Have Gun - Will Travel

Season 1 Episode 36

24 Hours at North Fork

Aired Saturday 9:30 PM May 24, 1958 on CBS
out of 10
User Rating
12 votes

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Episode Summary

24 Hours at North Fork
When a blight kills all the crops except for one farmer's, Paladin must protect him from a greedy storekeeper who wants his farm and his hired gun who has a personal grudge against Paladin.

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  • This is a sort of in-between episode; not great, but not poor. It's quite a charming, enjoyable episode, with good characters and an interesting plot.

    It starts with one of the funnier teasers I've seen on this series. Paladin is at the Opera House, pointedly keeping himself off on the sidelines, until a young woman drifts past him and drops her flyer of the evening's entertainment. I can't be certain, because there was no listing in the credits for either episode, but she looks remarkably like the sulky, bad-tempered-looking woman from the teaser of "Killer's Widow" who seated herself in the lobby, glanced at her watch, and then sat glaring impatiently into the middle distance. Paladin's approach at that point was interrupted, but it wouldn't surprise me in the least to find that he took up the challenge of charming her. If so, he did his job too well; the lady's Uncle Ned has heard of their affair. It is a little odd, though; Uncle Ned turned up the day before. It is now the following evening, and he has made no attempt to confront Paladin, even though Paladin is surely well enough known in San Francisco that anyone could have told Uncle Ned where to reach him. It also seems odd, given the circumstances, that the lady was able to send a message to Paladin and meet him at the Opera House. And Paladin's comment was strange, "Are the rumors exaggerated?" Either you're indulging in hanky-panky or you're not, and if it truly was all in innocence, they wouldn't need to be so concerned. It is funny, however, and the gallant Paladin, not wanting to kill his lady's elderly guardian, opts for a temporary retreat.

    Presumably he simply hopped on the first stage out of town. Even though he was not travelling "on business" he elected to dress in his working clothes. They make what is supposed to be a temporary stop in North Fork, either to water or change the horses, but the driver learns that there is a bad storm brewing ahead, so they will have to stay overnight. At this point a foursome comes riding into town, the two men and the elderly lady dressed in dark colors. The young woman with them is more ordinarily dressed, but she keeps her hand protectively on the older woman. Paladin, of course, recognizes them as Mennonites, and is rather surprised that they have travelled so far West. The town's saloon is attached to the general store, and Paladin heads there for a drink. He quickly learns that all is not well in this little town. Blight has attacked the local wheat crops. Milo Culligan, who owns the store, will pay only the bare minimum for the crops, even though it can be used as fodder for livestock, at least. Culligan has the people where he wants them: the next town is eighty miles away, and they can either take what he offers or make the long trek that might or might not result in a better bargain. Paladin also discovers something even more unpleasant; the Mennonites, who had been there for a year, are regarded with distrust by the town, simply for being "different". Culligan's dislike is even greater, to the point where he refuses service to them--and he will refuse service to any local foolish enough to make purchases on behalf of the Mennonites. Paladin quietly points out that Mennonites, back in Pennsylvania where the largest grouping of them live, are considered exemplary neighbors. Culligan doesn't care, and I rather think that he enjoys the power he wields over the town. A drunken older man, Marty Buchanan, and a contemptuous younger man, Jud Polk, get involved in the confrontation. The town had been angered by the Mennonites' refusal to help fight off a recent Indian attack, but their religion forbids fighting. The young woman with the Mennonites is Tildy Buchanan, Marty's daughter, and she tries to defend their rights. Jud is ready to knock her around, but the younger Mennonite man, Johann, is prepared to defend her, even if only by standing between them. Jud sneers at Tildy, implying that before she went over to the Mennonites she had been the town "bad girl", which earns him a slap. It's quite possible that her reputation has nothing more behind it than being the daughter of the town drunk. Paladin intervenes at this point, displaying his card. Culligan will have no gunplay in his store. Paladin is perfectly willing to take it outside, but Jud, looking into his cold eyes, backs down. Culligan is not about to let anyone assist the Mennonites, and, being the owner of the hotel as well as the store, smugly denies Paladin a room. The Mennonites, however, offer Paladin their hospitality.

