The High Chaparral

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Dennis Safren and Jose De Vega as 
Saddleblanket and Sourdough

Buck introduces his new charges.

John assists Buck after he is shot
in the leg 

1.26   Bad Day for a Thirst              Buck
Buck Cannon jeopardizes his life, when he tries to turn two Apaches into wranglers.

Produced by William F. Claxton
Directed by William F. Claxton      
Written by Tim Kelly       
Originally Broadcast:  February 18, 1968

Story Line: Sourdough and Saddleblanket quickly become valuable hands. When an Apache war party kills three ranchers and kidnaps the two Indian wranglers, all but Buck believe the two Apaches are killers and have reverted to their old ways. The High Chaparral group tracks the war party to an Army fort the Indians have captured and where Buck lies seriously wounded beyond reach of his comrades. Buck's only chance for survival lies in an appeal to his Indian wranglers inside the fort to turn on their fellow Apaches.

 Guest Stars: 

Jose De Vega 
as Sourdough

Dennis Safren 
as Saddleblanket

Vince St. Cyr
as Apache Leader

   Anthony Jochim 
  as prospector

Robert Carson
as Rancher, Allison

John Furlong
as Rancher, Halliday

Adam Williams
as Rancher, Burton

Character Highlights: This episode alternates back and forth between light-hearted moments and some very dramatic and difficult scenes for Buck when everyone, even Mano, seems to have turned against him. The opener has Mano and Buck singing together in Spanish as they ride along. When they encounter Sourdough and Saddleblanket we get to see Buckís skills with a rope and Manoís with a whip as they capture and disarm them without injury. From the beginning Mano wants nothing to do with Buckís plan to convert the pair, but eventually goes along with it when Buck pleads his case to John. As often happens, it is Victoria who is able to influence her husband into going along with Buckís plan.

When things start to go badly and the Apache boys are wrongly accused of murder, everyone blames Buck for bringing them to the ranch. Even Buck starts to have self doubts. The episode demonstrates how close John and Buck really are, especially in a particularly poignant scene where Buck opens himself up to John to explain what the two boys mean to him and that he too would be adrift if not for John.  Buck:  "Iím just a saddle tramp. What do you think Iíd be John, what I am . . without . . Iím looking for something, something better. And with you, and Chaparral, Blue Boy, Victoria, Don Sebastian, Manolito, the bunkhouse boys . . . Well youíre all something better, all of you. But John without you, I donít know Ė Ďcause Iím a drifter."

When Mano offers to go to Buckís rescue after he has been wounded in the open, John turns him down saying, "No, thatís my job." John risks his own life to reach Buck and is very protective of him when they are both pinned down under enemy fire.

Humorous scenes in this episode include teaching the boys cattle branding where Buck is accidentally "branded", and the closing dinner table scene where Saddleblanket is clearly more adept at table manners than Buck.

Complete Episode Synopsis

Sourdough and Saddleblanket caught stealing Cannon cattle.

While rounding up strays, Buck and Manolito happen upon two Apache teenagers rustling a steer. They ride down and capture the two boys, but then they are baffled as to what to do with them. Buck decides to bring them to the High Chaparral and make cowboys out of them.

Mano is a bit more skeptical than Buck
about the plan for new ranch hands.

Victoria talks John into going along with Buck's plan for the new hands.

Back at the ranch, John is less than enthusiastic about the venture, as are the others. He berates Buck for even thinking of such an idea, but Buck makes a plea for the boys, and Victoria reminds John that he has said that he wants to live in peace with everyone, including the Apaches. John finally gives in, and the boys are put to work.


With their new nicknames, Sourdough and Saddleblanket set about learning the skills of a wrangler. They make a lot of progress, and even learn to brand, although not without an error or two, including branding Buck in the process. When Buck visits Tucson with the two for supplies he takes some flack from some of the townspeople for having Apaches on the ranch. However, one of the ranchers, Allison, thinks that it might be a good idea to help train Apaches to ranch life. He promises to visit the High Chaparral and see for himself how Sourdough and Saddleblanket are working out.

Buck is angered by the prejudice shown
by the men in the saloon.

The Apache boys are nearly hanged by Burton and the other ranchers.

Allison never makes it to the ranch, however, because a band of renegade Apaches kill him. When his body is brought into Tucson, it is immediately assumed that the two Apaches at the High Chaparral are to blame. A posse of townspeople find the boys and attempt to hang them, but John and Buck arrive in time to stop it. Buck has by now developed a great affection for the two, and he calls them "my boys". After the boys are left to continue working, the Apache renegades arrive and their leader forces the two to join them.
Buck is incredulous when he learns that the boys have gone, but he is the only one who believes that they are not to blame when a massacre is discovered on Chaparral land. The men set out to find the Apache band and the boys.

Buck tries to explain to John that he would be adrift too without the High Chaparral.

On the trail and that night at camp, everyone seems to blame Buck for the situation, which moves Buck to explain to John how much he is like these two drifters because he is a drifter too. 

John listens intently to Buck's explanation for why he believes in the two boys.

Mano watches for any signs of
life from the fort.

The Apaches are tracked to a little used fort, and it becomes obvious after Buck is shot off his horse trying to approach the fort, that it has been taken by the Apaches. Pinned down in the open, Buck cannot make it to safety on his own.  Mano offers to go to his assistance, but John turns him down, insisting that "that is my job."  Buck sees that the boys are on the wall of the fort and calls to them, telling them that he doesn't believe in their guilt, and asking them to aid the Chaparral men by giving the renegades whiskey that is sure to be found in the fort storeroom.

The boys comply and when the other Apaches are distracted by the liquor Sourdough opens the doors to the fort. He runs to Buck but is shot down by the Apache leader, and dies in Buck's arms, telling him that he was the only white eyes to treat him like a man. Saddleblanket reveals for the first time his Apache name, something that the Apache only reveal to their trusted friends. Seeing the sacrifice of the two boys, John brings Saddleblanket back to the High Chaparral where it turns out the youth has somehow picked up better table manners than Buck has managed to do. 

(Synopsis by Lisa McKenzie)

Sourdough is fatally shot by the Apache renegade leader.


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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