"Welcome to the McCain Ranch"
It was Saturday morning and I was sleeping in late. I had just gotten back home after being gone all week on a trip. I woke up to a rooster’s crowing. After looking at the clock and seeing that it was now 6:30 am, I noticed that my son, who was usually hard to get up, was already up. His bed wasn’t made, and I heard him scurrying around in the other room. So naturally, I wanted to go investigate what was going on.
When I went in there, I saw that he had made quite a mess in the kitchen. That boy! I was puzzled as to what my boy was up to. “Mark?”
Mark rushed to the table and started throwing food in his saddle bags, quickly stating he was trying to be quiet since he knew I’d be tired from my trip. “What are you doing up so early?” I asked as I buckled my belt and stifled a yawn.
Mark didn’t answer my question. “Well, I was gonna leave you a note.”
That’s not what I asked! “Where are you going, son?” He hurriedly stated he was going to town, but I stopped him and gently – but sternly – reminded him that he still had his Saturday chores to do – as well as painting the flower boxes, which I had reminded him about last night.
“Well?” I leaned on the table and stared at him.
“I painted it,” Mark answered.
“What about the firewood? Did you stack it?” He told me he did, so I told him it was okay if he went into town. He picked up his saddle bags and hat and started rushing out the door. I must admit that I was very suspicious! I’d never seen my son so anxious to leave this early on a Saturday morning before! He opened the door, but I stopped him from leaving with my next question. “What’s all the rush?”
Mark turned and looked at me. “Well, it wouldn’t look good if I was to be late my first day!” Mark answered.
I guess I was supposed to automatically know what the heck he was talking about. That’s why I asked my next question. “First day for what?” I asked, yawning. That’s when he made his announcement. My son…my THIRTEEN year old son…had found himself a job while I was gone! I stared at him in surprise. I don’t recall ever giving him permission to work! He said he’d was working for Nils on Saturdays and after school.
“Well, what about your homework and your chores around here after school?” I asked suddenly.
He assured me he’d get them done. I think he probably knew I’d disapprove of his decision because he rushed out before I could argue anymore. After the door closed, I looked down at the table. Then I looked over in the kitchen. What a mess this room was!
Then I stepped out onto the porch and watched the boy racing out of the yard like the devil was after him. I looked over at the wood pile – it wasn’t stacked! I rolled my eyes and shook my head. I looked down on the floor – that’s when I noticed something else that boy of mine had neglected – the paint can and paint brush was still on the porch. I couldn’t believe this!
I didn’t waste any time in getting around and getting into town myself. I wanted to get to the bottom of this right now! Something was going on around here and I didn’t like it – not one single bit! As I rode into town, I stopped and stared at the livery stable. Micah came up and greeted me, asking me what was new – but I didn’t even hear him! I was too concerned about this new problem that had been handed to me!
I didn’t even answer Micah, but continued on down to the livery stable. I walked inside and hollered for Mark. He jumped up on a stool and said hello. I turned and walked over to him. He busily brushed a horse down. “I’ll be with you in a minute just as soon as I’m finished with this.”
He was treating me like a business associate instead of his father – I had to use my stern, parental voice on this boy! “I want to talk to you, son, now!” I looked straight at him…actually, it was more like a glare.
Mark stopped brushing for just a second, but then quickly went back to his task. “Well, you’ve always said yourself, Pa, that when there’s a job to be done, get it done.”
“That’s exactly what I want to talk to you about.” Mark bent down to brush the horse’s back legs. I bent down to look at him. “You didn’t get the job done.”
“What job do you mean?” I told him I had to do all his chores. I wasn’t too happy about it either. You know what he said to me? “Gee, I’m sorry, Pa. Guess I just didn’t want to be late for work!”
Who was this person I was talking to???
Mark…uh…have I ever told you that we’re so bad off that I need you to bring money in?” I questioned him. He said no. “Well then, why are you working here?" I asked.
“Just because I want to.”
“Why?” I asked again. I expected a straight answer from this defiant boy of mine!
“To make money,” he answered simply.
I reminded him that I’d been giving him an allowance ever since he was seven years old. And not only that – but I paid him for extra work! Mark didn’t argue with these facts. Pa sighed and turned to look at me. “Pa, it’s not the same!”
“What do you mean it’s not the same?” I demanded to know as I looked him straight in the eye.
"What you give me…well, it's family money...it's yours!" That didn’t make any sense! "I wanna earn my own."
