CTVA - The Virginian 4.04 [094] "The Claim" 06-0ct-1965

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4.04 [094]
"The Claim"

NBC Broadcast - 6 October 1965

Universal TV
Executive Producer Norman MacDonnell
 Produced by Joel Rogosin
Written by Shirl Hendryx
Directed by Bernard Kowalski

(shown in the ride-in)
Lee J. Cobb as Judge Henry Garth (not in this episode)
Doug McClure as Trampas
Clu Gulager as Emmett Ryker (not in this episode)
Randy Boone as Randy Benton
Diane Roter as Jennifer Sommers
(not in this episode - although featured in the ride-in from the beginning
of the season, Miss Roter did not make her first appearance in the
series until 4.07 “Jennifer”)

James Drury as The Virginian

Guest Star
William Shatner
[outstanding dramatic performance as Luke Milford]

Complete ending credits:
Strother Martin as Finley
Donald Barry . . . as The Thin Man
John Pickard . . . as The Sheriff
Dick Reeves . . . as The Bartender [Sam]
E.J. Andre . . . as The Cook
Frank Evans . . . as The Deadwood Bartender
Jackie Russell . . . as Irmetta
Melodie Johnson . . . as Mina
Darlene Enlow . . . as Daisy
Nina Seastrom . . . as The Saloon Girl
Rodd Redwing . . . as The Indian Spokesman
(no credit for the young Indian Braves nor for the soldiers at the Deadwood saloon)
Associate Producer
James Duff McAdams
Music Score
Leo Shuken And Jack Hayes
(with Johnny Williams’ “Tomorrow” played on the piano in the Medicine Bow
saloon and his “Golden West” played on the piano at the Deadwood saloon)

Theme by
Percy Faith
Director of Photography
Benjamin H. Kline, A.S.C.
Art Director . . . George Patrick
Film Editor . . . Milton Shifman, A.C.E.
Unit Manager . . . Ben Bishop
Assistant Director . . . Jack Doran
Set Decorators . . . John McCarthy and James M. Walters
Sound . . . Corson Jowett
Color Consultant . . . Alex Quiroga
Color by Pathé
Editorial Dept. Head . . . David J. O’Connell
Musical Supervision . . . Stanley Wilson
Costume Supervisor . . . Vincent Dee
Makeup . . . Bud Westmore
Hair Stylist . . . Larry Germain
The Title “The Virginian” by permission of EMKA, LTD.

Series regular characters appearing in this episode:
featuring Trampas with the Virginian, Randy, Cookie, and Sam the bartender

Brief Overview:
Worn out by ranch work and concerned for what his future holds, Trampas
leaves Shiloh with friend from the past Luke Milford and heads for Dakota
Country. The two team up with a prospector in search of gold, but the
fortune “costs too much”.

It’s dawn at the bunkhouse as the Virginian snaps orders to the men to
get out of their bunks and ready themselves for the day’s work. He barks
at Randy, “it’s Christmas,” and Randy retorts, “You sure don’t look like
Santa Claus.” Trampas complains, “It’s cold enough to be Christmas.”
But it’s not December, “it’s the middle of June” and “in a couple of hours
it will be boiling” outside. Trampas moans, “here we go again.” He doesn’t
want to face the day and grumbles that on a morning like this the colt
he’s training will likely throw him “clear to the Judge’s study.”

The bay colt does indeed toss Trampas to the ground when it spooks at another
cowboy throwing a saddle on the fence. As Trampas sits in the dirt catching
his breath, the Virginian quips that maybe they could find him a gentler horse.
Trampas tries to relate to the foreman all the problems he’s having with the
colt, but the Virginian has no sympathy and tells him to get up and quit acting
like a tenderfoot. But it’s not Trampas’ “foot that’s tender.”

