"Welcome to the McCain Ranch"
Closer than a Brother
I suppose that to an extent, we all have fears. A lot of times, we may not even know what triggers them, but when we come face-to-face with them – no matter what or when – the fears can send us to our knees. It happens to the best of us. I know because it happened to my best friend.
You see, one day Mark and I rode into town. We were going to stop by and see Micah, and Mark went on ahead of me. But he didn’t quite get the warm, friendly reception that he was used to getting.
Micah had been upset about something, drawing spectacles on paper seemed to really upset him for some reason. Then shooting had began in the saloon and a cowboy raced over to tell him a couple trail hands were shooting up the place. Micah said he would be right over.
That’s when Mark walked in. “Hi, Micah,” Mark greeted him all friendly like. Micah glared at Mark as he came in and closed the door. “Pa and me stopped in town. He said I was to-“
But Micah angrily interrupted him. “Don’t you ever knock?”
Mark was still smiling, not realizing Micah was upset yet. “Oh, not on your door, Micah!” Mark declared.
“For your age, you’re awfully free with first names, ain’t ya'?” Micah asked as he glared at Mark.
“It’s your own fault for telling me not to mister ya',” Mark declared. He looked down at the piece of paper on Micah’s desk and asked him if he was drawing pictures. Micah hurriedly turned it over, stating he was making out a report. Mark didn’t buy that though and started to reach for it. Mark was just teasing him, but Micah snatched it from him and wadded it up.
Mark suddenly realized there was something wrong, but he wasn’t sure what yet. “Awful sure of yourself ain’t ya'?” Micah asked. He threw the paper in the waste basket. “Well, like father like son,” he mumbled to himself. Mark felt like he had done something wrong and started to apologize, but Micah didn’t want to hear it. He grabbed a rifle, declaring he had trouble over and the saloon ant commanded Mark to just stay out of his way.
I walked in while Micah was walking out. I greeted him. “I’m busy right now, McCain!” Micah declared.
“McCa-“ I started as I stared after him. He’d never called me McCain before! I turned and looked at Mark who was still trying to figure things out for himself. He was feeling ashamed that somehow this was his fault. “What was that all about?” I asked him.
Mark didn’t want me to know Micah had just yelled at him, so he pretended not to know what I was talking about. “Did-“ I stared at him. “Didn’t you notice, son?”
“He-he-he just said that he had some trouble at the saloon,” Mark stated.
I figured that’s why he was upset. As usual, I figured I’d give Micah a hand. I told Mark to meet me in the wagon as I started over to assist my friend.
Mark was so curious to know what had Micah so upset, so after I left, he went to the waste basket and picked up the piece of paper. “Eyeglasses,” he declared, confused. “Just a plain old pair of specs!”
Micah went over to the saloon and saw a couple trail hands shooting up the place and laughing. They were obviously drunk. Micah barged in. "I want you boys out of town in fifteen minutes!”
They laughed. "Who says?" asked one of the cowboys.
"The law says," Micah declared.
"Ohhhhh.....seems like this law ain't heard of the Texas boys and the three tarantula spiders," said Truelove. They were still laughing. "It seems like one morning this Dallas boy woke up and he's got three of 'em perched on his leg. Well sir, he sneaked out his equalizer and he vowed to extinguish out the whole lot of 'em. But try as he would he just couldn't seem to line up any two at anyone at the same time. Ain't that right boys?"
"That's right!" His buddies laughed. "Yeah, it seem the poor cuss nearly scratched himself bald trying to figure it out before he starved himself to death.” They laughed.
Just then I walked into the saloon. I flipped my rifle. "You’re wrong, flat mouth.” The room got deathly quiet then. “Dallas men always carries back to back sixes," I stated.
A man came forward. My name is Arthur M. Truelove, and a long living spider knows when he's out numbered." He took off his gun belt and handed it to Micah, then walked out of the saloon. The other two did the same.
Sweeney started yelling about the damage. “Auction off their guns and belts, and don’t crowd your luck, Sweeny!” I turned to Micah. “Well, Micah, I guess that’s taken care of, huh?” I smiled at him.
"Yup. And now nobody will ever know I could have done it alone."
His tone of voice surprised me! My helping out had never bothered him before! "Hey...what is this?" I asked.
"What is this?" Micah repeated angrily. "I'll tell you what is this!" Micah took off his badge. "I'm finally gonna name you the real Marshal in North Fork!" He pinned it on me. "Yes sir, that's my last official act! Right here where I started all over again...remember?" He turned and looked at the others in the room. "He's a first class gent and you couldn't do better then to vote him in permanent.”
