"Welcome to the McCain Ranch"
My story starts out with a man and a woman in a house arguing on a Sunday afternoon. The man is kissing the woman all over – down the neck and on the ear, stating they would get married in Benton. She smiled, enjoying his sweet kisses; in a sweet voice, she answered him with a satisfying smile. “We’ll get married in North Fork.”
Thus ends their sweet, lovey-dovey mood. The man suddenly grabs the woman and starts shaking her. “You are the orneriest, most pig-headed woman I-“ Then he rips her dress when he gives her a hard shove. She yells at him angrily for tear her Sunday dress. “You deserved it!” he yelled at her.
She turns and grabs a strap off the wall. She begins beating him with it. “We’re gonna get married in North Fork! Do you hear me? We’re gonna marry in North Fork!” she shouted. The man shielded himself the best he could, and grabbed the strap from her as soon as he could.
The man suddenly slapped her hard across the face. She fell to the floor, hitting her head and was knocked out cold. “Vashti? Vashti?” Cade Conway suddenly called to her. He thought she was dead. He heard a peddler coming, so quickly took some money under a brick on the base of the fireplace to make it look like a robbery. Then he hurried out the back door.
Well, I bet you’d never guess who the peddler was – no one but my good friend, Speed Sullivan! He was back, and he was still up to his old tricks! He grabbed his sample lightning rod and a bottle of his panacea and walked up to the front door (after telling his sleeping son, Swifty, that he was making a call). He knocked on the door and called out, but no one answer. So he walked on inside calling out to see if anyone was home. “It’s Speed Sullivan. Thought I’d drop by-“ He suddenly stopped when he saw Vashti lying unconscious on the floor.
“Nice strong pulse there,” he stated as he lifted her up and began looking her over. “Dark hair, blue eyes…there’s a knot on the back of your head…cut cheek. Diagnosis…unconscious. Prescription: Sullivan’s Panacea.” He uncorked the bottle and poured some into her mouth.
She suddenly began coughing and sputtering. She was confused. “What are you doing here? Who are you?” She asked, still not fully aware of what was going on. “What was that stuff?”
“Selling lightning rods, Speed Sullivan, Sullivan’s Panacea…in that order. You’ll be alright,” Speed soothed her. She suddenly came to her senses and told him he better get out. Speed said she needed him. Then she suddenly got to her feet and chased him out of the house – without his lightening rod.
More on that in a minute!
Mark and I were in town. I counted the money as we left the Cattle Buyer’s Association - $250.00! I was pretty proud of myself! Mark stood beside me and studied me for a moment before he spoke. He was always trying to figure things out! "Mr. Harris only wanted to pay you seven dollars and fifty cents for each head of those cattle Pa. You charged him ten dollars," Mark finally said.
"Well Harris drives a hard bargain son. I just had to out trade him,” I explained to him.
"Yeah, but trading is like trading one thing for another, isn't it? Money count makes it different?"
I agreed, but I needed to show him my point of view – this was business. “Look at it this way, son. Money’s just a convenient way of keeping score. "You don't have to feed it...it can't break a leg...and it can't get sick and it fits in your pocket." I stuffed the money in my pocket. “Now, in the store you take a…well, let’s say you take a penny in one hand; and you take a piece of hard-rock candy in the other and you weigh them – one against the other. Then you decide which one you’d rather have.”
Mark thought on that for a minute. “Yeah, but doesn’t that depend on how big the piece of hard rock candy is?”
“That’s right! That’s what I’ve been-“ I stopped as a slow, easy smile spread across his face. I shook my head at him. That boy! Suddenly, I saw a familiar face in the crowd. “Well, I’ll-“ I started. Speed was calling everyone over for a demonstration. “Come on, son. Let’s get a little closer!”