    Out at their farm, Paladin takes in the evening air, after having enjoyed a rich Mennonite meal. Tildy comes out with a slice of cake baked especially for him by Baba Bruckner, who is presumably Maxim Bruckner's mother. (Tildy mentions that Baba does all the housework despite being eighty-seven; Adeline de Walt Reynolds, who played her, was in fact ninety-five at the time.) Tildy has apparently chosen her moment to confide in this gun for hire. She's worried about the future of the Mennonites in this town, with everyone being against them. Paladin is not too concerned; they are a strong people. Tildy confesses that much of the anger is because of her. Her father had become a perpetual drunk after the death of his wife. Tildy had struggled to do her filial duty by him, but it became too much when her father sold her to Jud Polk for fifty dollars. When Jud showed up to claim his rights, she fled, but no one in the town would give her shelter--except the Mennonites. Paladin attempts to comfort the weeping girl, but she suddenly sees that the fields are on fire, and all is forgotten in the rush to save what they can.

    The next morning, an exhausted Maxim and Paladin take stock; the barn and the corn crop are gone, but the house was saved, as well as Baba's "garden" of wheat grown for family baking. Maxim has had enough, and plans to accept Culligan's meager offer of five dollars an acre for their land and then move to Canada. Even when Paladin finds proof that the fire had been deliberately set, Maxim sees it as a sign that they should not stay. Paladin offers to negotiate for them, since it's going to be unpleasant. He is interested to find that Baba's wheat, which they had brought with them from Pennsylvania, has not been touched by blight, and tells Maxim to bring a barrel of it with him to town. Maxim is puzzled, but agreeable--as long as Paladin does not resort to any violence. It does not seem to be Maxim's own religious belief that concerns him at this point, but his fear that Paladin, his guest, will come to harm.

    After brushing aside Tildy's father, Paladin confronts Culligan about the fire, but there's no proof that he had anything to do with it. Culligan states that, with the corn crop gone, he will only pay three dollars an acre for the land. Paladin is revolted by this man's greed, but it's not his land to sell or withhold, and he retreats to discuss the matter with the Mennonites. Culligan summons Jud to his office. He is fully aware that the fire was Jud's doing, but he had not ordered it; he was outraged at the loss of a valuable crop. Although Jud had done his bidding in the past, to enforce Culligan's demands on the people, he now wants Jud out of town. Jud, however, wants to take Tildy with him. It dawns on Culligan that if Jud disposes of Paladin, Jud can have Tildy, and Culligan can do what he likes with the Mennonites without interference. He suggests, however, that Jud get some help, and pays him some extra cash to hire someone.

    Marty Buchanan accosts Paladin again, anxious that Paladin protect his daughter. He warns him about Jud. The Mennonites have arrived at this point, and Tildy scornfully disbelieves anything her father would say. Paladin is inclined to go along with her, as Marty has been one of the anti-Mennonite group, but Marty pleads that his reason for doing so was so that the Mennonites would be driven away--and would take Tildy away with them, safe from Jud. Paladin spots Jud's henchman creeping up on them, sees Jud as well, and swings into action. The henchman, out in the open, is quickly dropped, but Jud is hiding in one of the buildings. Shots are exchanged, the Mennonites dive for cover, but Tildy comes out in the open, crying that she will go with Jud if he just leaves the others alone. Jud jumps out and grabs her. She's too small to shield him, however, as Paladin points out with a couple of shots. Jud finally drops his gun, sneering that Tildy isn't worth it. This comment finally prompts a reaction from young Johann, but Paladin tells Johann to leave it to him. If this is a sin, he's going to enjoy committing it. Shall I confess something? I've seen this episode a number of times now, and each time, as Paladin removes his gun holster and tosses it aside, ready to teach Jud a lesson, my heart flutters a bit. Violence is deplorable, of course, and I'm all for equality between the sexes, but seeing him standing ready to defend the lady's honor...oh, yes!

