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McCord's Way — episode #36

As Jason rode into the town, there were all sorts of commotion on the street. People gathered outside the saloon and even children scurried around excitedly.  One little boy named Tommy Kendall wanted to see the shootout that was evidently going on inside the saloon, but his mother, Dora, ordered him to stay away. She actually told him to go home, but instead he went to hide behind a wagon.
 
Dora walked toward the saloon, then turned to hurry away. Bang! Suddenly, that’s the noise she heard. She froze in her steps, dread filling her body. She was afraid of what the news would be. The sheriff stumbled from the salon and fell over…DEAD!
 
Jason had dismounted his horse and stared in shock as the events unfolded. The town’s sheriff was dead – killed by some unknown gunfighter! Men gathered around the body of the Sheriff. Even little boy came to stand beside him. Dora ordered the boys to go home then kneeled down beside the Sheriff’s body. After one moment, she lifted her head. “He’s dead,” she announced, grief lacing her words. She looked around, desperately. “Well, aren’t any of you men going to do anything?”
 
The men didn’t answer, but merely turned and walked away. Dora grabbed the gun still in the Sheriff’s hand and hurried to enter the saloon. Jason hurried to check on the sheriff’s condition.
 
Inside the saloon, the deputy and some of the townsmen stood watching the gunman as he re-filled his gun. He was gloating. “Deputy, you wanta try your luck?”
 
The men hurried away from the deputy to give him a wide berth. But before the deputy could do anything, the cocking of a gun could be heard. The gunman and deputy turned to see Dora holding a gun on him. “You know he hasn’t got a chance against you,” she muttered. “But I have.  Your kind always riding into town killing one sheriff after the next…”
 
“Now look, lady…” the gunfighter laughed nervously. “I don’t know who you are.”
 
“Well I know who you are. Joe Latigo. Your father killed my husband.” Her words were spoken with much bitterness.
 
“Now, I can draw and kill you before you pull that trigger. Just because you’re a woman, don’t think I won’t…”
 
Just then, Jason hurried into the saloon. He pushed Dora’s gun to the side. “You’ve done enough damage already,” Jason told Latigo. Leave it as it is.”
 
“So, we’ve got a hero in Silverton,” Latigo declared softly. Jason pushed Dora out of the way and took his position to fight Latigo. “Alright. You wanta make it a double funeral?”
 
Jason drew his gun and shot Latigo before Latigo could even move his hand. He fell to the ground dead.
 
A man in a grey suit called out to Jason before he could turn and leave. “We sure could use you around here. The sheriff to keep Silverton safe for our wives and children.” The other men agreed.
 
“Thanks. I’m just passing through,” Jason was quick to answer. He explained that Sheriff Baker was a friend of his He had written Jason to tell him the mines needed an engineer – that’s where he was heading.
 
“Well, if you’re a friend of Jedd Baker’s, that’s a mighty good recommendation to be Sheriff here.”
 
“Hey, wait a minute, Mr. Trent.” Deputy Tomlin stepped up. “I’m next in line for that job.”
 
“You stood in line when you were called out, Tomlin. You missed your chance.” Trent turned back to Jason and asked him again.
 
Jason was a bit surprised that he’d pin a badge on a man he’d just met. How did he know Jason would be any good. “You’re good alright. You beat him to the draw. Joe Latigo is fast…real fast. No, you’ll do just fine.” Jason thanked him, but told him he was headed for the High Country. But that wasn’t good enough for Trent. He assured Jason he’d make a lot more money staying in Silverton. “As Chairman of the Citizens Committee, I’m prepared to offer you twenty dollars a day in gold if you’ll stay here and be our sheriff.” Jason was a bit surprised at the steep wages, and of course Mr. Trent was kind enough to remind Jason just how much he would need to get way up into the high country.
 
“Well uh…I’m still passing through. But if you like, I’ll stay long enough to earn enough for that pack mule and supplies.” They agreed he would stay two weeks.
 
Then he asked Jason his name. “McCord,” Jason answered. Jason wasted no time giving orders. “Some of you men get that man out of here. And Deputy, see about Mr. Baker, huh?”
 
Deputy Tomlin walked up to Jason. “Yes sir,” the deputy said a bit sarcastically.
 
Jason walked up to Dora and asked her if Sheriff Baker was a relative. “No. The sheriff before him was my husband. He was shot down the same way by that man’s father.” Jason told her he was sorry. “Why? This is not your town…not your problem. Why did you take that job?”
 
“I need the money.” She thought he was crazy for him to give up his life for the price of a mule and some food. Jason didn’t see it that way.
 
