"Welcome to the McCain Ranch"
Day of the Hunter
I remember as a little boy having my own heroes, like Mark has now. Oh, I laugh at Mark and his heroes now and then, but I’ve come to realize that no matter how old you get, those childhood heroes are still very near and dear to your heart. Perhaps that’s why this story shook me to the core.
You see, Mark and I were in town for supplies one day when Mr. Hardiman walked up to talk to us. “Who’s that feller you got with ya'?” he teased Mark.
I decided to play along. With a teasing smile, I answered, “Oh, that’s some fella that’s been hangin’ around trying to cadge a meal.”
“Oh, sounds kinda familiar. Always hungry you say? Well, that fits!”
I continued smiling, but wasn’t sure what he was getting at. “Fits what?” I asked.
“There’s a fella in my orchard the other day. In fact, there was three or four of ‘em. They was…uh…eaten’ apples. That looks like one of ‘em.” Mark suddenly got this “uh-oh” look on his face as I gave him the “uh-oh” look. He was caught now!
“That so?” I questioned the very guilty looking Mark McCain as I gave him a very stern look.
Mark suddenly jumped to his own defense. “We only took one each, Mr. Hardiman! Honest!”
I didn’t take my eyes off of him, but continued my look. Mark was a bit nervous, too!
Mr. Hardiman was laughing. “Oh Lucas! Apples is good for a boy. Keeps the doctor away,” he tried to excuse Mark. But my boy knew better. He knew how I felt about stealing anything – including apples! “I ain’t gonna miss a couple apples! I got more then I can pick or eat now.” He invited us over to his wagon to pick some out.
Mark started to climb down, but I continued looking sternly at him. “Pa?” He asked in that voice that was laced with honey.
I tried to resist his charm and stay strong, but he was my weakness! “Come on,” I finally permitted. He jumped off the wagon and ran across the street. I shook my head at him as I followed. That boy!
I didn’t know it, but an old mountain man was making his way across the street.
Mark and I thanked Mr. Hardiman. Mark threw an apple up in the air, stating that Mr. Hardiman was nice. He could have been mean about it! Then sternly, I ordered, “You just see you don’t take anything ever again without asking first!”
“Oh, I won’t Pa!” Mark promised as he again threw the apple up into the air.
Suddenly, a shot rang out as the apple that had just left Mark’s hand suddenly exploded in mid-air. I looked around. Across the street was an old mountain man with a big grin on his face. “Throw up another one, boy. I’ll show you how it’s done!” the old man called.
I couldn’t believe that my son actually started to do it. I stopped him. Then I turned to the old man. “Now that can be pretty dangerous in a place like this, mister!” I stated. He told me that danger was what made life interesting. Then he called me Lucas. “You know me?” I was suddenly curious to know who this stranger was.
“Sure I know ya'! I heard about you! Come to see if it’s true what they say.”
Now I was even more curious! “Oh? And what do they say?”
“That you’re the best they’ve ever seen with a rifle. They been saying that about me for years. Can’t be two of us!” He wanted me to know that there never was anyone better then him – not even me. “Name’s Cass Callicott.”
I whispered that name again. I knew of him! People around us began mumbling at his name too. Mark suddenly wanted to know who he was. “He’s a famous frontiersman, Mark. Trapper, scout, buffalo hunter…One of the old original mountain men!”
He wanted me to have a shootout with him to see who was better. He told me I could put up any kind of stakes I wanted “I took all kinds of treasure in my time. Yes sir, from all sorts. Once took a cavy of 30 horses from a Blackfoot chief! Five of his fattest wives to boot! One shot, sixty yards. Put that arrow right down the middle. Well, Lucas. You game?”
My son was taking this all in. He was impressed with all that Cass was saying. I didn’t believe in shooting to show who’s best, so I declined with a friendly smile.
He tried again. I could name off the target. Again, I said a friendly no thanks. But that made him angry. “Cold-footed boy?”
