"Welcome to the McCain Ranch"
My son, Mark is only ten. But he’s already learning so many things about
survival. Some of them are easier than others. But I think there was one
event that helped him get a true picture of the “real world.”
You see, one day Mark went out to check his rabbit snares. He was really
hoping to find a rabbit that I could cook up for supper that night. When he
got to one of his snares, he was surprised at what he found. "Golly day, a
hawk," he declared. That’s right, my son had caught himself a hawk. "Now how
did a smart bird like you get caught in my rabbit snare?"
Well, being the adventures, curious type, he wanted to put it in his burlap
sack and bring it home for me to see. He knew I’d be amazed at just what he
could catch in that snare of his. He took the burlap sack and threw it over
the hawk. Then, carefully, he grabbed the hawk by it’s feet. Naturally, the
hawk started flapping around. He didn’t want to be stuffed into an old bag!
Mark told the poor bird to hold still. "I ain't gonna hurt you." He put the
hawk in the bag and tied him fast to his saddle. “Now, you be quiet. As soon
as I finish checking the rest of my snares, I’ll take you home and show you
to my pa,” Mark told the bird.
One of the snares he went to was broken, and he could tell something had
gotten caught but got away. "Doggone, whatever it was got away," he
declared. Looking up, he saw a campfire. He started to go closer and check
Everything was quiet as he stood and looked at the campfire. But suddenly
somewhere from behind him, he heard the very serious voice of a man. "Don't
Mark’s head flipped around. He was quite started by the voice. All of a
sudden, a big man with a big stick came out from behind a tree. Naturally my
boy was scared to death! "I said don't move!" Mark wasn’t sure what was
going on. Before he had time to figure it out, the man rushed toward him
with the raised stick. Mark was afraid the man was about to beat him with it
and bent over to get out of the way. But the man pushed him out of the way
and rushed passed him and began beating a rattlesnake with the branch. The
snake had been just about to strike Mark.
The man apologized to Mark for scaring him. But Mark was still in shock.
Suddenly, he felt like he was going to be sick, so he quickly hurried away.
Mark was grateful, to say the least. “I reckon on how you saved my life,” he
said to the man as he stirred something over a camp fire. “I’m pleased,
mister…” Mark realized he didn’t even know the man’s name.
His name was Walt. The man was traveling on foot. His horse had shot off
about three days ago. Suddenly, Mark told him, “My pa would be pleased to
know about what you did. I mean about the snake and all.”
Walt didn’t feel like he did anything special though. He’d only done the
natural thing. “Makes us even,” he stated. Mark was confused. Walt told him
he had taken a rabbit from his snare.
My boy always did have a big heart for others. Today was no different. “Say,
if you want, you can come along with me while I check the rest of my snares.
Maybe we’ll find a rabbit. I told my pa that if I did that…well that we’d
have rabbit stew tonight. Even if we don’t, my pa’s got a side of beef
hanging. You’re welcome to share it with us.” Walt was more than happy to
But he brought the dead snake with him. He wanted to put it in the burlap
sack, but Mark informed him he had a live hawk in there. “I’ve never knew
anyone keeping a live hawk before!” Walt stated.
My boy only smiled that mischievous smile of his and said, “Well, I never
heard of anyone keeping a dead snake before!”
So that’s how Walt and the hawk came to live with us for a spell. I was
quite surprised with my son. He had gone to find a rabbit and came back with
no rabbit, but a lot of unexpected things! I agreed to stake that hawk for
him. Before letting the hawk out of the bag, I made sure Mark really wanted
to keep this hawk.
Walt looked sadly at the staked hawk. “He don’t like that. No sir, not one
bit!” he stated. I wouldn’t like it either. “How come your staking him then?
A bird like that oughta be free!” Walt stated.
I had to leave it up to my son. He had to learn these things for himself.
