A good fourth season effort, but unfortunately takes Jess away from hearth and home. Slim and Jess are always better together, but still, this is good loner episode for Jess. **New pictures added at the bottom of the page.
It’s a cold day on the ranch and Jess is alone, riding around looking for something. Some ways away, four men are holed up in a cave. Christy, and the three Bannister brothers.
There is dissent in the ranks. The older, more experienced fella, Christy is laid back, playing his harmonica. The others are complaining that they do all the work. Christy has set up camp for them and cooked while they put 40 head of steer in a box canyon. They have switched careers from bank robbing to cattle rustling which seems to have done little for their dispositions.
Christy assures everyone that he knows the rustling business and he will have buyers for their ill-gotten gains. Just relax boys.
Christy laments that he rustles to stay alive, never to hurt anyone. The Bannisters are less than friendly toward Christy. They resent his ways and accuse him of thinking he’s better than they are. As we leave the cozy cave, fists are flying.
Meanwhile, back at the ranch, the wind has kicked up to near gale force. Jess is riding alone with a bandana over his face against the viscious dust. He spots a break in the fence line. He pulls down the bandana and calls for Slim, but his voice is swallowed up by the howling wind. Not getting an answer, he dismounts to examine the fence.
As he’s looking at the area, apparently seeing tracks where this fence was deliberately broken, a tree falls on him and pins his left arm to his side. He stuggles a bit, unable to free himself, and in great pain, soon passes out.
Night falls, there’s a full moon out, and Slim is riding up to the house. In the house, Mike is watching at the window. He tells Daisy that he sees Slim, but he doesn’t see Jess. Daisy assures him that with supper overdue, Jess will be riding in soon. Mike posits that he thinks Slim and Jess should have stayed together. Daisy chimes in that she doesn’t think they should have gone at all without the sheriff. Berating the absent boys in her sweet motherly way.
Slim comes in bringing wind and dust into the kitchen with him, some of which he will no doubt be eating for supper. Mike asks if they found the rustlers and Slim answers that he sure didn’t but he cant say how Jess made out. They got separated awhile back.
They’re worried, but of course don’t let on to Mike. Daisy wonders if Slim shouldn’t go back out and look for Jess, but Slim says he could be standing right next to Jess and wouldn’t know it.
Back out in the storm, Jess wakes up and manages to get out from under the tree. His left arm and side are painful, but he gets on his horse, with great difficulty and the horse wanders off down the road with him.
We’re treated to some stock footage of rustledom, and then we see Christy sitting on a rocky hill whistling and whittling a figure of a woman. Down below he sees a man on a horse. He picks up his rifle to shoot, but then changes his mind. The man appears to be hurt. He rides down to take a look.
Christy greets the stranger, asking if he’s been sleeping on his horse. At his voice, Jess lifts his head and Christy recognizes him. He seems happy to see Jess and grabs his hand to shake it. This hurts (although now it seems to be Jess’ right side that’s hurt), and Jess topples off his horse and falls in a heap. Christy helps him over to a place where they can sit down.
It’s been eight years since they rode trail together. Jess tells Christy how he helps run a small ranch and relay station and he’s been trailing rustlers that took fifteen head of their stock. Christy confesses that he knows all about it. Christy feels obliged to Jess for saving his life once back in Abilene. He tries to pay Jess for the steers they took, but nothing doing. Jess wants the steers back. Christy explains that it ain’t just him. He’s riding with the Bannister brothers and they ain’t as understanding as he is. After he sees this through with them, he’s quitting and starting over again in Canada. “On money from stolen cattle?” Jess says accusingly (is that a word?).
Jess pulls a gun on Christy, but Christy has already unloaded it. He seems to have some affection for Jess and doesn’t want to see him hurt. He shoves the money into Jess’ jacket pocket and helps him onto his horse, telling him to go get help at the nearby ranches.
Christy says he figures they’re even now, next time who knows how it’ll turn out. He’s saying he wishes they had more time to talk, when a shot rings out from up on the hill. It misses them both, but spooks Jess' horse and it runs off with him. Christy grabs his rifle and shoots back, scaring the shooter off.
Jess rides aimlessly and winds up at a small pond. He half falls off his horse just as a woman shouts for him to put up his hands and turn around. A young woman stands across the pond with a rifle aimed at him. Jess is in no shape to raise his hands and says so. She warns him again and he promptly keels over, head first into the pond. The woman rushes around the pond and pulls him out. Well, at least we know he won't drown.
Later, we find out in a minute that it’s the next day, Jess wakes up in a bed. He’s dressed only in his red underwear and there’s a tray of food next to him. He can see the same young woman working in the kitchen outside the bedroom where he is. He sees his clothes nearby and tries to get to them, but she warns him to stay in bed. He has cracked ribs. Jess hustles back under the covers, a bit shy he is in his nekkidness.
The woman is Sharon Helford and she lives there with her father. She apologizes for pointing the rifle at him yesterday. They’ve been expecting trouble (in the form of rustlers, no doubt) and she was afraid he was trouble.
