Joel and Ethan Coen
Based on the Novel by Charles Portis
June 12, 2009
White letters on a black screen:
The wicked flee when none pursueth.
The quotation fades.
A woman's voice:
People do not give it credence that a young girl could leave
home and go off in the wintertime to avenge her father's
blood, but it did happen.
The street of a western town, night. The street is deserted. Snow falls.
We track slowly forward.
I was just fourteen years of age when a coward by the name
of Tom Chaney shot my father down in Fort Smith,
Arkansas, and robbed him of his life and his horse and two
California gold pieces that he carried in his trouser band.
A shape lies in the street below the busted-out porch railing of a two-story building. A
sign identifies the building as the Monarch Boarding House.
Papa was a Cumberland Presbyterian and a Mason. He'd
hired Chaney--for paid wages, not on shares--when Chaney
was "down on his luck." If Papa had a failing it was his
kindly disposition; I did not get my mean streak from him.
The crumpled shape is a body. We hear the thunder of approaching hooves.
He had taken Chaney up to Fort Smith to help lead back a
string of mustang ponies he'd just bought from a stock trader
named Stonehill. In town, Chaney had fallen to drink and
cards, and lost all his money. He got it into his head he'd
been cheated and went back to the boarding house for his
Henry rifle. Papa remonstrated, and Chaney shot him in the
A galloping horse enters frame and recedes, whipped on by a bareback rider. A long-
barreled rifle is tied across the rider's back with a sash cord.
He disappears into the falling snow.
Chaney fled. He could have taken the time to saddle the
horse--or hitched up three spans of mules to a Concord
stagecoach and smoked a pipe, as it seems that no one in that
city was inclined to give chase. Chaney had mistaken its
citizens for men.
We are looking into the window of a moving train.
Looking out past us is a fourteen-year-old girl, Mattie Ross. Next to her is Yarnell, a
middle-aged black man. Reading backward in the mirror of the window we see a station
sign easing in as the train slows: FORT SMITH.
The voice-over continues:
You might say, what business was it of my father's to
meddle? My answer is this: he was trying to do that short
devil a good turn. He was his brother's keeper. Does that
answer your question?
DEAD MAN'S FACE
Candlelight flickers over the man's waxy features.
Is that the man?
The body, wrapped in a shroud, lies in a pine coffin. Mattie and Yarnell stand looking
down at it. An undertaker, grizzled and severely dressed, holds the candle.
That is my father.
If you would loik to kiss him it would be all roight.
He has gone home. Praise the lord.
Put the lid on. Why is it so much?
The quality of the casket and of the embalming. The loifloik
appearance requires time and art. And the chemicals come
dear. The particulars are in your bill. If you would loik to
kiss him it would be all roight.
No. Thank you. The spirit has flown. Your wire said fifty
You did not specify he was to be shipped.
Well sixty dollars is every cent we have. It leaves nothing
for our board. Yarnell, you can see to the body's transport to
the train station and accompany it home, and I will have to
sleep here tonight.
I don't think your mama'd want you to stay in this town by
It can't be helped. I still have to collect father's things and
see to some other business.
But I's your chap-a-rone! Your mama didn't say for you to
see to no business here!
It is business Mama doesn't know about. It's all right,
Yarnell, I dismiss you.
Well I'm not sure I--
Tell mama not to sign anything until I return home and see
that Papa is buried in his mason's apron.
To the undertaker:
. . .Your terms are agreeable if I may pass the night here.
Here? Among these people?
Mattie looks around the empty room.
I am expecting three more souls. Sullivan, Smith, and His
Tongue In The Rain.
How is it that you know in advance?
Three men stand upon a rough-hewn three-banger gallows. The condemned are two white
men and an Indian. They wear new jeans and flannel shirts buttoned to the neck. Each has
a noose around his neck. One of the white men is addressing the crowd:
Ladies and gentlemen beware and train up your children in
the way that they should go! You see what has become of
me because of drink. I killed a man in a trifling quarrel over
Mattie is pushing her way through the spectators thronging the town square.
Up on the gallows the condemned speaker starts to weep.
If I had received good instruction as a child I would be with
my wife and children today, away out on the Cimarron
River. I don't know what is to become of them. I hope and
pray that you will not slight them and compel them to go into
His blubbering will not let him go on. He steps back. A man standing by slips a black
hood over his head which continues to bob with sobbing.
Mattie hisses to a woman nearby:
Can you point out the sheriff?
The woman indicates a figure among the officiators on the scaffold:
Him with the mustaches.
The second condemned man is speaking:
Well, I killed the wrong man is the which-of-why I'm here.
Had I killed the man I meant to I don't believe I would a
been convicted. I see men out there in that crowd is worse
A thinking pause. He nods, shrugging.
. . . Okay.
He steps back and is hooded.
The third man steps forward.
I would like to say--
He is hooded, speech cut short. The hangman, hand to his elbow, helps him step back.
The executioner pulls a lever on the scaffold. Three trapdoors swing open and three men
drop. They hit the end of their ropes with a crack.
Two of the men have their heads snapped to an angle and are limp and twist slowly. One,
though, writhes and kicks, jackknifing his legs.
Oh, Sullivan must'er lost weight in prison! His neck ain't
Sullivan continues to writhe and kick.
Mattie looks down at a boy selling hot tamales out of a bucket.
. . . Ten cents?
Mattie is talking to the sheriff whom we saw officiating on the scaffold. The square is
emptying and, in the background, all three men twist slowly, the last man having finally
given up the ghost. The Mexican boy still hawks tamales to stragglers.
No, we ain't arrested him. Ain't caught up to him, he lit out
for the Territory. I would think he has throwed in with
Lucky Ned Pepper, whose gang robbed a mail hack
yesterday on the Poteau River.
Why are you not looking for him?
I have no authority in the Indian Nation. Tom Chaney is the
business of the U.S. marshals now.
When will they arrest him?
Not soon I am afraid. The marshals are not well staffed and,
I will tell you frankly, Chaney is at the end of a long list of
fugitives and malefactors.
Could I hire a marshal to pursue Tom Chaney?
The sheriff looks at the girl and chuckles.
You have a lot of experience with bounty hunters?
My answer is this: That is a silly question. I am here to
settle my father's affairs.
I am the person for it. Mama was never any good at sums
and she can hardly spell cat. I intend to see papa's killer
I see. Well. Nothing prevents you from offering a reward,
or from so informing a marshal. It would have to be real
money, though, to be persuasive. Chaney is across the river
in the Choctaw Nation--lawless country. It will not be a
daisy-picking expedition. Upwards of three-score US
marshals have been slaughtered in the Territory.
I will see to the money. Who's the best marshal?
I would have to weigh that proposition. I reckon William
Waters is the best tracker. He is half Comanche and it is
something to see him cut for sign. The meanest one is
Rooster Cogburn. He is a pitiless man, double tough and
fear don't enter into his thinking. He loves to pull a cork.
The best is probably L.T. Quinn, he brings his prisoners in
alive. He may let one get by now and again but he believes
even the worst of men is entitled to a fair shake. Quinn is a
good peace officer and a lay preacher to boot. He will not
plant evidence or abuse a prisoner. He is as straight as
string. Yes, I will say Quinn is about the best they have.
Where can I find this Rooster?
Rapping at a door of rough plank.
After a beat, a voice--rasping and slurred:
The jakes is occupied.
Wider. We see that Mattie stands before an outhouse.
I know it is occupied Mr. Cogburn. As I said, I have
business with you.
I have prior business.
You have been at it for quite some time, Mr. Cogburn.
There is no clock on my business! To hell with you! To hell
with you! How did you stalk me here?!
The sheriff told me to look in the saloon. In the saloon they
referred me here. We must talk.
Women ain't allowed in the saloon!
I was not there as a customer. I am fourteen years old.
No response. Mattie reaches up and raps again, vigorously.
The jakes is occupied. And will be for some time.
A coffin is dropped heavily into frame and we see, chalked onto the freshly milled wood of
Hold at station
After a resting beat, during which the coffin's handlers presumably adjust their grip, the
coffin is shoved away over the straw-littered planking of a rail freight car. Once it has
been pushed fully in, the upright planking of the boxcar door blurs through frame in the
extreme foreground til the door slams to rest.
We hear the steam engine start to chug, and the foreground door moves slowly off with the
grinding motion of the train.
Swinging open. It is the barnlike door to the mortician's workroom; the Irish undertaker
holds it open for Mattie. She carries a bedroll.
You can sleep in a coffin if you loik.
Three bodies lay under shrouds on a high work table. The arm of the nearest sticks out,
rope burns on its wrist. Three coffins are in various stages of assembly.
Mattie unwinds the bedroll onto the floor.
Not. . . yet.
Mattie strides along, looking at facades. She stops, looking at the signage on a barnlike
Col. G. Stonehill. Licensed Auctioneer. Cotton Factor.
Mattie steps to the doorway of an office set in a corner of the stable.
How much are you paying for cotton?
Stonehill looks up from his desk. He eyes the girl up and down.
Nine and a half for low middling and ten for ordinary.
We got most of ours out early and sold it to Woodson
Brothers in Little Rock for eleven cents.
Then I suggest you take the balance of it to the Woodson
We took the balance to Woodson. We got ten and a half.
Why did you come here to tell me this?
I thought we might shop around up here next year but I guess
we are doing all right in Little Rock. I am Mattie Ross,
daughter of Frank Ross.
Stonehill sets his pen down and leans back.
A tragic thing. May I say your father impressed me with his
manly qualities. He was a close trader but he acted the
I propose to sell those ponies back to you that my father
That, I fear, is out of the question. I will see that they are
shipped to you at my earliest convenience.
We don't want the ponies now. We don't need them.
Well that hardly concerns me. Your father bought those five
ponies and paid for them and there is an end of it. I have the
bill of sale.
And I want three hundred dollars for Papa's saddle horse that
was stolen from your stable.
You will have to take that up with the man who stole the
Tom Chaney stole the horse while it was in your care. You
I admire your sand but I believe you will find that I am not
liable for such claims.
You were custodian. If you were a bank and were robbed
you could not simply tell the depositors to go hang.
I do not entertain hypotheticals, the world as it is is vexing
enough. Secondly, your valuation of the horse is high by
about two hundred dollars. How old are you?
If anything my price is low. Judy is a fine racing mare. She
has won purses of twenty-five dollars; I have seen her jump
an eight-rail fence with a heavy rider. I am fourteen.
Hmm. Well, that's all very interesting. The ponies are
yours, take them. Your father's horse was stolen by a
murderous criminal. I had provided reasonable protection
for the creature as per our implicit agreement. My watchman
had his teeth knocked out and can take only soup. We must
each bear his own misfortunes.
I will take it to law.
You have no case.
Lawyer J. Noble Daggett of Dardanelle, Arkansas may think
otherwise--as might a jury, petitioned by a widow and three
Where is your mother?
She is at home in Yell County looking after my sister
Victoria and my brother Little Frank.
I cannot make an agreement with a minor child. You are not
Lawyer Dagget will back up any decision I make, you may
rest easy on that score. You can confirm any agreement by
I will pay two hundred dollars to your father's estate when I
have in my hand a letter from your lawyer absolving me of
all liability from the beginning of the world to date. The
offer is more than liberal and I make it only to avoid the
possibility of troublesome litigation.
I will take two hundred dollars for Judy, plus one hundred
for the ponies and twenty-five dollars for the gray horse that
Tom Chaney left. He is easily worth forty. That is three
hundred twenty-five dollars total.
The ponies have no part of this. I will not buy them.
Then the price for Judy is three hundred twenty-five dollars.
I would not pay three hundred and twenty-five dollars for
winged Pegasus! As for the gray horse, it does not belong to
you! And you are a snip!
The gray was lent to Tom Chaney by my father. Chaney
only had the use of him. Your other points are beneath
I will pay two hundred and twenty-five dollars and keep the
gray horse. I don't want the ponies.
I cannot accept that. (she stands) There can be no
settlement after I leave this office. It will go to law.
This is my last offer. Two hundred and fifty dollars. For
that I get the release previously discussed and I keep your
father's saddle. I am also writing off a feed and stabling
charge. The gray horse is not yours to sell. You are an
The saddle is not for sale. I will keep it. Lawyer Dagget can
prove ownership of the gray horse. He will come after you
with a writ of replevin.
A what? All right, now listen very carefully as I will not
bargain further. I will take the ponies back and keep the gray
horse which is mine and settle for three hundred dollars.
Now you must take that or leave it and I do not much care
which it is.
Lawyer Daggett would not wish me to consider anything
under three hundred twenty-five dollars. But I will settle for
three hundred and twenty if I am given the twenty in
advance. And here is what I have to say about the saddle--
We are tracking down the street we toward the Monarch Boarding House.
Mattie is humping a saddle up the street. She stops before the boarding house. She looks
at its sign. She looks at its busted-out porch railing.
INSIDE THE PARLOR
A Marjorie Main-like woman crushes Mattie to her bosom.
Frank Ross's daughter. My poor child. My poor child.
Mattie grimaces, arms pinned to her sides.
You have my father's traps?
Oh yes we do. My poor child. Are you gawna be stayin
with us or are you hurrying home to your mother?
I am staying briefly. I have business with Marshal Rooster
Cogburn. I found him in his cups today but I understand
he's to be in court tomorrow, testifying. I mean to engage
him to hunt down Tom Chaney.
Well god bless him for that. The tariff here is seventy-five
cents for room and supper. That does not include your
Your father owed for two days, god bless him.
You'll share a room with Grandma Turner. We've had to
double up, what with all the people in town come to see the
hanging Judge Parker's put on for us.
Yes, I witnessed the hanging myself.
Was it a good'n?
A blanket is unrolled to reveal a watch, a cheap knife, and a long-barreled Colt's dragoon
revolver. Voice off:
This was in the poor man's room. This is everything, there
are no light fingers in this house. If you need something for
to tote the gun around I will give you an empty flour sack for
We hear wind whistling through cracks in the floorboards and walls.
We hear snoring.
There is one bed, not large, with two shapes in it.
We cut in closer to find Mattie lying on her back, staring. She shivers, shoulders hunched.
The thin blanket barely covers her.
She pulls the blanket gently, slowly, so that it covers her exposed side.