He was doing the same lightning rod demonstration he had done for me and Mark that one night. As I watched, I couldn’t help but shake my head. What I riot this man was! When he lit the roof on fire, everyone reared back. The fire scared them and they didn’t know what was going on! I laughed as he threw the cloth over the burning house. He announced that they could protect the lives of their young ones for only $55. He picked something up. “In the mean time, I want to introduce you to a new item I’m selling this season, and this season only. This conceived in Europe – sent to the East coast of the United States and given to me through exclusive use of representation-“ He was backing up as he talked. He almost ran into me. I tipped his hat down over his eyes.
He turned and saw me, very surprised to see me. He told the crowd he was taking a break. Swifty announced he’d be taking orders for the lightning rod.
Speed came over to Mark and I. We got reacquainted. “Mark, you’re a sight for sore eyes! And I’ve got just the eyes for it!”
I laughed. “Why don’t you try some of your panacea?” I asked.
“Took too much last night. That’s why they’re sore!” I laughed.
“Speed, tell me…are you still selling those lightning rods that never get delivered?” I had to teas him on that!
Speed gave me a dirty look. “Lucas, the last time I met you, you were honest. You could have hooked me for $500.00, but I took a page out of your book. Those rods now get delivered. Sells are up 600 percent, and I’m making more money then ever!” Then he told me about a new item – plague amulets. I had to ask…He said that if you wore one, it would keep the plague, head pain, feet pain, and the vapors – he wore one, and hadn’t gotten the plague yet! I had to roll my eyes at that! He started to give one to Mark, but I wanted nothing to do with those! Then he offered to buy me lunch.
I asked him about the show of his. “Oh well, Swifty can handle it,” Speed assured me. He turned to Mark. “How’d you like to take orders? Pays a quarter an hour!” Speed promised Mark.
That got Mark all excited! “A quarter an hour?” Mark turned and looked toward Swifty. Then he turned to me. “What do you say, Pa?”
“Well son, you take that quarter an hour in one hand and weigh it against sitting around for nothing in the other,” I answered. I didn’t have to tell Mark twice – he chose the quarter!
Mark ran over and greeted Swifty. He told him that Speed had told him to come over and help him write orders and stuff. “Can you write?” Swifty asked.
“Of course I can!”
I was laughing at Speed’s jokes. He sure was funny! “Speed, how do you do it?” I wondered. He wanted to know what I meant. “Keep selling to people they don’t need.”
Speed thought about it for a minute. “Luke! I only sell to people a belief in their own well-being,” he explained. Oh boy! “A little confidence they can hold in their hands. You see, faith and courage aren’t things you can feel and touch. But the amulets…the panacea…the lightning rod…those are things that are tangible. Those folks say those horrible things can’t happen to me as long as long as I have these.” I told Speed he lost his calling – he should have been a preacher. “That’s right. A little faith…a little courage…throw in a little hope to make a baker’s dozen.”
I told Speed I had to go to the bank – I’d meet him in the hotel dining room in a few minutes.
Speed went over to the hotel to wait for me as we agreed. While sitting in the lobby reading a paper, two men walked inside. “So, you’re Speed Sullivan, huh?” Thess, the younger and taller of the two, asked.
Speed didn’t hesitated to answer. “That’s right...lightning king of the west!”
The older man held a rod in his hand and asked him if he knew what it was. Again, Speed answered without hesitation. “That’s a little dandy lightning rod. “$35.00 - $5 down to protect you and your loved ones.” The old man asked if he knew where it came from. “Sure,” Speed answered. “It’s one of my samples. I left it at…” He stopped as he realized what was going on. “Say how is that poor girl?”
The two men just laughed evilly. Speed looked at them as he tried to figure a way out of his latest predicament. He told them if they wanted to place an order, his assistant’s were up the street. “The only order you got is to get up and walk out of here quietly. Anybody who hits a Croxton gets hung...especially a Croxton woman,” the old man answered.
“The scoundrel richly deserves it!” Speed stated. “Why don’t you go get him.” Speed waved them away nervously as he slid down in his chair nervously.
