"Welcome to the McCain Ranch"
This was turning out to be one whopper of a year for Mark and I! It seems the older Mark got, the more trouble we both got in. First we had that problem up in the High Country where we were both put into forced labor for a time, then Mark was kidnapped and held for ransom. Now Mark and I were about to face yet another challenge. Yes, I said Mark and I. Mark was the center of my latest problem…again!
You see, Mark and I had gone on this hunting trip for our winter meat, but we weren’t having much luck!
But before I get to that part of the story, let me tell you about the goings on in a town called Lordsburg, New Mexico Territory. More specifically, it was in the Territorial Saloon. There were some men inside that saloon who were making a lot of trouble. The Sheriff was outside waiting for some volunteers to come back him up. But one of the townsmen came up to him and gave him the bad news – these were all the volunteers! He was fighting the Skull gang, a gang that was large and powerful. “What do you wanta do? Just stand here and let Holt Coyle run this town?” The Sheriff asked the townsman. There were four of them and for members of the gang in there – and the four in the saloon were drunk.
The Sheriff advised his friend to go to Las Cruces and bring back the Sheriff and some help to protect them against Coyle and his gang. When Holt Coyle came, they’d be ready for him!
About that time, one of the men ran out of the saloon. The Sheriff knocked him over the head with his gun. One down – three to go.
Now, as I was saying while ago, Mark and I were on a hunting trip. Mark was gathering firewood for a fire. I rode up to him on Razor and told him I was going over the hill to try to pick up some fresh tracks. “I’ll have supper ready when you get back,” Mark promised.
“Good! Maybe we’ll have better luck tomorrow!” I stated.
“I hope so,” Mark answered as he watched me leave. But no sooner had I left when Mark saw a buck scampering through the meadow. He started to yell for me but realized that he was already too far away. Mark knew he was supposed to stay by the campfire, but he couldn’t resist! He followed the deer for quite a ways. He climbed up on a bluff to see where he was. When he tried to climb down, he fell off, hitting his head on the rock. He hit is hard enough to be knocked out!
I rode back into camp after dark to find everything just like that – dark. Mark hadn’t built the campfire. “Mark!” I hollered, but got no answer. I called his name again and looked around. “Mark, where are you?” I was getting mad! That boy was supposed to stay at the campfire! I bent down near camp sight – he hadn’t even lit the fire. I set out looking for him. I was able to track him to the bluff. But when I climbed up on it and shouted his name, I saw nothing and heard nothing. His trail was gone, and so was he! I had to get help to look for him.
I hurried back to the camp sight and left Mark a note to stay put when he got back. Then I got on Razor and took off looking for him. There’s no telling where that boy was, but one thing was for sure – he wasn’t where he was supposed to be!
I looked and looked! I rode quite a ways looking for him. I had to get help! I rode until I finally came to a ranch. I decided to see if they had seen him or could help me look. But when I got off my horse and started into the gate, someone fired a shot. I didn’t like that too much and went for my rifle. “Leave it,” a voice demanded. I turned to see a man walking up to me. I slid my rifle back into the boot. “Now, walk away from that horse.
“Look mister, I need help-“ I started. But he fired a shot at me.
“Now, you do as I say or the next one won’t miss!” the man demanded. I walked away from my horse.
"Now look mister, I need help. What place is this?"
"It's the Skull ranch and you’re lucky to be alive.” Two other men came up to me. “Now get movin’.” One of the men took my rifle out of the boot and handed it to the first man. Then they all escorted me inside.
Meanwhile, Mark woke up and was confused at first. He looked around and finally was able to remember where he was and what he was doing. He made his way back to the camp only to find me gone.
The men led me inside an elaborate house. A man sat in his chair. "I found him riding up to the gate," said Pascal – he’s the one who found me.
The man looked at me. "You’re a long ways from anywhere mister, what's your business?"
I started towards him. "I came for help. I need some riders. My boy's lost out there somewhere."
"Where?" Ask Holt.
"This side of the low range, about three miles. We were out hunting and got separated."