    The fight was a good one, as fights go; not too long. I have a sneaking suspicion that they had Richard Boone take it on the chin in various fights just to make it look a little more equal. Watching how expertly he intercepted Jud's first dash makes you wonder how anybody could manage to lay a finger on Paladin. I liked how, when Jud snatched up a pickax, you hear a woman scream. It was a stock scream, that I've heard a dozen times, at least, but it made sense that someone would react to the sudden introduction of a lethal weapon. Paladin, of course, copes with it and brings the fight to an end. He then commands that everyone draw near (and no one was going to argue). He chews out the town, not just for their fear of strangers, but for letting Culligan have enough power over them to prevent them from showing decency to people in need. He then shows the farmers that the Mennonites are in possession of wheat that resists blight--it is a different type of wheat than what they had been using. Culligan, who would come into possession of the wheat if he bought the farm, promises that he would give the farmers a "good price" for the wheat. Maxim Bruckner, on the other hand, simply wants to be a good neighbor, and is willing to give enough wheat away that the farmers can raise their own seed for crops. Culligan throws out his usual threat of denying service to anyone who dares accept the free wheat, but the townspeople have finally realized that Culligan is only interested in his own profits. If necessary, they will drive the eighty miles to the next town for their supplies. Culligan is pointedly advised to get out of town, and Paladin, taking advantage of the change in attitude, suggests that they assist the Mennonites with a barn-raising. (It would have been nice if they could have included a few shots of that, because it is something to see.)

    Paladin, having settled the town's and the Mennonites' problems out of sheer gallantry (and some good Mennonite cooking), prepares to continue on his way. Tildy, who is about to marry into the Mennonite family, slyly points out that, as Johann had nearly committed a sin in jumping to her defence earlier, she should be allowed one little one herself, and plants a kiss on Paladin. Little Baba, not to be outdone, follows suit. Paladin appears to be just as charmed by Baba's kiss as he was with Tildy's.

    Just an overall "nice" episode.moreless
Jacqueline Scott

Jacqueline Scott

Tildy Buchanan

Guest Star

Harry Shannon

Harry Shannon

Marty Buchanan

Guest Star

Brad Dexter

Brad Dexter

Jud Polk

Guest Star

Trivia, Notes, Quotes and Allusions


  • TRIVIA (2)

    • An interesting point: Paladin has not been summoned to North Fork, nor is he simply passing by on his way to or from a job. To put it baldly, he is fleeing the wrath of the outraged guardian of a young lady with whom he has apparently been having an affair. (Although the lady seems confident of persuading said guardian that it was purely platonic.)

    • (nitpick) When Paladin knocks Jud Polk through a door near the end of the episode, you can see that the pins were removed from the hinges. Had he really been knocked through, the entire hinge (pins and all) would remain with either the door or the frame (wood being softer than metal).

  • QUOTES (7)

    • Paladin: Where were you last night?
      Lady: Uncle Ned arrived yesterday.
      Paladin: Uncle Ned, I thought he wasn't due until next week.
      Lady: The rumors about us reached him. Since he's my guardian, he felt it was very important to get here and, have a talk with you.
      Paladin: Were the rumors exaggerated?
      Lady: He insists upon killing you!
      Paladin: Well, now, I really can't allow that.
      Lady: I'd be devastated if he did.
      Paladin: Well, even in self defense, I wouldn't like to kill Uncle Ned.
      Lady: Look, Uncle Ned's business won't allow him to stay long in San Francisco. If you give me a few days, I'm sure I can convince him that ours is, is the most platonic of friendships, but, it'd be best if he couldn't find you until then.
      Paladin: You're suggesting I leave the city?
      Lady: For your health.

    • Paladin: Mennonites. I've never seen them this far West.
      Stage Driver: Mennonites. That what you call 'em? Eh, they've been here about a year. Don't seem to've made many friends. You know how some people are about furriners.
      Paladin: They're originally from the Crimea.
      Stage Driver: Crimea? Oh, yeah, yeah.

    • Paladin: Mr. Bruckner, is this your coal-oil can?
      Bruckner: No--no, it's not ours.
      Paladin: Well, it was lying beside the fence. I don't believe your fire was started by any messenger of the Lord. Rather one from an opposite direction.

    • Paladin: Mr. Bruckner, will you do me a great favor, sir?
      Bruckner: Of course, anything.
      Paladin: Will you permit me to do your dealing with Culligan? There's going to be trouble, you've had enough already, and trouble is my profession.

    • Paladin: You're a disgrace to the human soul. You stir up prejudice, that makes a mockery of everything a decent man holds valuable. You're a vulture that can't wait to prey on the dead. You prey on the living.

    • Paladin: Now I never saw a sorrier collection of people trying to call themselves a town.....

    • Paladin: I promised a man that I would not commit violence. I never found it harder to keep my word.

  • NOTES (1)