There’s much that must be done out on the cattle range. On the lunch break,
Trampas can’t stomach the beans that are offered to him and asks the cook
how he can eat his own cooking. Cookie wants to set the boys a good example.
When Trampas mouths off that he "must have a stomach like a mule,” Cookie
relates that 25 years ago he had been “tough and rancid” and a top hand just
like Trampas. But then he got old and “stove in” and so they made a cook of him.
And when Trampas gets to be his age maybe they’ll make a cook out of him, too.
Trampas wonders where it all got him, and Cookie recalls that he won $4 in
a poker game and he’s alive. With this thought in mind, Trampas gets up for
a drink of water. An impatient Virginian arrives and asks Trampas if he’d
gotten all the yearlings cut out yet. He’d better get on with the job because
“those yearlings won’t be yearlings much longer.” Trampas complains, “A man
can parch himself at this job” and mounts his horse. As Trampas leaves, Randy
observes, “something’s sure been bothering him.” “I’ve noticed,” responds the Virginian.

After a hard day's work, Randy and Trampas arrive at the Medicine Bow saloon
where a man is stacking up glasses on the counter trying to win a $5 bet and
impress a saloon girl named Daisy. Randy is curious as to what might be
bothering Trampas, but it's none of his business. Trampas protests that Sam
isn't serving his regular customers and asks if he's running a “saloon or
a circus”. At that moment Trampas recognizes the man as old buddy Luke Milford.
He hits him on the back, sending the glasses tumbling. "That's one I lose,"
says Luke and wants Sam to put it on his bill. But being new in town, he
doesn't have a bill. Trampas admonishes Sam to write one because Luke is
his friend. Trampas orders a bottle of whiskey and he, Luke, Daisy, and
Randy sit down at a table. "No good drifter," Luke calls Trampas. "Me?
You wrote the book," Trampas replies. Trampas wants to know what Luke is
doing in Medicine Bow. He’s just passing through, so what is Trampas doing
there? Trampas answers meekly, "working". Luke feels for his friend thinking
he's "short on cash." But, no, Trampas is working "regular" as a "cowhand".
In disbelief, Luke manages to say that it wasn't so bad being a cowhand -
“we need our cowhands." Besides, it isn't like Trampas is going to be a
cowhand all his life. Randy interjects, “What else are you gonna do?”
Trampas has his sights set high, "I'm going to be President." Luke relates
the story of how, back in Chicago, he had met an Englishman who fancied a
piece of Lake Michigan's North Shore. He had bet Trampas he could sell it
to him - and he did. Luke had planned on doing a little gambling in Medicine
Bow, but the townspeople "had been burned recently." So now Trampas turns
the tables and asks Luke if he's "short on cash." "Long on greed," replies
his friend. Trampas has an idea. They could use some help at Shiloh, and
he knows he can talk to the foreman about hiring him - just for a week or a
few days. Luke declines to work for wages, "You know me. I never got the
hang of it." So Trampas bets him $5 he can't last a day. Luke agrees to
the wager, and even though Randy reminds him they have to get up early in
the morning, Trampas suggests they spend a few hours drinking before heading
back to the ranch. But Luke has other plans for the evening anyway - he's
promised Daisy he'd teach her some card tricks, "something for her old age."
As the group laughs and reminisces, Trampas seems to be in better spirits -
for the moment anyway.

Out on the range, the Virginian calls Trampas and acknowledges that Luke is
doing a good job but is too slow at it. Trampas explains that Luke is enjoying
himself, “that’s the way he is." The foreman directs Trampas to tell Luke
he's getting paid to work not enjoy himself. Trampas states, "You sure can't
do both around here." As the Virginian asks Trampas if he is "still off
his feed," Luke rides up wondering if anything is wrong. The foreman
compliments him, "it isn't easy mixing in with a herd." Luke relates that
he'd had experience as a yard rider in the Chicago stock pens, although he
never liked doing it. The Virginian emphasizes, “out here we move a little faster.”

Trampas and Luke take a break from work and bring out the whiskey bottle.
For Luke, working regular on a ranch is the last place he expected to find
Trampas. Trampas recounts how he just “drifted in” and before he knew it
he’s been there three years. Luke discerns, “It happens to people, you
drift in, get stuck - ranch, job, wife, rut. They don’t like it, don’t
belong there, but they don’t do anything about it. Before you know it, it’s
three years. A lifetime.” Yet Trampas can’t find any point to what he
and Luke had done in the past. Even though it was fun, they weren’t getting
anywhere. Luke asks Trampas what’s the point of being here, “pushing steers?”
“It’s honest work,” answers Trampas. Luke chuckles and explains that his kind
of life is taking it easy and doing what he feels like doing. It may not get
him anywhere, but the only place one gets anyway is the grave. Trampas proposes
they get back to work since “those yearlings are getting older by the minute.”
Luke replies, “So are we, boy, so are we.”