Holt got up, he started to walk around the room. "You boys feel like taking a little ride, lookin' for a lost kid?" There were no takers. “It appears they’re not interested.”
All I cared about right now was finding my boy! "Look mister! I've got to find him, if he's hurt or can't....."
"Shut up!" Holt yelled. I did. "That's better." Holt looked at my rifle that Pascal was still holding. "Is that his gun?" He took my rifle from Pascal. Holt told me to sit down.
"Look mister if you won't help me at least..." I started.
But he interrupted me. "Do as I say, McCain...sit down!" I sat down. "Sure, I know you. This gun of yours has quite a reputation, even down here." He sat down. "You’re lucky Pascal, they call this one "The Rifleman. My name is Holt Coyle; does that mean anything to you?"
"Skull Ranch, Holt Coyle, they go together," I answered.
"Did you know this was the Skull when you came in here?"
"Not until he already had a gun on me."
"Too bad! But since you already know me and of my ranch, you must also know that no one leaves here alive, unless I say so.” He threw my rifle to Warren and told him to keep an eye on me and to kill me if he had to.
He started outside. I jumped up and went over to him. “My boy’s out there! Would you listen to reason?” Warren stopped me. He stuck my rifle in my chest. He ordered me to sit down.
Holt ordered his men to go find Mark and bring him back here. He was going to find out if I was as good with my rifle as everyone said I was.
Mark had gone back to camp. He found the note and built the fire, waiting for me to come back. He heard horses approaching. “Pa? Pa, over here!” he yelled. He jumped up, but saw Holt’s men there. “Oh, I thought you were my Pa.”
“Luke McCain your father?” one of the men asked him. Mark said I was. “Alright boy, saddle up!”
"What for?" Mark asked. Mark started to back up, but they grabbed him. “Wait! You can’t do this! I gotta wait for my Pa,” Mark declared. But they forced him to go with them.
I sat in the chair trying to figure out what was going on. He offered me something to eat and drink, but I declined. All I wanted was to go find my boy! I wasn’t in the mood for food, drink, or conversation. He bragged about making his own cactus wine – he didn’t like going into town to get stuff when he could grow it right here.
“You see, I like to keep my ranch self-sufficient. We raise our own beef, make our own food, bake our own bread. Everyone here has a talent.”
“So I’ve heard,” I answered.
“And just what have you heard?”
“Skull Ranch – Haven for every outlaw and saddle tramp in the country,” I answered.
“And the law can’t touch us.” He finished off his drink and started pouring another one. With a smile, he bragged again. “We’ve even got our own cemetery. A boot hill for law men. Right Warren?”
Warren bent over me as he spoke. “And we bury ‘em deep!” We heard horses ride up. Warren left to keep them outside until Holt was ready for them.
“Of course not every lawman is buried in the cemetery who should be. In Lordsburg there’s one that bothers me – quite a little thorn in my side. You know what he did? Some of my boys were in town having a few drinks…relaxing a little. He threw them into jail.”
“That’s his job,” I stated.
“Perhaps. But it’s my job to see that he doesn’t do it again. Tomorrow I’m going into town and get his boys out. That’ll be no trouble. But that sheriff – that little thorn…he does trouble me. He’s a very brave man or a fool. One compliments the other, wouldn’t you say, Mr. McCain? Of course, it wouldn’t be fitting for him to be executed for breaking my law by just anybody. But if he were to be executed by the greatest rifle of all…that indeed would be a great and fitting honor. Don’t you agree, Mr. Executioner?”
I stood up from my chair hardly believing what he was saying. Coyle, you’re out of your mind!”
That made Holt mad. He hurried to his door and opened it. “Take a look outside!” I did. Mark was there being held by two men.
“Pa!” Mark cried and tried to run to me. Suddenly, I was hit over the head and fell to the ground – out cold!
Holt ordered Mark locked in the barn. Then he looked down at me. “Amusing, isn't it? Lucas McCain, Skull executioner!”
