The Dark Side of Four Feather Falls

The richly detailed Wild West world of Four Feather Falls is full of colourful characters. Gerry Anderson fans who are only casually familiar with this early Supermarionation series might think it’s a charming and twee show for kiddies about talking animals, a singing sheriff, and a magical Native American chief. Now, they’re not exactly wrong about that, but there’s quite a bit more to it.

Across the series, Four Feather Falls actually presents life on the frontier just as it’s seen in the movies – rife with bandits, thieves, and murderers desperate to evade capture while doing dreadful deeds. The likes of Pedro and Fernando may have been comedy characters, but some of their colleagues like Big Ben, Red Scalp, and a whole host of cattle rustlers, bank robbers, and gunslingers were played dead straight as people capable of doing real harm. Four Feather Falls balanced the quaint fantasy and musical numbers with some downright dark and malevolent individuals keen to cause trouble for their own crooked ambitions. After all, the heroic Tex Tucker wouldn’t be the greatest sheriff in the west without having the worst kind of scum and low-lifes to fight against.

Let’s take a look at the arrests that Tex was forced to make over the course of his career in the interest of maintaining law and order in his territory, and thus prove my point that Four Feather Falls isn’t all happy hearts and friendly faces…

Pedro & Fernando

Pedro and Fernando in the saloon of Four Feather Falls.
Pedro
Fernando

Inept, cowardly, and dim. These two bandits from south of the border may not have been the most effective criminals ever to grace the Wild West, but they sure were determined. At every opportunity throughout the series, Pedro and Fernando were looking to make money by any means necessary. Here are just a few of the crimes they committed over the course of their appearances: kidnapping, attempted murder, horse rustling, bank robbery, extortion, breaking and entering, fraud, impersonating officers of the law, jail breaking, and even rigging an election! Tex Tucker and the folks in Four Feather Falls may have prevented Pedro and Fernando from doing any real harm, but the duo rarely stayed out of trouble for long.

Pedro was the self-proclaimed brains of the operation, while Fernando was tasked with the more menial matters – a fact he frequently complained about to his partner. When the scale of the crime was beyond Pedro’s limited capacity, the duo would team up with other thugs from the territory to try and get the job done, and usually attempt to double-cross them along the way.

Yet for all their criminal tendencies, Pedro and Fernando wanted only for the simple pleasures in life – a roof over their heads, full bellies, a nice new hat for Pedro, and a box of cigars for Fernando.

Big Ben

Posing a much more credible threat to the peace of Four Feather Falls was Big Ben. One of the meanest crooks in the territory, and lacking the charm and naivety of Pedro and Fernando, Big Ben was cold, smart, and thoroughly untrustworthy. He rarely worked alone, and possessed a talent for seeking out and persuading the most low-down criminals in the west to come and work with him on scheme after scheme to gain power and wealth. Ben worked in the shadows, regularly letting others take the fall for his diabolical handiwork, or playing the fool in readiness to stab his colleagues in the back.

Ben’s list of misdeeds includes: attempted murder, gun running, horse and cattle rustling, money laundering, bank robbery, blackmail, voter fraud, as well as aiding and abetting in many other criminal activities. His ambitions were only held in check by his cowardice. Ben was always keen to keep as far away from Tex Tucker’s magic guns as possible, and frequently reminded others of the dangers of crossing the sheriff.

Red Scalp

Thanks to the bond of friendship between Tex Tucker and Big Chief Kalamakooya, the town of Four Feather Falls shares a predominantly peaceful relationship with the native tribes who first inhabited the territory. Red Scalp and his band of Comanche warriors are renegades who threaten the harmony of that union. Operating from a camp high up in the Yellow Gulch Hills outside of town, Red Scalp defies the authority of Kalamakooya in order to make as much trouble as he can for the citizens of Four Feather Falls and beyond.

