(Original air date 01/20/69)
Rodeo competitors learn that a contestant hired by Nick is wanted in Arizona
Writer: Robert L. Goodwin
Director: Virgil W. Vogel
While in town to pick up supplies Nick meets with the Morton brothers, Zach (Robert Samson) and J.R. (Greg Mullavey), who needle him into wagering a hefty bet of $5000 in a supposedly friendly rodeo competition; a gamble that Jarrod considers risky considering how the Mortons beat the Barkleys in last-year’s competition. Nick is confident the wind will shift in his favour with the right the bronco-buster to squash the competition. As if on cue, wrangler Joshua Watson (Lou Rawls) offers his services.
After hiring Joshua, Nick brings him to the ranch to meet Heath. There he asks ranch hand Charlie Travis (Michael Bell) to saddle the most ornery wild stallion on hand to test Joshua’s skills. Heath and Silas are both against the idea but Joshua is more than willing to show his style.
He stuns the men by taming the wild beast after only one throw. Nick is ecstatic at the prospect of beating the pants off those snobbish Mortons and as promised, he lets Joshua have the horse as his prize.
At night during cocktail Nick brags about Joshua’s exploits to his family. Jarrod is still uneasy about this less-than-friendly competition and like Victoria, wishes Nick would call it off but little brother won’t yield.
At the Morton Ranch, Rufus (Royal Dano) tries to curb his son’s Zach’s enthusiasm about the upcoming rodeo, but admits to being keyed up himself at the notion of winning this competition. In comes J.R. with the news of the Barkleys’ secret weapon, supposedly the best rider in the valley. Rufus is confident his new hired hands are by far the best artillery against their rivals, but nevertheless churns the idea of luring Joshua Watson over to their side.
While mending fences, Charlie confides in Joshua of having bet his earnings on the rodeo and hopes the black man will come through for him. As for him, Nick besets Joshua with questions about his past but the man remains evasive. A friendly game of tossing-the-snake-around ends up with Joshua shooting the slithering critter dead before Nick gets a fatal bite. Another skill that arouses Nick’s suspicions.
At night the men gather around the fire to listen to Joshua sing a ballad to the accordion’s music. Soon after ranch hand Bert (Mark Tapscott) staggers back to the camp and collapses from a bullet wound, courtesy of the Mortons.
Incensed, Nick rides over to the Mortons’ place to square it off with the two brothers. They insist having shot the man who was spooking the cattle when in actuality he was chasing Barkley strays. Fists begin to fly, ending with Nick biting the dust. Heath shows up to ensure his beaten brother’s safe return home.
At home Heath enjoys a nice juicy steak while brother Nick chooses to wear his on his black eye. Jarrod can’t help but tease his brother about having set this time bomb from day one. He wonders if he can convince Rufus to call off this rodeo, but Heath believes it’s a lost cause.
After stopping the men from charging at the Mortons to even things up, Jarrod shows up over there to reason with the patriarch but instead of acceding to his request, Rufus adds fuel to the fire, sending Jarrod’s stewing in his own juices.
While Nick and his brothers time their hands’ performances in the corral, inside, Audra and Silas discuss Joshua’s rodeo skills and his baffling past. Silas doesn’t hide his excitement at the forthcoming rodeo and is proud that Joshua is competing; a man he’s come to respect in the short time he’s been on the ranch. However he finds it a bit disturbing that a rider of his stature isn’t featured anywhere in his Almanac.
In town, while Heath goes to the bank Joshua moseys on down to the saloon for a beer. There he meets with Rufus and his sons who offer him a job at their ranch. Joshua politely declines but J.R. gets his gun to do the convincing. Heath looks on as Joshua whips out his our six-shooter with lightning speed. This remarkable dexterity has Rufus suspecting Joshua of either being a lawman or an outlaw, and therefore plans to do a little ferreting about into the black man’s past.
Nick bursts with pride when he learns how Joshua handled the Mortons in town, and resists pressure from both Jarrod and Victoria to call off the competition which is turning into a war.
Rufus and sons come marching into the Barkley mansion, demanding that they turn Joshua over to them, as they suspect him to be a wanted man down in Phoenix. He fits the description of an outlaw who rode with the Coleman Raiders. Either they hand him voluntarily or they will return to take him by force.
The next morning Silas goes to Joshua with his concern about this feud with the Mortons. Joshua tells him he’s not about to ride out and let Nick down so close to the rodeo. Comes Victoria with questions about his past and whether or not he is the man they want down in Phoenix.
After much soul-searching, the outlaw decides to ride away to spare the Barkleys any unnecessary hardships. Victoria tries to convince him to turn a new leaf but he deems it too high a risk for a family that’s given him so much.
Up in the hills, Nick, Heath and their hands wait for the Mortons and their men to show up. When Rufus’s demand to turn Joshua over to the law falls on deaf ears, he orders his men to shoot. Bullets fly, one hitting J.R. in the shoulder and another wounding Heath in the side as he rides out to get more men.
On the way Joshua meets Heath who asks to fetch extra hands to fight off the Mortons. Joshua dithers between freedom and helping his friend. He rides over to the shooting range and calls for a cease-fire. He admits to being the man they want down in Arizona. He bids Nick farewell and leaves him with a request for a job at the ranch once he’s served his sentence.
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