“We have got them,” the old man answered. Speed tried to tell them that someone had already hit the girl before he got there, but they didn’t believe him.
“Well, why don’t you ask her?”
“We did,” Thess answered. “That’s why we came looking for you!” Speed insisted that they could solve the problem most expeditiously. “That’s right,” Thess answered. “And fast too!” Thess grabbed him by the jacket and looked really mean at him as he started threatening Speed. Speed tried to explain, but Thess stopped him again. “We know what you tried to do…she told us! Now look, you wanta assault somebody, why don’t ya' try a man?”
“Shoot-in’s too good for him Thess,” the old man stated.
“Yea...hangin’ don’t take too long either,” Thess stated. “Think he otta get bent?”
“Yeah,” the old man laughed. “Bend him Thess...bend him. Make him hurt a little.” They both laughed.
“You and me’s a gonna fight,” Thess announced with a short laugh.
“I am not without the knowledge of fisticuffs sir,” said Speed. Speed took off his jacket and he put up his dukes. He started jumping around the table, threatening to punch Thess.
I walked in the hotel just as Thess was grabbing Speed and was getting ready to hit him. I grabbed Thess. I delivered several hard punches before I was finally able to grab Thess by the collar. “Alright, what’s this all about?” I demanded to know.
“McCain...this here fellow assaulted my daughter,” said King.
“What?” I suddenly let go of Thess and he toppled over. Boy was I surprised when I heard that.
Speed pushed by Old man King and said “That isn’t true!”
“We gotta let the Marshal settle this,” I stated.
Speed started telling me that it wasn’t true. “Now, there are two sides to every question, and I’m sure with the proper opportunity, I can clear this up.”
“Well, the Marshal will give you to opportunity, Speed,” I assured him. I told them all to get over to his office.
Micah locked Speed in jail and Miss Croxton came to identify him. “Well Miss Croxton...is this the man?” Micah asked.
“Yes it is!” She declared. “He came to the house and tried to sell me some lightein’ rod and when I wouldn’t have any of it, he hit me!”
“She’s tellin’ the truth up to the last three words,” Speed stated.
I asked Miss Vashti to have a seat. I had some questions I wanted to ask her. “Tell me Vashti; was there a struggle when this man assaulted you?”
“You bet there was!” Thess answered for her. “Ain’t nobody belts sis without there’s a struggle,” said Thess. 0
“There was some wrestlin’,” Vashti stated.
“With Speed?” I asked. She nodded. “Tell me something…..what kind of hair does he have...I mean is it brown…black…straight…wavy?” I asked. “In a real struggle he must have lost his hat.”
She looked at Speed. “Um…well it was…black and straight and with grey.” She seemed pretty confident in her answer. Micah walked over to Speed and motioned for him to take his hat off. He proudly showed everyone his bald head. She suddenly got upset. “He must have worn a wig!”
“Madam,” Speed announced suddenly. “Baldness is a sign of masculinity…I wear it proudly.”
I went on with my questions. “Did he hit you with his fists?”
“Well sure!” Vashti answered.
“You know a knuckle wouldn’t have made that kind of a cut you have on your face…guess he must have worn a ring, huh?”
“That’s what it was…a ring,” she answered quickly.
Speed wasn’t wearing a ring. “Miss Vashti, did you yell at any time during the assault?”
“Of course she did!” King answered for her. “Vashti would never fight without hollering!”
“Sure I did!”
“But not loud enough to wake up this man’s son who was sleeping in the wagon not fifty feet away, huh?”
“Alright! I cut my own face…I tore my dress and I burned the money! Now is that what you want me to say?”
“Are you calling her a liar?” Thess asked me.
“I’m not calling her anything!” I answered harshly. Croxton wanted justice, even if they had to do it themselves. The Croxton’s went home.