A beat of snoring, a snorfle, and then, as we hold on Mattie, the crackle of mattress ticking
under a shifting body--and the blanket is pulled away toward the unseen snorer.
Voices echo from inside the courtroom. Mattie cracks a heavy oak door and slips in.
The gallery is crowded. Mattie is at the back of a press of standees.
Her point-of-view, semi-obstructed: on the witness stand is Rooster Cogburn, a rough-
hewn man going to middle-aged fat. He has a patch over one eye.
The woman was out in the yard dead with blowflies on her
face and the old man was inside with his breast blowed open
by a scatter-gun and his feet burned. He was still alive but
just was. He said them two Wharton boys had done it, rode
Dying declaration, your honor.
Overruled. Procede, Mr. Cogburn.
Them two Wharton boys--that'd be Odus and C.C.--
throwed down on him, asked him where his money was,
when he wouldn't talk lit pine knots and held 'em to his feet.
He told 'em in a fruit jar under a gray rock at one corner of
Well he died on us. Passed away in considerable pain.
What did you do then?
Me and Marshal Potter went out to the smokehouse and that
rock had been moved and that jar was gone.
You found a flat gray rock at the corner of the smokehouse
with a hollowed-out space under it?
If the prosecutor is going to give evidence I suggest that he
Marshal Cogburn, what did you find, if anything, at the
corner of the smokehouse?
We found a flat gray rock with a hollowed-out space under
it. Nothin there.
And what did--
No jar or nothin.
What did you do then?
Well we rode up to the Whartons', near where the North
Fork strikes the Canadian, branch of the Canadian.
And what did you find?
I had my glass and we spotted the two boys and their old
daddy, Aaron Wharton, down there on the creek bank with
some hogs. They'd killed a shoat and was butchering it.
They'd built a fire under a wash pot for scalding water.
What did you do?
Crept down. I announced that we was U.S. marshals and
hollered to Aaron that we needed to talk to his boys. He
picked up a axe and commenced to cussing us and
blackguarding this court.
What did you do then?
Backed away trying to talk some sense into him. But C.C.
edges over by the wash pot and picks up a shotgun. Potter
seen him but it was too late. C.C. Wharton pulled down on
Potter with one barrel and then turned to do the same for me
with the other. I shot him and when the old man swung the
axe I shot him. Odus lit out and I shot him. Aaron Wharton
and C.C. Wharton was dead when they hit the ground but
Odus was just winged.
Did you find the jar with the hundred and twenty dollars in
What happened then?
I found the jar with a hundred and twenty dollars in it.
And what happened to Marshal Potter?
Died. Leaves a wife and six babies.
Strike the comment.
And what became of Odus Wharton?
There he sets.
Okay. You may ask, Mr. Goudy.
Thank you, Mr. Barlow. In your four years as U.S. marshal,
Mr. Cogburn, how many men have you shot?
There is more to this shooting than meets the eye, Judge
Parker. I will establish the bias of this witness.
Objection is overruled.
How many, Mr. Cogburn?
I never shot nobody I didn't have to.
That was not the question. How many?
. . . Shot or killed?
Let us restrict it to "killed" so that we may have a
Around twelve or fifteen. Stopping men in flight, defending
myself, et cetera.
Around twelve or fifteen. So many that you cannot keep a
precise count. Remember, you are under oath. I have
examined the records and can supply the accurate figure.
I believe them two Whartons make twenty-three.
Twenty-three dead men in four years.
It is a dangerous business.
How many members of this one family, the Wharton family,
have you killed?
Your honor, perhaps counsel should be advised that the
marshal is not the defendant in this action.
The history is relevant your honor. Goes to Cogburn's
methods and animosities.
Did you also shoot Dub Wharton, brother, and Clete
Clete was selling ardent spirits to the Cherokee. He come at
me with a king bolt.
You were armed and he advanced upon you with nothing but
a king bolt? From a wagon tongue?
I've seen men badly tore up with things no bigger than a
king bolt. I defended myself.
And, returning to the encounter with Aaron and his two
remaining sons, you sprang from cover with your revolver in
Loaded and cocked?
If it ain't loaded and cocked it don't shoot.
And like his son, Aaron Wharton advanced against an armed
He was armed. He had that axe raised.
Yes. I believe you testified that you backed away from
That is right.
Which direction were you going?
I always go backwards when I'm backing up.
Very amusing I suppose--for all of us except Aaron
Wharton. Now, he advanced upon you much in the manner
of Clete Wharton menacing you with that king bolt or rolled-
up newspaper or whatever it was.
Yes sir. He commenced to cussing and laying about with
And you were backing away? How many steps before the
Seven, eight steps?
Aaron Wharton keeping pace, advancing, away from the fire
seven eight steps--what would that be, fifteen, twenty feet?
Will you explain to the jury, Mr. Cogburn, why Mr. Wharton
was found immediately by the wash pot with one arm in the
fire, his sleeve and hand smoldering?
Did you move the body after you shot him?
Why would I do that?
You did not drag his body over to the fire? Fling his arm in?
Two witnesses who arrived on the scene will testify to the
location of the body. You do not remember moving the
body? So it was a bushwack, as he tended his campfire?
I, if that was where the body was I might have moved him. I
do not remember.
Why would you move the body, Mr. Cogburn?
Them hogs rooting around might have moved him. I do not
Mattie waits as people file out. She pushes forward to meet Cogburn when he emerges,
Son of a goddamn bitch.
What is it.
He does not look up from the cigarette he is trying to roll. His hands are shaking.
I would like to talk with you a minute.
What is it.
They tell me you are a man with true grit.
What do you want, girl? Speak up. It is suppertime.
Let me do that.
She takes the fixings and rolls, licks, and twists the cigarette.
. . . Your makings are too dry. I am looking for the man who
shot and killed my father, Frank Ross, in front of the
Monarch boarding house. The man's name is Tom Chaney.
They say he is over in Indian Territory and I need somebody
to go after him.
What is your name, girl?
My name is Mattie Ross. We are located in Yell County.
My mother is at home looking after my sister Victoria and
my brother Little Frank.
You had best go home to them. They will need help with the
There is a fugitive warrant out for Chaney. The government
will pay you two dollars for bringing him in plus ten cents a
mile for each of you. On top of that I will pay you a fifty-
Cogburn gazes at her.
What are you? (looks at the flour sack she holds) What've
you got there in your poke?
She opens it. Cogburn smiles.
. . . By God! A Colt's dragoon! Why, you're no bigger than
a corn nubbin, what're you doing with a pistol like that?
I intend to kill Tom Chaney with it if the law fails to do so.
Well, that piece will do the job--if you can find a high
stump to rest it on and a wall to put behind you.
Nobody here knew my father and I am afraid nothing much
is going to be done about Chaney except I do it. My brother
is a child and my mother is indecisive and hobbled by grief.
I don't believe you have fifty dollars.
I will shortly. I have a contract with Colonel Stonehill which
he will make payment on tomorrow or the next day, once a
I don't believe fairy tales or sermons or stories about money,
baby sister. But thank you for the cigarette.
EVENING--BOARDING HOUSE PORCH
Mattie climbs the few steps from the street. Her attention is drawn by:
A man sitting on a chair to one side enjoying the quiet of the evening. He is dressed for
riding, with perhaps a bit too much panache. It is almost dark and he is hard to see but it
seems he is watching Mattie, amused.
He raises a pipe to his mouth and pulls at it. The glow from the excited bowl kicks on his
eyes, which are indeed tracking her.
Mattie, discomfited by his look, turns hastily forward and pushes open the door. A
jingling sound prompts one more glance to the side.
The man's face is now hidden by his hat. Just before Mattie's point of view, now a lateral
track, starts to lose him behind the door jamb, he raises a spurred boot to push against the
porch rail and tip his chair back. He raises his other foot, spur jingling, and drapes it over
We are pushing in on the landlady.
Isn't your mother expecting you home, dear? I did not think
to see you this evening.
My business is not yet finished. Mrs. Floyd, have any rooms
opened up? Grandma Turner. . . the bed is quite narrow.
The second-floor back did open up but the gentleman on the
porch has just taken it. But don't worry yourself, dear--you
are not disturbing Grandma Turner.
As before, unseen Grandma Turner snores loudly as wind whistles and Mattie shivers.
Fade to black.
In the quiet, a faint crickle-crackle of flame. It is followed by a lip-pop and a deep inhale.
Mattie opens her eyes. She is beaded with sweat. She looks blearily up.
The room is dim. A man sits facing her in a straghtback chair, faintly backlit by the
daylight leaking through the curtained window behind him. He exhales pipesmoke.
You are sleeping the day away.
I am not well.
The man rises and, spurs jingling, crosses to the window, and throws open the curtain.
Mattie squints at him against the daylight:
The man has a cowlick and barndoor ears and is once again well-accoutered for riding. He
steps away from the window and reseats himself.
You do not look well. My name is LeBoeuf. I have just
come from Yell County.
We have no rodeo clowns in Yell County.
A saucy line will not get you far with me. I saw your mother
yesterday morning. She says for you to come right on home.
Hm. What was your business there?
LeBoeuf takes a small photograph from his coat.
This is a man I think you know.
Mattie looks at the picture through red-rimmed eyes.
. . . You called him Tom Chaney, I believe. . .
Mattie declines to contradict. LeBoeuf continues:
. . . though in the months I have been tracking him he has
used the names Theron Chelmsford, John Todd Andersen,
and others. He dallied in Monroe, Louisiana, and Pine Bluff,
Arkansas before turning up at your father's place.
Why did you not catch him in Monroe, Louisiana or Pine
He is a crafty one.
I thought him slow-witted myself.
That was his act.
It was a good one. Are you some kind of law?
LeBoeuf tips back in his chair and draws back his coat to display a star. A smug look.
That's right. I am a Texas Ranger.
That may make you a big noise in that state; in Arkansas you
should mind that your Texas trappings and title do not make
you an object of fun. Why have you been ineffectually
LeBoeuf's smile stays in place with effort.
He shot and killed a state senator named Bibbs down in
Waco, Texas. The Bibbs family have put out a reward.
How came Chaney to shoot a state senator?
My understanding is there was an argument about a dog. Do
you know anything about where Chaney has gone?
He is in the Territory, and I hold out little hope for you
earning your bounty.
Why is that?
My man will beat you to it. I have hired a deputy marshal,
the toughest one they have, and he is familiar with the Lucky Ned Pepper
gang that they say Chaney has tied up with.
Well, I will throw in with you and your marshal.
No. Marshal Cogburn and I are fine.
It'll be to our mutual advantage. Your marshal I presume
knows the Territory; I know Chaney. It is at least a two-man
job taking him alive.
When Chaney is taken he is coming back to Fort Smith to
hang. I am not having him go to Texas to hang for shooting
Haw-haw! It is not important where he hangs, is it?
It is to me. Is it to you?
It means a great deal of money to me. It's been many
I'm sorry that you are paid piecework not on wages, and that
you have been eluded the winter long by a halfwit. Marshal
Cogburn and I are fine.
You give out very little sugar with your pronouncements.
While I sat there watching you I gave some thought to
stealing a kiss, though you are very young and sick and
unattractive to boot, but now I have a mind to give you five
or six good licks with my belt.
Mattie rolls away onto her side.
One would be as unpleasant as the other. If you wet your
comb, it might tame that cowlick.
Her eyelids droop.
Spurs jingle and fade away.
Distant voices from the street. Clanging church bell. Very close, the clink of bottle
Mattie looks blearily over. The room is now filled with long shadows.
The landlady has materialized at the side of the bed. She is pouring something from a
bottle into a ceramic cup.
Try some Dr. Underwood's. You may feel giddy but do not
be alarmed as that is only the medicine working.
Mattie obediently rises to an elbow, drinks, then drops back onto the pillow. A clunk:
The landlady has set the bottle down on the nightstand.
Mattie squints at the bottle:
Dr. Underwood's Bile Activator
Approved by Physicians and Clergymen
The room's shadows grow longer still and crawl up the bottle.
The voice of the unseen landlady echoes and trails away:
I will charge you ten cents. It probably means a loss for me,
but it is hard to figure the exact proportion of the bottle. . .
From outside, the sound of a horse approaching at a gallop.
We cut outside. It is snowing, and night again.
Frank Ross's body is once again in the street before the boarding house.
The bareback horseman enters frame and recedes, rifle tied to his back.
A saddled horse stands in the middle of the street, pointed at the receding Tom Chaney.
Chaney disappears down the dark street into the falling snow.
Small hands reach up and wrap the saddlehorn on the waiting horse.
Mattie's face appears over the saddle as she tries to pull herself up.
Close on her feet rising from the ground, then pedaling, seeking purchase. There are no
Close on Mattie again. Sweating, she succeeds in chinning and elbowing herself onto the
horse's back. The sound of the fleeing horseman has receded almost to nothing.
She gets herself arranged in the saddle. She looks down for the reins.
The reins hang down from the bit.
She lies forward onto the horse's neck, a fistful of mane in one hand, reaching with the
other. . . reaching down. . . her fingers curl around the reins. . . she pulls.
The horse tosses its head and rears.
Mattie's legs squeeze the horses flanks.
Her fingers tighten on the horses mane but she is slipping, falling. . .
In the boarding house bedroom Mattie's hands clutch at pillow.
It is dark.
A phlegm-hawking sound.
A woman in a nightgown, face obscured by sleeping bonnet, approaches the bed and
disappears around its far side.
The sound of the old woman climbing into bed and settling.
After a beat, the covers are yanked from Mattie.
After another beat--snoring.
The door bangs open at the cut and Mattie emerges with an envelope.
It is day.
Mattie walks down the street holding the ripped-open envelope in one hand and some
unfolded papers in the other, the topmost of which she reads as she walks.
We hear the letter's contents in a gruff male voice-over:
Mattie. I wish you would leave these matters entirely to me,
or at the very least do me the courtesy of consulting me
before entering such agreements. I am not scolding you, but
I am saying your headstrong ways will lead you into a tight
corner one day. I trust the enclosed document will let you
conclude your business and return to Dardanelle. Your
mother is in a panic and begging me to fetch you back home.
Yours, J. Noble Dagget.
Thrust onto a desk.
Wider shows that we are once again in the office of Stonehill, the stock trader. He
examines the release through bleary eyes, displaying none of his former vinegar.
