Cactus Lady

First Impressions:    A funny, slightly offbeat episode where someone from Jess' past causes some tension at the ol' relay station.

The Story:   A stage pulls in at the relay station. Slim is outside prepping the horses when the driver calls to him to never mind the team, he has a sick passenger. They open the stage door and carry out a sick fella. As they’re carrying him in, Jess rides up and takes over carrying the passenger while the driver gets back to the stage.

Slim and Jess put the fella down on the couch in the living room, and Jess goes off to get some water. Slim starts loosening the sick man’s clothes, and when he pulls off the passenger’s hat, he realizes the he is a she.

Jess comes back in and sits down on the couch. The girl is faking it and he sees her quickly open her eyes and then close them again. Jess seems to recognize her and he mischievously pours the water on her face. She "wakes “ up and sits up indignantly. Slim is amused, and Jess looks exasperated.

After the credits roll, Jess is saying that Slim can tell Charlie that his passenger made a “sudden” recovery and she’ll be leaving on the stage. The girl starts begging and calls Jess by name. Slim interrupts and says, “You two know each other?” Jess admits they do and without asking anything else Slim goes outside to tell the driver.

Jess starts to walk away and she follows him. She wants to talk to him, but he keeps walking away. He says, “Go ahead, talk.” She says she was afraid he’d send her away without listening to her so she pretended to be sick, hoping the stage would leave without her.

We soon find out that her name is Troy, and why Jess is so angry with her. It seems that back in Texas she sicced a lynch mob on him to save her own father and brothers. She figured that the odds were in Jess’ favor since he was innocent, and her family, the McCanless gang, are wanted in four states.

Jess won’t have any of her explanations and tells her to leave and go back to her no-good family. She says that no, she’s left them for good and she wants to start a new life. He doesn’t believe her. She says she’s left them before, but his time she’s really broke away for good. Jess is shoving her out the door when Slim comes back in lugging her gear. He says the stage wouldn’t wait. Troy says it looks like she’s here to stay and seems delighted.

Jess is still miffed, “No, you're not, I’ll lend you a horse.” He tells Slim to bring her gear outside and he leaves to go get a horse. That gives Slim and Troy a chance to talk.

Troy introduces herself as Troy McCarthy and says that she and Jess were friends back in Texas. She was hoping to find Jess and pick up where they left off. Slim says, “You mean you came all this way just to see him?”

“Looks like I made along trip for nothing.”
Slim is sympathetic and allows her to talk him into staying on for a few days. She can help out around the ranch. Slim agrees albeit mildly reluctantly. They go outside and Jess is just leading a horse up. Slim tells Jess that Troy is going to wait for the eastbound and stay around to help around the ranch. Jess says, “Yeah, come to think of it, we can use an extra hand around here.” He walks away from them and toward us with an evil little smile on his face.
Troy makes herself at home in the front bedroom. We see what’s in her saddlebags and they are stuffed with cash.

Later, Troy and Jess are out stringing barbed wire. The barbed comments are flying back and forth too. Troy takes exception to one of Jess’ jibes at her family and she pulls a gun and shoots a fence post out of his hands. He takes her gun away and then walks away. As he’s turning back to her with more wire, a rattlesnake is about to strike (how he missed it when he walked to the wagon, I don’t know). Lucky for Jess, Troy was also carrying a Derringer. He takes that away too, after she kills the snake. He tells her, “One more thing, Troy, we work nights around here too.”

Next we see it's nighttime and Troy and Jess trying to get a steer out of a bog. Troy is pushing while Jess pulls. She ends up in the mud. Jess makes the mistake of laughing at her and then turning his back. Needless to say, he ends up in the mud, too. She laughs and then gets on her horse and rides off as Jess angrily takes off his hat and slaps the water with it.

Troy rides up to the house covered with mud and mad as a hornet. She starts packing, throwing her clothes into her bedroll proclaiming that she's had enough and she's leaving. Slim tries to calm her down and find out what happened. Slim says her mistake all along has been that she’s been trying to win Jess by keeping up with him, man-to-man. She argues that she can out-ride, out-rope and out-shoot him. Slim accuses her of being a woman to which she indignantly replies, “What’s that supposed to mean?”

Slim convinces her that to impress Jess she needs to use feminine wiles. He says she’d be a good looking girl if she gave herself half a chance. He convinces her to clean up and put on a dress that used to belong to his mother. He takes her by the hand and leads her to the closet. He pulls out a chest full of his mother’s belongings, clothes and jewelry. He heats some water for her a bath, and Troy enjoys a bubble bath in the bedroom while Slim waits outside the door.

Meanwhile, Jess rides in all muddy and soaked. He goes straight to the outdoor shower, pulling off his hat, gloves and belt, and gets in fully clothed. The next sound we hear is an agonized scream as the cold water hits him.

