"Welcome to the McCain Ranch"
The Mescalero Curse
It was an eerie morning as Mark and I rode through town – as is usual on the day of a hanging. The stores were all shut down. There was no one on the streets. A scaffold sat in the middle of town just waiting for the hanging to be carried out in just a little bit.
I rode into town, Mark by my side. He didn’t like seeing the scaffold up anymore then I did. “Right son, killing someone, even one like Juan Mogollan is bad business.”
Mark nervously looked up and down the street, commenting on how quiet it was. “Folks don’t want to be around until the hangin’s over,” I replied.
“Yeah, I see what you mean,” Mark answered nervously.
I turned my head and studied him. I didn’t want him here. I told Mark to buy his slate and get to school. Mark and I rode down the street together. We tied our horses to the hitching post, then Mark walked down the street to the store. Joe Beaseley was standing out there looking all nervous. He was glad I was here. He had doubts that the two of us was enough hanging such a man as Mogollan. “Hanging Juan Mogollan isn’t like hanging an ordinary man!”
“Well, I don’t think they’ll be any trouble,” I tried to assure this nervous old man. “Everybody’s satisfied he got a fair trial.”
He wasn’t convinced. He was afraid about what the witch doctor would do – he didn’t hold with our laws. “The Mogollan’s don’t hold to anybody’s laws,” I reminded him. “That’s why they are outcast even by their own tribe!”
My boy was suddenly back – for money. He had gotten the price for the bigger slates wrong – they were 15 cents. I hurriedly grabbed a nickel from my pocket. “Here, now you hurry along.” I patted him on the back. “This is no place for you, Mark.”
Suddenly, two men rode up in a wagon. It was Mogollan and another Indian. Mark, Beasley, and I watched them climb from the wagon and walk over to us. Mogollan suddenly spoke directly to me. "You...you...the tongue of death for my son."
“My tongue spoke for twelve men!” I declared angrily. “A lawful jury.”
"Juan's tongue say die! Mogollan's son never die. When moon is up there he ride.....he ride with moon. He will come for you Lucas McCain. When the moon die you die." As he spoke these last words, he slammed a head up against my chest and pressed it against me. Then he allowed it to fall to the ground and walked away. I looked down at it, as did my son.
I picked it up off the ground. “Why, it’s the Mescalero Curse!” Beasley declared. “He’s put the Mescalero Curse on you!” I looked down at the head, then down the street towards the Indians.
I quickly sent Mark to school. Beasley and I helped Micah escort the prisoner down the street. There was silence from those who watched. We walked him to the bottom of the stairs, then Micah escorted him up the stairs. I stood at the bottom and watched as they cut the rope.
It was over in seconds. Mogollan and the other Indian hurried and took the body down. As they made their way up the stairs, I turned to Micah. “Apache burial?”
“Yeah,” Micah answered gloomily. “Wipes out the disgrace of hanging.”
We watched as the body was put into the wagon and the rode out of town.
I had gotten Mark to bed and was in the other room when Mark suddenly called out in his sleep. “They’re coming back, Pa.” He started screaming for Shadow. Mark sat straight up in bed. “Shadow!” he yelled. “Pa, it’s shadow!”
I hurried in the bedroom to see what the problem was. “Shadow’s come back, Pa. He’s come back to drink out of our trough just like he used to!” Mark pulled the curtains back from the window and looked out. I looked out with him.
Nothing was there. I turned and looked at him. “Well, I could’ve sworn…” Mark started.
I grabbed his arm. “I think you’ve been dreaming, Mark. Come on.”
I put my arm around him and led him back toward his bed. “But I heard him!” Mark insisted as he walked back over toward his bed. “Remember how Shadow used to come at night when it was quiet?”
He sat down on the bed and I sat down beside him as we talked. "Sure, but that was a year ago Mark. A wild stallion doesn't usually come back once he's moved on to a new graze, you know that.”
He agreed. I lifted the blankets and told him to get under the covers. He started to obey, but hesitated. I let go of the covers as he suddenly turned back to me. I sat back down on the bed as he called my name. He had something else on his mind. "When a person’s got a curse on 'em...are they sure to die?" It was just like Mark to be worried about me!
