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A Proud Town — episode #31

Two children were out in the wilderness on a cold evening.  They had a ways to go, and Mike told Abby to drink while she could. Jason saw them and rode up to them. He watched the girl try to drink from the water. “Ewww!” she declared, not enjoying the taste of the water at all. Mike softly stated that horses and cows drank it, so it couldn’t be that bad.
 
“You two out here all alone?” Jason asked as he walked up to the two children. The children, suddenly fearful of this big man who stood over them, jumped up. Mike clung to Abigail protectively. Jason gently offered them some chow. “Did Mr. Stoddard send you out here to get me?” Mike suddenly asked fearfully.
 
“Mr. Martin Stoddard over in New Hope?” Jason asked.
 
“I knew it! Well, I ain’t going back!” Mike cried. Jason assured the children Mr. Stoddard hadn’t sent him. He was on his way to New Hope to do some work for him.
 
“He’s got a gun,” the little girl observed as she clung to Mike. Jason quickly hid the gun so it wouldn’t scare the little girl. “And he’s bigger than all the other ones!”
 
Jason lowered himself to be closer to the children, wondering which ‘other ones’ the little girl was talking about. “The one’s who are working for Mr. Stoddard,” Mike answered. Jason quickly introduced himself and told them he was on his way to New Hope to build a new water system for their city.
 
“Now, how about the three of us having a nice, hot supper, huh?”
 
They ate heartedly. Mike was sure glad Jason hadn’t come to get him. He sure was obliged for the food! Mike said they had to be getting’. “We have to find a Texas Ranger,” Abigail announced.
 
“Well, that may take a long time,” Jason said softly. “Why don’t you wait for good weather. Go back home now.”
 
“I can’t go back home!” Mike argued. Jason told them he sure wouldn’t run off two days before Christmas!
 
“Mike’s scared to go back!” Abigail declared. “He shot Mr. Stoddard’s son.”
 
“I’m not scared!” Mike suddenly shouted. “But nobody will listen to me unless I can get a big law man like…like a Texas ranger to MAKE them listen!” Jason gently told Mike he’d listen. “I didn’t shoot at nobody, Mr. McCord.” Abigail explained to Jason that Randy Stoddard got an awful bullet hole in his shoulder and might die. “I didn’t shoot him!” Mike cried desperately.
 
“Mike, I know how it feels to be blamed for something you didn’t do. But the best way to settle it is to go back and face up.” Mike was still leery. Jason promised him he’d talk to Mr. Stoddard and his folks.
 
“We ain’t got no folks,” Abigail announced then. Just Mr. Perrin.” Jason looked towards Mike for an explanation.
 
“Did he adopt you?” Jason asked.
 
“Hm?” Mike looked blank.
 
“Adopt you?”
 
“Well…he just takes care of kids who ain’t got folks.” He has eight kids in all. “And Mr. Stoddard’s awful angry at him. He says he’s gonna make him take all the kids and get out of New Hope. That’s why we just gotta find a Texas Ranger!” Abigail nodded her confirmation to Jason.
 
“Look kids…I think you better ride back with me to New Hope in the morning,” Jason said sternly. “I don’t know if I’ll do as well as a Texas Ranger, but I sure will do my best.” Jason smiled, trying to ease their minds.
 
“You won’t let them hang me?” Mike asked.
 
Jason leaned forward to look Mike right in the eye. “Mike…The law won’t allow anybody to hang a young boy.”
 
“But in New Hope, Mr. Stoddard IS the law!” Jason looked to Abigail who gave him a slight nod.
 
The moment they rode into town, two cowboys told Jason to hold up. “Where’d you find the Indian pup?” One of them asked.
 
“Outside town. I’m taking them home,” Jason answered.
 
“Thanks. We’ve been looking for him.” The cowboy told Jason to hand him down.
 
“I said I’m taking him home!”
 
The cowboy took the gun from his holster. “I said hand him down.” Jason looked at the children, then back at the cowboy.
 
“Alright.” Jason slid silently off the back of his horse and reached up to Mike. “NO!” Mike cried. Jason moved his lips as if to tell him to stay quiet, then quickly turned and punched the men giving the orders. Then he pulled his gun on them.
 
“Your starting a lot of trouble, Mister! Martin Stoddard’s got business with that kid.”
 
“And I’ve got business with Stoddard myself. Where is he?” The cowboy assured Jason he’d hear from him. “Alright. Pick up that gun and move out.” They did as they were told knowing they had no choice. Jason re-holstered his gun then climbed back up on his horse behind the children. They smiled at him.
 
They rode for the Perrin place. The kids and Mr. Perrin rejoiced when the door opened and Jason presented the two missing children. Mike quickly explained who Jason was. Mr. Perrin automatically wondered if the children had eaten. Jason assured him he’d fed them. Mr. Perrin told the two children to join the others. Then he apologized to Jason for ‘forgetting his manners.’ Mr. Perrin complimented Jason on his coat, but declared he could have done better with the hat. Jason laughed, admitting that his hat was in pretty bad shape.
 