Red Scalp frequently partners with the likes of Big Ben and other criminals to infiltrate the enemy, and in return will often do the dirty work in their crooked endeavours. He knows how to play the fool and attempts to talk his way out of trouble with Tex Tucker, but usually to no avail.

Red Scalp
Red Scalp

Red Scalp sometimes lacks the cunning of his colleagues to know when he’s being double-crossed, but when he’s angered there’s no-one who wants to be on the receiving end of his bow and arrow or his tomahawk. Alongside the likes of Pedro and Big Ben, Red Scalp has been involved in gun running, money laundering, intimidation and blackmail, bank robbery, cattle rustling, and even led his own band of warriors to rob a train and imprison their inside man in a circle of flames!

Sheriff Jameson and Ruff Snyder

Ruff Snyder (L) and Sheriff Jameson (R) from the episode Frame-Up.
Ruff Snyder (L) and Sheriff Jameson (R) from the episode Frame-Up.

Sheriff Jameson teams up with Ruff Snyder and Big Ben to frame Tex Tucker for theft in order to take over Four Feather Falls. They steal Tex’s horse, Rocky, and sell him another horse carrying stolen money before arresting him in Silver City on a hanging charge. However, Rocky breaks free and rescues Tex, who later confronts Jameson in the Four Feather Falls saloon. Snyder tries to shoot Tex in the back, but a mirror on the wall gives the game away. Jameson loses his star and is replaced as sheriff of Silver City.

Hank Frisby

Hank Frisby in the episode, The Best Laid Plans.
Hank Frisby in the episode, The Best Laid Plans.

Hank Frisby, an old friend of Pedro, plans to rob Jackson’s bank in Four Feather Falls. Pedro and Fernando are to break into the vault while Frisby keeps the townsfolk occupied with music in the saloon. However, the noise of Pedro falling through the ceiling alerts Tex and the townsfolk. Tex becomes suspicious of Frisby and discovers his involvement in the robbery. Pedro and Fernando flee with a box from the bank, but it is only filled with junk Frisby planted as a decoy. Frisby is arrested while Pedro and Fernando turn themselves in just to gain food and shelter in the relative comfort of a jail cell!

“Indian Jack”

"Indian Jack" in the episode, The Toughest Guy In The West.
“Indian Jack” in the episode, The Toughest Guy In The West.

“Indian Jack” is a wanted criminal with a $500 bounty on his head for gun running, horse stealing, and cattle rustling. He poses as a tribesman to make illegal trades and is hated by both the Comanches and lawmen. He goes into hiding, but is discovered by Ebenezer Twink and Ma Jones during a Comanche attack. With a broken arm, “Jack” is pinned to a wall by a Comanche arrow and apprehended by Tex Tucker thanks to Twink’s quick-thinking. He is forced to pay for his crimes against the native tribes and frontiersmen.

Zeke Harman

Zeke Harman in the episode, Chance Of A Ghost.
Zeke Harman in the episode, Chance Of A Ghost.

Zeke Harman aims to pay only a quarter of the Eureka Silver Mine’s value with a crooked scheme to convince people the mine is haunted. He hires Pedro and Fernando to play the part of ghosts, and they fool Jackson and the town into believing that spirits inhabit the place. Pedro and Fernando double-cross Harman by setting their eyes on a $2000 payment from Jackson to rid the mine of its supposed ghosts. Tex’s dog, Dusty, overhears the plot and helps to plan an ambush, with Tex catching them all in the act later that night. However, Harman’s real punishment comes when Pedro and Fernando learn that their $1000 payment from him is nothing but a bag of buttons…

Johnny Z. Pasto and The Nevada Kid

Johnny Z. Pasto, Big Ben, and The Nevada Kid (L to R) in the episode, Gun Play.
Johnny Z. Pasto, Big Ben, and The Nevada Kid (L to R) in the episode, Gun Play.