“Well, you will. Dave Baker was the third sheriff to be killed here in less than a year. They all thought they were too fast to die. Even my husband. But they did. And now Joe Latigo’s father and some of his friends will be after you. And so will every other gunman looking for a quick reputation. It’s one big game…like a turkey shoot.  That’s all a sheriff is in this town…just target practice.”
 
One of the first things Jason did was put up a sign:
 
Notice: No guns will be worn in Silverton. Check all guns at this office. They will be returned upon leaving.
 
After Jason went back into his office, men gathered around the sign and laughed. “If he wants mine, he’s going to have to come and get it,” one man declared.
 
Another cowboy said, “That’s just how I feel. I think I’ll go inside and tell the Sheriff he’s starting off on the wrong foot.” He did. “Sheriff, I read your sign. You print real good. But you went to an awful lot of trouble just for a joke.”
 
“Just wear that gun in one hour, and you’ll find out it’s no joke,” Jason retorted.
 
Muhler told him Bud Lee, the dealer at the saloon, thought it was real funny as well. “He said if you want his gun, you’ll have to come and get it. You should know, Sheriff…Bud was a good friend of Joe Latigo…The man you killed.”
 
“One hour, Mister.”
 
Jason went outside to make his point clear to the men who were standing around. “If you want to stay in town, you’ve got one hour to deliver your guns to my office. Otherwise, they’ll be taken away.”
 
“Maybe you better take Bud’s first,” Muhler suggested. “He asked you to. He’s fast, Sheriff.”
 
Jason was standing just outside the saloon. He gave no warning, but slammed the doors open with his shotgun. Lee stood up in surprise. “Alright, turn around and put your hands on the bar!” Jason demanded. Lee had no choice but to do as he was told. Jason ordered the deputy to get his gun.
 
“Isn’t a man entitled to a fair draw in this town anymore?”
 
“I drew against you before I came in,” Jason muttered. Lee thought that was a cowardly way for him to face the law. Jason was just about to leave, but on those words, he turned and walked toward Lee. He held the shotgun on Lee. “It kept you from making a mistake, and saved the town the expense of burying you. That’s my idea of law enforcement.”
 
Muhler told Jason he had expected some shooting. “It takes two guns for that, Muhler. Let’s have yours.” Muhler didn’t move. Jason walked up to him and took his gun. “The rest of you still have an hour.”
 
“You ain’t gonna last as long as the others, McCord,” Muhler threatened. “There’s more where that came from.”
 
Later, Jason came outside his office to find a note tacked up on his notice. He took it down while Muhler stared at him. “That a Di-rect challenge, Sheriff. You think you can meet it?”
 
“I’ll meet it,” Jason declared before walking back into the sheriff’s office. He handed Deputy Tomlin the note. “Did Latigo tack that up there himself?”
 
Jason looked out the window, awed at the crowd. He didn’t know there were that many people in latigo. Tomlin explained that a lot of them rode in after they heard Latigo had challenged him. “Took the day off to see the fight. He’ll be along soon.”
 
“Well you tell them to move down the street. It’ll be safer there and they won’t miss a thing.” Tomlin reminded Jason that Bill had a lot of notches to his record – he was better than his son. He was probably the fastest gun in the territory. “Aren’t the all?” Jason asked.
 
Deputy Tomlin went out to deliver the message. He hardly got his words out when he saw Latigo coming up the street. The men scurried away while Latigo continued walking up the street. When Deputy Tomlin went back inside, there was no sign of Jason. “Sheriff, it’s me…Latigo.” Deputy Tomlin came out the door. He told Latigo Jason had gone out the back way.
 
Sure enough, Jason was on top of the roof across the street. He pulled a rifle on Latigo and told Tomlin to get his gun. “You’ll probably find another one in his saddlebag,” Jason announced.
 
“Sheriff, did anybody ever tell you you’re just plain yeller?” Latigo questioned.
 
“Tomlin, get his gun,” Jason ordered again. Tomlin just stood there, staring at the men on the street and up at Jason. “I ain’t the first one to ever call your Sheriff yella. You know who he is? You ever seen that broken saber he carries? You know how he got it? The army gave it to him when they kicked him out for being a coward. He’s Jason McCord, yellow-tailed from Bitter Creek.” Jason again told the deputy to get his guns. But again, he stalled. “That boy you killed…he was really fast. I taught him all he knew. Is this the way you tricked him? My son?” Latigo turned his head to look at the deputy  “You’re kind of chicken livered too, deputy. You better pay a lot of attention to your boss. Maybe you can stand up and become a gutless wonderer like he is when he goes…because he’s going.”
 
Jason continued to hold the rifle on him. “Latigo, drop your gun or ride out of town. One or the other right now!” Latigo chose to ride out of town. They watched him leave. Jason climbed down and came out to talk to the people.
 