At the next chow, Luke isn’t impressed with the food. Trampas tells him he
has to eat, but Luke says he’s going to have a steak with Daisy later - if
he can look one in the eye after chasing steers all day. Trampas asks Luke
where he’s planning on going when he leaves Shiloh. Luke has never been to
Dakota Country, but he’s in no hurry to get there even though it’s a long
trip. Trampas recalls that Deadwood is where they found gold, but he can’t
see Luke prospecting. Luke reminds Trampas that "there are all kinds of
prospecting,” and he plans to gamble to help the citizens part with some
of their treasure. He invites Trampas to come along, but Trampas declines.
Luke prods him asking if he’s not his own man. Randy reminds Trampas
that he hadn’t finished cutting out the yearlings. Luke is adamant - “You’re
in a rut.” Trampas replies, “No. I’m just tired.” But Luke continues,
“I know you boy. You can’t stand being locked up and this is one big jail.
And here comes the warden.” Just then an angry Virginian rides into camp
and reprimands Trampas for leaving the corral gate open, figuring it was
Trampas’ fault because he’d had his hands full with the colt. Half the
yearlings had gone back to the herd. Trampas denies forgetting to close
the gate. The foreman orders Trampas and Luke to go separate the calves
again. Frustrated, Trampas asks why the Virginian is “riding him”. The
Virginian answers that he’s not riding him any more than any other man,
that some can just take it better than he can. Trampas boils that he can
take it just as well if not better than anyone else. The Virginian inquires
if something is on Trampas’ mind. Trampas has “this job and a lot of things”
weighing on his mind, and he’s fed up with the Virginian’s “hurry up and do
this and close the gate” and his colts. The Virginian asks Trampas if he’s
finished complaining. Trampas is indeed finished - “You can take your colts
and your ranch and this job and you know what you can do with them.” Finding
that Luke doesn’t necessarily have to have dinner with Daisy, Trampas asserts,
“good, we’re leaving.” The Virginian doesn’t want Trampas to do something
he’ll be sorry for, but from now on Trampas isn’t going to be sorry for anything.
When the foreman suggests he and Trampas have a “private talk” Trampas refuses.
Trampas acknowledges Randy - “so long Randy, you can have my beans.”

Trampas and Luke are relaxing by a water hole. Trampas feels free and really good.
He had dreamed he did leave the gate open and when the Virginian called him on
it he just laughed. They are “in no rush” to get going, that is until Trampas
remembers an attractive girl they had met in St. Louis. Her father was supposed
to run a saloon in Deadwood.

When the two arrive in the lively place, they wonder how they will find Mary
Lou’s father with all the saloons in town. Of course, they are “in no rush”
in their search then race their horses down the street and stop outside one
of the drinking establishments. The bartender hopes he doesn’t have a daughter
named Mary Lou. Then two other women catch their eyes - Irmetta and Mina, but
they are “private property”. Trampas and Luke are game for a challenge and
decide to woo them. Since the girls look like they have expensive tastes, the
boys head for the poker tables - with Irmetta and Mina at their sides. Luke
can’t believe that one of the players left the game having dropped only $20,
after all he’s supposed to have a gold claim. But there’s a new law - you can’t
prospect on Sioux territory, and that’s where most of the gold is. The Indians
don’t use the gold, so it seems a waste. Two burly men come in the saloon.
Irmetta and Mina are “in for it” and leave the gambling tables. But this doesn’t
stop the brutes from attacking Trampas and Luke. Again, it’s “no rush” for the
boys to decide to fight back.