The smiled suddenly disappeared from my face. He wasn’t joking! He was serious. Dead serious! “Scared are ya'? I’ve come a long way for this, McCain. Prove it ain’t true what I heard.” I told him I heard things about him too, but he didn’t have to prove anything to me.
Mark was disappointed. I noticed, but I didn’t say anything about it. “Come on, son.” I started for the wagon.
I turned and looked at him. He winked at me. It wasn’t over yet.
Mark was quiet on the way home. The minute we got home, he went inside and leaned against the lamp stand. I looked at him as I shut the door. He was upset, and I had a pretty good idea what it was. “Something on your mind, son?” I asked in a voice that told him I already knew the answer. He nodded. “Well,” I said as I took off my gloves. “Let’s sit down and talk it out.”
Mark came over as I sat down in my chair. He sat down beside me. “You aren’t really scared of him, are ya'?”
“What do you think?” I asked. Mark stayed quiet as he stared at me. He wouldn’t answer me. I could tell it was time for another one of life’s lessons. “Mark, you don’t always have to be better then everybody, with a rifle or anything else. As long as a man can do what he has to when it counts. Just having people call you ‘best’ isn’t important.”
Mark thought it was to Mr. Callicott. “Is that why you didn’t want to do it?” He asked. My turning down his contest was really bothering Mark!
“Well, he might have beat me,” I answered.
“He might not have!” Mark said back to me.
“I wouldn’t have cared if he had.” I looked him straight in the eye. “Would you?”
“Maybe not too much,” Mark answered honestly. “But I think it would have mattered to Mr. Callicott.”
I tried to explain it to mark – that he only had his reputation left. “His world’s gone. It’s hard for a man to see everything changing.” Mark wanted to know if the things they say about him are true. “Well, some of them, anyway, son. He did some pretty amazing things. Well…he got to be kind of a legend. They wrote stories about him in magazines and dime novels. And maybe those writers stretched the truth a little. And I guess Cass believes…well, he believes too many of those stories.” That made me think of my own childhood. I told Mark that a lot of boys thought he was a hero.
Mark smiled and asked if I was one of those boys. I only smiled. “That why you didn’t want to beat him?” He came back to that – that I had turned him down!
I suddenly reminded him he had some chores to do.
Later, Mark was feeding the chickens when he suddenly heard the sound of a rattler. He looked around, expecting to find a snake nearby, but Cass suddenly jumped out at him, scaring him half to death! “Say, you’d sure be Ute stew in the mountains! Eh, they’d curl you first thing. Fella had to be lookin’ an’ listenin’ an’ smellin’ all the time or he was belly up! That one time you was lollygagging there, the time my Ute would have put his arrow clean through your throat.”
Mark asked him if that was him rattling. “Scared ya', huh? That’ll teach ya' to be alive! Look sharp!” Of course, Mark was all ears now. Cass’s talk fascinated the boy and he wanted to know where that rattler was. “Comanche fetish!” Cass answered. “Made from the button of a big ol’ rattler.” He continued telling Mark he had gotten it off of a one-eyed medicine man. Boy, you should have seen Mark’s eyes! He sure was excited! Cass told him some story about how you just shake the rattler at a man and a big ol’ rattler comes along and bites the man. “Works too. I done it myself a few times!”
Mark was falling for it hook, line, and sinker. Cass shook it at Mark and Mark fearfully took a couple steps back. “Oh no, you got to know them right words ‘fore it works!” He gave it to Mark, and he wanted to know what the right words were. Cass told him he’d tell him sometime when he could be trusted.
Cass looked at our chickens running around the farm and began hinting that he was hungry. Mark took liberty on himself to invite Cass to stay for supper. Cass asked if we were thinking on having chicken for supper. Mark said I hadn’t mentioned what was for supper, but he figured chicken would be fine. Cass suddenly caught one of my chickens and started to pull the feathers right there. Mark just looked at him uncomfortably, and Cass told him he didn’t fit to well in this civilization!
“See anytime I was hungry I had to think quick and hard when the chance come.”