"There's no such thing as a curse son, no matter what you've seen or heard."
"But Mogollan's a witch doctor!" Mark declared
"He's a man son...just like anybody else. The only thing special about him is his hate! He's so full of it he...he scares people."
"You mean it? He just threw that head at cha' to scare ya'?"
"Sure...fear and superstition Mark, those are the weapons of hate. And they work sometimes if people aren't thinking straight. Remember how I showed you that the head was nothing more then a few scraps of buffalo hide stuffed with grass?" He nodded. "Fears are like that; you tear them apart and take a good close look at them.....they’re not scary anymore."
"But isn't a witch doctor suppose to be magic?" Mark asked.
I gave a short laugh. "There's plenty of magic in the world, son. The sun, the moon, stars, growing things. Plenty of magic. But witch doctors don't make it." I told him he better get to sleep, we had a lot of work ahead of us in the morning. I had hired Tom and Jake to round up the steers and they should be brining them in early the next morning. I tucked him in
Before I left the room, I looked out the window. I couldn’t help but wonder what had gotten Mark so rile up. But I saw nothing, so walked out, closing the door behind me.
Joe Beaseley was coming out of the saloon when he suddenly heard an excited horse. He looked to see a horse with a ghost-like rider. The horse barreled right through town, stomping a drunk coming out of the saloon to death. Men ran out to investigate, wondering who it was. Joe Beaseley knew who it was. “It was Juan Mogollan risen from the dead!" He was upset. "It's the curse...it’s started! There's always three deaths...somebody else will die before it’s Lucas McCain's turn nest!”
Meanwhile, Tom and Jake had worked at rounding up my steers and were camped out on my range to keep an eye on them. They were taking shifts – one would watch my steers while the other slept. It was Tom's turn to take the watch. He told Jake he'd be back around midnight. Jake was having coffee and decided to get his bed roll ready. While he was making up his bedroll, he had his back towards his coffee. A hand popped out of a bush and dropped something in his coffee. An unsuspecting Jake sat back down by the fire and chugged his coffee down. Then he laid down and went to sleep.
It was some time later when Jake woke up at the sound of a horse. Jake sat up when he saw the horse ranting. “No-no!” he screamed in a sudden panic. What was slipped in his drink had weakened him, and the fear of the mad horse set his heart to pounding. Jake fell over unconscious.
Tom came back from his watch to find Jake on the ground moaning “no” over and over. Tom bent down beside him and grabbed him, asking what was wrong. His voice and his touch sent Jake into a panic. “I saw him!” Jake panted. “I saw him…riding a black stallion!” He cried. “Those eyes…burning…burning…Jake was delirious. He made no sense. Tom began dragging him toward my ranch.
It must have been after midnight when Tom came back to the house with Jake. I was getting ready for bed at the time and hurried out to see what was going on. I ran over to them. Jake was in a bad way and Tom was beside himself with worry. “Something’s wrong with Jake. He says he’s burning up!” Tom declared.
I lifted Jake’s face then told Tom to get him inside. We laid him down on the cot in the front room. I examined him some more. He was burning up alright! I told Tom to get a fresh horse and ride for the doc. But before Tom even left, Jake started mumbling hysterically again.
"There he is! There he is...burning eyes...a ghost!" Jake mumbled. I told Tom to get going.
The commotion woke Mark up and he wondered if he would make it. I hoped so! Jake suddenly lifted himself from the pillow. "He'll kill me...he'll kill me! Juan Mogollan...Juan Mogollan!" Suddenly, Jake’s head fell back onto the pillow.
I closed his eyes. He was dead.
Micah and Doc arrived at the ranch a while later. It was light by the time they left. Doc said he’d never seen anything like it. I assured doc that he was in a lot of pain. Micah mentioned that the town was pretty empty right now – everyone was spooked. Doc turned to me. “Did you say he was seeing things before he died?” I told him he thought someone was coming at him. “Well…jimson weed can make you have visions. Fits too.”
