"Welcome to the McCain Ranch"
You could hear the sound of a honky-tonk piano playing a tune and the laughter and shouts of men coming from the hotel. Willie, a friend of Mark's was curious to what was going on. His eyes gleamed with excitement as he looked in. Several men tossed in their hands. The one man was Keeler, the owner of the game. I was the other man. Willie was flabbergasted when he saw who it was. He hurried off to tell Mark.
Mark wouldn’t believe it. "I don't care what you saw! You're a liar!" His voice held anger.
"I am not a liar! You take that back!" Willie shouted back.
"Liar!" Mark yelled.
Willie hit Mark and the boys started to scuffle. Willie got the best of Mark. He made Mark say uncle - and if he was right he owed Mark a nuggler for free for an apology. Mark agreed and they went to see what Willie was talking about. Mark slowly walked up to the window. When he looked in he saw me sitting at the table playing poker. Not only that, but he saw a trashy-dressed woman leaning over me.
Mark was in shock. He couldn’t believe what he was seeing! Slowly, he backed away. He just stood there. "See...I wasn't lying! Now I'll take my apology with a nuggler to go with it!" Willie said. He hit Mark hard. Mark was so focused on me that he hardly even noticed.
We were all tired and decided to call it a night. Keeler told Rose, his girlfriend to bring him a drink. He invited us to join him. I told him I'd pass this round. Keeler .told me he thought I was a pretty good poker player. I told him I was once, a long time ago. I then tossed Fats a dollar and thanked him for the entertainment and left.
As I headed for my horse I heard someone call my name. It was Jesse. I asked him what he was doing here. He said he couldn't wait anymore. He had to find out what was happening. "Well...did you catch him at it?"
I shook my head no. “I watched his hands like a hawk. I never took my eyes off of him all night.”
“Did he ever touch his sleeve? His coat?” He was sure hoping I would catch him cheating.
“Jess, I didn't see anything out of order. Look, he’s an old hand at this. He’s not gonna run the risk of cheating unless the stakes are higher.”
“They were high enough the other night. Everything I own in the world.” Jesse lost his farm to Keeler. Jesse still hadn't told his wife, Mary yet. He had promised her he would never touch a card again. She swore if he did she would leave him. "Lucas, I can’t stand seeing her work so hard and then have nothing.”
I felt sorry for him. “Well Jesse, you better be ready to explain something to her,” I warned him.
“If I loose my wife and farm because of that tinhorn, I'll kill him so help me!" I told him he was talkin' like a fool. He said he would take Keeler and beat him to a pulp and make him admit that he cheated.
“How are you going to explain that to Mary? Then she’ll know your cheating for sure!” I tried to calm him down. “No, I’ll play poker with Keeler again tomorrow night. Maybe if the stakes are higher he'd try something I could catch him at.” Jesse sighed impatiently. “You go home and be patient.
He started to leave, but then he stopped. He didn’t feel like he had a right to ask me for help. I knew Jesse needed my help, I owed him and besides I liked playing poker – this gave me a good excuse.
Keeler was ready to leave town. Each night he made less and less money. Rose was happy about that. She wanted to be near some life again. Maybe see a show once in awhile. Keeler told her then it was settled. He told her it would take about a day or two settle up on the IOU's for cash.
When I got back to the ranch I quietly went inside. I noticed that Mark had left the lantern burning low for me. I turned it up and sat down at the table. I took off my gloves. Just as I was getting ready to take my boots off Mark walked out from the bedroom. "Oh hello son. Sorry I woke you."
"I wasn't asleep," Mark answered. As I looked at him, I noticed bruises on his face.
Immediately, I stood up and hurried over to him. “Say, it looks like you got banged up a little. What happened?” Concern sounded in my voice.
I reached out to touch his face so I could get a better look. Mark pulled away from me. “Milly cleaned them up and put some arnica on ‘em.” I could tell something was bothering him.
“Milly? What did you do? Get in a fight in town?” I asked.
