In the Webmaster’s Opinion
The Best-Written Episode of Stoney Burke
In my opinion, the winner for best-written episode of the entire Stoney Burke series is “The Journey” (Episode 32). The writer was none other than series creator Leslie Stevens. Let me set the stage for you.
Still recovering from injuries received in “The Test” (Episode 32), as well as blood poisoning from tearing off the callouses he developed while saddle bronc riding, Stoney is at his lowest point. He is ill, running a fever. He is disappointed, having missed out on a chance to ride in the national championship rodeo at which he might have won the golden buckle. His savings are gone after he sent money to his parents to help them along and bailed Donna Weston out of her troubles (“Tigress By the Tail,” Episode 30), although she is not mentioned in this episode.
Too ill to ride, Stoney accepts a job he ordinarily would not, one of driving old and worn-out horses to slaughter. It rankles with him, for Stoney loves and respects horses. He even understands Megaton, the bucker that hurt him in “The Test.” After driving the horses to the slaughter house and seeing how badly horses there are being treated, he finds himself drawn into a discussion with the man who hired him:
Stoney: About Megaton: He’s not old and worn out.
Redmond: No. He’s just mean and useless.
Stoney: Somebody made him that way.
Redmond: He was born mean.
Stoney: No, sir. He was born free… See those scars around his neck? Somebody caught him when he was young and tried to break him in a hurry. Men came down out of the hills, worse than wolves. They used a halter made of barbed wire. But old Megaton wouldn’t be broke. No, sir. He wasn’t born to carry a pack on his back. He may be useless, but he’s got a proud spirit.
Redmond: The same as you, Stoney.
Stoney: You saying I’m useless?
Redmond: I’m saying you’re proud.
Redmond continues, trying to break Stoney as though he were an old and useless horse:
Redmond: You’ve got to stop trying to be Number One, Stoney. Forget about being top dog. Do you think people look up to the champion? No, sir. They can’t wait to see the champion fall.
Stoney: Don’t champions provide something?
Stoney: Oh… Inspiration.
Redmond: Just the opposite. They make people feel inferior… Champions are against the law of nature. They’re freaks.
Stoney: Mr. Redmond, I made a promise to my father years ago. I gave him my word that I’d make something out of my life. I said I’d do my best, and I swear to you I worked ‘til I wore callouses on my hands, and I tried ‘til I tore those callouses off. I don’t know what’s right, anymore. Maybe I am a lot like those horses – worn out and useless.
But, then, on the slaughter house owner’s instructions, Redmond orders Stoney to pull Megaton from among the other horses and lead him first to slaughter. Stoney’s self-pride and belief in horses return. He buys Megaton with what little money he and Ves can scrape together. Redmond protests the whole time Stoney is returning Megaton to the horse trailer. Infuriated by his arrogance, Stoney releases all the other horses into the wild. He tells
Redmond, "No wonder you hate champions. What did you call them? Freaks? You hate them, because they stand up and they fight and they win."
Last, but not least, “The Journey” is the best-written episode, because it gives Ves, Cody, and Red enough spunk and backbone to be the supporting characters they needed to be. If the writing had come to this level earlier in the series, I’ve no doubt that Stoney Burke would have been back for Season 2 – and beyond.