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Author Topic: Suffer Not the Evil Man  (Read 6453 times)

Joel

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Suffer Not the Evil Man
« on: February 26, 2007, 04:35:44 pm »

Here's a weird little thing I wrote all in a rush last night, which is sort of in the Walt's Gulch universe.

Supper was over, and while the children cleaned up the kitchen Lysander Barnett unhooked his carbine from the wall and went to walk the homestead’s perimeter fence, as was his custom.  It was unnecessary, and Sarah often jokingly chided him that he needn’t have spent all that metal on warning systems if he was always going to do it himself.  But the truth was he just liked a quiet walk in the evening.  Wolfe, knowing it was time, loped out of the barn and joined him.  They passed the hangar on the way to the fence, and Barnett saw target stands stacked outside.  He shook his head; he’d told the kids a million times to put the range gear away when they were done with it.  Well, it was getting late; he’d sic them on it in the morning.

It was a clear and mild evening, and he and Wolfe spent a pleasant hour together making the round.  The sheep were bedded well, the rabbit hutches were secure, and all the equipment was in its places.  He patted the dog and sent him back to his guard post. 

His two youngest met him at the door.  “Story, Daddy?” Marcy asked.

He smiled and ruffled their hair.  “Chores?”

“All done!”

“Okay, then.  Tell your brother, bring me your rifles, and if I like their looks you get your story.”

“Aw, Daddy!  They’re clean!”

“I’m sure they are.  Now scoot.”

They met him in the living room where he sat on the sofa with Sarah.  Lining up, they presented their firearms, eldest first.

Robert handed him the Clancy .55 recoilless, action open.  Barnett looked at the action and barrel.  “Clean as new, Rob.  So clean it doesn’t look like it’s been fired.”  He looked at his son.  “You didn’t fire your fouling shots.”

“Aw, Dad! I can do that in class!”

“You need to keep your rifle ready.  You’re plenty old enough to know that.  This is a fine long-range piece, if you’d just learn to use it.”

“But Dad…”

“I’m serious, Rob.  I heard from your teacher again.  I want your thousand yard scores up by next month, or you can kiss that hoverbuggy you’ve been pining over goodbye.  You’ve got the best eyes in the family and the makings of a fine rifleman if you’d just apply yourself.  I hired you the best teacher in the region, and I’m paying him good metal.  He’s way better than me, and that’s why I’m paying him to teach you.  You listen to him.”

“Yes, sir.” 

Barnett wasn’t sure the boy was convinced, or would ever be.  Last year the .55 had been all he could talk about, but now he really was more interested in writing.  Well, everybody became the best rifleman he could, but it wasn’t just ability that made the difference.  Rob might turn out to have other aptitudes.

He went through the others’ weapons, little seven-year-old Marcy coming last with her .380 submachine gun.  He praised them for the care they showed, suggested that Shiloh be a little more generous with the copper solvent, and sent them to load and rack them.

Then they all trooped back and gathered around.  “Story!”

“Okay.”  He settled himself more comfortably.  “What do you want to hear?”

The youngest spoke up first, as usual.  “Great-Grandpa Barnett!”

“Ah!”  Barnett smiled.  The Traveler was their favorite topic, and though they knew all the stories they kept returning to them.  “Well, now, he’s got too many stories for just one evening.”

“Daddy,” Shiloh said, “Patty Myers told me it isn’t true that Great-Grandpa started the Gulches’ Revenge.  I told her she was a…” A poke in the ribs from Marcy stopped her before that particular self-incrimination took place.

Barnett ignored whatever it was Shiloh had called her friend.  “Well, now.  Some of the stories about my grandfather may have grown a bit in the telling.  But the Medicine Bow retribution did start the crazy time, and it was your great-grandfather who set it off.  Of course, it’s not true that he did the retribution himself, as some say.  That was…”

“Michael Owens!” said Marcy and Shiloh together.

“That’s right.”

“Daddy, did Great-Grandpa really meet him?”

“Yes, indeed.  I heard that story from his own lips, when I was your age.  He met Michael Owens two times, and the second time was when he convinced him to go to Medicine Bow.  The old government had done a terrible thing, and Grandpa lost many friends and trading partners.  Not being a fighter himself – because very few were back then, and most of them worked for the government – he called out to the greatest fighter he knew to set things right and make the aggressors pay.”