Luke and Trampas end up in jail for busting up the saloon, but what a fight they
had enjoyed! Luke had managed to pocket the winnings of $286, money that would
have taken months to earn punching cattle. Luke was right about there being
“all kinds of prospecting,” but the pickings look bleak since no gold hunting
is allowed on Indian land. Trampas doubts there’s any gold out there anyway.
“There’s gold out there, all right,” comes the pronouncement from the neighboring
jail cell. The man named Finley avows he’d seen the treasure in the hills.
Trampas wonders why he’s in jail then instead of mining. The gold digger
chuckles that he came back to town because he needed a stake, and the sheriff
picked him up for owing an $8 hotel bill. “Eight dollars, and I know where
there’s a million maybe” - if he could only get his hands on the $8 and some
money for supplies. He assures the boys that even though the army talks a
lot about not prospecting on Sioux territory, mostly they look the other way.
Besides, his claim is not on Indian land. The sheriff comes into the jail
cell area and asks if the boys have the money to pay for the damages done to
the saloon. That they do, so Trampas says good bye to Finley and wishes him
luck. But as Luke pays off the sheriff, Trampas asks if $8 would take care
of Finley then has Luke take care of that debt, too. The sheriff admonishes
them to leave town because he has enough trouble without people from the outside
adding to it. As the boys go out the door, Luke inquires, “Tramp, what got
into you?” Trampas replies he had just felt sorry for the prospector. Luke
declares, “Boy, I caught you just in time. You’ve got soft touch written all
over you.” The duo wonders if Irmetta and Mina can cook breakfast, but Finley
intercepts them to thank them for getting him out of jail. To show his
appreciation, he invites them to come in with him on the gold. He just needs
a little money for a stake and promises all the profits will be split equally
three ways. Trampas says thanks but no thanks since they have ladies waiting.
Luke is sure the ladies will keep, so they decide to join Finley. If there
isn’t any gold they are out a couple hundred dollars and a couple of weeks
work, but they could end up being millionaires.

On their way Luke, Trampas, and Finley come across a fire pit. Trampas is
concerned that it may be an Indian’s, but Finely assures him it is not.
Finley’s gold claim is just three or four hours away, over the hills at a
creek in a canyon. They finally arrive at a small waterfall, and Fin proves
it is the right place by pulling out an old key he’d hidden there. The gold
panner is anxious to get started, but Luke is tired and hungry and wants to
wait until morning. Fin reluctantly agrees, and the men set up camp.
Trampas asks Finley if he’d ever made a strike. Fin has not, although he’s
been looking for nine or ten years. Luke likes a man who never gives up,
but then maybe Finley didn’t have anything else to do. But Fin “had a lot
to do”. He and his wife had once owned a farm in Missouri, but he came on
hard times and the bank took it over. He hadn’t felt at home anywhere since,
and he promised his wife he would buy a big spread if he found his fortune.
Luke can’t believe a wife would wait around nine or ten years, but Trampas
chimes in, “Sure she’s waiting. Think she’s like the women you know?” Luke
advises Fin on what to buy women, and Fin agrees that a big house with
servants would be just the thing so he and his wife could just relax by the
fireplace. “You’ll see. It’s out there,” declares Fin, “All the gold in
the world.”

The next morning Trampas and Fin are awakened by a gunshot. Luke had gone
rabbit hunting but missed his target. Fin warns that it’s not a good idea
to shoot a gun in that area. But now that they are all up they might as
well get started. Trampas jokes, “Not only are we still eating beans, we
got another ramrod.” Shoveling sand through the rocker box is hard and time
consuming with nothing to show for their efforts. Luke is ready to quit,
but Fin insists the gold is there. The next day Trampas does indeed find a
nugget in his shovelful of dirt. Elated, Trampas and Luke congratulate
each other and dance a jig.

That evening Luke and Trampas are drunk with happiness as well as liquor.
Trampas can see himself going back to Shiloh. "What a day that's gonna be!"
He’s going to buy a case of whiskey for the Judge, a new guitar for Randy,
and a diamond studded whip for the Virginian. Luke can’t imagine his friend
returning to the ranch. Trampas, perhaps trying to hide a touch of homesickness,
brags, “Just for a visit, to show off a little.” When Trampas asks why Fin
hasn’t joined the party the prospector says he guessed he’d just been looking
too long. Trampas bets he can’t wait to see his wife again, but Fin remains
quiet and pensive. Luke reflects how he never thought he’d strike it rich
after all the years of drifting and waiting for the once in a life time moment.
He’d seen other’s make it like a neighbor who now owns a city block in Chicago,
but he always thought he’d miss out. Trampas appraises Luke never cared that
much anyway, “easy come, easy go,” but his friend insists he did care but never
figured it would happen to him. “Real gold,” beams Luke as he looks at the pouch.
Trampas jokes that it would be funny if it wasn’t real. Luke’s happy
countenance drops as he commands Trampas to “shut up”. Trampas can sense a
first hint of trouble when Luke hides the gold pouch under some supplies.