“Why?” I demanded to know then.
“Because I want to,” Mark answered impatiently. “Don’t get angry, Pa. It’s just something I gotta do.”
Just then, my old pal, Nils drove up. I went to have a little chit chat with him. "Nils!" My voice wasn’t too pleasant when I called his name.
"Good morning Lucas...that's a good boy you've got there, he's a solid worker."
I just stared at him. "Mm Hm, for you maybe,” I answered in a gruff voice. I held my hands on my hips and stared at Nils. He asked me if there was something wrong. “My boy’s my business, Nils! Who asked you to hire him?" Boy was I mad! "What right do you have to pick a boy up off the streets and put him to work? What kind of business is that?" I wouldn't let him explain – I was angry and I wanted an answer…now!. "There are plenty of able bodied men in this town who need a job. But they want more pay then a thirteen year old boy, don't they?"
"Now that isn't fair, Lucas." Nils tried to say, but I wasn’t done yelling yet!. "Look who's talkin' about not being fair. He doesn't do his chores at home....."
Suddenly, Nils interrupted me. "Now listen Luke! I've got something to say and you’re gonna stay here until I finish!" He was yelling now, and pointing a finger at me. I had no choice but to shut up and listen. "Anybody works for me gets the same pay...man or boy! Besides I didn't haul Mark in off the street! He came to me and asked for a job. He said he needed the money. While you were gone he's been all over town looking for work this week...and just ask anybody on the street!"
Okay, so maybe I had been talking a little out of line! "I'm sorry Nils." He would’ve asked me about it, but I was out of town. Suddenly, I asked him if he knew what Mark needed the money for.
Mark was standing in the doorway listening to us talk, my back was to Mark. Mark waved his hands and shook his head, silently begging Nils not to tell me anything. Nils hesitated as he tried to figure out what to say. At the moment, it was McCain against McCain, and Nils would have to choose his side! He wouldn’t answer my question. “Well look, Luke. If you want me to let the boy go, I’ll let him go. Just give me the word.” I threw a hand over my eyes and shook my head in frustration. I told Nils to forget it. I didn’t want to be the bad guy!
That night at supper, Mark was falling asleep at the table. It was kind of amusing to see him too tired to chew! “First day a tough one, son?” He told me it wasn’t too bad. “Well, you look plumb tuckered out,” I commented. He assured me, though, that he felt fine. “Mark, if you want some extra money, I’ll be happy to advance you a couple dollars.”
“No Pa,” Mark answered as his eyes grew heavy. “That would still be yours.”
“You don’t expect me to do your weekend chores, do ya'?” I asked.
“I’ll do ‘em,” Mark assured me. I watched him as he closed his eyes and laid his head down on the table! My boy was exhausted! I smiled and shook his arm. He quickly sat straight up in his chair. “I fell fine, honest Pa!”
“I feel fine, honest, Pa!” I mocked him. I stood up. “Come on, let’s go to bed, huh?” I grabbed his arm and helped him stand from the chair. I followed him into his room to make sure he actually got undressed and made it into bed before falling asleep! I shook my head at this boy of mine!
One day, two men rode along a trail toward North Fork. One of them men commented that they’d take a short cut through Boarder Pass and get into North Fork by Saturday. “Saturday?” His partner asked. “With every lawman in the territory gunning for us? That’s five days off! All we have to do is head this way and we’re in Mexico day after tomorrow!” But Ben argued with him. His partner announced that he wasn’t going with him – it was too dangerous! “Look, my life belongs to me! That’s not so unreasonable, is it?”
Ben gave him his half of the money, and his partner started riding away, but Ben had other ideas. He shot the man in the back. The man fell off his horse – dead! Ben took the money back and rode away. He was going to North Fork.
The next Saturday, I was still pretty groggy as I walked into the kitchen. But my boy was just as chipper as always! He proudly announced that all his chores were done this week as he started to rush out the door. I was having a really hard time with this! I didn’t like my boy having a job…He was just a boy, after all!
“Just a minute!” I turned to him and held a finger up. “It’s been a whole week. I wanta know how long this is going to keep up!” Mark avoided the question. “Mark, answer my question,” I ordered sternly. But Mark declared he had to go and hurried out the door.
It was obvious my boy was hiding something – but what exactly, I didn’t know! I found myself so frustrated! I furiously bent over the sink to wash my face, but I was so angry that Mark was hiding something from me!
