"Welcome to the McCain Ranch"
The Silent Knife
A young man walked into North Fork one day. His reasons were innocent and simple enough, but there was a deep ache in this man, deep inside. It was an ache that only I recognized, and I yearned to help him. This is his story.
He walked down the street of North Fork one day. Everything was quiet as he walked in his moccasins and Indian attire. Around his waist was strapped his weapon – not a gun, but a large knife. He was silent as he walked toward the saloon, but the saloon was anything but silent. A man was inside bragging to his friends about a poker game he had just won.
The strange young man banged three times on the counter to get Sweeney’s attention. Sweeney walked over to him, still smiling from the story that was being told. What’ll it be, boy?” Sweeny hollered over the noise. The boy pointed to the Red Eye.
Then the bragging man turned to the young stranger. “Hey, the drinks are on me, fella. Celebrating a little strike I just made.” The boys laughed at his attempt at humor.
But the stranger slid his money across the counter. “Uh oh,” Ben MacCowan stated. “I guess my money’s no good, fellas!” The men laughed again. MacCowan began walking around this stranger. He began making fun of his clothes. “What are you doing, boy? You playing injun or somethin’?” He began mocking the stranger. He made mock Indian noises.
Then he saw the knife securely strapped to his side. “Hey,” he commented. “That’s a mighty fancy toad-sticker you got there! Aren’t you afraid you’ll cut yourself with such a big knife?” He laughed again. But then he tried to grab it. The stranger grew angry and threw MacCowan to the ground. He had him pinned to the ground, his knife held to his throat.
The stranger stared into MacCowan’s eyes. Then he realized something. He couldn’t kill him – there was no reason. MacCowan was afraid. He got up and slammed out of the saloon, very upset.
MacCowan was mad. “That fellow don’t care about living very long!” he declared.
About that time, Mark and I were riding into town. We tied our horses outside the Marshal’s office. I sent Mark to buy his nails while I went to the saddle shop. “Well, I’ve only got a nickel,” Mark stated.
“You can put the nails on my account,” I told him.
“Oh?” He asked hopefully. “And uh…what about the nickel?”
I knew what he was fishing for, but it wasn’t going to work! “Oh, you’re not gonna buy any more peanut brittle!” I informed him as I pulled a bag out of his back pocket. “Not while you still got half a bag left!” I started to walk off with it, but Mark grabbed it from me and laughed as he stuffed a handful in his mouth.
The young man from the saloon was in the Hardware Store buying a few things…silently. When Mark walked in, she told Mark she’d be with him as soon as she finished with this customer. Mark didn’t mind waiting too much. He was pretty interested in some rifles he knew he couldn’t have. But then the stranger walked away from the counter and over to Mark. Mark saw the knife attached at the man’s side before he was the man. Then he looked at the man. He was instantly curious.
Myrtle was ready for him then. She asked him what he needed. Mark was so engrossed in the knife the stranger wore that he had to pull himself away to go over to the counter. He told her he needed two pounds of ten penny nails and a door latch. She had to ask him several questions to get that information out of him, as he was overwhelming interested in this stranger.
He stood at the counter waiting and snacking on his peanut brittle. He felt the stranger looking at him so turned around, but the stranger turned away, not wanting Mark to know he was staring. Mark turned back to the counter to sign for the supplies. The stranger turned and looked over his shoulder, interested in what Mark was doing. But again, as Mark turned toward him, the stranger looked away.
Mark walked over to him. "That sure is a swell looking knife you've got. I've never seen a knife quite like that one before.” The stranger slowly turned and looked at Mark. "Want some peanut brittle? It's real good." The stranger shook his head. "What's a matter, can't you talk?" The young man dropped the canteen he was looking at. His sudden movement startled Mark, and he started to back away. Mark turned to leave but the stranger went after him, trying to get his attention. Mark turned and looked at him. The stranger grabbed his bag off the counter and started out the door, silently motioning for Mark to follow him outside.
Mark followed the stranger to the side of the building. The man walked over to a wagon. He pointed to a bung in a barrel. Then he threw the knife and hit it dead center.