“What was Michael Owens like?”

“Oh, I’ve heard he was a giant of a man.  He towered head and shoulders over most men you’ll ever meet.  A face like granite, and cold, pitiless eyes.  To see him, if you were an aggressor, was to know fear.  Even some of the innocent feared him – Grandfather told me he did, at first.  He was a mighty fighter, but he had a tender love.  And it was when she was killed by the government’s aggression that he set out to take vengeance.”

“What was his lover like?”

“The stories about her are fewer, but they all agree that she was a sweet and gentle young woman.  Petite and delicate – like your mother here…” This earned him a poke, and they laughed.  “But also like your mother, she had it in her to be a fierce fighter when her home was threatened.  The government had special fighters called SWATs, who the rulers would send at night to kill their enemies.” 

The children shuddered deliciously; the stories about SWATs were legion and bloodcurdling.  “The SWATs came for Michael Owens,” said Barnett, “Not knowing that he had gone.  So instead they met his lover, and she killed seven or eight of them with an old-fashioned scattergun before they cut her down.”

“Dad,” said Robert, “Why did the people put up with things like evil rulers and SWATs and stuff?  Why didn’t they just shoot some and drive the others away?”

“Well, of course in the end they did.  But it had gone on for so long by then that it was at the cost of terrible suffering.”

“Why?  Because the rulers had so many fighters?”

“No, not because of that.  The people always far outnumbered the evil fighters, even though most of them couldn’t fight and weren’t allowed weapons.  It was because the government had ruled for so long, and had taken over control of so much, that the people couldn’t get along without it.  When they finally threw off the control, a lot of them just starved.”

“Huh?”  The children couldn’t conceive of a whole continent full of people who couldn’t even feed themselves.

“It’s true!  Do any of you know what currency is?”

Heads shook all around.

“Well, it’s just one example.  Instead of goods or precious metals, the people traded with something called currency.  It was pieces of paper, which were worth whatever the government said they were.”

“You mean like promise notes?” Robert asked.  “What’s wrong with that, as long as the promiser makes good?”

“No, these weren’t promise notes.  The government wouldn’t redeem them for anything.  People were supposed to believe that these pieces of paper were valuable themselves.  And it had gone on for so long, Son, as the stars are my witness, they did believe it.  They worked long hours at jobs, hired men all of them, because few had good homesteads where they raised their own keep.  And at the end of a week of that, all they got were stacks of this paper.  And they’d trade it for food and shelter and the other things they needed.  It was the craziest thing.

“Well, when good people finally had enough and chased off the rulers, there was nobody left to say that all that paper had any value.  So of course it reverted to what it was really worth, which was nothing.  Nobody wanted to work as hired men if they weren’t even paid for it.

“And that was when the terrible times started.  When those times finally ended, it was only the few who knew how to take care of themselves, or those who could learn in a mighty big hurry, who got through them.  The strongest of those who couldn’t or wouldn’t turned aggressor themselves, and they spread misery and death among the productive until they were put down.

“That’s the lesson I want you to take away from this.  The greatest evil wasn’t the government, bad as it must have been.  There have always been aggressive men, and there always will be.  That’s why we train when we’re not working; so we can always be ready to keep them at bay.  But the greatest evil of those days was that people let it happen; that they liked it that way.  They were like livestock.  The government took care of them; it gave them easy lives.  Hollow and empty, maybe, but easy.  Easier than ours.  But when that great system broke down, as it had to sooner or later, they had nothing at all.”

“Daddy,” said Marcy, “That’s a crazy story.  Tell us one about Great-Grandpa!”

Barnett scooped up his daughter in his work-hardened hands and put her on his lap.  “It is a crazy story, baby.  But the craziest part of it is that it’s completely true.  It hasn’t grown in the telling like some stories do, and that’s what makes it so bad.  And that’s why we all need to be on guard against the aggressor.  He’s always with us.  And he’ll grow into a new government if we let him.

“But you’re right; we started talking about The Traveler.  Well, let me tell you about the time he went to trade with some folks he hadn’t met before …”

“Wait a minute, Dad,” said Robert.  “You never told us about the death of Michael Owens.”