I told Micah it didn’t look like he had much of a case. He felt she was lying too. I got to thinking then. Speed got himself out of the cell. He and Micah started arguing about his breaking out. He told Speed to get back in there. Speed did it, but he wasn’t happy about it. Suddenly I spoke up what I was thinking. “You know Micah…people lie for certain basic reason. Like sparing feelings…saving face…personal gain…protecting somebody. Maybe she’s protecting someone…like a boyfriend.”
Micah said he saw her once in town when she came to a barn dance - waltzed about three rounds with a fella. King and Thess came roaring in and dragged her out!” “It seems they don’t take to her gaddin’ about,” said Micah. He remembered the man was one of Gephardt’s wrangler - the one with the scar out on his face.
“That’s Cade Conway,” I stated. “Now we got a name we can use! Look, I got an idea. You go along with it and the three of us ride out to the Croxton ranch?” Micah agreed.
I went to pick up my horse and check on the boys at the hotel, then I’d catch up with them.
As Marshal and Speed started to leave, Speed started talking to Micah about buying a lightning rod for his jail. Micah just shook his head.
Meanwhile, the boys were sitting at a table at the hotel. A waitress came to take their order as Swifty looked her up and down. “Go ahead, kid, and order. My treat – anything up to a quarter.” Mark thanked him. “Say, good looking, are there anymore at home like you?” She just stared at him. They ordered the stew.
After she snapped up the menus and walked away, a shocked Mark scolded Swifty for talking that way. “Ah, it kept them happy!” Swifty answered.
Mark decided to ask Swifty about the money he was supposed to get for helping out. “Oh sure, kid. Sure,” Swifty answered. “Got change for a dollar?”
“Uh…no. Not on me,” Mark answered. Swifty said they’d settle later. Suddenly, Mark announced he knew where he could get some change. He started pulling something from his pocket.
He pulled out his change purse. “Bet you’ll never guess what I got in here.” He pulled out a rattle snake rattler and handed it to Swifty. Then he pulled out the fangs.
Swifty studied them. “How’d you get ‘em?” he asked.
“Well…” Mark’s eyes grew big as he started telling his story with great emotion. “Well, when you find a rattler, you just grab him by the tail and pull real hard. Then when he turns around, to..to bite ya', you just grab him by the cheeks…one in each hand and then you…yank!”
“Isn’t that dangerous?” Swifty asked calmly.
“You gotta be awfully quick,” Mark answered. Then he looked at Swifty and waited for his answer. He said he’d give Mark a quarter for the fangs. Mark thought for a second. “No, these things sell for a quarter a piece. I’d throw in the rattler. You know, back East, they’d sell for $3 a lot.”
I came in to see the transaction. I bent down between them and picked up the coins. “Hey, that’s a lot of money exchanging hands here,” I commented. Mark said they were just making a business deal. I set the money down. “Well, you learn quick boy.”
Mark wanted me to stay and eat with them, but I told him we had a few things to straighten out. “Mr. McCain, is Pop on the hook that bad?” Swifty asked. “I better go with you. Pop’s usually out of trouble in a half an hour. What’s the matter this time?” I told him it was a case of mistaken identity. “Oh,” Swifty laughed. “The classic defense – mistaken identity. Speed always uses that one.”
Whatever! I told them to wait in the lobby – we’d be back in an hour. Then I left.
The three of us arrived at the Croxton ranch. Thess and King weren’t happy to see Speed out of jail and not wearing handcuffs. Micah assured Thess that Speed wasn’t going anywhere. He ordered Thess to put the rifle down and listen to what we had to say. I interrupted the argument. “Micah, remember what I was talking about? Let’s see if I’m right.” Micah nodded. I went forward with my plan.
I took a step toward Thess. “Thess…when was the last time you told a lie?”
He didn’t want to answer but Micah insisted. “Let’s see…uh…a week ago I left the gate open and the cow got out, and I told Daddy I didn’t. I thought he’d get mad, but he found out anyway.”
