Shootout at Garsen's Saloon -- Part One
Scenes One and Two
In these two scenes from Part One of Shootout at Garsen’s Saloon I parody Shane’s manly appearance at the Starrett homestead and Joe Starrett’s obsession with “Ironwood,” the huge tree stump he has labored to remove from behind his barn. Additionally, I poke fun of Joe Starrett’s upright character, film character Stonewall Torrey’s hot-headedness, and actions taken in the film by the cattle boss’s cowboys to convince homesteaders to abandon their claims and leave the valley.
Here is how Starrett’s boy Bob first portrays Shane in the novel.
Father and I watched him dismount in a single flowing tilt of his body and lead the horse over to the trough. …
… All his movements were deft and sure, and with a quick precision he flipped down his sleeves, reknotted the handkerchief, and picked up his hat.
… In another moment the hat was on his head, brim swept down in swift, unconscious gesture, and he was swinging gracefully into the saddle and starring toward the road.
I was fascinated. None of the men I knew were proud like that about their appearance. In that short time the kind of magnificence I had noticed had emerged into plainer view. It was in the very air of him. Everything about him showed the effects of long use and hard use, but showed too the strength of quality and competence.
When the three of us went up to the house, mother was waiting and four plates were set at the table. “I saw you through the window,” she said and came to shake our visitor’s hand. ….
“Marian,” father said, “I’d like you to meet Mr. Shane.”
“Good evening, ma’am,” said our visitor. He took her hand and bowed over it. Mother stepped back and, to my surprise, dropped in a dainty curtsy. I had never seen her do that before. She was an unpredictable woman.
Here is information from the novel about Joe’s relationship with “Ironwood.”
Father had been working at it off and on, gnawing at the roots with an axe, ever since he finished poling the corral. The going was slow, even for him. The wood was so hard that he could not sink the blade much more than a quarter-inch at a time. …
“That’s the one fool thing about this place I haven’t licked yet. But I will. There’s no wood ever grew can stand up to a man that’s got the strength and the will to keep hammering at it.”
He stared at the stump like it might be a person sprouting in front of him. “You know, Shane, I’ve been feuding with this thing so long I’ve worked up a spot of affection for it. It’s tough. I can admire toughness. The right kind.”
In the film version one of the homesteaders, Ernie Wright, is ready to “pull up stakes’ because the cattle boss’s men had cut his fences and stampeded his steers across his wheat fields. In Scene Two of Shootout we are told that the cattle boss’s cowboys have used different methods to convince Cannonball Stone to leave. Stone is my parody of the film character Stonewall Torrey, a hot-headed homesteader from
My invented character Kurt Jergens is Big Bill Wretcher’s foreman and bully boy. Using an over-the-top comical Nazi German in a Western appealed to me. I had used such a character (Siegfried O’Sullivan) in an earlier play, about espionage on a “love boat” cruise ship. A cast member in that play had given me a black, plastic German helmet and another student had provided a black riding crop. Kurt Jergens uses these props throughout Shootout.
Scenes One and Two
Cast of Characters
Joe Garrett, leader of the homesteaders
Marian Garrett, Joe’s wife
Grandma Garrett, Joe’s mother
Johnny Garrett, dim-witted 16 year old son
Bonnie Garrett, 12 year old daughter
Cannonball Stone, fiery-tempered homesteader
Opal Stone, 16 year old daughter
Rocky Stone, 14 year old son
Svede Svenson, Swedish homesteader
Ebenezer Erp, town preacher
Alley Erp, Ebenezer’s wife
Hannah Erp, bad-breathed 16 year old daughter
Big Bill Wretcher, cattle boss of the valley
Rachael Wretcher, flirtatious 16 year old daughter
Kurt Jergens, Big Bill’s German, bully-boy foreman
George Garsen, owner of Garsen’s Saloon
Tina Tintinnabulation, saloon girl
Digger Phelps, undertaker and barber
Widow Winslow, man-hunting, 35 year old widow
Shane, gunfighter trying to escape his past
Place: Shoshone Hole,
(The Garrett’s kitchen. We see a cookie jar on a table. The room is empty. Bonnie Garrett sneaks into the room, looks about carefully, walks cautiously over to the jar, lifts the lid soundlessly, and takes a cookie. She replaces the lid soundlessly, grins, and prepares to take a big bite out of the cookie)
Grandma (off-stage left): Who’s in there?! (enters) A-ha! Caught-cha! (She points her cane at Bonnie) Thought you could sneak in ‘n’ snitch one a your grandma’s cookies, didn’t ya?! (Bonnie holds the cookie behind her back and shakes her head “no” vigorously) Then what’s your hand doin’ behind yer back?! Don’t lie to me!