I was worried about him. He wasn’t acting like his self. "You were sore at me back there...about what?" I really wanted to know, because I didn’t have a clue!
"I shouldn't be sore at you Mr. McCain! I owe you too much!" Micah turned to face everyone in the saloon again. "When I first hit this town I was nothing but a broken down gutter drunk with a cripple draw.” I tried to stop him, but he was too angry with me. "And you came along. You picked me up and dusted me off.” He picked up his shotgun “Even put this in my hands and arranged the job for me. Right now I've had my fill of it...all the way up to here where I swallow! And anyway it's been too long between drinks." I was hurt! I had no idea anything was wrong. Micah started to go around the bar, but I grabbed him by the arm.
"Micah, we've been friends a long time - at least I thought so." Right now, I wasn’t so sure. "That gives me the right to know exactly what's eatin' on you!"
"You wanna know?" He asked.
"I wanna know!"
"All the way down the line?"
"All the way down the line!"
He went behind the bar. "Alright, .I'll tell ya'!" He answered. "I could have made good in this town! Earned everybody's respect, maybe even my own. But the big man here never left me get rollin'.” He was yelling angrily – angry at me! "No, every last time I'm faced with a shootout, along comes the great Rifleman here to take over!"
He was breaking my heart. I didn’t like his yelling at me in front of everyone, and I didn’t like his bring all these problems up after all this time! "Right or wrong Micah - it was meant friendly." I tried to calm him down.
Micah grabbed two bottles of whisky. "Sure, sure McCain and takin' the bows afterwards.....that was meant to be friendly to, huh?" "You can chalk these up Sweeney."
I was very angry with him! After all I’d done for him, he was treating me like his worst enemy instead of sitting down and talking this out. I shoved the bottles off the bar and they crashed to the floor. We both stood there looking at each other. "You've even got enough credit with me for that McCain. Just remember the next time even a trick rifle won't shoot down a scatter gun at close range!”
I couldn’t believe what he was saying! I thought I was his best friend, and now he was threatening to kill me! I was hurt…so very hurt! "What did you say?" I asked Micah.
But Micah ignored me. He just took something out of his pocket. "Here,” he said, tossing it to me. “You'll need that! It's the key to the jail." He then grabbed two more bottles of whiskey. "You can't shoot a man - not with that on your chest!" He started out the door, but on his way out, he yelled, "You'll have to wait until I hold myself open for a legal arrest." Then he banged the doors open and rushed out.
I cannot express what I was feeling in those moments. I just stood there frozen for a minute. I was so confused – what had brought this on? I was hurt that my best friend would talk to me in such a way. And I was angry that after all I’d done to help him – I was treated in such a manner. Whatever I had done to provoke this, I sure was sorry
People were mumbling, saying things about Micah as I walked out. “Once a booze fighter, always a booze fighter!”
I turned and stared at Corman, stating he talked too much.
I wasn’t going to leave this alone! I headed over to talk to Micah – try to figure out what the trouble was. He was at his desk and told me he’d be out of my way in a few minutes. “I want to talk to you,” I stated as I closed the door. Micah grabbed his jacket, telling me there was nothing more to be said.
But I didn’t agree with him.
"I'm not going to let it go at that,” I told him. “Not between you and me.”
. "You've got no choice!" He hurried past me through the curtains and into the other room.
I kept talking. He was going to hear me out rather he liked it or not! I stared at the curtain that separated the two of us. I was suddenly very concerned and wanted so desperately to repair our friendship. "Look...Micah, I've taken a man by the hand more than just to say howdy to him maybe four times in my life and out of all of them, you’re the last and the most.....well it...ummm…with me, you stand right behind Mark, you know that don't cha'?" Silence answered me. "Anyway Micah...I'm here to ask your pardon and forgiveness for whatever it is I did to offend you." Again, only silence answered. "I mean that, right from the heart!" He never said a word. My voice was no longer soft, but harsh. "Now it didn't come easy to say that!" His silence angered me! "What do you want from a man?" "Ride around the territory curvin' your name on trees?" I opened the curtain. It was just an empty room. Micah had snuck out the back. I was talking to myself.
I heard a noise. Someone was approaching . A elderly black man entered the office. He said he couldn’t help overhearing what happened between me and Micah “Also, they felt, that’s a problem you and the Marshal would handle in eloquent style.” I told him I didn’t understand what he was driving at. He introduced himself as Thaddeus, Thad for short. “Well sir, I’ve always found that if you want something, go straight to the person that can give you a direct answer. Yes or no. Now, that could mean for spiritual thought or for business. Mr. McCain, you’re gonna need someone to take care of your ranch while you’re marshalling.” Thad gave me a smile. I really liked his approach!
