"Welcome to the McCain Ranch"
The Shattered Idol
If there’s one thing every man learns, it’s that none of us – no
matter how famous – are immune to tragedy.
comes to the rich and poor alike. It comes to actors, inventors,
Presidents, fathers, and even writers. Yes, writers. That’s what my
boy learned one day when a writer he idolized came to North Fork.
Mark was busy raking the yard when suddenly the stage pulled into
the yard. Now, it’s not every day that the stage stops by the McCain
Ranch, so Mark was naturally curious! There was a problem with the
wheel – the axel was broken nearly in half and he needed to see what
I could do to get him to North Fork. Suddenly, a man stuck his head
out of the stage. “How much longer are we gonna continue this
The driver announced they were stopping there to get the “limping”
fixed. The driver also called the man Mr. Clemons. Mark immediately
perked up. He stared at the stranger – looked as if his eyes were
going to pop right out of his head as the realization hit him.
Mr. Clemons wasn’t happy to be going through North Fork. “I bought a
ticket to Santa Fe,” he stated coldly.
But Mark stared on. His eyes were wide and his mouth hung open as he
stared in wonderment. Mark’s mouth grew wider the more he stared.
Mr. Clemons was very unhappy that they would be laid over for a day
or two, but it couldn’t be helped. Suddenly, he turned and yelled at
the gaping Mark. “Well, what are you waitin’ for, boy? Go get your
daddy before we’re too old to continue the journey at all!”
“Yes sir!” Mark answered as he started walking backwards. He could
hardly walk or talk. “I mean…Pa will be right here!” Suddenly, he
fell flat on his backside. He jumped up. “He’ll be right here, Mr.
Twain!” Mark yelled. “Don’t worry, he’ll sure help you!” Then Mark
disappeared into the barn.
Suddenly, the driver turned around. “Well…I’ll be a coyote’s uncle!
Mark Twain!” Mr. Twain just grumbled and looked away in disgust.
I got to work on fixing the wheel while Mark stared at Mr. Twain.
Mr. Twain was really anxious to get to his destination. I informed
him I couldn’t repair the damage – I could just do enough to get
them into North Fork. I assured Mr. Twain that he’d make his lecture
engagement – we had the best blacksmith in these parts. “Some of his
machinery came clear from Chicago!” Mark boasted.
“What?” Mr. Twain asked absent-mindedly. “Oh…of course, of course…”
Then he walked away. Mark ran after him.
As Mr. Twain walked back and fourth, Mark kept pace with him talking
the whole time. He was sure excited! “I always hoped I’d meet ya,
Mr. Twain! Pa and me…we’ve read all your books. My name’s Mark
too…of course, I know that Mark Twain’s not your real name – it’s a
pseudonyms…Someday when I’m a writer, I’m gonna make one up too. Pa
says it takes hard work to get to be a writer. It takes lots of
studying too. That’s the only part I don’t like…We play the history
post game at school. That’s the game that you thought of to help
your children learn important dates.” Mark paced right along with
him. His talking was non-stop. I couldn’t help but smile at Mark’s
basking in the glory of meeting his idol!
“You play that here?” Mr. Twain seemed surprised. I looked up and
smiled at my boy. Mark started asking Mr. Twain questions about the
games he played. Mr. Twain started to answer his questions, but then
suddenly stopped. “I haven’t got time for all these questions, boy!
Puzzle it out for yourself!” Then Mr. Twain walked off.
Mark was a bit put out by Mr. Twain’s attitude. Mark turned and
walked over to me. I’m sorry for how he was feeling. “I didn’t mean
anything…Why…Why did he get so riled up?”
“Mr. Twain’s had a long trip, son. He’s probably tired…and a little
edgy,” I guessed.
Apparently I said the wrong thing because Mark’s face suddenly lit
up. “Yeah,” Mark said as a smile once again spread across his face.
“Yeah, that’s what it is! He’s tired…he’s plum tuckered out…”
When the stagecoach got to town,
Twain wasn’t in a better mood. He didn’t like being here and hoped
his stay wouldn’t be long. Mr. Twain walked in and rang the bell.
Eddie was in the billiard’s room playing pool with Mr. Russell. He
didn’t get to the desk fast enough and Mr. Twain started ringing the
bell over and over impatiently. Eddie hurried to the desk and
apologized. He gave him the registry to sign.