I was as bad yesterday as you look today. I was forced to
share a bed with Grandma Turner.
The trader's eyes are still on the paper:
I am not acquainted with Grandma Turner. If she is a
resident of this city it does not surprise me that she carries
disease. I was told this malarial place was to be the Chicago
of the Southwest. Well, my little friend, it is not the Chicago
of the Southwest. I cannot rightly say what it is, but it has
ruined my health as it has my finances.
He drops the paper.
. . . I owe you money.
He works a key in a drawer and takes out money and counts during the following.
You have not traded poorly.
Certainly not. I am paying you for a horse I do not possess
and have bought back a string of useless ponies I cannot sell
You are forgetting the gray horse.
You are looking at the thing in the wrong light.
I am looking at it in the light of God's eternal truth.
He hands the money across and Mattie counts to confirm.
Your illness is putting you "down in the dumps." You will
soon find a buyer for the ponies.
I have a tentative offer of ten dollars per head from the
Pfitzer Soap Works of Little Rock.
It would be a shame to destroy such spirited horseflesh.
So it would. I am confident the deal will fall through.
Look here. I need a pony. I will pay ten dollars for one of
No. That was lot price. No no. Wait a minute. Are we
trading again? I just handed you twenty dollars each for
those ponies and you now propose to buy one back for ten?
Little girl: I will give you ten dollars to refrain from doing
any more business here. It would be the most astute deal I
have struck in Arkansas.
We are tracking along a line of stalls toward a small corral holding a black mustang,
among other ponies.
Mattie is approaching the horse. A black stablehand has been trailing her, humping her
This one is beautiful.
She rubs the muzzle of the black horse.
She takes the saddle from the stablehand and tries to throw it over the horse. She is not tall
or strong enough.
The stableboy helps, then helps her up.
The horse does not move for a long beat.
The stableboy is laughing.
He don't know they's a person up there. You too light.
She kicks lightly and the horse abruptly pitches once or twice and then starts prancing.
The stableboy, still laughing, stands in the middle of a circle defined by the prancing horse.
He thinks he got a horsefly on him.
Mattie leans forward to calm the horse, rubbing the muzzle and shushing him.
He is very spirited. I will call him "Little Blackie."
Das a good name.
What does he like for a treat?
Ma'am, he is a horse, so he likes apples.
She reins the horse around and heads for the door, calling back:
Thank Mr. Stonehill for me.
The receding stableboy is uncomfortable.
No ma'am. . . I ain't s'posed to utter your name.
Whipped up at the cut.
Peering in is Mattie; holding the makeshift curtain open is an elderly Chinese.
Behind them we can see the shelves of a modest grocery store and in the deep background
its bright street-facing window.
Reverse: a squalid living area crowded with effects. It is dim. There is snoring. Rooster
Cogburn is in a Chinese rope bed, his weight bowing it almost to the ground.
Mattie steps in.
That is fine. I will wake him.
Mattie ignores him, poking at Rooster as the grocer withdraws, letting the canvas drop
Mr. Cogburn, it is I. Mattie Ross, your employer.
How long til you are ready to go?
Rooster opens his eyes, blinks.
Into the Indian Territory. In pursuit of Tom Chaney.
Whah. . .
He focuses on Mattie, swings his legs out, rumbles, and spits on the floor.
. . . Oh.
He reaches over a pouch of tobacco and begins fumbling with cigarette makings.
. . . Chaney. You are the bereaved girl with stories of El
Dorado. Mr. Lee! Why are you admitting callers!
A voice from the front of the store:
Toad her no good!
Mattie takes out some cash.
I said fifty dollars to retrieve Chaney. You did not believe
Rooster is sobered by the sight of the currency.
Well, I did not know. You are a hard one to figure.
How long for you to make ready to depart?
Mattie takes the cigarette fixings at which Rooster is fumbling and works on a cigarette.
Well now wait now, sis. I remember your offer but do not
remember agreeing to it. If I'm going up against Ned
Pepper I will need a hundred dollars. I can tell you that
much. Hundred dollars! I am not pursuing his gang through
Arkansas, where there is law, and the criminal is out of his
element. They are in the Territory, in their element, where
there is no law and the marshal stands alone.
He spits again.
. . . Hundred dollars is the right amount. I will take those
fifty dollars in advance. There will be expenses.
You are trying to take advantage of me.
I am giving you the children's rate. I am not a sharper, I am
an old man sleeping in a rope bed in a room behind a
Chinese grocery. I should burn this damn thing. It is no
good for my back, sister. I have nothing.
She hands him the finished cigarette.
You want to be kept in whiskey.
Rooster is patting at his chest.
I don't have to buy that, I confiscate it. I am an officer of the
She lights his cigarette.
. . . Thank you. Hundred dollars. That is the rate.
I shall not niggle. Can we depart this afternoon?
The word detonates a fit of coughing.
. . . You are not going. That is no part of it.
You misjudge me if you think I am silly enough to give you
fifty dollars and simply watch you ride off.
I am a bonded U.S. marshal!
That weighs but little with me. I will see the thing done.
You never said anything about this. I cannot go up against
Ned Pepper and a band of hard men and look after a baby at
the same time.
I am not a baby.
I will not be stopping at boarding houses with warm beds
and plates of hot grub on the table. It will be traveling fast
and eating light. What little sleeping is done will take place
on the ground.
I have slept out at night. Papa took me and Little Frank coon
hunting last summer on the Petit Jean. We were in the
woods all night. We sat around a big fire and Yarnell told
ghost stories. We had a good time.
Coon hunting! This ain't no coon hunt, it don't come within
forty miles of being a coon hunt!
It is the same idea as a coon hunt. You are just trying to
make your work sound harder than it is. Here is the money.
I aim to get Tom Chaney and if you are not game I will find
somebody who is game. All I have heard out of you so far is
talk. I know you can drink whiskey and snore and spit and
wallow in filth and bemoan your station. The rest has been
braggadocio. They told me you had grit and that is why I
came to you. I am not paying for talk. I can get all the talk I
need and more at the Monarch Boarding House.
Rooster stares, nonplussed.
He drops back into the rope bed, which sets it swaying. As he stares up at the ceiling:
Leave the money. Meet me here tomorrow morning at seven
o'clock and we will begin our coon hunt.
GRANDMA TURNER'S ROOM
Mattie makes early-morning preparations to leave as Grandma Turner snores. She unrolls
her father's traps and takes out a big-brimmed fisherman's hat and puts it on: too big. She
lines it with newspaper, experimenting with the amount until it fits. She puts on his coat,
gives the sleeves a big cuff. She examines the Colt's dragoon. She drops apples into a
She finishes by folding a letter she has written and putting it into an envelope.
Throughout, we have been hearing its contents in voice-over:
Dearest Mother. I am about to embark on a great adventure.
Or dare I call it a mission, for shall any of us rest easy ere
Papa's death is avenged? My investigations in Fort Smith
lead me to believe that Tom Chaney can be found and
brought to justice, and I have made arrangements to that end.
I will return to you once I have seen them properly carried
through. . .
EXTERIOR BOARDING HOUSE
Mattie is cinching her gear onto Little Blackie. She mounts and rides off as the letter ends:
But do not worry on my account. Though I walk through the
valley of the shadow of death, I shall fear no evil. The
author of all things watches over me. And I have a fine
horse. Kiss Little Frankie for me and pinch Violet's cheek.
I am off for the Choctaw Nation.
Tracking toward Rooster's rope bed. A hat is pulled down over the face of the figure
reclining in it. Smoke sifts up from somewhere.
Mattie draws up to the figure with mounting concern. She pulls the hat off. It is the
elderly Chinese grocer.
Where is Marshal Cogburn!
The grocer reaches a pipe and pulls on it. His manner is dreamy.
Went away. . .
The grocer pulls an envelope from underneath his robe and hands it to Mattie. He closes
his eyes and drifts away.
Mattie pulls a scrap of paper from the envelope and reads:
Here inside is a train ticket for your return home. Use it. By
the time you read this I will be across the river in the Indian
nation. Pursuit would be futile. I will return with your man
Chaney. Leave me to my work. Reuben Cogburn.
Mattie's jaw tightens. She abruptly crumples the paper.
Mattie gallops down an embankment to a river of some width. At the near-side ferry
station a raft enclosed by railing waits, its guide rope strung across the river. A pilot
idles on the near shore.
On the far shore two small figures, mounted, ascend the opposite bank. Mattie draws up in
front of the ferryman at the edge of the river.
Is that Marshal Cogburn?
That is the man.
Who's he with?
I do not know.
Take me across.
He reaches for the reins of her horse.
So you're the runaway. Marshal told me you'd show up.
I'm to present you to the sheriff.
That is a story. Let go my horse. I have business across the
The ferryman is leading Little Blackie back up the hill toward the town. Mattie cranes
around to look at the two small figures across the river. They have twisted in their saddles
to look back.
. . . Look Slim, if you don't turn around and take me across
you may find yourself in court where you don't want to be. I
have a good lawyer.
Name ain't Slim.
She looks at the dull man's unresponsive back. She twists to look across the river.
The two mounted figures are breaking their look back and resuming their climb up the
Mattie draws an apple from the bag slung round the saddlehorn and pegs it, hard as she
can, at the ferryman.
It hits him square in the back of the head. He reacts, reaching to his head and dropping the
Mattie has already leaned forward for the reins and sweeps them back. She saws Little
Blackie around and sends him galloping for the river.
Run, Little Blackie!
She urges the horse, at the gallop, into the river.
The splashing and shouts have again drawn the attention of the two men across the river.
As the horse goes further into the river its up-and-down gait slows, the water offering
The ferryman has run down to the bank. He stoops for a rock and throws it. It misses by a
Little Blackie leaves riverbottom and starts swimming.
The two men across the river, having twisted to look, now rein their horses round to face
the action. But they do not advance. They rest forearms on pommels and watch.
Little Blackie is being carried downstream as he swims against a swift current.
Good, Little Blackie!
Little Blackie's head dips as he finds his feet again. He slogs laboriously to what is now
the nearer shore.
The two men up the bank impassively watch.
The horse and Mattie emerge fully from the river, dripping.
Mattie taps heels against Little Blackie's flanks and walks him slowly up the bank. She
stops many yards short of the two men--Rooster and LeBoeuf.
A silent standoff as Little Blackie breathes heavily. The two expressionless men still have
That's quite a horse.
A long pause.
. . . I will give you ten dollars for him.
From the money you stole from me?
That was not stolen. I'm out for your man.
I was to accompany you. If I do not, there is no agreement
and my money was stolen.
Rooster licks his lips, thinking.
Marshal, put this child back on the ferry. We have a long
road, and time is a-wasting.
If I go back, it is to the office of the U.S. marshals to report
the theft of my money. And futile, Marshal Cogburn--
"Pursuit would be futile"?--is not spelt f-u-d-e-l.
A heavy silence as Cogburn stares at her.
LeBoeuf looks between the two, waiting for Rooster to take action. Gathering that he will
not, LeBoeuf slides off his horse.
Mattie watches as he walks to Little Blackie, holding up a gentling hand for the horse to
sniff at and nuzzle.
He abruptly swipes the reins with one hand and with the other grabs Mattie's ankle. He
pushes momentarily to unstirrup the foot and then pulls hard, tumbling Mattie to the
Little sister, it is time for your spanking.
He begins to spank her.
Help me, Marshal!
Rooster sits impassively on his horse.
Now you do as the grown-ups say! Or I will get myself a
birch switch and stripe your leg!
Mattie is struggling and in spite of herself starts to weep. LeBoeuf drags her through the
dirt to a mesquite bush and snaps off a switch.
Now we will see what tune you sing!
Mattie, wet and filthy, tries vainly to swat back. Rooster still watches without expression
as LeBoeuf whips the girl.
Are you going to let him do this, Marshal?
No, I don't believe I will. Put your switch away, LeBoeuf.
She has got the best of us.
LeBoeuf looks back, for a moment too surprised to speak. He then regains his resolve:
She has not got the best of me!
He returns to the beating.
Did you not hear me? That will do, I said.
I aim to finish what I started.
That will be the biggest mistake you ever made, you Texas
The sound of a gun being cocked.
LeBoeuf leaves off the beating to stare at Rooster--whose gun is drawn, cocked, and
pointed at him.
LeBoeuf flings the switch aside and stalks to his horse. He mutters, but loud enough to be
Hoorawed by a little girl.
Mattie sits looking into the fire, hands clasped around her knees.
LeBoeuf sits feet to the fire, smoking a pipe that, with his boyish face, makes him look as
if he is playing at professor. He gazes into the fire, musing as he pulls at the pipe.
I am not accustomed to so large a fire. In Texas, we will
make do with a fire of little more than twigs or buffalo chips
to heat the night's ration of beans.
Rooster enters the circle of light with an armload of wood.
. . . And, it is Ranger policy never to make your camp in the
same place as your cookfire. Very imprudent to make your
presence known in unsettled country.
Rooster gazes at LeBoeuf for a beat, then dumps the wood onto the fire.
He leaves the circle of light.
LeBoeuf addresses the darkness that Rooster has disappeared into:
. . . How do you know that Bagby will have intelligence?
He has a store.
He reenters with a length of rope, and a robe which he unrolls onto the ground.
A store. That makes him an authority on movements in the
Rooster plays out one end of the rope to just touch the ground, then starts playing out the
rest as he paces.
We have entered a wild place. Anyone coming in, wanting
any kind of supply, cannot pick and choose his portal.
He has finished making a loop around his sleeping robe. Seeing this, LeBoeuf laughs.
That is a piece of foolishness. All the snakes are asleep this
time of year.
As he leaves the circle of light:
They have been known to wake up.
Let me have a rope too.
A snake would not bother you.
He reenters with a bottle and settles down on his robe.
. . . You are too little and bony. Before you sleep you should
fetch water for the morning and put it by the fire. The
creek'll ice over tonight.
I am not going down there again. If you want any more
water you can fetch it yourself.
Everyone in my party must do his job.
You are lucky to be traveling in a place where a spring is so
handy. In my country you can ride for days and see no
ground water. I have lapped filthy water from a hoofprint
and was glad to have it.