I hadn’t thought of that, but he was right. I wanted to know what experience he had. He said he was qualified to do most anything. He told me he knew cattle as much as most folks and he could take care of a house and could keep it clean just like a marshal would expect it kept. There was something about this guy that I liked. "Looks like we each got us a new job," I said. We shook hands on it.
The next day Thad and Mark rode into town. Thad started to tell me, but Mark cut in. I was too worried and tired at the time to get onto Mark for interrupting. “Thad and me finally located Micah for you, Pa,” Mark declared. He had taken an attic room out at Mrs. Rington's. As soon as I found out where my friend was, I jumped up and hurried out. I asked Thad to watch the office while I was gone. I grabbed my rifle and hurried out the door. Mark wanted to go along, but I thought it best that I go see Micah alone. I didn’t figure I’d want Mark to see the kind of shape Micah was in.
I was right. Micah was in bad shape! When I got there, I heard singing! Micah was singing some song about a bad girl with a curl in the middle of her forehead. Oh boy, what was I going to find when I got up there?
I walked in without even knocking. He had finished off one bottle and almost done with the second. He wasn’t even dressed, but was walking around in his long johns. I slammed the door to let him know I was there. He turned at the sound. “You’re real musical, today.”
“Well,” Micah explained. “Some fellas sing when they’re having a bath; and others when they are drunk!”
I asked Micah if I could come in. I don’t know why I asked – I wasn’t going to give him much of a choice anyhow. He didn’t want me there, and that was for sure! I sat down next to him and talked to him in a really friendly voice. "You know, I thought I was being your friend by backin’ you up. I see I made a mistake. I still wanna be your friend...alright?"
"Friend,” Micah repeated sarcastically. “Who wants friends? I don't need any friends." He grabbed the whisky bottle and poured himself another drink. “Here, this is the best friend I’ve got. Run’s the nightmares right off the range!” I asked him if he had nightmares. “Don’t everybody?” He asked.
“Now and then,” I answered as I held the bottle for him. “Not to matter.”
“Not to matter, not to matter…” he mocked me. “Five – six – seven nights a week matter?” He started singing again. I hated seeing him drunk like this. It was hard seeing such a great man as Micah so low! He suddenly stopped singing. “Oh, what do you know? You’ve never been afraid of anybody in your whole life!”
“A few,” I admitted. “I’d tangle with ‘em, win or loose.” I admitted.
Micah was ready to talk. "Tell me something…did you ever ran into someone who some way or other.....the minute you met them...they had your number?" Asked Micah. "I mean...no matter what they said to you or did to you...from there on in you didn't even have the nerve to look them in the face...you ever have that little thing?"
I had a feeling we weren’t talking about dreams anymore. It was a flesh and blood man. “He’s just a cheap gunslinger - Ansel Bain.” Just the mention of his name upset him. He started crying his name over and over and jumped up. Micah was really upset over this man! I tried to calm him down. I got him to sit down on the bed. I patted his leg, letting him know I was here to listen, not to upset him more.
“Why, he’s not even a fast draw! Just one of them sure aim best shot at long range.” As he talked, I found the drawings of spectacles. He said there was something about his eyes. He was way far-sighted, like a turkey buzzard.
I asked him if he knew where Ansel was. “Yeah, I know where he is. In Dillsvillesville. Till he picks up my tracks and starts tracking my heels again. Range hand rode in about a week ago and said he saw him in the saloon over there.”
Man, this dude really frightened Micah! I had to help him! “Listen to me Micah.” I got no response. I patted his leg and repeated, “Listen to me, Micah.” Micah looked at me. “Micah, are you that scared of a man who wears eyeglasses?”
He mocked my question, wishing he wasn’t that scared. He felt he had already died five, six, or seven times from nightmares in the last week. He said Ansel looks at him like a vulture. He had hoped when he had settled here he would learn to settle his fears. But when he heard Ansel was only a days ride from here he crumbled. “It was just you all the time – just you standing in back of me holding me up.” I hung my head when he started that again. I never realized…
“I was the same as ever. Just a drunken no good coward. Cheaten – everybody put there trust in me and all the while I just wanted to lie on God’s green earth unconscious.” He laid his head down on his arms and cried.
I knew what I had to do. It wasn’t going to be easy – but I had no choice! I looked down at the badge and slipped it off. “Micah,” I whispered to my friend. “I want you to put this back on for awhile.” I sat the badge in front of him. He lifted his head and stared at it. He stated he couldn’t. I put a firm hand on his shoulder and leaned in to him. “Better learn what have to means, Micah.”