I could tell Mark was holding out on me. "Now Mark, we don't keep things from each other as a rule."
"No...not as a rule.”
“Well then?” I asked as I walked up behind him and leaned onto the chair.
“I got in a fight with Willie. I said he was lying and…and he wasn’t.”
I waited, but he didn’t say anymore. "Lying about what?" I asked.
Mark turned to me. "About you gamblin' with that man who's married to the new waitress at the hotel. Willie said you’re no better than a tinhorn."
"And you fought him on my account?" I sat down, realizing Mark and I had a few things to talk about. I then proceeded to tell him about the plan Micah and I had to catch Keeler at cheating.
The next day, Jesse was getting his seed ready for planting when Keeler engaged in small talk about the hot weather first, then he got down to business. Jesse didn’t know it, but his wife was listening from the doorway. “I came for my money, Jesse. You got the 1500?”
Jesse said he didn’t. He was really nervous talking about this there. “You said you’d give me time.”
Keeler said he had enough of this town. He felt it was time for another community to have the benefit of his sporting ability. He told Jesse he was leaving in two days. Keeler then asked him if he had a thousand. "All you'll get out of this ride is a sunstroke." Jesse pointed to the buckboard which was loaded with seed “All my money is in them sacks."
Keeler told him he better start packin', this spread goes to the bank tomorrow in the morning. Jesse went for his shotgun. Keeler shot a hole in one of the bags of seed. The seed poured out onto the ground. Mary came running out of the house. She wanted to know what was going on. Keeler told her the whole story. He then rode off. Jesse was suddenly ashamed.
Mary was very upset. “You promised me it would never happen again. You promised you wouldn’t play cards.
Jesse assured her he didn’t intend to break the promise. He couldn’t even look at her as he spoke. But suddenly, he turned toward her. She turned away. “Mary, I thought I could win enough to buy more seed, but he cheated me. Mary, I’ll get the farm back. You’ll see.”
Mary turned to him. “It’s not the farm, Jesse. It’s you. Don’t you see?”
That’s when I rode up. Jesse announced that Keeler was just there – Mary knew everything. “He wants his money by tomorrow morning.”
Jesse turned away from his wife. Mary cried to me. “Oh Lucas, how can you trust a man who can’t control himself?”
I tried to defend him. I reminded her how badly Jesse needed seed for a crop. “Well, he wasn’t right, but don’t be too quick to judge him. He…did do it to make it easier for you.”
“What can you do with a man like that?”
I reached out and laid a reassuring hand on her arm. “Mary, I’m gonna try to prove that…Keller cheats. I’ve got ‘til tomorrow.” She said she could wait until tomorrow to decide on what to do.
After school Willie and two other boys sat outside the General Store waiting for Mark. Willie pulled a deck of cards out of his pocket and started dealing the cards when he saw Mark coming. "Step right up, gents! Step right up and let's play cards! Let's wheel and deal! Jacks or better, aces high and deuces wild!" Mark decided to ignore him. He started to walk off. "Hey tinhorn! I'm calling ya'! What's the matter? Our game too fast for you, Mr. Tinhorn? Wanna call me a liar again? Or did you have enough last night?" Mark's friend told him to come on, that Willie was just a big mouth. He and Mark ignored Willie and walked away.
I was getting ready to go into town. Mark was working on his homework. He was having trouble with I E - E I words. I told him there was a rule to follow. "I before E except after C and when sounding like A is in neighbor and weigh."
“I know that…well, like here’s a word where the I comes before an E and it’s after a C! Glacier.”
“Glacier…Oh, that's a French word or something,” I reasoned.
But there was more on Mark’s mind then spelling. He threw down his pencil. “I can’t concentrate.”
“Well son, it’ll all be over tomorrow, one way or another.” I patted his head. “Goodnight.”
Mark went back to his lessons. Instead of writing his I-E words, he wrote words like 'gambler' then 'gunfight.' This frightened Mark.
