Paladin returns to the Carlton from a night on the town and complains to Maggie that San Francisco is overcrowded. He talks about yearning for things pastoral and open spaces, and admits that he's tired of most people. Maggie gives him a wire; an invitation to go fishing and hunting in Orville, Texas. It's from Paladin's friend Ernie Backwater.
Soon, Paladin arrives in Orville and Ernie greets him. He notices the fishing pole on Paladin's horse and says that he's going hunting: for Will Tybee, who shot Ernie and killed several of his men. Paladin realizes that the whole thing was set up, and Ernie says that he's going hunting for something other than buck. He asks if Paladin wants to come, and Paladin agrees. Ernie warns that Will is a force of nature, what the Comanches call a "Savage American". Paladin says that the correct translation is "American Primitive", and effuses to be sworn in for fear someone will use the badge as a target.
A month later, Ernie and Paladin find Ernie's camp. They realize that he left a rag doll in his place and is waiting for them in the brush, and Ernie prepares to move in with Paladin coming from the other side. Will is sleeping nearby and opens fire on them. He wings Paladin and Ernie fires but misses. Paladin shoots Will twice in the shoulder. They move one in and Will points out that Paladin could have killed him. Paladin admits that he put two in Will's shoulder to make up for Will shooting him once in the shoulder, and tells Ernie to cauterize both of their wounds.
Once Ernie has finished doctoring, they manacle Will and get some sleep. Ernie finally gets up and checks Will's bindings. Will asks if they all died, and Ernie asks why. The outlaw says that he would have hated to be hung for just three of the five men, and smiles. Going back to Paladin, Ernie tells Paladin that there's a way station on the way back. Paladin tells him that he'll make it and figures that Ernie doesn't want to hang Will. Ernie says that they're all the same to him, and tells Paladin that the five men Will killed the men who murdered Will's son for a ten-dollar gold piece on the boy's 15th birthday. Will killed the wrong men, and he was tried for killing one of Ernie's posse. They thought the five men--saddle tramps--were guilty, too. No jury would have convicted Will for avenging his son. The five saddle tramps were caught in Sonora for murder and were going to hang, so they said what they had done. Paladin realizes that Ernie isn't going to tell Will the truth, and asks Paladin why he didn't kill Will. The gunfighter merely rolls over and goes back to sleep.
The next day, the three men continue riding on. They reach the way station and Paladin gets water from the well. Will asks Ernie from his boots back, and refuses to go into Orville without them. Ernie agrees to give him his boots just before they get into town. Paladin practices his draw and Will argues with him about who yelled loudest when Ernie cauterized their wounds. Ernie tells them that they were equally loud and says to get riding.
The trio arrives in Orville and finds a gallows waiting. Will asks Paladin for a cigar, and Ernie tells Will that he'll hang the next morning. The outlaw says that he wishes Paladin had killed him, and Paladin tosses his cigar down in disgust and says that they should go. Ernie says that they're taking Will to the schoolhouse because they haven't rebuilt the jail yet. Paladin tells him to find someplace else so they don't hang a man out of a schoolhouse, and Ernie agrees to put Will up in a hotel room. Will wonders if he could take Paladin in a fair fight, and asks if it bothers Paladin. Paladin admits that it does and they ride to the barbershop to get a bath first.
At the barber's, Paladin gets a trim and Will gets into the chair. When Ernie starts to remanacle Will, Will objects but Ernie does it anyway. The barber, Sim, is nervous and Will assures him that he won't bite. He reads the article and discovers that the men who killed his son escaped. Will realizes that it was all for nothing, and asks Sim about his family. He then grabs the man's razor and tells Ernie to shoot if he's going to shoot. Will tells Ernie that after killing seven men, one more doesn't matter. Ernie puts down the shotgun and unlocks the manacles, and has Sim say that he has four children. He then tells paladin to put down his gun because his reflex will kill Sim no matter how fast Paladin is. Paladin disarms, and Will has sim hand him Paladin's gun.
Once Will has the gun, he tells Sim to take off Ernie's boots. He advises Paladin not to try something and leaves. Paladin takes out his derringer and goes after Will. He confronts the man and says that it doesn't have to be, but Will says that he still has to try. He turns to shoot and Paladin kills him. Ernie comes over and tells the townspeople to go home. He says that Will was a man, and Paladin tells his friend that Will was an American primitive.
Written by Gadfly on Sep 10, 2017