Sharon proceeds to make Jess too uncomfortable to eat telling him about all the things she did while he was out- shaving him, bandaging him. He seems scared to death that she undressed him too, but she confesses that her father did that. This makes him feel better and he starts shoveling in the food.
She asks how he got hurt and he tells her about the tree falling on him. He wandered around after that half out of his head. He asks about where he is and she explains that their little valley is isolated and hard to get to from the outside. They don’t have any law except a deputy, just a small group of ranches.
Sharon’s Pa and a younger fella with a bandage around his arm come in asking if “that hurt fella” is awake yet. They go in and interrogate Jess. The young man, Lon is apparently the one that shot at Jess and Christy the day before, and was nicked in the arm when Christy shot back.
Lon recognizes Jess as the one that was with Christy. They know Christy from the year before when he was there trying to sell them stolen cattle. They told him to take a hike, but now he’s back and they know he’s behind the rustling that’s been going on. Lon accuses Jess of being in league with the rustlers.
Jess protests that he’s a rancher too and only knows Christy from the past. He hasn’t seen him in eight years until yesterday. This is the first we hear that Jess is now “part owner” of the Sherman Ranch. Jess had been trailing the rustlers and caught up with Christy. Lon doesn’t believe that if he caught Christy, that Christy didn’t just kill him. Jess says that he didn’t try to kill him because Christy knows him.
Sharon’s father, Mister Helford seems a bit more reasonable than Lon and gives Jess the benefit of the doubt. Sharon suggests that their local deputy has been to Laramie and may vouch for Jess.
After they leave, Jess asks if all her neighbors are like Lon. She says they get a little suspicious of strangers. Jess says he’s glad Lon didn’t think to go through his gear. He asks Sharon to bring him his jacket. She pulls the money out of his jacket. She already knows about it (probably from when she wasn't undressing him). Jess says that’s all it would have taken to prove to Lon that he was a rustler. Sharon already knew about the money but didn’t say anything because she’s already made up her mind about Jess’ innocence. Funny how a nice looking hurt young man can make up a woman's mind for her without even trying.
That night, Christy rides to the cave where one of the Bannisters tries to jump him. Christy fights him off and warns them to not try it again. The oldest Bannister tells Christy they’ve done some scouting around and there are some fat little ranches that he failed to tell them about. They want to stock up on, er, stock. Christy wants to by-pass this valley because they know him around here. Christy tries to talk them out of it, but Bannister wants to anyway. It’s a mutiny.
Later, back at the house, Sharon’s father comes in. He asks Sharon if she’ll be alright alone with Jess. She says he’s as weak as a lamb, or kitten, or something and couldn’t hurt her if he wanted to. Dad goes in to give Jess the stink eye and warns him he’d better mind his p’s and q’s. He’s going to a meeting of the ranchers. Jess says he’ll behave.
Helford has Sharon step outside with him. He tells her to be careful. He says that she and him have always been good at sizing people up. She’s sure that Jess is a good guy and Helford half believes it too. Helford reminds Sharon about Lon and tells her that he wants to propose when he builds his spread up a little more. Sharon seems dubious, and is not happy that he mentioned it to her father, and not to her.
After Dad rides out, Sharon hears the cattle in the corral getting restless so she goes inside for a lantern and a rifle. Yeah, that’s the way to stay out of trouble, girl.
Inside, Jess hears a horse ride away. He hops out of bed and gets dressed. Well, half-dressed anyway. Sharon has not come back yet.
Just as he gets to the front door, Christy comes in with his gun drawn. Outside they hear guns and whooping. Christy tells Jess to relax, it’s just some friends of his. It wasn’t his idea, but he couldn’t stop them. They’re taking everything in the whole valley.
Jess is concerned about Sharon who still hasn’t returned. Christy says she’s safe and tied up out in the barn. Jess tells him about Lon and the others thinking that they’re friends and that Jess is in cahoots with the rustlers. Christy is amused and wishes he had the time to set them straight. Jess says the ranchers will likely think he’s a decoy and hang him when they find all their stock run off.
Christy’s friends are outside calling for him. Christy has to think fast. He offers to let Jess in on the plan. Jess tells him to go to hell. Okay, he says blazes, but he means hell. Christy gets huffy and says they’re even and now they’re quits. He slugs Jess, and then immediately fires his gun in the air as Jess falls. The Bannister that comes in assumes Christy has killed Jess. With a little tinge of regret on his face, Christy leaves to join his buds.
Later, Jess wakes up and goes out to the barn to find Sharon trussed up. He unties her. She thought that Christy wasn’t so bad as Lon said because he didn’t hurt her and seemed kinda sorry he had to tie her up. Jess says Christy was sorry folks thought he was part of the rustling crew too, but that’s as far as it went.
Jess says Christy is “as wrong as last year’s almanac, but I still got a feelin’ for him.” Jess muses that with a couple of different breaks, he might’ve ended up just like him. Sharon says she doesn’t believe that.