He started to laugh and poured whiskey on the badge lying on the table. “Beware the law,” he mocked. Then he started laughing again.
"I hope to see you again soon Micah,” I said as he started singing again.
I started to leave. I opened the door. “Lucas!” Micah called.
“You gonna gun him for me?"
I didn’t even turn from the doorway. I just stood there with my back to him and spoke. "Oh no...I've done you enough harm and hurt already Micah. I wouldn't want to add to it." Then I left.
I headed for Dillsville looking for Ansel Bain. I went to the saloon and asked the bartender if he knew where I could find him. He motioned to a table by the window. I turned and walked over to him. His back was to me. I simply sat down in the chair and looked up at him. What met my eyes shocked me! This is what Micah’s so afraid of? I couldn’t believe it! “You Ansel Bain?”
“That’s my name,” he answered.
“Bartender, another glass!” I called, keeping my eyes on Ansel. “I’ve been hearing quite a bit about you lately, Mr. Bain.” The bartender threw me a glass and I caught it – never taking my eyes off the man in front of me. “It seems to me you’re a…man with a big reputation.”
He asked me if that why I came – to talk about his reputation. I suddenly noticed he had a gun on me under the table. “If you got something to say, let’s hear it.”
“Well, if you put that gun back in your holster, I may have some information that might be to your licking, Mr. Bain.” I held my cup up for a drink and he poured it. Then we talked.
That night, Micah was lying awake in bed when he heard heavy footsteps coming up his steps. He sat up in bed, suddenly very afraid. Six hard knocks sounded on the door. Micah licked his lips. “Come in.”
Ansel kicked the door open and walked in. “Howdy, Micah.” Micah said his name. “Haven’t changed a bit, have ya', rummy?” He laughed wickedly at the state Micah was in. “I hear you been holding up the law in this hog waller. Things are gonna work out nicely for both of us, Micah. For a good while now, I’ve been looking forward to my retirement somewheres like this.” Micah sat up suddenly to argue. “You be down there at that saloon tomorrow morning at 10 o’clock and be wearing that badge.” He started to leave, but added one more thing. "And Micah...this time don't try runnin'." All the while he was patting his gun. Ansel left.
Micah was terrified as he listened to Ansel leave. He tried to pour himself another drink, but he couldn’t. He couldn’t bring himself to pour it. He shoved the bottle and cup off the crate. He no longer wanted it! Micah began crying as fear gripped his very being.
That evening, I was at home. I had just sent Mark to bed and was engrossed in my Bible. I was having mixed feeling about what I had done, and desperately needed to justify it to myself. I needed a sure fire answer from God that I wasn’t deceiving my friend by making him face his fear. I was looking for an answer for this, maybe even some comfort. Thad could tell I was troubled. "Ain't you found what you've been lookin' for yet...in the Book Mr. McCain?"
I stared at my Bible. Then I closed it. “Solomon...Proverbs 18, verse 24. There is a friend that sticketh closer than a brother.”
Thad knew what I was struggling with. “And later on in the New Book, St. John said, ‘a man ain't got no greater love then to lay down his own life for his friend."
That’s not what I had done. "What about when a man lays down his friend's life for his friend?" I asked, looking at my Bible. “What does the book say about that?"
Just then we heard a rider approaching the ranch quickly. I stood and walked over to the door. Pulling the curtain back, I looked out. It was Micah. By then he was at the door staring inside. I cracked the door open and peered out at him. He tired to push the door open, but I stayed against it so he couldn’t come in. I didn’t want to let him inside. I knew why he was there, and I had to stay strong. I could not help him – he had to get his confidence restore. It was the only way!
Micah wasted no time. "He's here Lucas. Here in North Fork, Ansel...Ansel Bain"
It took every once of strength I had to do what I had to do. "I'd say that's your problem."
That’s not the answer Micah was hoping for. "No...no Lucas...I can't handle him alone, you know that. You gotta back me up."
"Again,” I asked angrily. “After the thanks I got."
I told him the way it was going to be. "You've got a choice Micah: stand up to the man alone or run."
"Lucas please, I'm askin' you this one last favor."
"The answer is no!" I said forcefully. We just stood there looking at each other. I could tell my words hurt him, but I was trying to save him.
"Alright Lucas.....alright Lucasboy." Micah left. I walked out onto the porch and watched him ride off.
Mark ran out of the bedroom. "I couldn't help over hearin', Pa. What's wrong with Micah? Is he sick?" I couldn’t answer. I just stood and watched Micah ride off into the darkness. Tears filled my eyes. "He needs help!" Mark started to run to the door. "He'll be killed or somethin'!"