But I did give Mark another chance to think about what he was doing. Mark
thought about it. In fact, at one point I thought he was going to make the
right choice. But he decided in the end that he wanted to keep him…for a
It was getting time for supper. We started talking about food, and I
couldn’t help but to tease Mark a bit. “Well, all we have is beef steak and
potatoes. I sure had my heart set on rabbit stew,” I gave my son a mock
“I’ll get a rabbit tomorrow. You’ll see!” Mark promised.
“Well, you know, you didn’t do so bad today considering. You know, out of
seven rabbit snares, he came back with you, a live hawk and a dead snake!” I
told Walt as I laughed..
“Oh pa,” Mark said. I told Mark to go get washed up.
Turning to Walt, I said, “That was a fine thing you did today killing that
rattler. Mark told me you lost your mount and gear. I’d like to repay you by
replacing whatever I can.”
He didn’t want repaid. “A place like here needs a lot of fixing. Mending
fences and cattle branding, what not. Supposing you let me stay on here for
say um…a week or so. I could earn whatever you plan to give me,” Walt asked.
That sounded fair to me. I politely mentioned that he had never told me
where he came from or where he was going. “I reckon I don’t really know.
I’ve been to a lot of places and I have a lot of places to go to. Some would
call that being a saddle bum, I guess. But not me. I call it being a free
There’s too many places in this world to see and too little time to see
them in. I aim to take in what I can. That’s my way of life.”
I thought that as long as he was happy, that’s all that mattered.
One day Mark and I were getting ready to go into town. Walt was busy working
on the rattlesnake skin, but he wouldn’t tell Mark what he was planning on
doing with it.
As we rode into town, Micah was outside with a man named Ely Flack. They
were hanging up a wanted poster. Micah introduced me to Ely, but he didn’t
need to. I knew who he was. Just the man’s being here made my blood boil. I
wanted to talk to Ely, but not with my boy present, so I sent him to take
care of the team.
The last time I heard of him was when he brought in the Kelly brothers back
in Oklahoma. Two of them were dead and the other one was near out of his
mind. He was beaten up really bad. They weren't even wearing guns. "My job
is to bring in escaped convicts, McCain. Ain't none of your business how I
do it. Besides I got everyone I went after, one way or another," Flack
I wasn’t happy with him being here. I smelled trouble. “I’m surprised you
even let him come around here, Micah!” I stated.
Micah calmly informed me that he was working at El Tombo Prison. “As long as
he remembers he’s in my jurisdiction, and if the man he’s looking for is
around here, it will be handled my way!”
Flack tried to convince us that he would uphold the law. I wasn’t buying it
though. He was sure the man he was looking for was around here. Flack said
he had trailed this guy for a hundred miles. Then three days ago he just up
and disappeared. He thought he was hiding out or someone was hiding him.
“But I’ll find him. And when I do…” Flack’s voice trailed off.
I knew what he’d do. “You gonna kill him, Flack? Like all the others?” I
frowned at him.
Flack shook his head. “I never kill anyone, McCain. Not unless they give me
I hadn’t been happy since the moment I read that wanted poster. What I was
thinking was hard for me to believe. Micah could tell I was more upset then
just about Flack and he asked me if something was bothering me. “Yeah,” I
answered solemnly. “According to that description, the man Flack’s looking
for has been at my ranch for the last three days!” Micah was surprised to
say the least!
I really liked Walt, and I wanted to make sure he was given the chance to
turn himself in without Flack’s finding him. So I found myself again asking
Micah to bend the law and let me handle the situation my way. Micah had to
think about it. I was putting him in an uncomfortable position. “Have I ever
given you a reason to doubt my judgment, Micah?” I asked. “All I’m asking
for is twenty-four hours.”
You see, I didn’t really believe Walt was a killer. He couldn’t be! I wanted
to get to the bottom of this before anything terrible happened to him. “What
makes you so sure that Walt Hake or Reed Young…whatever his name is…isn’t a
real killer?” Micah asked me. I could tell he was struggling with this
decision. “That’s what he was jailed for.”
“I’m not sure, Micah. I’m just hoping,” I stated.
Micah finally gave in, and I knew it was because of our close friendship.