Just then, Pa Helford and Lon come in, holding guns on Jess and asking where he’s meeting Christy. Jess says again that he doesn’t work for them. Helford tells Sharon that a boy on their neighbor’s ranch was shot down in cold blood and they’re all ruined. Lon gets a bit physical, not buying anything Jess is saying. Helford is a bit more receptive.
Lon goes to get a rope and threatens to hang Jess. Sharon steps in and tells her Dad that she sat by Jess’ bed all last night when he was out of his head. She’s talked to him all day today. He’s not the kind of man they think he is. Meanwhile, Lon is making a noose.
A few of the other ranchers ride up led by the local deputy. They’ve found the trail of the rustlers and want Helford and Lon to come with them. Lon is ready to shoot Jess right then, but the deputy says they have to do it inside the law- get the whole bunch, try them and then hang them real lawful-like. They decide to leave Lon with Jess (not my first choice) in case the others come back for him.
Lon, Sharon and Jess go back in the house, Jess taking a quick glance back at the noose.
Sharon helps Jess into his shirt and whispers to him that Lon won’t shoot. Lon gets all huffy and makes Sharon move away from him. Lon just doesn’t understand her behavior, especially since he’s spoken for her an’ all. Jess is astounded that Sharon would consider marrying this idiot. This of course, riles Lon even more. Especially when Jess goads him even more. Finally Jess says “Maybe you’d better marry him, Sharon, looks like the only way he’s ever gonna get any brains.” That does it and Lon lunges. Jess knocks him out easily and takes his gun. Jess says he’s sorry he had to bait Lon like that, but it was the only way. Sharon understands. Smart gal, that one.
Jess heads out after Christy. He tells Sharon to wait a half hour and then tell Lon where’s he’s gone. He wants to catch up with Christy alone, but after that, he’s liable to need some help. Jess asks if she’s going to be okay. She says that Lon is a good man and sadly, Jess and Sharon share the obligatory goodbye kiss at the door, and he’s off. Sharon turns away, a sad look on her face. Okay, up to this point I thought Sharon was a smart, and sensible girl. But choosing Lon over Jess makes me think she’s a might touched in the head. End of editorial comments.
Okay, so Jess rides around looking for Christy, knowing generally what direction he went. He finds Christy lying by a fire and playing his harmonica. The crew has gone off to move the cattle. The ranchers have given up their search as well.
Christy apologizes for whumping Jess the way he did. Jess allows that “you were in a hurry, and I was in your way.”
Christy stands up, towering over Jess, and offers again to let Jess join them. Jess says the fifteen head won’t hurt him and Slim, but he picked the ranches in the valley clean and a boy was killed. Christy has regret, but Jess isn’t going to let him slide by.
The older Bannister comes up behind Jess with a gun. He isn’t too happy that Christy offered to bring Jess in with them. Bannister doesn’t want another split. Christy suggests tying Jess up and taking his horse, but Bannister has a more permanent arrangement in mind. Jess tries to drive a wedge between Bannister and Christy by asking Christy if he’s gonna let Bannister get away with making his decisions for him. There is shooting and Jess is the only one left standing. Christy is mortally wounded. He couldn’t let Bannister kill Jess. He rates better than that, he says. Christy dies, and the rest of the Bannisters have now showed up and are shooting at Jess. Lon gets the drop on them and saves Jess. When the dust settles, Lon asks if Jess is hurt. Jess looks over at Christy’s body and replies, “No, not where it shows.” ::::sniff:::: Jess didn't sniff, that was me.
Back home with Slim, Daisy and Mike, Jess is goldbricking, getting all the mileage he can out of his cracked ribs while they do the clean up from the storm. Jess chides Slim for not getting all this work done before he got home. Slim counters that it seems they spent a lot of time looking for someone who was lost.
Daisy is making over Jess so much it makes your teeth ache and Slim and Mike are up to no good. As soon as Daisy leaves, Slim offers to let Jess help them clean the furniture they’ve just brought out of the house. Jess laments that alas, he’s still too sore. Besides, he doesn’t see anything wrong with the furniture anyway. “Women are too durn partic-a-ler.” Is that right? Slim and Mike proceed to knock about a ton of dirt out of the chair right next to where Jess is sitting. See? Jess can move when he wants too.
Notes of Interest:Christy is played by a favorite re-occuring guest star, Rod Cameron. One of the briefly-seen Bannister brothers is Harry Carey, Jr. Sharon is played by the lovely non-bimbo, Myrna Fahey (see them all on our guest stars page). Myrna sadly died young of Cancer.
The Owie Factor:   Jess gets "all stove up" in this one, and a slug to the head. The way he milks it at the end makes me think he'd want a few more bandaids, but I'm giving him two.
Annie's rating: This is a simple and imminently predicatble story, but a good one. A good cast and a fair amount of half nekkid Jess elevate it to 3 stars.
Jess gets stuck under a tree in a storm
Christy finds Jess
Christy helps Jess
Sharon finds Jess
Jess wakes up at Sharon's place
Jess is interrogated by Pa and Lon
Christy comes back
Jess frees Sharon
Lon threatens to hang Jess
Just a friendly little kiss
The Long Road Home
The Sunday Shoot