If I ever meet one of you Texas waddies that says he never
drank water from a horse track I think I will shake his hand
and give him a Daniel Webster cigar.
You don't believe it?
I believed it the first twenty-five times I heard it. Maybe it is
true. Maybe lapping water off the ground is Ranger policy.
You are getting ready to show your ignorance now, Cogburn.
I don't mind a little personal chaffing but I won't hear
anything against the Ranger troop from a man like you.
How long have you boys been mounted on sheep down
LeBoeuf leaps angrily to his feet.
My shaggy horse will be galloping when that big American
stud of yours is winded and collapsed. Now make another
joke about it. You are only trying to put on a show for this
girl Mattie with what you must think is a keen tongue.
This is like women talking.
Yes, that is the way! Make me out foolish in this girl's eyes.
I think she has got you pretty well figured.
Silence. Crackling fire.
Would you two like to hear the story of "The Midnight
Caller"? One of you will have to be "The Caller." I will tell
you what to say. I will do all the other parts myself.
LeBoeuf continues to glare at Rooster, breathing heavily.
Rooster, with a loud flap, whips the robe over himself.
We are close on Mattie's upturned face. Snowflakes are drifting down onto it and
melting. Mattie's eyes blink open.
Rooster is already at his horse, packing it. LeBoeuf is not in evidence.
Good morning, Marshal.
(eyes on his work)
Where is Mr. LeBoeuf?
A toss of his head:
Down the hill. Performing his necessaries.
Marshal Cogburn, I welcome the chance for a private parley.
I gather that you and Mr. LeBoeuf have come to some sort of
agreement. As your employer I believe I have a right to
know the particulars.
The particulars is that we bring Chaney in to the magistrate
in San Saba Texas where they have a considerable reward on
offer. Which we split.
I did not want him brought to Texas, to have Texas
punishment administered for a Texas crime. That was not
Rooster gives a vicious tug on the cinchrope.
What you want is to have him caught and punished.
I want him to know he is being punished for killing my
Rooster turns to her.
You can let him know that. You can tell him to his face.
You can spit on him and make him eat sand out of the road.
I will hold him down. If you want I will flay the flesh off the
soles of his feet and find you an Indian pepper to rub into the
wound. Isn't that a hundred dollars' value?
It is not. When I have bought and paid for something I will
have my way. Why do you think I am paying you if not to
have my way?
It is time for you to learn you cannot have your way in every
little particular. Other people have their interests.
We hear spurs jingling.
. . . I am a free agent. If you find I fail to satisfy your terms I
will return your money at the end of this expedition.
Little Blackie and I are riding back to the U.S. marshals'
office. This is fraud.
God damn it!
LeBoeuf has appeared.
What's going on?
This is a business conversation.
Is that what you call it. It sounds to me like you are still
being hoorawed by a little girl.
Did you say hooraw!
That was the word.
I will show you hooraw!
There is no hoorawing in it. My agreement with the Marshal
antedates yours. It has the force of law.
The force of law! This man is a notorious thumper! He rode
by the light of the moon with Quantrill and Bloody Bill
Those men was patriots, Texas trash!
They murdered women and children in Lawrence, Kansas.
I have heard that too. It is a damned lie! What army was
you in, mister?
I was at Shreveport first with Kirby-Smith--
What side was you on?
I was in the army of Northern Virginia, Cogburn, and I don't
have to hang my head when I say it!
If you had served with Captain Quantrill--
Captain Quantrill indeed!
You had best let this go, LeBoeuf!
Captain of what!
Good, then! There are not sufficient dollars in the state of
Texas to make it worth my while to listen to your opinions,
day and night. Our agreement is nullified--it's each man for
LeBoeuf is already mounting his shaggy horse.
That suits me!
He saws the horse around.
. . . Congratulations, Cogburn. You have graduated from
marauder to wetnurse. Adios!
LeBoeuf gallops off with the thunder of hoofs and the jingle of spurs, and Rooster,
seething, turns back to his work.
As the hoofbeats recede, Mattie sounds a note of regret:
We don't need him, do we Marshal?
We'll miss his Sharp's carbine. It's apt to get lively out
EXTERIOR BAGBY'S STORE
A mule is pulling back on a cotton rope round his neck that is tied off to the porch of the
ramshackle store. The beast is strangling as the rope is too tight, and he is being poked
with sticks by two motley-dressed Indian boys up on the porch.
Rooster enters and cuts the rope. The mule brays and canters off, shaking its head, rope
Rooster is already mounting the steps to the porch.
Call that sport, do ya?
He kicks the first youth hard in the ass, sending him sprawling off the porch into the dirt.
The second backs against the railing and Rooster shoves him in the chest so that he flips
backward to also land in the dirt.
Stay here sister. I will see Bagby.
Mattie, astride Little Blackie, holds the reins of Cogburn's horse. As he disappears inside
the two youths climb back onto the porch. They sit at the lip, feet dangling, and stare
sullenly at Mattie. She stares back.
The youths have not moved. The door bangs open and Rooster emerges.
Has Chaney been here?
Crossing back he kicks one of the boys off the porch into the dirt again. The other youth
scampers out of footreach. Rooster starts down the stairs.
But Coke Hayes was, two days ago. Coke runs with Lucky
Ned. He bought supplies, with this.
With a ching he flips a coin to Mattie. She inspects it: gold, square, with a +-shaped cut-
out in the middle.
This is Papa's gold piece! Tom Chaney, here we come!
It is not the world's only California gold piece.
They are rare, here.
They are rare. But if it is Chaney's, it could just as easily
mean that Lucky Ned and his gang fell upon him, as that he
fell in with them. Chaney could be a corpse. These are a
That would be a bitter disappointment, Marshal. What do
Rooster mounts up.
We pursue. Ned is unfinished business for the marshals
anyhow, and when we have him we will also have Chaney
--or we can learn the whereabouts of his body. Bagby
doesn't know which way they went, but now we know they
come through here, they couldn't be going but one of two
ways: north toward the Winding Stair Mountains, or pushing
on further west. I suspect north. There is more to rob.
The youth who was kicked into the dirt is dusting himself off. He has been listening
Mr. Ferrington will want to know who cut loose his mule.
Rooster reins his horse around to go.
Tell him it was Mr. James, a bank examiner from Clay
The James boys is said to be slight, Frank and Jesse both.
One of them has grown fat. The mule will not range far.
You boys mend your ways or I will return some dark night
and cut off one of your heads--I do not say which--and
leave it on the stomach of the other as a warning.
Rooster and Mattie ride abreast along a barely defined road.
Potter and I served with him at Elkhorn Tavern. Even
latterly our activities was by and large martial. We did
though, one time, run across a Yankee paymaster and relieve
him of four thousand dollars in gold coin. Squealed like it
was his own money. Well, since hostilities was officially
ended it was technically criminal so Potter rode down to
Arkansas and I went to Cairo Illinois with my share, started
calling myself Burroughs and opened an eating place called
The Green Frog. I married a grass widow but my drinking
picked up and my wife did not like the company of my river
friends. She decided to go back to her first husband, a clerk
in a hardware store. She said, "Goodbye, Reuben, a love for
decency does not abide in you." I told her, "Goodbye, Nola,
I hope that little nail-selling bastard will make you happy
this time." She took my boy with her too. He never did like
me anyhow. I guess I did speak awful rough to him but I did
not mean nothing by it. You would not want to see a
clumsier child than Horace. I bet he broke forty cups. . .
He frowns and draws up, looking at something. Mattie follows his look.
A man is hanging in a tree--very high, perhaps thirty feet off the ground. The body slowly
twists. The head seems unnaturally large.
At Rooster's shout something separates from the head: we have been looking at not just the
corpse's silhouette but that of a large carrion-eating bird as well, perched on the corpse's
shoulder and feeding at the corpse's face. The bird flaps clumsily off.
Rooster gazes at the strung-up body.
Is it Chaney?
I would not recognize the soles of his feet.
Rooster gets off his horse, pulls a knife from his gear, and ambles to the tree. Mattie
When she arrives Rooster has started sawing at the rope that ties the body off, wrapped
around a chest-high branch stump. Mattie looks up.
She is looking mostly at soles of feet as the foreshortened body twists slowly, high above.
Step back now.
She does. Rooster steps back as well as the almost-cut-through rope starts to unravel by
itself, crazily twisting under the pressure and gently spinning the body above.
The rope snaps. It yanks violently upward, slapping branches.
The body drops--perhaps four feet--and jerks to a stop, jacknifing and dancing.
God damn it.
They both gaze up at the body.
Snagged. Well you are going to have to clamber on up with
this knife. I am too old and too fat.
UP IN THE TREE
Mattie is well up.
We hear Rooster's voice from below:
It had one billiard table, served ladies and men both but
mostly men. I tried to run it myself a while but I couldn't
keep good help and I never did learn how to buy meat. I was
like a man fighting bees. Finally I give up and solt it and
went out to see the country.
Mattie pauses, looking down.
We are over her. Rooster is foreshortened, a long way down, looking up, smoking a
cigarette. He reacts to her look down:
You are doing well.
She looks up, down again, and then proceeds. Rooster continues as well:
. . . That was when I went out to the staked plains of Texas
and shot buffalo with Vernon Shaftoe and a Flathead Indian
Mattie stretches onto tiptoes, reaches, just gets fingers around a branch. She secures it
enough with the one hand to dare to reach with the other. She hauls herself up.
. . . The Mormons had run Shaftoe out of Great Salt Lake
City but don't ask me what it was for. Call it a misunder-
standing and let it go at that. There is no use in you asking
me questions about it, for I will not answer them.
Mattie looks out, at waist-height to the corpse, which twists maybe eight feet away over
the void. Rooster notes her look:
. . . Is it our man?
The face is half-eaten and eyeless.
I believe not.
She moves to start back down, but Rooster calls:
No! Cut him down!
I might know him.
She climbs one more branch to arrive at the hanging branch. She shimmies out onto it and
pulls the knife from Rooster's belt now around her waist.
. . . You see, Olly and me both taken a solemn oath to keep
silent. Well sir, the big shaggies is about all gone. It is a
Mattie looks down, over the shoulder of the close-by foreshortened corpse to the far
. . . I would give three dollars right now for a pickled buffalo
She calls out as she starts sawing:
Why did they hang him so high?
I don't know. Possibly in the belief it would make him more
The sawing continues.
Rooster takes one step back.
The rope snaps. At once:
The body drops.
The branch, unburdened, bucks with Mattie atop it.
She gasps, hugging at the branch, getting swung halfway around it but then righting
The body hits the ground with a smack.
The body is spread out on the ground below, many bones now broken, its posture absurd.
Rooster steps forward. He toes the upper body to get a view of the face. Barely audible:
I do not know this man.
He reacts to something, looking up the road in the direction of their heading.
Mattie looks out. Partly obscured by intervening foliage, an oncoming rider. His pace is
Down on the ground Rooster turns to face the rider--an Indian with a long-bore rifle
balanced sideways across the pommel of his saddle. He wears a tattered Union Army
jacket, crossed bandoliers of rifle shells and a black homburg hat with a feather in its brim.
Rooster drops his hand to his gun as the rider approaches.
Mattie looks down at the foreshortened rider pulling up under the tree. She hears a
greeting and a mostly inaudible exchange.
After some back-and-forth the Indian dismounts. The men stoop at either end of the
corpse. Rooster grabs wrists, the Indian, ankles. They lift.
Mattie frowns. She starts to move.
A MINUTE LATER
Mattie finishes climbing down.
Rooster is just returning from the road to their two horses by the tree. The Indian, with the
corpse slung over the rump of his horse, is resuming his trip in the direction from which
Rooster and Mattie came.
He knew the hanged man?
He did not. But it is a dead body, possibly worth something
He looks up at the sky as snowflakes start to sift down.
It is snowing lightly. Rooster and Mattie are clomping through a stream.
She had taken a notion she wanted me to be a lawyer.
Bought a heavy book called Daniels on Negotiable
Instruments and set me to reading it. Never could get a grip
on it and I was happy enough to set it aside and leave Texas.
There ain't but about six trees between there and Canada,
and nothing else grows but has stickers on it. I went to--
A distant gunshot.
Rooster stops. He twists to look behind.
A listening beat. At length:
I knew it.
We're being followed. I asked the Indian to signal with a
shot if there was someone on our trail.
Should we be concerned, Marshal?
No. It's Mr. LeBoeuf, using us as bird dogs in hopes of
cutting in once we've flushed the prey. Our Texas friend has
got just enough sense to recognize he can't outtrack me.
Perhaps we could double back over our tracks, and confuse
the trail in a clever way.
No, we will wait right here and offer our friend a warm
hello, and ask him where he is going.
Rooster waits, sitting casually astride his horse in the middle of the road. Snow continues
A jingling noise up the road.
Movement: an advancing rider seen through the foliage that masks a bend in the road.
The oncoming rider rounds the bend.
He approaches: a white man with big whiskers, his horse leading a packhorse loaded with
clinking and jangling sundries. Draped on his own horse's rump is the hanged man's
The stranger wears a fierce bear head as hat. The rest of the bearskin trails down his body
He advances unhurriedly towards Rooster. At a few yards' distance he draws up, content
to sit his horse and solemnly return Rooster's stare.
You are not LeBoeuf.
My name is Forster. I practice dentistry in the Nation. Also,
veterinary arts. And medicine, on those humans that will sit
still for it.
You have your work cut out for you there.
Traded for him with an Indian, who said he came by him
honestly. I gave up two dental mirrors and a bottle of
expectorant. (beat) Do either of you need medical
Rooster straightens as if to rein his horse around but stops with a thought:
. . . It is fixing to get cold. Do you know of any place to take
I have my bearskin. You might want to head to the Original
Greaser Bob's. He notched a dugout into a hollow along the
Carrillon River. If you ride the river you won't fail to see it.
Greaser Bob--Original Greaser Bob--is hunting north of the
picket wire and would not begrudge its use.
The Bear Man tilts his head to indicate the corpse behind him.
I have taken his teeth. I will entertain an offer for the rest of
A point-of-view looking down on a thrown-together cabin dug into the flanks of a ravine.
Its roof meets hillside at the rear. Smoke is coming out of a rough chimney.
Rooster and Mattie have paused at the crest of the rise above the dugout to look. Rooster
shrugs out of his coat.