When I got into town Milly was closing the store for the night. She saw me as I stood outside Micah’s office tying my horse up and hurried over to me. "Well…if it isn't Mr. McCain the gambler!" Her voice was laced with vinegar as she spoke.
"Hello Milly,” I greeted her warmly. I decided to ignore the vinegar.
"What's going on? Do you know that the whole towns calling you a Tinhorn gambler? I'm tired of defending you!" She scolded me.
"Oh you've been defending me? Thank you!"
She walked closer. "Why are you doing it?"
I avoided her question with another one. "Why does a steer rub his flank against a tree, Milly?”
“Because he likes it." She insisted on knowing why I was playing in the game. “You really want to know, Milly?” She said she did. “Great piano music!”
“Oh!” She was getting irate. “Last night Mark wouldn’t tell me what he was fighting about and tonight you’re keeping secrets.”
“There’s no secrets, I just like to play poker.”
"With a professional Tinhorn? When your son is alone all night!" I didn't say anything...I couldn't. I just looked away. "Well I guess I know when I've been told to mind my own business. Goodnight...Mr. McCain!"
I hated making her angry like this. "Now Milly-“ I started.
She turned and glared at me. "Only my friends call me Milly! People who don't trust me and gamblers call me Miss Scott!" She walked away. Boy, it sure was going to take some time to get back into her good graces!
Micah then came out of his office. He heard every word. "Well, were you ever skin tanned, and nailed to the barn door!”
"Oh I don't know...I thought I stood up to her pretty well Micah."
"You lost!" He assured me.
I asked him if he talked to Fats. He said he was watching Keller closer than his piano music. I told Micah about Keeler going to Jesse’s place that morning. “I’ve gotta start forcin’ things. The trouble is that I can’t do much with $175.00.”
“More money might draw him out,” Micah commented. He went in his office I got some money - $225. I told him I’d take a hundred, but he insisted I take it all. I warned him I could lose it.
I took the money along with mine - $400.00 – and went inside. All the seats were taken at the card table, but I had confidence it wouldn’t be long before I got my rightful place. I went over to Rose and asked her for a sandwich. I pulled out my roll of money and threw her a couple bills, telling her to keep the change. Then I waited for her to take the money.
Rose went over to the table. She kneeled down beside Keeler. “McCain’s loaded for bear,” she told him softly. Keeler was happy to hear that. Rose told Joe to leave so I could have a seat at the table. My play was working perfectly!
We played cards for awhile. I won some money, but kept my cool. I had to find some way to prove Keeler a cheater tonight! Keeler was afraid it was going to be one of those dull evenings. “Well, let’s warm it up a little,” I suggested. Keeler suggested table stakes.
Before we got started on our new game, Keeler suggested Rose bring everyone a round of drink and him a sandwich. I watched closely as she brought a sandwich and rolled up napkin to the table. “Wait a minute, Rose.” I stopped her. “Set that tray down in front of me.” She did as I asked. The room grew very, very quiet.
“What’s troubling you, McCain?” Keeler suddenly asked.
“That napkin, Mr. Keeler. I’d like it better if it weren’t folded.”
"You think there's a stacked deck in the napkin? Go ahead and look.” I lifted the napkin. I was surprised to find that there was nothing there. "That's one of the bad things about being a gambler. Now get out!"
. "Your not very grateful Keeler. At least I proved you run an honest game." He laughed and we shook hands. He said he couldn't hold a grudge. “You’re a man of charity,” I smiled. Fats went back to playing the piano and we went back to playing poker. I continued watching his hand like a hawk.
Mark rode into town that night. Micah came out of his office, surprised to see Mark there. He wondered if anything was wrong. “No sir. I jut thought I’d take a ride. I couldn’t get to sleep.” Mark was really worried. “Micah, isn’t there something’ you can do? Can’t you arrest him or something?”