Johnny Pasto and the Nevada Kid aim to bring ten thousand stolen cattle through Four Feather Falls, but Sheriff Tex Tucker refuses to be bribed or intimidated into letting them pass. Pasto challenges Tex to a gunfight without his magic guns, from which Tex still emerges with the fastest draw. The Nevada Kid almost manages to shoot Tex in the back, but Dusty and Rocky retrieve the magic feathers just in time to help Tex defeat the gang and arrest them for cattle rustling.

Blackie and Whitey Strutt

The Strutts are wanted for robbing the Wells Fargo office in Laredo, Texas. Tex throws Blackie in jail when he comes to Four Feather Falls, and Whitey confronts Big Ben to arrange a deal for Blackie’s release in exchange for leaving the territory in peace. A shootout occurs at the sheriff’s office, but the Tex manages to escape with Blackie to take him to trial. Outside of town, Whitey and Ben intercept the buggy, leading to Ben double-crossing the Strutts and inadvertently revealing his own role in the Laredo job to Tex, resulting in the capture of all three men.

Zack Morrill

Zack Morrill in the episode Jail Break.
Zack Morrill in the episode, Jail Break.

Zack Morrill is a notorious criminal with a $500 reward for murder, cattle rustling, horse stealing, and train robbery. He previously double-crossed Pedro during a job in Tucson, prompting Pedro to capture him in Hynes Bend for revenge and to obtain the reward money. Morrill offers Pedro a cut of his $10,000 gold haul to outsmart him, but Pedro plans to capture Morrill, claim the reward, and bust him out of jail for to get his cut. The plan fails, and Tex Tucker apprehends all three criminals as the jail wall falls down. The reward money is used to pay for the damage.

Marshall Ike Burns and Johnny

While Tex Tucker is away visiting family, Marshall Ike Burns works with Big Ben and an associate named Johnny to rob the townspeople of Four Feather Falls. With Jackson’s bank being robbed three times in two weeks, the citizens decide to form a vigilante group to maintain law and order. When the criminals intercept a gold consignment from the mines, Tex Tucker arrives home just in time to capture the phoney lawman and his associates.

Morg Fenton

Morg Fenton in the episode, Land Grabbers.
Morg Fenton in the episode, Land Grabbers.

Fenton owns the largest ranch in the area and wants to force his neighbour, Abe Weeks, to sell his land. With the help of Big Ben and Red Scalp, Fenton intimidates Weeks with threats of violence, shooting up his homestead and scaring off his workers. Weeks turns to Tex Tucker for help, who manages to buy the land himself to extend his jurisdiction. Tex, along with Rocky and Dusty, captures Fenton, Big Ben, and Red Scalp, and restores peace to Abe Weeks’ ranch.

Rube and Joe Voise

Rube (L) and Joe (R) Voise from the episode, Once A Lawman.
Rube (L) and Joe (R) Voise from the episode, Once A Lawman.

The Voise brothers team up with Big Ben and Red Scalp to rob the people of Four Feather Falls, repeatedly escaping the clutches of Tex Tucker. Marvin Jackson forces Tucker to hand in his star and leave town, allowing Joe and Rube Voise to bring him into their gang. Using Tex’s knowledge the gang intercept a gold consignment guarded by Twink, Jackson, and Doc Haggerty. However, Tex double-crosses the Voise brothers and reveals his true intention was always to work his way into the gang in order to finally capture them.

Cass Morgan

Cass Morgan arrives in town seeking revenge on his brother’s killers, Ike Tobin and Billy Pinto, unaware that Tex Tucker is the sheriff. Tobin and Pinto challenge Morgan to a gunfight, but Tex discovers that Morgan was actually the one responsible for his brother’s death during a stagecoach robbery and was trying to frame Tobin and Pinto for the crime.

Matt Ames

Joe "Lucky" Chance (L) and Matt Ames (R) in the episode, A Bad Name.
Joe “Lucky” Chance (L) and Matt Ames (R) in the episode, A Bad Name.

