The High Chaparral

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Fourth Season
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Richard Bradford as Tulsa Red

John and Buck in "It Takes a Smart Man"

Buck in "It Takes a Smart Man"

4.82  It Takes a Smart Man             John, Buck, Sam
Fearing for the life of his threatened brother Buck, John Cannon accepts the demands of a blackmailer.
Written by
Jack B. Sowards         Directed by Leon Benson

Story Line:  Confronted by the demands of one-time gunman Tulsa Red, John has little choice but to turn over $5,000 to the man who has threatened to goad Buck into a shootout that John knows his brother will lose. Upon learning of how he was used, an angered Buck takes his own steps to recover the money and his pride.

Guest Stars:

Richard Bradford 
as Tulsa Red

Wes Bishop 
as Carter

Garry Walberg 
as Mike the Bartender


Carl Benson 
as the banker



Sam Javis 
as man in saloon



Character Highlights:  For the first time in the series we see Victoria wearing pants to work around the ranch.  This episode has parallels to "The Time of Your Life" except that instead of Blue, this time it is Buck who is being goaded into a fight by a professional gunslinger.  When Tulsa tries to blackmail John for $5,000 John eventually decides to pay him because he believes it is the only way to protect Buck from being gunned down.  Sam is back in this episode after a long absence.  In different ways, Sam, Mano, John, and Pedro all try to intervene in order to prevent a showdown between Tulsa and Buck, but ultimately their efforts only anger Buck who insists on fighting his own battles.  Buck has a harder, angrier edge in this episode than most any other but it would be difficult to find one that more clearly shows the depth of John's understanding of Buck and of John's devotion to him.  Excellent understated scenes with John and Buck in the saloon and in the subsequent showdown where Buck outwits Tulsa.  Best line:  Buck to Tulsa:  "Who's gonna say it wasn't a fair fight?  There's only you and me, and you'll be dead."

Complete Episode Synopsis:  While riding alone on the range, Manolito watches a group of Apaches chase a white man into the hills. Thinking that he can add his gun to the fray, Manolito approaches the man and offers to help. 

Tulsa Red pinned down by Apaches.

He is surprised when the man refuses his aid, claiming that he is in control of the situation. Manolito disagrees and stays to exchange fire with the Apaches, only to find that the mysterious man has slipped away. After expending his last bullet, Manolito notices that the other gunfire has ceased. Scaling down the rocks, he discovers that the white man has killed every Apache that had fired on him.

Mano trying to help Tulsa.

John refuses Tulsa's demand for money.

Manolito returns to the High Chaparral in time to see this same man ride in, searching for John Cannon. He arrogantly orders Buck to take care of his horse, and stalks into the house. John greets him warily and introduces him as Tulsa, an old "friend." Tulsa insists on speaking with him and John reluctantly brings him into his study. Tulsa recounts their shared past, in that John testified in his trial on his behalf, resulting in his acquittal of a murder charge. Tulsa figures that John owes him a favor, and he demands $5000 from him. Taken aback, John refuses flatly and escorts him to the door. Tulsa assures John that he will pay, and that he will wait in Tucson for him. 

On the way out, Tulsa taunts and insults Buck, and only John's restraint keeps Buck from drawing on the man.  When Tulsa rides away, John is free to explain who Tulsa really is, and he reveals that he is a notorious gunslinger. Although Buck resents John's interference in his fight, he realizes that he would never have a chance drawing against a quick shot like Tulsa. To cool things down, Buck decides to accompany the ranch hands to Gila Flat, well away from Tucson and the showdown waiting there for him.

Tulsa taunts Buck trying to goad him into a fight

John, meanwhile, knows his brother and how little chance he will have to keep the two antagonists apart for any length of time. He applies to the bank for a loan of the $5000 cash, and finds Tulsa at the saloon. Tulsa accepts the money, even making pretense of its being a loan. His confidence in the inevitability of John giving him the money goads John, and he attaches the condition that Tulsa never return to Tucson. Tulsa refuses to promise, but he is allowed to keep the money and leave town.  Back on the range, one of the other hands, Carter, makes some pointed remarks about Buck's avoiding Tucson. Sam pulls Carter aside and fires him, but Buck seethes at having his fights decided for him. 

Buck cancels the loan.

When Manolito tells him that Tulsa is gone, Buck knows that John has paid his ransom, and he cannot allow it. He finds Tulsa's camp and holds him up at gunpoint, recovering the money. Tulsa tells him that the fight between them is personal now, and Buck tells him where he can find him.

Tulsa is forced to give up the money.

Buck confronts John with the money.

After returning the money to John, Buck heads to the saloon in Tucson where he told Tulsa he would be.  John immediately follows after him, knowing that his brother would be up against a much faster draw. This time though he doesn't interfere or try to talk Buck out of it, instead showing his solidarity by sharing a drink with him. Outside of town, Manolito, Sam and Pedro detain Tulsa, but John orders them to let him pass, knowing that the fight has to be fought. 

Pedro, Mano, and Sam try to detain Tulsa.

Tulsa confronts Buck in the saloon.

Buck surprises Tulsa in the saloon, however, by pointing a gun at him before there is a draw. For the first time, Tulsa finds himself in a fight that isn't fair, and one that he doesn't have the upper hand in. He tries to call Buck's bluff, but Buck shoots him in the shoulder. Frightened, Tulsa drops his gun belt and refuses to fight. He makes a show of threatening Buck with meeting again, but the idea of dealing with an unorthodox fighter like Buck is clearly unappealing. 

Buck gets the drop on Tulsa while Mike, the bartender looks on.

Buck isn't proud of the way he had to handle Tulsa, but he realizes that he is alive because of it, and he gratefully accepts John's company on the ride home.   (Synopsis by Lisa McKenzie)

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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