"Welcome to the McCain Ranch"
The stagecoach drove into town one day while Micah was coming out of his office. He watched curiously as a man climbed from the stage and asked for his bag. He recognized the man from his past – from before he had taken his marshalling job at North Fork. The stranger walked to Sweeney the bartender who was sweeping his walkway and greeted him warmly. He was looking for a someone – and not just any someone, but a woman named Bessie Weaver. When Sweeney stated he didn’t know any Weaver’s, the stranger asked about a Bessie Steele. He knew her – she worked in the café down the street.
Micah watched the interaction with much interest. After the man walked away, Micah approached Sweeney, asking him what the stranger wanted. Sweeny explained it to him. Then Micah started down the boardwalk toward the café. “Anything wrong, Marshal?” Sweeny suddenly asked.
“I’m not sure yet,” Micah answered.
When he arrived at the café, he peaked inside the window to size up the situation. Bessie and the man were discussing something – from where Micah stood, it didn’t look like a pleasant conversation. Micah quickly made his way inside the café and the two, who had been standing with their arms connected, suddenly walked away from each other. Their private moment had been interrupted.
Micah slowly walked in and stared at the man. “Anything wrong, Bessie?” She told him no. “This man bothering you?” he asked as he continued staring at the man. Again, she said no. “I think there’s something you oughta know. He’s just been released from the territorial prison,” Micah informed her.
“I know,” she answered. That surprised Micah. “He’s my husband.” With that, the man turned and looked at the Marshal.
I rode into town later that day. Micah, always the observant one, saw me and walked up to me. He was surprised to see me in town, what with all that plowing and planting I had to do. I told Micah I needed some more wired to string off the new wheat field. “Mark come in with ya'?”
“No,” I answered. “He’s back at the ranch trimming fence posts.”
“Working like that, I’m surprised he hasn’t put the pea on you for ranch hand wages!” Micah stated.
I smiled. “Don’t think he hasn’t!”
I got it again when I went inside. “Where’s Mark?” Josh asked.
“Oh, he’s out at the ranch, working.” I guess they were so used to seeing Mark with me that it was really odd when we weren’t together!
“Sounds like you got a good hand there!” Josh stated.
I smiled proudly. “The best!”
There was a man named Mr. Manse in there waiting for his order to be filled. He was getting a little impatient and Josh told him to pull his wagon around in front of the store room. I asked him how he was. “Busy!” he answered rudely. Then I asked Eli how he was. “Lazy!” Mr. Manse answered for his son.
Eli finally spoke. “Pa, do you suppose you could buy me this rifle?” He asked as he held a new rifle in his hand.
“No!” Mr. Manse answered. “You don't earn what you eat!" They then left to pull the wagon around back so he could load it with fencing.
I watched them leave as I sat on top of the counter. “Josh,” I observed. “Would you say he’s the unfriendliest man in North Fork?”
"Uh huh, and the stingiest."
“Well, I can’t help feeling sorry for Eli. It’s hard to understand why a man would act like that toward his son.” As a father myself full of love and devotion in my heart, I couldn’t stand to see other fathers treat their sons that way.
But Josh thought he needed to remind me of something. “But Eli isn’t really Manse’s son, Lucas. You know that. He’s only his stepson.”
Only his stepson? He had been put in charge of that boy, and he should respect him no matter what. I still felt sorry for the young man. I started to say something, but Josh quickly changed the subject.
I told Josh I needed fencing wire and staples. He observed that everyone seemed to want it. He said that Manse had just bought a whole wagon full of fencing. His place was a lot bigger then mine though. I told him I’d be back in a half hour to pick it up. Then I headed over to the café for a cup of coffee.
As Bessie poured me a cup of coffee, she introduced me to her husband, Farley. Boy, was I surprised! I didn’t even know she was married. “Your husband? Well, this is a pleasure!” I exclaimed as I shook his hand. “Congratulations, Bessie. When did this happen?”
“Happened ten years ago,” she answered.
Boy, I was even more surprised now! “You’ve been married ten years?” I wondered why I hadn’t seen him around before. She informed me that Farley just got in on the stage. He’d been ill – just got out of a sanitarium. She had come out here to find a place for them for when he got out.
