The High Chaparral

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Dan and Johnny Rondo


Mano and Buck team up to rattle the Tates


Jed, Josh, and Jason Tate

3.78  The Guns of Johnny Rondo
A former gunfighter's new life as a Cannon ranch hand is jeopardized by four enemies.

Written by Gerry Day         Directed by Phil Rawlins

Story Line:  Other Cannon ranch hands and Johnny's teen-age son, Dan, who are unaware of Johnny's reputation, misinterpret his refusal to wear a gun and otherwise go out of his way to avoid confrontation with anyone. Any doubts as to Rondo's courage are soon dispelled however, when he is challenged by three men out of his past.

Guest Stars: 


Steve Forrest 
as Johnny Rondo


Kurt Russell 
as Dan Rondo


Roy Jenson 
as Jed


Wayne Storm 
as Josh



Mel Gallagher 
as Jason

Jim Nolan (left) 
as McKendrick

Harvey Parry (left) 
as Amos

Patrick Sullivan Burke 
as the Bartender

Character Highlights:  The only one with its own theme song, (see lyrics below) this episode is a take-off on Shane, the story of a gunslinger trying to make a career change and a youth fascinated with guns.  A young Kurt Russell plays Rondo's son.  A few years younger than Blue, he offers an opportunity for Blue to play the older, more experienced mentor.  Most of the episode is focused on the relationship between Johnny Rondo and his son.  While the men at High Chaparral do not agree with his approach in keeping guns from his son, they are reluctant to interfere with his decision.  Good scene when Mano and Buck try to avert a showdown in the saloon by rattling the confidence of the three Tate brothers before Rondo shows up. 
Buck:  How many fellas has he done in?
Mano:  Sixteen.  Of course, now - nineteen. 

Complete Episode Synopsis:  While in Tucson, Buck hires a former gunslinger and his teenage son to help during the maverick roundup, against the advice of several people who know the reputation of Johnny Rondo. He takes them both back to the ranch. Because the bunkhouse only has one bed left, the boy, Danny, is allowed to sleep in the ranch house, as Victoria suggests "the bunkhouse influence is not too uplifting." Joe, however, recognizes Rondo, although Joe keeps his mouth shut about it. When Buck offers an old pistol he has restored to Danny, Johnny makes the boy give the gun back, which confuses some who do not know who Rondo is.

Johnny and his son Danny are working their way west to Los Angeles. Danny does not know his father is a gunfighter. Throughout his youth, his father was away from home a great deal, so his mother raised him, and she never told Danny what his father did for a living. It turns out that Johnny has shot and killed sixteen men, the last one being three years earlier, after which he hung up his guns because he had killed a youth about the same age as his son. The youth had come up behind Johnny, and without thinking, Rondo had turned and fired. Shortly afterwards, Johnny's wife, Mary Ann, was accidentally killed by a bullet meant for him. The experience made him re-evaluate his lifestyle. Deciding to forsake his past, he takes his son Danny and plans to make a new life in California where guns are not needed.

Unknown to Johnny, the three Tate brothers of the youth he killed are now out of jail and are searching for him. They follow his trail from town to town and are now working their way from Tubac to Tucson

Danny does not understand his father. He does not know why his father will not wear a gun nor does he understand why his father will not let him have one. He works hard around the ranch, and it is noticed by Big John, who makes a comment about Danny doing a man's work. This inspires Danny to ask Big John to teach him how to use a gun. Big John refuses, so Danny turns to Mano, who tells him that to be master of a gun is not enough - "a man must murder himself." Danny eventually gets Blue to show him how to handle a gun, as Blue and Danny seem to have an understanding about fathers. As Blue gives Danny target practice, Johnny and Buck ride up. Johnny asks Danny to put his gun away, and this causes Danny to question if his father is afraid. Johnny rides off, leaving Danny with the others. Buck later tells Johnny to tell Danny why he gave up fighting.

Back in Tucson, the three Tate brothers have found Joe. When Joe returns to the ranch, he informs Johnny that the men are in town waiting. Joe says he can "smell the bad off them like smoke off a fire." He tells Johnny that the Tates have said for him to report to town with his guns or they will settle it Bible-styleÖan eye for an eye. Johnny takes this to mean that the Tates will kill Danny. He gets Big John to drug Danny in a shot of whiskey, and he rides into town for the confrontation. Unknown to Johnny, Buck and Mano are already in the saloon trying to talk the Tates into giving up the fight. The Tates are not buying it. They think Johnny has been out of practice for three years, and they mean to kill him.