I nodded. “You lied to avoid punishment.” I turned to King. “Mr. Croxton, when’s the last time you told a lie?”
“What do you wanna know for?” he asked.
“People have reasons for lying…..I’ve got a good reason for this.”
He thought about it. “Well maybe I told the kids I was on business when I was doin’ a little drinkin’.”
“Hm…well you lied to preserve status and spare feeling.” I turned to Speed. “Speed…when’s the last time you told a lie?”
That caught him off guard. “I…I…I never told…a couple of months ago. There was this shipment of lightning rods…lost is what they were…”
“Well, that figures…Speed lied for personal gain.”
King wanted to know when the last time I told a lie was. That was fair enough. “Let’s see know…” I thought for a minute. “I told Mrs. Carpenter she had a nice hat…but it was really pretty bad. I lied to spare her feelings. We all have our reasons for lying.” I turned my head toward Vashti . “Don’t we Vashti?”
“What do you mean?” She asked. I asked her when the last time she told a lie was. My question made her mad. “Now I told you the truth! It was that man right there!” She yelled at me, pointing straight at Speed.
“Well we’ve gathered all the fundamental reasons for lying…all except one. Lying to protect.” I turned back to look at Vashti. Maybe you’re protecting someone? Is it Cade Conway?”
That mad her even angrier. “And just what do you mean?” she yelled.
“Has that wrangler been hangin’ around here again?” Thess demanded to know.
“I oughta put the whip to you,” her Pa said.
She suddenly grabbed the whip and shook it at him. “Well you’re gonna have to come and get it first!” She was still yelling. Boy, she was mad!
“It was Conway…wasn’t it?” I asked.
“It was that man right there!” She motioned to Speed.
I held my hand out for the whip. “Was it?” She slapped the whip in my hand and went to the kitchen.
I went after her. “Vashti…I’m just trying to be your friend,” I explained softly. “I know it hasn’t been easy for ya’.”
“You just bet it hasn’t been easy!” She declared. “My Ma died when I was six years old and I had the worst part of being a wife. Pa and Thess…they won’t marry…why should they? They get their meals made…their clothes washed and sewed…and Saturday night they go out chasin’ women and lock me up! Some women get who they want by just kissin’ a man. With those two around I gotta use a tree branch or an axe handle!”
“You spent most of your life just doin’ for your family.”
“Well from now on I’m doin’ for myself!”
“Well, you know…what I can’t figure out is how…all that love and consideration can just disappear like a wind-blown cloud.”
“You stop running around the barn and say what you mean!”
I smiled and laid a hand on her shoulder. Then I turned her around to look at me. “I just don’t think you’d sacrifice that man. Now, I know how you feel about Conway, but you tell me what kind of love would you have if you knew all along that you were responsible for Mr. Sullivan’s being in jail.” She lowered her head at my question. She already knew the answer. “You just wouldn’t be happy unless you told the truth.” I gently put my hand under her chin and lifted her here to look into mine. “Would you?”
“No,” she admitted as she slowly started back into the living room. She stopped and turned to look at me. Then she walked into the living room and looked at her father and brother. “Well it was Cade,” she finally admitted. The two men stared at each other. “Alright…he may not be much but he’s the only man that didn’t tell me words with edges and corners on ‘em!” She turned to Speed. ”Mr. I’m awful sorry for all the trouble I caused you! Now I even told them that you went the opposite way but they tracked your wagon.”
She turned back to her father and brother. “Well I know where Cade is and I’m going to him.”
“He belted you and stole your money,” King reminded her.
“He can’t hit near as hard as you can!” She declared. “He caught me off balance! Well I can lick Cade Conway any day of the week and I’m gonna marry him! And he didn’t steal that money cause half of it was his! And if you come lookin’ for him the first piece of lead will be comin’ from me!”
“Want us to help ya' pack your things?” her father asked quietly.