“Not until he breaks the law, and there’s no law against poker,” Micah answered. He took Mark into his office – thought it was better if he waited inside with him.
We played for several hours. I was on a winning streak. The other men folded – they were out of money. Keeler was ready to call it quits. I had been doing pretty good the last hour and wanted to keep playing. “You mean the two of us?” Keeler asked.
“Why not?” He said he didn’t like to play head and head. “Do you really feel lucky?” Rose asked.
“I don’t think I’ve cooled off.” I was hoping he’d take the bait. I told him I had $700.
“I’ll play one game of showdown for the whole thing.” He looked around at the shocked faces. I hesitated, knowing I was taking quite a risk. "I thought you wanted to play?" Keeler said.
"Let's go!" I wet my thumb, then casually pressed it into the cigar ashes and smudged my cards. I didn’t want anyone to see it. I hoped it would prove him a cheater.
Just then, Rose dropped a bottle of whiskey onto the floor. I turned toward the noise. My eyes only left Keeler for a second. When I turned my head back, Keeler slapped the deck on the table. "Cut!" I cut the deck. Keeler then shuffled them. He started dealing them. Here’s the way it went:
Jack for me
King for Keeler
Jack for me (a pair)
Five for Keeler
Seven for me
Four for Keeler
Duce for me
Seven for Keeler
Ace of hearts for me
When I saw that, I knew I had him. You see, when I smudged the cards, the ace of hearts was one of the cards. The ace of hearts in my hand was clean. I didn’t have to guess what the next card would be. I watched as Keeler slapped down another King. That made him the winner – his pair of kings over my pair of jacks.
It also made him a loser – big time!
"You sure had me worried, Keeler. I was afraid you weren’t gonna do it. But you came through like a thoroughbred.
I grabbed my rifle. “You switched the decks!” I accused.
“Is that what you do when a man whips you? Call him a cheat?” Keeler challenged me.
I was happy to explain. “I smudged the cards in my hands, of them was the ace of hearts.” I picked up the Ace from my hand. “Clean, no smudge. When Rose dropped the bottle, you switched the decks.” I threw the card in Keeler’s face angrily. He told me I was loco. I reckon I had to prove my theory.
I stood up and kept my rifle trained on Keeler as I turned the table over. I started feeling under the table with my hand – there was probably a secret compartment there. I couldn't find it, so I went to step B. “It’s gotta be here somewhere.” I stepped back and kicked the table hard. The compartment opened and the cards fell out.
Keeler pulled out his derringer and fired at the table. I kicked the table away, then kicked the pistol right out of his hand. I punched him and he went crashing to the floor.
"Fats, you got any music for cheatin' tinhorns?" Fats sat down and started playing.
Micah locked up Keeler. Then he asked me if I wanted to keep the deck of cards as a souvenir. I didn't need a souvenir, I was glad it was over. I wanted to hand the Bill of Sale over to Jess’s place.
Mark was sitting in a chair looking at the cards Keeler had used during the last game. "Hey look at this, Pa….this is a marked deck." I saw the exciting gleam in my son’s eyes.
“I know, son. I know.”
Mark hit the cards on the table a couple times. "Pa...teach me how to pay poker!"
Oh boy! I looked at Micah, not quite sure what to say. I didn’t want my boy playing poker! "If you don't Lucasboy, somebody else will," Micah warned me.
"Yeah but not for a while yet Micah. Alright son, someday! "First thing you have to learn about poker is that it's not always played as a game. Come on, let's go home."
piddlin' stuff.....Grant Richards appeared in three episodes ― The Apprentice Sheriff as Reed Barnes, he's the cowboy who pretended to be drunk and kill Sandy in the saloon ― Gun Fire as Dave Chester, he claimed to be a cattleman, but really was there to break Gordo out of jail ― Tinhorn as John Keeler, the crooked gambler.
*William Bryant and Grant Richards both appeared together in The Apprentice Sheriff & Gun Fire as bad guys.