The next day the trio are sifting out gold nuggets when another man arrives on
the scene. Quickly the boys take up their rifles. The man greets them and
asks if they might have something to get a rock out of his horse’s hoof. Though
cautious, Trampas offers to help the man and tosses him a pair of hoof nippers.
The stranger asks if they are having any luck with their prospecting. None at
all is Trampas' reply. The man tells them he’s tried prospecting twice and was
through with it. He’s heading back to Montana. After having removed the stone
from his horses’s hoof, he wishes them luck and rides out. Luke, Fin, and
Trampas fear the man may come sneaking back in the night to kill them and take
the gold. Luke follows the man awhile until he’s satisfied he has moved on.
Luke returns to camp and utters that he could have just shot the man and probably
saved them some trouble. The boys are back at work when they hear their horses’
nervous whinnying. Luke sees an Indian and shoots him, giving the excuse to the
others that the boy had a bow and arrow and might have used it.

Now Fin must admit to Trampas’ hunches that they are indeed on Indian land. The
cowboy confesses that he knew it all along but didn’t say anything because he
wanted the gold, too. Fin replies, “When you’re looking for gold, nothing else
matters. Now you know what it’s like, too.” Trampas wants to pack up and leave.
After all, what good is gold if you’re killed by Indians or end up in the
penitentiary. Luke suggests they go on with the prospecting for the remainder
of the day and leave in the morning. They will need all the rest they can get
tonight because the ladies will be waiting for them back in Deadwood. But Trampas
is worried that someone will be looking for the dead Indian boy. Luke is still
hard at work. Trampas is concerned that it’s getting late, but Luke insists they
can’t leave now. Just then someone fires a gun at them from above. The boys
circle around and meet each other at the top of the hill. There is no one there,
but Luke picks up some spent cartridges. On the way back to camp they encounter
Finley who has his rifle pointed at them. Fin lowers the barrel when he sees who
it is, but Luke accuses him of being the one that was shooting since the cartridges
could have fit his rifle. Trampas tries to intervene saying the cartridges could
have fit anyone’s rifle, and Fin declares he couldn’t kill anyone - not even an
Indian. But Luke is convinced that Fin had planned from the beginning to get
them to stake him and fill his gold sacks then kill them and take all the nuggets
for himself. Trampas, still trying to mediate, asks his friend, “what’s the matter
with you!” The prospector blurts that Trampas and Luke can have all the gold, he
doesn’t want any of it. Luke won’t believe him and reminds Fin about the big
house and the servants he promised his wife. But Fin’s wife is dead. He had left
her while she was ill, and she died while he was out hunting his fortune. Luke
concedes and apologizes for his outburst of temper. But nobody is getting his gold!
Trampas tries to convince Luke they need to get started on their way, after all
there will be a couple of ladies glad to see them. However, Luke’s thoughts are
elsewhere - “There’s still gold in there, a river full.” Trampas admonishes they
sift out what they have now and get out of there, but Luke is infected with gold
fever and is not going anywhere. Ill at ease, Trampas goes over to the saddle bags
to collect his share of the gold and be on his way. “It costs too much, Luke.
Look at you, it costs too much.” Luke won’t allow Trampas to leave because he’s
afraid his friend will spoil things for him by leaving a trail in the desert or
spouting off in town about the gold. He calls the dejected Fin over to take Trampas’
gun. “Don’t make me kill him.” Two Indian braves ride up, and Trampas wonders
whom he will kill now. As Luke turns to fire at the braves, Trampas bumps his
arm. Luke knocks Trampas unconscious then ties him up along with the two Indians.

When Trampas awakens, Luke apologizes and offers Trampas a drink of whiskey for his
head. Trampas refuses. “I’m going to have my gold,” declares Luke. The fortune
means he won’t have to scrounge anymore or have some sheriff throw him across a county
line. He’ll be free. Trampas reminds him he’d killed a man and almost killed another.
Luke isn’t listening, “This gold’s taking me home, boy. Chicago.” He laughs as he
can see himself buying his own city block. He asks Trampas if he knows what it’s like
to be dirt poor, but Trampas has no words for him. Luke continues that now he can buy
anything he wants - even “power, success, respect.”