Farley wasn’t too happy about her telling me all this personal stuff, but she had something important to say. “Now that he is well, he’d like to get some work here until we can find some place of our own.” I nodded with a smile, understanding what she was asking. “I wanted him to rest awhile before he looked around, but he says he’s got to find something right away.”
She finally stopped talking. “Bessie!” Farley finally warned her.
“It’s alright, Farley. Mr. McCain might be able to advise you,” Bessie explained.
I mentioned that John Hamilton at the bank was looking for someone, but Farley wouldn’t even let me finish that thought. “No,” he said forcibly. It made me stop and look at him. “No, I don’t think so. I think I’d like to find some work out of doors.”
“Well, I could use a hand out at my place – string wire, plowing, planting. Wouldn’t pay very much, but it would give you time to think over what you want to do,” I stated.
He thought I was offering charity. “Farley, when you get through with the work I have in mind, then you wouldn’t call it charity!”
Bessie declared that he would take it. Farley thought on it for a minute. “If he really needs me, yes,” Farley answered.
“I sure need someone!” I stated. “As a matter of fact, you could stop helping me right now load some wire on my wagon.” I took another sip of my coffee. “You ready?”
He was ready. I stood up and led him out the door. But Bessie wasn’t quite ready to give him up yet. I stood at the door and smiled as I watched them hug and kiss goodbye. She looked concerned, so I smiled and reassured her. “We’ll take good care of him, Bessie.”
When Micah saw me and Farley working, he made his way over to my wagon to ask about my new hand. I introduced him as Farley Steele. "Did you say Steel?" Micah suddenly asked.
I nodded. “That’s only half of it. Farley’s Bessie’s husband. He just got into town this morning.”
Micah looked the man up and down. “We’ve met somewhere before, haven’t we uh…Mr. Steele, was it?” Micah suddenly stated quiet rudely.
I must admit that I was a little shocked at the way Micah was acting! “Micah,” I chided him. “Farley’s been in a sanitarium for three years.”
“Oh, a sanitarium, huh?” Micah stated.
I turned and looked at Farley. I wasn’t sure what was going on, but I knew there was more information here then met the eye. Farley explained the whole truth to me. “It was all a lie, Mr. McCain. My names’ not Steele, it’s Weaver. Bessie took back her maiden name when I was sent to prison. She thought it would make it easier when I got out. I served eight years for manslaughter – killed a man when I was drunk. At least they said I did, I didn’t remember anything about it. The Marshal here was an officer at the territorial prison for about two years while I was there. Bessie was a fool to think we could hide it, I was a fool to even try.” He picked up his bag and apologized.
Now don’t get me wrong, I love my best friend, but sometimes he could just be too much! I told Farley that where he’d been and what he’d done was none of my business. “The way I look at it, uh…any man that Bessie loves has gotta be alright! The job’s still open if you want it.” Micah couldn’t argue with that. Farley was a free man. Farley said he did need the job. I smiled at him and put his bag back into my wagon with a smile. He knew all was forgotten.
While we were having supper that night, Mark’s curiosity got the best of him. He knew better then to ask questions, but he was a curious boy! “If Bessie’s been working in that restaurant for two or three years and she’s your wife, how come you never come to see her before?”
My boy always did talk to much! As I brought the coffee over to the table, I reprimanded him. “Well, I guess Farley had good reason, Mark. Besides, it’s not polite to pry into a person’s personal life.”
“Believe me, I wanted to see her, Mark,” Farley answered honestly. “Someday I’ll tell you all about it.”
I thought it was time for Mark to go elsewhere before he embarrassed me even more. I suggested he go get Farley’s bunk ready. I even opened the door for him.
Farley stood at the door and thanked me for saving him from more embarrassment. He said he was never good at lying. "Well, I never lie to Mark. But right now, the truth may be a little hard for him to understand. You'll know when it's the right time to tell him."
The three of us were working hard on the fence the next day. But I suddenly realized we were a couple of spools short on getting the fence done. I suggested that Farley run into town and pick up what I needed. He hesitated. “Oh, it’s alright. He knows you’re working for me. Besides, isn’t it about time you started acting like a free man?” I questioned him.
I went to the wagon and grabbed my rifle, telling Farley we’d see him in about an hour or so. Mark saw him leave and dropped what he was doing. “Where’s he going, Pa?” Mark asked anxiously.
“Into town for some more wire.”
“But why couldn’t I go?” He’d been aching to get out of work!