Bonnie (innocently): Oh, I’d never do that, Grannie!
Grandma: In a pig’s eye you wouldn’t! You’ve got spunk!
Bonnie (smiling mischievously): Your cookies are so good! You should sell them, Grannie! Call them Grandma’s Cookies!
Grandma: Also got imagination! More than that dummy of a brother you got. He takes after that dumb son of mine, your father.
Bonnie: Johnny isn’t dumb, Grannie. He’s dense!
Grandma (proudly): Females always were the better Garretts! You be just as good as your ma, just as feisty as me! Why, I’m not done yet! That store keep/saloon man Garsen ain’t safe in the streets with me loose! You wait ‘n’ see!
Bonnie: Or Digger Phelps, Grannie. You said so yourself.
Grandma: That undertaker got a way about him, no denyin’ that! I’ll give one or the other a them the end a the month to make a move. Then I go into action!
Bonnie: If you wait much longer, the Widow Winslow will get one … or both of them! You saw her at the barn raising dance, didn’t you?
Grandma: That rouge-cheeked hussy! Sashayin’ about like a sway-backed mare whenever a man’s about!
Bonnie: That’s why I picked this flower for you, Grannie, to wear in your hair when you go to town today.
Grandma: What flower?! What are you talkin’ about?!
Bonnie: The “cookie” you think I’m holding right now. I wanted to surprise you. But if you look now, … (smiling mischievously) … I can’t.
Grandma: I did say you had imagination. And plenty of sass! You’re a female Garrett all right! The males don’t amount to a hill of beans!
(Johnny Garrett enters left)
Johnny: Hi, Grannie. Feelin’ better today?
Grandma: Don’t “Grannie” me, you mutton-headed mule! What you doin’ in my kitchen?!
Johnny: Now don’t get your feathers ruffled, Grannie. I just wanted a cookie. (He reaches for the cookie jar)
(Grandma slams her cane down on the table, almost decapitating Johnny’s hand)
Grandma: “Feathers ruffled”?! Do I look like a goose?!
Johnny (politely): Oh my no, Grannie. (glances at Bonnie, who is now eating her cookie. He looks at Grandma) Can’t I have a cookie?
Grandma: You want to brush your teeth with your left hand?!
(Johnny, after a puzzled look, pantomimes brushing his teeth with his left hand)
Johnny (simply): No, that would be awkward.
Bonnie: Oh, brother!
Johnny (turning to Bonnie): Yes, sister?
Bonnie: He is dense!
Johnny (offended): Well, I know when I’m not wanted!
Johnny I’m getting ready for the Young People’s Gathering! (He exits left)
Grandma: Poetry reading! Poppycock!
Bonnie: Probably hoping one of those Jensen girls is going to like him. Well, good luck!
Grandma: I’ll be riding in with him in the buckboard. I have shopping to do.
Bonnie: Oh, I’m going with you! (She rushes out left, passing her mother, Marian Garrett, who enters)
Marian (speaking to Grandma, with amusement): And Mr. Garsen will wait on you personally?
Grandma (coyly): Maybe he will … and maybe he won’t. (pause) He’s a fool if he don’t!
Marian: Say hello to Digger Phelps for me while you’re there. (smiling) No doubt you’ll be speaking to him, too.
Grandma (put out): You think because I’m huntin’ for a man I’m funny! Well, your time will come too, Marian. Not much life in any of the Garrett men!
Marian: I know. I might just as well be married to a post, all the interest Joe takes in me.
Grandma: Damn fool son of mine. Someday a handsome stranger’ll come ridin’ into this valley and Joe’ll be sorry, … if ‘n’ I don’t beat you to him first!
Marian (laughing): Well, you just stick to Mr. Garsen and Mr. Phelps!