Take my jacket. Creep onto the roof. If they are not friendly
I will give you a sign to damp the chimney.
As Mattie descends to where hillside meets structure Rooster takes his rifle and walks
around to the front door--crude planking hung on leather-strap hinges. His footsteps
crunch in the snow.
The door is yanked open, inches, and a backlit face appears over a hand holding a revolver.
Who is out there?
We are looking for shelter.
No room for you here! Ride on!
The door slams.
After a moment the light inside goes out.
Mattie, arriving on the roof, looks steeply down on Rooster. He glances up, thinking. He
does not sign. He looks back at the door.
Who all is in there?
Rooster looks up at Mattie. He nods.
She balls the jacket and stuffs it into the chimney.
Rooster takes ten paces to one side of the door and then kneels in the snow, raising his
Muffled coughs from inside the house--more than one person.
Activity inside--yelling--the hiss of fire being doused. Suddenly:
The door flies open and--BANG! BANG!--two shotgun blasts.
Slightest beat as Mattie peers into the yard, and then--BANG!--shot rips through the
roof just at her feet.
A rifle blast--from Rooster. A yelp of pain from inside.
I am a Federal officer! Who is in there? Speak up and be
quick about it.
A Methodist and a son-of-a-bitch!
Rooster cocks his head.
Is that Emmett Quincy?
I don't know any Emmett Quincy.
Listen here, Emmett Quincy. I know it is you! This is
Rooster Cogburn. Columbus Potter and five other marshals
is out here with me. We have got a bucket of coal oil. In
one minute we will burn you out from both ends! Chuck
your arms clear and come out with your hands locked on
your head and you will not be harmed. Oncet that coal oil
goes down the chimney we are killing everything that comes
out the door!
There's only two of you!
You go ahead and bet your life on it! How many of you is in
Me and Moon, but he is hit! He can't walk!
Drag him out! Light that lamp!
Tell them other officers to be careful with their guns! We
are coming out!
The door opens again. From the smoky black a shotgun and two revolvers are tossed out.
Then, orange light: a lamp is lit. Two men emerge, one limping and holding onto the
other, who holds high the lamp.
Down in the snow! Lie still while I cuff you! We is only
two, but my man on the roof will shoot you if you get feisty.
Rooster has coaxed the fire back to life. He peers into the large pot hanging over it.
The cuffed men sit side-by-side on a plank bench behind a plank table, staring at Mattie.
Moon's leg is bound with a large blue handkerchief.
Quincy sounds resentful:
You said it was a man on the roof. I thought it was Potter.
You was always dumb, Quincy, and remain true to form.
He stirs the pot with a wooden spoon.
. . .This here's an awful lot of sofky. Was you boys looking
That is our supper and breakfast both. I like a big breakfast.
Moon nods agreement, but has a different thought:
Sofky always cooks up bigger than you think.
Rooster, continuing to nose around, pushes the canvas cover off a crate of bottles.
And a good store of whiskey as well. What are you boys up
to, outside of cooking banquets? You are way too jumpy.
We didn't know who was out there weather like this. It
might have been some crazy man. Anyone can say he is a
My leg hurts.
I'll bet it does. When is the last time you seen your old pard
Ned Pepper? I don't know him. Who is he?
Rooster spoons sofky from the pot into a bowl
I'm surprised you don't remember him. He is a little fellow,
nervous and quick. His lip is all messed up.
That don't bring anybody to mind.
Rooster sits across from the men with his bowlful of sofky and starts eating.
There is a new boy that might be running with Ned. He is
short himself and he has got a powder mark on his face, a
black place. He calls himself Chaney, or Chelmsford
sometimes. Carries a Henry rifle.
That don't bring anybody to mind. Black mark, I would
You don't remember anything I want to know, do you
Quincy? I hope you don't mind. . .
Raises a spoonful.
. . . There seems to be ample. What do you know, Moon?
Moon looks at Quincy, who gives a hard look back.
I don't know those boys. I always try to help out the law.
By the time we get back to Fort Smith that leg will be
swelled up tight as Dick's hatband. It will be mortified and
they will cut it off. Then if you live I will get you two or
three years in the Federal house up in Detroit.
You are trying to get at me.
They will teach you to read and write up there but the rest of
it won't be so good. Them boys can be hard on a gimp.
You are trying to get at me.
You give me some good information on Ned and I will take
you to McAlester's store tomorrow get that ball taken out of
your leg. Then I will give you three days to clear the
We don't know those boys you are looking for.
Rooster shrugs at Moon.
It ain't his leg.
Don't go to flapping your mouth, Moon. It is best to let me
do the talking.
I would say if I knew. . .
We are weary trappers.
He reacts to Mattie, staring at him.
. . . Who worked you over with the ugly stick?
Mattie's look shifts to Moon.
The man Chaney with the marked face killed my father. He
was a whiskey drinker like you and it led to killing in the
end. If you answer the marshal's questions he will help you.
I have a good lawyer at home and he will help you too.
I am puzzled by this. (to Rooster) Why is she here?
Don't go jawing with these people, Moon. Don't go jawing
with that runt.
I don't like you. I hope you go to jail. My lawyer will not
My leg is giving me fits.
Yes, a young fellow like you don't want to loose his leg.
You are too young to be getting about on a willow peg. You
love dancing and sport, carrying on.
Easy now. He is trying to get at you.
I am getting at you with the truth.
We seen Ned and Haze two days ago. We's supposed--
Don't act the fool! If you blow I will kill you!
I am played out. I must have a doctor. We's supposed--
Quincy jerks up one knee, banging the bottom of the table and sloshing Rooster's sofky as
he grabs something from his boot: a knife.
He slams it down on Moon's cuffed hand, chopping off four fingers. They fly like chips
from a log.
As Moon screams Rooster mutters:
God damn it!
Quincy flips the knife lightly in the air and regrabs it with blade pointing opposite-wise.
He twists and rears with cuffed hands to plunge the knife into Moon's chest.
Rooster has his gun out now and fires.
Quincy jerks back, hit in the face. Blood spatters Mattie. Quincy, still seated, slides
awkwardly down the wall.
Moon has fallen to the floor, knife in chest.
Oh lord, I am dying!
Rooster and Mattie stand over him.
. . . Do something! Help me!
I can do nothing for you, son. Your pard has killed you and I
have done for him.
Don't leave me lying here! Don't let the wolves rip me up!
I'll see you are buried right. You tell me about Ned. Where
did you see him?
Two days ago at McAlester's store. They are coming here
tonight to get remounts, and sofky. They just robbed the
Katy Flyer at Wagoner's Switch if the snow didn't stop 'em.
Eyes wide, he gazes down his body.
. . . I am bleeding buckets! I am gone. Send the news to my
brother, George Garrett. He is a Methodist circuit rider in
South Texas. You can write care of the district supervisor in
Should I tell him you was outlawed up?
It don't matter, he knows I am on the scout. I will meet him
later walking the streets of Glory!
Don't be looking for Quincy.
Mattie's point-of-view: the dark shoulders of the wooded hills, funneling down to the
ravine. It is all very still except for falling snow.
Mattie stands outside the cabin door, hugging herself, keeping watch.
The door opens and Rooster emerges.
Hobble our mounts in the corral out back. We don't know
when they's coming.
From the threshold he surveys the inside of the cabin.
Is he dead?
He is. I stowed the bodies under the blanket there. Just
needs to look right enough to get 'em in the door.
Something he sees inside prompts Rooster to quickly reenter the cabin. He reemerges, fist
closed on something.
. . . We'll climb that ridge there, fort up somewhere gives us
a clear shot.
He flings, and whatever he was holding lands faintly pit-a-pat in the woods.
What was that?
Rooster finishes hunkering down.
He takes out his revolver and put a cartridge into the one empty chamber, under the
hammer. He places the revolver on a log and puts the sack of cartridges next to the
revolver. He leans his rifle against the log. He looks out.
His point-of-view of the cabin below, peaceful, smoke drifting from the chimney.
What do we do now?
Rooster takes out a sack of corn dodgers and starts to eat.
We wait. They ride up, what we want is to get them all in
the dugout. I will kill the last one to go in and then we will
have them in a barrel.
You will shoot him in the back?
It will give them to know our intentions is serious. Then I
will call down and see if they will be taken alive. If they
won't I will shoot them as they come out. I am hopeful that
three of their party being dead will take the starch out of
You display great poise.
It is just a turkey shoot. There was one time in New Mexico,
when Bo was a strong colt and I myself had less tarnish, we
was being pursued by seven men. I turned Bo around and
taken the reins in my teeth and rode right at them boys firing
them two navy sixes I carry on my saddle. Well I guess they
was all married men who loved their families as they
scattered and run for home.
That is hard to believe.
One man riding at seven.
It is true enough. You go for a man hard enough and fast
enough and he don't have time to think about how many is
with him--he thinks about himself and how he may get clear
of the wrath that is about to set down on him.
Why were they pursuing you?
They was in the nature of a posse.
You were particeps criminis in something other than the case
of the Yankee paymaster?
I robbed a high-interest bank. You can't rob a thief, can
you? I never robbed a citizen. Never took a man's watch.
It is all stealing.
That is the position they took in New Mexico.
He is suddenly alert, and raises a hand for quiet.
There is the sound of a rider, approaching slowly.
Rooster is puzzled:
. . . One man. I didn't figure them to send a scout.
Their high point-of-view: a mounted figure has entered the ravine.
He travels its length and stops his horse before the cabin and dismounts. We hear the
jingle of spurs.
. . . Damn. It is LeBoeuf.
Distant, calling toward the cabin:
LeBoeuf unholsters a gun. He walks to the cabin, opens the door and peers in.
Rooster starts to rise, about to call out, as LeBoeuf enters and closes the door.
We hear hoofbeats. Many horses.
We have to warn him, Marshal!
Rooster is looking to the mouth of the ravine.
Mattie follows his look.
Their high point-of-view: four riders just entering the ravine.
They look back to the cabin.
From inside, faintly:
The door opens and LeBoeuf stumbles out, wide-eyed.
He sees the approaching riders. They see him.
They slow, approaching with caution.
LeBoeuf looks at them, glances back over his shoulder, looks forward again.
What do we do, Marshal?
We sit. What does he do?
The riders stop several paces from LeBoeuf. They spread in a line facing him. Words are
exchanged; we cannot make them out.
LeBoeuf unholsters a gun and points it at the four men.
He is a fine one for not drawing attention to himself.
The four men, slouched astride their horses, are not impressed by LeBoeuf's gun. There is
Him in the woolly chaps is Lucky Ned.
He refers to the mounted man who does most of the talking. Lucky Ned now speaks to the
men on either side and the two corners advance, closing a circle around LeBoeuf.
LeBoeuf looks warily from side side, swinging his gun to cover the group. None of the
riders bothers to unholster a gun.
The man to LeBoeuf's right lifts a rope off his saddle and casually twirls it.
The man to his left says something: LeBoeuf looks left and the man to his right drops the
rope around LeBoeuf and pulls it tight. LeBoeuf is jerked off his feet, gun dropping. The
mounted man backs his horse, taking the play from the rope. He dallies the free end round
Two of the men slide off their horses.
One of them heads for the cabin door.
Well, that's that.
BANG!--the rifleshot, just at Mattie's ear, is deafening.
The man heading to the cabin drops, shot in the back.
The two horses that are now riderless rear and mill, panicked.
The horse towing LeBoeuf also skitters, spooked, as its rider looks wildly about and starts
Lucky Ned looks toward our vantage point and also begins firing.
Rooster is methodically aiming and firing but in the commotion below his first couple of
shots don't tell. His third drops Lucky Ned's horse.
The other unmounted man is frantically trying to snatch up the reins of one of the loose
The man towing LeBoeuf spurs his horse toward one of the free horses, trying to grab it.
LeBoeuf is dragged past plunging horses' hooves.
A cacaphony of screaming horses, crackling gunfire from the basin, and the boom of
The unmounted man has managed to grab a halter. He climbs with difficulty aboard the
The rider towing LeBoeuf cuts loose the towline. He gallops toward Ned Pepper with an
arm outstretched to help him aboard.
Rooster is tracking him with his rifle.
Lucky Ned grabs the extended arm. As he begins to swing up there is the BOOM of
Rooster's rifle. The rider pitches off the horse but Lucky Ned manages to stay on, and
swipes up the reins. He gallops off.
The one other surviving horseman follows him.
There is one dead horse in the basin, a live unmounted horse racing crazy circles, and three
still bodies. One is LeBoeuf's.
Well that didn't pan out.
IN THE BASIN
LeBoeuf is moaning.
Rooster walks toward him trailed by Mattie, glancing along the way at the two dead men.
You managed to put a kink in my rope, pardner.
I am theverely injured.
Something is wrong with LeBoeuf's speech. Bloody saliva bubbles copiously from his
Yes you got drug some.
Altho shshot. By a rifle.
Rooster stoops to examine.
That is quite possible. The scheme did not develop as I had
planned. You have been shot in the shoulder but the ball
passed through. It will pain you in the years to come. What
happened to your mouth?
I believe I beh mythelf.
Rooster slaps lightly down at LeBoeuf's chin, signaling that he should open up.
LeBoeuf does, and Rooster digs in with two dirty fingers, dipping his head to peer in as he
pokes this way and that.
Couple of teeth missing and yes, the tongue is bit almost
through. Do you want to see if it will knit or should I just
yank it free? I know a teamster who bit his tongue off being
thrown from a horse. After a time he learned to make
himself more or less understood.
Bloody saliva bubbles out with the word. Rooster withdraws his fingers.
What's that now?
Very well. It is impossible to bind a tongue wound. The
shoulder we will kit out.
Mattie goes to inspect the two outlaws' corpses as Rooster pokes back LeBoeuf's shirt to
look at the wound.
. . . It's too bad. We just ran across a doctor of sorts but I do
not know where he was headed.
I thaw him too. Ith how I came to be here.
Neither of these men are Chaney, Marshal.
I know it. I know them both. The ugly one is Coke Hayes.
Him uglier still is Clement Parmalee. Parmalee and his
brothers have a silver claim in the Winding Stair Mountains
and I will bet you that's where Lucky Ned's gang is waiting.
We'll sleep here, follow in the morning.
We promised to bury the poor soul inside.