“Because I need you here to help me,” I answered. “Now, grab that hammer and a handful of those staples, huh?” Mark just stared longingly at the wagon as it went further down the street. “Mark!” I called.
Farley wasn’t having much luck getting the wire. Josh informed Farley that he had sold all the wire he had left. “Mr. McCain sure needs it bad!” Farley stated. He wondered if there was anymore anywhere in town. Josh said there wouldn’t be for a couple more weeks or so.
Suddenly, Josh thought of something. He asked Eli if his pa was planning on using that wire anytime soon. “I wouldn’t know,” Eli answered. He was more interested in the rifle. “What you asking for this rifle?”
“That rifle’s the most expensive one I’ve got in the store, Eli,” Josh answered. “It sales for $300.00” Josh turned his attention back to Farley. He suggested Farley go on to Manse’s place and ask him if I could borrow some of his wire until the next shipment came in. “He’s a pretty hard man to deal with, but it would be worth a try.”
After Farley left, Eli wanted to know who “he” was. Josh told him he was a hired man I took on for a few days. “You won’t be getting much work out of that one,” Eli declared as he studied the gun some more.
“And now, Eli, what can I do for you?” Josh asked.
“I’d sure like to buy this here rifle,” he sated again.
“Well, like I told you, Eli, that there rifle’s gonna cost you $300! That’s the finest precession firearm west of Chicago.”
“I’d sure love to buy it!”
Josh laughed. “So would a lot of other folks. It’s just a question of money, Eli!”
Of course, it’s not surprising that Farley stopped by the café to see his wife. They quickly embraced, and she suddenly wanted to feed him. He refused her offer of breakfast stating that he’d eaten hours ago. Then she insisted on giving him apple pie. Her cooking wasn’t as fancy as the restaurants, but Mark liked her apple pie better! He gave in and decided to eat a quick peace before going out to the Manse place.
When Eli got home, his Pa came outside demanding to know where he’d been. Eli stated that he had to go into town. “Is that why you went into my cash box?” he accused. “There’s $25 missing.” Eli told him he didn’t have his $25. He spent it.
Manse got mad. "Your a thief - a low sneakin' thief. Not only are you too lazy to work, but your a thief that steals from them that does.”
"You wouldn't talk to me like that if Ma was still livin',” Eli stated.
"Your Ma made a ninny out of you and you'll always be a ninny."
"You shouldn't talk to me like that," said Eli.
"I'm thru talkin' to you anyway. Get out!" Manse yelled.
“I’ve got as much a right here as you have,” Eli cried out then.
“Get out before I throw you out!”
“Just you try it!”
Manse got mad and hit Eli hard, knocking him to the ground. “Mama’s boy!” he declared. Then he turned and started to walk away.
Eli picked up a pipe that was lying on the ground and hit Manse over the head with it. He fell to the ground. He was dead.
Eli suddenly let go of the pipe and it fell to the ground. “Pa?” He bent down beside Manse. "Pa, I didn't mean! I didn't mean it Pa, I didn't mean it!" Eli began crying as he realized what he had done.
Eli was still bent over his pa when he heard my wagon approaching. He quickly jumped up, jumped on his horse, and galloped behind the house out of site. Farley parked the wagon in front of Manse’s house and climbed down. He began calling his name, looking for him.
But suddenly, he stepped off the porch at the side of the house and saw Manse’s body lying in the yard. He suddenly rushed over to him and discovered that he was dead.
He allowed this revelation to sink in. Fear suddenly gripped his whole being as he took off for the wagon. His past was catching up to him, and he was afraid Micah would arrest him for the murder.
Eli watched Farley leave then made his way back into his house. He went over to the desk and took out the cash box. Opening it, he found the money and stuffed it into this pockets. As he started to leave, he got an idea. Quickly, he began scattering stuff around the room to make it look like a robbery. Now he had a way out.
Meanwhile, Mark and I were sitting beside the road anxious for Farley to get back with the wire. Sitting around was not something I was good at doing. “I hate to waste all this time just to wait on a little wire,” I complained.
“I guess I should’ve gone with him,” Mark declared.
“Alright now, Mark! Hattie’s candy jar’s not gonna run away,” I warned him sternly.
“With licorice?” Mark asked then. I looked at him and smiled. Then I started to suggest something else we could do when I suddenly heard a wagon coming down the road very quickly.