Thad held him back. "Hold on Mark, son," said Thad. "The way poor Mr. Micah is now, he'd be much happier dead and buried." I hardly heard what was going on inside the house. I had my own struggle. I was really hurting for my friend. I had to let him face Ansel...alone! Would I ever see my friend…my best friend…alive again? I cried for my dear friend and prayed to God that he would be protected.
It was 10:00 the next morning. Micah arrived at the saloon right on time, keeping his appointment with Ansel. Micah stood outside the window looking in. He was afraid to go inside and Ansel knew it. Ansel motioned for him to come in. Micah swallowed and walked inside.
Ansel told him to sit down. He looked at the clock. “Looks like you’re learning. You know, if you took off this time, I would a run you down – caught up with you. You wouldn’t like that, would ya'?”
Micah sat at the table frightened. “No,” he answered.
“You’re on your own, Micah. Ain’t nobody backing you up around here.” He laughed.
"How did you find me?"
"As a matter of fact a long, mean-speakin' cuss with a funny rifle rode the whole way down to Dillsville just to tip me off where I could find you."
At Ansel’s description, Micah suddenly realized it was me that told him. He couldn’t hardly believe it. "To think of him going to all that trouble for me," Micah mumbled in disbelief.
Ansel told Micah he wanted him to appoint him his permanent chief deputy. He told him to do it that minute, loud and plain. “I’ll take over from there. Ansel laughed. Micah just sat there. He couldn’t speak. “What’s the matter, Micah?” Ansel laughed. “Kitty cat got your tongue?” He pushed the bottle of whiskey over to him and told him to wet his whistle.
For the first time Micah looked at him. "To think he's taken the trouble for me,” Micah mumbled again. I think he realized then just how much I did care for him. He suddenly reached over and took Ansel's glasses off his face. Ansel started crying and grabbed at his face, begging Micah to give him back his glasses. Micah realized then that he was a nobody. “Why your nothing!” Micah declared. “You’re just nothing at all!” He grabbed the whisky bottle and hit Ansel over the head with it, knocking him out.
He then took the bottle of Whiskey and broke it over Ansel's head. "Why sixteen years...for sixteen years I've been livin' in fear of...I guess you might say...in fear of my own weakness."
I stood outside waiting for the outcome. When I saw Micah walk out, I sure was happy! He threw Ansel’s hat and ordered the boys to lock him up. Then he turned and saw me standing there. "So you were in back of me as usual," he declared. “I should a known.”
I shook my head and walked towards him. "No Micah, I wasn't. I was just watching."
"With that?" He pointed to my rifle.
I held it up. "This? I figure he was even money to kill you. I didn't plan for him to walk away from it."
We stood looking at each other. Suddenly, Micah said, “To think of you going to all that trouble." He shook his head at me. Then he began laughing. I put my arm around his shoulder in a manly hug. We both laughed, happy our friendship – and Micah’s faith in himself – was restored!
piddlin' stuff.....Isn't this one of the best episodes? Paul Fix is one of the best! I tip my cowgirl hat to you Micah!!!!!
Berry Kroeger played Ansel Bain. He was the dude that Micah feared, the one with the eye glasses.
Kelly Thordsen appeared in two episodes ― Closer than a Brother as Arthur M. Truelove, he was the big dude causing the trouble in the saloon that lead to Micah giving up his badge― The Score is Even as Andy, he's the cowboy who was supposed to kill Lucas and Mark, but didn't.
Rex Ingram played Thaddeus. He was the man who offered to help Lucas with the ranch while Lucas was Marshaling.
Jack Wells played Mr. Carpenter, the townfolk he went to tell Micah there was trouble at the saloon.
Duane Grey as a cowboy in the saloon.
Bill Quinn appeared in thirty-eight episodes as Sweeney the owner/bartender of The North Fork Saloon. Sweeney was first introduced to The Rifleman in The Marshal.
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)
Fritz Ford appeared in twenty episodes and still counting. Besides acting in The Rifleman he was also a stunt double for Chuck Connors.
Richard LaMarr appeared in three episodes ― A Time for Singing as a Townsman ― The Deserter as a Townsman and Closer Than a Brother as a Townsman.
The song Micah sang when he was drunk.....♫
"There was a little girl, who had a little curl....."
Bloopers - Closer than a Brother
You've heard Lucas' story, now hear Mark's
Character Actors Index Page
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Bloopers for this episode & other episodes
The Lost Treasure of Canyon Town
around The McCain Ranch