Grandma: Goin’ into town to wear ‘em down! (She exits left)
Marian: She’d wear any man down. (pause) Where’s Joe? He came in to wash up just a minute ago. I never have a minute alone with him! (She exits left)
(Joe Garrett enters right carrying an axe. We are outside the house. He approaches a block of wood that represents a tree stump. Joe looks down at it fondly and then pats it affectionately)
Joe (softly): It’s time you and me had another go around, stump. (Without hesitation he raises the axe and with a snarl he hits the stump a vicious blow) How’d you like that, stump?! (He strikes it again) Think you’re tough, huh?! (He hits it again) No man, beast, or chunk of wood is tougher than Joe Garrett! Heeaaaah! (He gives the stump a last mighty blow and then stands over it exhausted. He looks at his right palm) Eeeew! A blister!
(Marian Garrett enters left)
Marian (stopping abruptly when she sees Joe, shows impatient disapproval): Joe Garrett! The minute my back is turned you’re out here with that old stump! I could just cry!
Joe (with a masculine tone): Now, Marian. You just don’t know what Old Ironwood means to me.
Marian: When was the last time you put your arms around me, Joe? When?! Oh, Joe! You love that … that old stump more than you love me!
Joe: Don’t be silly, Marian.
Marian: Silly? Last night I washed my hair with that fancy hyacinth shampoo I bought at Garsen’s … and … (becomes emotional) … you … you came out here! (She speaks to the stump) I hate you!
Joe: Marian. Don’t speak disrespectfully to Old Ironwood! You’ve got to admire his toughness, his endurance, his …
Marian: I’ll do no such thing! (She turns petulantly, goes toward the left exit)
(Johnny Garret enters left)
Johnny: I’m leavin’ now, Ma. Thanks for ironin’ my shirt.
Marian (passing him): Oh, shut up, ferret face! (She exits left)
Johnny: Ferret Face?!
Joe: You know your mother, Johnny. An unpredictable woman. One of a kind. That’s why I married her.
Johnny (touching his face): Yes, but … ferret face? Why did she call me that?
Joe: First thing that popped into her head. Pay it no mind.
Johnny: Hannah Erp doesn’t think I have a ferret face! And Rachel Wretcher … she chased me three times around Garsen’s store tryin’ to kiss me!
Joe: You stay away from that hussy, Johnny! The Wretchers are bad business!
I was thinkin’ that when Rachel was chasin’
Joe: Good boy.
Johnny: But, you know? The last time around I started wondering … what if she caught me? What would be the harm in that?
Joe (handing Johnny the axe): Here, boy! Give Old Ironwood a hit!
Johnny (handing back the axe): No,
I’ll get all sweaty! I don’t want to be stinky at Mrs. Erp’s Young
People’s Gathering. Opal Stone
will be there! Pa.
Joe: You’re … kind of sweet on that girl, aren’t you, boy?
Johnny: Opal has the shiniest blond hair, Pa! Like straw dryin’ out after a summer rain!
Joe: You’re growing up, boy. Growing up fast.
Johnny: I’m observant, too! You know, she’s got a rump just like Old Betsey’s new foul!
Joe (shoving the axe at him): Here now! Get that kind of thinkin’ right out of your system!
Johnny: All right,
gives the wood a gentle blow) Pa.
Joe: You’re a Garrett! Garret men are gentlemen! Never forget that!
Johnny: I won’t. (pause) And, besides, Opal Stone doesn’t know I’m alive!
Joe: Remember, boy. We are gentlemen!
Johnny: Don’t worry,
Rachel scares me! Pa.
Joe: Very good. And Hannah Erp?
Johnny: Bad breath.
Joe (after nodding approval): You’d better be leaving. But first, fetch me a cup of water.
(Johnny goes over to a pail of water next to the stump. He picks up the pail, and looks at himself in the surface of the water, turning his face at different angles)
(Opal and Cannonball Stone and Svede Svenson enter right)
Johnny: Oh no! It’s Opal! And her pa and Mr. Svenson.
Joe: Hmmm. I wonder what brought old Cannonball and Svede out here? (As they approach) Cannonball. Opal. Svede. How’s that new plow workin’ out?
Cannonball: Saddle up, Garrett! We’re riding out to Wretcher’s right now and havin’ it out!
Cannonball: No good, lowdown, Yankee tin horn’s lookin’ for a bullet!
Svede (Everything he says has a Swedish, iambic pentameter-like lilt): Patrick Henry. You promised you would listen first to Yoe.
Cannonball: I’ll listen on our ride out! Then I’ll talk with my guns!
Joe: Cannonball! What happened?!
Cannonball (pacing): First that kraut! Then that weasel Wretcher!