“What’s he trying to do to those horses?” I said as we saw Farley driving very quickly down the road.
“I told you should have let me go with him!” Mark declared.
“Alright now, Mark! That’s enough of that!” I stated sternly. Then I stood up to see what the problem was. I stopped the horses then asked Farley what the problem was.
He has a frightened look on his face. “Mr. McCain, they’re gonna blame me for sure! You’ve gotta help me!” Farley cried. I tried to calm him down. “It’s Mr. Manse! He’s been murdered!” Farley told me.
We went in to see Micah. We were all sitting around Micah’s desk talking. Farley was really upset. “I didn’t do it! I didn’t do it! I didn’t do it!” he cried. He was really scared for his future. I kept calling his name to stop him, but he was really frightened.
“No one is saying you did do it. But since Eli Manse has made the charge against you, the Marshal had no choice but to arrest you,” I explained to him calmly.
“I wasn’t a free man very long, was I Marshal?” Farley stated.
“I’m sorry, Weaver. But I had no choice, like Lucas said,” Micah stated.
Farley was worried about Bessie. Mark and I went over to see her.
Micah was questioning everyone. Josh stated that Eli left about 10 minutes after Farley left his store.
Then Bessie, who was standing protectively behind her accused husband, stated that Farley came over to the café for a piece of pie and a cup of coffee – he was there for fifteen minutes.
Then Josh remembered that a wagon was still out in front of his store when Eli left. He was just happy when Eli left. He’d been pestering him about that rifle all day. “Thank heaven he finally came back this afternoon and bought it!” Josh suddenly declared.
I had been sitting quietly listening to all this up to this point. But what Josh said surprised me. “You mean he paid $300 for that rifle?” I asked suddenly.
“Cash,” Josh answered.
“You know where he is now?” I asked then. Josh said he was in the saloon. “Micah, if you don’t mind, I want to go over and talk to him.” He didn’t mind.
I walked over to the saloon, walked up to the bar where Eli was, and gave Eli my apologies for his Pa. “I guess you didn’t know what kind of man you hired,” Eli stated. “He confessed yet?”
I told him that Micah was still talking to him. I picked up the rifle he was holding, complimenting on what a beauty it was. “A rifle like this must cost a pretty peace of change!” I commented as I looked the rifle over.
“$300.00,” he said with a smile. He shouldn’t look like he was in mourning! I suddenly looked at him, a bit surprised that he was so open about everything. “I bought it with the money my Ma left me,” Eli suddenly explained.
“Hm…Too bad your Pa was robbed. John Hamilton tells me there was four or five thousand dollars hidden in that house. He’d been better off if he’d trusted the bank!” After making that announcement, I turned and walked out of the saloon, stating I was going home.
I had set the bait.
Eli did just what I thought he’d do. He jumped on his horse and raced home as fast as he could. He hurried inside to look through the desk for the rest of the money. I was there waiting for him.
“You won’t find it, Eli,” I said in the darkness.
“Who’s there?” Eli suddenly called.
He turned and saw me. I repeated what I had said – that he would find it. “Find what?” He asked, playing dumb. Then as if he suddenly remembered, he said, “Oh yeah, the money. I guess that other fella got it alright."
It was time to stop playing games. "There was no other fella Eli. You know there wasn’t! And there wasn't any four or five thousand dollars either. Now, I think you better come into town with me." He didn't want to. I cocked my rifle, letting him know he had no choice. “Eli,” I warned.
He walked quickly to his horse and pulled the rifle out of his saddle. “Hold it right there, McCain!” He shouted as he aimed his rifle at me. “You think you’re smart tricking me like that! Well you ain't gonna live to tell anyone."
"Eli, you're over playing your hand. That gun isn't loaded,” I stated.
He checked the rifle. I was right, it wasn’t loaded. Suddenly, he threw it at me. I ducked, barely avoiding getting hit. Then Eli ran. I ran down the porch and tripped him, causing him to topple to the ground. He grabbed a piece of wood and started trying to hit me with it. He tried three times before I was finally able to him across the face.
He fell to the ground and started crying. "I didn't mean to kill Pa. I didn't mean to kill him. I didn’t mean to kill Pa!” he cried as he laid face down on the ground. I felt bad for him, but he had killed him and would have to suffer the consequences.
