The Ballad of Buster Scruggs (2018) - full transcript

An anthology film comprised of six stories, each dealing with a different aspect of life in the Old West. - stop by if you're interested in the nutritional composition of food

A song never fails
to ease my mind out here in the West,

where the distances are great
and the scenery monotonous.

Additionally, my pleasing baritone
seems to inspirit ol' Dan here

and keep him in good heart
during the day's measure of hoof clops.

Ain't that right, Dan?

Maybe some of y'all have heard of me.

Buster Scruggs, known to some
as the San Saba Songbird.

I got other handles, nicknames,
appellations, and cognomens,

but this one here I don't consider
to be even halfway earned.

"Misanthrope"? I don't hate my fellow man,

even when he's tiresome and surly
and tries to cheat at poker.

I figure that's just a human material,

and him that finds in it
cause for anger and dismay

is just a fool for expecting better.

Ain't that right, Dan?

Well, folks,
unless I grievously misremember,

there's a little cantina
on the other side of yon rimrocks.

And if I'm in luck,
there'll be customers there

amenable to drawing up in a circle
around a deck of cards.

I'd like me a splash of whiskey
to wash the trail dust off my gullet

and keep my singing voice in fettle.

Whiskey's illegal.

This is a dry county.

Well, what are they drinking?


They's outlaws.


Well, don't let my white duds
and pleasant demeanor fool ya.

I too have been known to violate
the statutes of man,

and not a few of the laws of the Almighty.

You ain't no outlaw.

And we don't drink with tinhorns.

Sir, it seems that you are no better
a judge of human beings

than you are a specimen of one.

Just on a brief inventory,

I'd say that you could use yourself
a shave and a brighter disposition.

And lastly, if you don't mind me
aspersin' your friends,

a better class of drinking buddy.

Your shootin' iron work?

Appears to do. Yes.


It appears that the vitals of this lucky
son-of-a-gun remain unpunctured.

Sloppy shootin' on my part.

Here now, I'll get that for you, partner.

A coup de grâce I'll leave to the wolves
and gila monsters.

Adios, amigo.

Frenchman's Gulch.

This town is new to me.

Hold on, son.

House policy.

Here's the six-shooter.

You'll be wanting
the senorita pistols as well?

Everything. House policy.

Feel a bit naked, but...

I guess with everyone
similarly disadvantaged,

there's scant chance of misadventure.

- I'm out.
- Well, this is well-timed.

You gentlemen mind if I take his spot?

If'n you play his hand.

- I would prefer not to.
- It is too late.

You have regarded the cards.

You seen 'em, you play 'em.

I ain't anted.

The other hombre anted.

You seen em, you play 'em.

And if'n I don't?

You play them cards, fancy Dan.

Can't no-one compel another man
to engage in recreation.

Certainly not a son of a gun
as ill-humored as yourself.

And as for names, my horse is Dan.

- I'm Buster. Buster Scruggs.
- Buster Scruggs?

The runt from Reata Pass?

And dis-pistoled.

I do hail from Reata Pass

which is in the county of San Saba,
being the which-a-why

the San Saba Songbird
is my sobriquet of preference.

But right now, I'd appreciate it

if you deposit your weapon
in the receptacle by the swinging doors,

which concealing of it on your person
in the first place

was a violation of the rules
of this establishment

and an offense against local norms.

And if'n I don't?

I'm not a devious man by nature,

but when you're unarmed, your tactics
might gotta be downright Archimedean.


Joe? Surly Joe!


You killed my brother,
you cowardly son of a bitch!

Gunned him down
when he wasn't hardly looking.

I can cut you a little slack,
grieving as you are,

but the fact is, Buster Scruggs
don't shoot nobody in the back,

and that sorry sack of bones
was more in the nature of a suicide.

You're Buster Scruggs?

The West Texas Twit?

I assume you meant West Texas Tit,

on account of that particular bird's
mellifluous warble.

Call yourself any damn name you please.

I want to see you outside.

Wearing iron!

Things have a way of escalating
out here in the West

with one thing leading to another, but...

I should be able to make pretty short work
of this ramified old son-of-a-gun.

Scruggs! Scruggs!

I'ma calling you out!

Now, just hang on there, partner.
I had to strap on my tool belt.

- Are you ready?
- Ready!

- Are you set?
- Set!

- Do you need a count?
- No, sir!

Hard to trigger
with them other fingers, but... can't be too careful.

Looks like when they made this fella,

they forgot to put in the quit.

Five fingers at a bullet a piece.

I ain't got but the one bullet left.

Sure hope I don't miss.

Let me see here.

His heart would be on the left,
but in the mirror it'd be on the right.

Of course, we is both facing the same way
and the gun is upside down, so...

Yeah, best not to play it too fancy.

Cause for reflection.

Puts me in mind of a song.

Buster Scruggs.

The same.
You make a sweet noise there, partner.

That's high praise
coming from the San Saba Song Bird.

Herald of Demise.

I've been hunting you up on account
of they say you're the one to beat,

singing and slinging guns.

Another young fella
with something to prove.