“But if you’re not back by tomorrow sundown, I’m coming out there! And I
hope it’s not to pick up the pieces,” Micah declared.
I started to leave. But Micah stopped me. He had to know something. "Lucas,
why do you want to do it this way?"
"He saved Mark's life," I replied. He nodded at me. Knowing how I felt about
my boy, I think he understood then.
I had to tell Mark. Finding news out like this for myself is one thing. But
telling someone like Mark who has a genuine trust for all mankind is
another. Mark couldn’t believe what I said was true. As we pulled into the
yard, Mark was still denying it. “I won’t believe it, pa. He’s too nice a
man. Well, if he was all that bad, he wouldn’t have done what he done for
me, and you see how he’s been! It just must be some kind of mistake!”
I told Mark I felt the same way as he did. I didn’t want to believe this. I
really liked Walt! “But we can’t take any chances. You know that,” I stated
firmly. Mark did know that. His life was too precious to me, and it was my
job to protect him. “I want you to act natural. Don’t let on that either of
us suspects anything.” I wanted to wait until Mark was safely out of the
room before I broke the news – just in case.
“What are you gonna say to him, Pa? What are you gonna do?” Mark wanted to
I told him I hadn’t figured it all out yet. But this wasn’t his worry – it
was mine. “You let me handle it, all right?”
Ever since Walt brought that snake back to the ranch with him, Mark had been
curious about what he was doing with the snake skin. Well, he found out that
night. Walt had made a band for his hat. Mark was so thrilled! Walt asked if
Mark liked it, like he really needed to ask! Mark was so excited that he was
practically bursting! “Do I like it? Golly!” Mark said as he twirled his hat
around. He showed it to me as if I didn’t know what was going on.
“That’s fine, son. Real fine,” I stated. I had been cleaning my rifle.
“Hey! That’s what Walt was doing with that rattlesnake skin all along! Just
teasing me! Trying to make me wonder.” Walt laughed and put Mark’s hat on
his head. “Boy, wait until the kids at school see this! Wahoo!” Mark yelled.
I told Mark to thank Walt and get to bed. Mark thanked him. “I’m glad you
like it,” Walt stated.
“I do! I really do!” Mark assured him. Then Mark came to hug me and say
goodnight to me. I told him goodnight. Then the reality of what was about to
happen as soon as he went into that room hit him. He was suddenly not
smiling anymore. He looked at me, then at Walt. “Thanks again, Walt,” he
stated. I could tell what he was thinking, but there wasn’t anything I could
do to help him. I gently told him to go on to bed. With my eyes, I tried to
promise him everything would be okay, but I myself didn’t know how the next
moments would go.
“I never knew a boy yet what didn’t like surprises!” Walt commented happily.
I too no longer was in a cheerful mood. What I had to do was hard. “Yeah. If
they’re the right kind,” I answered quietly. Then I took the wanted poster
from my pocket. I slowly unfolded it. “I got this from a friend of yours.”
“A friend of mine?” Walt asked. He still didn’t know what this was all
“Ely Flack,” I stated. “According to this here, Walt, your real name is Reed
Young. Is that right?”
Walt grabbed the poster and looked at it. Then he shouted, “It’s a lie! I
never killed no one!” He crumpled the paper up and threw it in anger. “All
right, Lucas. At one point, I carried a gun. Like everyone else, I carried a
gun. But I never used it for nothin’ exceptin’ to kill it for food and
protection. About two years ago, I was down in Hobbs. I was having a drink
to wash the dust down. There was a gunfight. There were five of them and one
of them got himself killed. They said I did it. The only reason they said
that was because I was a stranger in town and all the rest of them had
friends there. They found an empty cartridge in my gun. They didn’t believe
me when I told them it was empty because I killed a rabbit for some food.
They didn’t hang me Lucas, because I reckon their consciences were bothering
them. So they gave me five years. Five years out of my life for killing a
rabbit because I wanted something to eat!” I felt sorry for him. “I ain’t no
more guilty then that poor hawk your son has tethered out there!”