Russell came in. "You gonna play, or ain’t ya?" Russell asked as he
bumped into Mr. Twain.
"Give me a room where I won't be disturbed!" Mr. Twain ordered.
"Yes sir! I think I’ve got just the thing for you Mr..uh… S.
Clemens!" Suddenly, Eddie smiled as he realized who the guest was.
"Why...why you're Mark Twain!" Eddie exclaimed.
"That book writer?" Russell questioned.
"What's the room number?" Shouted Mr. Twain. "Twenty-four! This is a
pleasure, a real pleasure," said Eddie.
Russell grabbed Mr. Twain. "So your the one who wrote about the
travel on the Overland stage. I've always had a hankerin' to meet up
with you," said Russell. Mr. Twain pulled away from him. "What was
it you called that book?"
"The book is called 'Roughing It', a title that should come easy to
you!" Shouted Mr. Twain as he walked off.
"Well I was one of those station keepers you described," said
"Right this way, Mr. Twain," said Eddie.
Russell stopped Twain again. "Horde of savages, that's what you
called us. Said we fed the travelers water with dish rags and sand
to flavor it."
"Now, you get out of the way Russell," yelled Eddie.
"Your book caused such a stir that the company sent men out to check
the out lying stations. Your lies cost me a job!" "The power of the
pen is mightier then the sword," said Twain. “How fortunate for
travelers that you are no longer an employee of the Overland
Mr. Twain started up the stairs. “Fortunate?” Russell pushed him.
“Fortunate!” Twain answered.
We had supper at the hotel that night. I could hardly get the boy to
eat! I watched as Mark looked toward the stairs. There was no doubt
in my mind what…or should I say who…he was looking for. I took a sip
of my coffee as I looked at Mark. “Mark, you better keep your mind
on your supper,” I warned him sternly as I raised my eyebrows at
Mark apologized. “Pa, if Mr. Twain does come down before we leave,
can I ask him to go fishing in the morning? He loves to go fishing!”
That boy! "Mark, when you’re as famous as he is I imagine people
swarm around wherever you go."
He was anxious and all smiles. "I guess they do," he agreed. My son
I tried a more direct approach. "It doesn't give you much of a
chance for…well, for just thinking," I said.
Mark understood what I was saying, and let’s say he wasn’t too
thrilled with it. "You mean I shouldn't even talk to Mr. Twain?"
"Wait until he talks to you, give him some…'thinking room'."
Mark was disappointed, but he knew I was giving an order – not a
request. But just then, Mr. Twain did come down the stairs. Mark saw
him instantly. “There he is, Pa!” Mark declared. He gasped for
breath as he stood slowly to his feet and stared at Mr. Twain.
“That’s Mark Twain!” Mark stated quite loudly.
“Mark, sit down!” I ordered quietly, yet sternly. He obeyed because
he had to. “Remember uh…thinking room?”
Russell walked over to me and said "Hey McCain, how about a little
"No thanks," I answered with no hesitation.
"I'll spot you ten points out of twenty. Play you for a quarter a
point. Now you can't hardly turn that down," said Russell. I told
him I don't play for money. "That's the trouble with the folks
around here, their all scared
“Not scared, just smart,” I stated. I told Mark to hurry up so we
could get home.
But Russell wasn’t done yet. "Fifty dollars say's nobody in town can
beat me," said Russell.
"I know someone who can, Mr. Twain,” Mark announced. “Playing
billiards is his hobby. Why, I know he's beat most everybody in the
east," said Mark. Russell looked at me and asked if Mark knew what
he was talkin' about.
My answer? "Anything about Mark Twain, Mark McCain knows!”
That was good enough for Russell, he approached Mark Twain. "Hey um,
I hear your quite a billiards player. Fifty dollars say you can't
beat me. Think you can?"
"I don't think of you at all sir," Twain stated rudely.
"Well here's seventy dollars. My whole roll that says you play
billiards like you write - rotten!"
"I won't play with you Mr. Russell. But you may set up the balls. As
difficult a three cushion shot you choose. Winner takes all."
Russell couldn't believe his ears. "You mean you’re gonna make any
three cushion shot I set up?"
. "Exactly," said Twain.
