In the desert, Paladin rides along a fence until he comes to a boulder. Men are ahead and training a gun on a man on the other side. Paladin runs over and asks if the calf is worth a man's life. The leader, George Advent, says that the calf is his. Paladin grabs the gun away from Advent's cowhand and throws it onto the other side. The calf's owner, Abraham Lee, accuses George of stealing from him. Paladin sarcastically suggests that they cut the calf in half, and Abraham chuckles before pulling his calf back.
Paladin confirms who George is and says that the calf has returned to the right side. George shoots the calf dead and tells Paladin that he holds him responsible for the death of "his" calf. He promises Abraham that he's going to collect and rides off with his men. Paladin notes the jog in the fence caused by the boulders, and Abraham says that he'd give George the land but he made a promise. George and his brother Sam laid out the fence from opposite ends so they joined up at the jog. When the brothers decided, George was upset and it poisoned his soul. Sam wouldn't sell out to George or let him straighten the fence line, and Sam swapped the land on his side of the fence to Abraham in return for a gold deed. It's just Abraham and his son Lawson, and Paladin figures that Abraham will need his help and presents his card. Abraham says that he'd be lonely without fighting George every week, but Paladin has shaken George up a bit. The man invites Paladin to stay the night.
Abraham takes Paladin to his cabin where his son Lawson is cooking outside. He makes sure to overly salt the meal before his father can see him, and Abraham explains that Lawson is his son by papers. Lawson says that Abraham doesn't own him, and Abraham agrees. Abraham sends Lawson in to set the table, and Lawson warns him that he can leave anytime he wants before he goes in. The old man tells Paladin that they don't have a woman to teach them manners, and he found Lawson running around in the mountains after the Indians killed his family. Abraham and Lawson fixed up a deal, figuring that it's stronger than papers.
Later, the three men eat and Lawson asks Paladin for his opinion on the food. Paladin points out that the meal isn't that good, and Lawson insists that his coffee is good. When he drinks it, Paladin spits it out, and Abraham and Lawson tells him that whoever complains has to clean the dishes. As Paladin washes the dishes, Abraham joins him and says that they live pretty well despite George. Paladin warns that George may not stay on his side of the fence, figuring that George might do anything if he'd shoot an animal out of spite. Abraham admits that he wouldn't let George straighten the fence even if he hadn't promised Sam, just because he likes how the fence follows the crooked countryside. The old man goes inside to sleep while Paladin sleeps outside to keep watch.
Paladin hears horses neighing, and Abraham and Lawson hear them as well and come out. George and his men ride up and he says that he's come to collect for the calf. Abraham says that he'll shoot anyone intruding on his lands, and tells George to come back the next day so they can talk. George has his cowhands set the cabin on fire, and Paladin climbs up on the roof to put the fire out while Lawson gets water. One cowhand rides off, disgusted, and the others go with him. Abraham tells him to go and they'll forget it, and George shoots him dead. Lawson runs to Abraham and Paladin joins him. Dying, Abraham says that he never made out a will and uses Paladin's knife to cut Lawson's wrist and his own. He makes a blood oath that they're kin with Paladin as their witness, and bequeaths everything to Lawson. Lawson tries to hold back tears, and Paladin tells him that an Indian wouldn't cry but the boy isn't an Indian and he can cry for Abraham.
The next day, Paladin and Lawson ride to the fence where George is tearing up a boast and cheering that the fence is straight. George says that it's all his and Paladin is trespassing, and Paladin tells the man that they're going to bury Abraham on his own land. When George insists that his father gave the land to him, Paladin tells Lawson to get the shovels. Paladin figures that George won't be satisfied with what he has, and insists that he's going to bury Abraham on his land. When George goes for his gun, Paladin shoots him dead and says that George wouldn't be satisfied until he had six feet of Earth.
Paladin and Lawson bury Abraham and Paladin says the eulogy. He then tells Lawson that by the time he's an adult, the fence will have rusted away. Lawson wants to keep the jog in the fence in honor of Abraham, and Paladin offers to show him how to cook so that his future guests will enjoy themselves.
Written by Gadfly on Dec 31, 2018