"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
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
“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
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
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
Speed didn’t hesitated to answer. “That’s right...lightning king of
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
“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
up his dukes. He started jumping around the table, threatening to
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
“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
“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
“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
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
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!”
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
“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
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
“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
“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
“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
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
“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.
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.
Lawson played Vashti Croxton, she was the lady who they thought
Bob Sweeney appeared in two episodes as
Speed Sullivan ― The Pitchman ―
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
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 ―
as Cade Conway, he was
the boyfriend of Vashti Croxto ―
Incident at Line Shack Six
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 -
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.
as a Townsman.
George Tracy appeared in three
episodes of The Rifleman ― Assault
― The Martinet ―
A Time for Singing as a
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
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
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 &
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
*Do you know....."Where was the man when he jumped off the
"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
You've heard Lucas' story, now hear Mark's