"Welcome to the McCain Ranch"
Incident at Line Shack Six
I reckon progress was being made in North Fork. The railroad was being built. A man named John Gangling was paying his men for their hard, dedicated work on the railroad. One of his employees, Charlie Breen, received his $20 and promised Gangling that he would be right back. He had to bite his mark into each piece. While he was doing that, he heard someone approaching and drew his gun to protect his money. But he was relieved to see that it was only his boss, Mr. Gangling.
Gangling fished Charlie for information. He didn’t trust banks and still had every dollar he ever earned. Gangling took the money belt from Charlie. Charlie quickly explained that he was just saving up enough money to get his own farm. “Business is relative, Charlie The ant gazing at the sand pile, to him that’s a mountain. Right now that’s me, Charlie. I’m looking at a mountain.” Charlie tried to take the money back, but Charlie had a proposition for him. He asked Charlie for the money for 1 month – he’d fatten it by 10%. Charlie didn’t want to have anything to do with that!
“I’m in a jam, Charlie! I need this money badly!” Gangling begged. Charlie pulled his gun out on Gangling. Gangling said it was okay, he was just asking. But as soon as Charlie put the gun away, Gangling grabbed him by the throat and squeezed the life out of him. He died.
Gangling heard someone coming, so he hurried out of site. It was Johnny Wing coming to pay Charlie the money he owed him. Charlie stopped dead in his tracks when he saw Charlie laying there. He went over to check on Charlie and found him dead. His money belt was laying at his side. Gangling was hiding in the bushes watching the whole time, and as soon as Johnny picked up the money bag, he came out. Johnny stared up at him and shook his head. “I didn’t do it, Mr. Gangling!” Then he got up and tried to run.
Without saying a word, Gangling shot him. He hit Johnny, but Johnny just got up and kept running.
When Micah and I heard about it, we rode over to Line Shack Six. I couldn’t believe how fast the railroad was coming. “Another couple of weeks and they would be inside the county lines,” Micah announced.
“And I guess we’ll be considered officially civilized, huh?” I commented as we started into the office. I introduced Micah to Mr. Gangling as we walked inside.
Gangling told me he’d only need a couple heads of beef this week. I promised to have them here by Friday.
"Something on your mind, Marshal," Gangling asked then.
"Yes...I'm here about that trouble you had this morning," said Micah.
"Yes...yes....my vigilantes are still out trying to track down the Indian," Gangling assured him.
"I happen to know John Wing very well," said Micah. "He used to do some farm work for Lucas here, he never had any trouble with him stealing,” Micah turned to me. “Did you Lucas?" I told them that I hadn't.
Gangling mentioned that maybe he never saw anything valuable enough to steal before. "As I understand it...you caught the Indian going through the old man's money belt" Micah mentioned then.
He said it was Charlie Breen – worked hard every day of his life and saved his money so that someday he wouldn’t have to work anymore. I asked Gangling if he actually saw Johnny kill old man Breen. "When I come upon an Indian.....standing over a dead man who a few moments before I personally paid a full month wages to...I simply add two plus two and apply pressure to the trigger finger. Unfortunately in this case my aims a bit off," said Gangling.
“Mr. Gangling, I want you to resin that shoot on sight order you gave your men,” Micah declared. But Gangling told Micah that his camp had its own legal authority and that Micah couldn't tell him what to do. “I’m keeping that order because it’s the only safe way to go after a thief and a murderer like Johnny Wing. With any kind of luck, we should be rolling in his gave before nightfall.”
Micah and I didn't like his men roaming around our territory with itchy trigger fingers. Gangling said he had 200 men he was responsible for and that quick justice was the only way to keep his men in line. “Look, Mr. Gangling, we bring up our families in these parts. We teach them to respect law and order. What’s happening here is little different from mob rule,” I declared.
He said that "if" they happened to catch Johnny alive he would get a fair trail as if he was in North Fork.