Barnett stopped and scratched his beard.  “Well, Son, that’s because there are no such stories.  In a way Michael Owens never did die, and he never will.  We keep him alive in ourselves.

“The spirit of Michael Owens is like a good battle rifle.  You hope you never need it.  It’s a terrible day when you do.  But you keep it close because when you do need it, you need it bad.

“No, Son.  As long as we stay alert and careful, Michael Owens will never die.”

He bounced Marcy on his knee.  “But getting back to The Traveler:  You see, there was this gulch he’d heard about in what used to be Southern Idaho…”
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Jac

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Re: Suffer Not the Evil Man
« Reply #1 on: February 26, 2007, 04:41:12 pm »

“What was Michael Owens like?”

“Oh, I’ve heard he was a giant of a man.  He towered head and shoulders over most men you’ll ever meet.  A face like granite, ...”
:laugh: :laugh: :laugh:
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I have never regretted that I chose to "take the red pill." But there are days, just rarely, when the truth is so ugly, so brutal, so unmerciful, so relentless, that even if I wouldn't rip the truth from the wall socket and hurl it out the window to crash on the sidewalk below, I wouldn't mind if it featured a snooze button so we could savor just a few more moments in slumbered pretension and warm, fuzzy lies pulled snugly up over our heads.
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Claire

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Re: Suffer Not the Evil Man
« Reply #2 on: February 26, 2007, 04:48:01 pm »

The greatest evil wasn’t the government, bad as it must have been.  There have always been aggressive men, and there always will be.  That’s why we train when we’re not working; so we can always be ready to keep them at bay.  But the greatest evil of those days was that people let it happen; that they liked it that way. 

Boffo, JDW!!! Great story. And I'm with Jac; I love Michael Owens becoming sort of a Pecos Bill or a Paul Bunyan. (Or maybe more like a John Brown, who was pretty much a Manson in real life, and such a hero in legend.)

And ... Wolfe?

Anyhow, I love that you've created a whole Walt's Gulch universe.
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Just as the flattery of friends often leads us astray, so the insults of enemies often do us good. -- St. Augustine, Confessions, Book IX, Chapter 8


When faith ceases to be a challenge to the standards of polite society, it is no longer, or has not yet become, faith. -- Donald Spoto, Reluctant Saint:  The Life of Francis of Assisi


My life is my message. -- Gandhi

George Potter

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Re: Suffer Not the Evil Man
« Reply #3 on: February 27, 2007, 12:54:02 am »

 :mellow:
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Vrsovice Rebel

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Re: Suffer Not the Evil Man
« Reply #4 on: February 27, 2007, 02:40:36 am »

JDW, I have to admit, this is my favorite of all your works. It's such an optimistic, bright piece...a little glimpse of hope.



"....seven feet tall...lightning bolts from his eyes, and fireballs from his arse!"
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penguinsscareme

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Re: Suffer Not the Evil Man
« Reply #5 on: February 27, 2007, 06:36:51 am »

This might work as an epilogue.  Probably not, but too bad since it stands so well on its own.
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O Lord,
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Sportos, motorheads, dweebies, wastoids...they think he's a righteous dude.

The utter waste of our $2,000,000,000 a day military-industrial machine was never demonstrated more vividly than on 9/11.

You do what works.

Joel

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Re: Suffer Not the Evil Man
« Reply #6 on: February 27, 2007, 12:01:49 pm »

Quote
And ... Wolfe?

 :laugh: Well, it beats "Spooner"!

Quote
This might work as an epilogue.  Probably not, but too bad since it stands so well on its own.

Actually, you caught me.  This is the epilogue.  The sequel's first draft is Officially Complete, as of Sunday night.

By the way:  The working title, courtesy of that great title-maker-upper George Potter, is "Songs of Bad Men and Good."
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penguinsscareme

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Re: Suffer Not the Evil Man
« Reply #7 on: February 27, 2007, 12:07:05 pm »

Quote
This is the epilogue.

Like I said, it works brilliantly as an epilogue.

Quote
The sequel's first draft is Officially Complete, as of Sunday night.

And yet you still haven't posted it.
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O Lord,
Thine Ocean is so great,
And my boat is so small.