Opal: Pa! They didn’t do that much harm!
Cannonball: Harm? You call Kurt Jergens pullin’ bed sheets off the wash line and stampeding the pigs over them three times not much harm?!
Kurt really didn’t mean it! He’s just … fun-loving. Pa.
Johnny (speaking up): Kurt Jergens is a cruel bully!
Opal (turning angrily on Johnny): Oh, what do you know, Johnny Garrett?!
Johnny: He … likes to hit people … with that riding crop of his.
Opal: I’ve never seen him do that! I think people make up lies about him.. Because he’s German. And because he’s Big Bill Wretcher’s foreman.
Cannonball (to Joe): I was gone stringing barbed wire. After the pigs, that kraut laid out our last bed sheet, and his horse relieved itself on it! I’m shootin’ him down on sight!
Joe: Cannonball, I understand your anger. But you don’t kill a man for that!
Svede: Yust what I was saying five minutes ago.
Cannonball (glowering at Joe and Swede): Cowards! Yankee cowards! Yesterday Jergens and three hands hitched ropes to (pointing at Svede) his porch and pulled it off his house!
Joe (to Svede): Is that right, Svede?
Svede: Yaah. That is what they did. But they promised they would fix it when they had the time.
Opal: You see? Kurt was probably just following orders.
Cannonball: That German is very good at following orders! He’s going to stop a bullet!
Joe: Take it easy, Cannonball. Can’t you see what they want?
Cannonball: I’ve seen enough!
Joe: They want all of us, even Svede, to ride over there armed, looking for a fight!
Svede: Yumpin’ Yimminy!
Cannonball: And that’s what they’re gonna get!
Svede: Yust a minute. Someone might get hurt.
Joe: Exactly! They’ll have the excuse to kill us! What can three men do against thirty?!
Johnny: I’ll go with you,
I’ve been practicin’! (to
Opal) I can hit our old spittoon
from fifty paces! Pa.
(Opal turns away showing lack of interest)
Joe: No, you won’t! None of us will! Sooner or later Wretcher’s gonna learn we homesteaders are here to stay!
Svede: Yah. I tink dat is what will happen. If he doesn’t, we can always get the law.
Cannonball: That’s two day’s ride from here! We gotta settle this ourselves!
Joe: No! Big Bill Wretcher is just a proud man! If we’re patient, sooner or later he’s going to see that cattlemen and homesteaders can live together, in peace! (Cannonball turns away in disgust) I really do believe that!
Cannonball: Wait ‘til his horse ruins your bed sheets, Garrett! Then look me up. Come on, Opal (heads for the right exit)
Joe (with alarm): Where are you going, Cannonball?!
Cannonball: To town. Opal’s going to Mrs. Erp’s poetry meeting.
Johnny: Oh, will Rocky be there, too?!
Joe (raising an eyebrow): I didn’t know your boy went to those gatherings, Cannonball.
Cannonball: Poetry readings! He’s a mama’s boy! Has been; always will!
Joe: Johnny goes to them, too. (teasing Johnny) Seems he likes the company of girls!
Johnny (embarrassed): Oh, Pa! (He glances quickly at Opal, who sees the glance and looks away with disinterest)
Joe: Well, anyway, stay away from Wretcher, Cannonball. Give him time.
Cannonball: All right! For awhile! Come on, Svede. While Opal’s at Mrs. Erp’s, you and me will have a beer, and say hello to Tina! (He heads for the right exit)
Svede (following, with Opal): Yah! You can have the beer. I will have the girl!
(They exit right)
Joe: What a pair.
Johnny: I’d better be going! Mrs. Erp will get mad if I’m late! (He exits hurriedly right)
Joe: The triumphs and torments of youth! (After a pause, he spits on his hands as if to take up the axe to chop at Old Ironwood. He grasps the handle of the axe and then straightens and looks with curiosity toward the right entrance) Who’s that comin’ down the road? One of Wretcher’s cowboys. (pause) No, it’s a stranger. And he’s comin’ this way. (pause) Looks like he’s wounded! (pause) He’s drunk!
(Shane enters right, weaving drunkenly)
Shane: A … a … a drink. I need a drink! (He weaves about, trying to maintain his balance)
Joe (pointing to the pail of water): Help yourself, stranger.
Shane: W … w … where? (He lurches about, trying to find what Joe is pointing at)
Joe: The pail.
