The Virginian

Season 2 Episode 1

Ride a Dark Trail

Aired Wednesday 7:30 PM Sep 18, 1963 on NBC

Episode Recap

Young Lon Mortison (Buzz Martin) enters the Medicine Bow saloon with a rifle looking for a gambler named Burke. He threatens the customers, and even shoots one of the locals who interferes, and then flees. The Virginian enters the livery stable where he is accosted and held at rifle point by Lon who reveals his father had gambled away all the family's money and then had committed suicide. Lon believes Burke had cheated his father. The Virginian, while sceptical that Burke had cheated, agrees that a "man's got to stick up for his blood" and proceeds to recount the story of how Trampas came to Shiloh Ranch. A flashback sequence begins with Trampas's father, Frank (Sonny Tufts) trying to gain his wayward son's release from the El Paso, Texas jail and into his custody. The Judge (Carleton Young) is sceptical of such an arrangement given Frank's own record of fraud and assault. However, Frank reveals he has bought a ranch and is going to pay it off by selling some cattle he has obtained and his pleading gets the Judge to relent.

Arriving at the ranch, Trampas is dismayed by its condition but his father convinces him to give it a try, arguing they can make a go of it by rounding up maverick cattle which abound in the surrounding area. Frank goes to town and meets Judge Garth who is in town buying cattle. Judge Garth sends one if his men to look at Frank Trampas' cattle but finds out that they have hoof and mouth disease. When Frank arrives to collect his money he is told of the misfortune and accuses Daley, a local cattle broker, of selling him diseased cattle although Daley denies the claim. Frank draws on and fires three shots at Daley, wounding him and in turn, Judge Garth is forced to draw and kill Frank. Although done in self- defence, the local Sheriff advises Judge Garth to avoid Trampas who is sure will be out for revenge. No one will reveal to Trampas who actually killed his father but he does learn the man carries a gun emblazoned in silver with a large "S" and goes off in search of him. At a river crossing he is swept off his horse and rescued by Judge Garth who had had a similar mishap and lost his gun. Trampas does not recognize the Judge as the man who killed his father although the Judge recognizes who Trampas is. Trampas notes that he will visit the Judge if he ever gets to Wyoming.

Henry Garth returns to Shiloh where it is revealed the gun was a gift from the hands and he gets the Virginian to have a replacement made. Eventually Trampas arrives and ends up in jail for cheating at craps. He gets the Judge to bail him out, in return for which he will have to work off the debt at Shiloh even though he has no experience as a hand. At Shiloh he meets and befriends ranch hand Faraway (Royal Dano) but has run-ins with several others including Steve Hill and the Virginian. A pack of fierce wolves are menacing the Shiloh herds so Faraway and Trampas are sent to watch over the cattle. While Faraway is sleeping, Trampas sneaks off to the bar in Medicine Bow, the fire goes out and the wolves attack Faraway who is severely wounded and would have been killed had not the Virginian been nearby. The Virginian tracks down Trampas and tells him to get out of Shiloh.

Trampas comes to Shiloh and sneaks in to see Faraway to apologize and while leaving is caught by Judge Garth. He asks to be allowed to go on the hunt for the wolves but is refused at which point he steals Steve Hill's horse and goes after the wolves himself. However, he is thrown by the horse and loses is gun and is attacked by the pack, only to be saved by the arrival of Judge Garth and the Virginian. He recognizes the Judge's gun emblazoned with the Shiloh "S" and the Judge gives him the gun daring him to shoot him as he walks away. Trampas empties the gun into the ground and breaks down. The Virginian then asks him to ride back with him on his horse to Shiloh. The flashback ends and the Virginian turns his back on Lon Mortison and begins walking away. Lon empties the rifle into the ground and with the Virginian walks down the street to the Sheriff's office.