We were interrupted by a knock on the door. When Gangling saw who it was he stepped out onto the porch and closed the door behind him. Micah and I decided to go out and see what was going on. It was the vigilantes that Gangling was telling us about, Jeb and Vale Croton. Jeb was telling gangling that Johnny must have doubled back on his tracks. “By the amount of blood he’s leaving behind, I’d say…I’d say sooner or later he’s gonna crawl off somewhere and die off by himself. Vale said that their brother Davey was still on Johnny's track and they came back for fresh horses.
I knew who these two men were. I had met them a couple years ago at the grain auction. “I didn’t know you boys were…working as vigilantes.” They told me the hills were as lucky with water as the flat lands.
I turned to Gangling and asked him who the judge was when his committee tried a man. He said he was. I asked him if his paid hands were the jury. He said they were. “Pretty convenient kind of law you got here,” I mentioned.
"I want it understood when you start laying tracks in North Fork, your kind of law stops," said Micah.
"I never had any other thought, Marshal," said Gangling. Micah and I then rode off.
While I was on my way home, Mark and Lou were at the ranch. Mark was sitting at the kitchen table figuring out how to handle his fresh egg business. Mark and his ideas... He decided he wouldn't sell any eggs the first year he would let them hatch. Lou asked him if he was selling cooking hens instead. He said he wouldn't sell cooking chickens because they only bring 12¢ clean and that was work. But a chicken all by herself can lay 100 eggs per year. So he figured if he let them hatch instead of makin' money the first year he'd have 100 times the second year. Lou thought it made a lot of sense.
Mark started setting the table. “Pa sure is gonna be surprised to see a regular woman's meal when I'd gets here.” Mark paused. “Uh…not that he objects to my cookin’…much!”
Lou casually mentioned that if she had some eggs right now, she could make a cake for dessert. “There’s probably half a dozen in the roost,” Mark answered. She thought that would be fine. Well, you know my boy and how he can be ornery at times! “’Course I can always squeeze a hen or two if you want some more.”
Lou didn’t like what she was hearing. She turned and gave Mark one of her stern looks. “You can do what???”
“Why sure! It’s an old farmer’s trick. You just grab the hen by the legs, turn it upside down and-“ Mark stopped when he saw the look on her face. He smiled. “Awwww, I bet you used to do the same thing all the time back in Ireland!”
“I’m going to turn you upside down, young man, if you don’t stop joking and go get those eggs!” Lou declared. Mark laughed.
As Mark started to gather the eggs he heard a noise. He knew there was someone else there in the barn with him. He looked towards the door and decided to make his getaway, but as he started to leave Johnny Wing jumped out, holding a knife on him. “I need a horse, Mark!”
Mark gasped. He was a little fearful. "I can't help you Johnny...they’re looking for ya'!"
“I didn’t do it, Mark! I didn’t!” Johnny declared. Mark told him to give himself up. “They’ll kill me! It’s the law of the camp! A thief is hanged within the hour.”
"Help!" Mark yelled as he tried to leave.
“Don’t yell again!” Johnny ordered him. But Lou had heard him and hurried out to the barn.
“It wouldn’t be right for me to help ya'…But I can go get Marshal Torrance if you want me to.” Again, Mark tried to leave, and again Johnny stopped him. Johnny said he was taking a horse and Mark was saddling it for him.
“If you weren’t guilty, you’d give yourself up,” Mark told him.
Lou arrived at the barn and saw someone threatening Mark. She grabbed a pitchfork and held it up as a weapon. “Get away from that boy!” As he turned, Johnny passed out. Lou told Mark to go get some hot water and bandages.
The men out searching were able to track Johnny to my house. They turned to tell Gangling.
It was dark when I rode up. Pa warned Lou I was coming. “We’re gonna have to tell him sooner or later, aren’t we?” Mark asked. Lou agreed. Neither were looking forward to telling me.
I sure was happy to see Lou there. “I thought that cooking I smelled was put together with a lighter touch than Mark’s!” I declared as I took my hat off and came into my inviting home. "No offence son.” I studied my boy. He was acting strange.
