At the Carlton, Paladin enters the lobby and hears the clerk telling a newlywed couple, Janie Martin and her husband Henry Bosworth, that the hotel is filled up due to a cattleman’s convention. Paladin gallantly offers his own suite to them while he’s out playing poker, free of charge. They accept and paladin says that the only thing he requires is breakfast when he returns at 9 in the morning.
The next morning, Paladin returns to his suite with a package left for Janie at the front desk. She opens it and is shocked to discover that it’s a dead cat: hers. There’s a note saying for her not to come back or it will happen to her. Henry says that it’s his half-brothers. A month ago he threw them off the ranch to protect his father Rupe, and they swore revenge. Henry says that he’s heading back, but Paladin says that he’ll go on ahead and Henry should follow once Janie has recovered. When Henry wonders why Paladin is getting involved, Paladin says that it’s his profession and hands him his card.
Later, Paladin arrives at the Bosworth ranch. Rupe fires a shot at a clock on a nearby rail. He asks Paladin to bring it over, and Rupe tells him to set another one up. Before he shoots, Paladin says that he’s there to meet him and Rupe offers him a shot of moonshine. Once they drink, Paladin explains that Hank sent him and Rupe explains that his first wife was a violent woman. They threatened to shoot Rupe, and Paladin offers to talk with them. Rupe accepts his offers, admitting that he’s too sentimental to shoot them, and gives Paladin directions.
At the cabin, Ed and John are splitting up shells that they stole from Rupe. Paladin arrives and says that he likes Rupe, and John says that they know he’s crazy. He denies threatening Rupe, and explains that they’re trying to have Rupe committed. They’ve already visited the sheriff and had the papers sworn out, and Paladin leaves without a word.
Back at the Bosworth ranch, Rupe tells paladin that the locals might say that he’s a bit off. He points out his pet owl Jasper and says that it teaches him a lot of things. Paladin wonders why Rupe keeps the rest of the house locked up, and Rupe says that there’s nothing in them but sadness and memories. Paladin says that he’ll ride into town to see what kind of hearing Rupe can expect, and figures that they’ll need Hank to testify. He tells Rupe not to cause any trouble if the sheriff serves the paper, and Rupe agrees. Rupe throws away the dishes and explains that he hates doing dishes so he just throws them away and buys a new set every week. Chuckling, Paladin admits that there’s nothing wrong with the idea.
In town, Paladin visits Roy Daggett, the only lawyer in town. Ed and John have hired him to have Rupe committed, and he explains that there will be a three-man board to make the determination. Paladin asks him to drop the charges on the grounds that they’re false and malicious. Ed and John come in and Paladin calls Roy a shyster. Furious, Roy tells the brothers to throw Paladin out. Paladin fights back and takes them out, then laughs and walks out.
Back at the ranch, Paladin finds Hank there. He explains that the sheriff locked Rupe up when he reached for his rifle. The sheriff got scared, Rupe called for Jasper, and the sheriff shot him when the owl attacked. Hank warns that they’ll have trouble proving that Rupe is sane.
The next day at the jail, the sheriff lets Paladin visit Rupe in his cell. Paladin says that they’ll have to prove that Ed and John are getting Rupe committed so they can take his land. Rupe says that he kicked them out after John took out fire insurance on the ranch house. He says that he’ll stay quiet and paladin assures him that he’ll speak on his behalf. Rupe asks Paladin to make sure that Jasper has a decent burial, and Paladin agrees.
Later at the hearing, Roy presents the case to the board. He talks about how Rupe doesn’t develop his farmlands and lives in a single room of his large house. Paladin speaks up as Rupe’s friend and explains what John and Ed are up to. Roy objects but Judge Cates reminds him that it isn’t a criminal court, and Paladin says that John and Ed tried to burn down the house to collect on the insurance. Cates calls Hank up to testify, and he testifies that he saw John pouring kerosene in the barn. Hank fired a warning shot and Rupe came out, and Hank figures that his half-brothers planned to burn up their father with the house. The young man testifies that there were other problems with stolen cattle, but Rupe always settled in cash so nobody would complain.
Paladin then explains that Jasper was a watchdog, and suggests that they examine Rupe’s cabin to see that it’s clean. He tells the board that Rupe is financially independent and doesn’t need a cash crop, so he grows sweet peas instead. The commission prepares to give their decision, and Roy objects. Paladin reads Rupe’s will without his consent, where he leaves two-thirds of his land to John and Ed. The will was made a week ago after Hank’s wedding, and Hank knew the contents.
The commission gives their finding that Rupe is sane, and John, Ed, and Roy head out the back. Paladin follows them and John is waiting for him, gun drawn. Paladin points out that people will hear the gunshot and come out, and John says that he’s going to make Paladin draw his gun and then shoot him in “self defense” with Roy as his witness. Paladin asks Ed if he’s going to let John draw and kill Ed before John kills him. With Ed dead, John gets both of their shares. Ed suggests that he hold the gun and John draw on him, and John refuses. When Ed realizes that was John’s plan all along, he goes for his gun. John kills him and Paladin wounds John, and the townspeople come out. Paladin tells the sheriff to get John to the doctor, and Roy will testify to what happened.
As the townspeople take Ed’s body away, Rupe wonders what he did wrong. Hank assures his father that he did what he could, and Paladin tells Rupe to think of the fine son that he has in Hank. Paladin, Hank, and Rupe head out to the sweet pea field to look at the flowers and think of what’s good in the world.
Written by Gadfly on Dec 19, 2015