163-“The Hanging of Aaron Gibbs”

Directed by Richard Boone. Writing Robert E. Thompson

ROY BARCROFT as Marshal
BARRY CAHILL as Perrell
RUPERT CROSSE as Aaron Jedediah Gibbs
STEWART EAST as Mullaney
EDWARD FAULKNER as Jim Harden
HAL NEEDHAM as Turner
ODETTA as Sarah Gibbs
PEGGY REA asWidow

Pardon their dead and you’ve had your day of vengeance.
Now you want Sarah Gibbs for a headstone to her husband’s grave?
Is that what you want?

SARAH GIBBS
(singing)
Mule and me Seen fields of trouble
Mule and me Seen fields of pain
Mule and me seen Fields of trouble
Lord, show me your Harvest day

SARAH GIBBS
(speaking to her mule)
You hear me, don’t you? I’d answer you. I’d listen to you, if you say to me, “Where you hurt?” So now you listen to me, mule. We got a long ways to go yet. Miles to go, and a body to take. Miles to go And a body to take

PALADIN
Can I help?

SARAH GIBBS
I can’t rightly say as you can, but you’re welcome to try. See, I told this old mule to get me to Dunbar. But he knows too much, and he just lay down.

PALADIN
Dunbar?

SARAH GIBBS
You going there?

PALADIN
No, I’m headed back to San Francisco.

SARAH GIBBS
He’ll get better, won’t he? Not never? We been through a valley of days, this mule and me. Because I wouldn’t wish to know he was suffering.

PALADIN
There isn’t any use trying to dispose of the carcass. The coyotes will just dig it up again.

SARAH GIBBS
That don’t matter to him none now. Neither good nor bad. There’s no sun to burn him. Nor wind to shiver him. Never again. But for a man, it’s…it’s different. It oughta be different. When a man comes to his end, he oughta be buried, buried proper. Words said over him. No matter what he was born to. I don’t mean to presume on you. I got a gold piece here I’ve had for a long time now. I just keep it to myself to think on it at nights.
And I just hand it over to you if you take me into Dunbar.

PALADIN
Now what’s in Dunbar that you’re going to?

SARAH GIBBS
Aaron. That’s my man. I come this way to take back what they leave of him to me. It’s all lettered down here.

PALADIN
“Notice of determination and sentence in the trial of Aaron Jedidiah Gibbs before the provisional circuit court of Dunbar, Oregon. Be it hereby known that the aforementioned prisoner shall be hung until dead on the fifth day of June at an hour and site to be chosen
by the constituted authority of the above stated jurisdiction. Pursuant to the nature of the prisoner’s crime and to known and specific requirements of public order, no person or persons of any condition whatsoever shall be allowed contact of any degree with the prisoner.”

SARAH GIBBS
That “no person.” That don’t mean me. Sure that don’t mean me. You mean they wouldn’t let me see him? They wouldn’t even let me say a word to him?

PALADIN
Well…we’ll see.

SARAH GIBBS
Mister? Well, the only other thing I got is a comb that Aaron once carved for me.

PALADIN
The $10 will be…more than adequate.
Go.

JIM HARDEN
What’s he want?
Got us a standing rule regarding gun handlers in this town.

PALADIN
Oh, what’s that?

JIM HARDEN
Meal, bed, and they keep right on moving.
What are you here for?

PALADIN
You hanging three men here this afternoon?

MARSHAL
Yep.

PALADIN
What time?

MARSHAL
2:00.

PALADIN
The wife of one of them is here to see him.

MARSHAL
Gibbs’ wife?

PALADIN
That’s right.

MARSHAL
Well, rule is that nobody can see any one of them. Except at the hanging, of course, which is open and public.

PALADIN
Why?

JIM HARDEN
I’ll tell you why. Fourteen good, honest men lying under that pit. Mister, they had wives, children…brothers. None of them got to say goodbye to any of ’em. The three that killed ’em don’t deserve nothing better than what they gave.