Mr. Perrin again thanked Jason for bringing the two little one’s home. He explained that he was sick with worry, but he couldn’t leave the other children to go looking for Mike and Abigail. “I have this rushed order for the doctor, and if I finish tonight there will be money for Santa Clause.”
 
Jason wondered how he had come upon his family. “Oh…Debra came first. A little baby all alone in a covered wagon, crying beside her dead father and mother. Disease took them.” Jason was surprised this tailor had taken on a baby all alone. “Nobody would touch her.” He said then there were five…eight…”Then next week there will be ten.” He smiled about it as if it were the most natural thing in the world. “Word gets around. They just send them to me now.”
 
Jason stood and walked over to Mr. Perrin as he worked. “Mike told me about the Stoddard boy getting shot,” Jason announced in a hushed voice.
 
“He went with Randy. And he told me it was the boy’s idea to take Stoddard’s gun. But about the shooting, he won’t say anything.” Jason assured him he’d go see Stoddard and try to straighten it out.
 
Mr. Stoddard thanked him, but told him it was too late. “For a long time, he wants me to go from this town. Now the shooting gives him a better reason. He bought the mortgage on this shop. Now I owe him for a long time back. Now he wants me to be out next week before the new year.”
 
“Well doesn’t he realize you’re doing the whole town’s job? You’re running a home for orphans!”
 
“You see…In some ways, Martin Stoddard is a good man. All alone, he built this town. Only this shop is an eye-sore with him. He wants to tear it down.” Jason said Stoddard should be paying him. “I’m different. My speaking ain’t so good, and I don’t go to their churches. So, Mr. Stoddard and this town…don’t understand me. To them, Mike is not a little boy. He’s an Indian…a savage. Do you know what it feels like to be different, to be an outcast?”
 
“Yes, Mr. Perrin. But you’re not a criminal.” Jason advised him not to let them buy him out like he was one.
 
“But you can’t force people to like you,” Mr. Perrin explained.
 
“But you CAN force them to respect you.”
 
At Mr. Stoddard’s house, his son Randy was desperately trying to tell him something. Martin kept trying to tell him to stay quiet. Stoddard and the doctor talked. Dr. Coats told him it didn’t look good. The bullet was dirty. There would be complications – infection.
 
As the doctor and Stoddard came down the stairs, Grace Stoddard ran up to them, begging the doctor to tell her about her son. Dr. Coats assured her he was doing everything he could. Stoddard was upset. He was trying to raise a town with fine, Christian boys could grow up to be young men. “Is this the tanks I get? My boy to be shot?” Dr. Coats assured him he’d be back after making some calls.
 
Jason had been waiting quietly by the Christmas tree. He stepped forward and introduced himself, explaining that he was the engineer he’d hired. Stoddard apologized, informing Jason he’d come at a bad time. His son was very ill. He had a meeting with the town council on the new town hall. “I know it’s Christmas Eve,” Jason started on a different topic. “But there’s the matter of…Julius Perrin and his children.” Immediately, Stoddard wanted to know what Jason knew about it. Jason explained he found Mike after he ran away.
 
“So…You brought the Indian kid back. The one who stole my gun and shot my boy.” Jason suggested it was an accident. “No such thing! Being raised by a man like Julius Perrin…That kid’s a godless savage! All those kids are animals! I’m clearing them out of this town!” Perrin announced angrily.
 
“Like sweeping the dirt under the rug if you can’t see it, it’s not there. Is that it?” Jason questioned Stoddard as he walked up behind him.
 
That made Stoddard angry. “Who do you think you are??? I just want that Indian kid.”
 
“And I don’t think we should turn him over until we have a chance to talk to your boy,” Jason answered him.
 
“You’re not going to see my boy. You don’t have a job here anymore, Mr. McCord. I suggest you leave.”
 
“You decide about everybody who stays and leaves this town?” Jason asked then. Stoddard ordered him to get out.
 
The cowboy who had caused all the trouble in town, Regan, saw Jason leave. “I want you to get Perrin and his kids out of here. I’ve taken enough. Nobody can blame me for foreclosing a few days early. Give them a wagon and team and…Give them this one-hundred dollars. Make them get out of here tonight!” Stoddard ordered.
 
Regan did as he was told. The children, oblivious to what was going on, were excited about the fact that it was Christmas Eve night. “Where shall I go? How can I get another shop for so little? What will become of the children?”
 
Jason felt bad for Perrin. “Stoddard can’t make you leave tonight.” Perrin said Stoddard’s man said he’d wait at the edge of town with the hundred dollars.
 
“But I will not go. It is bad enough for the children not to have Christmas, but to have no home on Christmas…NO…I will not go tonight!”
 