Lou had stopped by to sign up as a regular egg customer of Mark's and she decided to stay and help with supper. I told her that it was nice of her, but my attention went to Mark. He seemed to be avoiding looking at me, which was usually a bad sign. “Something wrong, Mark?” I asked as I took my jacket and walked up behind him.
Mark kept his back to me. “No.”
“You sure?” I knew when he was holding out on me, and he definitely was right now!
As Lou started serving supper she asked what Micah and I had found out at the railroad camp. I told her there was nothing we could do to stop the vigilantes from shooting Johnny Wing on sight. "You think he's guilty Pa?" Mark asked.
"I don't know son, I don't know him that well. But a man can seem one thing and be another," I said. Lou said when Johnny worked for her at the hotel she didn't have any problem with him, and that he seemed honest. She felt if he had wanted to steal, there was ample opportunity for him to do so at that time. “Well, the railroad camp is a rough place. You take a young man with all the gambling and drinkin' that goes on, I guess it could lead to trouble.”
"But it's not right to hang him without a trial Pa."
"Oh he'll get a trial son; it's just not the kind you're used to. But a vigilante committee is accountable for his actions,” I answered my boy’s worries.
"Do you mean that Johnny Wing would have to be handed over to that...Mr. Gangling, same as to a marshal?" Mark asked then.
"That's the vigilante law and it's a rightful one I guess," I answered.
Mark decided to speak up then. "Pa...there's something I want to tell ya'.”
Just then I heard someone call my name. "McCain!"
I got up from my chair and picked up my rifle before I opened the door. It was Mr. Gangling. I asked him what he was doing here. "Mr. McCain...do you know the penalty for harboring a fugitive?"
"What are you talking about?" I asked Gangling.
"We found Johnny Wing hiding in your barn," said Gangling. I watched as two men rolled up with Johnny. I cocked my rifle. “You’re facing law officers, Mr. McCain.”
I turned and looked at my son. I was pretty sure I knew what he was hiding from me now. “Mark, did you know that Johnny Wing was in the barn?”
"That's what I was about to tell you Pa." I gave my boy a stern look. We’d talk about this later!
But Lou jumped to his defense. "It was my fault Lucas.” Okay, I’d talk to both of them later!
"Using a woman as an alibi may work on this side of the county line, don't try it in my jurisdiction!" Exclaimed Gangling. He threw three gold coins at me. “There’s your pay for the cattle you delivered. Don’t bother delivering anymore!” We watched them ride off.
“They may call it vigilante law, but that boy hasn’t got a chance!” Lou declared as she looked straight at me.
“I won’t argue the point. The laws in these parts aren’t perfect, but gotta be accepted or else all the good laws will go down with the bad.” I stood there looking at the money Gangling had thrown me. I had a hunch. I told Mark to ride into town and tell Micah what had happened here and that I would be attending Johnny's trial and to meet me out at the railroad shack. Mark left to do as I told him. Lou handed me my jacket and hat.
When I got to the railroad shack the trial had already started. Gangling was surprised to see me; he thought after our discussion he would never see me again. I asked to delay Johnny trial until Micah could get here. He refused. “Our rules are immediate trials with sentence promptly carried out.” As if I didn’t know! "Didn't I warn you that harboring a wanted killer was a hanging offense?" I suddenly found myself under arrest. "That's correct Mr. McCain.....verdict of guilty here could put you swinging at the end of the rope along with this Indian. The law of the camp. Nothing I can do about it!"
Gangling then locked the door and proceeded with the trial. He first brought Charlie Breen's money belt in as evidence. He said that he saw the money belt in Johnny's hands before he ran away from the scene of the murder. Johnny denied it. “About $100.00 still left.” He dumped the money on the table, and said there should have been $2,000 or more.
“Now gentlemen, I’ll be brief. Though even a few words will be a few too many considering the case is open and shut.”
“I like your idea of an impartial trial, Mr. Gangling!” I spoke up. “Since when does the judge make such a prejudicial statement?”