Mark was busy giving the horses fresh hay when Nils announced he had an errand for Mark – He wanted him to take a horse to Tom Merar’s Ranch and bring back another one for shoeing. Mark knew it was just past Twin Oakes. He could take a shortcut and get there sooner then the hour the regular way. Nils said no. “You never mind about any shortcuts! That Boarder Pass is no place for a boy!” Nils declared, sending Mark on his way.
Mark walked the horse out of the stable and stared to mount him, but two of Mark’s fishing buddies were walking by with fishing poles, and motioned for Mark to come fishing with them. Mark turned and looked at the stable, then he shook his head no. They brushed him off, probably thinking he was crazy! But Mark had a job to do and he was old enough to be responsible. He traveled toward the Merar Ranch without any trouble, but when he got up to the Boarder Pass, he chose to take it instead of staying on the main road – exactly what he was told NOT to do. Little did he know that an outlaw was riding that way toward North Fork.
Meanwhile, I was at home doing my darnest to concentrate on my work. But I wasn’t having much luck. Not knowing what was going on with my son was more then I could stand! I had always been able to control my boy – making him help me out around the ranch – telling him when he could do things and what he could do…Now, he had some other man telling him what to do and I had no idea if he was staying out of trouble or not! I looked around the ranch – it was too quiet around here! I just had to get to the bottom of this today!
So I put my hat on and jumped on my horse to head into town. Maybe my best friend would be able to help.
Meanwhile, Mark was running into a little trouble. He stopped dead in his tracks when he heard a gunshot. A man was standing in front of him with a big grin on his face. Mark wasn’t sure what to think about that. The man walked up to him and greeted him all friendly-like, explaining that he had just shot his horse because he had busted his leg. “Oh, I’m sorry!” Mark said. He always hated to hear about an animal having to be shot.
“Say, this is a uh….a nice animal you got here,” the stranger stated as he reached out and patted the horse’s neck. The sympathetic look on Mark’s face was suddenly replaced with one of suspicion. “What you …uh…doing around here anyway? You live around here? Where do you live?”
“I live on the other side of North Fork,” Mark answered, suddenly cautious.
“Oh, well that’s an awful long way away. How come a boy like you’s so far away from home?” the man asked.
Mark told him in an unsteady voice that he was on an errand for the livery stable in town. “Oh…well seems awful strange for somebody to send a boy on an errand through a pass like this.” Mark knew he was in trouble, but admitted that he had taken a shortcut. “On your own then, huh?” The stranger grinned at Mark. “Honest, Mister, I gotta be on my way!”
Suddenly, the horse Mark was on reared as the stranger struggled to keep Mark from hurrying away. The man told Mark he was being impolite, trying to leave him out there without a horse or anything. Mark insisted that he had to be on his way. The man insisted for Mark to stay. “You get down off that animal!”
I had gone in to talk to Micah. “I don’t know what’s going on with that boy,” I was telling Micah my sad story. “It’s got me puzzled. One week, and I still can’t get a straight answer out of him! He’s never held back on me before…He says he wants to earn his own money, but he won’t tell me why! Another thing I can’t figure – when he first started this job, he neglected his chores. Now he’s doing ‘em. I should be back doing my work but I can’t keep my mind on it!” I was staring at the window.
Suddenly, I realized my best friend was grinning at me. “What are you grinning at?”
“If you ask me, Lucas, I’d say you got growing pains,” Micah answered.
I walked over to him. “I’ve got growing pains?”
Micah nodded. “Mark’s growing up, and you’re feeling the pain of it.”
I stared straight at this man I call my best friend and pointed a finger right at his face. “Now look Micah, you know it better then anyone around here…I’ve always given that boy a sense of responsibility. Haven’t I? I’ve tried not to be too strict with him, haven’t I? And I certainly haven’t pampered him, have I?”
“Well, a boy’s gotta grow into a man, you know,” Micah answered still grinning like a possum.
“Well, part of that growing is being straight-forward with people! Especially your father.”
“Well, could be you’re stepping on the breaks a little too hard now.”
I slapped the table and stood up. “Oh, what’s that supposed to mean?” Boy, was I riled!
Micah stood and walked over to me. “Well, I’ll tell you Lucas…maybe you’re trying just a little too hard to hold on to the boy! Maybe you’re thinking more about yourself then you are about Mark.”