Suddenly, Mike and Abigail were there begging for Mr. Perrin to tell them a Christmas story. They led Mr. Perrin to the table. “The Night Before Christmas,” Abigail pleaded.
 
“Now let me see…The Night Before Christmas…It’s a good story…A very fine story. Only the beginning…The beginning I forget.”
 
“Twas the night before Christmas…” Abigail started.
 
“Oh that’s the beginning? But that’s the name of it!”
 
Jason smiled at the scene, but came to the rescue, knowing Mr. Perrin didn’t know the story. “I think it all…goes like this.” Jason walked up to the table. Gentle as could be, he started telling the story. “Twas the night before Christmas when all through the house…Not a creature was stirring…Not even…a..mouse!”
 
Meanwhile, Stoddard was meeting with the town council. He presented the keys to the new Grange Hall. The men cheered. He stated it was just another step in the plans he had for New Hope. “I want a bright, clean, shiny town…A proud town! Next week I’m tearing down the old saddle shop, and the rickety tailor shop next to it. I’m going to build a new church there…so we don’t have to depend on a circuit parson passing through here on Sundays.”
 
While Stoddard was making his speech, Jason went back to Stoddard’s house to see him. Grace assured him she didn’t know when he’d be home. “When he does come home, will you speak to him about Mr. Perrin and those kids?” Jason asked softly. Grace admitted she hardly knew her husband these last few days. He’d always been kind and generous. Jason begged Grace to talk Stoddard into giving Mr. Perrin some time. “The old man was trying hard to make a suit so he could earn a few dollars to make a Christmas for those kids. Well, he ran out of time. Now the best they can hope for is to wake up tomorrow morning with a little candy and a few balloons I got for them. Don’t let Mr. Stoddard take that away. Don’t let him run those kids out on Christmas eve.”
 
Grace was moved by Jason’s speech. She assured Jason she’d try to talk to her husband. Little did they know that above, Randy was listening.
 
When Jason got back to Perrin’s place, he found two men trying to force Perrin out of the house. Jason immediately started fighting them. Mr. and Mrs. Stoddard came in while this was going on. “You’ve got the real Christmas spirit, haven’t you, Stoddard?” Jason lit into him. But Stoddard didn’t want to listen. He announced that Randy was gone. His wife had told him Jason was there. If Jason said anything to send the boy away…
 
“I didn’t even see him,” Jason said quietly.
 
“If anything happens to him, I’ll kill you!”
 
“If you sand there making threats, you may kill the boy,” Jason informed him.
 
Suddenly, another cowboy came in, announcing Randy had been found. Stoddard ran out the door. Jason and Grace followed him into the new Grange Hall where the doctor was examining the boy. Dr. Coats was surprised. His infection seemed to be down. “I guess being out in the cold and the snow must have helped.”
 
“Dad, I was going to Mr. Perrin’s to see Mike and the other kids,” Randy explained. “Dad, Mike’s my very best friend. I was taking some of the presents to the kids.” Dr. Coats announced that when Randy had been found, he was dragging a bag of toys. “McCord said they’re not going to have anything tomorrow. Mike didn’t shoot me, Dad. He didn’t steal the gun either. I did.” Randy had tried to tell him, but he was so mad. Stoddard wondered why the Indian boy didn’t say anything. “I guess he was scared that nobody would believe him. He knew you told me never to go near that gun case. We only wanted to play Cowboys. He tried to talk me out of it.”
 
The gun had gone off. Mike had tried to carry him home.
 
It was Stoddard’s turn to face Mr. Perrin. “I guess when a man gets so big and important, he can tear down old buildings and put up what he likes. Seems I did the same with people.” Jason assured Stoddard he’d done a lot of good things for New Home – including the new orphanage he’d just built.
 
“New orphanage?” Mr. Perrin questioned.
 
“Yes. Mr. Stoddard’s painter made a mistake on the sign outside. It says ‘Grange Hall.’” Jason turned back to look pointedly at Stoddard.
 
“Oh yes…of course…the orphanage…” Stoddard laughed nervously. “I’ll have that sign taken care of right away.”
 
Christmas day was wonderful in the new orphanage. Mr. Perrin declared that was his first Christmas Day. Stoddard declared he didn’t want Mr. Perrin to give up his tailor business. He wanted two new suits! He also wanted Jason to get started on his job…right after Christmas!
 
Mike had a Christmas gift for Jason: a wooden saber. "I made it myself," said Mike. "I saw yours was broken." "Merry Christmas Mr. McCord."

"Thank you Mike. That's the nicest Christmas present I ever got." "Merry Christmas!"



“Merry Christmas, kids!” Jason declared. The children all said Merry Christmas back.
 
“MERRY CHRISTMAS!!!” Jason said again.


 A Proud Town ― Cast


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*Thanks to Michelle Palmer for writing this episode!

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