I took Eli in and Micah released Farley. "Well here he is Bessie," said Micah. “He’s all yours.”
The couple embraced. "I'm not gonna try and thank you Mr. McCain," said Bessie.
"Don't, Bessie. I'm just glad it turned out the way it did.” I told Farley to stay in town with Bessie tonight. “The work could wait a day or so."
Farley thanked me and Bessie thanked me and started to leave. I sat down happy it was all over. But suddenly, Bessie came back to me and suddenly planted a kiss on the cheek. That sure surprised me!
"Say Pa, why do you think Eli killed Mr. Manse?" Mark asked after the happy couple left.
He asked such hard questions! "Well it's hard to say son. Probably because he never really grew up. It's not easy for a boy to grow up without love."
"I guess Eli would be the last person in the world to do what he did," said Micah.
"Even a coyote will fight back when he's cornered," I stated.
I told Mark we had to get home – we had lots of work to do tomorrow!
piddlin' stuff.....Dabbs Greer is one of your most well known character actors. He has been in the business for over five decades. He has appeared in The Rifleman eight times ― Outlaw's Inheritance as Marcus Trimble, the lawyer from Santa Fe ― Boomerang as Sam Elder, the elderly gentleman who was about to loose his ranch ― Panic as Brett, the towns trouble maker ― The Jailbird as Farley Weaver, the man just released from prison ― The Promoter as Jack Scully, the man who was taking bets on Reuben Miles ― The Wyoming Story (1 & 2) as Finny and The Stand-In as Taylor, one of the prison guards.
Charles Briggs appeared in two episodes ― The Jailbird as Eli Manse, the guy who killed his stepfather (Karl Manse). His character was a boy in a young man's body. He also appeared in Short Rope for a Tall Man as son of Ben Crown, the guy so eager to hang our Lucas for stealing horses.
Karl Swenson appeared in two episodes ― The Jailbird as Chris Manse, the stepfather of Eli — The Vision as Nils Svensen the Blacksmith.
How many actors played Nils or was it Niles or Nels? Was it Swenson or was it Svensen?
Molly Dodd played Bessie Steel Weaver, the wife of Farley. She worked at the Cafe and made the best apple pie in town, just ask Mark.
Bill Quinn appeared in thirty-eight episodes as Sweeney the owner/bartender of The North Fork Saloon. Sweeney was first introduced to The Rifleman in The Marshal.
Charles Tannen appeared in six episodes ― The Boarding House as Barney, North Fork's Barber ― Sins of the Father as the bartender in the saloon where Andy Moon shot Shep Coleman ― The Jailbird as Josh Moore, the storekeeper at the Hardware Store ― Woman From Hog Ridge as the storekeeper ― Miss Milly as Mr. Penn the customer who Marty Ryan had ruffed up trying to get money on his bill owed to Milly ― The Actress as one of the men who Elizabeth Garrett Black was entertaining in the hotel bar, the man with the cigar.
John Breen appeared in six episodes ― The Safe Guard as a Townsmen ― The Lariat as a Waiter as a townsmen ― The Clarence Bibs Story as a townsmen ― The Jailbird as a townsmen ― The Indian as a townsmen ― The Martinet as a townsmen.
Russell Custer appeared seven times ― None So Blind as a Townsman ― Woman from Hog Ridge as a Townsman ― The Lariat as a Gambler ― The Vision as a Cowhand ― Panic as a Townsman ― The Jailbird as a Townsman ― A Case of Identity as a Townsman.
Archie Butler — Stuntman — Stunt coordinator — Actor - Archie has been in more episodes then anybody with the exception of the regular cast and he probably was in more episode then some of them. ~Arnold Laven
Remember him in The Sharpshooter? Remember when Lucas shot the whiskey bottle and it shattered into pieces? Archie was the cowboy who slid the whiskey bottle to Lucas. Sometimes Archie was a stand-in for Paul Fix.
Joe E. Benson appeared in The Rifleman many times, probably more times than listed. Sometimes credited & sometimes not.
*Please note: In Dark Day at North Fork he appeared as two different characters - as one of the townsmen & the bartender.
Joe was a good friend & a neighbor of Chuck's. He helped Chuck build a tree house for the boys and also help build the addition onto the house which was later called the den. (One of the several tree house pictures)
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
Meeting at Midnight
around The McCain Ranch