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The Man Who Struck Moonshine Recap

Paladin is riding through the hills when a man, Moses Kadish, fires at him with a rifle. The gunslinger's horse rears, throwing Paladin off, and he hits the ground hard. When he wakes up, Moses confirms that he only hit his head and apologizes for shooting him. He explains that he's been holding off the McCandle brothers, who have been attacking him for over a month. When Moses says that he has no idea why or what to do about it, Paladin offers him his card. Moses eagerly accepts and explains that while he can't pay money, he has something just as valuable.

The two men go to Moses' cabin, which he explains that he built out of the wreckage of an abandoned Army outpost. Inside, Moses takes down one of several moonshine jugs and serves it to his visitor. Paladin is surprised to discover that it's whiskey, not moonshine, and confirms that it's an excellent vintage. Moses explains that he drilled for water a few weeks ago so that he wouldn't have to keep walking to the creek, but struck whiskey instead.

When Paladin doesn't believe him, Moses takes him out to the pump and lets the gunfighter see for himself. When Paladin confirms that Moses is telling the truth, he hands the ladle to Moses, who pours it on the ground. He explains that the whiskey is a temptation from God and that drinking it would ruin him. Moses tells Paladin that he came out into the wilderness to fulfill his pledge to his wife, Sylvia, to remain sober for a year. She'll be there in five days, and he wants to hire Paladin to keep him sober. Paladin isn't interested, figuring that it's a lifetime job, but Moses says that he only needs to keep his promise to his wife and then he can take it from there. Disgusted, Paladin says that Moses is a weak man hiding behind an empty vow. However, he's still intrigued enough to want to find an answer to the riddle of the whiskey.

Paladin goes off into the hills and finally locates a set of tracks. He follows them to the remains of an underground depot where the Army outpost stood. Inside is a barrel marked for Capt. McCandle, quartermaster, with a pipe running to the surface.

When he returns to the cabin, Paladin discovers that Sylvia has arrived five days early. She's seen the jugs of moonshine and assumes that her husband is drinking again. Paladin introduces himself and tells her what happened. Sheila isn't surprised, admitting that her husband has a gift for finding alcohol anywhere.

Paladin takes the couple to the depot and explains that Capt. McCandle must have deliberately burned the fort to the ground. Since then, he and his family have been selling the supplies on the black market. Once they realized that Moses had tapped into the whiskey supply, the McCandles must have figured that he wouldn't leave on his own so they started attacking him. Despite the logical explanation, Sylvia points out that of all of the people who could have discovered it, Moses was the one who did. She tells Moses to give up his vow and come home with him, saying that she loves him even though he's an alcoholic. Realizing the root of Moses' problems, Paladin asks the man if he wants to keep his promises, and Moses says that he does. Paladin invites him to act on the promise and Moses smashes open the whiskey barrel and then sets it on fire, destroying the depot.

Back at the cabin, Sylvia thanks Paladin for helping her husband but clearly believes that he accomplished nothing. She tells Moses to break his promise and come home rather than make himself miserable by trying to be someone he isn't. Paladin pours Moses a drink and sets it down before the man, and tells him that he might as well break his promise. Sylvia agrees and Moses contemplates his first drink. He tells Paladin that the first drink turns him into a man among men, better than anyone... until he sobers up. Desperate, Moses gives in and drinks the first mug.

Paladin asks what two drinks do to him, pointing out that Moses is killing himself and wondering if it's worth it. Moses dismisses Paladin as a casual drinker and explains that he can work miracles with a second drink in him. He gulps it down and considers a third drink, and Paladin tells him that he can still walk away without it. Sylvia fills Moses' mug and angrily tells Paladin not to spoil Moses' happiness. Disgusted with himself and his wife, Moses tells Sylvia to be quiet. Paladin asks if a year of sobriety has taught him anything, and Moses admits that the third drink shows him the truth: he's an alcoholic. He shoves the mug way and as Sylvia prepares to urge him on, Paladin tells her that she's the one who made Moses an alcoholic by enabling him. Sylvia defends her actions, saying that Moses was an alcoholic when she met him and that she was the one who took care of him throughout the marriage. Paladin accuses her of making Moses weak, taking away his strength and providing her own as a substitute. Moses went to the saloons because they were the only place where he could be a man.

Moses admits that Paladin is right, but still can't resist reaching for the mug as Sylvia urges him on. However, the McCandles open fire on the cabin, vowing to burn out Moses for burning down the depot. Paladin calls out, telling the McCandles that Moses isn't alone, but they continue firing. As Paladin shoots back, Sylvia cowers in the corner, crying. When Moses offers her a drink to soothe her nerves, she shoves it away. Shocked at his wife's reaction, Moses grabs a rifle and goes to help Paladin. Paladin runs outside and manages to kill two of their three attackers. As the third one prepares to shoot Paladin from behind, Moses shoots him despite the two drinks that he's had.

The two men go back inside and Moses tells Sylvia to stop crying. He angrily tells her that he had enough of crying all of the nights that he came home drunk, and now he knows that she's glad he's an alcoholic. Sylvia wonders what they're going to do now, but Moses doesn't have an answer for her. Paladin congratulates him on refusing to take the third drink, and Moses says that the problem was always him: not the alcohol, and not his wife. Paladin wonders if Sylvia will appreciate her new husband and rides off. Sylvia hesitantly goes to Moses and asks again what they're going to do. After a moment, he tells her to start unpacking because they're going to stay.

Written by Gadfly on May 28, 2017

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