This episode uses one of the classic confrontations of the western frontier: cattlemen vs homesteaders, the open range vs fenced farms. As in most presentations of this conflict on television, the "nesters" are the underdogs besieged by the powerful cattle barons. In this case, the three big cattlemen send for a man from the Cattle Association, supposedly to stop the homesteaders from rustling cattle.
Dan warns that Association men were known to make charges and nail them down with a gun. When Dan gets back to town, Johnny is excited to report that famous lawman Tod Horgan is in Laramie and is waiting for Dan at the cafe. Dan credits Horgan with teaching him everything he knows about being a lawman. Dan was his first deputy.
Their initial enthusiasm over the charming Tod is dampened considerably when they find out he's the Association man Brady's been expecting. Tod explains that he has nothing to show for being a lawman for over twenty years. He's been making good money working for the Association for the past six months. Dan accuses him of doing a dirty job like any hired gun. Tod insists no one has their brand on him. Dan and Johnny leave without waiting for their steaks.
Horgan accompanies Brady when he goes to Brent and Johnson, the two closest homesteaders. Brady offers to buy them out, but not enough for them to recoup what they've already put into their farms. Horgan lets them know he's out to find rustlers.
The cattlemen get impatient when after a week, Horgan hasn't pinned any rustling on the homesteaders. They let him know they'll back up any story he wants to tell. They aren't happy when it becomes clear he's only looking for real rustlers, not an excuse to roust homesteaders. So they send him out to to guard the north section while they frame Johnson and Brent by driving cattle onto their land and leaving butchered steers in their barns. Then they bring Horgan to view the "evidence". Horgan follows one set of tracks to the Brent homestead and tries to arrest him for rustling. Brent doesn't object when Brady demands to search his barn.
When Horgan finds a dead steer covered with straw, Brent knows he's been set up. Horgan kills him in the ensuing gun fight. When Dan arrives he recognizes the set up. He knows that Johnson was in jail all night after a fight in the saloon. Brent was tending his sick baby. Dan sends Lucy Brent and her kids into town with Johnny and sets out in the direction where Johnny found their tracks.
Dan tells Horgan he's under arrest. Horgan protests that he knew nothing about the frame-up. But he is clearly bothered that he killed an innocent man, even if he did draw first. He and Dan draw on each other. Horgan ends up with one of those ubiquitous shoulder wounds. It is clear neither man actually tried to kill the other. Horgan says he had a sudden dizzy spell. Dan says the sun was in his eyes.
As Dan is tending Hogan's wound, Brady raises his rifle to shoot Dan. Horgan shoots him down.
In the final scene, Dan gets a letter from Hogan in prison where he's serving six months. Hogan has sent money for Brent's widow.
NiteOwl Review: A nicely played out episode. It was typical of Johnny to get excited about the big names in the law game. And typical of Dan to be skeptical. It was not unusual for men who were good with a gun to play both sides of the law. However, in this case, Horgan was never intentionally on the wrong side of the law. He had to be duped into thinking the homesteaders were rustling cattle. He was perhaps not as skeptical as he should have been about the convenience of Brady finding such blatant evidence of rustling so soon after the cattlemen let Horgan know they would back up any story he wanted to tell. Since Brent did draw his gun first and Horgan wasn't in on the set up, it's not entirely clear why he got a prison term, even a short one.
Our Favorite Scene: There were no big scenes in this episode. So we just chose the scene we liked as kids. Johnny rides up fast and dismounts gracefully before the horse stops moving.
The homesteaders complain to Dan about cut fences
Dan warns cattleman Brady that the homesteaders are entitled to legal protection
"You two are going to want to to talk"
"Come on, Boy, Tod won't mind"
The festive mood turns sour as Horgan lets them know why he's come to Laramie
Brent is killed, leaving a
grieving widow and two kids
Brady tries to shoot Dan in the back but gets shot himself instead
The poster in the background with the 500 pesos reward appears in many Warners westerns.
It appeared next to a poster for Bret Maverick in a Sugarfoot episode.
Original air date Dec 28, 1958
Directed by Anton M. Leader
Teleplay by Finlay McDermid
& Edmund Morris
John Russell as Dan Troop
Peter Brown as Johnny McKay
Bek Nelson as Dru Lemp
Wayne Morris as Tod Horgan
Rusty Lane as Brady
Tom Holland as Farley Brent
Lonie Blackman as Lucy Brent
William Meigs as Johnson
Ray Walker as Sheehan
Duane Grey as Willard
Official Peter Brown Fan Site