Jimson weed…”Is that what the Indians call the trumpet flower?” I wondered. I wondered if Jake had gotten hold of some. I didn’t know if there was any around here or not – I didn’t go looking for it!
We watched doc leave. “What do you suppose happened to Jake?” Micah asked.
I sighed. “Mogollan,” I answered. “He’s behind Jake’s death. What I can’t figure out is how.”
Micah had more puzzlement for me. “Lucas, Mogollan was in town last night. Lobo too.” They were seen coming out of the saloon. Even they couldn’t be in two places at the same time.
The whole thing had Mark spooked. He was still spooked that night when I sent him out to fetch some water. We had been hearing the drums from Mogollan and Lobo that night. As Mark stepped out onto the porch, he looked around. It was dark, with an ill feeling in the air. Mark walked to the edge of the porch and looked around. He didn’t want to step off the porch. He turned to look behind him. He wanted to run back inside, but he knew we needed water.
He finally mustered up enough courage to step off the porch. There was suddenly a wild stallion in the yard. He was rearing back on his hind legs and acting crazy. There was a ghostly figure on the horse. The horse ran right towards Mark, almost running over him.
Mark suddenly runs back into the hours screaming. “Pa! Pa!”
I ran out of the bedroom. My boy is really panicked! “What’s wrong, Mark?” I asked, suddenly concerned.
“Well, he’s coming! He’s here!” Mark screams. I start out the door. “No, don’t go outside, Pa! He’ll kill you!” Mark cries.
I quickly turned to him. “It’s alright, son.” I stepped out onto the porch to look around. “I just want to see what it is.” I stepped off the porch and looked around.
"Well, it's a ghost...I saw him ride out of here!" Mark’s voice was still terrified. "It wasn't a dream this time Pa!" I scanned the whole land as far as my eyes could see. Everything was quiet.
"Well whatever you saw son, it's gone,” I said as I turned back to my boy.
“You don’t believe me?”
“Oh, I believe you saw something. I’m just not sure what it was,” I answered calmly.
Mark’s voice turned defensive and panicked again. “But I did! I saw him right out-“
I stopped him. Laying a hand on his arm, I asked him to try and calm down. “Maybe you can try and describe it for me. I led him into the house where he would feel safer. “Well, it was a big horse - and a giant ridin' him...a giant with fire comin' out of his eyes," Mark gasped out.
"A giant huh? Now tell me slowly Mark, what color was the horse?"
"I don't know...lots of colors!"
I knew he was still too shaken to think. I tried to help him remember. "What colors son...red...purple...black?"
"Black! That's it! A big black horse!" Mark declared.
I kept my voice calm. "What else? What about his mane? Think about it calmly."
"His mane was black too…and long.” Mark looked toward the door as he began calmly thinking on it. It was coming back to him now. "Real long…When he runs it stands out and he raises his front legs real high when he's running. Just like shadow use too."
"Anything else?" "He has a white spot between his eyes and a halter...a halter with a broken rope. Pa, it was Shadow...it was!" Mark sat down in front of me.
I believed him. I figured he was caught and tied and had broken loose some how. "You didn't see a ghost Mark. You saw a horse in trouble." Mark wondered how anyone could ride him, he was wild. I didn't know. I thought we had enough excitement for the night. I told Mark we'd talk about it in the morning. I sent him to bed while I thought on what to do.
The next morning, I announced to Mark that I was going to ride up to Twin Peaks. This of course didn’t make Mark too happy. Mark came out on the porch to see me off. I finished tying my bedroll on the back of the horse. Mark wondered why I was taking the mare – she was always skittish when she’s alone. “I know, son. But she used to ride with Shadow’s heard. I’m hoping she’ll lead me to ‘em. Or vice versa.”
Mark was worried. He had heard the drum real late last night. I came to stand in front of him. I explained that it was part of the Mescalero funeral ceremony. “Last night of the full moon, the Indians cremate their dead.”
Suddenly, Mark voiced his worries. “Please don’t go into Twin Lakes alone, Pa!” He begged. “All the kids say it’s Indian Medicine country!”