I let him stay for supper since Mark so kindly invited him, but I wasn’t to pleased about it. And I didn’t rightly care for the impression he was putting on my son! It would take me a month of Sunday’s to clear all those wild stories out of my son’s young brain! But I sat at the table quietly while he ate all our food and talked nonstop to my impressionable, young boy.
In fact, he was telling another wild story right now! “I’ll tell ya', when that big ol’ grizzly come waddlin’ out of that cave, them Utes took off like they sudden scold in water! Never was seen again! They didn’t know it was me! I had powerful medicine changed me into a bear!” Cass had a whole gob of chicken in his hands he was flapping around when he was talking and eating loudly and quite rudely!
Mark announced to Cass that we had a whole family of black bears up the mountain with three cubs. “That ‘minds me of that grizzly near took my ear of once. See?” He pointed to his ear as he continued waving his chicken around disgustingly. “Show you the other scar sometime! Near tore me in half. Thought I was trying to steal her cubs! I near bled to death till I crawled 200 miles through Comanche Country to a settlement.”
I must say that all his wild stories were really getting to me, especially since I had heard that story from somewhere else – it had happened to Daniel Boone. “That so? Same thing happen to him, Lucas?” Cass asked as he gnawed on the chicken bone. He suddenly asked if there was anymore bird, but he had eaten it all up! He explained that a man had to fill himself up when the chance came, he never knew when the next meal was going to come along.
I suddenly suggested that maybe now he would like to talk. He stated that he had been! Oh boy, had he ever! “You didn’t come out here just to spin yarns for Mark and me.”
“You know what I come for,” Cass answered me as he sit something on his plate with a challenging look in his eye. I stared at it as Mark asked what it was. “Indian challenge,” I answered in an annoyed voice.
“Ehhhh….ain’t that bright! Bright!” Cass stated excitedly. “Man give his arrow with a bit of medicine string tied to it; means a challenge. One you got to take.”
I was curious to know what the challenge was, though I had no intention on taking it. He wanted me and him to go up on the mountain with twenty bullets each. Then we’d see who came home with the most meat. “Now, I ask you Mark. Ain’t that a fair test for a rifleman?” Cass asked my son who was suddenly very excited about that challenge Cass was proposing.
“Well, I guess so,” Mark answered as he looked hopefully at me.
He told me I could use my “fancy new repeatin’ rifle” of mine and he’d still beat me reloaded and all. “You think that’s a good way to prove who’s best?”
“Best hunter, maybe,” I stated. “But there’d still be a lot of luck,” I answered.
“You think of a better test? Won’t agree to a stand up shoot-out. I talked to your Marshal and said that…”
That was enough! “I’ve already told you, Cass. I’m not going to test myself against you!” I stated angrily.
“He said you could shoot. Shoulda told me you was a coward.” He tried to rile me into a shooting match. But I told him I wasn’t interested.
“And besides that, I’m not into the wholesale of killing animals. There just isn’t enough game around here anymore. And we’ve agreed among ourselves to conserve what’s left, use only what we need,” I explained. He resented me for that too.
“In my day, a man lived free! Took what he wanted and did what he wanted anytime he wanted with no one to say nay!” Cass told me accusingly.
Mark was listening intently to the conversation. I hoped he was understanding my position. I shook my head at Cass. “Yeah I know!” I told him angrily. “You slaughtered millions of buffalos just for the hides and the tongues and left the rest to rot on the Plains while the Indians wept ‘cause they knew you weren’t just killing buffalo but a whole way of life – yours and theirs. And now you’re unhappy that it’s gone!” I was getting angry and bitter. My childhood image was being destroyed as the realization hit me. “It’s a different world now. There’s a lot more people. We don’t have to kill to live. We do have to get along.”
Cass stated that he was glad he wasn’t part of our new ways. “There’s still places a man can live free and I’m headin’ back up there just as soon as I finish this.” I just looked at him. He was finished as far as I was concerned. He looked down at the arrow on his plate. “You gonna take that challenge or be called a coward?” He spit these words out at me. Mark sat beside me listening to every word and turned to me with anticipation. His eyes were filled with hopefulness as he waited for my answer.
