(Missing Scene to ODOW)
Character Focus: JD POV featuring Vin, Buck, Chris and the rest of the seven
Summary : JD has to make a decision, duty or friendship
Disclaimer: I know they're not mine, if they were the series would still be on the air.
Note: Thanks to Sue M. for her invaluable assistance.
JD'S JOURNAL ENTRY ABOUT THE JAMES INCIDENT
I've never written a journal entry before, this book was a gift from my mom to record my life at college. Well, college is out and I'm living in the west now. A lot of things have been happening to me since I jumped off the stage in Four Corners, for one thing I am now sheriff.
My first adventure took place against some rag-tag Confederate soldiers out at the Seminole Village. I'll write about that later, now I want to write on the events of the last couple of days.
The seven of us rode into town right after Lucas James shot Mr. Potter and was facing off with his men against Judge Travis. Chris took the lead and we all backed him up.
When Lucas called him a cowboy he tilted his head toward me and said, "JD, did he just call me a cowboy?" I couldn't believe it, I was the first one he called to back him up. I didn't know if he even liked me before that. So I made sure in my response that Lucas would know just who Chris was, a famous gunfighter. I called him Mr. Larabee and Lucas went a few shades lighter.
Things happened pretty fast after that, ending with Lucas being arrested. The Judge tried to get a jury together and couldn't, then tried to find someone to become sheriff. I took him up on the job and that's when things really got strange for me. I had to arrest Ezra, I faced off the townspeople with Vin backing me up, I found out something I didn't want to know and wasn't sure how to handle, we had the trial, I messed up and darned well near knocked myself out, then the Judge got shot, and Lucas escaped.
The Judge survived but we had to make it look like he was dead. I got a coffin filled with rocks and we had a burial where James' men could see. Then Chris and the others decided we needed to go out to the James Ranch and bring Lucas back to stand trial. Chris decided to let Ezra out of jail since he could help us get to Lucas.
Something happened on the way back to town after we re-captured Lucas, something that helped me with the solution to my problem. The problem had been bothering me from just before the trial. First I guess I'll write about on the trail back to town since it helped me decide what to do.
We had Lucas James and were heading back to Four Corners, to stand trial for killing Mr. Potter. I'd had my doubts about us getting him away from the ranch but Chris' plan worked. We all did our jobs and we made it out of there.
My part of the plan was to take care of the horses so they couldn't follow. I didn't have time to take care of all the horses but I did cut the cinches on over half. That still meant there were a number of James' men who were able to come after us. I thought we wouldn't make it for sure. We were riding hard but they were shooting at us and I thought at least one of us would go down. Plus we had to keep Lucas with us and he wasn't helping any, making it harder to outrun them.
Then it happened, Buck came riding down that hill with his rifle at the ready. And it was all over, those riders stopped and headed back to the James ranch. He continued down the hill and joined us riding tall in the saddle. And my thoughts as we rode turned to Buck and the kind of man he is, he's the kind of man I'd like to be. And as I thought on Buck, I realized the answer to my problem.
I reckoned right then that a lot of people underestimate Buck, they see a man who loves the ladies, who enjoys life to the fullest. But they don't see the depth of the man. When you look at Chris you know right away this is a dangerous man. Chris is real intense in his fight for justice and doing what's right. That don't mean he's reckless, he doesn't act until he's thought things out and has a plan.
With Buck, he's just as interested in justice and fighting for what's right but he goes about it differently. Usually he's easy- going and follows Chris' lead but I think there are times, like at the Seminole Village where he acts before he thinks, he does what he thinks needs doing without any thought to his own safety. I'm alive today because he put his life on the line to save mine.
I don't know what happened in town before we left for the James Ranch but I heard that Chris had threatened Buck at the barber's. I know he didn't ride out with us and some of the rest commented on it. Chris had said "you can always count on Buck" and we all thought he was being sarcastic.
He wasn't, he was just stating a belief. He believed Buck wouldn't let him down, wouldn't let us down. He had faith in Buck and Buck proved he deserved that trust. So when Buck showed up and said real smooth "Good thing I came along", Chris just smiled and softly said "Good thing you did." As we rode off I think I was the only one close enough to hear Chris say something that sounded like, "What did I do to deserve a friend like you?" Buck just gave him that big grin and on they rode next to each other.
I guess Chris has seen this before, Buck not holding a grudge no matter how good the reason. He's a loyal friend and he wouldn't let us ride into danger without watching our backs. He always does what's right no matter how difficult.
And so he came riding down that hill on his grey with rifle ready, every inch the hero he truly is. Buck acts from the heart that's why he stepped in the way of Anderson's saber, why he rode out to help us today.
Yesterday before Lucas' first trial, I was sitting in the jail listening to Ezra and Lucas playing cards. I'd talked to Buck earlier, had the run-in with the townspeople, and was now going through the papers in the desk to see what was there. That's when it happened.
Now I fully realize being sheriff isn't anything like I thought it would be. First, I had to arrest Ezra and then Buck lit into me for taking the job. Now I find a wanted poster for Vin Tanner. It said he's wanted for murder, I couldn't believe that. Vin acted to help Nathan, he rode out against all odds to save the Seminole Village. He backed me up just a little while ago when the townspeople threatened me. That sure didn't seem like a murderer to me.