A very surprised Mark ran and pulled the knife out of the barrel. He ran back to the stranger. "Gee, I wish I could do that." He handed the knife back to him. "I almost forgot. My name’s Mark, what's yours?" The young man kneeled to the ground. "You gotta sore throat?" He shook his head no. Mark kneeled down in front of him. "You...you mean you can't talk?" He then pulled his handkerchief that was tied around his neck down. Mark saw a big, ugly scar. The scar saddened Mark. "I'm sorry."
The young man then put his hands on Mark’s shoulders so he’d look at him. He desperately wanted to talk to Mark. He began motioning with his hands, trying to ask Mark a question. He asked Mark if he could write. "Well, sure, can you?" He shook his head no. Then he tried to ask Mark a question. Mark did his best to understand the motions he was making. "Can I.....write my.....brand?" He shook his head no. "Oh my name.....me write my name." He shook his head yes. Mark then wrote his name in the ground. He motioned to Mark that was his name too. He had never saw his name written before.
Mark thought that was pretty amazing. Then he got an idea. “Say, Mark, We-well, if your gonna be in town for awhile, maybe we could meet and…a-and I can teach you a little writin’, and you can teach me how to throw a knife.”
The young man, whom from here on out will be called Mark C., agreed. Mark started thinking about when they could meet. He had to fix the chicken coop tomorrow, so wondered if Mark C. could meet him on Saturday morning?”
“Mark!” I hollered from my horse. I was ready to go. “Mark, come on, son! We gotta get going!”
He told me he was coming, but then he turned back around to Mark C. He assured Mark C. that he would see him on Saturday, and he was really happy to have met him. I hollered his name again.
He ran over to me. “Who were you talking to, son?” You could just imagine my surprise when Mark told me his name. “Mark?”
“That’s his name. Only, he can’t talk. He showed me a scar.” Mark put a hand to his throat to show me where the scar was. “He must have had an operation on his voice or something.”
I could tell Mark felt sorry for him, and I was concerned that I didn’t know who this young man was that had befriended my son. I asked him what his last name was. “I don’t know,” Mark answered a bit defensively. “I haven’t seen him around here before.” I was a father – I couldn’t help but be a little curious to know something about the people my boy hung around with.
“Neither have I,” Mark answered. “I met him at the store. I’m going to meet him Saturday morning, teach him how to write.”
I reached out and touched his shoulder. “That’s a very fine thing to do son,” I complimented him. We left for home.
Mark C. waved at us as we rode out of town. But he suddenly lost his smile as he realized that MacCowan and his friend were coming towards him from the saloon. MacCowan wanted to even up the score. Mark C. wanted to ignore the situation. He didn’t let on that he knew MacCowan was behind him, but went to climb on his horse. MacCowan suddenly grabbed him from behind. But Mark C. knew how to take care of himself in a fight. He flipped MacCowan over his shoulder.
MacCowan started to go for his gun. Mark C. was faster then him, though, and held the knife in his hand, ready to throw it if MacCowan went for his gun. MacCowan knew he was beat. “You get out of town!” he warned Mark C. “Far and fast! If you don’t, I’ll find ya' and cut ya' down to nothing!”
Mark C. was smart. He never turned his back on MacCowan, but held his knife up, ready to fling it if MacCowan made a move for his gun. He didn’t turn his back until he was on his horse. Then he quickly rode out of town.
Mark had ridden off early this morning, and I hadn’t seen him since. I was getting a little concerned about him, and was relieved to see him quickly riding into the yard. “Where have you been all morning son?” I was working on oiling the wheels on the wagon. He had been with his friend, Mark. He’d taken him up to the place where he camped. I asked Mark to oil the fifth wheel underneath.
“It must be awful to be alone, Pa,” Mark declared as I lifted the wagon.
“I guess it is, but just the same, I don’t think you should go traipsing off with him without telling me,” I lightly scolded him. “We don’t know too much about him.”
Mark informed me that Mark C. had told him a lot about himself today. “’Course, he’s kinda hard to understand sometimes, but today he told me how he lost his voice.” I was suddenly interested to hear this. “The Indians killed his parents when he was a little boy and they took him away with them. Well…he said he was awful scared – that he was so scared he couldn’t learn to talk their language. Well, they thought that he was only being stubborn or something, so they cut out his voice so he wouldn’t be able to talk at all. Then he told me something else. He said that since the knife cut out his voice, he’d have to let it talk for him.”