"Come along Mr. Writer man!”. As Russell walked by us he said, "Mr.
'Roughing It's' gonna give me a present.” We watched them walk into
the billiard’s room. Mark didn’t even finish eating. He just sat his
utensils down and hurried in to watch. I got up and followed him.
Russell sat up the balls, then offered Mr. Twain a stick, but he
wanted to pick out his own cue stick. Then he placed the ball on the
table, prepared his play, laid his money on the table then made his
play. He hit the ball and it hit all three corners! “Wilickers!”
Mark declared…whatever that meant!
Mr. Twain put his cue stick back in it’s place. "Braggin' and
brayin's the same thing Mr. Russell. The only difference is the
later noise comes from the throat of an animal with much larger
ears.” Mr. Twin picked up his money as Russell stewed. “Good
Russell stood at the table, trying to figure out how Mr. Twain EVER
made that shot! "Say, he called me a mule.”
I couldn’t help but smile. Mark started laughing and I immediately
put a warning hand on my shoulder. “Mark,’ I warned sternly for him
to mind his manners.
“Excuse me!” Mark said as we left.
The next day, my boy and I went fishing at Mark’s favorite fishing
hole. Mr. Twain was sitting on the bank feeling very depressed and
alone. I told Mark to go on and get our spot while I hobbled the
horses. Mark started toward his spot when he saw Mr. Twain. “Good
morning,” Mr. Twain said when he saw Mark coming.
“Good morning, Mr. Twain!” Mark declared with a happy smile. Mark
looked toward his line in the water and saw a fish on it. “You got a
bite, Mr. Twain! Hurry before it gets away!” Mr. Twain told Mark to
bring it in and he did with excitement. He even let Mark keep the
fish. That made Mark really happy! As Mark started taking the fish
off the hook, he began talking to Mr. Twain about his latest book.
Being a father, I stayed off watching in the distance, happy to see
my boy so excited over something! “Say, Mr. Twain…Some of us kids
have been saving our money from our chores and we sent for a
subscription to that magazine that’s been printing chapters from
your new book.”
“Huckleberry Finn?” Mr. Twain asked.
“Uh huh,” Mark declared. “Sure is excitin’! They print a chapter
each month. The only thing is, it’s take a long time for mail to get
here from Boston.” Mr. Twain wasn’t too interested in the
conversation. Mark said that since he was here, some of the kids
were wondering if maybe he could tell them what’s going to happen in
the next chapter so they won’t have to wait to find out.
"What's a matter with you boy?
do you keep botherin' me? Huckleberry Finn is dead!" Mark lost his
smile and hurt replaced it. "He's dead! I tell ya' he's dead!" Mr.
Twain was yelling at Mark.
His yelling upset Mark, as it would any kid who had just been yelled
at by their idol. I watched my son with his spirit crushed run
towards home as fast as he could. It upset me to see Mark so
disappointed and upset.
I hurriedly walked up to Mr. Twain. I couldn’t help myself! I had to
give this man a piece of my mind! "Mr. Twain, you shouldn’t have
talked to the boy that way. You’re his idol. A boy's idol shatters
easily. You ought to know that, you’ve got a son."
Mr. Twain turned and looked at me. He had such a sad look on his
face! He turned from me and stared off into the distance. Then he
slowly walked away. I looked after him, then looked down toward the
ground. A letter was laying there. I bent over and picked it up.
I read it. The words almost broke my heart.
When I got back to the ranch, I found my son in the barn. He was
very upset and crying. I walked up behind him and laid his Mark
Twain book down beside him. Then I straightened up. "I found your
Tom Sawyer book in the waste bucket."
Mark lifted his head and looked at it. Then he smacked it and it
fell to the floor of the barn. "I don't want it anymore!" He yelled.
I bent down next to him and spoke quietly with sad emotion. "Maybe
you'll change your mind son when you read this. Mr. Twain left it at
the stream. It's from his wife. It explains a lot of things."
But Mark didn’t care. "I don't care about anything that has to do
"Read it, he has a deep sorrow, Mark."
"Well, just 'cause he's sad doesn't mean he has to treat everyone
else like dirt!"
"Once you said you wanted to be like Mark Twain. You're acting
exactly like him now,” I told him sternly.