Ground is too hard. If these men wanted a decent burial they
should have got themselves kilt in summer.
Falling straight down: a windless night.
We hear a murmuring male voice from inside the cabin.
Mattie is finishing rubbing down her horse.
Sleep well, Little Blackie. . .
She puts up the brush and pulls an apple from her apple bag.
. . . I have a notion that tomorrow we will reach our object.
We are "hot on the trail". . .
The horse chomps up the apple and she rubs its muzzle as it chews.
. . . It seems that we will overtake Tom Chaney in the
Winding Stair Mountains. I would not want to be in his
The horse huffs and blows.
FRONT OF THE CABIN
We are raking the four dead men who have been carelessly propped against the outside
wall to sit in an irregular row. Mattie passes them, with a brief look, and opens the door,
and the murmuring voice from inside fans up louder.
As Mattie enters. We see LeBoeuf musing before the fire as he cleans his Sharp's carbine
--an awkward operation given the injury to his shoulder, now bandaged.
All we see of Rooster, seated further from the fire, is a pair of boots, and legs stretching
Mattie goes to the pot of food on the fire.
Azh I understand it, Chaney--or Chelmzhford, azh he called
himshelf in Texas--shot the shenator'zh dog. When the
shenator remonshtrated Chelmzhford shot him azh well.
You could argue that the shooting of the dog wazh merely an
inshtansh of malum prohibitum, but the shooting of a
shenator izh indubitably an inshtansh of malum in shay.
Rooster is a voice in the darkness:
Malum in se. The distinction is between an act that is wrong
in itself, and an act that is wrong only according to our laws
and mores. It is Latin.
We hear the pthoonk of a bottle yielding its cork, followed by the pthwa of the cork's
being spit out.
I am struck that LeBoeuf is shot, trampled, and nearly severs
his tongue and not only does not cease to talk but spills the
banks of English.
We hear liquid slosh as the bottle is tipped back.
I wuzh within three hundred yardzh of Chelmzhford once.
The closhesht I have been. With the Sharp'sh carbine, that
izh within range. But I wuzh mounted, and had the choish of
firing off-hand, or dishmounting to shoot from resht--which
would allow Chelmzhford to augment the dishtansh. I fired
mounted--and fired wide.
We hear the smack of lips releasing bottleneck, and a wet breath.
. . . You could not hit a man at three hundred yards if the gun
was resting on Gibraltar.
The Sharp'sh carbine izh an inshtrument of uncanny power
I have no doubt that the gun is sound.
Wide: three riders leave the cabin single-file.
Jump in: pushing Mattie, who rides last in line. LeBoeuf is in front of her. Rooster leads,
head tipping momentarily back to swig from a bottle.
He then half-hums, half-scats a tune.
Mattie twists to look behind.
Her point-of-view: pulling away from the cabin, against the wall of which the four dead
men are now semi-drifted over with snow. Rooster's humming has stopped and we hear
That was "Johnny in the Low Ground." There are very few
fiddle tunes I have not heard. Once heard they are locked in
my mind forever. It is a sadness to me that I have sausage
fingers that cannot crowd onto a fretboard--little fat girls at
a cotillion. "Soldier's Joy"!
He launches into another song, interrupted by the slosh of liquid as he takes a drink.
Mattie looks forward again and LeBoeuf turns to look back at her. He keeps his voice low:
I don't believe he shlept.
Still without looking back, Rooster projects:
Fort Smith is a healthy distance, LeBoeuf, but I would
encourage the creature you ride to try to make it in a day. Out here a
one-armed man looks like easy prey.
And a one-eyed man--who can't shshoodt? Why don't you
tshurn back, Khoghburn?
I will do fine.
He twists around to gaily hector LeBoeuf:
. . . I know where the Parmalee's claim is. I am uninjured, I
am provisioned--and we agreed to separate.
In conscschiensh you cannot shite our agreement. You are
the pershon who shshot me.
Mr. LeBoeuf has a point, Marshal. It is an unfair leg-up in
any competition to shoot your opposite number.
God damn it! I don't accept it as a given that I did shoot
LeBoeuf. There was plenty of guns going off.
I heard a rifle and felt the ball. You mishshed your shshodt,
Khoghburn, admit it. You are more handicapped without the
eye than I without the arm.
Missed my shot! I can hit a gnat's eye at ninety yards!
He reins his horse up, hastily tips the bottle to his mouth to make sure it is empty, and then
hurls it high.
He pulls out a navy six-gun and fires.
The bottle reaches the height of its arc untouched, and drops.
Rooster cocks his head at the landed bottle several paces distant. He shoots again and
He shoots a third time and the bottle shatters.
The chinaman is running them cheap shells on me again.
I tdhought you were going to shay the shun was in your
eyezh. That izh to shay, your eye.
Rooster starts to dismount, finishing in a semi-controlled fall. He dusts one knee and
reaches into his saddlebag. He pulls out a corn dodger and heaves it up.
He fires. The corn dodger is obliterated.
He reaches two corn dodgers from the saddlebag.
Two at one time!
He hurls them and quickly fires twice. Nothing happens; he quickly fires three times at the
falling corn dodgers, missing.
Scowling, he throws a single corn dodger and is just raising his gun when another gun goes
off, making him jump.
LeBoeuf has fired with a gun in his left hand, missing.
I will chunk one high. Hold fire.
He reaches into the saddlebag and hurls it high. Both he and Leboeuf fire. It explodes.
There?! My bullet!
Your bullet? If you hit what you aim at, eckshplain my
Gentlemen, shooting cornbread out here on the prairie is
getting us no closer to the Ned Pepper gang.
One more, this will prove it. Hold fire!
He tosses a corn dodger and fires. It holds to its arc and falls. LeBoeuf is smug.
Azh I shed, Khoghburn.
Did you not see the piece fly off?!
Some time later.
Rooster sways in the saddle, holding a bottle, humming.
He tips his head up and tilts the bottle all the way back, confirming that this one too is now
Riding forward, he leans out of the saddle, stretching low to one side, his hand extended
with the bottle. Wavering, he places it upon a large rock as he passes.
His arm waves for balance as he straightens but he keeps his place on the horse. He half-
turns, propping himself with one hand on his saddle-back, to address Mattie and LeBoeuf:
Find our way back!
Framed by a mine entrance.
Rooster steps into the square, wood-beam frame of the entrance, looking in.
A beat, and he pulls out his six-gun and fires in.
Wide outside: Rooster before the entrance; Mattie and LeBoeuf standing close by. Very
The little camp is deserted.
Rooster turns to pan the hills.
Very faint echo.
Faintly, from our distant perspective:
Very good, Khoghburn. Now what.
It is raining.
The campfire is roughly canopied by a hide draped at a cant over a pair of tree branches.
Mattie pours hot water from a kettle into a large tin cup holding a corn dodger. She takes a
fork and starts mashing the dodger into mush.
LeBoeuf sits before the fire, coat over his head, one hand on his jaw, which is swollen.
Cogburn does not want me eating out of his store.
That is silly. You have not eaten the whole day, and it is my
store not his.
Let him starve!
Rooster, bellicose, stumbles to the fire with a few thin branches. As he leans in toward the
fire the water draining off the low edge of the canopy drums onto his neck. He waves a
hand back at it like a man swatting flies.
He does not track! He does not shoot--except at foodstuffs!--
That wazh your idea.
--He does not contribute! He is a millstone, with opinions!
He is a man who walks in front of bullets!
Rooster sits heavily, a stretching leg kicking away an empty bottle. Rain patters on his hat.
. . . He is a drag-brake for horses!
Mr. LeBoeuf drew single-handed upon the Lucky Ned
Pepper Gang while we fired safely from cover, like a band of
It is unfair to indict a man when his jaw is swollen and
tongue mangled and who is therefore unable to rise to his
I can thpeak for mythelf. I am hardly obliged to anther the
ravingth of a drunkard. It ith beneath me.
He rises and starts gathering his things.
. . . I shall make my own camp elthwhere. It ith you who
have nothing to offer, Khoghburn. A shad picture indeed.
Thish izh no longer a manhunt, it izh a debauch. The Texath
Ranger preththeth on alone.
Take the girl! I bow out!
A fine thing to deshide once you have brought her into the
middle of the Choctaw Nation.
I bow out! I wash my hands!
Gentlemen, we cannot fall out in this fashion, so close to our
goal, with Tom Chaney nearly in hand!
In hand?! If he is not in a shallow grave, somewhere
between here and Fort Smith, he is gone! Long gone!
Thanks to Mr. LeBoeuf, we missed our shot! We have
barked, and the birds have flown! Gone gone gone! Lucky
Ned and his cohort, gone! Your fifty dollars, gone! Gone
the whiskey seized in evidence! The trail is cold, if ever
there was one! I am a foolish old man who has been drawn
into a wild goose chase by a harpy in trousers--and a
nincompoop! Well, Mr. LeBoeuf can wander the Choctaw
Nation for as long as he likes; perhaps the local Indians will
take him in and honor his gibberings by making him Chief!
You, sister, may go where you like! I return home! Our
engagement is terminated! I bow out!
He whips his robe over himself.
Wide on Mattie, staggering toward us carrying a saddle. We boom down to bring Little
Blackie into the foreground as Mattie takes the last few stumbling steps forward, almost at
a run so as to let her inertia help her heave the saddle up onto the horse's back.
I am going with you.
LeBoeuf, cinching a saddle onto his woolly horse, looks around.
Oh, that izh not poshible.
Have I held you back? I have a Colt's dragoon revolver
which I know how to use, and I would be no more of a
burden to you than I was to the marshal.
That izh not my worry. You have earned your shpurzh, that
izh clear enough--you have been a regular "old hand" on the
trail. But Cogburn izh right, even if I would not give him the
shatishfaction of consheding it. The trail izh cold, and I am
How can you give up now, after the many months you've
dedicated to finding Chaney? You have shown great
determination. I misjudged you. I picked the wrong man.
I would go on in your company if there were clear way to go.
But we would be shtriking out blindly. Chelmshford izh
gone--we have chaished him right off the map. There izh
nothing for it. I am bound for Texash, and it izh time for you
to go home too.
He swings himself up onto the horse.
. . . The marshal, when he shoberzh, izh your way back.
I will not go back. Not without Chaney, dead or alive.
I misjudged you as well. I eckshtend my hand.
He does, dropping a hand gloved in rough suede. She refuses to take it.
Mr. LeBoeuf! Please!
He remains with hand extended. She hesitates, sees there is no give, and reaches for up for
the hand. They shake.
He saws the horse around and sets it to a prancing walk, his spurs jingling.
The sound recedes, leaving behind Rooster's snoring from the campfire.
Rooster's snores bump up at the cut.
Mattie enters, gazes down for a thinking beat at the passed-out lawman, then lies down on
She lies still, gazing up.
After a long beat she abruptly rises.
She recedes toward the horses. As she reaches them we hear Little Blackie snort and blow.
Mattie returns with a length of coiled rope. She plays it out in a loop around her robe. She
lies down again. She closes her eyes.
We are high and close on Rooster, asleep. Face mottled red, he looks like hell. He emits a
symphony of respiratory noises as breath fights through layers of phlegm.
Reverse on Mattie, looking down at him.
Wider on the forlorn campsite--Mattie standing, Rooster awkwardly sprawled sleeping,
Close on a bucket: Mattie's hand enters to grab it.
We hear rushing water.
Mattie descends, carefully stiff-legged, down a steep slope thick with trees and brush.
She emerges onto the bank of a fast-flowing stream, shallow at this point and loud.
Mattie takes a couple of steps into the water to dip the bucket. Soft, behind her, we see
four horses watering at the opposite bank, just downstream.
Mattie stoops to fill the bucket. Turning as she straightens, she sees the four horses.
Surprised, she drops the bucket and stares.
The horses huff and blow in the water. They are not wild--they wear tack--but there is no
rider in sight, until:
A man straightens and emerges from behind one of the horses. The first thing we notice
about him is the silhouette of the rifle projecting over one shoulder, slung to the man's
back with a piece of sash cord.
He looks at something floating by in the stream: Mattie's bucket. He looks up. We jump
The man has a black mark on his forehead.
Seeing Mattie, who still gapes at him, he hastily swings his rifle round and trains it on her.
He takes cautious, splashing steps forward.
Well now I know you. Your name is Mattie. You are little
Mattie the bookkeeper. Isn't this something.
He grins, relaxing. He slings the rifle back over his shoulder.
Yes, and I know you, Tom Chaney.
What are you doing here?
I came to fetch water.
Mattie pulls the flour sack from her coat pocket and works carefully at the cord that
cinches it shut. Chaney watches.
I mean what are you doing here in these mountains?
I have not been formally deputized but I am acting as an
agent for Marshal Reuben Cogburn and Judge Parker's court.
Mattie has the cinch loose. She reaches the Colt's Dragoon out of the sack and points it at
. . . I have come to take you back to Fort Smith.
Chaney looks at the gun. He grins and puts hands on hips.
Well I will not go. How do you like that?
There is a posse of officers up on the hill who will force you
That is interesting news. How many is up there?
Right around fifty. They are all well armed and they mean
business. What I want you to do now is come on across the
creek and walk in front of me up the hill.
I think I will oblige the officers to come after me.
If you refuse to go I will have to shoot you.
Oh? Then you had better cock your piece.
Mattie gives a dismayed look at the gun and tries to pull the hammer back. It has a heavy
pull: she struggles, using two thumbs.
Chaney watches, smiling.
. . . All the way back til it locks.
I know how to do it.
She pulls the hammer back further and we hear it notch. She looks up.
. . . You will not go with me?
I think not. It is just the other way around. You are going
with me. I will--
Chaney, shocked, takes a staggering step back.
Mattie stumbles and falls back under the recoil, into the stream but careful to hold the gun
high and dry. She awkwardly reclaims her footing and retrains the gun. Chaney is looking
down at his bleeding side.
I did not think you would do it.
What do you think now?
One of my short ribs is broken. It hurts jiggers every breath
You killed my father when he was trying to help you. I have
one of the gold pieces you took from him. Now give me the
She is struck by a worrying thought. She hastily recocks the gun.
I regret that shooting. Mr. Ross was decent to me but he
ought not to have meddled in my business.