Inside, Troy is struggling to get into the dress. She’s stuck so she calls Slim in. He helps pull it down over her head and buttons it up. It’s a little tight, but looks good. He says her hair needs fixin’, though. He pulls out a Godey’s Lady’s Book and looks up hairstyles. They decide on a chignon. Slim tries, but he can’t get it to stay up. He decides he needs hairpins, but lacking any, he finally hits on bailing wire! He heads off to the barn to get some. Outside he encounters Jess still in the shower. When Slim asks why he’s taking a shower now, Jess says he “Had a little accident.” Slim tells Jess to come on inside when he gets dressed, he has a little surprise for him.

Inside, Slim finishes with Troy’s hair and lets her see herself in the mirror. He’s so proud of his work. He hears Jess come in and goes out to meet him. He makes Jess stand by the fireplace and tells Troy to come out. She comes out in the living room and Jess says, “Is that Troy?”
After a moment he begins to rudely laugh and says, “Where’re you goin, to a Halloween party?” Slim is miffed at him, but Troy is furious. She starts hitting him with her fan. Slim holds her off while Jess escapes out the door, with Slim close on his heels. Troy cries.
Later, the guys have been out looking for Troy but haven’t been able to find her. All Jess can say is that “It’s a good thing she didn’t have a gun,” and he goes back inside. Yes, he's being a bit of a cad. Still concerned, Slim goes to look in the barn where he hears Troy crying. He climbs to the loft and comforts her, telling her that Jess doesn’t have sense enough to appreciate her. He likes her no matter how she dresses. He sincerely likes her just the way she is and kisses her to prove it.

Troy decides she made a mistake trying to win Jess, and returns Slim’s kiss. Later, inside, Jess is getting ready for bed. Slim comes in and says he wants to talk. Jess has already guessed that Slim has fallen for Troy. He doesn’t begrudge Slim his right to fall for her, but he tries to warn her that Troy is no good for either one of them. In fact, she’s just no good. Slim doesn’t agree and they argue, but finally Slim says it doesn’t matter because she’s leaving tomorrow anyway, he’ll be driving her into town. There’s still some tension, but they decide there’s no use saying any more about it.

The next morning, Troy is dressed in another one of Mom’s dresses and Slim is ready to take her in to town. She asks where Jess is so she can say goodbye. She goes to the barn, Slim thinks to find Jess, but she’s going there to get her saddlebags. Jess is in there, and he hands her the saddlebags. He’s already found them and knows there’s five thousand dollars in them. He thought it was stolen, but she says it’s hers and it’s not stolen. She says she inherited it and that’s why she was able to leave her family. Jess says as long as she’s leaving and stays left, he’ll believe anything she says. He gives her the two guns back, and then watches as she drives off with Slim.

On the ride into town, Slim thanks her for wearing the dress. She says it reminds her of one her father stole for her when she was a little girl. She tells Slim her secret- that her family is the McCanless gang and that they’re all wanted. They were bank robbers and she used to help them. She tells him she rode with them all her life and makes it sound like she was forced into that life, that they would have killed her if she didn’t go along. Slim says he doesn’t care what she was, he’s only interested in what she is.

Slim takes her to the minister’s house where they have agreed to let her stay. Slim leaves Troy there and goes back home. As he passes through town, Slim is spotted by three unsavory looking characters who have obviously been following him.

They back-track to where Slim just came from and arrive after dark at the preacher’s house. One of them goes to the door and asks to see the parson, he just wants to asks some advice. While he is keeping the parson occupied, another one of them goes around to Troy’s window and makes her let them in.

She doesn’t like it that they followed her, but her father and brothers have come because their share of the money is gone and they need her help. They just want to borrow enough to tide them over. She’s spunky with them too and she refuses to give any money over. They leave empty handed, but tell her they’re staying in town.

Back at the ranch, Slim is getting dressed up to go into town. Jess has to rag on him a little bit. He knows Slim is going in to see Troy. Jess doesn’t say much, but he leaves and when he goes outside, he mounts up and rides off for Laramie.

In town, he finds Troy just coming back to the preacher’s house with packages from the store. Jess says he wants to talk to her. She won’t be discouraged from seeing Slim. She says she’s going to marry him and she’ll make him a good wife. She won’t hear Jess and goes into the house and shuts the door.

A minute later, Slim rides up and Jess tries to stop him from going any further by telling him about Troy and her family. Slim says he already knows all about it and he won’t be dissuaded. Jess gives up. “Have it your own way.” And he leaves.

