"Night of The Wolf"

(Original air date 12/01/65)


Bitten by a rabid wolf, Nick waits out the disease’s incubation
alone to spare his family


Writer: Margaret Armen

Director: Joseph H. Lewis

On their way back to the ranch with a few horses, Heath and Nick set up camp for the night. The smell of honeysuckle reminds Nick’s of the time he was courting a young teenage girl named Jeannie Price in Willow Springs.

During the reminiscing, a howling prompts the two brothers to check on the spooked horses in the makeshift corral. As Nick steers the stallion away from the mares and tethers him to a nearby tree, a wolf suddenly pounces on him. Luckily, Heath swiftly guns the animal down, but not before he had a chance to sink his fangs into Nick’s arm. From the wolf’s odd behavior, Heath surmises that he must be rabid. He hurries to cauterize Nick’s wounds before infection sets in.


They ride all night to the nearest town where they drop by Dr. Borland’s (Chubby Johnson) office. Unfortunately, the doctor can’t determine whether Nick has rabies, but does offer medicine to quell the headaches should they become too painful to bear. He explains that the incubation period is sixty days, after which the patient dies.

Outside the office, Nick has Heath swear not to breathe a word of his condition to the family, a promise that Heath already has trouble dealing with.

Back at the ranch, dinner is spent in restrained silence until Heath brings up the trouble they’re experiencing with the new ornery stallion, one he doubts they’ll be able to break. When Jarrod states that their new acquisition was a waste of money, Nick flies into a rage and storms out of the room, leaving Victoria baffled and suspicious of Heath’s quietness.


The next morning, the stallion manages to jump the fence. In a sudden burst of anger, Nick smacks Heath in the face when the little brother argues that it was a pure accident. Nick quickly repents his gesture and walks back into the house. Jarrod who witnessed the entire scene is curious to know what is bothering Nick, but Heath remains tight-lipped.


Up in his room, Nick feeds his mother an excuse for leaving, saying he wants to get a head start on the yearling sale in Bolero. Once she leaves, Heath attempts to convince his brother to stay, but Nick is afraid that his bout of anger might eventually drive him to kill, like he nearly did just now with Heath. He wants his last remaining days to mean something besides ranching. Therefore he intends to live it up and ride with the wind.


Days later, Nick finally makes it to Willow Springs and looks up Jeannie’s parents’ house. Julia Jenkins (Nancy Olson) the new property owner suggests that he visits the graveyard before looking any further for his former girl. She explains that seven years prior, a typhoid epidemic practically decimated the entire town and that most likely, Nick will find Jeannie at the cemetery.

At the town cemetery, Nick is horrified to find Jeannie’s tombstone. Seconds after paying his last respects he dives to his knees in excruciating pain. He manages to crawl over to his horse and pop a pill to quell the pounding headache.


Coco drags his agonizing master down the street where passers-by stop him in front of a saloon, Nick wobbles in to drown his pain in a bottle of whiskey, unaware that two scoundrels Larsh (Ted Gehring) and Pete ( (Bruce Gibson) are watching him closely. Hours later, Nick staggers out of the saloon and heads for Jeannie’s old house. There, as he flumps down in the swing, the two men jump him and strip him of his money. Julia is quick to fire a warning shot that scares them away. She then assists a drunken Nick inside the cabin.


The next morning, Nick awakes to a terrible hangover and to Julia’s son Tommy (Ronny Howard) who advises him the lie still. Julia returns from town and sits with a dazed Nick who wishes to compensate her for all the good care she’s given him. She wants no money but rather a name for her boy before she takes him back to her folks in Massachusetts. Therefore she asks Nick to marry her. In return, she assures him to tend to his every need until he succumbs to his terminal illness, a secret he revealed to her in his delirium.

Back at the ranch, Heath marks the date down left in the incubation period. He has been sweating every one of Nick’s dying days in silence.


Tommy helps his mother tends to Nick’s needs. Nick shows his gratitude to the boy by giving him a pair of spurs and promising him to teach him how to ride a horse. For her part, Julia is happy of the interaction between the two, saying that Tommy missed having a male presence in his life since her husband was killed.

Nick is stricken by a sudden violent headache. Julia helps him to the bed where he reaches for his pill inside his jacket. With the pain growing worse every day, Nick fears the end is near.

Back at the ranch, Audra wonders why everyone is so taciturn at the mere mention of Nick’s name. She resents her brother’s treatment of his family, saying that he could have sent a wire to assure them that he was okay. Heath steps out of the dining room when a twinge of conscience suddenly grips him.


Back in Willow Springs, Nick decides to leave before the end comes, wanting to spare Julia and Tommy. Tommy is upset that Nick should break his promise to teach him how to ride.

On his way out of town, Nick has a change of heart. As he turns back, he sees Tommy running towards him. The two fall into each other’s arms, ending with Nick promising to remain with Tommy for as long as it counts.


Back at the ranch, Heath is marking down the 59th day in his notebook when Jarrod comes up to him to ask that he find Nick and bring him back. That no matter what’s bothering him, his family has the right to share his concern.

Nick comes by Julia’s workplace at the Chinese laundry to escort her back to her cabin. On the way, Larsh and Pete stop them, wanting to finish what they started back on the yard swing. The tense situation degenerates into a shootout, ending with Julia getting shot.


Nick carries her to her workplace where her employer Po Hsien (Yuki Shimoda) dashes out to notify the doctor.

Upon examination, the young doctor (Richard Wendley) delivers the grim news of Julia’s impending death. Nick asks Po to perform a Chinese wedding ceremony regardless of whether it’s legal in this country. Julia deserves to die knowing her son will have a legitimate name.

After Po pronounces the couple man and wife, Julia whispers her thanks to Nick before heaving her last breath.


Days later, Heath arrives in Willow Springs and looks up Nick at the cabin. After clenching his kid brother into a bear hug, Nick asks Heath for the favor of escorting Tommy to Massachusetts. Heath is ecstatic to inform his big brother that he’ll have a chance to make the trip himself on account that he’s cured. It’s been sixty-five days and he’s still breathing. Nick can’t contain his enthusiasm and falls into a heap with Tommy.


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