I put my rifle up then. I knew I wouldn’t be needing it. “Maybe not. But
you’re in trouble, Walt. You broke jail.
I could tell Walt was frustrated. He knew he had been dealt a lousy hand,
and he felt trapped. He couldn’t stand being in that jail another minute! He
wanted to be free. “I made up my mind that I was going to get free. I’m out
and I’m free! And I’m gonna stay that way!”
I knew how he felt. But I also knew he wasn’t really free. I told him he
could never be free, not as long as he was running. “You’re not free, Walt.
Everywhere you go, every corner you turn, you’ll be expecting somebody.”
Just talking about it made me look out my own window. Flack made me nervous.
I was worried for Walt.
Walt was afraid of Flack. I assured him that Micah was a very good friend of
mine and he would make sure he stayed safe. Micah could help him get his
case reviewed. But Walt knew Flack. He knew the type of man he was and that
he didn’t have a chance with him. If he rode into town to turn himself in,
Flack would catch him and kill him. “You tell that Marshall to come out here
and get me!” He didn’t want to go anywhere near Flack.
I asked him if he’d stay here while I rode in to get Flack. He promised me
he would. “Good. Now that we’ve got that settled, I guess we better turn
in.” I stated. Walt was quite shocked. He couldn’t believe that after what
he told me, I would let him sleep in my barn. I suppose I was different from
a lot of other men. But I trusted this man and I believed his story. “You
and that boy of yours…” Walt stated. I smiled and said goodnight. Then I
went to bed.
We were fixing to leave for town the next morning. Mark told Walt that he
was thinking about letting the hawk go. I think he was thinking about the
injustice that had happened to his friend and realized he had been tying
something down that should have been allowed to stay free. I had just
finished saddling our horses and brought them out. Mark had to say goodbye
to his friend. I wished I could make this easier for him, but he had to
learn that this was reality. Mark asked Walt if he’d come back and visit. I
guess Mark had as much confidence in him as I had. Walt said he’d come back
if it was all right with me. It was more than all right with me. I
considered him a friend.
We rode into town and stopped at the Marshall’s office. Mark pulled his
horse up along beside me and sat there, watching me go into the Marshall’s
office. I wasn’t sure if he wanted to stay and listen to our conversation or
dawdle to stay away from school as long as possible. Either way, I quickly
turned and gave him the look. “What are you waiting for?” I asked.
“Nothing,” Mark answered, knowing he better get moving at that moment. I had
to laugh. That boy!
After Mark was on his way, he passed Ely Flack. Flack watched him ride by
and suddenly caught sight of that snake skin band around his hat. Ely
followed him around the corner, then suddenly came up beside him and blocked
his way. Mark was quite shocked, not sure of what was going on. Walt had
made a band for his hat. Walt asked if Mark liked it, like he really needed
to ask! Mark was so excited that he was practically bursting! “Do I like it?
Mark stayed silent. He knew this man was up to no good, and he wasn’t going
to tell him a thing! Mark stated it was none of his business. Suddenly,
Flack grabbed Mark by the shirt and asked him the question again. My boy was
so scared. He stated someone gave it to him. “You know, there’s only one man
I know who can make bands like this. The man learned how to do it in prison.
You’re McCain’s boy, ain’t ya?”
Mark’s silence told him all he needed to know. Flack dropped Mark’s hat and
took off for my house. Mark picked his hat up then raced for the ranch,
taking the short cut.
Mark raced as fast as he could. Flack was outside when Mark got there.
"Walt, Walt, Walt, it’s Flack! Flack's coming!" Mark yelled. Walt rushed
inside and got the rifle from above the fireplace. "It's Flack, he's coming
up the main road, I took the cut off," hollered Mark.
"Your Pa double crossed me, now I've got to face Flack all by myself," said
"It wasn't Pa, it was me, the hat, the snakeskin!" The old rifle above the
fireplace didn't work. The only other gun we had other then my rifle was at
the blacksmith's getting fixed.