I gotta set myself up
in the undertaking business.

Stop doing all the skill work

so another man can profit.

But then,
do I want to wear a black suit?

- You need a count?
- No, sir.

Well, that ain't good.

I shoulda seen this coming.

Can't be top dog forever.

There's just gotta be a place
up ahead where men ain't low down,

and poker's played fair.

If there weren't,
what are all the songs about?

I'll see y'all there.

And we can sing together

and shake our heads
over all the meanness in the used to be.

Fancy place.

It's a comfort to the depositors.

Who'd that be?

Oh, we got folks from over Val Verde,
Chloride, Tucumcari itself, of course.

Why, the whole entire three-county area.

Hell, we even had a run on the bank once,
weren't pretty.

Had to hop on the counter here
with my scattergun,

talk the folks down. Well...

That's banking.

Ah, crazy business.

Crazy business.

Ever been robbed?

Oh, sure I have.
Two times, attempted, I should say.

One fella I shot dead. Bingo!

The other I held for the marshal.
Both his legs were shredded some,

had to lock him in the vault there.

Marshal don't come through
but once a month,

and he'd just visited the previous week.

Had to billet that scamp for what,

three weeks, applying a poultice
of wet leaves and urine.

He's in Yuma now, busting rocks.
Still a little gimpy from what they say.

Fella by the name of Civilly...
uh, Chevilly,

unless I misremember,
said his pappy was...


from France.

All the cash.

Okay, you got me, young fella.
You got me fair and square.

The large denominations I gotta...

stoop for.

Psst! Hey! Come here.

Timmy, get over here.


Bad shot!



Do you have anything to say?

Do you have anything to say?

Do you have anything to say
before the sentence is carried out?


What's my sentence?

Son, we just held some proceedings here
for attempted bank robbery.

You was off your nut feverish
for most of the goings on,

but it was a fair trial
like we do here in New Mexico.

These peers convicted you.

I passed the sentence of death
and we found us this tree.

Now this here is your opportunity
to speak your piece

before your sentence is carried out.

That pan-covered son of a bitch
back at the bank

don't hardly fight fair, in my opinion.


That it?

I reckon it is.

- Can I have your horse?
- No, me.

You wanna give one of these boys
your horse?

Save scrapping over it after you pass?

I don't want any of them to have it.

Selfish bastard.

Whoa. Whoa.




Easy. Easy.

Oh, shit. Easy.


Whoa. Whoa. Whoa.



Over here!


- Yeah.
- Yup.

Hold still.

I sure do appreciate you helping me
with these beeves.

Them two compañeros I hired
to help walk 'em to Abilene

started grousing about the wages
once the weather turned hot,

and finally they left.
Now I come to be here by my lonesome.

That's what you call
a fair-weather friend,

- I tell you.
- Hmm.

Yep, them boys didn't understand
the first thing about sidekicking.

Hey, maybe you can sidekick up with me
on a permanent basis,

this drive works out.

Yeah, you seem trustworthy enough.
That's why I make the proposition.

Why, a sidekick should be a reliable man.

It's the very nature the sidekick.

Like there's this cowpoke I knew,
thought I knew.

The per...

Dammit! Yah!

Yah! Yah!

No hats in the presence of Judge Hobby.

- What'd this sumbitch do?
- Sir, I...

Hold your tongue!
Sumbitch is a stock rustler.

- Alleged.
- Yes, Your Honor.

- Sir, I never...
- Hold your tongue!

He was caught driving rustled beeves.

Good enough. Hang him.


- First time?
- Huh?

There's a pretty girl.

I met a traveler...

in an antique land...

who said, "Two vast and trunkless legs

stand in the desert.

Near them on the sand,
half sunk, a shattered visage lies,

whose frown and wrinkled lip

and sneer of cold command...

tell that its sculptor
well those passions read,

which yet survive,
stamped on these lifeless things...

the hand that mocked them,

and the heart that fed.

And on the pedestal, these words appear:

'My name...

is Ozymandias,

king of kings!

Look on my works, ye mighty, and despair!'

Nothing beside remains.

Round the decay of that colossal wreck,

boundless and bare...

The lone and level sands stretch

far away."

And the Lord said unto Cain,
"Where is Abel, thy brother?"

When to the sessions
of sweet silent thought,

I summon up remembrance
of things past...

I all alone beweep my outcast state

and trouble deaf heaven

with my bootless cries...

Four score and seven years ago...

...and that government of the people,
by the people...

for the people...

shall not perish

from the earth.

Our revels now are ended.

These, our actors, as I foretold you,

were all spirits

and are melted into air, into thin air.

God bless you, sir.

And like the baseless fabric
of this vision...

Found him in the streets
of London, England.

Armless, legless, rest assure.

Motherless and penniless.

...the great globe itself,

yea, all which it inherit,
shall dissolve.

God bless you.

- Thank you. Coin for the young artists.
- And like this insubstantial planet faded,

leave, not a rack behind.

On we go. Come on.

Up, there you go.

And it came to pass
when they were in a field,

that Cain rose up against Abel his brother
and slew him!