But I wasn’t going to give in to Cass’s selfish demands or try to impress my son with my skills. There was a principle here that Mark had to learn to accept. So I answered quietly and firmly, “Be called a coward.”
That was that. Cass picked up his arrowhead. He knew that was my final answer. I looked at Mark. He was disappointed at me. But he would just have to live with that disappointment.
Mark continued talking to him while I fetched his horses. “Something I come for, I usually get, McCain, one way or t’other.” I told him he was wasting his time, but he told me I was going to fight him.
I warned him not to cause any trouble – especially with the boy. He didn’t want to mess with me where my son was concerned! “My advice to you is to move on, back to where a man can still be free.”
“Not till I’ve done what I come for, McCain,” Cass answered. Then he mounted his horse and rode off.
My disappointed son suddenly observed that I didn’t like him. “It’s not that exactly,” I tried to explain. “It’s just that when a man has lived like a savage for so long, well, he’s almost salvage. He’s not like ordinary men. He acts differently and he thinks differently.” I told Mark he had to be careful with a man like that – especially when you don’t really know him.”
The next day I had to go to a town meeting. I told Mark I’d be home around 4, and to make sure he had the yard cleaned up by then. That was the only thing he had to do the whole time I was gone, and I expected it to be done!
Mark watched me leave. And so did Cass. He was getting tired of challenging me, and decided to take a different approach – one he was sure would work. So as while I was still riding through our range, Cass came up to Mark. He pretended to not be aware that I was gone, and forgetting all about the town council meeting I had to attend (he probably had checked around town and known I would be gone). He had come to ask Mark a favor. He wanted Mark to take him up to see those black bears. My son was so impressed with this old man because he was different and lived an imaginative life. But when he discovered Cass wanted him to right now, he wasn’t sure that was a good idea. After all, I had given him a chore to do and he couldn’t tell me where he was going – two very good reasons for him to do the right thing. Besides that, he should have known I wouldn’t have approved in him going.
“I’ll fix it with your Pa! It’ll be just fine with him,” Cass assured him. ’Sides, we’ll be back before he is probably. Don’t ya' want to do a favor for ol’ Cass? You know, you promised and all!” Cass kept talking to Mark to mix up the thinking in his head and convince him to come with him.”
It worked. “Well, I guess it’ll be alright. Pa didn’t say I had to stay home,” Mark answered. Kids knew how to twist our words to make them satisfy them, and that’s the truth!
Cass was suddenly excited. He even told Mark he could ride his mule. He pushed Mark out the door, then put the Indian Challenge on the table right inside the door so I would see it when I got home and coming running to save my boy!
I rode into town. Micah started in on me right away about having a shooting match with Cass. I told him I turned Cass down. There were lots of folks surprised I didn’t accept my challenge. I reckon I was the talk of the town. “Including my son,” I said a bit disappointed that my own son didn’t know me better then that! Micah was afraid he wouldn’t take no for an answer. “There’s something tormenting him,” I stated. Micah told me to be careful. He didn’t have to tell me that!
Mark was enjoying their ride into the woods together. He mentioned that I had taught him a lot about the woods. But he figure Cass could teach him just as much, seeing as how he had lived in them his whole life. But Cass stated he’d soon be moving on. Mark asked when and he said “Depends.”
“Oh, well it’s just a little ways farther,” Mark stated. “We might see them anytime now.” Cass had been distracted and asked him what he was talking about. “Well, the bears, of course!” Mark answered.
“Oh them,” Cass said absently. “I forgot all about them!”
That startled Mark a little bit. “But…that’s why we came out here!”
“Nevermind. You got nothin’ around here to compare with grizzly’s anyway,” Cass suddenly stated.
That really startled Mark. Then Cass told him to mosey on over there, and he pointed in the direction. Mark wasn’t sure what was going on and asked why. “Cause I said so, that’s enough!” Cass answered.