While Luke and Finley turn their efforts again to sifting out the gold, Trampas breaks
the whiskey bottle Luke had left near him and uses the sharp glass to cut the rope
from his wrists. He unties one of the Indians, but Luke notices the escape attempt.
Trampas motions for the freed boy to run and tackles Luke before he can shoot him.
And since Finley is unable to kill him, the brave gets away. Trampas warns Luke that
the Indian will be back and bring others with him. Luke agrees it’s time to pack up
the gold and leave but insists they will take the other boy with them as a hostage.
Trampas observes, “Long way from Chicago, isn’t it Luke.”

On their ride out of the hills, Luke crows that he’ll buy Lake Michigan for himself.
And how about the planet Mars. He and Trampas will have themselves a time. But
Trampas won’t join his friend’s enthusiasm. A gunshot comes from behind some boulders.
Luke and Trampas wind their way to the rocks, and Luke shoots the invader. It’s the
man with the lame horse. When they return to Fin, he shows them the territory border
just across the valley. Luke happily declares that they’d made it. But there is a
band of Indians headed their way. Luke grabs the young brave and holds his pistol
on him. He tells the other Indians he doesn’t want any trouble, he just wants to
pass through. Now his thoughts turn to the gold, and Trampas bids him to give it
to the Indians. Luke is adamant, “It’s mine! I’m not giving them any of my gold!”
If the Indians get out of the way, they can have their boy back. Trampas tries to
reason with Luke, but his crazed friend is beyond hearing. “I’ll kill you if I have
to.” The love of fortune has changed their relationship, and Trampas acknowledges,
“I believe you would.” “I’m going to have mine!” Luke asserts. Taking advantage
of Luke’s divided attention, the Indian boy breaks free. Trampas hits Luke in
the jaw to keep him from going after the brave. Luke angrily turns on Trampas
and shoots at him, but the cowboy manages to rolls out of the way. Trampas fires
his rifle, and the bullet finds it’s mark. Trampas goes to his fallen friend
and cradles his head on his arm. Luke knows Trampas had to shoot him. “I never
got the hang of it. It happened before the gold, a long time ago.” Then he
recounts, “Did I ever tell you about the girl in Chicago? The one I never kissed.”
Luke has taken his last breath, and Trampas gently lowers his head back to the
ground. The cowboy takes the gold filled saddle bags from Luke’s horse and puts
them over the neck of the Indian’s mount. He then returns to the body of his
comrade. Satisfied, the band of Sioux ride away.

Back in Deadwood, Trampas has finished packing his saddlebags. Fin apologizes for
getting them “into it”. Trampas tries to console him that he and Luke had gotten
themselves into it. Anyway, Fin had known where to find the gold. Trampas asks
if the key Finley had stashed by the stream belonged to his farm. Fin affirms that
he had kept it even though he no longer had use for it. Trampas offers the man
some cash he’d had from before the prospecting, but Finley declines and the two
part company. As Trampas tightens the cinch on his saddle, a saloon girl comes
to his side and asks where he’s going. Trampas is leaving. “Why in a hurry,”
she questions. Trampas is in no hurry. She then suggests they go inside the
saloon and “talk over old times.” “Sorry,” replies Trampas, “I’m fresh out of
old times.” With that he bids the woman farewell.

After a long ride, Trampas arrives back at Shiloh. He seems glad to see the
place again, but it appears the Virginian is not as happy to see the wayward
cowhand. Trampas asks the foreman if he can use another hand. Without much
expression, the Virginian replies that he had some yearlings to cut out of the
herd awhile back, but that work was all done. “Any colts you want broke?” offers
Trampas. “Food’s not much. Hard work, long hours in the sun, dust. Not much
pay,” states the Virginian. Trampas acknowledges the terms by a turn of his
wrist on the bridle reins, and the two shake hands. The Virginian tells him
to put his things in the bunkhouse, he can probably find himself a place.
Trampas affirms, “Reckon I can.” [bj]

Shirl Hendryx’s story is a classic morality play, character study, and mood
piece - well written, directed, and acted. Especially on the moral issue
dealing with the destructive tendencies of the love of money, it closely
resembles John Houston’s screenplay THE TREASURE OF THE SIERRA MADRE.
However, there was no mention in the credits that it was inspired by the
movie or the novel by B. Traven, if indeed it was.