And the Lord said unto Cain,
"Where is Abel, thy brother?"

And he said, "I know not.

Am I my brother's keeper?"
And the Lord said, "What has thou done?"

When to the sessions
of sweet silent thought

I summon up remembrance of things past.

I sigh the lack of many a thing I sought,

and with old woes, new wail,
my dear time's waste.

Then can I drown an eye unus'd to flow,

for precious friends hid,
in death stateless night,

and weep afresh love's long
since cancell'd woe,

and moan the expense
of many a vanished sight.

That this nation under God
shall have a new birth of freedom,

and that government of the people,
by the people,

for the people...

shall not perish from the Earth.

Our revels now are ended.

And these our actors...

I met a traveler in antique land...

It blesseth him that gives
and him that takes...

I sigh the lack of many a thing I sought.

I met a traveler in an antique land...

My punishment is greater than I can bear.

Stamped on these lifeless things.

Four score and seven years ago,
our fathers...

I met a traveler in an antique land.

And moan the expense...

A fugitive...

A shattered visage lies...

And a vagabond, thou shalt be!

For thy sweet love remembered
such wealth brings.

That then I scorn to change my state...

with kings.

We're going into town!

All right.


Wanna buy your friend some lovin'?

I don't think so.

He ever had any?


When in disgrace...

with fortune and men's eyes,

I all alone beweep my outcast state...

and trouble deaf heaven
with my bootless cries

and look upon myself...

and curse my fate.

Wishing me like to one more rich in hope,

featured like him, like him,

with friends possessed,

desiring this man's art
and that man's scope

with what I most enjoy contented least.

Yet in these thoughts myself
almost despising,

haply I think on thee,
and then my state,

like to the lark at break of day
arising from sullen earth,

sings hymns at heaven's gate...

And that government of the people,

by the people...

for the people...

shall not perish from the Earth.

Our revels now are ended.

And these, our actors,
as I foretold you, were all spirits

and are melted into air, into thin air.

And like the baseless fabric
of this vision,

the cloud-capp'd towers,
the gorgeous palaces, the...

One at a time, ladies and gentlemen.

Yeah. Twenty-one divided by three.

There it is! There's the answer.

There's the solution.

Is he right? Is he clever?

He's self-taught, ladies and gentlemen.

He has no formal education.

One at a time, ladies and gentlemen.

Test that chicken's brain.

Gallus Mathematicus,
in the feather, in the flesh.

Seven plus three!

- Eleven twice! Eleven twice!
- Yes, right there.

I have 11 twice.

The chicken is calculating,
ladies and gentlemen.

Watch this fowl thing.

That's a 22!

- What a genius chicken!
- Eighteen take away seven.

Eighteen take away seven.


Oh! Eleven, ladies and gentlemen!

The Calculating Capon!

The Pecking Pythagorean!


Come on, Lucky.





Not a speck.

Ahh. Let's go the other way.




Five. Going down.



Back to nothing.



There's a pocket up there.
How far, we don't know.

You're up there.

Okay, Mr. Pocket.

All right.

I'ma coming!

I'ma coming.

You just sit there,

'cause I'ma coming.

Where are you, Mr. Pocket?

You to the left, to the right,
or straight up the middle?

Well, we'll just have to see, won't we?

We'll just have to see.

Goodnight, Mr. Pocket.

Sit tight, Mr. Pocket!


Damn it.

Well, maybe just one.

How high can a bird count anyway?

Hmm. Almost enough to keep.

You're there.

How deep?

End of the line...

and I'm gonna getcha.

I'm gonna getcha.

Maybe not today, but I'm gonna getcha.

Can't run away from me now, Mr. Pocket.

I catch up with you tomorrow.

I'm old...

but you're older.

I'm old...

but you're older.

Yes, sir.



Getting to keepers.

All righty.

Where's your daddy?

Lumps and chunks. Lumps and chunks.

Mother Machree.

Hello, Mr. Pocket.

Hello, Mr. Pocket!

You measly skunk!

You measly skunk!

Camping on my trail!

Letting me do all the work!

And shooting me in the back!

And shooting me in the back!

You measly skunk.

You shot me in the back!

It went clean through.

He didn't hit nothing important.

He didn't hit nothing important.

Nothing important.

Just guts is all you had!

Don't worry, Mr. Pocket.

I'll be back.

I ain't walking out on you.

There's your share, you measly skunk.

Come on, Lucky.

I heard it through the walls.

He made noises, strange noises,

which he characterized as a cough.

I've never heard such a cough.

And this cough did to not respond
to any kind of syrup or elixir,

and it was an extremely rattly cough.

No, I was not sad
to see Mr. Kincaid leave.

It was not a contagious cough.

Nobody here became ill.

It was a nervous cough.

I would not rent to a contagious cougher.

I've never heard of a nervous cough.

I understand
that you are about to leave us.

The nervous system spreads its tendrils
throughout the body.

I saw a picture of it in a book.

The nervous system
does not have tendrils.

I don't pretend to be a physician
or a botanist,

but I know the nervous system
extends through the body

and I presume that is how it learns

of the various physical conditions
that it imitates.

