Jason rode into a town one day to
find everyone getting ready for a party. Men were making tables and
spreading tablecloths on them. Yep, it was going to be a real
celebration! But the celebration wasn’t exactly as one would
expect. No, what one man sees as a party, another sees as the
gravest day of his life. There was going to be a hanging today, and
the man in charge of performing the event didn’t see the reason for
such a joyous celebration. He wasn’t laughing. Somberly, he asked
the men to go back home.
A beautiful lady called out to
Jason as he watched. Jason was happy to see her and wondered if she
was going to print about the hanging in her newspaper. She told him
it was news, after all. “It looks like they’re getting ready for a
picnic,” Jason commented.
“It’s barbaric!” Nan declared.
“Say that in your paper then,”
“I will.” The she asked him why
he was there.
“The man they’re going to hang
once saved my life.”
The Deputy was testing the
gallows with a flower sack. He stated that their town had never had
a hanging before. Apparently the ‘murder’ had happened in the
saloon. Allison had walked into the salon, Cud shot at him…a man
had never died so hard!
A young man had just walked into
town. He listened to the talk. He watched the festivities. He
watched as men brought out the beer keg and glasses. He looked at
the gallows with the hangman’s noose all ready to use. Then he
sprung forward and swept the glasses off the tables. They fell with
a loud crash.
The street grew quiet as they all
turned and looked at the young man. “You can’t wait to see him
hang, can ya? And you enjoy it!” He continued yelling as he pushed
a table away.
The Tiny, the Deputy, sprung
forward and grabbed the young man, Lon, by the coat. “You want
you just bought some!” he announced. Tiny started
smacking the boy around.
Jason hurried forward and grabbed
Tiny. “You proved your point, friend…whatever it was,” he
“He went crazy. I was just doing
“Well you did it,” Jason stated.
He went to help Lon up, but Lon wanted none of it. He shoved
Jason’s hand away and looked around at the people. “I swear to ya
that your going to pay the devil in hell for hanging my father!” He
looked straight at Jason. “All of ya!”
Later, Jason, Lon and Nan sat in
the saloon having lunch. Lon watched the saloon girls flutter
around. Grief was on his face. “I read once where folks used to go
and sit all day in the hot sun and watch men hack away at each other
“That was the Roman Empire,
almost two thousand years ago,” Jason explained.
“People haven’t changed much.”
“Yes we have, Lon,” Nan assured
him. “We’re trying to make things better.
“Are we? You came here to write
a story about how a man shot away his life at the end of a rope.
You’ll sell all your newspapers.” She admitted she would write
about it. The reason she was doing it was to say that there has to
be a better way to satisfy judges. “Well, you won’t find it by
tomorrow, and that’s all I care about.”
Lon asked Jason what it was like
in the war with his father. “He was a good soldier, and a friend.”
“Did he say anything about me?”
“Nobody talked much about their
past during the war, Lon. They were all too busy trying to stay
alive.” He took out a medal his father had given him after the
war. “Not many men got that medal. Those who did earned it,” Jason
Jason wondered what had changed
it all. “I was ten when my Ma died. My dad started to drink. On
night he thought I was asleep and he came over to my bed. I’ll
never forget what he said. ‘Why do you have to look so much like
her? Can’t you let me forget?’ Then after that, he just didn’t have
much time for me. I had the worst time. And he didn’t have any
place to put me so he put me in an orphanage. He said he’d come
back for me when it was all over. I stood behind this closed gate
and I looked after him until he was out of sight. And that was
eight years ago.”
“Have you seen him?” Jason asked
“No. That fat deputy told me I
could see him when they walked him out to…When he walked out to…”
Saying the words was tearing Lon
up. Jason interrupted him.
“Nan, do you think you can get back to
the hotel by yourself alright?” She assured him she could. Jason
looked at the boy who was now sobbing. “You come along with me,
“Where to?” Lon asked in a broken
The sheriff permitted that they
could see Frank Allison for five minutes. Jason walked in and
greeted his friend. Frank was happy to see him. “A lot of guns, a
lot of miles, a lot of regrets,” Frank stated. Frank noticed
someone standing in the dark. “Who’d you bring with ya?” Frank
ordered the person to step into the light. When he finally did,
Frank shocked to see his son. “Why’d you come here? To see me like
“I had to come,” Lon answered.
“Why didn’t you come back for me?” No answer. “The things they say
about you aren’t true, are they?”
“Get out of here. Get out of
this town tonight. Forget you ever saw me, you hear?”
Lon walked up to the cell and
stared at his father. “How do I forget, hm? How do I get the
memories out of my head? How?”
Frank grabbed him by the coat and
pulled him hard against the bars. “After all these years your still
a good for nothing, gutless kid!” He assured Lon he didn’t want to
see him ever again. “Get out of here. GET OUT!” He shoved Lon
back. Lon turned and slowly walked out of the jail.
Jason watched all this with
painful surprise. He couldn’t believe his friend behaved like this
toward his own flesh and blood! “Where did it go wrong for you,
Frank?” Jason asked.
“A man kills for four years…kills
to stay alive. Then one day they tell him to go home and forget all
about it. He tries, but when he gets backed into a corner,
frightened…You remember one thing – how to kill. But now it’s
different. It’s not legal anymore. So, he starts to run and he
stays alive any way he can.”
“This man you killed…was he after
“You mean did I have to kill
him?” Lon gave a short laugh. “A couple years ago, we robbed a
bank in Joplin. We got clear out of town, and my friend shoots me
in the back, takes the money, and leaves me for dead. HATE kept me
alive, Jason. Revenge was my doctor.”
“So you never game him a chance.”
