Growing up in the 50’s and 60’s, TV westerns were the main indoor entertainment. My imagination would go wild watching these programs and acting them out in my own way on our 100-acre farm. One of my many “must see” shows was The Rifleman, starring Chuck Conners as Lucas McCain and Johnny Crawford as his son Mark. The Rifleman didn’t wear a sidearm. He had a Winchester Model 1892 .44-40 carbine with a modified large round-D-style loop lever. He had this really cool way to swing the rifle in a vertical circle to cock it and then rapid fire because of a trigger-trip screw revision. Lucas McCain was a good guy, human, but righteous. Imagine how happy I was to get a cap gun replica of the rifle.
My cousins moved out of their rented home down from the Paris schoolhouse and we went over to help. I found a couple items that were of interest—that Rifleman replica cap gun and a couple of leather toy bandoliers. The cap gun was not in too good of shape, but I saved it from the junk bin. I had a blast with it, acting out the scenes in The Rifleman. I even got so I was better than Lucas McCain—at least in my mind. No bad guy would get away from me. If they tried to escape, I would jump on my trusty pony Trigger—renamed from Tricker because of Roy Rogers, but that’s another story–and gallop out after them. And I would throw that gun down, swing it back up, and fire it at a full gallop. Never saw McCain do that.
The Rifleman always concluded with a moral of the story. Lucas was a single father because his wife died when Mark was very young. He was very human, often making decisions about things that we could use and learn from in real life. The bad guys sometimes had a little good in them and that was recognized by Lucas when Mark would ask a question about some of their actions at the end of the show. One show, in particular, was about how these convicted killers sentenced to hang escaped from the prison wagon in McCain’s town of North Fork. These bad guys essentially took over the town until Lucas got his back up and took them on. The episode ended with Mark and his dad having their little talk about it.
Mark asked about how guys like that could take over a town. Lucas answered saying that when people become so involved in their own lives that they sort of fall asleep and forget to stand up for what’s right, they will lose what they have. Mark said, “Kinda like the Roman Empire.” And Lucas said, “Yeah, kinda like the Roman Empire.” The moral of that story kinda stuck with me. That we need to stand up for our rights or someone will take them away. It’s like in Acts 5:29 when the Sadducees were trying to take away the Apostles right to preach Christ and they said, “We ought to obey God rather than men.” Truth and justice always have been foundational to my core principles and some of them were strengthened by westerns like The Rifleman. By the way, I wish that replica cap gun had stuck with me—it’s worth over $300 on eBay!