Mrs. Flannery is quite right.
I've seen that picture.

My point is only that Mr. Kincaid
was not a contagious cougher.

- I don't rent to such.
- Is there any more chicken and dumplings?

The bowl came to me last.

Yes, there's more.
We don't stint at this table.

Grandma Turner looks to be finished.

Are you finished, Grandma Turner?

Grandma Turner's finished.

Leaving us tomorrow,
jumping off the map so to speak?

Yes, indeed. My brother and I are
setting off in the morning for Oregon.

Oh, you have people out there or are you...

Just scoop from her plate, Mrs. Halliday.
Grandma Turner's quite done.

No, I... Not exactly.

That is, my brother does.

Well, go ahead and tell him, Alice.
Don't be tongue-tied.

She has exciting news.


I'm to be married, or at least I may be

to Gilbert's associate.

He's well fixed out there.

You are not certain
whether you are going to be married?

Has the gentleman not proposed?

He... Well, he...

He will propose once they meet each other.
I'm sure Alice will pass muster.

The match is a good one.

I'm joining him in a business opportunity,

and he's declared himself ready to marry
when he finds a suitable match.

Alice can be very sociable and attractive
when she has a mind to be.

She doesn't always have a mind to be.

Well, I think she's just
the picture of charm.

And we are going to miss you
so very much, Miss Longabaugh.

You and Mr. Longabaugh both,

and of course, Mr. Longabaugh's dog,

little President Pierce. Bless him.

Where... where is he now?


Yes, sister?

Two people have asked me
about President Pierce.


Well... complained.

About what?

The barking.


Why to you?

I believe they assumed he was my dog.

Well, I don't know what to say.
President Pierce is a nervous creature

and excited by animals larger
than himself.

Almost all animals are larger
than President Pierce.

Well, what of it?

People are...

wondering if he will bark
all the way to the Willamette Valley.

What if he does?

There are property rights.
The dog is my property.

My property barks. There you have it.

What did you tell them?


not that.

Yes, I can only imagine what you said.

Alice, sometimes you have to tell people
what's what.





You going back?

You... you going back now or... or...

We lost him.

I'm... so very sorry.

- I will get a spade.
- Yesterday morning...

he was fine.

- It is very quick, cholera.
- She a go-backer?


Will you be going back, Miss?

Or pressing on?

Going back or staying with the train?

Going back...



I don't have people.


I'll get a spade.


You want a marker of any kind or...?

We'll leave off then.

Better anyway not to advertise
to the Indians.

Well, they don't bother us none.

Too much trouble attacking a wagon train.

But they will scavenge.

Uh, you got a hired boy,
don't you, Miss Longabaugh?

Yes. Matt.

He'll handle your team.

He has been.

Gilbert did very little.

- You call on myself or Mr. Arthur if you...
- Yah!

- Miss?
- Please, don't stand.

Could I ask your advice, Mr. Knapp?

Certainly, Miss.

Would you like some supper
or coffee with us?

No, thank you.

My hired boy, Matt,

he told me that my brother promised him
half his wages

when we get to Fort Laramie.

- How much he say that was?
- Two hundred dollars.

Two hundred dollars is half?


And the other half
when we get to the Willamette Valley.

- High price.
- It is an extravagant wage.

Is it?

- That's a high price.
- You think the boy's telling a story?

Now that your brother is no longer...

I don't know.

Gilbert was not a good businessman.

He had an enterprise in Iowa City
that ended poorly,

and earlier, another that...

He was a failure.

That's a high price.

Well, there is another problem.

I cannot find any money in the wagon.

I believe Gilbert kept it
in his waistcoat.

Then he's still got it.

A half-day's ride.

Where to?

How do we find him?

Oh, I don't think so.

I suggest you not argue
with the boy until we get to Fort Laramie.

And then?


maybe I will talk to the boy.

See if I can shake him loose
from his story.

Four hundred dollars. I don't know.

I will have to think on this one.

Miss? Could I have a word?

Certainly, Mr. Knapp.
Could I offer you supper?

Well, thank you. I've had mine.

This is awkward, Miss, but...

people have complained to Mr. Arthur
and myself about your little, uh...

President Pierce?

- I have no doubt but that's your dog.
- He is not my dog.

- Miss?
- He was...

Mr. Longabaugh's.

I know it's terrible, the noise.
I don't know what to do.

Well then, I thought he was your dog.

Maybe this is quite a simple matter. Uh...

Can I put him down for you, Miss?

All right. Well, could we not
just scare him off?

Well, no.

We are his food and he will follow us,
long as he can.

And a wolf might play with him...


before he eats him.

Faster is better.

Yes. I understand.

I will attend to it right away.


I regret to have to tell you...

I talked to your boy, Matt.

I could not get him to budge.

Thank you, Mr. Knapp. You are...

very kind to extend yourself.

Here we go, little dog.

I set President Pierce down, and...


he moved just as I fired.

He skittered off, Miss. I...

I don't believe I hit him at all.

Oh, my God.

I should have deputized Mr. Arthur.

That man is a crack shot.