“What things?” She yelled. Then she turned to leave and ran smack into me. She grabbed her shawl and thanked me. When she walked out the door, she had a big smile on her face.
Speed was impressed with the way I handled Vashti. “You played that girl like she was a harpsichord!” Speed stated.
“What do you mean, Speed?”
“You tricked her, you scared her, you made her feel sorry for herself…then you hit her with a soft spot. That job you did was a classic!” He said he was screening me. He wanted me to go into partnership with him. He wanted to go big time…insurance…stocks and bonds. This man was unbelievable! “In two years, you’ll have 4% of a million dollars!”
“I tell you what, Speed.” I turned to him and put my arm around him as I spoke. “You got a deal if you can answer one question.” He was all ears. “Where was the man when he jumped off the bridge?”
“What man…what bridge?” he asked.
“Any man…any bridge.”
“He’s on the railing of course,” he answered.
“That was before he jumped,” said Micah.
“Oh…um…he was in the air!”
“That was after he jumped,” I answered.
Micah and I rode off as he stood there and kept trying to guess. “One foot in the air, one foot on the railing!” He yelled after me. “Two feet in the air and none on the railing!” He finally gave up and took a drink of his panacea. He needed it after that one.
*Ida Lupino directed this episode. She was an English-American film actress and director and a pioneer among women filmmakers. She was one of the founders of Four Star Productions along with Hollywood actors Dick Powell, David Niven and Charles Boyer.
piddlin' stuff.....Linda Lawson played Vashti Croxton, she was the lady who they thought Speed killed.
Bob Sweeney appeared in two episodes as Speed Sullivan ― The Pitchman ― Assault.
Bob Sweeney (Speed) and Danny Richards Jr.(Swifty) play father & son in both episodes.
Danny Richards Jr. appeared in two episodes as Swifty Sullivan ― The Pitchman and Assault.
Danny Richards Jr. (Swifty) and Bob Sweeney (Speed) play father & son in both episodes.
King Calder played King Croxton, he was Vashti's father.
Paul Mantee appeared in two episodes ― The Assault as Cade Conway, he was the boyfriend of Vashti Croxto ― Incident at Line Shack Six as John Wing, an Apache who was framed for murder.
Bill Quinn as Sweeney the owner/bartender of The North Fork Saloon. Sweeney was first introduced to The Rifleman in The Marshal. He has appeared in thirty-nine episodes as Sweeney the Bartender.
Meredith 'Med' Flory as Thess Croxton, Vashti's brother.
Earl Spainard was in ten episodes ― Day of the Hunter as one of the townsmen ― Silent Knife as a barfly ― The Assault as one of the townsmen - A Friend in Need as Harry the Bartender - Two Ounces of Tin as one of the townsmen ― Outlaw Shoes as one of the townsmen ― Guilty Conscience as one of the townsmen, you can also see Earl in the bar in Stud City ― Short Rope for a Tall Man as one of the townsmen ― The Spoiler as one of the townsmen ― None So Blind as one of the townsman.
Jack Perrin as a Townsman.
George Tracy appeared in three episodes of The Rifleman ― Assault ― The Martinet ― A Time for Singing as a Townsman.
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.
Joe E. Benson appeared in The Rifleman many times, probably more times than listed. Sometimes credited & sometimes not.
*Please note: In Dark Day at North Fork he appeared as two different characters - as one of the townsmen & the bartender.
Joe was a good friend & a neighbor of Chuck's. He helped Chuck build a tree house for the boys and also help build the addition onto the house which was later called the den. (One of the several tree house pictures)
*Do you know....."Where was the man when he jumped off the bridge?????"
"He was not on the bridge because that was before he jumped.
He was not in the air above the bridge because that was after he jumped.
He had to be somewhere, but nobody has ever been able to tell me where he was.
So where was he?" by Bakeman
Bloopers - The Assault
You've heard Lucas' story, now hear Mark's
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Short Rope for a Tall Man
around The McCain Ranch