When one hundred cattle mysteriously go missing from “Lucky” Chance’s ranch during the night, the new foreman, Matt Ames, is quick to lay the blame at Big Ben’s door. However, Tex begins an investigation and discovers that Red Scalp is involved in the crime. Later that night, Ames and Chance arrive at the sheriff’s office and shoot it up in order to kill Ben, who is being held in protective custody in the jail cell. Tex reveals the true criminal is Matt Ames himself and he has been working with Red Scalp to steal the cattle and deceive his employer. With Big Ben proven innocent, he is freed from jail while Ames is detained.

Jeff Ward and Brad Martin

Two con artists, Martin and Ward, try to swindle Ma Jones out of her store with a deal that allows her to pay $1 a week for goods. However, their contract allows them to suddenly demand full payment or ownership of the store. Unable to pay, Ma is driven out of town to Twink’s horror, who notifies Tex immediately. The sheriff learns of the Martin and Ward’s record for crooked land deals and arrests them, then rescues Ma from the desert.

Pancho Gomez

Pancho Gomez's wanted poster from the episode, Bandits Abroad.
Pancho Gomez’s wanted poster from the episode, Bandits Abroad.

Pancho Gomez is a little-known bandit from Mexico with a $200 bounty, notable for his resemblance to Fernando. In the midst of a nightmare, Fernando dreams that Pedro dresses him up like Gomez in order to claim the reward money, leading to a mix-up and disaster with the real Pancho Gomez. Although it was only a dream, Fernando refuses to participate when Pedro proposes the scheme be tried out for real.

Hyam S. Wright and Scrag

Hyam S. Wright and Scrag in the episode, A Cure For Everything.
Hyam S. Wright (L) and Scrag (R) in the episode, A Cure For Everything.

Doc Haggerty is being driven out of business by a medicine salesman and con artist named Hyam S. Wright. Using coloured spring water, Wright, his associate Scrag, and Big Ben, are deceiving the citizens of Four Feather Falls into thinking they are being cured by his miraculous potions, when in fact Doc Haggerty’s treatment is doing all the real healing. Tex Tucker consults with Kalamakooya to learn the location of his own medicine man’s secret spring, and the sheriff soon catches Wright and Scrag in the act before driving them out of town.

Pete Carson

Pete Carson in the episode, Buffalo Rocky.
Pete Carson in the episode, Buffalo Rocky.

When a buffalo is seemingly responsible for the theft of horses at Pete Carson, Buck Wheatley, and Abe Weeks’ ranches, Tex immediately suspects foul play. Using Rocky as bait, Tex soon uncovers the real culprit – Pete Carson. Using specially constructed planks with buffalo hoofs carved into them, Carson had left buffalo tracks in the ground to confuse the ranchers and steal other folks’ horses without getting caught.

Missouri Mike

Missouri Mike in the episode, Safe As Houses.
Missouri Mike in the episode, Safe As Houses.

Missouri Mike arrives in Four Feather Falls with a shipment of home safes and anonymously shoots up the bank to generate a panic. He successfully sells the safes to everyone in town for $5 along with a free bottle of brandy. The bank manager, Marvin Jackson, is furious that the townsfolk are drawing out their money to keep in their new safes, but Tex becomes suspicious of Missouri Mike’s intentions. Indeed, the free brandy is doped and the salesman breaks into the safes to steal money while the townsfolk are fast asleep. However, Tex leaves his brandy untouched and is able to apprehend Missouri Mike with his magic guns the moment he opens the safe.

Hank, The Foreman, and the Overland Rail Company

Hank (L) and the Foreman (R) in the episode, First Train Through.
Hank (L) and the Foreman (R) in the episode, First Train Through.

