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A Nostalgic Look at "The Rifleman" Television Show

I like to research and write about a variety of subjects that I find interesting.

The Rifleman

The Rifleman was a western, which aired from 1958-1963. It was half-hour, black-and-white television show.

Chuck Connors was a six-foot 6-inch former basketball and football player turned actor. He plays single father, cattle rancher Lucas McCain. He lives in the town of North Fork with his son, Mark McCain, played by Johnny Crawford..

In the second episode originally shown in 1959, we see McCain and his 9-year-old son arrive in the town of North Fork in 1880, New Mexico. He purchases a ranch in the outskirts of town. The problem is, a rancher nearby has been using the property (for free) to graze his cattle.

His two employees decide to set McCain's house on fire; they also take his rifle. The episode recounts how McCain gets his revenge on the bullies and gets back his rifle to enforce the demand.

I watched the program when I was a child. But now, I'm looking at the series with adult eyes, and I now notice different things. Lucas McCain and his son Mark, come to reside near the town of North Fork from Oklahoma. McCain is always visiting the marshal's office whenever he comes into town. Marshal Micah Torrance (Paul Fix) is his best friend. McCain often acts as a deputy when the marshal is out of town.

McCain appears to know almost every criminal that walks into the town of North Fork. He's long-time friends with some of them.. Although he's friends with criminals, he has no problem shooting and killing them if necessary. During the series run, he shot and killed over 500 villains (Wikipedia).

And, he has no problem taking bounty on those friends. He has got to be a rich man, with all bounty money that he collects. Maybe that's why he is often found in town, and not tending to his cattle.

Why is He Called the Rifleman?

McCain periodically practices shooting with his rifle on his ranch. The Rifleman – namesake of the television show. Lucas McCain has a custom-made, 12 shot Winchester Rifle. It allows him to shoot bullets in three-tenths of a second. Criminals. often don't know his name or what he looks like. But they recognize his rifle by reputation. They say he is faster with his rifle, than he is with a six shooter.

Who does he know?

The show featured an array of recurring character actors playing different roles against McCain. Throughout the series, new actors at the time, as well as veteran actuals, were on the show. It is interesting to me to see first-time appearances of some of the actors back then, most of whom would become well-known movie actors.

A few of the actors' appearances were, John Anderson, Richard Anderson, Lee Van Cleef, Dennis Hopper, Warren Oates, Claude Akins, Gerald Mohr, Edgar Buchanan, Paul Carr, Vito Scotti, Robert Culp, John Hoyt, Peter Whitney, and Michael Ansara. They portrayed either outlaws, friends, or outlaw friends.

Over the five-season series, McCain is friends with every woman that owns property. He uses female hotel owners, or owners of the local grocery store, to babysit Mark whenever he has to go out of time.

There seemed to be few women in North Fork. Most of them were in the background. There were recurring character actresses, including Hope Summers, Patricia Blair, Joan Taylor. Others appeared only once – Sherry Jackson: Agnes Morehead, Joanne Moore, Sue Randall, and Ellen Corby. In fact, my research shows that only 15 women at the least, appeared over the run of the series. And one black man – popular singer Sammy Davis Jr. appeared in two shows (Wikipedia)..

On several programs, McCain accompanies his friend, the marshal, out of town. It is usually to transfer a criminal to prison. Mark goes with them. Apparently, he doesn't have a problem exposing his son to criminals.

Mark McCain, the Son

Speaking of Mark (Johnny Crawford), we see him grow from a boy, when he first arrived in the town, to a teenager by the end of the series. He even has a nice show where he experiences puppy love for the first time.

Johnny Crawford had his own career before he joined the rifleman. He had over 60 television appearances. He was formerly one of Walt's Disney's Mouseketeers (Wikipedia).

The relationship between McCain, was a close one. It shows on the screen. A single parent trying to raise his son in the old West. I enjoyed watching the show. Then, and now.

This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.

© 2020 Carolyn Gibson