Mark didn’t like my statement. He knew I was accusing him. He
hesitatingly asked the question. "How do you mean?"
"Shutting folks out because you've been hurt. The letter says his
son Langdon died a few months ago."
“Died?” Mark repeated in a grieved voice.
“Mm hm. The newspapers tried to spare the family that's why we
hadn't heard about it out here. Mr. Twain blames himself for the
"But why?" Mark wondered.
I could answer that question. "He took him riding in an open
carriage on a very cold day. The blanket slipped off. Mr. Twain
didn't notice because he was thinking about his story he was
writing. That night Langdon came down with diphtheria. Mr. Twain
never forgave himself, he's been running ever since."
Mark remembered the words Mr. Twain had spoken by the fishing hole.
“He said…Huckleberry Finn was dead,” he said softly. I nodded.
“That’s the story he was thinking about in the carriage. He hasn’t
written a word since.” Mark didn’t say anything as he thought on
what I had told him. His anger was replaced with sympathy for the
writer. “I’m gonna return this to Mr. Twain.” I folded the letter
and put it in my pocket.
“Pa?” I was still bent down to his level. I looked into his eyes.
“Can I go with ya?”
I smiled, happy he wanted to come. “Sure.” I gave him a love pat on
the backside. “Come on.”
When we got to the hotel, I asked Eddie if Mr. Twain was in his
room. Eddie pointed behind me.
Twain was staring out the window into the street. “He’s been
standing there looking out of that window for about fifteen
minutes.” I told Mark to stay there so I could talk to Mr. Twain
I handed him the letter and he thanked me. Then he turned back to
the window. “Loosing a son is hard, Mr. Twain. I know how I’d feel
if I lost-“
He didn’t let me finish. “How could you know? How could you possibly
know?” He spoke to me, but never turned to look at me. I started to
speak, but he wouldn’t let me. "How could you possibly know how it
feels to kill your own son?" I told him he didn't kill his own son.
"That's what I did Mr. McCain, I murdered Langdon! Murdered him! For
a bare foot urchin and Huckleberry Finn!"
Just then Russell barged in. He wanted a chance to win back what he
had lost. I told him to get. Mr. Twain and I were talking. He said
he had the same loser's rights as anybody else. Again I told him to
get out of here.
Then Mr. Twain turned around. "Just a minute. Nothing you will say
can possibly help! The past is unchangeable." He turned from me.
“Name your stakes, Mr. Russell.” They started off toward the
"I’ll play ya Five points for anything you want!" Russell declared.
"A hundred dollars?”
They laid their money on the table. Mark and I slowly walked in and
watched. Russell broke. He played a few plays before it was Mr.
Huck’s turn. Mark was nervous. He hoped Mr. Twain would soon show
his stuff. Russell was awful cocky! He got three shots down. It was
Mr. Twain’s turn.
Mr. Twain chalked up his cue stick, then bent down to study the
table and decide what his best shot would be. As he studied the
table, he looked up to see Mark excitedly watching him. He knew that
Mark was counting on him. He had let his boy down, and he’d let Mark
down. He didn’t deserve Mark’s pride.
He purposely missed the shot. Russell was happy and finished the
game off without a problem. He was being really cocky!
"A cues a little heavier then the pen, ain't it?” Russell had said
before making his last two shots."
Mark knew Mr. Twain had lost on purpose. He suddenly shouted,
“Mr. Twain’s got losers rights too!"
We all looked at Mark. “Alright, kid, I’ll give him a chance to get
even!” Russell declared. He looked at Mr. Twain. He saw a pocket
watch. Figuring it was solid gold and worth a hundred dollars, he
was willing to use it as a wager.
“Oh no, I can’t wager it,” Mr. Twain stated as he started to walk
"You know you can't beat me, huh?" Russell stated.
He told Russell it had a sentimental value. "It was a gift to me to
celebrate…the birth of my son."
Russell laughed and told him he was afraid of loosing it. “I am not
afraid, sir,” Mr. Twain declared. “I am not afraid.”
I spoke up then because I knew differently. "He's right Mr. Twain.
You’re afraid. Well, the past took something you loved. Now you
refuse to go on living. You can't do that Mr. Twain. You haven’t the
right. The future belongs to the world. If your not afraid Mr. Twain
why don't you wager your past against your future?" "Just how much
was your son worth to you?"