I woke up later that night and found myself laying in the hay in the barn. My hands were tied behind my back. I got up and went to the front door, trying to open it. It was locked. It was no use – no matter how hard I tried, it wouldn’t budge! Mark was up above in the hayloft. He heard me moving around and crawled over to look through a crack in the floor. “Pa?” Mark called.
I looked up. I could have sworn I heard his voice! I slowly walked back into the barn and looked up. “Pa?” There it was again! I picked up the pace.
"Mark, is that you?" I asked in a loud whisper.
“You alright?” Mark was close to tears. He was really trying to hold it together for me!
“Yes son,” I answered. “I’m alright.”
"What do they want?"
“I don’t know, Mark.” It was a lie, but I couldn’t tell him the truth. I had to get him out of there, and if I told him the truth, he’d never leave! "What happened to you this afternoon?"
"I saw a big buck and chased it, I slipped into a ravine, guess I got knocked out. Then when I finally got my senses back you were already gone. And those…those men came...." he started to cry. "Oh Pa, it's all my fault."
"Forget about that,” I stated. “Now listen to me." I stepped up on a bale of hay so Mark could hear me better. "Is there any way you can get out of there son?"
Mark looked around. "There's a boarded up window. Maybe I could break through and drop to the ground. But Pa, I couldn't leave you."
"Don't worry about me, you've got to get out of here and get help. Now can you do it? What about your pocketknife, do you still have it?" I told him to try and pry through the window.
"I’d try but...I just can't leave ya' Pa," said Mark.
I understood why he didn’t want to, but I had to be firm with him. It was the only way to keep my boy safe and get help! "Mark, you'll do it, that's an order son, you do it! You've got to get out of here and get help, that's the most important thing." He wasn't sure why this was all happening. I told him this was the Skull Ranch that was all he needed to know. He remembered me telling him about it. “Well, that’s all you have to know. Now, get to work on that window!” I ordered.
“Yes sir.” I could hear him working.
I stood there in silence and listened. He made a loud noise. “Be careful, son.” Mark tried to be quieter. I stood in anticipation as I listened to him quietly tear the boards away. I heard the door opening. I knew I had to go now. Mark was on his own. “Careful, Mark!” I jumped off the bale of hay and hurried over to the door so they wouldn’t suspect anything. The door opened. Two of Holt’s men came in to take me up to the house. Pascal said he’d check on Mark. I hoped Mark had gotten away.
Pascal went into the hayloft and found that Mark had indeed broken through. He left his knife behind.
Pascal wasted no time in reporting the news. I stood there as Holt looked at the knife. “Your kid’s pretty good with this thing. Ally had a hard time getting it away from him." And just to be sure he doesn’t get any new ideas, he’s gonna stay right here with him when we go into town tomorrow. Is that clear?”
I had no idea if Mark was captured or not. “Alright, whatever you say. Just don’t harm my boy!” I begged.
The next morning, a man was traveling and stopped to get some water. He was by a large pond when he saw Mark stumbling to get water. He was near sick from thirst and fell face down in the water to drink. The stranger got off his horse and grabbed Mark out of the water. He was drinking too fast and had to stop him. Mark could hardly tell him who he was. He passed out.
We were getting ready to leave. I asked to see my boy, but Holt said no. I’d see him when he got back. I didn’t like that answer, but then I was in no position to argue. “I can assure you don’t have to worry about him. Unless you decide to do other then I said.” I turned and looked at the other men. “No doubt they’ll be expecting us in Lordsburg. I’m looking forward to that. They won’t do anything. They’re a frightened people. I want this to be a lesson to them. They’ll be only one killing. The Sheriff. I shouldn't have to remind you, it's the sheriff's life against that of your boy, clear?"
“I’m gonna find out if your reputation is justified.” He took my rifle and emptied out the chamber. He left only one bullet. “One bullet’s all you should need.” Then he looked at me and grinned evilly. “Oh, if you should miss…” He allowed the statement to die. “…But you won’t.”