Suddenly, they heard Flack outside. “Where are you, killer?” he was
hollering. Walt knew time was up. He felt desperate…hopeless. But his first
task was to protect my boy. He grabbed Mark by the arm and pushed him into
the room. But before he could get the door closed, Flack busted inside with
his gun drawn.
Suddenly, everything was quiet. Walt was facing the gun and the one man he
was terrified of. "Well now ain't this nice. Well killer, looks like I got
to teach you a lesson. I don't like nobody go bustin' out of my jail. You
did, so I guess I got to teach you a lesson," Flack sneered.
Walt begged Flack. He begged. But Flack suddenly punched Walt across the
face with his gun. Then suddenly, my boy was there fighting him off.
Flack made a big mistake! He pushed Mark. This made Walt very angry and he
charged at Flack. They fought, throwing things at each other.
Mark stayed out of the way. He was scared. Suddenly, Walt punched Flack
over and over. He pinned him in my chair and put his hands around Flack’s
neck. Now Flack was begging.
"You killed your last man Flack, you got no right being alive!" Walt
declared. He punched him again and again. Walt was choking him.
"That's enough Walt, your killing him," hollered Mark. "Let him go Walt, let
him go, please stop!" There was desperation in Mark’s eyes. His voice was
loud as he yelled these words.
Just then Micah and I rode up and heard the Mark’s yelling. We immediately
headed for the house.
Mark grabbed a hold of Walt and hollered again "Walt please, you told me you
could never kill anyone. You told me you couldn't." Mark Hollered louder. He
got right in Walt’s face. He was screaming as loud as he could. He was
becoming more desperate, fearing Walt would indeed kill this man. "Listen to
me, listen to me, let him go!" Mark screamed.
Mark’s screaming finally got Walt back into his right senses. Walt let go
and Flack sunk to the floor. By then we were in the house. Micah checked
Flack. He was in bad shape. I didn’t understand what was happening here. I
thought Mark was on his way to school. Why was he here? My eyes held so many
Mark knew only one answer was needed at the moment though. In his calm
voice, he stated, "It was self defense Pa, he was going to kill Walt."
"Looks like he finally got what he deserved," Micah simply stated.
Walt was suddenly more grateful of my boy. "I guess I would have killed him
if it wouldn't have been for Mark.” I couldn’t help being proud of my boy. I
wasn’t sure what brought him back at the moment, but I was certainly glad he
had been there! “I'm ready to go back with you now Marshal," said Walt.
I knew he would be okay.
Mark did decide to let the hawk go. He had met a man who’s freedom had been
taken from him in order to save the skin of another. Mark’s heart ached for
the injustice that had been dealt to Walt. He had finally realized just how
much things should be allowed to stay free. He told me to let him go. Mark
and I stood there and watched the hawk soar in the sky. The hawk was finally
free. Happy. Mark would be happier knowing he had made the right
"You know Pa, Walt was right all along. That bird never did nothing to get
chained up for. Think Micah will be able to help Walt, maybe get him off?" I
knew he had a million thoughts and questions going through his head.
I put an arm around my son and smiled at him. I didn’t know all the answers,
but I could assure him of one thing, “I’d say his chances are as good as
that hawk’s when you brought him home.” By him, Mark knew I wasn’t just
referring to the hawk. Mark’s good deeds had paid off, and if Walt was able
to get free, Mark can rest assured that he played a big part in that!
We looked up at the hawk one more time as Mark reflected on this. “Come on,
we’ve got some house cleaning to do!”
piddlin' stuff.....Patrick McVey
appeared in two episodes ―
as Walt Hake/Reed Young, the man who was wanted by Flack ―
The Quiet Fear as Jake Striker,
the father of a deaf daughter.
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 ―
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 ―
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?
appeared in The Rifleman several times. Eight Hours to
Die as a spectator at the hanging - A Matter of Faith as a
cowboy in the crowd - The Challenge as a Barfly - The Hawk
as a townsmen and The Wrong Man as one of the townsmen at the
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!
You've heard Lucas' story, now hear Mark's