Grace Lee Whitney as Rose, he was Keeler's gal.
Larry Thor played Jesse Phillips, he was the man who almost lost his farm to Keeler.
Barbara Eiler played Mary Phillips. She was Jesse's wife in this episode.
Jim Hayward as Joe Tucker, he was the man playing cards who sat to the right of Lucas in both games.
Stephen Wootton played Willie. He was the boy who made Mark say uncle and kept picking on him about his Pa being a Tinhorn. This is the last appearance that I could fine on Stephen.
Gary Gadson played the boy with Mark outside of Millie's store. Chuck personally invited Gary to appear on The Rifleman.
Gordon Armitage appeared in six episodes of The Rifleman as a townsman ― The Hangman ― Baranca ― Dead Cold Cash ― The Illustrator ― The Lonesome Bride ― The Tinhorn as Joe, a card player.
William Boyett is one of the card players.
Fats the piano man.
Joan Taylor played Milly Scott. Milly bought The General Store from Hattie Denton. Hattie had to leave to go and help her sister in Denver. Joan Taylor appeared in eighteen episodes as Milly Scott and was introduced to The Rifleman in Miss Milly.
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)
*Lawrence Dobkin directed The Tinhorn ― Jealous Man ― Day of Reckoning ― The Executioner & Man from Salinas. He wrote the episode The Actress. He also directed some episodes of Branded. Besides doing this, he appeared in many other shows and films.
He appeared in four episodes of The Rifleman ― The Sheridan Story as General Phil Sheridan. Knight Errant as Don Chimera del Laredo, he was the guy with the sword. The Gaucho as Juan Argentez, the Gaucho's father. The Day a Town Slept as Ben Judson. He was the man who beat Micah in the election for Marshal of North Fork.
Did you know that Lawrence Dobkin played General Phil Sheridan in both The Rifleman and Cheyenne?
In Cheyenne he played General Phil Sheridan in Gold, Glory, and Custer. This time he is presiding officer at a court martial hearing involving Custer's Last Stand. Thanks PJH!
Paul Mazursky was one of the writers of this episode. He also guest appeared in The Rifleman in Hostages to Fortune as Sylvester Bulgutch.
*Tinhorn ~ someone, esp. a gambler, who pretends to be important but actually has little ability, influence, or money. Cheap and insignificant; small-time: a tinhorn racket.
*In the script - Tinhorn — they are playing cards in a tent, in the episode they are playing at the hotel.
In the script Mark and Willie were to fight at the McCain Ranch in the barn not in town.
In the script Rose was to be a beautiful but hard-looking woman. I didn't see anything hard-looking on this Rose.
In the script Lucas goes to the piano and drops a dollar into a beer stein. In the episode Lucas throws a dollar into Fats hat.
In the script - the part were Mark is doing his lessons he writes - 'gambler' then 'Keeler' and under that 'gunfight'. In the episode he writes - 'gambler' then 'gunfight'.
In the script Milly is working on her ledgers when Lucas gets into town to gamble that last night. In the episode she is closing for the night.
In the script - Fats keeps a shotgun by the piano, it is mentioned several times - I see no shotgun at the piano in the episode.
In the script where Lucas confronts Keeler and kicks the gun out of Keeler's hand was suppose to be that Keeler shot twice and Lucas shot thru the table hitting Keeler in the shoulder instead of just hitting him. Then Keeler reaches for the make believe shotgun by the piano. Then he drops it in token of surrender.
The ending too was different. Milly was suppose to come into Micah's office in her nightgown and robe. Her hair down and her face tense. She tells Lucas what a wonderful thing he did for Jesse Phillips. She turns and leaves. Lucas stares at the door, stupefied. Micah says....."She's a mighty powerful woman." As Lucas' reaction changes to a warm feeling.
*I liked this ending better! teehee These scripts are so neat to read!
Be sure & check out the Ladies of the Night
Bloopers - Tinhorn
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
None So Blind
around The McCain Ranch