- I didn't expect...
- Well, it was very kind of you.

I do not think
you will see President Pierce again.

I'm... I'm sorry to trouble you again.

You're no trouble, Miss Longabaugh.

I do apologize, Mr. Knapp.

Interrupting your supper.

Please, set your mind at ease, Miss.

It is my duty to guide the train
and meet square any unexpected problem.

Well, things are developing for the worse.

- Yeah?
- My boy, Matt,

has asked me to affirm
his arrangement with my brother.

He asked me to declare he will receive
his two payments in Fort Laramie,

and in Oregon.

He says if I will not affirm it,
he will depart.

He will join the first party
of go-backers we meet.

And leave you.

Leave you out here with the wagon
high and dry.


Well, well, well.

- Yes, but...
- Please, sit down, Miss. We...

- We better talk about this.
- I don't like it.

But I don't know
that it is wrong of him to ask.

He is doing a job for pay.

You are very broad-minded
to see the other side of it.

But then what shall I do, Mr. Knapp?

Shall I confess I have no money?
What is right?

What is right?

Miss Longabaugh...

I cannot offer to drive your team
or tend your wagon in place of the boy.

- Mr. Arthur...
- I would not ask you to do so.

Oh, indeed.
These are my thoughts, not yours.

Mr. Arthur and I have to ride
one in front of the train, one behind.

We take turns, pilot and drag, but...

Will you trust me for a day?

Well, certainly. But how so?

Tell the boy you affirm the agreement.

I want to think on this for a day.

I have a notion
that you may think is crackpot, but...

I do not believe it is.

I'm sure it is not crackpot.

We'll see.

Give me a day.

I must talk to Mr. Arthur.

Then we will talk tomorrow and...

If you think it is a bad idea, well then,

we will have only taken one extra day
of the boy's labor.

Afternoon, partner.


Which is worse, partner?

Dust or mud?

Both, I guess.


I was thinking of proposing
to Miss Longabaugh.

That right?

Yes, and...

if she accepts, well then...

I will settle in Oregon.

This would be my last wagon train.

I will farm.


we'll see how she takes it.

Well, I guess I'll head back up.

Unless you desire a swap.


- Afternoon.
- Yep.


- Miss.
- Good evening, Mr. Knapp.

May we talk for a moment?

So your crackpot notion?


Before I expose it, may I ask something?



possibilities do you look forward to
in Oregon?

I don't quite know.

Gilbert knows... knew someone there.

A Mr. Vereen who owns an orchard,

or maybe more than one orchard,
and a cartage company.

He was vague about his connection
with Mr. Vereen,

and... and about his own
prospective position.

I don't wish to slight
my brother's memory, but he could...

exaggerate the nature of an opportunity.


And Mr. Vereen's interest in myself...

I fear that may also
have been speculative.

I see.

So, this is no definite
prospect of marriage.

- No contract.
- I...



My idea then is this...

And I submit it in respect,
Miss Longabaugh.

I propose to assume your brother's debt
to the hired boy and to...

to ask you to marry me.


I submit it in respect.


I have ambushed you.

- I'm very sorry.
- No, no, no.

I should clarify
what brings me to say these things,

or I will seem like the veriest bounder.

I found myself thinking
about certain matters. Um...

I have been busting trail for 15 years.

Last 12 with Mr. Arthur.
Mr. Arthur's a top man.

Top man, but he is...
he is getting older.

Slower to straighten in the morning.

- Sleeping on the ground, Miss...
- Yes.

To have no family
and to sleep on the ground...

- Yes, it cannot be easy.
- Looking at him, well...

I myself have come to the age
where either I will settle

and have children
who can take care of me when I'm old

or I will not.

That time will have passed.


So I found myself thinking, well...

if I met a maiden or a widow of honor,


perhaps I would...

- Yes.
- ...present myself...

Yes, I understand.



You're acquainted with the 1872 Grant?

I am not.

A settler in Oregon can claim 320 acres.

A... married couple can claim 640.

There is a, um...

In Fort Laramie, there is a Mr. Bourgeois
who can sanctify marriage.

Do you engage in divine worship?


I am a Methodist.

Yourself, Miss?

I'm Episcopalian.

What is your Christian name, Mr. Knapp?

Uh, William.

I am Billy Knapp.

I am Alice Longabaugh.

Now I suppose it is my turn to think.

Of course.

We will, um...

We will let the boy keep working then?

On his assumption of payment?

- What are you doing, Israel?
- Walking backwards.

Going to walk the rest of the way
to Oregon backwards.

- Don't do that.
- Why not?

I said don't do that.

Don't do that!

Noon here!

Thank you.

Best not to get too far
from the train, Miss.

It's like the ocean out here.

Easy to get lost, Miss.

I thought I should add...

Alice, lest I seem hard-nosed...

If you see fit to decline my proposal,

there's more than one way to skin a cat.

We might find a boy from another wagon
to drive your team,

use your oxen as payment.

We will get you to Oregon, safe and sound.

I don't wish to present myself
as the only alternative to ruin this.

But I'm inclined to accept your proposal.

All right.

