The Killing of Ed Masterson, was another of our smaller shows (it only required four men and one female). It was the show we usually started the day with. It was also an excellent show to break in new performers. It was a simple show, while having some good action. And being performed early in the morning, new performers could get their chance before the large crowds had built up.
Ed Masterson was the brother of Bat Masterson. Ed was a well respected lawman in his own right. In 1878, while a deputy marshal in Dodge City, Kansas, Ed was gunned down by Alf Walker and Jack Wagner. His brother, Bat came upon the scene and killed Walker and wounded Wagner badly. In our version, we had it happen when Ed was protecting one of the women of the town.
The unexpected was something that always kept us on our toes in the shows. One day, while doing The Killing of Ed Masterson, The unexpected definitely happened.
On this day, I was playing the part of Wagner (who gets wounded), Mike Swaim was playing the part of Walker (who gets killed), Monty Laird was playing Bat Masterson, Vicky Swaim was the girl in distress, and Rick Richards was playing Ed Masterson.
At this point, I have to say something about Rick Richards. While being pretty darned accomplished at stuntwork, Rick's main interest was acting. He took his acting very seriously and was studying with an acting coach in Hollywood. At the Ranch, he preferred taking parts that stressed acting skills over stunt skills. However, in the character of Ed Masterson, he found that he could do both. And he did both with such great skill, that it drew me into trying to match what he was doing with the part to the extent that Ed Masterson soon became my favorite character to play also.
In the play, The Killing of Ed Masterson (And I do consider the shows we did at Corriganville, one act plays. They were so well written and constructed that I feel they must be considered such.), the drunken Walker and Wagner leave the Saloon and carry their drunken, ruffian fun too far by accosting one of the Townswomen on the street. Now, this was an excellent chance for the female performer playing the part of the Townswoman to show what she could do. She could fight as much or as little as she desired. Vicky was one who always gave Walker and Wagner all they could handle. And we usually had worked out a fairly extended and complicated stunt routine with her that had the audience breathless by the time Ed came to her rescue (not to mention that we who were playing Walker and Wagner were usually pretty breathless also. I liked working with Vicky. She almost always gave everything she had to a performance.) Ed would come rushing out of the Sheriff's Office to the aid of the woman on the street. With Rick, the physical confrontation with the Heavies was usually a brief but well choreographed stunt routine (a couple of well placed punches and a flip). But his dialogue was always spectacular, putting his acting skills to a full test. And, forcing whoever was playing Walker and Wagner to do their best acting too. By the time Rick had forced Walker and Wagner to back down and was walking the woman away up the street, he had left the two Heavies looking very bad, indeed. This made what happened next almost inevitable. The script called for Ed to put his gun away, turn his back on the two heavies, and walk the woman away, up the street. Walker and Wagner, pull their guns and shoot Ed in the back. Then, laughing in triumph, they stagger up the street. Rick looked on this as an opportunity to not only do a good fall, but to also turn in one of his best acting performances. He decided that he would make the shot impact a spinal hit, making his legs go wobbly and completely unable to carry him, causing him to go down, flopping around helplessly. It was always a most convincing performance, which I always tried hard to duplicate when I played Ed. Upon hearing the gunshots, Bat Masterson comes running up from the Cafe. He rushes to his brother's side. Ed dies in Bat's arms. Bat takes off his coat, folds it and places it under his dead brother's head. He then rises to face the two Heavies at the end of the street. On this day, it was at this point that the unexpected that I mentioned earlier, jumped up and bit us all in the butt.
As I said, Monty Laird was playing the part of Bat Masterson. Monty rose, and stepped away from the body of Ed. He took his gunfighter pose in the middle of the street and started delivering his dialogue to the two Heavies, about how he was going to take them in to jail. Suddenly, Monty felt something tugging on his left holster. Monty looked down, to see a very little girl, with her diaper down around her ankles, standing at his feet. "Daddy. Diaper". She said. That day, Monty had brought his family to the Ranch. Nita, his little daughter, had gone into the bathroom next to the Saloon just before the show started. When she had finished her business, she came out, and seeing her Daddy standing in the street, naturally went to him for assistance. Monty looked up at Mike and me, put up his hand and said. "Hold it". He then bent down and pulled up Nita’s diaper. At this point, Rick was having a very hard time staying dead, he was laughing so hard. Vicky, kneeling beside the dead Ed Masterson, turned her back on the audience so they could not see her laughing, and Mike and I just leaned on each other, and pretended to go to sleep on each other's shoulders as we waited for our cues. When Monty had pulled up Nita’s diaper, he turned her toward her mother, patted her on the behind, and she toddled over to join her Mother and sister. Monty then raised up, turned to Mike and me, and said. "Okay. Where was I?" He then finished his dialogue to us, we all drew and fired, and Mike and I both took the biggest "shotgun" reactions you ever saw... In the shows, the unexpected took many forms. But that one was one of the funniest (and most touching) I can remember.