214-“American Primitive”

Directed by Jerry Hopper, Written by Harry Julian Fink.

Harry Morgan as Sheriff Ernie Backwater
Robert J. Wilke as Will Tybee
Pitt Herbert as Sim
Peggy Rea as Maggie
John Breen as Hotel Guest (uncredited)
Sam Harris as Hotel Guest (uncredited)
Bert Madrid as Townsman (uncredited)
Harry Mayo as Townsman (uncredited)
Joe Ploski as Hotel Guest (uncredited)
Norman Stevans as Townsman (uncredited)
Sailor Vincent as Hotel Guest (uncredited)

INT. HOTEL CARLTON – EARLY MORNING

MAGGIE
Well, Mr. Paladin, it’s early you’ve returned!

PALADIN
Maggie, it’s 3:00 a.m.

MAGGIE
Well, I said it was early.

PALADIN
Hmm. Maggie? Have you noticed that the city seems overcrowded?

MAGGIE
Well, not with men to suit my taste, it isn’t.

PALADIN
People are less polite. I think I’m beginning to yearn for things pastoral.
Trees, tall and green, that scrape the sky when the wind blows, and clouds, white and fat.

MAGGIE
Well, for that, I could qualify myself.

PALADIN
Open spaces…vast, empty, untouched.

MAGGIE
Are you tired of people, Mr. Paladin, sir?

PALADIN
Most of them, Maggie.

MAGGIE
Ah! Here it is. Hey Boy says, “Maggie, to give it to Mr. Paladin the minute he came in.”
And I says to Hey Boy, I says, “What will that darlin’ man think of me -Yeah.

MAGGIE
“pouncing on him like a…like a man-hungry leech the minute he saunters in here?”

PALADIN
Thank you very much, Maggie. Mm.

MAGGIE
Oh, it isn’t bad news, is it, dearie?

PALADIN
No. As a matter of fact, it’s very good news. It’s an invitation to a breath of mountain air and peace and quiet and serenity.

MAGGIE
All that on only one sheet of paper?

PALADIN
Listen to this. “Orrville, Texas. Dear Paladin, spring is here. There are trout in the stream and deer in the mountains. My mouth is watering for fried trout and venison. Can you come down for some fishing or hunting? Your friend, Ernie Backwater.”
Ernie Backwater.

EXT. IN TOWN – DAY

PALADIN
Yeah. Blue skies and wide spaces. Clouds like your letter said. Not many trees, though. How are you, Ernie?

SHERIFF ERNIE BACKWATER
Go ahead and get it over with.

PALADIN
Get what over with?

SHERIFF ERNIE BACKWATER
It’s an old joke and a bad one. I shot a man once for asking it, but you ain’t gonna be happy until you do, so go ahead and get it over with.
I might not be as forbearing
tomorrow or the next day.

PALADIN
Your name Ernie Backwater?

SHERIFF ERNIE BACKWATER
That’s right.

PALADIN
That mean you back water?

SHERIFF ERNIE BACKWATER
Not while I’m alive.
How about you? Have you grown
soft in two years?

PALADIN
Why?

SHERIFF ERNIE BACKWATER
What’s this?

PALADIN
Fishing pole.

SHERIFF ERNIE BACKWATER
Fancy. What’s it for?

PALADIN
Fishing. Trout, you said.

SHERIFF ERNIE BACKWATER
I’m going hunting.

PALADIN
For what?

SHERIFF ERNIE BACKWATER
A man… who killed five people,
killed one of my posse,
got sentenced to hang,
broke my jail, burned it down,
killed my deputy,
shot me in the belly,
and left me for dead.
It’s a miracle
I’m still alive.
You want to come?

PALADIN
Now, Ernie,
you knew about this
when you wrote me that letter
about the six-pound trout
and the 400-pound bucks.

SHERIFF ERNIE BACKWATER
I don’t ask favors,
and I’m not now.
I wrote you the trout
was biting, and they are.
That it was a good deer season,
and it is.
I’m going hunting
for something else, that’s all.

PALADIN
Ernie.

SHERIFF ERNIE BACKWATER
Most men lie to themselves
about something…
that they’re stronger than they
are or faster than they are.
Well, I lie about standing
on my own two feet.
I never asked another man’s
help, or ever will.
You want to come?

PALADIN
My pleasure.

SHERIFF ERNIE BACKWATER
I thank you for that,
but it won’t be a pleasure.
He’ll probably kill us both.
He’s like a storm
or pestilence or drought.

PALADIN
A force of nature, huh?

SHERIFF ERNIE BACKWATER
Like a force of nature.
Savage, fearsome.
The Comanches have a name
for the kind of Texas man
who took this part of the
country away from the Mexicans,
drove the Apaches
into the Chiricahuas
and the Comanches
into the state plains.
You know what it is?

PALADIN
Ammantophori.

SHERIFF ERNIE BACKWATER
“Savage American.”

PALADIN
“Savage American.” That’s not really a good translation, Ernie.
It’s more like…It’s more like “American primitive.”

SHERIFF ERNIE BACKWATER
Pays three dollars a day. Raise your right hand.