“Come here boy. I’ll show you somethin’ bout trail watchin’,” Cass ordered. He wanted Mark to sit down beside him and look at the trail. Mark was not stupid, though, and knew something was up. He was suddenly very uncomfortable being there and stated he wanted to go home. “I’ll take care of your Pa,” Cass stated as he laid a hand on Mark’s arm.
Mark was sorry he ever put himself in a situation like this. He felt something when Cass touched his arm. He knew something was terribly wrong, and he tried to leave. “Well, you can stay if you want, but I’m going home!” he insisted as he started to leave. Cass suddenly grabbed him by the jacket roughly and ordered him in a mean voice to get down.
My boy was scared. He felt like his life was in danger.
I rode home after the meeting. I hollered for Mark a few times, but he never came. I noticed the yard wasn’t cleaned. As I got off my horse and tied him to the post, I noticed the front door was open. Something was wrong. He hadn’t cleaned the yard and things were very quiet. I just had this feeling. I hurried inside and hollered for Mark. Where could that boy be, I wondered. But as I stood around the living room looking for a clue, I suddenly started it. My eyes grew big and I rushed over to pick it up.
That’s when I knew he had been there. He’d taken my son to force me into a challenge! I walked out the door slowly as I thought about what to do. I looked down into the dirt to pick up their tracks. Then I went up the mountain to get my boy back!
Cass was getting impatient. Mark played with the rattler Cass had given him and Cass knocked it out of his hand annoyingly. Mark reminded him that he was going to tell him the words. “Figurin’ on killing someone?” he asked. “Ain’t no words you’d understand anyhow. It’s a bunch of poppycock!”
Mark wasn’t sure what was going on. He suddenly stated he wanted to go home…again…and tried to get up and leave. But again Cass grabbed him and told him he was staying right there. When Mark asked why, Cass finally revealed the real reason. “For you Pa to come lookin’ for ya' so’s we can have that there shootin’ match. Only a real one this time. The kind they don’t have much of anymore. For big game.” Mark then found out what kind: men.
Mark stared at him as he allowed this to sink in. That’s when he knew he had to get away. He tried to escape, but Cass grabbed him and went to fix him so he couldn’t try to escape anymore.
Cass had left a good trail for me to follow. He wanted me to find him. I made my way up the mountain as he sat there and watched me. He had tied my boy’s hands up and wrapped the rope around a tree. Mark tried and tried to get free, but he couldn’t. I got closer and closer to Cass.
Suddenly, Mark heard my horse and saw me. “Look out, Pa!” Mark suddenly screamed. “He’s gonna kill ya' Pa!”
I suddenly jumped off my horse and hid on a hill. “Don’t worry about the boy, Lucas! I’ll let him go soon as we settle it!” Cass promised. I suddenly saw him. And I saw my son tied to a tree, struggling to get free.
I knew my first order of business: To get my boy free and out of danger. I knew myself well enough to know that I could shoot the rope and set him free. I carefully aimed well above his hands and fired. Mark fell to the ground and immediately started running towards me. “Stay low, Mark!” I ordered. “Stay low!” I wouldn’t put it past Cass not to hurt him. Until he was safe by my side, I wouldn’t feel comfortable. He was suddenly there. I reached out and grabbed him. “Are you alright, son?” I was happy to be hold my son again.
I put him behind me so he’d be safe from gunfire. “Alright, the boy’s with you!” Cass said. “You got no excuse now, McCain!”
But I told him I wasn’t going to shoot – that’s what he wanted. “I guess you don’t understand!” Cass suddenly stated. “It’s either kill me…or die!”
I suddenly looked down at Mark. This man was crazy! I would kill him before he took a shot at me! I suddenly wished Mark wasn’t here to watch this. I tired for a peaceful end again. “I’ve got no reason to kill you, nor you me!”
Suddenly, he stood up so I’d have a clear target. He yelled for me to use my rifle. “You got eight shots, I only got one. It’s alright with me. Just show yourself, I’ll take my chances!” He continued shouting. He started walking forward.