“About the same as he gave me,”
“So you became like him.”
“I didn’t have to kill him,
Jason. I wanted to.”
“Len…The medal they
gave you for
bravery…honor…The boy carries it with him.”
“What does it mean?” Frank
Meanwhile, Long was angry and
went to Nan’s hotel room. He came up behind her, covered her mouth
with his hand, and held a gun on her. “Just don’t make any noise.
Please, don’t make any noise.”
The celebration outside was on.
Everyone was celebrating as they drank beer. Yep most of them were
excited to be watching a hanging. Jason watched nervously. He
wasn’t too excited about viewing such a thing, but he was there for
his friend, and his friend’s son.
Suddenly, the sheriff and deputy
stepped out with Frank Allison between them. The street suddenly
grew quiet. “We do this quick and neat,” the sheriff declared.
“We’ve gone over it enough times. So let’s make no mistake.”
They made their way through the
crowd. Frank stopped at the bottom of the steps and nodded toward
Jason. Jason nodded back, sad that his friend’s life turned out
this way. Frank turned and looked up at the top of the steps where
the hangman’s noose sat. Then they slowly made their way up the
steps. Everyone watched in silence as the Deputy put the hangman’s
noose around Frank’s neck and tightened it. Jason was nervous. He
didn’t know where Lon was.
Then as the Deputy stepped back
to allow the execution to take place, the balcony door to the hotel
opened. “Hold it!” Lon shouted as he stepped out with Nan. He held
the gun on Nan. “You said I was a good for nothing kid. Well, I’m
going to show you how wrong you are. Sheriff, you get that fat
deputy off that platform!” The sheriff looked at the deputy who
stood up on the platform. “Get him off!”
The sheriff turned and looked at
the deputy. “Get down from there.” Then he ordered for him to
bring three horses and cut his Pa loose. The crowd started
shouting, but Lon called for them all to shut up.
“Now, you do as I say and I’ll
let this woman go when we get outside of town. But you don’t and I
swear, I’ll kill her!” Jason watched helplessly, looking back and
forth from father to son. “She owns a big newspaper, and if I kill
her it’s going to spread all over the country! Then this stinking
mob will really have something to brag about – how you murdered
three people today, and one was a woman! And it’ll make you all
Jason heard a gun cock behind
him. He turned and punched the deputy before he could shoot.
“He’ll kill the woman,” the sheriff warned Tiny. Then he told Tiny
to go get the horses.
Frank watched everything
silently, the noose still around his neck. Jason asked the Sheriff
to let him talk to Frank. The sheriff didn’t think Lon’s mind could
be changed, but Jason thought it might. “I know him.”
Frank laughed wickedly at the
goings on. The Sheriff told him to make it fast. Jason turned and
walked up the steps. “Keep away from there, McCord!” Lon warned.
Jason ignored him and went to stand in front of Frank.
“Talk to him, Frank. What are
you buying yourself? A few extra days? A few weeks? Not much more
“Right now it’s a lifetime,”
Frank pointed out with a smile.
“McCord, you keep away from
there!” Lon screamed.
Jason turned and stared at the
boy still standing on the balcony
with his gun pointed toward Nan’s
temple. “What about him, Frank? What about your son? Oh, he’ll
stay with you. And he’ll run with you. But why, Frank? Because he
loves you? No, because he loves a memory. The memory of a father
he had for ten years before you left him in that orphanage. Yes,
he’ll stay with you, Frank. And if you’re caught, he’ll stand with
you on another scaffold in another place and he’ll die with you.
Why Frank? Don’t you want a chance to prove to him that you’ve
changed? Talk to him, Frank. Talk to him now.”
“Lon, listen to me,” Frank spoke
to his son. “You blame this town for putting me up here. You blame
them for all that’s happened. Maybe I did too. I blamed this town
and a hundred just like it for every mistake I made. But we’re both
wrong, son. I put myself up here. I’m guilty. I’m guilty. Lon,
do you understand me? Men change, and I’m no exception. Your life
is up ahead. It can be a full life if you make it one. Do it,
boy. Do it! Don’t make the mistakes I made! I don’t want you to
change. Because…I love you, son.”
Jason looked from father to son,
hoping Frank’s words made a difference.
Lon looked down at the trapdoor.
He knew what he had to do. He gave the side of the scaffold a hard
kick. The trap door opened.
Everyone was in horrified shock
at what they had witnessed. Jason’s eyes grew wide at the final
actions. At the man’s final words…Lon stared as his father hung
dead from the noose. Non shot backwards, fearful of what Lon would
Lon dropped the gun and fell to
his knees, weeping. Nan, her motherly instincts kicking in, hurried
toward him and took him in her arms. He was no longer the young,
hard man. He was now a little boy grieving for his father. Nan
hugged him tight, allowing him to cry. His head clung to her breast
as he wept bitterly for all the wrong he’d had in his life.
The time of celebration had
quickly come to a halt.
The bond Nan and Lon formed that
day would last a long time. Long agreed to go back with Nan and
learn the newspaper business. Jason warned him that Nan would run
him ragged. “But if you stay with it, you’ll learn a fine trade.”
“I’ll stay with it,” Lon
After he went back into the
hotel, Nan told Jason she believed him. He had a strength bigger
than his father’s. “Well, it may take some time and doing…but he’ll
come to know what he wants.”
“And you, Jason? Will you come
to know what it is you want?”
“Some day, I hope,” Jason
“Well, I’d like to be there when
“I’d like that too, Nan.” They
kissed goodbye. Jason shook Lon’s hand and said goodbye. No words
could express what he’d been through.
Jason watched the men tear down
the scaffold, then he rode out of town.