“It’s Shadow’s country too,” I reminded him gently. “It was Shadow who paid us a call last night.”
“But the…the one who’s riding wants to kill you, Pa! And…whoever it is…he knows Twin Peaks country better then anyone!” My boy sure was worried for me! He suggested Micah sending a posse along with me.
I knew it was hard for him to understand. He didn’t want me to go alone. “A posse would raise the dust so it would show up for miles, son,” I explained. “No, the best way to track a wild stallion is quietly…and alone!”
Mark looked up at me. "I’d be quiet," he said hopefully.
I smiled. I knew he wanted to go. “You have to be in school, son,” I answered.
“I can make up whatever I miss,” he tried again.
I didn’t even answer. My stern expression said it all. “I want you to stay with Milly. Now stop fretting. I’ll be back tomorrow morning.” Mark just stood there. Worry was etched all over his face. There was nothing I could do about it. He would have to understand. "I promise you Mark, there's nothing to worry about." I playfully lifted his hat off his head and plopped it back down. Then I patted it. With that, I mounted my horse and left.
Mark didn’t say a word. He worriedly watched me ride off. Mark was very frightened for me.
I tracked Shadow all day as I headed up to Twin Peaks. When it got dark, I dismounted my horse and tracked by moonlight, carefully checking what I believed was Shadow’s footprints. My horse started acting funny. “You hear something girl?” I asked softly. “He’s up there, isn’t he?” I patted her lovingly. “Well, you know this place better then I do. Here’s one trail you can pick for both of us.” I spoke softly to her, trying to keep her calm.
I climbed back on my horse. She was really skittish and getting harder and harder to control as we rode deeper and deeper into Twin Peaks. We came across the Indian burial ground. The coals from the cremation were still hot. I rode my horse on down the trail. I stopped when I saw a whole bunch of weeds on the ground. As I kneeled beside it, I heard a horse. I looked up in time to see Shadow. There was someone – or something – riding him.
My mare suddenly became very restless. I held tight to the rope as Shadow ran off. The mare started backing off. “Easy, girl,” I calmed her as I climbed back into the saddle. She was very restless and I had trouble controlling her, but I held tight to the reins as she took off. I finally got her calmed down and we rode on further into the woods.
Suddenly I saw it – Jimson Weed. I picked a bunch and held it to my nose and smelled it. “Jimson Weed,” I declared.
Suddenly, I heard Shadow’s cry again. I looked up in time to see my horse take off. I had foolishly let go of the rope. There was nothing I could do but chase after her.
I finally found her. She had stopped to graze. I quietly and softly approached her. Grabbing her reins, I tied her to a tree where she wouldn’t be able to get away. Then I grabbed the rope and gave her a pat. It was time for me to solve this wild mystery!
Quietly, I tracked Shadow’s latest tracks. I turned a corner and suddenly saw him grazing. There was something slumped over him. It was easy to say that it was no person. I lassoed my rope. It made it’s target around him. Shadow suddenly got feisty, but I held tight to the rope, waiting for him to calm down. He was bucking and neighing so bad that he pulled me to the ground. I was beside a log and quickly tied the rope around the log, waiting for him to cool off a bit. “Alright, easy boy! Easy boy!” I kept saying in a nice, calming voice. I stood and grabbed the rope, hold it tight. I kept talking softly to him until I was finally able to pat him.
It took some doing, but I finally calmed Shadow down. I was able to investigate what was on his back. It was a dummy with shiny eyes made out of some sort of shiny stones. I couldn’t quite believe what I was seeing. So this…dummy is what had everyone – including my son – so spooked! I took out my knife and cut the saddle’s cinch. I let it all fall to the ground – the saddle, the dummy, and everything.
“McCain!” I suddenly heard behind me. I spun around. Mogollan and Lobo were there ready to kill me.
I walked up to them calmly. “Well, I didn’t expect to see you so soon, Mogollan!”
Mogollan threw a bunch of Jimson Weed at me. “So, that weed did have something to do with Jake’s death, huh? You drugged him, frightened him to death, then rode into town!” I threw the weed back at him.