Wow, that was powerful stuff. I could tell that this bothered Mark as much as it bothered me. I was upset and bothered by this. From Mark’s last statement, I feared he had a lot of anger inside him. Since he was hanging around my son, I felt it my parental duty to get to know this young man more. As I was thinking and reflecting on this, Mark’s sad voice said, “You can let it down now.”
I turned to my son and bent down toward him. “Mark, why don’t you go out and invite your friend back here for supper. I’d like to meet him.”
My words pleased my son. “I knew you would. He’d like to meet you too.” I told him to ride back out to his camp and bring him here after he got his chores done. By the time he got back, I’d have supper ready. Mark did just that.
We had a really nice supper. I didn’t have any trouble getting the two Marks to eat apple pie. I asked Mark C. if he wanted another piece and he nodded. I knew I didn’t have to ask my Mark – his middle name was pie! “Well, I can’t help it if Pa’s such a good cook! Fact is, I think Pa missed his calling.”
We laughed at that, but Mark suddenly became very sad. I turned and saw my bow standing in the corner of the fireplace. I decided that I should see just how much anger Mark had cooped up inside of him. “I hear you two have been having yourselves quite a time out on your camp at Willow’s Creek,” I stated carefully. Reminds me of my younger days back in the nations.” I stood up and made my way to the fireplace. “My friends and I used to go camping every chance we got up in the Ozarks.” I picked up my bow. That’s when I learned my camping know how, from the masters, the Cherokees.”
My words had the effect on him I had expected. He angrily stood up, knocking over his chair, and went to the fireplace, his back turned to me. I told him I knew of his treatment by the Indians. I turned and walked back to him. “That’s a shame son. That’s a shame. No one can blame you for feeling the way you do. Right now you’re full of bitterness and hatred, but you can’t let that knife speak for you for the rest of your life. Now, even though you got hurt real bad, there’s still a lot of things you can do to help yourself. One of the best is to get an education. Now I know a special school in Denver that would be just right for ya'. It’s pretty expensive – might cost as much as $500 tuition, but you can earn your way by getting a job. As a matter of fact, I’d be very glad to help you get started. What do you say?”
My voice was soft and kind. I tried to show him that I wanted to help him. But he suddenly turned, took my bow, and broke it in half. “Mark, I tried to show you I was your friend. You just don’t seem to know what the word friend means!” I stated gruffly. He threw the broken bow down and ran out the door.
My Mark jumped up from the table and ran toward the door yelling for Mark C. to come back. I grabbed his arm and told him to let him go. But Mark jerked his arm away from me. He was suddenly angry at me, telling me in an angry voice that I shouldn’t have talked to him like that.
My voice remained calm as I looked sternly in my son’s eyes. “What should I have said? Thanks for breaking a bow that meant a great deal to me?” But then he accused me of loosing my temper. The two Marks were the only one who had lost their tempers. “I lost my temper?” I asked, not appreciating Mark’s tone of voice to me.
He then became calm. “Oh, not exactly. But you sure bawled him out!”
“Well, maybe I did. But only because I was thinking of him. You see son, a lot of times people can't help doing things they know is wrong. But when they find out they can't get away with it, well way down inside they feel better."
Mark had calmed down considerably, but his voice still held sadness in it. "I think I know what you mean," he said.
I studied him for a moment, then suggested he get started on the dishes. But as I watched him gather up the dirty dishes, I knew he was struggling with something to. He was trying to understand this situation. That’s why I suddenly called him over to me. I put my hand on his shoulder, looking lovingly into his eyes, and said, “I think it might be a good idea if tomorrow morning you rode back to your friend’s camp. I think he’ll be wanting to see you.”
The next morning, Mark C. was grooming his horse when MacCowan arrived at his camp. He got off his horse, but Mark C kept his back turned from him. “I wanted you to leave, but now I’m glad you didn’t,” he stated. “’Cause I’ve got a lot of evening up to do.” Mark C. heard the cock of his gun and knew he was at a disadvantage. MacCowan told him to throw his knife down on the ground.