MARSHAL
Jim, Terman’s rock crew oughta be coming up about now. I think it’d be a good idea if checked the changeover tent, see if there’s no bottle passing going on. You do this for me, Jim? Go on.

MARSHAL
Jim’s brother Frank was down in number three when Gibbs and the other two set off the dynamite and tried to grab the payroll. I saw Jim’s leg. That was a cave-in a couple of years ago. Frank shinnied down an open shaft hole and dug Jim out, brought him up to the top still alive. And I think even a sort like you could understand how a man might feel about his brother, especially when he owes him his life.

PALADIN
That’s right, Marshal. But I can also understand what a wife would feel for her husband.
Well, if it was up to me…

PALADIN
It is up to you.

MARSHAL
Take a look at those folks out there. The only reason that Gibbs and the other two are being hung today instead of torn limb from limb three months ago is that I sent for the state ranchers. And even with them here, we just barely missed having a lynching.
If it had been an ordinary gunplay or something like that, it might have been different, but these folks are keyed up about this and have been for quite some time.

PALADIN
Marshal, your job is to see that punishment is carried out, not vengeance.
At 2:00, you’re gonna send a man to his death. You. Not your deputy.
Not those people over there. You!

MARSHAL
I don’t want any more trouble in this camp. You saw how Jim Harden took to the idea.

PALADIN
Is it your deputy you’re afraid of?

MARSHAL
I told you that…

PALADIN
Don’t tell me anything. You come over here and tell Sarah Gibbs. Come on.

MARSHAL
All right, all right. I’ll arrange for her to see him.

ED
Marshal, you sure you want to do this? We all know what that court order said.

MARSHAL
Just open up, Ed. And don’t let anybody else in.

SARAH GIBBS
Coming all this way not knowing he was alive, it seems different. Before, it was just a cold lump inside. Now I don’t know if I’ll be able to face him.

JIM HARDEN
Open it up for me, Ed.

ED
Well, the marshal just said not to let anybody else in. But I guess he never meant you, Jim.

ED
But you just stay put.

PALADIN
I don’t have any intention of going in there. But you’d better take that gun off me.

MARSHAL
I made up my own mind. I know how you feel, Jim.

JIM HARDEN
Do you know? You never worked the mines. You never been pinned down there under a mountain of rock. You think Frank didn’t want to say a last word before he died? You think he didn’t wanna know somebody cared? But you’re gonna let the man that killed my brother have that. Is that what you’re gonna do?

MARSHAL
Well, Jim, I had an old yellow dog once, went rabid on me, near tore my arm off. But I tossed him a piece of meat to chew on before I killed him. Now if I can do that much for an old yellow mongrel, I can certainly do as much for a human being.
Not yet, Marshal. It ain’t 2:00 yet. Look. Look. I said look. I said look! See, it ain’t 2:00 yet. Tell him. Tell him it ain’t 2! Tell him! Help, help! But it ain’t 2 yet! I could have showed you if he hadn’t broke my sundial.

AARON GIBBS
First? You gonna put me up to the rope first?
See? What did I tell you? You promised us hanging. Now you’re gonna turn us over to that mob of miners, ain’t you?

MARSHAL
Jim! Now, if they can wait it out, so can you. Now you stay here with ’em, and I want ’em walking when it’s time.
How long, Marshal? I gotta know.

SARAH GIBBS
You thinned down, Aaron. You well?

AARON GIBBS
Why’d you gotta come here, wife? You shouldn’t have come. I guess I won’t to get to finish it now. Maybe you’d like to have it. A keepsake.

SARAH GIBBS
Aaron? What you done to get you into this?

WIDOW
I’ll tell you what they done. They buried my man under that slag out there. That’s what. Down there where I’ll never even see what’s left of his face even.

AARON GIBBS
Lord, I swear, I never meant to kill no men. We just set off that dynamite to close off the pulley till we could get clear with the payroll. I never knew it would cave in on all them men. I swear. I never knew.