Crashing from the brush up the hill, and a voice:
I am down here! Chaney is taken into custody!
I was drinking and I was mad through and through. Nothing
has gone right for me.
There is yelling from the other bank now too.
No, you are just a piece of trash, that is all.
Everything is against me. Now I am shot by a child.
He sloshes suddenly forward, water kicking up before him.
She squeezes the trigger, but the gun dry fires.
Chaney grabs the gun and flings it away, then holds on to Mattie and slaps her.
Help me! Down here! Hurry up!
Two men burst through the brush from Chaney's side of the river. One is in woolly chaps
--Lucky Ned Pepper. The other is taller and dressed almost formally in a linen suit and
string tie and a bear coat. Both men bear Winchester repeating rifles.
Chaney is dragging Mattie to their bank, slapping at her along the way.
Rooster emerges from his side of the riverbank carrying a side arm.
The men exchange fire.
Take them horses you got and move!
He grabs Mattie from Chaney and keeps her between himself and the far bank as he fires
One hand to his bleeding side, Chaney lunges for the horses' leads.
Rooster has retreated back to the tree cover, as has the well dressed man on our side.
Intermittent gunshots and the panicked neighing of horses. Lucky Ned falls back into the
trees with Mattie and starts pulling her up the steep hill.
Chaney follows pulling the string of horses. He is breathing hard and blood stains the front
of his shirt.
Get on up that hill! Don't you stop.
He twists Mattie around to face him and we see him clearly for the first time. Part of his
upper lip and three of his front teeth are missing.
. . . Who all is down there?
Marshal Cogburn and fifty more officers.
Lucky Ned throws Mattie to the ground. He puts a muddy boot on her neck.
Tell me another lie and I will stove your head in!
Mattie manages to choke out:
Just the marshal.
Cogburn! Do you hear me?
. . . You answer me, Rooster! I will kill this girl! You know
I will do it!
The girl is nothing to me! She is a runaway from Arkansas!
That is very well! Do you advise me to kill her?
Do what you think is best, Ned! She is nothing to me but a
A short beat, through which we hear only the rush of riverwater. Then, Rooster's voice
. . . Think it over first.
I have already thought it over! You get mounted double fast!
If I see you riding over that bald ridge to the northwest I will
spare the girl. You have five minutes!
He breaks open his rifle and starts to reload.
I will need more than five minutes!
I will not give you more time.
There will be a party of marshals in here soon, Ned! Let me
have Chaney and the girl and I will mislead them for six
Too thin, Rooster! Too thin! Your five minutes is running!
No more talk!
He pulls Mattie to her feet. Rooster's voice trails away:
I am leaving but you must give me time!
Lucky Ned gives Mattie a rough push.
Up that hill!
Mattie advances, Lucky Ned giving periodic shoves from behind.
A stout young man with a shotgun leaps out from behind a slab of limestone in front of
them. He has a round face and idiot eyes.
He makes loud turkey-gobbling noises at Mattie.
Though Mattie is startled Lucky Ned does not immediately react, but he does finally tire of
the turkey noises:
The idiot makes a pig-squealing sound in acknowledgment and then falls quiet, loping
alongside Mattie and Lucky Ned.
You will not shoot me.
Lucky Ned is grim:
I will do what I have to do.
They are ascending out of the trees onto a bare rock ledge not quite at the crest of the
mountain. The rock floor is uneven and broken by fissures and holes. A cave-like setback
at the far end of the rock shelf is half-curtained with a hide. A rough camp.
A cookfire burns on the open rock. Two coffeepots warm leaning against the inside of the
fire's piled-stone perimeter. A skillet holds bacon.
A man squats at the fire, holding a piece of bacon, turned to watch Lucky Ned and Mattie's
approach. He wears a filthy Union army uniform with officer's boards. His mouth is an 0
Can I have some of that bacon?
Help yourself. Have some of the coffee.
I do not drink coffee. I am fourteen.
We do not have buttermilk. And we do not have bread. We
are poorly supplied. What are you doing here?
Tom Chaney has reached the rock ledge and he charges Mattie with a yell.
I will wring your scrawny neck!
Lucky Ned knocks him aside.
Let that go! Farrell, see to his wound. What happened?
What are you doing here?
I will tell you what and you will see that I am in the right.
Tom Chaney there shot my father to death in Fort Smith and
robbed him of two gold pieces and stole his mare. Her name
is Judy but I did not see her down at the river. I was
informed Rooster Cogburn had grit and I hired him out to
find the murderer. A few minutes ago I came upon Chaney
watering the horses. He would not be taken in charge and I
shot him. If I had killed him I would not be now in this fix.
My revolver misfired.
They will do it. It will embarrass you every time. Most girls
like to play pretties, but you like guns do you?
I do not care a thing in the world about guns. If I did I would
have one that worked.
I was shot from ambush, Ned. The horses was blowing and
making noise. It was that officer that got me.
How can you sit there and tell such a big story?
Chaney, squatting with his shirt pulled up for the ex-soldier to work on his wound, now
That pit is a hundred feet deep and I will throw you into it
and leave you to scream and rot! How do you like that?
No you won't. This man will not let you have your way. He
is your boss and you must do as he tells you.
Chaney turns to Lucky Ned who has a spyglass to his eye, scanning a ridge across the
Five minutes is well up!
Lucky Ned speaks quietly, without lowering the glass:
I will give him a little more time.
From somewhere in the woods below we hear the idiot's gobbling noises.
How much more?
Til I think he has had enough.
The voice of the well dressed man floats up from the woods:
Well Dressed Man
He is gone, Ned! I can see nothing! We had best make a
Hold fast a while there, Doctor!
Mattie looks at Chaney moaning in pain as the ex-soldier works on his side.
Why doesn't the Doctor do that?
Lucky Ned replies absently, still gazing out:
He is not a medical doctor. Was that Rooster waylaid us
night before last?
It was Marshal Cogburn and myself.
Yourself, eh? You and Cogburn, quite the posse.
He sees something and hastily raises the glass.
A horseman is ascending the treeless ridge across the river with a riderless horse--Little
Blackie--in tow. At the top he pauses and turns, and draws a revolver from his saddle and
points it skyward. We see the gun kick and breathe gunsmoke. A second later we hear the
Lucky Ned lowers the glass and takes a gun and shoots skyward. He raises the glass
The horseman turns away and proceeds on over the crest. He is gone.
Lucky Ned turns to Mattie. He comes and squats at the fire.
Your friend is gone. You are alone.
The well dressed man and the idiot trudge up from the woods onto the rock ledge.
The man in the dirty uniform continues to perform crude field surgery on Chaney, digging
into his side with a knife to extract the bullet. As Chaney moans the idiot makes calf-
bawling noises in imitation.
Well Dressed Man
We must move, Ned.
You are too nervous, Doctor. It will be hours before he is
back with help.
Lucky Ned turns back to Mattie.
. . . What happened to Quincy, and The Kid?
They are both dead. I was in the very middle of it. It was a
terrible thing to see. Do you need a good lawyer?
I need a good judge. What about Coke Hayes--the old
fellow shot off his horse?
Dead as well. His depredations have come to an end.
Poor Coke. He rode back for me. Coke Hayes had spine,
and could keep his wits in a tight spot. Dead now, but he
should have been dead ten times afore now. Your friend
Rooster does not collect many prisoners.
He is not my friend. He has abandoned me to a congress of
You do not varnish your opinions.
Well Dressed Man
Are we staying here for chat?
The idiot is still bawling. Chaney grabs a stone and flings it at him and the idiot scampers
back, making goat noises. Chaney grabs, moaning, at the wound aggravated by this fresh
The man in officer's boards laughs.
Do an owl, Harold!
Hoo! Hoo! Hoo!
Let us cut up the winnings from the Katie Flyer.
Lucky Ned straightens from the fire and begins to collect his meager belongings. The
other men follow suit.
There will be time for that at The Old Place.
I will saddle the grey.
I have other plans for you.
Must I double-mount with the Doctor?
Well Dressed Man
No, it will be too chancy with two men up if it comes to a
race. You will wait here with the girl. When we reach Ma's house I will
send Carroll back with a fresh mount. You will be out by
dark and we will wait for you at The Old Place.
I don't like that. Let me ride with you, Ned, just out of here
No. We are short a horse. It can't be helped.
Marshals will come swarming.
Hours, if they come here at all. They will guess we are all
I am not staying here by myself with Tom Chaney.
That is the way I will have it.
He will kill me. You have heard him say it. He has killed
my father and now you will let him kill me.
He will do no such thing. Tom, you know the crossing at
Cypress Forks, near the log meetinghouse? When you are
mounted you will take the girl there and leave her. Do you
understand that, Tom? If any harm comes to this child you
do not get paid.
Chaney stares at Lucky Ned. His gaze then swings to the idiot.
Harold, let me ride up with you.
Farrel, I will pay you fifty dollars out of my winnings! I am
Ha ha! Do the calf again, Harold!
The men, clanking with gear, cross the rock ledge and descend into the woods.
In the quiet, Chaney is disconsolate.
Everything is against me.
You have no reason to whine. If you act as the bandit chief
instructed, and no harm comes to me, you will get your
winnings at The Old Place.
We faintly hear the rest of his party mount up and gallop off. Chaney drops heavily before
the fire to sit staring.
They will not wait for me at The Old Place. Lucky Ned has
left me, knowing I am sure to be caught when I leave on
He is sending a mount.
That was a story. Keep still now. I must think over my
position and how I may improve it.
A silent beat.
Where is the second California gold piece?
Chaney continues to stare silently into the fire.
What have you done with Papa's mare?
Keep still, you little busybody.
More brooding silence.
Are you thinking about The Old Place? If you will let me
go, I will swear to it in an affidavit and once you are brought
to justice it may go easier on you.
Chaney rises, glaring at her.
I tell you I can do better than that. I do not intend to be
caught. I need no affidavit.
He is striding toward her. She backs toward the ledge.
. . . All I need is your silence. And I will have it.
Without breaking stride he plows into her, good hand raised to catch her by the throat.
She tumbles backward, Chaney on top of her sweating and snarling.
. . . Your father was a busybody like you. There are always
people who will tell you what's right.
On her back Mattie struggles, but Chaney, straddling her, has her pinned. His good hand is
still on her throat. She claws at it.
He swats her with his free hand. Her clawing stops.
Chaney is wincing from the swing of his own arm. As he leans over her his opened wound
dribbles blood onto Mattie along with his sweat.
. . . In honesty, I do not regret shooting him. He thought
Tom Chaney was small. Lucky Ned thinks the same. And
you would give me an affidavit.
He reaches back awkwardly toward his calf with his bad hand, groaning with the stretch.
We hear the schlick of steel and his hand reappears holding a knife taken from a leg sheath.
. . . You are all against me. Everything is against me.
He pushes against the underside of Mattie's chin, stretching her neck.
Her eyes roll down in their sockets to watch as Chaney regrips the knife and lowers it to
her throat, his knuckles whitening with tension.
. . . But here at least I have matters in hand, and once I have
done for you--
Whack--a rifle stock swings into frame, connecting with Chaney's head. His head snaps
to one side and then lolls back as he slowly straightens, ropey drool and blood pouring
from his mouth. He sways briefly and then collapses onto Mattie.
A hand enters to pull him off. Mattie blearily props herself on her elbows.
LeBoeuf is panting and sweating from his climb. He gazes down at Chaney. Once he has
Sho that ish Chelmthford. Shtrange to be sho closhe at lasht.
How is it you are here?
LeBoeuf's look breaks from Chaney. He pulls his pipe from his pocket and lights it.
I heard the shotsh and went down to the river. . .
He crosses the rock ledge.
. . . Cogburn outlined a plan. Hizh part, I fear, izh rash.
(reacts to hole) But that izh a pit there! Mind your footing.
He skirts the large hole and reaches the shelf's far lip and gazes out. Before him is a steep
drop-off. We see the very crowns of near pines and then, four hundred yards away, the
land flattening to an open meadow.
Mattie, also gazing out, comes up beside LeBoeuf.
LeBoeuf points with his pipe.
He returnzh for Lucky Ned.
Lucky Ned, the Parmalees, and the Doctor are just entering the low meadow, riding away.
As they do so Rooster enters at the far side, facing. He draws one of his navy sixes as he
One against four. It is ill advised.
He would not be dishuaded.
He and Mattie both watch as, below, the parties advance on each other at a walk. Eighty
yards separating them, they halt.
Rooster and Lucky Ned eye each other. After a beat:
Well, Rooster, will you give us the road?
Hello, Ned. How many men are with the girl?
Just Chaney. Our agreement is in force: she was in excellent
health when last I saw her.
Farrel, I want you and your brother to stand clear. You as
well, Doctor. I have no interest in you today.
What is your intention, Rooster? Do you think one on four is
I mean to kill you in one minute, Ned. Or see you hanged in
Fort Smith at Judge Parker's convenience. Which will you
Ned Pepper laughs.
I call that bold talk for a one-eyed fat man!
Koo koo roo! Blawk!
Fill your hand, you son of a bitch!
He puts the reins in his teeth, grabs his other revolver with the hand now free, and spurs his
Mattie watches him charge.
The facing four charge to meet him.
Shoot them, Mr. LeBoeuf!
Too far, moving too fasht.
Over the distant laughter of the idiot, the crackle of gunfire commences.
Rooster turns his head to either side as he fires, bringing his good eye into play.
The idiot is gaily waving a revolver over his head, not firing, squawking like a chicken as
A shot from Rooster kills him and swipes him neatly off his horse.
Farrel Parmalee has a shotgun. It roars.
Shot peppers Rooster. He returns fire.
Farrel Parmalee's horse is hit. It stumbles, and Farrel is dashed forward, snapping his
The Doctor Indian-rides past, sliding down and hooking an ankle on his saddle so that he
may ride in the cover of his horse's body. He makes for the treeline on the far side of the
Rooster and Lucky Ned are charging each other, both firing.
They pass each other--both still mounted--but Rooster's horse has been hit and it falls,
pinning Rooster's leg. His guns are gone, lost in the fall.
Rooster, bleeding from sprayed shot in neck, face, and shoulder, struggles and unpins his
LeBoeuf sits cross-legged and brings the butt of his Sharp's carbine to rest against his
injured shoulder. He nudges the gunstock back and forth, looking for the anchor that will
cause him the least pain. He cocks his head to sight, puffing pipesmoke.