And I don't take yourself
to be hard-nosed.

All right.

My dear brother was very hard-nosed.

But never very successful.

It was frustrating for him.

- I'm very sorry you have lost him.
- Yes.

But he is with his creator.

His way is easy now.

Yes, his way was difficult.

I must say,
it was difficult to be with him.

I was very nervous being with him.

Not afraid of him.
He would not hurt a fly. I was just...

not at ease.

I was eaten up by nerves at the thought
of talking to Mr. Vereen, for instance.

And yet, you...

are so very easy to talk to.

Perhaps we'll find comfort together.

I had hoped for that as well.

Yes, William.

Come on, boys! Push harder!

Come on!

Well, it...

It appears Miss Longabaugh is...

inclined to accept my proposal.


Of course, you will do fine solo.

No doubt about it. Man of your skills
will always be in high demand.

Where the hell is that hobble?

Oh, never mind. Here it is.

That man is a wonder.

Well, he can read the prairie like a book.

To see him cut for sign, well,

you'd think the good Lord
dealt us each our five senses

and bottom dealt Mr. Arthur one extra.


Still... he is old.

I don't know how it'll go for him.

I can't help feeling in the wrong.

Your first responsibility
is to your household.

- Yes, but...
- I'm sorry.

I should not dismiss it
with an easy apothegm.

- Yes.
- Gilbert had a saying for any situation.

A ready bit of wisdom.

He was very certain.

He was a doughface?

How did... Oh!

Yes. He was an admirer
of President Pierce, yes.

He had fixed political beliefs.

All of his beliefs were quite fixed.

He would upbraid me for being wishy-washy.

I never had his certainties.

I suppose it is a defect.

I don't think it's a defect at all.

Oh, no.


That is appropriate
for matters of this world.

Only regarding the next
are we vouchsafed certainty.


I believe certainty regarding
that which we can see and touch,

it is seldom justified, if ever.

Down the ages, from our remote past,

what certainties survive?

And yet we hurry to fashion new ones.

Wanting their comfort.

Certainty... the easy path.

Just as you said.

"Straight is the gate..."

"And narrow the way."



Sign, Mr. Arthur?


You keep on.

Gonna talk to Mr. Knapp.

- Hey!
- Whoa! Whoa!

Where's the woman?


Miss Longabaugh. Where is she?

Went over there.

Over there? Why's that?

I don't know. Heard that mutt barking.
President Pierce.

Hah! Hah! Yah, yah, yah! Yah!


- What are they, Mr. Arthur?
- Prairie dogs, ma'am.

- Aren't they darling? I believe...
- Ma'am, we best, uh...

President Pierce is trying to understand
what those creatures are,

whether they're squirrels
and he should try to chase them,

- or if they're other dogs.
- Get down.

- Mr. Arthur?
- Get down now, Miss.

- Get down!
- Mr. Arthur!

Sit down below that rise there.

But aren't...

Just do as I say.

- We aren't going back?
- Not directly.

We're in for a fight.

He won't answer my peace sign.

And we can't make a run for it
through this dog-town.

There's only one savage.

Yeah, you keep looking.

It's a war party and we probably
look like easy pickin's.

What they'll do, they'll rush us.

'Course dog holes
is as bad for them as for us,

and they don't know how to fight.

If they was to come front and back,
I couldn't handle them,

but they rush in a bunch,
like damn fools.

I beg your pardon, Miss.
Now you keep low here.

Take this.

- No.
- Take it. Take it now.

Got two bullets in it.
It ain't for shooting Indians.

If I see we're licked,

I'm gonna shoot you and then
I'm gonna shoot myself, so that's okay.

But if you see that I'm done for,

well, you're gonna have to do
for yourself.

Now you put it right there
so's you can't miss.

- No, no, no, no, no!
- This is business, Miss Longabaugh.

If they catch you, it won't be so good.

After they take off
every stitch of your clothes

and have their way with you,

they'll stretch you out with a rawhide,

and then they'll drive a stake through
the middle of your body into the ground

and then they'll do some other things,
and we can't have that.

Now, we ain't licked yet.

But if we are...

you know what to do.

That's supposed to scare us.

Won't bother us none, will it, Miss?

No, Mr. Arthur.

That Indian in the middle there...
he's the mucky muck,

and if I shoot him,
well, that's bad medicine,

and I think they'll all lose their spit
and light out.

Anyway, we're gonna have us a good fight.

Dog hole!

Dog hole!


They got the lay of the land now.


This time they'll come with a purpose.

You all right, Miss?

Yes, Mr. Arthur.

They ain't gonna do this all day.

This'll tell the tale.

Come on.

- Mr. Arthur?
- Hold on, Miss.

Oh, my.

Poor little gal.

She hadn't ought to have did it.

Oh, my.


Oh, I am sorry.
Didn't mean to wake you, sir.

You did not wake me.

For I was not asleep.

Oh? Not asleep. I see.

I apologize for disturbing anyone else
if I did.

How much to go, you reckon?

Oh, not a great distance.
Not great at all. We're making good time.

You haven't been to Fort Morgan before,
I take it.