The two Indians just stared at me. "Lucas McCain think like eagle! Leave trail like ox! Moon dies tonight, Lucas McCain!” Just then Shadow got restless. Lobo shot at Shadow, but missed. I used this distraction to cut Shadow loose. He headed for Lobo. Lobo shot at him.
I ran to my horse and got my rifle. I turned and fired at Mogollan just as he started to shoot me. Mogollan was dead.
As for Lobo…well, let’s just say that Shadow took care of him. When he was finished, he ran off – once again free. What he left behind wasn’t a pretty sight!
Before I left, I took the shiny stones from the dummy. I looked at the and smiled. Mark would love these as a souvenir!
The next night, I showed the shiny stones to Mark. He was pretty impressed with them. Mescalero Apaches can do almost anything with a horse – even rope them and train them. Roping a dummy to a stallion is a dirty trick they’ve used for years. In the early days, they’ve used it to scare the settlers. Mogollan and Lobo used it to kill,” I explained to Mark. I turned to put a log on the fire.
“I’ve never seen rocks like these before!” Mark stated. I explained that they were found in mines and caves – there were a lot of them around Twin Peaks.
"I wonder what makes them shine." Mark wondered as he studied them.
I walked over to him and sat down. Putting a hand on his shoulder and looking into his eyes, I answered, "Well, one thing’s for sure, son. It's not a ghost!"
Mark smiled. "Oh I know that now Pa...for sure!" Then he got this mischievous gleam in his eye. “Of course I…uh…don’t have to tell that to my school friends!” He held the rocks up to his eyes and grinned.
I shook my head at him and laughed. That boy!
piddlin' stuff.....Michael Pate appeared in five episodes ― New Orleans Menace as Xavier, the man who thought Lucas to be a 'muy mucho, much man' ― The Second Witness as Brad Davis, he was the man dead set on killing Lucas for testify against his brother ― The Visitor as Pete Morgan, he tried to kill Ann Dodd in this episode. In The Mescalero Curse as Mogollan, an Apache Indian who put The Mescalero Curse on Lucas ― The Executioner, Sanchez, the Indian and one of the heavies that came to collect his share of stolen money from a friend of Lucas's that just got out of jail.
Charles Watts appeared in three episodes ― Panic as Maury Cass, he was the man who tricked Mark into telling him about the yellow fever ― The Brother-in-law as Alvah Kemper, he was the one who offered Johnny $100 in prize money if he could stay on Lucifer― The Mescalero Curse as Joe Beaseley, he was the man who was witnessed the drunk get run down by Juan Mogollan while coming out of the saloon.
Larry Chance played Lobo. He's the one who carried Juan's body down from the gallows.
Jack Searl played Tom. He's was one the guys who worked for Lucas rounding up steers and took Jake back to the McCain Ranch.
Joe Brown played Jake. He's was one the guys who worked for Lucas rounding up steers. He's the one who had been drugged with Jimson weed and died.
George Bruggeman appeared five episodes of The Rifleman ― The Coward as one of Ben Smith's cowhand
― Seven as one of the seven prisoners ― The Promoter as a spectator at the shooting match ― Miss Bertie as a Barfly ― The Mescalero Curse as the Hangman.
The '7' Prisoners
Ralph Moody appeared in a total of twelve episodes of The Rifleman beating John Anderson and John Milford out at eleven episodes. He appeared in nine episodes as Doc Burrage and in three other episodes. The Visitors as Jonathan Dodd — The Spoiler as Roy Merrick and The Hangman as Eban Muchen.
Doc Burrage: Six Years and a Day ― The Actress ― Dark Day at North Fork ― The Mescalero Curse ― Man from Salinas ― Quiet Night, Deadly Night ― Mark's Rifle ― Conflict ― Requiem at Mission Springs.
Doc Burrage was a regular character ~ how many different actors played Doc Burrage? Can you name them?
Have any of you seen the outtakes to The Rifleman? Do you think this is the episode where Chuck Connors talks dirty to 'Shadow'?
Blooper - The Mescalero Cruse
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
The Score is Even
around The McCain Ranch