“Sheriff, your stinking reputation is giving this town a stinking reputation! Now you get out, or we throw you out!” Jason stepped into the street and started across. “You’ve got my gun, but I don’t figure I need one to take care of a yellow-tailed like you. Muhler put a hand on Jason’s shoulder.
 
That was a mistake. Jason turned and belted him right in the chin. Latigo’s words really got those town men to thinking. Before it was over, they started thinking Jason had cleared his holster before Latigo had even started to draw. Maybe Jason really WAS a coward.
 
The boy had been watching and listening attentively. A boy pretended to shoot all the boys. One of the boys told Tommy that he wasn’t playing fair because he’d snuck up on him. “It’s McCord’s way.”
 
Jason heard and saw it all. “McCord, now that we know about your army record, it’s abundantly clear why you refused to face up to these gunmen that ride into Silverton,” Trent declared.
 
“Have there been any killings since I put this badge on?” Jason questioned. He said no. “Well, isn’t that why you hired me?”
 
“We expected you to take a stand against these killers…To deal them out some of their own medicine. And now we know you’re just plain scared, it’s going to be worse than ever for us. We do have our pride, McCord.”
 
“Pride in what? Are you proud to lose more lawmen than any town in the territory? Well if that’s it, Trent, you can forget it. I plan to stay alive.” Jason turned and walked away.
 
Trent called a meeting of the men in town so Deputy Tomlin could explain the note. “From Latigo. He says he’s coming to town tonight for a showdown with McCord, and this time he wants a fair fight.” The men all agreed.
 
“Gentlemen, if you back me up, I think we can assure Latigo he’ll get what he’s looking for,” Trent declared. “I’m fed up with McCord’s way.” Again, the men mumbled their agreement. Trent took the note over to Jason and threw the note in his lap. “Another challenge, McCord. Are you going to answer it?”
 
“I’ll answer it,” Jason answered.
 
Dora walked in, having just heard. Jason told her it seemed everybody had. “Well, if you don’t fight, I’ve been authorized by the Citizens Committee to dismiss you without pay.” Jason reminded him of a written contract signed by him. “Alright, then you hire yourself a lawyer and take me to court. But I want that badge. You’ve brought enough disgrace to it, and to us.”
 
“You’re wrong, Mr. McCord. I don’t like to say it, but…” Dora stopped.
 
“Well say what you don’t like to say, Mrs. Kendall!” Jason prodded her.
 
“Well there’s some times when you have to face up to a killer.”
 
“Why?” Jason questioned. “Does a killer deserve some kind of special courtesy?”
 
“But the children…look what you’re teaching them…to be sneaks and cowards!”
 
“I’m trying to teach them respect for the law,” Jason argued. “The law says that before a man dies, at least he gets a trial. These two-bit gunmen are setting themselves up as judge and jury! Now look…if that’s the way you want it, you can have this badge.” Jason threw the badge on the desk. “And this town.” He picked up his hat and walked out.
 
But before he could untie his horse, Latigo stepped out of the shadows. “McCord…I’ve been waiting on you, McCord!” Jason stepped out onto the street. Latigo took a few steps toward him.
 
“Latigo, this way one of us has to die. Now that doesn’t have to be. I’m leaving Silverton right now. As far as I’m concerned, you can tell everybody you ran me out.” The whole time, Latigo came closer and closer.
 
“It’s you I’m wanting, McCord!” Latigo announced. “You can’t talk yourself out of this one.” Latigo started to draw his gun, but Jason was faster. He drew his gun and shot twice. Latigo fell to the ground…dead!
 
Everyone came out of hiding. Trent had the gull to commend Jason from a job well done. “What we said in there…let’s forget it,” Trent said.
 
“Forget a murder?” Jason asked.
 
“He drew first, that’s not murder,” Dora declared. “Now that you’ve proven you can stand up to a man like that, why don’t you stay on as sheriff?”
 
“No thank you. I’ll leave that to Tomlin. He can put on your shows for you. As for your children, Silverton can look forward to a fine crop of quick-draw killers.” She told him that wasn’t true, but Jason showed her what his boy was doing right then. He was pretending to shoot the other boys. “When he’s old enough for a real gun, maybe he’ll kill most of those kids. Then he’ll wait around until someone with a faster gun kills him.”
 
Jason turned to mount his horse. Again, Trent had the gull to approach Jason. He wanted to give him the money they owed him, and even said he deserved a bonus for standing up to Latigo.
 
Jason’s answer? He turned and gave Wes Trent a big punch in the nose. Trent, of course, was totally shocked that Jason McCord did such a thing.


McCord's Way ― Cast


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*Thanks to Michelle Palmer for writing this episode!

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