Me? No.

- You?
- Oh, yes, many times. Many times.

Ferrying cargo.

Him's yourn?

As much as he's anyone's.

- Isn't he, Clarence?
- As much as anyone's.

- A loved one?
- By somebody, perhaps.

You did not know him?

We knew him only at the end.

No, I have not been to Fort Morgan.

I know little of cities.

I'm a trapper living alone mostly
in these last years,

but I would descend into town
every so often with my pelts.

Uh, sell them and talk.
Keep my hand in talk.

You gotta keep your hand in talking
even if you live in the wild.

It's true. Practice.

In town, I would talk to them
was interested.

Saloon mostly, till they asked me
to take my business elsewhere.

What kind of sense that make?
There was only the one saloon.

Keeper called me tedious.

Tedious! Me.

If tidings from the greater world
are tedious,

I would descend from the mountains,

not having talked for many months,
with much to tell.

Much to tell, having stored considerable.

Though for many years,
I did not live alone in the wild.

I did have a consort,

a stout woman of the Hunkpapa Sioux.

We had a companionship of sorts.

But there is a lady present.

A life together marked
by the passing of the seasons

and the corresponding travels of game.

In the latter,
she took very little interest.

Well, her duties was domestic.

I would track and trap,

and she would terry hearthside.

We did not talk.

She had no English and I am not schooled
in the gibberings of the nations.

Well, I say we did not talk,

but sometimes we would, often at length,

each in own tongue without benefit
of understanding the other.

But the sound of a human voice
is a comfort

when you're cabined up in the woods

and all'd otherwise be
but the murmur of wind

and the clop of snow
from an overloaded branch.

Well, I said
"not understanding each other,"

but it weren't entirely so.

I could often read by means
of the tenure of her speech

or certain facial expressions,

the emotional import
of what she was saying.

And she was often vexed with me.

I seldom knew why.

And then she moved on.

Did you love her?

Oh, I don't know.

I never even knew her name,
but I will say this.

The nature of them vocal intonations
and the play of feeling upon her face

helped me to gather that, uh...

people are like ferrets, or a beaver.

All pretty much alike.

Yeah, one like the next.

I don't doubt it's the same
even if you travel to Siam.

People are not the same.

There are two kinds,
utterly distinct.

And what would those be, madame?

- Lucky and unlucky?
- No, hale and frail.

Difficult to knock to the floor,
or wilting.

Those are not the two kinds.
You well know the two kinds.

One kind. Ain't no two kinds.

Unless you mean trapper and townsman.

Upright and sinning.

Don't be a fool.

Fool? Oh, yes.

I know, "tedious fool."

You're not the first
to lodge that complaint.

I challenge your credentials, madam,

for assessing human worth.

People are like ferrets.

People are not like ferrets,

and I speak not on my own authority,
but on that of the Holy Bible.

And here I speak on high authority.

My husband, Dr. Betjeman, was an expert,

a lecturer at the Chautauqua
on moral and spiritual hygiene,

- now retired.
- Moral hygiene...

I have the benefit of his insights.

His lectures were spectacularly attended.

He was... He is considered an expert
on spiritual betterment.

Jacob's ladder?


But I don't suppose you have ever
been much occupied

with the betterment of your soul.

Well, I'm not an enemy of betterment,

but I am kept very busy with my traps.

Your husband isn't with you.

We have been separated for some time.

He has been... East.

Illness has kept him,
but now we shall be reunited.

- It will be a great joy.
- He awaits you in Fort Morgan?

Yes. I have been living with my daughter
and son-in-law these last three years.

Parents should not burden
the household of the child.

This was wrong of you, madame.

I was not a burden.

- I was welcome in my daughter's house.
- Oh, she would say so, of course,

but no doubt you could read
in her facial expression,

as pointed out by the tedious man,
that your presence was not wanted.

We each have a life.

Each a life only our own.

You know nothing of me
or my domestic affairs.

I know that we must each
spin our own wheel and play our own hand.

I was once at cards
with a man named Cipolski.

- This was very many years ago...
- He a Polack?

- He was Polonais, oui. And we...
- I knew a Polack.

We were at cards.

My hand was poor, I folded,
but Cipolski and four others remained.

Cipolski said to me,
"René, I am in distress.

You must play for me
while I perform mes nécessités."

My necessaries.

I said, "Friend, no.
I cannot wager for you."

He said, "Of course you can.
We know each other well.

You wager as I would do."

I say, this is quite impossible, no?

How a man wager,
it is decided by who he is,

by the entirety of his relation to poker,
right up until the moment of that bet.

I cannot bet for you. Pourquoi pas?

I cannot know you, not to this degree.

We must each play our own hand.

"No, Cipolski." I say, "No.

We may call each other friend,
but we cannot know each other so."

You can know him. People are like ferrets.

- People are not like ferrets!
- You misunderstand, mon vieux.

We can know each other, oui,
to a certain level,

but to know entire, impossible.

- Poker is a gambling game.
- Mmm.

You have pursued a life
of vice and dissipation

and you are no doubt expert
in such pursuits,

but no conclusions drawn
from such an existence

will apply to a life rightly lived.