He moved toward Mark C. "What's a matter with you? Look, I'm gettin' tired of talkin' and gettin' no answers. Now throw down that knife." MacCowan moved closer to Mark C. "For the last time throw it down." He was getting madder. His voice rose with each word. “For the last time throw it down!" "I'm talkin' to you, answer me." Again MacCowan moved closer, poking his gun in Mark C's back. "What is this? Are you a dummy or something?"
With that remark, Mark C's turn and plunged at MacCowan and they struggled. Mark C. got the best of MacCowan, and again pinned him to the ground. Mark C. put his hands around MacCowan’s throat and began choking him.
Mark rode in then. He rushed to Mark C yelling "Mark what happened?" But Mark C. kept choking MacCowan. "Mark let him go, please Mark, your gonna kill him! Please let go." With that Mark pushed Mark C and his hold on MacCowan was broken. "What happened?" Mark C ran off.
Mark helped MacCowan up. "That's the third time he's jumped me," said MacCowan. "He ought to be locked up or something. He's an animal."
"What did you do to make him act like that?" Mark asked. "You must have said or done something."
“I didn’t do nothing! He wouldn’t answer me when I talked to him. I just asked him if he was a dummy, that’s all!”
That’s when Mark informed him that he couldn’t talk – that’s why he got mad.
MacCowan said he didn't do nothing, he wouldn't answer him when he talked to him. He asked him if he was a dummy. Mark explained to MacCowan that Mark C couldn't talk, that why he got so mad. Mark ran off after Mark C., but he couldn’t find him.
He came back and got me. Mark was really afraid for his friend. I went back to the camp with him. Mark told me about what Mark C. had tried to do to MacCowan. I told Mark that he had a lot of hatred built up inside him. “He could explode like a keg of powder if he’s pushed too far!”
Mark didn’t think McCowan should have talked to Mark C. like that. I agreed with him, he shouldn’t have! I figured maybe he went into town. That’s where we headed.
But when we rode into town, there was a crowd gathered around the stagecoach. The men were reporting a robbery of their coach that had occurred. They had slowed down to take the curves, and all of a sudden there was a big man on top of the coach. He pulled a big knife on them. “But what beats me is why he just took $500!” They never got a look at him, he stayed behind them the whole time. He never said a word. He left the knife do all the talkin' for him. He wore buckskin britches and injun shoes.
I turned and looked at Mark. We knew who it was.
Suddenly, MacCowan spoke up. “That sounds like the hot head who pulled into town yesterday! First he held a knife on me in the saloon, then he jumped me out here on the street! I knew he was real trouble all along!” MacCowan knew where he was camped, and said he’d take a couple men and bring him back. But I knew he’d never make it back alive.
"No you won't MacCowan, you'll stay right were you are." He wanted to know how I had a say in this. "With the marshal out of town this is a matter for the city council, and speaking for them, MacCowan, we don't want you handling our law." I told them I knew the boy and he didn't strike me as being an outlaw. “If we go gunning for him, we’ll push him into being one. I’ve got a hunch why he hit the stage, and I think that if I talk to him, I can bring him and the five hundred dollars back. If I’m alone.”
They agreed to let me go. I told Mark to stay here.
I went back to Mark C’s camp. His horse was there, but he was no where in sight. I knew he was there somewhere. I called out to him, but he didn’t answer. I felt the ashes on the campfire. They were still warm. I don’t know how, but I suddenly knew he was there behind me. I slowly stood up, knowing he was about to jump me.
He jumped on me from above and tackled me. He held his knife to my throat. “I didn’t come to harm you, I’m sure you know that. And I don’t expect you to harm me. I cam to you to talk to you as a friend. Now, I think I know why you hit that stage today. But you can’t strike back at the whole world because of what happened between you and MacCowan! Or what happened between you and those Indians. Don't let the worse kind of people warp your judgment. Now, you’ve had long talks with my son, and I’m proud to call him my son. You know what a fine boy he is. Don’t destroy his faith in you. He thinks you’re a fine, decent person he’d like to call your friend. I want him to keep thinking that way."
He then released me. But he collapsed in the dirt. "Now let's take that $500 back where it belongs. I’ll try and make ‘em see your side of it.
