"Boy Into Man"
(Original air date 01/16/67)
A sixteen-year-old runs afoul of the law and flees with his siblings
to find the impoverished mother who abandoned them
Writer: A.I. Bezzerides
Director: Paul Henreid
In Stockton, teenager Lud Akely (Richard Dreyfuss) patiently waits for the store clerk Carl Morgan (John Harmon) to finish loading his client Wiley Griffinís (J. Pat O'Malley) donkey with supplies before stealing a few vegetables from the display. Carl catches him red-handed and begins chasing after him. Lud accidentally bumps into Heath who kindly offers to pay for the produce and offers to take him home to his mother in exchange for Carlís promise not to involve the sheriff.
When he realizes that Ludís mother and siblings arenít home he insists on taking the teen back to the ranch. As they cross the door, Ludís brother Chuckie (Darby Hinton) and sister Cecilia (Margot Jane) come out of hiding, begging their older brother not to leave them like their mother did. Angry, Lud orders them to keep quiet but Heath manages to charm the answers out of the two hungry children. Lud reluctantly follows.
At the ranch Chuckie and Cecilia gorge themselves on the bountiful feat while Lud categorically refuses to touch his food. When Victoria leaves the room to go discuss the delicate matter with Nick and Heath, Lud follows and eavesdropped on the conversation. Victoria spots the prying ears and carefully chooses her words about the reason for Ludís mother abandoning her children. She beckons Heath to follow her back to the dining room to convince the children to take a bath
Later once the young children are all tucked in for the night, Victoria and Heath make another attempt at convincing Lud to eat. Again he stubbornly refuses and heads upstairs, leaving Victoria to fill Heath in on the Akely family story that began in blissfulness to end in hardship following the fatherís death.
In the dead of night, Lud creeps downstairs to wolf down his dinner left on the table.
Lud is put to work on the ranch, helping Nick and Heath in the barn cleaning stalls. Jarrod beckons his brother out of the barn to discuss Ludís motherís whereabouts. Lud eavesdropped on part of the conversation then hurries out the back door to get his siblings. He drags them over to a buggy and drives away.
The search is on for the missing children. Luckily Nick and Heath are able to catch up with them when Lud runs the surrey into a small ditch. Lud brandishes a whip at Nick who easily manages to yank it off his hand. He and Heath haul the buggy out of the ditch and set it back on the road.
Anguished and hurt Victoria unwillingly loses her temper with the self-conceited teen. She apologizes for her action but the young man flees, leaving the despairing matriarch to cry her grief in Nickís arms.
In town, while Heath goes in the general store to gets some supplies, Lud seizes the opportunity to sneak to the railroad depot. As he searches for the vanishing teen, Heath meets with gold prospector Wiley Griffin who is excited about finally finding the mother load.
Lud shows up and heads back to the ranch with Heath while Wiley stumbles up to the assay office to have his loot appraised.
At night, Lud sneaks downstairs to steal an expensive heirloom then heads into town to try to sell it at the saloon. He sets his cap on Wiley who canít stop bragging about his good fortune, but unfortunately the old drunken prospector is not interested. Ludís persistence finally pays off. Wiley buys the music box for a handful of gold dust. Soon a lone figure emerges from the shadows and kills the old man for his gold.
The sheriff (James Gavin) comes by the ranch to bring the music box he found next to Wileyís body. That piece of evidence points to Lud being the murderer. Witnesses remember the teen trying to sell the heirloom for $15.80 and all wonder why that exact price. Heath believes that the amount might correspond to a train ticket to a particular destination.
He goes to the railroad depot to confirm his suspicion. The clerk (Renny McEvoy) admits that Lud came by to enquire about the price of a train ticket to Elko, Nevada.
Lud travels to the little town to look his mother up. He drops by the boarding house where she told him she would be staying. The owner Mrs. Goody (Charlotte Knight) tells him of a Muriel Akely who works down at the saloon, but Lud refuses to believe his mother would stoop so low as to be a whore. Nevertheless he goes to the saloon to verify the womanís story. Horror strikes him when he spots his mother (Diane Ladd) dancing with one of the patrons.
Her apologies have little effect on the angry young man who storms out of the saloon. He goes somewhere isolate to let the tears flow. Heath spots him and explains the situation back in Stockton. Lud reluctantly agrees to return with him to face the murder charges.
In jail, Lud remains tight-lipped, refusing to cooperate with Jarrod until his mother shows up and pleads for his forgiveness. Victoria insists Muriel explains the reason why she left her children to fend for themselves, which she does. Lud slowly breaks down at her motherís tearful story of how she tried to find a father for her three children by getting a job in the same saloon where she met his dad. Lud then throws herself in her arms and assures he didnít kill anyone; that he merely wanted the money to buy a ticket to Elko.
Jarrod and Heath slowly come to the realization that old Wiley may have finally struck it rich and that whoever killed him knew about the ore. Their suspicion fall on George Osborne (Bryan O'Byrne), the assayer.
George calmly explains that Wileyís ore was nothing but foolís gold. The report in good order, Heath and Jarrod drop their suspicion and head for the livery stables to buy Wileyís old donkey, Jenny. To make her more docile, they search for a cube of sugar in the saddlebag. In the process a rock falls to the ground. Expert miner Heath smells tellurium laced with pure gold.
He walks back to the assay office to trick George into admitting he knew about the ore. His scheme now uncloaked, George pulls a gun on Heath but Jarrod surprises him from behind and shoots him dead.
Later Heath drives Lud back home to reunite with his mother and siblings. The happy reunion is sealed with Heathís personal guarantee to Lud of a job at the ranch.
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