being a little too tough on these cowhands,” I tried suggesting. “After all, you’re not dealing with a bunch of West Point Plebes.” I was trying to bring him back down to earth, but I didn’t get anywhere. He made me well aware that he did not want any help from me. As we left the Marshal's office and started walking down the street, shots rang out from the saloon.
As we entered the saloon there was a cowboy lying on the floor and another “drunken” cowboy with a gun standing over him. These cowpokes were trying to antagonize Dan and he was too busy trying to prove himself to see the game they were playing. The cowboy gave no resistance in handing over his gun. As Dan started to approach the dead man, I told Dan to wait. “I can handle this,” he proudly informed me. So, I decided to let him see that he had no idea what he was doing.
Dan bent over to check the “dead man,” when suddenly the “dead man” sat up and punched him good. I went forward to help Dan out of the situation, but a cowboy with a gun on me told me this was not my affair. Sandy started punching Dan over and over. He even banged his head on the piano a few times! Dan was indeed getting what he deserved! As Dan was being beaten, I kept looking at the Cowboy behind me from the corner of my eye, waiting for the opportunity. I found it and punched him with my rifle, knocking him out cold!
Then I did my thing. “All right,” I cocked my rifle. “That’s enough!”
Sandy challenged me. “You’re playing against a stacked deck, mister!” he warned.
But I wasn’t going to be intimidated. “Start dealing.”
Keely Thompson, their foreman stepped in and tried to justify his men's actions, telling us they've had a long hard trip and deserve a good time. "The kid got what he deserved," said Keely. "It could have been worse." I helped Dan get up off the floor. “Come on, Marshal!” I said sarcastically as we headed for the Marshal’s office.
Dan said those cowboys weren't going to get away with this. “They wouldn’t have gotten away with it this time if you had been on your toes! You should have noticed the first man wasn’t drunk. His eyes were too clear,” I kindly explained. “Mistake number two: the fellow on the floor. Dead men aren’t tense. This one was primed for action.” I really didn't think there would be anymore trouble, they got their satisfaction. Charlie wanted Dan to leave these cowboys alone.
“The saddle tramps beat up the town marshal, and all you can say is leave them alone!” Dan stated stubbornly. “You’d think I was wearing this badge for my own benefit!”
Hm…he hit the nail right on the head. “Are you?” I questioned him.
“Another thing, McCain. I can get along without any help from you!” He stated as he walked out the door.
I thought he was sure determined to do things the hard way! I could tell Willard was worried about him. “It’s not very easy trying to bring up a boy by yourself,” I thought aloud. I had had trouble with my boy the night before, now I saw this man having trouble with his adult son. It worried me a bit.
“It’s hard enough trying to be a good father, but Luke, you just don’t know!” Actually, I did, but I knew he needed to talk. “Being both mother and father is tougher than driving a mule team across the desert!” I wanted to know how he did get there from Missouri. “Drove across the desert with a mule team,” he answered. I guess he knew then! “I’ve tried my best, I really tried! But somewhere along the way he got away from me!” Dan commented. He told me that Dan’s mother died at the age of 10, and she had such high hopes for me. She had wanted him to be a doctor or a teacher – not something that involved guns or fighting!
It made me think of my own son and how scary it was to bring up a boy. That got me to thinking, “Well, if she were alive, I bet she’d be proud of him,” I stated. Willard turned and looked at me “Oh I know. I’m not saying she’d be proud of the way he’s acting today. She’d be proud because he’s her son. Women are just naturally proud of their own flesh and blood. She’d try to understand his hurt. Try to make up for his bad eyesight…like it was her own hurt.”
Willard realized that I was talking about Mark now, then he apologized, stating he’d forgotten I was in the same boat as he was.
As it turns out, Dan did not take my advice and leave it alone. He was still trying to prove something to himself. So, Dan had a sign made that stated all side arms and hand guns had to be turned into the Marshal by noon. Sandy was not happy about this! He stated that Dan could wait till the seat of his pants wore out. Dan gave them an hour.
"I'll be waiting on you men in my office," said Dan. The Men didn't like it and they weren't going to comply with this notice. Sandy told Dan that he wasn't takin' his gun belt off for nobody. "I'll remove it from you personally," said Dan.
"Your welcome to try," Sandy threatened.
"Law says twelve o'clock. I can wait,” Dan said, unafraid.
At 12:00, Dan came out onto the street and ordered Sandy to take off his guns. Sandy refused, so they had a gunfight: Dan against Sandy. Dan won. I was walking out of the Marshal’s office when it happened. I ran over to Sandy. He was dead. Dan still didn’t “get it.” He stated Sandy should have done as he was told. One of the other cowboys threatened Dan, and I stated that there had been enough gun play.