The man that found Mark was the one who had gone for more help to fight the Skull gang. He couldn’t bring anyone back – the Sheriff had reported he couldn’t spare anybody. Mark could hardly speak or stand – he was so sick and tired. Mark had managed to report he had escaped from the Skull Ranch though. “It’s my Pa. You gotta help him! They got him!” Mark declared between gasps of breath.
There were just two of them – the Sheriff and the other guy. The other two volunteers had disappeared. “You gotta help my Pa!” Mark begged. “They could kill him.” The Sheriff was sorry he couldn’t help me. He had to stay here and wait. He was disappointed that he hadn’t been able to get help from Las Cruces. He had to keep Holt from getting his men out of jail.
We came riding into town. Everyone scattered – they didn’t want to be around when the shooting started. The deputy saw them coming and told the Sheriff. Mark followed them out onto the porch. They warned him to get back inside.
But Mark saw me riding with the Skull gang. “Pa!” Mark said quietly. He started for me, but the Sheriff stopped him and pushed him back inside the jail. He was mad.
“What are you trying to do, son? I thought you said your Pa was a prisoner out at Skull!”
“He was!” Mark was confused.
“Then what is he doing with Holt Coyle? What’s he doing riding in with him?” Mark didn’t have the answers. He was confused.
“I don’t know! I don’t know!” When he got his chance, Mark sprang for the door. "Pa, Pa, Pa!" He ran out into the street.
I was happy he had escaped, but worried he was in my line of fire. "Get back son!" I yelled. “Get back, son!”
The deputy ran after him and took him back inside. One of Holt's men shot at them. I took my rifle and hit him with it. I knocked him off his horse. I jumped off my horse. Holt kept trying to shoot at me. With all the shooting going on the horses were all over the place. Holt couldn't get me. I finally got an opening and shot Holt. Then Pascal started to shoot at me. I shot him. He fell off his horse – dead into the dirt.
The sheriff and the deputy came out and arrested Warren.
Mark came out then too. He saw me still standing and okay in the street. Mark ran to me and gave me a big hug as he cried. He was glad I was okay and it was over. So was I!
We made plans with the Sheriff and Deputy for the next morning. The Sheriff pulled something out of his pocket. "You see this Mark?"
"Yeah, what is it?" Mark asked.
"It's a map I made of the parts here 'bout. I made it when I was just about your age. Haven't used it for many, many years."
"What do you need a map for?" I asked.
"Gonna show you both where there's more antelope then you've seen in your life!"
"That's right!" Said Applegate. "You came for antelope we'll see you get plenty!"
"Well what are we waitin' for?" Mark asked excitedly.
"Boys right, that's why we came!" We all took off to go hunting together!
"Holt Coyle invites you to stop by The Skull Ranch"
piddlin' stuff.....Lyle Bettger appeared in two episodes ― The Wrong Man as Jay Jefferson, he was the corrupted marshal who was looking for an outlaw with a price on his head ― Skull as Holt Coyle, the owner of the notorious Skull Ranch that has become a haven for outlaws.
Thomas Brown played the Sheriff of Lordsburg.
John Alvin played Applegate. He was the deputy and the one who found Mark at the pond.
Lewis Charles appeared in three episode ― The Indian as Slade, the man who was responsible for the brutal murder of a rancher and his family ― One Went to Denver as Eban Tate as the cowboy who guarded the safe and in this picture played checkers with Micah ― Skull as Pascal, one of Hoyt Coyle's men.
Don Drysdale played Warren. He was the one who the sheriff and the deputy took into custody.
Skull — Don Drysdale as Warren
George Willeford played Mallery, one of Holt Coyle's men, the cowboy in black.
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)
Does anybody know if the Asian server at the Skull Ranch is named Yuki? Does anyone know anything about this person?
*Did you know.....JohnnyCrawford made an interesting remark about this episode. He said, "I've been counting ever since the show started the number of times I've said, Pa! Pa! With this script it makes 847'." ~By George, That WAS George by Richard K. Shull - The Indianapolis Times, December 31, 1961
Bloopers - Skull
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
A Friend In Need
around The McCain Ranch