Life is life.

Cards will teach you
what you need to know.

You, madame, you speak of your life
with your husband, who awaits,

and you fly to him with the certainty
he loves you as he did three years ago.

Bon, three years.

There was a flame.
You do not know there is.

Among decent people,
relations are eternal.

Decent people stay true...
to others, to themselves.

- Life is change.
- Presumptuous man.

You say my daughter doesn't love me,

- that my husband no longer does...
- If he ever did.

No offense, madame.

My point is that we can never know,
not to the deepest level.

And the word "love,"
well, it can have different meanings, no?

- Now hold on there, mister.
- I know what love means!

Your husband was a lecturer, oui,
he was an educator.

Would you say he was a man of charisma?

He was. He is!

Bon, love would mean something
quite different to such a person

who commands the love of the crowd

than it would to a person who can
only coax love through subservience.

I did not coax love from Dr. Betjeman.

I am not a wheedler.

My husband's love was freely given,
and endures.

His love was different from yours,
it's all I say.

The person widely admired
accepts love as a tribute

and he confers his own love as an honor,

for, coming from him,
it must have great worth.

But you, madame, you would not
receive this gift splendidly

as one who has no need,
but you would grasp it as a beggar!

- Ain't no call for that!
- How dare you!

Of course the great man, the admired man,

he might well accept other loves,
simply as his due,

from some of those who admire him.

And why not, if the admirer's comely?

It is a love of a different kind,
of course, than the domestique.

- But in France, we say...
- You...

- You deplorable...
- Ease up there now, lady!

- You depraved...
- Take it easy. He's just a Frenchman!

You've given her a fit, Frenchie!

- We must stop the coach!
- Coachman won't stop.

He must stop. We are the passengers!

- Coachman won't stop.
- We must stop. Coachman!


Coachman, I say!

We must stop!

Coachman! Coach... Merde.

He will not stop.

He never stops. Policy.

You're all right. You're all right, miss.

Please... stop doing that.

I am sorry.

I do apologize.

He sings it every trip.
Always does this to me.

You'd think with the business we're in,

I wouldn't be so...

What is your business?


I like to say that we're...

- reapers.
- Harvesters of souls.

We help people
who have been adjudged to be ripe.

- You're bounty hunters.
- Literal man!

Cruel man! Yes, fine. Bounty hunters.

An ugly title.
As if emolument were the point.

Is the cobbler not paid for his shoes?

- It's an honest calling.
- So, uh...

him on the roof, he was wanted?

Oh, Mr. Thorpe was very much wanted,

judging by what they're paying for him.

- What'd he do?
- Oh, I don't know. Does it matter?

Just as you said, madame,
there are two kinds of people.

In our business, they are dead or alive.

So you will take them alive?

I didn't say that.

Neither do I take them alive.

'Course, it's entirely different business,
and I work alone.

Yes, well, we're a duo, a tandem, a team.

They're so easily taken
when they're distracted, people are.

So, I'm the distractor
with a little story,

a little conversation, a song, a sparkle.

And Clarence does the thumping
while their attention is on me.

He's very good, this one.

- You should see him.
- No, he's good.

I can thump.

Mr. Thorpe up there, a typical case.

I told him the story
of the Midnight Caller.

"Someone is outside, knocking."

"No, don't open it, mother.

What living thing
could be out in such a storm?"

You know the story,

but people can't get enough of them,
like little children.

Because, well, they connect the stories
to themselves, I suppose,

and we all love hearing about ourselves,

so long as the people in the stories
are us, but not us.

Not us in the end, especially.

The Midnight Caller gets him...

never me.

I'll live forever.

I must say...

it's always interesting watching them
after Clarence has worked his art,

watching them negotiate...

the passage.


From here to there.

To the other side. Watching them...

try to make sense of it
as they pass to that other place...

I do like looking into their eyes
as they try to make sense of it.

I do.

I do.

Try to make sense of what?

All of it.

And do they ever...


How would I know?

I'm only watching.


Well, Fort Morgan.

I presume we're all staying at the hotel?

Including Mr. Thorpe.
Too late to drop him with the sheriff.

I suppose Mr. Thorpe will stay
in your room, Clarence.

- Don't fancy much having him in mine.
- Whatever you say, boss.

Or we could sit him up in the parlor.

Little surprise for the guests
in the morning.

Give him a newspaper, sir,
and a glass of port.


- You clumsy fool!
- Sorry, sir.

Don't apologize to me.
It's Mr. Thorpe, isn't it?

Sorry, Mr. Thorpe.

Joking aside...

your room, I think, Clarence.

Whatever you say, sir. If you say so.

No worries about him snoring.

- I'm not worried, boss.
- You never worry.

- One of your virtues.
- Thanks very much.

There we go.

- Go ahead on.
- Oh, après vous.

Ladies first.

I must be helped down.

Will someone open the door for a lady?

Dr. Betjeman is waiting.











Yah! Yah!

Yah! Yah!

Yah! Hiyah!

Translated by: Susan Durbin