He reminded me that he was judge and prosecutor and that the law of the camp was death within an hour for a thief. “After the trial, of course. We’re not savages here…at least not all of us. This law was forced on us by our mutual protection. Every month, 200 men receive their pay in gold. The minute we lower the odd on swift and sure punishment, there is no man who can go to sleep at night without a gun to his head.” He turned to Wing and gave him the facts: he came upon him leaning over Charlie, his body still warm. “You don’t deny that.”
“But that doesn’t mean I killed him.” He asked Johnny why he ran. “Because I saw you coming at me with a gun,” Johnny answered.
“Well, if you hadn’t done anything wrong, why were you afraid of my gun?” Gangling asked then.
“Because of the look in your eye!” Johnny declared.
"Suppose I said you wouldn't hang if you told us where you hid the money. I don't promise you anything, now mind you, I just ask," said Gangling. Just then Johnny grabbed him by the neck and told him he didn’t have any money and he didn’t kill Charlie. Gangling got free and told his men if he tried that again they were to shoot him. “We try to run our trials as orderly as possible, Mr. McCain.”
“I can see that!” I declared.
Now, if Charlie Breen had been killed by somebody else, why was there still gold left in the money belt? If the killer hadn’t been caught in the act, he certainly would have had time to transfer the money into his own pockets. If he was killed by somebody else, why didn’t John Wing cry out when he found the body? When I walked up to him pointing the gun at him, why did he simply raise his hands? The answers to these questions, gentlemen, are obvious.” He closed his case.
Being that the verdict would affect both of us; I was allowed to question Johnny. I had no questions for Johnny, I felt asking him anymore questions would make it worse for both of us. “Gentlemen, you’ve heard the evidence-“
I interrupted him. “I would like to question another witness.” He started to tell me that there were no other witnesses. “Mr. Gangling, I was…referring to you.”
He hesitated at first, but he finally gave in. He told me I should make it short. ‘Mr. Gangling, you have a lot of Apaches working for you,” I stated. “Why?”
“Surely you wouldn’t deny a man the right to work because of his color.”
I decided on a more direct approach. “Do you make it a point to hire Apaches because they’ll accept less money than white men?” He kindly explained me that it was economics – one hires employees as cheaply as possible.
“We pay the Apaches ten dollars a month.”
“Even though they do as much work as everybody else?” I asked.
“They’re Indians. They don’t require that much money to live on.”
“How much did you pay Charlie Breen?” I asked then.
“Thirty a month,” he answered.
“Thirty a month,” I repeated. “Then if Indians get ten a month and white men get thirty…is that right?”
“One is an animal…the other a man.”
“One is an animal…” I looked at Johnny. Then I started circling the room as I asked about the Hill men. They had left their starving families and farms to come down here and work. “How much do you pay the Hill men, Mr. Gangling?”
“That’s beside the point,” he answered.
“You don’t care to answer.”
“Twenty a month.”
“Animals, to use your expression, get ten dollars a month, white men get thirty. Then you must think these hill men are somewhere between an animal and a white man. He said those were my words not his. So I wanted his words. Where did he classify these hill men?
He asked what I was driving at. "We're all under the thumb. The pressure never stops for any of us. Not for them, not for me, not for you. The thumb squeezes. The Apache works for a third.....takes the money or he starves in the dessert. The thumb squeezing. The hill men work for less pay because there's no rain. The crops fail the families starve. Thumb squeezing.....always squeezing! You McCain...the thumbs squeezing to make that mortgage payment. Squeezing to call that loan…squeezing…"
“You included yourself under that thumb. What’s your problem, Mr. Gangling?”
He said that these to him were the facts of life. We may not like it but that's the way it is.
I turned to something else then. I asked him if he usually put teeth marks on coins that he used to pay for wages or payment for supplies. "Of course not!" He said.