He jammed the knife in the dirt and cried. I put a comforting hand on his back.
Mike had a letter from the Denver office. Mark C would be put on probation. He would be able to get a job to help pay for his schooling in Denver. "Young man...You owe a great debt of thanks to Mr. McCain."
"Oh, he doesn't have to thank me, Mike.” I went to stand in front of him. As I looked at him, I stated, “It was his turn to get a fair break." He looked at me. Then he ran out to his horse.
Mark turned and looked at me on what to do. I motioned for him to follow him outside. We walked outside and watched him take an Indian that he carved with the name Mark on it out of his saddle bag. He handed it to Mark.
Mark turned again and looked at me. He was looking for my approval. I smiled ever so slightly, but gave him a small nod.
Mark turned back to him. "Thanks...Mark." Mark C. then got on his horse and headed for Denver. "I'm sure glad everything worked out for him," Mark stated. "Only, do you think he can keep out of trouble?"
"Well now that a certain long legged doggie taught him the meaning of friendship, he oughta get along just fine son."
I walked over to my boy and put a hand on each shoulder. Mark looked back down at the carved Indian, then up at me. “Aw,” he laughed shortly, knowing I was very proud of the part he had played in restoring the faith in our friend, Mark C.
piddlin' stuff.....Brad Weston played Mark C. He's the one who couldn't talk.
Richard Devon has appeared in seven episodes ― The Spiked Rifle as Austin Stark, the leader of the gang and the man who fooled Lucas into thinking Mark was kidnapped ― Blood Brother as Jethroe, the man in charge of the People's Committee who was looking for John Stoddard ― The Grasshopper as Walt Ryerson, the man in the handcuffs who Lucas applied a tourniquet to ― The Silent Knife as Ben Macowan, he was the guy who picked on big Mark ― Miss Milly as Jack Adams, he was the man Milly hired to be her bill collector ― The Most Amazing Man as Lovett, he was the gunslinger who forced Wade Randall into a gun fight. He was so brave until he saw what a good a shot Wade was (with Lucas' help) ― The Stand-In as Gus Potter, the prison guard that passed out when the two guards were drinkin'.
Amanda Ames/Eileen Harley/Wallace Earl appeared in five episodes ― The Hangman as Myrtle, the owner of the Feed and Grain Store ― The Silent Knife as Myrtle, owner of the Hardware store ― The Executioner as Ruth, the waitress.
Amanda Ames was credited as Eileen Harley in The Retired Gun as Claire Wheatley Carney, who was an old friend of Margaret's and married to The Retired Gun. She also appeared in Short Rope for a Tall Man as Mrs. Lovering, her husband bought Lucas's cattle.
James Chandler appeared in two episodes ― The Mind Reader as a rancher in the crowd ― The Silent Knife as Harvey Andrews, the stagecoach driver.
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.
Robert B. Williams played Mike Harrison the man in charge of the stagecoach line. He has done many things and I know you have seen him before, several times.
Ethan Laidlaw appeared in The Rifleman quite a few times unaccredited ― The Indian as a townsfolk — The Mind Reader as a townsman in the audience — Legacy as the man at the funeral — The Coward as a Diner Patron — Heller as a townsfolk — The Grasshopper as a passenger on the train — Strange Town as a townsfolk at Droshek Town — The Silent Knife as a townsfolk — Short Rope for a Tall Man as one of Crown's Henchmen — Honest Abe as a townsman — Two Ounces of Tin as a townsfolk ― The Day the Town Slept as a townsman.
Earl Spainard was in ten episodes ― Day of the Hunter as one of the townsmen ― Silent Knife as a barfly ― The Assault as one of the townsmen - A Friend in Need as Harry the Bartender - Two Ounces of Tin as one of the townsmen ― Outlaw Shoes as one of the townsmen ― Guilty Conscience as one of the townsmen, you can also see Earl in the bar in Stud City ― Short Rope for a Tall Man as one of the townsmen ― The Spoiler as one of the townsmen ― None So Blind as one of the townsman.
Edwin Rand as a barfly & a drinking buddy of Ben Macowan.
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.
Bloopers - The Silent Knife
You've heard Lucas' story, now hear Mark's
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