Jess passes through town and spots some familiar horses. The McCanless’ are in the saloon and he goes in to talk to them. All three are sitting at a table and drinking. By way of greeting to his old friends, Jess says, “I oughta shoot your guts out. All three of you.” What a charmer. Well, that’s a start. Jess tells them he’s gonna give them the break they didn’t give him. He wants them out of town by sundown. Jess turns to leave and one of the boys jumps Jess. Jess pummels him with his usual efficiency and Pa McCanless tells Jess they’ll be on their way as soon as they finish their drinks. After Jess leaves, Virgil finds a (gigantic) watch that Jess dropped in the fight. It has the initials JH on it.

Later, Pa and the boys sneak into the preacher’s house. In Troy’s room they search for the saddlebags. The preacher interrupts them and one of the boys clubs him over the head. They leave Jess’ watch next to the preacher on the floor, and they leave, never having found the money.

When the preacher’s wife and Troy find the preacher, Troy finds Jess’ watch. At the sheriff’s office, Mort asks Jess where he lost his watch. Jess doesn’t know but Troy speaks up and says she found it with the preacher. Jess protests to the sheriff that she’s lying and using him to cover for her family just like she did in Laredo. He tells Mort who she is and who her family is. Troy denies it and Jess tries to shake the truth out of her. Mort locks him in a cell.

Later, Slim visits Jess in jail and says that Troy did it because she’s scared to death of her family. Jess must’ve told him about the money because Slim says he doesn’t think the gang got the money or they wouldn’t have bothered to frame Jess (not sure about the logic, but oh well). Slim facetiously says “Don’t go anywhere, I’ll be back,” as Jess forlornly watches him leave from behind bars.

That night, Troy is helping the preacher’s wife take care of him, when her Pa comes to the door. Troy tells him she knows Jess didn’t hurt the preacher, but she didn’t let on for her own reasons. Pa says he came to say goodbye and asks for a few dollars for traveling money. Troy offers to loan them a hundred dollars and goes to her room to get it. Her brothers are watching from the window when she pulls her saddlebags out of the chimney where it was hidden. When she leaves, they go inside and take the saddlebags.

Troy gives her father the money and they say goodbye. He promises it’s just a loan and he’ll pay it back.

Outside, Pa confesses to the boys that he’s touched that Troy loves him. Slim rides up and pulls his gun on the three McCanless’. He calls Troy outside and tells her that Jess told him about the money, but Jess didn’t think that she would take it back to the bank, but he did. Slim tells her to get their guns, but her family tries to talk her out of it. She tells them she wants to marry Slim. Pa tries to talk her out of it, that they’re family and they’re loyal to each other no matter what. Slim tells her not to listen to them. Troy finally makes her decision. She pulls a gun on Slim. One of the boys gets the drop on Slim and wrestles him to the ground. Troy tells her family to ride out, and she tells Slim she’s sorry, but Pa was right, she’ll always be a McCanless and she rides off.

Later at the ranch, Jess rides up leading Slim’s horse that Troy had taken. He found him outside the fences and he’d been rode a lot of miles. Jess says that if he was the curious kind, he'd wonder just what did happen the other night. Slim says but of course he’s not the curious kind, and they smile decide to let it drop.

Annie's Favorite Moments:   I think it would have to be when Jess rides in and sheds his leather to get into the shower. That scream was perfect.

I'm also very fond of Slim in this episode. He's very sweet and brotherly towards Troy, and then it turns into more. The scenes where he's helping her get dressed and fix her hair, are priceless.

Jenny's Favorite Moments:   I loved Slim working magic on Troy's hair with bailing wire, and I liked him trying to hold Troy back from Jess, then high-tailing out when she starts to turn on him. Finally, I also liked Slim comforting Troy in the loft. Slim was great in this. He's naive, but he's a sweetie.

Notes of Interest:   Anita says she shot herself in the foot in this episode, with a blank of course, but it still hurt!

This episodes seems to be in the early stages of Jess and Mort's friendship. Mort does not listen to Jess' protestations of innocence, whereas later, he would be defending him. Also, Jess calls him "sheriff" throughout, rather than "Mort".    

The Owie Factor:   Well, Jess kinda got beat up with a fan. Sorta.

Annie's rating:I'd give it a good four stars for sheer entertainment value. I loved the humor, I loved the brother/sister bickering between Troy and Jess. I loved the tension between Jess and Slim over Troy. Jess tried hard to protect his friend, but Slim naively tried to believe in the goodness of Troy, but found out better in the end and there's not an "I told you so" in sight. I've said it before, and I'll say it again, Anita was perfect as the spunky and prickly Troy. Oh, and I just gotta wonder where Jess keeps that monster watch.

Jenny's rating:
Four stars. Lots of Slim and Jess and quite a funny episode. Just didn't like Jess laughing at Troy. Otherwise, good.

  • Anita Sands as Troy
  • Arthur Hunnicutt as Pa McCanless
  • LQ Jones and Dean Stanton as Troy's brothers

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