Another’s Footsteps (Episode 2.24)

Executive Producer Frank Price
Produced By Cy Chermak
Written By Frank Chase
Directed By R.G. Springsteen

They’re not cruel .... just desperate.

Episode scene:

The Virginian has tracked the bank robber who killed his friend to a small ranch in Montana. While awaiting his prey, he poses as a drifter and hires out to help the man’s wife take care of the ranch until he should return. One day, while he is out rounding up stray cattle, some Indians come onto the property looking for food and threatening trouble. The Virginian arrives just in time to send them scurrying, telling them they have nothing to trade. Karen tells him “They looked so cruel.” and he explains to her they are desperate because theyare starving on the reservations, so they leave and find themselves starving outside as well. Later, they come back with murderous intentions, but the Virginian is ready and waiting.

Quotation from the book (Chapter 26):

“Peaceable” Indians were still in these mountains, and some few of them had for the past hour been skirting his journey unseen, and now waited for him in the wood, which they expected him to enter. They had been too wary to use their rifles or show themselves, lest these travellers should be only part of a larger company following, who would hear the noise of a shot, and catch them in the act of murder.So, safe under the cover of the pines, they had planned to sling their silent noose, and drag the white man from his horse as he passed through the trees...
[Later, Molly finds a seriously wounded Virginian.] “It must be noon,” said the cow-puncher...I remember it was dark when - when - when I can remember. I reckon they were scared to follow me in so close to settlers. Else they would have been here.”
....The country was moved with concern and interest [after hearing how the Virginian was almost killed by Indians]...The Indians who had done this were now in military custody. They had come unpermitted from a southern reservation, hunting, next thieving, and as the slumbering spirit roused in one or two of the young and ambitious, they had ventured this in the secret mountains, and perhaps had killed a trapper found there.

Additional comments:

  1. I really loved this episode for the glimpse it provides into the life the Virginian would someday like to have for himself. From the moment he meets Karen Anders and her son Tim, he is attracted to both of them and cannot understand why Karen's husband Tom would look elsewhere for "wealth". The longing in James Drury's eyes, his tenderness with Karen and fatherly feelings for Tim, are realistically and dramatically portrayed. James Drury makes it clear that the Virginian despises Tom for ignoring his family more than for the murder of his friend in the bank.
  2. Although the TV Virginian only wants a simple life and a small ranch, his literary counterpart longs for much more. In fact, he tells Molly’s aunt that the days of the Cattle Kings are coming to an end. “I have seen that coming a long while. ...[W]hen I took up my land, I chose a place where there is coal. It will not be long before the new railroad needs that.” We are told by the author that he becomes an “important man” in the territory.


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(Compilation © 2002 by Alice Munzo. All rights reserved.)