It may appear that the Virginian was being too stern and unsympathetic with
Trampas in this episode. However, it was a busy time on the ranch, and the
foreman had important matters to concern himself with. By this time Trampas
was top hand material, and the Virginian was depending on him to get a job
done. It was time for Trampas to grow up and quit acting like a kid (as
he would remind him in 6.10 “Paid in Full”). Whereas in 1.10 “West,” a man
of like the Virginian may have been able to abide Trampas’ immaturity
(especially since he knew his background) and had been watching for his
young prodigal to come back, in this story it was questionable that he
felt the same way. After all, Trampas had left everyone else in the midst
of the roundup, and now that the hard work was finished he showed up with
no apology asking to be taken back. Maybe the Virginian’s stone faced
expression and his stern comment about the hard work followed by Trampas’
gesture of acknowledgment was enough discussion between the two of them,
or perhaps there was a “private talk” later.

For his youth, Randy Benton is quite discerning. As with Steve in 3.09
"The Girl From Yesterday" and with Betsy in the next episode 4.05 "The Awakening",
Randy could read that something was bothering Trampas. He cared about his
friend and wanted to help him but would not interfere if not invited.

As for the continuing development of the character Trampas, this man is
changing from the “chew (people) up and spit them out when you’re through
with them” mentality (2.01 “Ride a Dark Trail”) to “soft touch.” However,
sometimes his tenderness gets him into situations a harder heart would have
avoided (see also 3.28 "Old Cowboy). And Trampas has grown in his moral
stature. Although enticed by riches, when it came down to it, fortune
wasn’t the driving force in his life. As he said in 3.21 “A Slight Case
of Charity,” “A lot of things I want you can’t buy with money.” In “Ride
a Dark Trail,” Trampas was one to “take the easy way out.” His kind of
work was the gambling table, but now he has some realization at least that
a ranch job is “honest work”. In contrast, Luke took the easy way - he
wanted power and respect and all money could buy but wasn’t willing to sweat for it.

This episode is high on my list of favorites. It is a major destiny episode
in Trampas’ life. Reminiscent of 1.10 “West”, again, Trampas encounters
the high cost of "easy living". However, he seems to have learned his lesson
this time as he never again left Shiloh on the quest for fun and fortune.
It also appears if it weren’t for the influence of Shiloh, Trampas may have
ended up like Luke.

There were a few seeming contradictions in this episode. In 1.02 “The Woman
From White Wing” Trampas explains to Eddie how he’d learned to leave women
alone if he knew they were spoken for. Yet in this episode, when the
bartender told him that Mina and Irmetta were “private property,” Trampas
said, “anytime someone says that to me . . .” and he and Luke went after
the girls. Also, Trampas knew better than to drink on the job, yet he
and Luke pulled out a whiskey bottle while they were taking a break on the
range. Perhaps these two incidents were due to the fact he was back under
the influence of the kind of life he’d lived before coming to Shiloh.

Nina Seastrom appears briefly at the end as “the saloon girl”. From their
conversation, it seems that she and Trampas had a previous history. But she
was not Mina or Irmetta. Could it be she was Mary Lou?

Continuity error:
E.J. Andre’s Cookie was supposedly killed in 2.23 “The Intruders”. But
somehow he was resurrected and back on the Shiloh payroll for this episode.

Previously filmed stock footage was used for much of the range scenes and
also Trampas’ ride back to Shiloh.

It was apparent that Harper Flaherty was Doug McClure’s stunt double for
the longer shots of the saloon brawl.

William Shatner also guest stars in 8.14 “Black Jade”. However, the caliber
of his performance does not equal that of this episode, perhaps due to
"Black Jade"'s poorer quality script. Shatner would later team up with
McClure in1975 - 1976 for the short lived Western series BARBARY COAST.

Strother Martin also co-stars in the delightful comedy 8.15 “You Can Lead a Horse to Water”. [bj]

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