"No I didn't think you did. That's a trick generally used by old timers like Charlie Breen. They identify their money that way just in case.” I walked over to the Croton brother's. "Now if you gentlemen will recall...Mr. Gangling tossed me these three gold coins in payment for some cattle I delivered. If you'll look at them closely...you'll see they have the same teeth marks as these coins here on the table in Charlie Breen's money belt," I said as I walked over to the table and picked up the money on the table.
Gangling said he often changed gold for the men at the camps. "Two five dollar pieces for a ten," said Gangling..."The explanation is simple enough."
“Well suppose, Mr. Gangling, we were to look for and find several thousand dollars worth of gold marked the same as this evidence here. Would you then say that we had found the gold that was taken from the body of Charlie Breen?”
"You're suggesting that you would find a great number of gold pieces with Charlie's marks in my safe?" Asked Gangling. I told him that I was sure that his committee would like to know all the facts before placing judgment on both of us.
Gangling got up from his chair and walked over to his safe. He then opened his safe. When he turned around he had a bag of gold in one hand and a gun in the other. He told me it was my turn to listen. He then had the other men cover me with their weapons. “Big thumb, McCain. Feel it squeezing?” He took out some of the gold coins and held them out to the men. “Each of you is gonna leave this room richer than before.” He showed me the gold. “That’s gold, McCain! Seals lips…buys souls…buries people…” He said the money was going to sent the men back to the hills, set for life. “Right now you’re all that lie between them and the big dream.”
I interrupted him. “It might be true if they were actually the animals you think they are! But something does stand in the way, Gangling. You’re talking to men who chose to work when they became desperate. Men who wouldn’t steal, not even to feed their families.”
Gangling walked up to the men. He pointed at me. He said I was the only thing that stood between him and the best land they could buy in the hills. “Now shoot!”
"Only animals feed their young on the blood of others Gangling. You keep forgetting your talking to human beings."
He again gave the order to shoot me. "Shoot! Do you hear?" Shouted Gangling.
"Don't you understand? It's yours!" As he showed them the money. "It's yours so your wives and children can stop rooting in the ground!”
“Pigs root the ground, Gangling, not wives and children. Why do you keep forgetting your talking to men?" I asked. He told them they could stop living like pigs and become men.
He then threw the money to the floor and went for his gun. He was going to shoot me. Vale shot Gangling. "According to the law...I'm holding John Gangling guilty of thieving and murder," said Vale. The others agreed.
"What made him think that we would take money to kill a man?" Asked Davey.
"He understood money...not men," I answered.
The next day when I went out to the hen house. Mark was worried because his hens weren't laying. He was losing money. "There's more to it then that Pa...last night when I was waitin' for you to come home from that trial, all I could think about was that you could come home. Nothing else seemed important. I didn't care if these hens laid another egg or if the house burned down."
I nodded in understanding. "And here you are this morning worrying about a few cents profit and loss," I said.
"Pa...I...I've been trying to tell myself I have so much to be thankful for but..." He stopped as I looked at him. He couldn’t finish the sentence. This was just something he was going to have to learn.
I slapped him on the back. “I know I have." Having each other was the most important one.
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.
Paul Mantee appeared in two episodes ― The Assault as Cade Conway, he was the boyfriend of Vashti Croxto ― Incident at Line Shack Six as John Wing, an Apache who was framed for murder.
Raymond Guth played Charley Breen. He was the man who Johnny Wing was accused of killing.
Claude Hall played Jeb Croton. He was the one who told Mr. Gangling that Johnny Wing was double backing on his tracks.
Ray Kellogg played Vale Croton. He was the one who shot Gangling and then said "According to the law.....I'm holding John Gangling guilty of thieving and murder."
Dale Wright played Davey Croton. He was the one who was tracking Johnny Wing while his two brothers went to get fresh horses.
Patricia Blair as Lou Mallory. Patricia was first introduced to The Rifleman in Lou Mallory. She played a hot-tempered Irish lass who was a razor-sharp businesswoman. She joined the cast in the fifth and final season and appeared in seventeen episodes. Patricia replaced Joan Taylor who played Milly Scott owner of The General Store.
Bloopers - Incident at Line Shack Six
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