I didn’t need to hear him telling me what I was feeling! I wanted answers! “Look, he’s only thirteen years old! A boy that age has no right working for a living!” Micah reminded me he wasn’t working for a living. “Well, he’s got no right working at all,” I stated.
“Tell me, Lucas Boy, how old were you when you started working?”
I couldn’t answer that – because the truth would hurt too much. So instead, I stated, “When I was a boy things were different.” Micah just laughed at me, agreeing to agree with me. I knew he was right. I picked up my hat and turned to him. “You know what’s wrong with you, Micah? The trouble with you is that you always got an answer for everything!”
“Isn’t that why you came in here?” So much for my best friend being on my side!
I left his office, more frustrated then before. Being a father was tough, and maybe Micah was right! I had to go check on my son – after all, he was still my responsibility! But when I got to the livery stable, he wasn’t there! Nils informed me that he had sent Mark on an errand. “He should’ve been back by now!” Nils told me where he had sent Mark and why.
Suddenly, Tom Merar rode up with another horse. “Tom!” I ran up to him. “Where’s Mark?” I quickly explained to him that Nils had sent Mark on an errand to his ranch. Tom hadn’t seen him – he should have passed him on his way in.
“The shortcut!” Nils suddenly declared. I shot my head around to look at Nils. “He was going to take the shortcut up to Boarder Pass!”
“The Boarder Pass?”
“I told him not to,” Nils stated.
That boy! Just wait until I get my hands on him! I
Mark knew how I felt about Boarder Pass and how dangerous it was. This just kept racing through my mind as I ran and jumped on my horse. I took off like a flash! I followed Mark’s trail for quite a ways. He DID take the Boarder Pass! Just wait till I see that boy! I started down the pass. Soon, I came upon a watering hole. On the other side was a man with a horse. I had to see if he’d seen Mark, so I quickly made my way over to him.
I wasted not time with introductions. “I’m looking for a boy,” I told him, quickly told him he was thirteen years old.
The man didn’t act like he’d seen him. He hadn’t seen anyone around all day. As I started to get back on my horse, I turned to ask him if he’d be here for awhile. I asked him to tell Mark to wait here for me if he saw him.
Then I turned to get on my horse. I glanced down at the horse beside Razor and saw the brand – it was Tom Merar’s brand! That was the horse Mark was riding! I slowly began reaching for my rifle.
But the stranger saw me reaching for it and knew I realized the truth. He drew his gun on me. "Alright...hold it mister! Move away from that horse!"
Rage suddenly crept into me. "My boy was ridin' that horse...where is he?"
"It ain't gonna make no difference to you," the stranger answered.
"Where is he?" I yelled.
“I said move away from there!”
I just stood still assessing my situation. Suddenly, I smacked Razor, causing him to run off. That gave me the chance I needed. The stranger fired the gun and missed me. I grabbed his arm and we struggled with the gun. The gun went off again, and I was finally able to knock it out of his hand. I punched him a couple times and he fell to the ground.
He grabbed a stick and jumped up to hit me with it, but I was faster and threw him to the ground again. Suddenly, he saw his gun and bolted for it. But I jumped on top of him just before he grabbed it and we struggled some more. We rolled around on the ground for awhile, then he delivered me a hard punch. He was able to get away and bolt for his horse.
I ran to him and jumped on him, knocking him from his horse. We both landed in the water with a big splash! I finally had control of him. I grabbed him by the shirt. "Where's my Son? Where is he?” The man didn’t answer. I dunked him under the water and grabbed him around the neck. “You dirty scum, I'll kill you! So help me, I’ll kill you! Where is he?" I dunked him again. “Where is he?”
"I didn't lay a hand on him," the stranger sputtered.
I started to dunk him again. I’d kill him if I had to! “Pa!” I suddenly heard. I looked up and saw my boy running towards me. “Pa!” That was music for my ears and a sight for sore eyes! I dropped the outlaw in the water and ran toward my son. I didn’t say a word to Mark. I walked up on the bank and picked up the gun. “It’s all my fault, Pa,” Mark stated. “Mr. Swenson told me not to take the shortcut. You’ve got a right to be angry with me.”
Oh, I was! “Yes I am, son. But let’s forget it for now. I’m glad you’re alright.”
There was no physical contact and no smiling. We both knew Mark was wrong – there’d be consequences later after I had time to settle down.