Lucky Ned is reining his horse around with his left hand. His right arm dangles. He walks
his horse toward Rooster, who is getting to his feet.
Well Rooster, I am shot to pieces. It seems neither of us is to
see Judge Parker.
He drops the reins to reach out a gun with his one working arm.
He squeezes the trigger.
He screams as the gun roars and bucks back into his shoulder.
Rooster is facing Lucky Ned.
Lucky Ned raises his gun at Rooster and--is shot in the chest.
As we hear the weakly distant guncrack Ned flops backward, slides halfway down one side
of the saddle, and dangles, briefly, foot tangled in a stirrup, horse standing unperturbed.
Then, he drops.
Mattie whoops as LeBoeuf groans.
Some bully shot! Four hundred yards, at least!
LeBoeuf sets the rifle down and gropes at his shoulder.
I am afraid I have--
A rock is brought down on his head by Tom Chaney.
LeBoeuf has collapsed and is motionless. Chaney drops the rock and stoops for the rifle.
Mattie is already dragging it away. She grabs it up.
Stand up, Tom Chaney!
Chaney stands nearly straight--as much as his injuries will allow, and--
Boom!--the blast catches Chaney in the chest and he is blown back off the ledge, looking
surprised. He falls to oblivion.
But the carbine recoil pushes Mattie stumbling back and this, with the bad footing at the lip
of the pit behind her, sends her falling.
Mattie is tumbling. She bounces down a very steep slope, disturbed earth tumbling with
her, protruding roots and slender upgrowing foliage slapping at her on her descent.
As she descends more or less feet-first something snags an ankle and her inertia sends her
upper body on down past the pinned leg. She jerks to a halt head-downmost on the steep
The patter of falling dirt subsides. Silence. Heavy breathing.
Mattie, lying face-up, does a painful half sit-up to look around.
Above her, her left foot is snarled through some roots. Well beyond, very high, weak light
defines the mouth of the pit.
Using her elbows she pivots, scooting her upper body uphill so that she is no longer below
her foot. She reaches the cuff of her pants on the trapped leg and pulls it up to expose the
A splinter of broken bone has punctured the skin.
She pulls the cuff back down.
She stretches to slip fingers between her boot and the roots in which it is fouled. She just
manages to work in two fingers; in wrenching around, the root has cinched tight. She tugs
feebly at the root, which shows no signs of give.
She looks back up.
The small hole of weak daylight, dust drifting up toward it.
Mr. LeBoeuf! Are you alive!
. . . Mr. LeBoeuf!
Arms tiring, she lays back again against earth. She looks around.
Partway round the pit, just at her level, something difficult to discern in the semi-dark: two
mirroring shapes, close to each other: is it the soles of a pair of boots?
Mattie squints. She props herself partway up.
Higher view: they are boots--worn by a corpse--stretching away from us, foreshortened.
The man's skull has been partly shattered by the protruding rock against which it rests.
Mattie surveys the body. Her attention is caught by something:
The skeletal remains are still clothed and there seems to be something held by a bandolier
strapped across the chest, over the body's decomposing blue shirt but beneath a tattered
vest. A sheath is just visible high on the strap, near the corpse's shoulder. The butt-end of
a knife juts out.
Mattie stretches, reaching.
She can just get to a boot.
The man's remains seem to be fairly light. They drag across earth, raising dust, tending to
slide away with the grade of the pit.
Mattie reels the body in, careful not to let go and lose it down the hill. She pulls shoe,
pants cuff, pants knee, belt. The bandolier is close.
Her fingers curl around shirt, and pull.
The shirt's buttons softly pop and fiber dust drifts up as the fabric falls to pieces. Rib cage
is exposed beneath.
Mattie hastily reaches and curls fingers around ribs. She pulls. She is about to get the
A glistening something inside the rib cage--guts?--starts to slowly move. But it can't be
guts: it is gliding, coiling, under its own power.
A faint rattle.
Mattie screams as the ball of waking snakes quickens. One snake starts to slowly emerge,
and she bats the body away.
She pushes and kicks with her free leg, as much as her pinned attitude will allow. The
body, coming to pieces, slides dustily down into the dark. It disappears. Fiber and bone
dust float up toward us. We hear rattles.
Mattie hastily reaches for the root that pins her and in a panic pulls, looking back
toward the body. The root holds fast.
A snake is sluggishly and sinuously weaving up the earth toward her. She muscles her
body upward so that once again her pinned leg is bottom-most.
Another snake is behind the first. . . several more behind that.
As the snakes advance to the level of her pinned leg Mattie freezes. The first snake
continues climbing, weaving up the slope alongside Mattie's body. She watches it come
on, its blunted head with its flicking tongue inches from her face. The head passes, the
body goes coiling by.
Another snake undulates onto her pinned leg.
Are you there?
Careful to keep still, eyes on the advancing snakes:
I am here!
More snakes climb onto her.
Can you clamber out?
A large snake is winding onto her shoulder. She gingerly places a hand for it to coil onto;
it does; she holds it at arms length and gently shakes it off.
. . . There are snakes!
Rooster appears in the mouth of the pit. He has a rope wrapped round his waist and he
starts to descend, half walking, half hopping against the pit wall.
Mattie winces and looks down at one hand.
A small snake wrapped round her wrist has its fangs in the meat of the hand.
What is that?
She flaps her hand and the snake plops off.
I am bit!
BAM!--a burst of orange as Rooster, descended to the level of the lead snakes, starts firing
BAM! BAM! More orange lightning flashes.
The pit fills with roiling gunsmoke.
Rooster starts to stomp as well as fire. He kicks the more sluggish specimens toward the
bottom of the pit.
He reaches Mattie and takes out a knife.
Does Mr. LeBoeuf survive?
He does--even a blow to the head could silence him for only
a few short minutes. Where are you bit?
She shows her hand and he makes two slices in the flesh and squeezes out blood. As he
. . . He is in mild distress, having swallowed a good piece of
his pipestem. Can you move?
My foot is pinned and leg broken.
Rooster stoops with the knife and one slice frees the booted foot. He wraps one arm
around Mattie's waist and tips his head back and bellows:
I have her! Up with us!
The rope tautens and starts pulling, Rooster helping with his feet.
Little Blackie, led by a wobbly LeBoeuf, finishes pulling Rooster and Mattie from the pit.
Rooster is already unwrapping the rope from his waist and talking to LeBoeuf as he and
I will send help for you as soon as I can. Don't wander off.
We are not leaving him!
Rooster heaves her up onto the back of Little Blackie, LeBoeuf helping though blood still
flows down one side of his face.
I must get you to a doctor, sis, or you are not going to make
it. (to LeBoeuf) The girl is snakebit. We are off.
He swings up behind her and nods down to LeBoeuf.
. . . I am in your debt for that shot, pard.
Never doubt the Texash Ranger.
Rooster reins the horse around and spurs it. LeBouef shouts after:
. . . Ever shtalwart!
The horse takes to the steep slope reluctantly, with stiff legs, Rooster kicking it on. Tree
branches slap at him and take his hat. His face, already peppered with shot, gets new
Mattie is woozy. As Little Blackie crosses the field at full gallop Mattie looks blearily at
the littering bodies of horses and men.
Next to Lucky Ned's body his horse, saddled and riderless, swings its head to watch as
Rooster and Mattie pass.
Mattie's eyes are closing.
Mattie's eyes half-open.
Little Blackie plunges on, through a rough road in woods, but slower now, his mouth
Come on, you!
We must stop. Little Blackie is played out.
Horrible noises are indeed coming from the horse, but Rooster is grim:
We have miles yet.
He leaves off whipping the horse and takes out his knife. He leans back and slashes at the
horse's whithers. Little Blackie surges.
A locked-down shot as horse and riders enter at a gallop and recede.
It has started to snow.
Mattie is flushed and soaked with sweat.
The horse is laboring for breath.
Rooster gives inarticulate curses as he kicks it on.
Mattie looks ahead:
Barely visible in the moonlight a man mounted bareback rides on ahead. A sash cord
holds a rifle to his back.
He recedes, outpacing us, disappearing into the darkness and the falling snow.
He is getting away.
Who is getting away?
Hold on, sis.
Mattie is falling. It is unclear why.
Her legs squeeze the horses flanks.
Her hand tightens on the horses mane.
Rooster's arm reaches around to hold her.
Little Blackie is giving out, going to his knees and then all the way down.
Rooster hangs on to Mattie as the horse sinks. He pulls her clear, lays her on the ground,
and then steps away from her, taking out a gun.
The horrible noises coming from the horse end with a gunshot. Rooster reenters to pick up
Mattie but she screams at him and claws at his face, opening fresh gashes.
He ducks his head as best he can to avoid the claws but that is the extent of his reaction.
Put your arms around my neck, I will carry.
He presents his back and she relents, clasping her arms. He rises with a pained wheeze and
he starts jogging with Mattie piggie-back.
Bouncing at his shoulder, she twists to look back.
In the dark, the darker shape of the dead horse, growing smaller.
Mattie turns forward again, eyes drooping.
Rooster is loudly wheezing as he carries Mattie before him now, his jog slowed to an
unsteady walk. Her eyes are opening again.
They are now on a proper dirt road. Rooster staggers around a turn and does a barely
controlled stumble to his knees, and then sits heavily back, Mattie in his lap.
Up ahead is the front porch of Bagby's store, the building dark.
Rooster sits gasping.
Mattie's voice is thick:
Where are we?
Rooster takes out his gun, weakly raises his arm, and fires into the air. He sits panting.
I have grown old.
The door of the distant store opens and someone emerges, holding a lamp, peering out into
We are looking into the window of a moving train. Looking out past us is a thin forty-
Reflected in the window is a sizable railyard and then, as the train slows, a station.
Reading backward in the mirror of the window is the station stop: MEMPHIS.
We hear the voice, familiar from the opening of the movie, of the grown Mattie Ross:
A quarter of a century is a long time.
As the train eases to a stop the woman, Mattie, steps down. One sleeve of her dress is
I had written a letter of thanks to Marshal Cogburn, with an
invitation to visit, along with the fifty dollars I owed him.
In his reply he promised he would try to call next time he
came to Fort Smith with prisoners. Brief though his note
was, it was rife with misspellings.
Mattie goes along the platform, holding a small bag in one hand and, crushed against its
handle, a flier.
. . . The marshal did not visit, nor did he communicate
further. I had not been conscious during his leavetaking: by
the time Bagby rode us to Fort Smith my hand had turned
black. I was not awake when I lost the arm. I later learned
that Mr. LeBoeuf recovered fully. When the marshals found
him he was searching the pines below the rock ledge for
Tom Chaney's body. He found it and took it back to San
Saba for the reward. It was well earned.
In the scene, Mattie calls peremptorily to a young boy on the platform:
She shows him the flier:
The Cole Younger and Frank James
Wild West Show
Riding! Shooting! Lariat "Tricks" !
Don't Leave the Ladies and the Little Ones Behind!
He will amaze you with his skill and dash!
July 18, 1908
The boy looks up and points.
Mattie crosses the platform and further along, descends to the railyard.
The cars of the Wild West Show are parked along a siding. They display gaudily painted
scenes of men on rearing horses firing six-guns, of conestoga wagons, war-bonneted
Indians, bandana-wearing bad men. Three featured performers have their own vignetted
scenes, each depicted as a youngish man engaged in Wild West hell-raising, each with his
name painted beneath: Cole Younger, Frank James, and (unrecognizable but for the
eyepatch) Rooster Cogburn. Below Rooster's name is the sublegend "He rode with
Quantrill! He rode for Parker!"
Around the rail cars cowboys--and some Indians--mill, more wobegone than their painted
Mattie asks someone along the way for directions and is pointed toward the rear of the
Little Frank had sent me the flier. He had chaffed me
through the years over the fact that I had not married, calling
the marshal my "secret sweetheart," and he sent a note with
the advertisement: "Skill and dash--it's not too late,
Mattie!" Little Frank and Victoria have always liked jokes
and they are all right in their place. I have never held it
against either one of them for leaving me at home to look
after Mama, and they know it, for I have told them.
Mattie speaks to two men who sit on the rear platform of the rear car. They are old men
drinking Coca-Colas. One doffs his hat and rises when Mattie addresses the pair; the other
stays seated, slurping from his bottle.
Yes'm, I am Cole Younger. This is Mr. James. It grieves
me to tell you that you have missed Rooster. He passed
away, what, three days ago, when the show was in Jonesboro
Arkansas. Buried him there in the confederate cemetery.
Reuben had a complaint what he referred to as "night hoss"
and I believe the warm weather was too much for him. We
had some lively times. What was the nature of your
I knew the marshal long ago. We too had lively times.
Thank you, Mr. Younger.
As she turns to go she addresses Frank James, who has been staring at her:
. . . Keep your seat, trash.
Men load in a muddy pine coffin. Chalked on the coffin top:
Hold at station
I had the marshal's body removed to Dardanelle. The
railroads do not like to carry disinterred bodies in the
summertime, but I had my way.
The boxcar door is slammed and the train starts to move off.
. . . People love to talk. They love to slander you if you
have any substance. They said, Well, she hardly knew that
man. . .
Mattie stands with a prayer book. There is a light, lazy fall of snow.
. . . It's just like a cranky old maid to pull a stunt like that,
burying him in the family plot. They say I love nothing but
money and the Presbyterian Church and that is why I never
married. It is true that I love my church and my bank. I will
tell you a secret. Those same people talk mighty nice when
they come in for a crop loan or a mortgage extension. I care
nothing for what they say. I would have married a baboon if
I had wanted and fetched it its newspaper and slippers every
morning but I never had time to fool with it.
She leaves, striding purposefully past the headstone.
We show the headstone and, beyond, her receding figure.
A Resolute Officer
Of Parker's Court
Her figure softens as it recedes.
Anyway, a woman with brains and a frank tongue and one
sleeve pinned up and an invalid mother to care for is not
widely sought after. I never did see Mr. LeBoeuf again but
if he is yet alive I would be pleased to hear from him. I
judge he would be in his seventies now and nearer eighty
than seventy. I expect some of the starch has gone out of
that cowlick. Time just gets away from us.