"The Death Merchant"

(Original air date 02/23/66)


A killer involves himself in a quarrel between the Barkleys and neighbours


Writer: Jay Simms

Director: Bernard McEveety

A lone rider ambles his way through the Barkley orange groves, minding his own business, when shots get fired at him. He runs for cover and attempts to reason with the concealed gunmen while he strains to catch sight of them. Once he spots his targets he aims and shoots, hitting one of them.

The gunfire alerts Nick who rides out to the area. There he meets with the old goat he recognizes as the man who shot his father’s killer, family friend Handy Random (James Whitmore).


Meanwhile at the ranch Jarrod reluctantly accedes to Pedro’s wish (Pepe Hern) to be laid off until this quarrel with neighbour Ezra Craddock is over. The harvest hand assures Jarrod that he’ll be back after the matter is settled in court.

Nick comes in with Handy who is happy to be renewing acquaintance with the Barkley children and accepts their generous hospitality to lodge at the ranch. Once enlightened about the land dispute between the two clans, Handy proposes a radical method in order to deal with the trespassers. Jarrod and Nick are against further violence and wince at the news that Handy already shot one of the Craddock boys. This incident will likely give way to all-out range war; a situation they are desperately trying to avoid.


Jarrod urges Nick to go report the shooting to the sheriff. As he leaves Heath enters with news that he had no luck finding able bodies willing to work for the Barkleys as long as the dispute is on. Hopefully the court will rule in their favour and everything will return to normal.

Jarrod then introduces Handy to his little brother. Heath’s eyes start shooting daggers at the scruffy-looking man he recognizes from his past. He storms out of the room without so much of an explanation to his two puzzled siblings.

In town Nick discusses the incident with the sheriff (Michael Harris) insisting that Handy is not a hired gun but a friend of the family who just happened to be at the wrong place at the wrong time. The sheriff can only try to keep the peace between the Barkleys and Craddocks until a judge can settled the land dispute.


Nick rides out to the Craddock Ranch to speak with Ezra (Royal Dano). His attempt at convincing him that Handy is merely an acquaintance fails miserably. The vengeful patriarch won’t relent. He is doggedly intent on fighting the Barkleys in a court of law for that land he believes belongs to him.

After visiting with Handy in the barn to give him a special gift, Audra goes to Heath requesting that he explains his rude behavior towards Handy. Barely does he have time to tell her all about his run with the man that Nick barges in, furious at his failure to knock some sense into Craddock’s head.

Handy interrupts the discussion by reiterating his offer to keep the Craddocks off their land for a $500 fee. They refuse, stating that violence is not the answer.


Once Handy out of the room, Heath relates the story of how he came to know the old man. During the Lincoln Wars, men were paid big money to kill soldiers. Only Handy chose the easy way. He’d shoot his friends in the back and steal their saddles as proof of having gunned down a soldier and in return, would get paid for his work. Heath was one of those misfortunate souls but he luckily lived to tell about it. He advises his brothers to get rid of that walking plague before there’s any more bloodshed.

Nick and Jarrod politely ask Handy to mount up and ride off their property. When Handy’s temper begins to flare up, Heath backs his brothers with a gun thrust at the old man’s back. Nurturing high hopes of having the opportunity to work for the enemy, Handy leaves them with a warning not to trespass on Craddock’s land for he won’t hesitate to shoot them on sight.


At gun point Handy impels Craddock’s sons Joe (Steve Whittaker) and Frank (Jim McMullan) to take him to their father. There he feeds the Ezra the story of how the Barkleys came to hire him as their watchdog and that he’s willing to switch camp for the right price. Although suspicious at first, Craddock finally accepts Handy’s proposition.

Heath returns home to be told by Silas that Audra was seen riding out toward the Craddock place. Worried that Handy might shoot her, Heath grabs a rifle and rides after his sister.


Audra meets with her former beau, Frank, and his father in the orange groves and tries to warn them against Handy. But Ezra is more interested in playing matchmaker for the two young people than discuss the old man. Upon Audra’s refusal to change the topic of conversation, he asks Frank to escort her back.

Halfway down the path, they part ways. A few feet away, Handy is aiming to gun down the pretty blonde when Heath shows up. The jackass brays, sounding the alarm that prompts Heath to jump on Audra before shots are fired.


Handy apologizes while reloading his rifle, hoping to locate the pair by the sound of their voices.

Frank shows up, threatening Handy to drop his weapon but the old man is faster on the trigger and shoots the boy dead. Minutes later Ezra and his son Joe find Frank’s body.


At Heath’s request, Audra calls out to Handy to tell him that her brother is hurt. Once he gets there, Heath takes a shot at him. Seeing how he’s dying Heath accedes to Handy’s last request to provide him with a blanket.


While Heath removes his coat, Handy garners his last ounce of energy to grab his rifle and knock Heath down, but Audra pulls the trigger before the old man has a chance to finish the job .

At his son Frank’s funeral, Ezra apologizes to the Barkleys. Although not willing to relinquish the land he does however agree to allow the Barkleys’ harvest hands in the groves to pick the oranges.


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