The next Saturday, I got up to again find Mark up before me. This was the third Saturday in a row he’s behaved in such a manner. Quietly, I opened the bedroom door and peaked out. Mark’s back was turned to me and I could tell he was busy doing something. “Mark-“ I started.
Mark suddenly grabbed the tablecloth and covered something behind his back. “Morning, Pa.”
I slowly walked towards him. “I thought we settled this working business last Saturday.” I took another step toward him. “You’re not gonna start that again, are ya'?”
“No sir,” Mark answered.
"Well then, why are you up so early," I asked.
"No special reason."
I tried to look behind him. "What are you hiding there?" I asked.
He stepped aside. I walked up and stared at the mound on the chair. He pulled the tablecloth off. "Happy Birthday, Pa!" He revealed a saddle.
I stared at my son. I was speechless for several moments. "You mean…this is the reason that..."
"I bought it with the money that Mr. Swenson paid me. I wanted to earn it Pa. I wanted this to be something from me to you...really!" I just stared at him. I was speechless! "Well, it isn't exactly new or anythin'...but it's real shinny," said Mark.
I finally forced myself to take my eyes off my wonderful, sweet boy and picked up the saddle. I laid my hand on it. "Son, I…I'd say this is the shiniest saddle in the whole world!"
That’s my boy! And boy, was I ever proud!
piddlin' stuff.....Ed Nelson appeared in three episodes ― Dead Cold Cash as Stacey Beldon, the gunslinger hired by Sarah Caruthers to kill Lucas ― The Illustrator as Ben Travis, the cowboy who murdered Sam, the tailor ― First Wages as Ben Vargas, he was the cowboy who took Mark's horse.
Troy Melton appeared in two episodes ― First Wages as Wally Pierson, he was Ben Vargas' partner, the one Ben killed and took back his share of the money ― Deadly Image as Ab, Len Richard's brother, the cowboy Earl Bantry killed.
David M. Rodman played Tom Merar. He's the one who thought Nils had forgot about picking up his horse and decided to bring the horse into town himself.
Joe Higgins played Nils Swenson. Is it Nils or is it Nels/Niles? What is his last name.....Swenson/Svenson aka The Blacksmith? Joe Higgins holds the record for playing Nils or was it Niles or Nels? There were four episodes that Joe did not play Nils or was it Niles or Nels?
He played the bartender in Strange Town — Rafe the blacksmith in The Wyoming Story part 2 — Short Rope for a Tall Man as Henry Schneider the horse thief — Stopover as Scotty the Stagecoach Driver.
Stopover was the only episode to run one day over schedule.
Glen Ryle played Ed/townsman. Here's a bit of trivia from Glenn Gilbert about the episode First Wages.....
"You may not know unless you're from Cincinnati. The walk-on appearance of 'Ed', (or 'townsman' in the credits), who delivers 'wanted' posters to Micah in his office as Lucas leaves in a huff, was Cincinnati-local television personality Glen 'Skipper' Ryle, who hosted a children's show, among other duties, at WKRC-TV. The moniker 'Skipper' stuck because, on the kids show, he attired himself as an Ohio riverboat captain.
I remember as a kid growing up here back in the '60's the story that Chuck Connors came to town to catch the Dodgers vs. the Reds, and that he invited Glen Ryle to appear on The Rifleman. That was his 15 seconds of fame!
Thanks Glenn Gilbert for the piddlin' stuff..... on Glen 'Skipper' Ryle! ~ I tip my cowgirl hat to ya'!
*Did you see the two boys who were going fishing in this episode and motioned for Mark to come along?
The two boys that motioned for Mark to come along fishing were Chuck Connors real sons, Jeff (on the left) and Mike (on the right). Chuck's boys on the set
This was taken on the set of The Deadeyed Kid in 1959
Connors' family tidbit.....Michael Connors, the oldest son of Chuck Connors, became a full U.S. citizen on 8/11/64, he was sworn in at the Department of Justice in Los Angeles. Michael was born in Canada while his father was playing baseball for the Montreal Royals. This gives Michael dual citizenship.
Mike is a Dolly Grip.
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)
Joe Benson ― On the set of First Wages
First Wages episode #112 - 1961 ― If you look between the trees you can see a gate.
This is the Lower Iverson's Ranch East Gate.
For a map at of this area go to the Iverson Movie Ranch.
Bloopers - First Wages
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
around The McCain Ranch