Twain stood there and just looked at me. We stared at each other for
several moments. I watched as the realization entered him. He walked
over, picked up the cue stick. "Five points, my break!"
We watched as Mr. Twain broke the cues. Then he played….and
played…and played…until he cleared the table. Russell didn't even
get a shot off. Mark was so excited to watch! Mr. Twain held out his
hand and Russell handed him the money. Mark rushed up to Twain and
shook his hand. "Gee
willikers Mr. Twain, that was wonderful!" My boy declared. His faith
had been restored – and so had Mr. Twain’s!
“Now,” a renewed Mark Twain said as he put an arm around Mark’s
shoulders and started walking out of the room. “You and your friends
don’t understand this history post game.” As they walked out, he
turned and looked at me. I saw “Thank you” written all over his
The stage was ready to leave. Mark and I saw Mr. Twain off. He
promised Mark he’d finish the story of Huckleberry Finn just as fast
as he could. Mark was anxious to see how it ended. “So am I,” Mr.
Twain declared. He said goodbye. He thanked me for everything. I was
glad to help!
“Pa, when I grow up, I’m gonna be a writer just like Mr. Twain!”
“Well now, that’s quite an ambition, son!” Mark declared.
“Yes sir!” I shook my head. That’s my boy!
McCarthy played Mark Twain in The
Shattered Idol ― Suspicion as Winslow Quince
the eccentric man Lucas & Mark ran into who was stranded with a
Jack Elam appeared in five episodes — Duel of Honor
as the arrogant Sim Groder who constantly picked on the Count —
Tension as Gavin Martin,
he was the cowboy who got killed with the pitch fork
Man as Gus Smith, he's the dude that John Beaumont killed
in the saloon — Knight Errant as Gates, he was Don
Chimera Del Laredo's Esquire, the one who declared there was a
rattlesnake in the woodpile —
Shattered Idol as Russell
the pool shark.
appeared in two episodes
— Eight Hours to Die
as the Hangman in Taos — The Shattered Idol as
Mr. Loomis, the stagecoach driver.
appeared in twelve episodes as Eddie Halstead owner/hotel clerk of the Hotel Madera.
He was first
introduced to The Rifleman in Duel of Honor.
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
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.
Mary Jo Tierney
as Holly the waitress in the hotel.
I received an e-mail from a Rifleman fan and thought ya'll might be
interested in it..... Hi Margie, your site is really great. It
stands as a loving tribute to a show and a time I'll never forget.
There's a bit of music I can't seem to find anywhere!! It's a waltz
that's sometimes played as an intro or outro to the show. You can
hear it at the end of The Long Goodbye and also at
the beginning of the episode that has Mark Twain (The Shattered
Idol) in it. Oddly enough this same piece of music was also
used as the theme for the Yancy Derringer show. I'm not
sure which show used it first but I'm guessing that composers must
have been hard to come by in that era
I've attached a sound byte that I found on the web, but the sound
quality is not the greatest.
I forwarded Kevin's e-mail to John Gilbert, Herschel's son and here
is his answer.....Interesting that you mention Yancy Derringer. I
haven't heard anything about that show in years. I wasn't aware that
the music was used for this show. Knowing this however, I'm assuming
that it was a FOUR STAR production since my father was music
director there and occasionally recycled his film scores for other
purposes. Others also did this with music from OPEN SECRET, which
was used in dozens if not hundreds of episodes of SUPERMAN, RAWHIDE,
TARZAN and even LEAVE IT TO BEAVER in the early 1950s. The piece of
music you are referring to came from the 1956 film called THE NAKED
HILLS (aka THE FOUR SEASONS) with David Wayne, James Barton, and
Keenan Wynn. My father composed the score for this film and used its
music extensively in numerous Rifleman episodes. You can sometimes
find it on EBay or in a video store that specializes in old movies.
My father mined his film scores for cues to use in the Rifleman and
I have heard cues from perhaps a dozen or so films interspersed
occasionally into Rifleman episodes for a particular effect. I hope
Best regards, John Gilbert
Thanks Kevin Gallagher & John Gilbert for this great question and
piece of information!
You've heard Lucas' story, now hear
Character Actors Index Page
Have you ever been watching TV or a movie and
wondered who is that guy?
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