PALADIN
No badge, Ernie.

SHERIFF ERNIE BACKWATER
Why not?

PALADIN
Well, I always have
to consider the possibility
that some fool won’t be able
to resist the temptation
of using it for a target.

EXT. ON THE TRAIL

PALADIN
How long?

SHERIFF ERNIE BACKWATER
20 minutes. He do sleep sound, don’t he?

PALADIN
That’s a rag doll down there. He’s out in the brush.

SHERIFF ERNIE BACKWATER
That’s right.
Or up there,
looking down our throats.
Three months for my belly
to heal enough to go after him.
Almost a month
on the trail with you.
Hard to believe
we’ve really found him.

PALADIN
I’m going out in the brush.
You’re good here.

SHERIFF ERNIE BACKWATER
No. My eyes are going on me.
And the light’s bad here.
I won’t trust a rifle.
I’ll get a little closer.

PALADIN
Ernie…don’t break a leg.

SHERIFF ERNIE BACKWATER
You mean don’t make any noise.
I’m not that old.

SHOOTING

PALADIN
Don’t do that.

WILL TYBEE

That last shot, you could have killed me.

PALADIN
That’s right.

WILL TYBEE
But I put one in your shoulder, so you put two in mine.

PALADIN
That’s right.

WILL TYBEE
I wouldn’t have done that. I would have killed you.

SHERIFF ERNIE BACKWATER
Me, too.

PALADIN
You gonna cauterize my shoulder, Ernie?

SHERIFF ERNIE BACKWATER
Yes.

PALADIN
That gonna hurt?

SHERIFF ERNIE BACKWATER
Like nothing ever hurt before.

PALADIN
Him, too. Twice.

EXT. IN CAMP – NIGHT

WILL TYBEE
What’s the matter, Ernie? You afraid I’d chew through them?

SHERIFF ERNIE BACKWATER
No. Just that you might get desperate and tear the tree up by the roots or break the chain in half.

WILL TYBEE
Ernie? Did they all die? Two of them were still alive when I left.

SHERIFF ERNIE BACKWATER
They all died. Why, Will? Would you have hated to be hung for just three of them?

WILL TYBEE
That’s a fact.

BACK AT PALADIN

SHERIFF ERNIE BACKWATER
There’s one place for you cripples: a way station between us and a trip back without water. You ain’t gonna lose that arm on me before we get there, are you?

PALADIN
Not if I can help it.

SHERIFF ERNIE BACKWATER
You’re feverish?

PALADIN
A little.

SHERIFF ERNIE BACKWATER
Well, go to sleep. You need your rest.

PALADIN
Yeah. Ernie?

SHERIFF ERNIE BACKWATER
Yeah?

PALADIN
Ernie, you don’t want to hang him, do you?

SHERIFF ERNIE BACKWATER
I never want to hang a man.

PALADIN
No, I mean, some less than others.

SHERIFF ERNIE BACKWATER
No, they’re all the same to me. I bring them in, the court tries them, the jury brings in a verdict, the judge sentences them. I got to get some sleep.

PALADIN
Ernie?

SHERIFF ERNIE BACKWATER
Yes?

PALADIN
Ernie…you say his… it was his son?

SHERIFF ERNIE BACKWATER
That’s right.

PALADIN
He was murdered by five men?

SHERIFF ERNIE BACKWATER
That’s right. For a ten-dollar gold piece his pa gave him…his 15th birthday.

PALADIN
And he hangs for that?

E
For revenging his son? No. He killed the wrong men, Paladin.

PALADIN
How?

SHERIFF ERNIE BACKWATER
With a shotgun, mostly. Not in their sleep, though.
He woke them up, and he killed them.

PALADIN
Does he know?

SHERIFF ERNIE BACKWATER
No. We tried him for killing one of my posse, not for those saddle tramps.
We thought they’d done it, too. You got to understand the facts of life.
No jury in the world was gonna bring a verdict against him.
Only thing is he did kill one of my posse, then my deputy in escaping.
A month later, the five men who had killed his son were taken in Sonora for murder.
They were gonna hang anyway, so they told what they’d done.

PALADIN
Ernie.

SHERIFF ERNIE BACKWATER
Yes?

PALADIN
You’re not gonna tell him?

SHERIFF ERNIE BACKWATER
For what purpose? He shot you. Why didn’t you kill him, Paladin?

PALADIN
I told you.

SHERIFF ERNIE BACKWATER
No. You didn’t tell me. Not really.

PALADIN
Get your sleep, Ernie.

EXT. ON THE TRAIL – MORNING

INT. CABIN – DAY

WILL TYBEE
Ernie?

SHERIFF ERNIE BACKWATER
Yes?

WILL TYBEE
I want my boots.

SHERIFF ERNIE BACKWATER
I told you, no.

WILL TYBEE
That was yesterday.

SHERIFF ERNIE BACKWATER
That was for the last 13 days.

WILL TYBEE
We gonna reach town tomorrow?

SHERIFF ERNIE BACKWATER
I hope so.

WILL TYBEE
Well, then you’re gonna have to shoot me, because I am not gonna ride into town without my boots.

