Once Upon A Time: The Man.

Western (comics)
Western (comics) (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

(I thought this was great, but the kids panned it.  They’ve never watched a western.)

Once upon a time there was a man. He walked into the sunset, his long coat whipping in the wind behind him and his large hat silhouetted against the dying sun. Once again the town was safe, but it always managed to attract new outlaws, or corrupt sheriffs, or greedy, powerful politicians.
The man walked on to his farm. It was in disrepair. He was always so busy fixing problems in the town he never had time to deal with the farm chores or fix the roof. The only part of him that got used every day was his trigger finger.
It would have been different if he’d had a family, but while the local villager’s daughters were all aflutter over their hero, he had no time to go wooing.
The man collapsed on his bed and wondered how he’d get through this year. Old man Lawrence had already planted his crops for him in exchange for half the harvest. And the reward money was almost gone from the last three bank robbers. The villagers were grateful, but that didn’t extend to credit or discounts.
When he woke up in the morning, the man heard footsteps on the porch and that imperious knock of some young bucko gunning for a reputation. He sighed, and rolled out of bed. He’d slept in his clothes, waiting just such an occasion as this one.
The boy on the porch couldn’t have been more that sixteen. But he looked quick, and he spoke the speech with feeling: “I’m calling you out, Jeb Parker. You killed my daddy, and I’m looking to make things right. So come out here and we’ll settle this thing like men.”

Billy the Kid (Charlton Comics)
Billy the Kid (Charlton Comics) (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Jeb looked down at the kid, and glanced out at the kid’s horse and gear. That saddle and the open road looked mighty inviting right now.
“You looking to be a hero, kid?” Jeb looked at the kid. He had the right build for it, and a nice cleft chin forming up.
“I’m looking to be a better hero than you.”
“You reckon your daddy had it coming to him?”
“A man’s daddy has to be avenged even if he was a no good who left before I was ten.”
“How’d you like to take over the hero business for me?”
“How’s that?” The kid looked confused.
“Here’s how it’ll go,” Jeb paused as he thought. “I’ll sign over the farm to you, on account of you being the better shot than me and bettern’ me in every way. Then you go into town and tell them that I turned yellow and took off when they come calling for you to do some heroing. You take care of the problem, and suddenly you’re me.”
The kid paused. “That don’t seem right, somehow. Don’t I got to shoot you dead to avenge my pa?”
“Which is a better vengeance, kid? You shoot me, you got nothing. You let me turn coward and live, and you get my farm and my job. Plus you get me telling everyone there’s a new hero in town. Saves ya a lot of killing to make up yer reputation.”
The kid thought about it, but nodded. “Shouldn’t we have a shoot out to prove who’s better?” Jeb nodded. He didn’t see a way around it. So they shot at thrown bits of wood, at tree trunks, and at Jeb’s old frying pan. Jeb didn’t even have to cheat, much. The kid came out on top. “See,” said Jeb. “You deserve the hero’s job.”
Jeb signed over the farm, and got the kid’s horse and gear in exchange. He settled into the saddle and rode off into the noonday sun. When he found a village that didn’t know him, he resolved to become another scared villager, complete with a wife and family. He could always pick up the gun again, but it was a lot harder to pick up a life.
Moral: Sometimes being a hero is harder than it looks.


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