PALADIN
Now hold it! These two people have got less than two minutes left in this whole world, and it belongs to them, not to you. No matter what he’s done. Now you back off!

AARON GIBBS
You say about this to Mr. Peters. And he’ll see that you get work in the sorting shift.

SARAH GIBBS
I’ll see.

AARON GIBBS
Ain’t nothing much now to say.

SARAH GIBBS
It’s all been said very insightful. Pity.

MARSHAL
Gibbs?

PRISONER
Time? Time now?

MARSHAL
It’s time. Jim, bring ’em on out.

AARON GIBBS
Seems like a long walk off.

MARSHAL
Move ’em on out.

AARON GIBBS
Thy rod and thy staff, they comfort me. Thou preparest a table before me in the presence of mine enemies. Thou anointest my head with oil.

SARAH GIBBS
Aaron! Aaron?

AARON GIBBS
Put me into the earth next to my boy, Sarah? Surely, for this and mercy will follow me all the days of my life. I will live in the house of the Lord forever.

SARAH GIBBS
Man runs from trouble, only finds trouble waiting around the corner for him. It’s hard for a man to go to field working after he’s known better. Used to drag home at nights
with his hands cracked open to the blood. But when the boy come sick, he’d pick him up in his arms just as gentle as any woman could. He loved the boy. Just like a man loves to poke his head up and smell the sun. I think I’m gonna be burying him where he asked to be.

PALADIN
I’ll bring your buggy up.

PALADIN
Miss Gibbs will claim the body.

MARSHAL
You mean haul him off? I don’t know.

PALADIN
The law gives her that right.

JIM HARDEN
Maybe. But I ain’t giving her that right. And neither are they.

SARAH GIBBS
I just wanna give him a Christian burial. Put him next to his own flesh.

JIM HARDEN
Maybe you can tell me some way to get my brother up out of that pit and bury him Christian. Ned, your boy Tom was in number three. You got a headstone for him someplace? Your husband was down there. You got some place for the kids to put flowers on him? Well, I say they don’t deserve no better. I say they get dumped down the sluice pit.

PALADIN
Harden. These three men are dead. You can’t frighten them anymore. Now what do you want? You want her? You wanna haul her away? Hang her up on those gallows? Is that what you want for a head marker for your brother?

JIM HARDEN
Get me them bodies up here. Do you hear me? We gotta dump ’em down the sluice pit. I owe that to Frank. You see that. I could have gone down there with…

MARSHAL
Jim, we all know you couldn’t with that bad leg of yours.

JIM HARDEN
That’s right, I couldn’t. But I can see that they get what’s coming to them. Now get me them bodies up here!

PALADIN
Harden.

JIM HARDEN
My leg.

PALADIN
What about your leg?

JIM HARDEN
It’s crushed in the cave-in, a year ago March.

PALADIN
You been using that to cadge drinks and sympathy ever since.

JIM HARDEN
People been nice to me, sure, but that ain’t my fault, is it? My leg and what all, you know I couldn’t go back down to the mines.

PALADIN
Harden, it’s no crime to accept help from your friends when you need it. But I’ll tell you something, I think that accident was the luckiest thing that ever happened to you. I’ll tell the whole world that I don’t think you were much of a man before the accident because you aren’t much of a man now. And the only excuse you’ve got is a sprung leg.

JIM HARDEN
Now hold on. You ain’t got no call to talk to me like that.

PALADIN
Harden, you tell me one thing. You think you’re the only human being in this whole world that ever had to fight hardship?

SARAH GIBBS
He didn’t mean much to nobody, except myself.

ED
I guess we oughta take the other two out to the burying hill. I guess that’d be the right thing to do now. Don’t you think, Marshal?

MARSHAL
Yeah.

SARAH GIBBS
Oh, Lord We’re coming home Oh, Lord, coming home Oh, Lord We’re coming home