I couldn’t believe this! I shook my head sadly knowing it may come down to me shooting him. Mark watched on worriedly, wondering what I was going to do. I knew it wasn’t going to end well, no matter what. I was at a loss for a solution to this problem! The last thing I wanted to do is shoot someone who I saw as a hero as a small boy.
He continued walking forward and yelling, telling me I had more than an even chance to kill him. I had to play his game.
But suddenly, I found myself trying to save his life. The black bear that Mark had told him about suddenly appeared – angry! She surprised Cass and attacked him. Cass screamed. She hit him a few times before my shock wore off and I was able to fire. I fired several rounds into that bear. Mark and I both had a sick feeling as we saw what laid before us. “Stay here,” I told Mark as I stared forward.
I didn’t want to see it. My childhood memories flooded back as I took those steps toward my hero. My shots were too late. He was dead. I suddenly felt very sick at the image that met my face. It was over.
I laid Cass’s body over his mule and tied him down. Mark rode Cass’s saddled horse as he dragged the mule behind him. He was visibly upset, as was I. “Why did he want to kill you, Pa?” Mark suddenly asked.
I thought on this. “Well, it wasn’t exactly me son,” I answered. “It was the whole world he hated. A world that had passed him by. A world he couldn’t be a hero in.”
Mark agreed. “Well I guess so. But he was a hero once,” Mark reminded me.
I knew he was – he was my hero! And that’s how we should try to remember him! I knew a boy’s hero was a lot of times only in his mind. And though the bear took Cass away, I’d always have my hero!
piddlin' stuff.....John Anderson appeared in eleven episodes ― Shotgun Man as John Beaumont, he was the man that wanted revenge on Lucas for sending him to jail ― Shivaree as Chet Packard, he was the one who Derek shot in the leg ― The Hawk as Ely Flack, he was the man who was looking for Walt Hake/Reed Young ― The Journey Back as Will Temple, he was the man who had the scare on his face ― Day of the Hunter as Cass Callicott, the famous frontiersman, trapper, scout, buffalo hunter, one of the old original mountain men ― Mail Order Groom as Jess Profit, he was who slapped Isabel across the face ― The Retired Gun as Owny, he was the one who threw the coin on the ground ― Face of Yesterday as Hank Clay, the mean step-father ― Incident at Line Shack Six as Gangling, he was the one who killed Charley Breen ― The Patsy as Sully Hobbs ― Old Man Running aka The Wanted Man as Samuel Gibbs, Mark's Grandpa, Lucas' father-in-law.
We saw him so much on The Rifleman that you would have thought of him as part of the family. Come to think of it, he was part of the family. Do you remember which episode that was?
Dick Elliott played Hardiman, he was the man who gave Lucas & Mark the apples.
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.
Taylor Curtis 'Cactus Mack' McPeters as a Townsman in Day of the Hunter ― The Queue.
Whitey Hughes was a well known and respected stuntman, he appeared in twenty-seven episodes of The Rifleman and still counting. Whitey had over a 50-year career as a stuntman and stunt coordinator, he has been praised as one of the top stuntman in Hollywood. Whitey was the best of the best!
Cap Somers/Frederick "Cap / Fimp" Somers appeared in eight episodes of The Rifleman ― Day of the Hunter as one of the townsmen ― The Deserter as a card player ― The Vision as a cowhand ― Woman from Hog Ridge as a townsmen ― The Martinet as one of the townsmen ― The Decision as one of the townsmen ― Which Way'd They Go as the bartender ― The Anvil Chorus as one of the townsmen.
John Rice appeared in a total of eight episodes, seven episodes as a Townsman and one as a barfly. ― Day of the Hunter ― A Case of Identity ― The Fourflusher ― The Promoter ― Miss Bertie as a barfly ― The Wyoming Story ― Face of Yesterday - Anvil Chorus.
Brandon Beach as a Townsman in Day of the Hunter.
Bloopers - Day of the Hunter
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
Mail Order Groom
around The McCain Ranch