When Johnny walks in with his guns, Buck decides on a demonstration of Johnny's marksmanship skills. He tosses six glasses into the air, and Johnny shoots all six before any can fall to the floor. Immediately, two of the Tates back down, but the oldest brother still insists on trying Rondo. Johnny shoots him in the hand.  (Synopsis by Sandy Sturdivant)

"The Guns of Johnny Rondo"
Sung by Faron Young
Words and Music by Joe Lubin, Gerry Day, and Harry Sukman

Oh, Johnny Rondo and his son
Both headiní west without a gun.
Our Johnny vowed heíd kill no more.
Hey, what you gonna do when they challenge you
Without your guns, Johnny Rondo?

Sixteen tried and sixteen died at the hands of Johnny Rondo.
Sixteen holes in sixteen souls from the guns of Johnny Rondo.

Sixteen tried and sixteen died at the hands of Johnny Rondo.
Sixteen holes in sixteen souls from the guns of Johnny Rondo.

They rode the hills, the Brothers Tate,
Released from jail all filled with hate.
Our Johnny shot their brother, Joe.
Hey, what you gonna do when they challenge you, Johnny Rondo?

Sixteen tried and sixteen died at the hands of Johnny Rondo.
Hey, what you gonna do when they find you without your guns, poor Johnny Rondo?

A man has time to dream and when heís done his job
He getís to thinkiní of a past, of a lynching mob.
He thinks of a boy Ďbout when he was just half his age,
Of a circuit judge, a prison, and a cold, cold, cold, cold cage.

The Brothers swore to track him down
And so they rode from town to town,
Over mountains high, through valleys low.
Hey, what you gonna do when they face you
Without your guns, oh Johnny Rondo?

Sixteen tried and sixteen died at the hands of Johnny Rondo.
Sixteen holes in sixteen souls from the guns of Johnny Rondo.

Sixteen tried and sixteen died at the hands of Johnny Rondo.
Sixteen holes in sixteen souls from the guns of Johnny Rondo.

A girl named Mary Ann came into Johnnyís life.
They fell in love. They were wed and were man and wife.
Though she knew the life he led, he didnít know in town
A gunmanís bullet meant for him would shoot sweet Mary Ann down.

In Tubac town they found a guy.
They asked if Johnny had been by.
They threatened poor old Amos Brill.
So what you gonna do? Better tell them the truth
Or youíll end up on top of Boot Hill.

Sixteen tried and sixteen died at the hands of Johnny Rondo
Hey, what you gonna do when they face you without your guns, oh Johnny Rondo?

It all began the day big Vince McGrawly came
And put young Johnny Rondoís mom to an awful shame.
Though a half-grown boy, one night poor Johnny rode to town
And for the first time killed a man when he shot McGrawly down.

Sixteen tried and sixteen died at the hands of Johnny Rondo.
When you fool with lust, you bite the dust from the guns of Johnny Rondo.

Sixteen tried and sixteen died at the hands of Johnny Rondo.
Sixteen holes in sixteen souls from the guns of Johnny Rondo.

The brothers rode to Tucson fast.
They crossed the desert wide and vast.
Tho Johnny vowed to kill no more
Hey, what you gonna do when they challenge you
Without your guns, Johnny Rondo?

Sixteen tried and sixteen died at the hands of Johnny Rondo.
Will you wear a gun or start to run when they all come? Poor Johnny Rondo.

Sixteen tried and sixteen died at the hands of Johnny Rondo.
That was long ago. Are your hands too slow to beat draw, Johnny Rondo?

When Johnny faced the Brothers Tate
He wore his guns and tempted fate.
Our Johnny vowed heíd kill no more
And like he said no blood was shed
When he beat Jed to the draw

Yes, like he said no blood was shed from the cold steel lead of Johnny Rondo.

A man has time to dream and when heís done his job
He getís to thinkin of a past, of a lynching mob.
He thinks of a boy Ďbout when he was just half his age,
Of a circuit judge, a prison and a cold, cold, cold, cold cage.

Sixteen tried and sixteen died at the hands of Johnny Rondo.
Now itís over and done. You donít need a gun.
Youíre headiní west with your son, Johnny Rondo.

Sixteen tried and sixteen died at the hands of Johnny Rondo.
Now itís over and done. You donít need a gun.
Youíre headiní west with your son, Johnny Rondo.

Johnny Rondo! Johnny Rondo!

Much of this material, including the Story Line descriptions, comes from The High Chaparral Press Kit released in 1971. The Character Highlights were written by Charlotte Lehan.  The Episode Synopses were written by members of the HC Discussion Group and are attributed at the end of each one.
Especially good portrayals of these characters



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