SHERIFF ERNIE BACKWATER
I could make you walk, tied to my horse’s tail.

WILL TYBEE
Ernie, you do that, and I might lose my temper. And when I lose my temper, I sometimes act like a fool. I don’t want to do that so close to dying.

SHERIFF ERNIE BACKWATER
I’ll give you your boots just before we get into town.

WILL TYBEE
You heal slow, gunfighter.

PALADIN
All right, Will. Well, you took yours off…yesterday.

WILL TYBEE
I didn’t holler as loud as you did either when Ernie put the iron to me.

PALADIN
That’s just because you were making so much noise
you couldn’t hear yourself.

WILL TYBEE
Ernie, who hollered the loudest?

SHERIFF ERNIE BACKWATER
You was both as brave as pussycats. Now, let’s get riding.

WILL TYBEE
Could you spare another of those fancy cigars, Paladin? Thanks. When, Ernie?

SHERIFF ERNIE BACKWATER
Tomorrow morning.

WILL TYBEE
That’s right. No sense in wasting time. Now I wish you’d have shot a little more on target.

PALADIN
All right, let’s go.

WILL TYBEE
Where to, Ernie? Or have they rebuilt your jail already?

SHERIFF ERNIE BACKWATER
No, the council hasn’t even voted the funds for it yet.
I thought maybe the schoolhouse.

WILL TYBEE
No.

SHERIFF ERNIE BACKWATER
Why not?

PALADIN
The children, Ernie.

SHERIFF ERNIE BACKWATER
They’ll be leaving in ten minutes.
Tomorrow’s Saturday.

PALADIN
And they’ll be back Monday. You don’t want to hang a man out of a schoolhouse.
Find someplace else. Cellar, hotel room.

SHERIFF ERNIE BACKWATER
All right, the hotel. But first, we’ll get a barbershop bath. We need it.

WILL TYBEE
Thanks. You know, I keep wondering if I could take you in a fair fight.
I keep thinking about it. Does it bother you?

PALADIN
Some.

INT. BARBERSHOP – DAY

WILL TYBEE
Ah, there’s nothing like a barbershop bath. Nothing in the world.

I almost feel like a new man.

SHERIFF ERNIE BACKWATER
You smell better, too.

WILL TYBEE
Well, downwind, you weren’t exactly a rose garden, Ernie. Aw, come on, Ernie.

SIM
Um, shave first, sir?

WILL TYBEE
Uh-huh. You got something to read?

SIM
Uh, yes, sir. It was, uh, due last week, but it just came out today. All fresh news.
Uh, I-I haven’t had a chance to see it myself yet.

WILL TYBEE
I making you nervous, Sim?

SIM
Yes, sir.

WILL TYBEE
I won’t bite. All for nothing.

SIM
What’s that, Mr. Tybee?

WILL TYBEE
Oh. How’s your wife, Sim?

SIM
Oh, fine.

WILL TYBEE
How many children do you have now?

SIM
Oh, four, sir.

TYBEE USES RAZOR

WILL TYBEE
If you mean to use that shotgun, Ernie, get on with it.

SHERIFF ERNIE BACKWATER
But you’ll use that razor?

WILL TYBEE
I’ve killed seven men since Christmas. Two of them were men I liked. Now, you put that shotgun over here and unlock those chains, because one more doesn’t matter at all.

WILL TYBEE
Now, put your handgun down at my feet. Sim, tell Mr. Paladin how many children you got. He didn’t hear you.

SIM
Oh, please, sir.

WILL TYBEE
Now put your gun over here with Ernie’s. Stop thinking, Paladin. Because no matter how fast you get that bullet off, my reflex will make his children orphans.
Now back against the wall, your hands high. Uh-uh. I like to see a man’s face. Now, Sim, you and I are gonna kneel together. Careful like. You’re gonna pick up Mr. Paladin’s gun and put it in my left hand. Real careful like. Now, Sim, take off the sheriffts boots.

SHERIFF ERNIE BACKWATER
You’ve got a sense of humor. I always did admire that in you, Will.

WILL TYBEE
I truly hope you don’t try something foolish.

PALADIN
Well, I guess it’s this.

SHERIFF ERNIE BACKWATER
He is a murderer.

PALADIN
Yeah.

EXT. IN THE STREET

PALADIN
Will!

WILL TYBEE
You know, I expected you to come up with something, Paladin.
That ain’t much of a gun for this kind of thing.

PALADIN
It doesn’t have to be this way, Will.

WILL TYBEE
You better not shoot fancy this time, friend. You’re not that good.

PALADIN
I know. I’ll shoot straight.

WILL TYBEE
Why, Paladin? Those men are murderers. Even the newspaper says so.

PALADIN
What about the seven men you killed who weren’t murderers, Will?
What about them?

WILL TYBEE
I still have to try.

SHERIFF ERNIE BACKWATER
Go on. Get away from him. Go on home. Well, let’s get him to the undertaker.
And I’ll buy a beer.

PALADIN
Ernie, whiskey.

SHERIFF ERNIE BACKWATER
Then you pay. He was a man.

PALADIN
Ammantophori. American primitive.

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