Ride a Dark Trail (Episode 2.01)

Executive Producer Frank Price
Produced by Jules Schermer
Teleplay by E.M. Parsons
Story by Arthur Browne, Jr.
Directed by John Peyser

I’m saying you’ve got an ace in the hole.

Episode scene:

(This show is a flashback to when Trampas first arrived in Medicine Bow.) Trampas is working for Judge Garth to pay off a debt, and plays cards with the other cowhands to earn some easy money. (We learn he is not fond of honest work and is also anxious to find the man who killed his father.) Steve leaves the game, calling Trampas the “luckiest son of a ____”, and the Virginian takes his place. The two almost come to blows when the Virginian proves Trampas has been cheating.

Quotation from the book(Chapter 2):

Five or six players sat over in the corner at a round table where counters were piled. Their eyes were close upon their cards, and one seemed to be dealing a card at a time to each, with pauses and betting between. Steve was there and the Virginian; the others were new faces.
“No place for amatures,” repeated the voice; and now I saw that it was the dealer’s. There was in his countenance the same ugliness that his words conveyed.
“Who's that talkin’?” said one of the men near me, in a low voice.
“What's he?”
“Cow-puncher, bronco-buster, tin-horn, most anything.”
... There had been silence over in the corner; but now the man Trampas spoke again.
And ten,” said he, sliding out some chips from before him. Very strange it was to hear him, how he contrived to make those words a personal taunt.
... It was now the Virginian’s turn to bet, or leave the game, and he did not speak at once.
Therefore, Trampas spoke. “Your bet, you son-of-a-_____.”
The Virginian’s pistol came out, and his hand lay on the table, holding it unaimed. And with a voice as gentle as ever, the voice that sounded almost like a caress, but drawling a very little more than usual, so that there was almost a space between each word, he issued his orders to the man Trampas: -
“When you call me that, smile!” And he looked at Trampas across the table.

Additional comments:

  1. The TV series’ creators decided to make Trampas and the Virginian best friends, although their friendship does get off to a rocky start. By the end of this episode, we see the beginnings of their friendship.

  2. Unlike Owen Wister’s Trampas, Doug McClure’s “countenance” was far from ugly. However, the show’s creators did give Trampas a less than stellar past, portraying him as a reckless youth who would rather gamble and cheat than work for a living. (See also Echo of Another Day.) In this episode there is an earlier scene in which the Virginian offers Trampas a job and is told that work is for mules. Trampas is later caught using loaded dice at the roulette wheel and lands in jail (and in the Judge’s debt for paying damages he caused in the saloon.)

  3. See The Accomplice to learn what Trampas says to provoke the Virginian to speak the famous words written for him by Owen Wister.
  4. In the book, Steve applies the epithet son-of-a______ to the Virginian without drawing the southerner’s wrath, because they are best friends.
  5. In If You Have Tears the Virginian puts his pistol on the table, unaimed, during a card game in which the dealer has been cheating.

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