(Shane wobbles over to it and peers into it)
Shane: S … s … strange place t … t … to keep w … whiskey!
Joe: Easy, stranger. Water … and a good hot meal would do you a lot of good. (to the left exit, calling) Marian!
Shane: N … n … now h … h … hold on th … th … there. A m … m … man’s got his … p … p … (He pukes in the pail)
Joe (finishing Shane’s sentence with irony): Pride.
Marian (entering from the left): I was watching from the window. Disgusting!
Joe: Set another plate, Marian.
Marian: Why? So he can puke on it?!
Joe: Now, Marian. When a man’s in trouble, you extend a helping hand!
Marian (after a disapproving glance): You’re such a goodie-goodie!
Joe (grasping Shane’s elbow): Help you up, stranger?
Shane (shaking off Joe’s hand and staggering to his feet): S … s … s’all right. (noticing Marian) H … h … howdy, m … m … ma’am. (He grasps her hand, bows over it elegantly, and burps. She snatches her hand away)
Joe: Marian, maybe you’d better make some coffee.
(She hurries off left, looking with disgust at her hand)
Joe (extending his hand): The name’s Joe Garrett.
(Shane looks at Joe’s hand and then at his own right hand and wipes it on his pants)
Shane (with an attempt at dignity): Call me … Sh … Sh … (with a combination burp and pronunciation of his name) Shane! (He looks like he is again going to throw up)
Joe (looking out the right exit): Two riders comin’ down the road!
(Shane wobbles around to look)
Joe: It’s … Big Bill Wretcher … and Kurt Jergens!
(Shane staggers over to the stump and sits on it, putting his head down between his knees, looking sick. Wretcher and Jergens enter right, riding saw horses)
Big Bill (with a toneless greeting): Garrett.
Joe (with the same tone): Big Bill. Jergens.
Jergens: Mista Jergens! You vill speak to me vit respect!
Joe: As you wish. (to Big Bill) What can I do for you, Wretcher?
Big Bill (directly): Move out of here, Garrett, tomorrow.
Joe (with a rye smile): And some people say you don’t have a sense of humor.
Big Bill: I didn’t laugh when the first of you came into this valley! I’m not laughin’ now!
Joe (mildly): Don’t see any harm in all of us settling on this side of the river. You don’t use it.
Big Bill: I’m on my way to
Garrett. I’m signing a beef contract
with the government, t’feed reservation Indians. I’m gonna need all the land in this
Joe (forcefully): Don’t plan on it, Wretcher!
(Marian enters left, sees Wretcher and Jergens, and steps back in alarm)
Jergens (dismounting, stepping forward): Ah, Mrs. Garrett. You vill answer this question! Do you hang vash on clothesline?!
Marian (somewhat fearfully): I … yes.
Jergens (smiling): Dat is goot. Very goot! Yah!
Marian (looking at Joe): Joe! What do these men want?!
Joe: It’s all right, Marian. They were just leaving!
Big Bill: Think it over, Garrett. You’ve got a week. I’m a fair-minded man. I don’t want trouble. But a man’s got his rights!
Joe (calmly but firmly): I’m not leavin’.
Jergens (mounting his saw horse): Shstupid! Not shmart at all!
(Big Bill and Jergens exit right)
Marian: Joe, these men will burn us out! What are we going to do?!
Joe: I don’t know, Marian. But I know we aren’t leaving!
Marian (with a sudden idea): A gun fighter! Maybe, with our savings … we can hire a gun fighter!
(Shane looks up and follows intently the rest of the conversation)
Joe: No, Marian. (pause) Two wrongs don’t make a right.
Marian (with exasperation): You’re such a goodie-goodie! (She exits left in a huff)
Joe (turning to Shane): Supper will be on the table, stranger. Why don’t you wash up? (Smiling, he exits left)
(Shane staggers to his feet. He looks slowly out the right exit and then out the left exit)
Shane: Right … against … m … might. Always the s … s … same! (He raises his hand in front of him) Lend a … h …. helpin’ hand! (He watches his hand tremble. Then he takes a gunfighter’s stance. Suddenly he goes for his holster and pulls out the wine bottle holstered there. After a pause, he notices he is pointing the wine bottle at his imaginary adversary. He breaks into tears. He recovers. He lowers the bottle and lets it dangle, arm fully extended) How … did I let … this h … h … happen? (He sets the bottle down on the ground, straightens, and exits with an attempt at dignity left)