Sportos, motorheads, dweebies, wastoids...they think he's a righteous dude.

The utter waste of our $2,000,000,000 a day military-industrial machine was never demonstrated more vividly than on 9/11.

You do what works.

Joel

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Re: Suffer Not the Evil Man
« Reply #8 on: February 27, 2007, 12:23:08 pm »

And yet you still haven't posted it.

Sure, sure.  I type my fingers to the bone, mornings and evenings for more than three months, and so far all I've got is a first draft.  And he says, "But you haven't posted it!"  Yeah, birds. That's gonna happen.

Wait!  Was that a flying pig?  Nope, the wind must have just tossed another cow into the air.  Hate when that happens.

Oh, well.  You'll just have to wait.
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Yet another Freedomista blog: The Ultimate Answer to Kings is not a bullet, but a belly laugh.

Dare2BFree

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Re: Suffer Not the Evil Man
« Reply #9 on: February 27, 2007, 12:30:49 pm »

Congrats on having the first draft completed.  It looks like your new environment is very good for you and your writing.
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coloradohermit

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Re: Suffer Not the Evil Man
« Reply #10 on: February 27, 2007, 03:10:52 pm »

And yet you still haven't posted it.

Sure, sure.  I type my fingers to the bone, mornings and evenings for more than three months, and so far all I've got is a first draft.  And he says, "But you haven't posted it!"  Yeah, birds. That's gonna happen.

Wait!  Was that a flying pig?  Nope, the wind must have just tossed another cow into the air.  Hate when that happens.

Oh, well.  You'll just have to wait.

 :drool:  Appreciate any little tidbit thrown our way while we wait patiently!!  :drool:
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Re: Suffer Not the Evil Man
« Reply #11 on: February 27, 2007, 03:38:10 pm »

:drool:  Appreciate any little tidbit thrown our way while we wait patiently!!  :drool:

Patiently? As in mental patient, screaming and pounding head against wall?

All right, Joel ... the manuscript ... where is it?
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Just as the flattery of friends often leads us astray, so the insults of enemies often do us good. -- St. Augustine, Confessions, Book IX, Chapter 8


When faith ceases to be a challenge to the standards of polite society, it is no longer, or has not yet become, faith. -- Donald Spoto, Reluctant Saint:  The Life of Francis of Assisi


My life is my message. -- Gandhi

coloradohermit

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Re: Suffer Not the Evil Man
« Reply #12 on: February 27, 2007, 03:42:59 pm »

Quote
Patiently? As in mental patient, screaming and pounding head against wall?

Were you asking me??
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Never try to teach a pig to sing. It wastes your time and annoys the pig.

What luck for rulers that men do not think. - Adolf Hitler

Lead, follow or get out of the way.

Claire

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Re: Suffer Not the Evil Man
« Reply #13 on: February 27, 2007, 03:46:46 pm »

Oh. Yeah. Good point there, coloradohermit.  :rolleyes:
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Just as the flattery of friends often leads us astray, so the insults of enemies often do us good. -- St. Augustine, Confessions, Book IX, Chapter 8


When faith ceases to be a challenge to the standards of polite society, it is no longer, or has not yet become, faith. -- Donald Spoto, Reluctant Saint:  The Life of Francis of Assisi


My life is my message. -- Gandhi

penguinsscareme

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Re: Suffer Not the Evil Man
« Reply #14 on: February 28, 2007, 11:01:00 am »

And yet you still haven't posted it.

Sure, sure.  I type my fingers to the bone, mornings and evenings for more than three months, and so far all I've got is a first draft.  And he says, "But you haven't posted it!"  Yeah, birds. That's gonna happen.

Wait!  Was that a flying pig?  Nope, the wind must have just tossed another cow into the air.  Hate when that happens.

Oh, well.  You'll just have to wait.

Hufff.

Well, when will you be accepting orders then?

[gurmblemuttermurmur]
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O Lord,
Thine Ocean is so great,
And my boat is so small.

Sportos, motorheads, dweebies, wastoids...they think he's a righteous dude.

The utter waste of our $2,000,000,000 a day military-industrial machine was never demonstrated more vividly than on 9/11.

You do what works.
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