“I’d say that was a matter of opinion,” Keely stated as he walked forward. That’s when I knew we were really in for some big trouble! “You finally got what you wanted, didn’t you, son? You’ve been pushing my men ever since they rode into town. I don’t know what you’re trying to prove, kid. But you ain’t proved it yet!”
I watched Keely walk away and knew he wasn’t going to let it just drop. “You and I better have a talk, Dan,” I stated as we walked towards the Marshal’s office.
“Keely Thompson has killed more men then the years you lived!” I told Dan as he cleaned his gun. “I saw him in action in Dodge city. He’s good.”
I’m telling you, this was one stubborn kid! “His guns don’t scare me. I carry a couple too.”
“When a man wears twin guns, Dan, he’s usually bragging. Thompson’s the exception. He’s a fast draw and a dead shot, both hands.” But no matter what I said, Dan wasn’t getting it.
Dan stated that the Marshal gave him the right to wear that gun, and what he says stands, whether it’s right or wrong. I told him he’d mostly been wrong. “And posting that gun checking notice was your biggest mistake!” I answered him. He then had the nerve to tell ME that he did it for the good of the town. “You can lie to yourself, Dan, but not to me!” I informed him. I told him the law will never be respected when a man is doing something to suit his own purpose. “Suppose those Texas cowhands do ride out of here without any trouble. You think that’ll be the end of it?” I asked.
“You’re making it awful tough on the Marshal when he gets back. Those cowhands will pass the word along to the other cowhands driving cattle into North Fork. And they’ll ride in here hoping to pick up where the Texans left off!” I continued my lecture. “When a town gets a mean name, it draws mean customers.”
As I lectured, one of the cowhands came in to announce that Keely was revoking the gun law, and he’d be waiting for Dan if he wanted to try to enforce it. I couldn’t’ believe this kid! After everything I said, he still wanted to go out there and prove that he was better than anyone. I knew he was wrong, but how was I ever going to convince him? “Thompson must have lost his touch,” I stated. “I never thought he’d want to gun a kid.”
“I don’t know what you do, mister, when a blow fly bothers you. But me, I squash it. So does Keely.”
Dan didn’t get it. He had taken Sandy and thought he could take this one with no trouble. “You were lucky!” I stated. “An experienced gunslinger would have cut you down before you even cleared leather.” Dan was still planning on going.
I was getting angry now. I can’t believe this kid! I suddenly calmed myself down a bit to say, “Wait a minute, Dan. There’s plenty of time for you to get your head blown off. Sit down and think about it.” Dan had his hand on the door. I waited for him to obey me. He didn’t.
Now, I was angry again. I stood up and kicked the door shut in his face. I think this was the first time he realized that I meant business. “Sit down!” I demanded, pointing to the chair. Then I grabbed my rifle and went to talk to Keely.
I walked into the saloon and up to Keely. He commented about how I still carry my rifle. Then he stated that he heard I’ve gained quite a reputation with this rifle since he last saw me. “I’m not proud of it, Thompson. But at least it was honestly earned,” I pointed out gently.
He wanted an explanation. “It means I never pulled a trigger against a man who didn’t have a chance,” I answered without hesitation. I explained that Dan is a kid who thinks he has to prove that he’s a man. You know he doesn’t have a chance against you in a gun fight. There’s already been one killing. Why have another? Let the boy out, Keely.”
“I almost wish I could,” Keely commented. But, he felt that if he backed out the boys would leave him. His reputation was on the line! He never backed down from a play. I had humbled myself in asking him for a favor, but he wouldn’t listen. “I’ve got no fight with you, McCain. Don’t get in the way.”
So, it was on to a new plan. I went to have a talk with Dan. “Seeing as how you’re determined to go through with this, I’ll give you a few pointers that might help. Walk down to the church and come back up the street toward the saloon. That’ll put the sun on your back and his face. Another thing…uh…watch his eyes. They’re the tip off he’s gonna draw. And uh…drop your gun belt a few inches.” Dan asked me if there was anything else he should know. I thought that was a dumb question. “A great deal, but it’s too late for that now!” I stated. I backed up so he could leave. This is out of my hands now.
Dan went out to face Keely. He walked toward the saloon. Keely told him he’d give Dan the draw on him. “Take off your gun belt, Thompson,” Dan warns. He doesn’t.
Shots ring out and Dan grabs his hand and falls to the ground.
I run over to check Dan. I didn’t think it was too bad, but knew the doctor needed to see it.
Now it was my turn!
"Thompson," I said. "Right or wrong that gun law is still in effect. I think you better do like the Marshal wanted and take yours off.”