But what did I know? Maybe good men could kill but the situation makes it murder. I just didn't want to arrest him, didn't want to be the one who sends him to his death. He's a good man and he shouldn't have to die, not like that, anyway. But I took the job and that meant I have to uphold the law. And the law says he has to stand trial for his crimes. That means he has to die and I'd be the one to bring it about.
All I could think was, 'Buck is right I shouldn't have taken this job. It's too tricky. I've already arrested one friend and had him look at me as if I'd betrayed him. Now I'm supposed to arrest another friend and send him to his death. I wonder how Vin will look at me when I arrest him?'
The judge said the trial would start at one. When I found the poster I only had a half hour to act on my find. I couldn't take action before the trial so I'd just have to act later. The thing was I couldn't decide just what I was, was I a lawman or a friend. At least I knew enough to take the poster with me since I didn't want anyone else to find it.
Events happened fast after that first attempt at a trial. I kept finding reasons not to take action. Finally we brought Lucas back, the Judge had asked us to stay for thirty days and we each agreed, and then the second trial ended. Lucas was in jail with Josiah watching him while the rest of us were relaxing in the saloon. The incident on the trail back to town had made up my mind and now I had to act on my decision.
Although it was pleasant sitting in the saloon with the others, I had to do my duty as sheriff. For one, I had to relieve Josiah. We had set up a rotation and my turn was next. I knew what I had to do, just wasn't too sure how to do it right. As my mom used to say, "no putting off what needs to be done, there is no time like the present for doing the hard things in life." So I decided I just had to act and see how things played out.
I'll never forget that conversation with Vin for the rest of my days.
As I said we were sitting in the saloon, relaxing after the excitement of the day. Vin was slouched in his chair, more relaxed than I had ever seen him. I was sitting there playing with my drink trying to get up my courage.
I stood up and told the others I needed to take my shift over at the jail. That's when I asked him.
"Vin, I was wondering if you could come over to the jail with me."
He got a real funny look on his face, but he nodded and took his leave of the others. We headed over to the jail. He didn't even ask me what I wanted. Boy, he can do silence. I noticed his hand straying to his gun, wondered if he was going to pull it on me and take off. Then he removed his hand and straightened up like he was walking to the gallows. I guess he thought he was.
We got to the jail, Lucas was sleeping and Josiah headed over to the saloon. I began to stoke the fire in the old stove. Vin seemed surprised at my actions.
I said to Vin, "Just want to warm this place up while we talk."
He stood there just waiting for me to do something, not saying anything.
I pulled out the wanted poster with his face and name on it and asked him real quiet so as not wake Lucas, "Did you do what it says here?"
He looked at me funny, like he didn't understand why I was asking. Then he gave me the answer I was hoping for.
"I found him dead, thought he was a bounty I was chasin', took him into town and was accused of murdering him," he said and just stared at me waiting to see what I'd do.
I crumpled up the poster and threw it in the fire I'd been stoking. He looked like he couldn't believe what I'd just done.
I began to speak, asking him to hear me out. I paced as I spoke, couldn't manage to stay still. "I've been pondering all day on how to do my job as a lawman and still be a friend. When the Judge asked us all to stay, I'd already made up my mind. My job is to protect this town. I know you'd never do anything to put it in danger. The thing is though as sheriff I had to act on that poster, I just wasn't sure what the best action would be.
"Buck showed me the way, he was a lawman once. Who Buck is, is the kind of man I want to be. He acts from his heart, he's loyal to his friends, he always does what's right even when Chris makes it hard. I know none of us expected him to show up today, but I reckon Chris wasn't all that surprised to see him. Today showed me how a friend is someone you can count on to go that little bit extra.
"Chris shamed Buck today, but that didn't stop him from being there for Chris and the rest of us. Buck showed me how a real man acts. A real man does what's right not what others say he should. That's why I asked you about that poster, I know you're the kind of man that would tell me the truth no matter what. You said you were innocent and that means the right thing isn't to arrest you and see you hung. The right thing is to let you help us protect this town.
"I'd like to think we are friends. I know you felt the same as Chris did, that I had no business being at the Seminole Village. I know you also probably agreed with Buck that I had no business becoming the sheriff. I messed up at the first trial for Lucas and even got in your way when you tried to stop his escape. I may be young but I can still learn from you and the others. I want to become the kind of man you can one day call friend."
Vin smiled, one of his rare real smiles. The first he'd ever given me. Then he held out his hand, I shook it but guess I must have given him a puzzled look since he explained that action to me.
"Never took your hand at the Seminole Village," he told me. "Didn't think a boy should be there, figured you'd be dead before we were done. Hell, figured I might be dead before we were done. I just offered it now to a young man I'd be proud to call friend. You got nothing to be ashamed about how you acted today. You stepped up and took a job grown men refused. You stood with the judge in the courthouse, maybe you didn't do everything right but like you said, you'll learn."
Then he put his arm over my shoulders and said, "How about I just stay with you until you're relieved and then we can go to the saloon for a drink, pard."
Even as I'm writing this I still feel the pride I felt at that moment. Vin called me pard, he approved of my actions. I still have a lot to learn but with men like Buck and Vin leading by example, I know I will learn what I need to survive in my new life.
So that's how I became sheriff of Four Corners and learned that there is law and there is justice. I made my decision. Justice won. My friend remains free not because he is my friend but because it was the right decision. In this instance, friendship and duty were the same. I hope that never changes but if it does I will act in the interests of justice because that is the right thing to do. It is what the six men I ride with would do.