The completion of the Canyon Railroad’s track through Four Feather Falls is plagued by rockfalls, flooding, and all manner of incidents which delay the grand opening. When the day finally comes for the first train to arrive in town, Tex Tucker uncovers a plot by the foreman, his associate Hank, and the rival Overland Rail Company, to wreck the train as it rides over a caved-in section of track. Rocky rides fast enough to catch up with the train so that Tex can warn them to stop just in time, and apprehends those responsible for the sabotage.

Lightning Lew

Lightning Lew in the episode, Fancy Shooting.
Lightning Lew in the episode, Fancy Shooting.

The mean gunslinger Lightning Lew is keen to prove his marksmanship against visiting fancy shooter and showman Buck Reevers. With the cooperation of Big Ben, Lew challenges Reevers to a gun fight, and plans to sabotage his next performance in the saloon. Fortunately, Tex Tucker is ready to defend Reevers, who isn’t particularly suited to using his guns for violence. Tucker is able to use his magic guns while Reevers is blindfolded to capture Lew, and create an illusion which maintains the performer’s reputation as the fastest and bestest in the westest.

William J. Haddon

William J. Haddon in the episode, Ambush.
William J. Haddon in the episode, Ambush.

William J. Haddon, a once trusted banker, teams up with Red Scalp and the Comanches to steal the $10,000 he’s escorting to Jackson’s bank by railroad. Red Scalp and his warriors attack the train, taking Haddon and the money away with them. However, Red Scalp double-crosses Haddon and the Comanches tie him to a tree while lighting a circle of fire around him. Tex Tucker and Rocky come to Haddon’s rescue, and he confesses to his part in the robbery.

Bart Stevens

Bart Stevens in the episode, Ride 'Em Cowboy.
Bart Stevens in the episode, Ride ‘Em Cowboy.

Silver City’s crack rider and top shooter Bart Stevens sabotages Four Feather Falls’ chances at winning the rodeo by conspiring with Pedro and Fernando. They fix Twink’s gun and steal Tex’s riding boots and toss them down a well. Kalamakooya’s grandson, Makooya, intervenes by asking the chief to retrieve the riding boots with his magic powers, enabling Tex to win the trick-riding contest after all. Stevens then resorts to doping Rocky before the start of the buggy race. The crooked cowboy still proves to be no match for Tex and Rocky, and ends up facing an arrest from the sheriff of Silver City.

Phew! Still think Four Feather Falls is all carefree, whimsical fantasy? Well, the delightful thing about the series is that it handles both the drama and nastiness just as well as the lighter, more charming moments. Almost every 15-minute installment is a combination of a serious plot for Tex Tucker and his colleagues to resolve, and time spent in the company of loveable characters going about their lives. The scripts pack it all in exquisitely, and many episodes are perfect examples of how to tell a complete story in a very short time without a second wasted.

In fact, I can only really think of two out of the thirty-nine episodes which lack any sense of peril, and are too sickly sweet for their own good – Teething Troubles and Happy Birthday – both from the latter part of the series when ideas for original scripts were probably running dry. But if you can grin and bear those two installments about Rocky’s toothache and Little Jake’s birthday present for Tex, then the rest of the series is still there to offer up juicy crimes and shooting to keep you on the edge of your seat.

Four Feather Falls is primarily written from a mature and well-rounded point of view which doesn’t talk down to children and is enjoyable for the whole family. One of the show’s strengths is also it’s incredibly consistent and expansive world-building. The town of Four Feather Falls and its surroundings are explored to their full potential in each episode, and the businesses and livelihoods of the people inhabiting the area are cleverly interwoven to make it feel that much more immersive. The truth is, this very article was originally going to be about an entirely different aspect of the Four Feather Falls universe, but I have bigger and better plans for that which will be unveiled soon…

In the meantime, go and pick up this wonderful gem of a television series on DVD if you haven’t already, and enjoy!

Next Time

References

The Complete Gerry Anderson: The Authorised Episode Guide
Chris Bentley

Four Feather Falls © 2023 ITV PLC / ITC Entertainment Ltd.

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