Original air date Dec 31, 1957
Directed by Douglas Heyes
Teleplay by Oliver Drake
    & Frederic Brady

Regular Cast
Clint Walker as Cheyenne Bodie

Guest Cast
eanne Cooper as Marie Conover
aul Savage as George Lambert
d Prentiss as Ben Gentry
eter Brown as Clay Conover
alter Barnes as Chris Barstow
ankin Mansfield as Pete Harley
ack Williams as Abe Bascombe
erry Frost as Dan Nayler
"Top Hand"
This was one of the earliest of Peter Brown's well-done boy becomes a man roles. He plays Clay Conover, a teen itching to be a man. His older sister refuses to give him any responsibility for running their ranch while it's in the middle of a range war.
Cattleman Ben Gentry is determined to buy up all the range land in the valley he pioneered. As the episode opens, he has just bought out the rancher Cheyenne has been working for. When Cheyenne refuses to work for him, he warns him not to stay around to work for anyone else. Cheyenne also turns down Gentry's main rival, George Lambert. While Cheyenne's taking a meal at the local saloon, young Clay Conover struts in and demands a drink. When he chokes on it, Barstow, Lambert's foreman, mocks him. Clay calls him out to draw. Barstow is anxious to oblige. When Cheyenne and Lambert break up the fight, Clay is far from grateful.
However, Clay's sister Marie is grateful. She comes to Cheyenne's room and asks him to be her top hand. He turns her down. When Lambert sees her leaving Cheyenne's room, he confronts her, assuming she's hired Cheyenne. Marie feels that her ranch is a pawn in the war between the two big ranchers. As Cheyenne is trying to leave the valley that night, Barstow and three of his cronies, thinking he's going to work for Marie, jump him, beat him up, tie him on his horse and leave him to be dragged to his detriment if not his death. The Conovers find him, cut him loose and take him home to mend. Neither Lambert nor Clay are happy that now Cheyenne is going to work at the Conover ranch.
Cheyenne heads out to confront Lambert about his foreman's actions. But first he has a talk with Pete, a long-time Conover hand. He confirms what Cheyenne suspects, Lambert is in love with Marie. He wanted to marry her but her father's will requires that she turn over half the ranch to Clay if she marries. Lambert got tired of waiting and tried to take over her ranch. Now she thinks he only wants to marry her to control her ranch. Cheyenne's confrontation with Lambert turns into a fistfight, then trust, as Lambert keeps his word not to let his men interfere. Cheyenne believes Lambert when he claims he had nothing to do with Barstow's attack.
While Cheyenne is dealing with Lambert, Clay confronts his sister. He wants her to stop shielding him from everything. He wants his share of the ranch so he can fight for what's his. She doesn't want him to die violently like his father and brother.
At dinner, Cheyenne gives Marie a lecture about letting her lover's quarrel get men killed. He also suggests she start acting and dressing like a woman. Gentry interrupts their meal with another offer. When they turn him down, he lets them know he'll get what he wants another way. What he does is cut off water to the whole valley using a community built dam on the land of the ranch he just took over.  Cheyenne has them call all the ranchers and farmers together for a meeting. Marie takes Cheyenne's advice and wears a dress. Her new look is appreciated by the men, but it also makes her weaker and less forceful. No one seems to be able to rally everyone to work together. Their lawyer tells them the law is on their side, but their land will be ruined by the time Gentry finishes his appeals over the dam.
Then Clay catches on fire. He wants to fight for the valley. When he asks who stands with him, Cheyenne backs him up. Lambert is with Cheyenne and then everyone is willing to fight. Clay tells them where to find a box of dynamite.
Cheyenne rounds up men to take the dam. Marie wants to change her clothes and go along with the rest, but one kiss from Lambert and she meekly agrees to wait at home for him to return. Clay has his own errand. He takes on Gentry one on one, demanding that Gentry go with him to the dam. But Gentry knows Clay isn't a killer, that he won't shoot a man in cold blood. So Clay punches Gentry in the jaw knocking him down. Gentry is going with him one way or another to call off his dogs.
Good guys shoot their way to the dam and blow it up. Just after the pieces go floating down the river, Clay arrives with Gentry. Gentry, suddenly almost affable in his admiration for Clay, admits he knows when he's been beaten.
NiteOwl Review: For most of us Cheyenne and Maverick were the first television westerns we remember. Cheyenne Bodie was, of course, the more traditional western hero. Clint Walker was both formidable and likable and usually overshadowed everyone else, villain or subsidiary hero. In this episode, Peter Brown did a nice job as the boy seizing the opportunity to prove himself a man. But we never really believed that he inspired all the men to band together to fight Gentry. It was Cheyenne they rallied around. Peter was much better able to play opposite Clint Walker as an equal in Pocketful of Stars, his one post Lawman appearance.
Cast Note: Jeanne Cooper made frequent appearances in televison westerns in the 1950s and 60s. She played the mother of Peter Brown's girlfriend in the propaganda classic Freedom and You. Later, Jeanne and Peter shared time on the Young and the Restless.
Our Favorite Scene: The guys voted for the final scene because the women hated it so much. When Gentry admits he's beaten, Lambert says to Clay, "Your sister's going to be mighty proud of you Clay."   Gentry interjects, "She's going to be kind of surprised too, when she finds out who her brother really is." Cheyenne: "What do you mean by that?" Gentry: "He's the man she thought she was."
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