“You’re a good man with that rifle, McCain, but not that good,” Keely warns me. “I said I had no fight with you McCain. Now don’t make me-“
I was no longer in the mood to listen to nonsense. I had to make sure the Texas cowhands were taught a lesson – for Micah’s sake! “Take off your gun belt!” I demanded.
Keely went for his gun and I shot his hand. He gave me a surprised look. "You could have killed me, McCain. Why didn't you?"
“You could have killed the kid. Why didn’t you?” I replied in a knowing voice. He knew I knew the answer. Nothing more needed to be said. Thompson and his men got on their horses and left town.
What a day! I finally was on my way to the school to get my boy and go home. “Hi, pa!” Mark greeted me.
“How did you make out on the test?” I asked.
"Got the third highest mark in the class and I didn't get into any trouble today. I minded my own business."
“Good boy!” I praised him. As I gave him his candy, he asked if anything happened in town. "What?" I asked, as I searched for the right words.
"Everything go alright in town?” Mark asked again.
I smiled nervously. Now was the time to admit my wrong. "See Mark, sometimes it's easier to give advice then to take it."
"Hmmm, that's what I was trying to tell Skinny when he was trying to stop me from taking a poke at Jeff," said Mark.
I put my hand to my mouth and laughed. "Well, that's just what I said; Skinny should have minded his own business."
Then I gladly said, “Let’s go home!”
piddlin' stuff.....Robert Vaughn appeared in this episode of The Apprentice Sheriff. He was the cowboy who took over for Micah.
Edward Binns played Keely Thompson, the trail boss.
William Bryant played Trooper Coley in The Assailants he was the trooper who had his eye on Lou ― The Apprentice Sheriff as Sandy Dixon, the cowboy who Dan shot and killed ― Karl Hollis in Gun Fire as one of Gordo's gang pretending to be a cattle buyer ― Jerry in Shivaree one of the rowdy cowboys.
Grant Richards appeared in three episodes ― The Apprentice Sheriff as Reed Barnes, he's the cowboy who pretended to be drunk and kill Sandy in the saloon ― Gun Fire as Dave Chester, he claimed to be a cattleman, but really was there to break Gordo out of jail ― Tinhorn as John Keeler, the crooked gambler.
*William Bryant and Grant Richards both appeared together in The Apprentice Sheriff & Gun Fire as bad guys.
Russell Collins played Charlie Willard the father of Dan Willard in The Apprentice Sheriff. Russell Collins also appeared in Eight Hours to Die as ?? He is referred as Willard/Henry Denton/Mr. Denton. While in the General Store, Lucas called him Willard. When Micah goes out to the McCain Ranch to give Lucas his mail - he said that Henry Denton from the post office gave him the letter for Lucas. But yet, the credits at the end of the episode say Mr. Denton?
Jimmy Noel appeared in four episodes ― The Assailants ― Outlaw's Shoes as one of the townsmen ― Short Rope for a Tall Man as one of the Crown Henchmen ― The Apprentice Sheriff as a Barfly.
Forrest Burns appeared in two episodes ― The Apprentice Sheriff as one of Keely Thompson's men on the cattle drive ― Short Rope for a Tall Man as one of Crown's men.
Fritz Ford appeared in twenty episodes and still counting. Besides acting in The Rifleman he was also a stunt double for Chuck Connors.
Archie Butler —Stuntman — Stunt coordinator — Actor - Archie has been in more episodes then anybody with the exception of the regular cast and he probably was in more episode then some of them. ~Arnold Laven
Remember him in The Sharpshooter? Remember when Lucas shot the whiskey bottle and it shattered into pieces? Archie was the cowboy who slid the whiskey bottle to Lucas. Sometimes Archie was a stand-in for Paul Fix.
Hey! Who is that bartender here? Where's Sweeney?
Elyse Gordon & Steven Gardner as the girl & boy at the school. Steven is the son of Arthur Gardner and today he is a lawyer. Steve Gardner was also in The Schoolmaster.
The Schoolmaster ― Take Your Kids to Work Day
Waclaw Rekwart as a Barfly.
Who is the young lady in this episode? Roberta Hunt appeared in three episodes ― In the Duel of Honor her name is Roberta Hunt. She was one of the ladies on the stagecoach. You can hear Eddie call her by her characters name Roberta Hunt, but she never received credit ― In The Sister and The Apprentice Sheriff you can see her in the crowd. I also think I spotted her in Boomerang but I couldn't get a good look at her to be sure.
The Apprentice Sheriff - Bloopers
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 Angry Gun
New Orleans Menace
around The McCain Ranch