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By Jeffrey Paul McMahon

GENRE: Independent, Comedy

In the Fall of 1865, a sharp-shooting twelve-year-old Black American with Down syndrome outwits a gang of ex-Confederate rebels and saves his father from a lynching.


Via a comedic re-telling of the legend of William Tell, the script’s sub-textual treatment of current social issues, such as BLM and inclusion, underscores the theme that we’re all pink on the inside, that even those often considered ‘disabled’ are indeed able – a theme close to this former school-teacher’s heart. (N.B. The treatment of the characters and subject matter in this screenplay has been deemed by the Executive Director of NADS [National Association for Down Syndrome] to be consistent with its policies and mission statement.)

The War’s over – supposedly – and the Black American ex-Union sharp-shooter, WILLIE TELBERG is tasked with fulfilling his late wife’s mission to educate their twelve-year-old son WALDO, who has Down syndrome, to be a valued member of society. Together, as free settlers, they eke out a living on a small holding near the fictional Kansas township of “Lauraville”, supplementing their livelihood by satisfying the needs of the frustrated white women folk (there being a paucity of capable men due to the recent war) … supplying them with freshly shot rabbits … until one day they ride into town with their wares and encounter a small gang of disparate ex-Confederate misfits looting and terrorising the citizens.

THE RABBLE are not evil per se, just a little misguided. And disparate: one, a loser regardless of which side he’s on; another, just plain dim-witted; and a naïve teenager who has simply ‘lost his way’. Then there’s their leader, the dispirited ex-Confederate engineer, Captain ALBERT GREESER – the villain of the piece, with a hint of Hans Gruber about him. He’s bitter – and rightly so – about what the war did to his handiwork as a builder of fine structures. When he hears of Willie’s reputation as a marksman with the Kansas Colored Infantry, he strikes a deal – to save the town, Willie must use an ancient Confederate muzzle loader to shoot Waldo’s pet guinea pig from his head from thirty paces, a la William Tell. “Inhumane!” protest the citizens. Relenting, Greeser settles for a cabbage (a miniature one at that), which Willie safely dispatches.

Honoring the deal, Greeser vacates the town, taking the gentle giant Willie hostage on Waldo’s diminutive pony Abe. Willie tells Waldo not to fret; he’ll be back home before the chickens go to roost. Confident his resourceful father’s absence will be short-lived, Waldo returns home with the cart drawn by Willie’s huge old work horse MacDuff.

The hapless women, however, determined not to give up on the only real man in their midst, organize a ‘delegation’ to seek help from the neighboring town – an adventurous undertaking in its own right.

Back home, Waldo attends to his chores. Come sunset when he collects the eggs and notes that the chickens are already roosting, and Willie yet to return, Waldo gets to thinking. Before bedding down, he prays for guidance for his pending mission the next day, unaware that in the rebels’ camp, an altercation over the character of Willie’s late wife inflames the drunken gang’s prejudices, resulting in their captive being ‘sentenced’ to a good ol’ fashioned lynching come sun-up.

Pre-dawn, armed with his own ancient muzzle loader, and Willie’s modern repeater rifle, the diminutive but resourceful Waldo saddles up and mounts the gigantic MacDuff – no mean feat given the horse is nearly seventeen hands! – and sets out on his quest.

In the darkness of the camp, Willie, desperate to return to his son, manages to steal away only to have his liberty thwarted when confronted with a hungry mountain lion. Paradoxically, before he can devise an escape, he is ‘saved’ by the gang – let’s face it, they won’t be denied their lynching. As the sun rises, and, having consumed the last of the whisky looted from the Lauraville Saloon, they work themselves up to the deed – a pity no-one actually knows how to tie a proper hanging noose! But that don’t stop them going through the motion.

As the new day unfolds, Waldo comes across the odd rabbit and decides he might bag a brace or two while he’s at it. But his mission is wrested from him by an independent-minded MacDuff, the horse taking him to a strategic ridge, giving a panoramic view of all the activity unfolding. Time for Waldo to test his shooting skills his father has taught him.

A shot rings out, but it ain’t a rabbit in Waldo’s sights; instead, the bullet strikes the branch above Willie’s head, barely grazing the lynching rope. Abe rears, threatening to do Willie in. But the flimsy knot finally unravels and, responding to Waldo’s call, the pony trots the precariously mounted Willie safely away.

Waldo continues firing the lever action rifle, constantly changing position, the volley confounding the inebriated gang. Their spooked horses flee, while the liberated Willie joins his son, takes up the old muzzle loader, and enters the fray.

Defeated, disarmed and disarrayed, the gang, tied and tethered, trudge back into Lauraville to the waiting Sheriff Thorpe and his posse from the neighboring town, cajoled by the women’s delegation into helping them in their plight.

Following a unanimous vote, Willie is duly appointed the first sheriff of Lauraville. Official business done, Thorpe departs – alone; the posse remain, seduced by the prospect of a willing mate. Seems the town now has all it needs: a new lawman, capable men, and contented women. But they don’t have themselves a jail! Not to worry; with a ready supply of labor, the engineer Greeser and his cohort are ordered by Sheriff Willie to pay their dues in kind and help build all the civil structures the town lacks, in what could be the first ever sentence of “community service” designed to rehabilitate the miscreants into respectable citizens of Lauraville.

Thus, with Greeser practising his skills, his bitterness assuaged, and our other villains on the road to redemption, Sheriff Willie Telberg and son begin their new lives … keeping law and order … and occasionally supplying the women folk with the other fresh meat ...

Or so the legend goes …


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