Following the Captain

By R. Earle Harris
All rights reserved (c) 2015 (rearleharris@tuxfamily.org)


FADE IN:

EXT. WOODED FIELDS - DAY

Farm country in rural Georgia. We hear the voice of JOSHUA Durham, an eighty-four-year-old lawman, filled with strength of character.

JOSHUA (V.O.)
My father survived the War. Captain saw him through all that. But Sherman put him in the ground. All Sherman left us in Georgia was bare dirt and a plundered farm. Trying for years to bring our good farm back killed my father. Because there were still too many of us left with mother, I had to leave. So I went to find Captain.

EXT. FARM - DAY

Durham family farm in Georgia.

EXT. FARM - DAY

Dooryard of Durham farm. JOSHUA is a big, strapping seventeen. He has a passable farm horse saddled with a worn-out farm saddle lacking skirts. His MOTHER, OLDER BROTHER and YOUNGER BROTHER are here.

JOSHUA
Goodbye, momma.

MOTHER
Goodbye, Joshua.

YOUNGER BROTHER
Are you really going to find Captain?

JOSHUA
I am. I know he's in Texas.

MOTHER
I know you'll find him, son.

OLDER BROTHER
Joshua.

Joshua turns to his older brother.

OLDER BROTHER (CONT'D)
Father gave this to me. But I think he'd want you to have it where you're going. You take it.

He hands Joshua a good old cavalry pistol, well cared-for.

JOSHUA
Thank you, Eli. I'd best go.

Mounts and leaves, accompanied by their farewells.

EXT. ROAD - DAY

Joshua rides away from his family.

EXT. ROAD - DAY

Rural road through Georgia. Joshua is riding west.

JOSHUA (V.O.)
All this happened a long time ago. And some parts of it, the killing parts, are hard for folks to understand now. They don't believe we did it like that. Back then we trusted in the Good Book. And that means we took it to heart when it said that the day and hour of a man's death were written on the day he was born. Captain and the Good Book got us through many a hard place. That and praying. Maybe you don't believe we prayed. Well, the hell with you.

Then suddenly -

EXT. ROAD - DAY

Sunrise on the Texas coastal plain, near Burton.

Title Over:
               Texas, 1875.

EXT. ROAD - DAY

Joshua nears the fair-sized little town of Burton.

EXT. BURTON - DAY

Joshua rides into Burton and up to the post office. He dismounts and goes in.

INT. POST OFFICE - DAY

POSTMASTER and Joshua.

JOSHUA
Morning.

POSTMASTER
Morning.

JOSHUA
I'm looking for Captain McNelly, Captain Lee McNelly.

POSTMASTER
He know you?

JOSHUA
My father rode with him in the war.

POSTMASTER
He did, did he?

Joshua is silent under the postmaster's gaze.

JOSHUA
I guess I just wanted to shake his hand.

POSTMASTER
Where you from, son?

JOSHUA
Georgia.

POSTMASTER
Long way to come just to shake a man's hand.

Joshua does not respond.

POSTMASTER (CONT'D)
McNelly has a soldier's headright, planted in cotton, just north of town. But he's gone to Austin.

JOSHUA
When is he due back?

POSTMASTER
He may not be back at all. The governor called him.

EXT. STREET - DAY

Joshua comes out of the office and, after looking around, rides out of town.

EXT. FARM - DAY

Farm outside Burton. A team of horses is plowing up the ground and members of FARMER's family are seeding it.

EXT. FARM - DAY

George gets off his horse and leads it up to the plow.

JOSHUA
Mornin', sir.

Farmer pauses in his work.

FARMER
Mornin'.

JOSHUA
Could ya'll use another hand?

Farmer studies Joshua a bit.

FARMER
We could. You ever follered a plow?

JOSHUA
In Georgia. We been farmin' it since my pa died.

FARMER
Alright. We can try you. How would fifty cents a day and found be? You could sleep in the dog run.

JOSHUA
That would be fine. Thank you, sir.

FARMER
Why don't you see to your horse and then rustle back out here?

JOSHUA
Yessir.

EXT. FARM - DAY

Joshua works with the farmer through the day.

EXT. FARM - EVENING

Joshua and the farmer head in for supper.

EXT. FARMHOUSE - EVENING

The farmer's WIFE is cooking in the kitchen which is on one side of the dog run. The rest of the little house is on the other.

EXT. FARMHOUSE - EVENING

Continuous. The WIFE hands him a plate of beans and such.

WIFE
Here you are, Joshua.

JOSHUA
Thank you, ma'am.

WIFE
You come all the way from Georgia to farm with us.

JOSHUA
No, ma'am. I mean, I'm grateful, ma'am. But I came to follow Captain.

WIFE
Follow who?

JOSHUA
My father's Captain, ma'am. Captain Lee McNelly. My father rode with him in the war.

WIFE
So you won't be stayin' with us long?

JOSHUA
Long as I can, ma'am. Till the Captain comes back from Austin.

WIFE
You go over with my husband and kids--

She gestures to where they are eating out in the cool of the evening.

WIFE (CONT'D)
--and I'll be along to say grace.

JOSHUA
Yes'm.

EXT. FARMHOUSE - EVENING

Family eating dinner at a wooden table. The kids are being seen and not heard.

WIFE
What is it you hope to do with Captain McNelly, Joshua?

FARMER
That's his business, dear.

JOSHUA
I don't mind, sir. Ma'am. I guess I don't rightly know. He was my father's captain and if he's still an officer I'm hopin' he'll take me on.

FARMER
I don't believe the captain is in the army these days, son.

WIFE
But he's still an officer. After the war he was with the State Police.

FARMER
And the only decent man in it if you ask me?

JOSHUA
How was that, sir?

FARMER
The State Police was put on us, son.

WIFE
Part of our punishment during the reconstruction.

FARMER
Redestruction, it was. We lost the war. Then they freed the slaves, gave them guns, and made them policemen.

JOSHUA
They did that to us in Georgia, too. All the judges were from the Union.

FARMER
The damn Union.
The wife nods at the staring children.

WIFE
Dear.

FARMER
The damn Union. We lived ten years with no justice. A lot of men joined the Ku Klux Klan to fight back.

WIFE
But that just got a lot of innocent people punished.

FARMER
It seemed there was only one part of Texas where justice for Texans meant anything - and that was where Captain McNelly was in charge of the State Police.

EXT. DOG RUN - NIGHT

Joshua beds down between the two rooms and looks out and up at the stars.

MONTAGE: FARM - DAY

A sequence to indicate passage of some days. Joshua continues to work the farm.

EXT. DOG RUN - NIGHT

Joshua beds down between the two rooms. Farmer enters.

FARMER
Joshua.

JOSHUA
Sir.

FARMER
I hate to lose you, son, but you may be done here.

JOSHUA
Is it something I've done?

FARMER
Oh, no. Not a thing wrong. But I was in town today and heard a piece of news.

Joshua waits to hear.

FARMER (CONT'D)
The captain is back from Austin. I hear he's lookin' for help.

EXT. STREET - DAY

Burton. Some weeks later. Joshua rides into town.

EXT. POST OFFICE - DAY

Joshua dismounts and heads inside.

INT. POST OFFICE - DAY

Joshua, jingling coins in his pocket, walks into the post office. As he enters, he holds the door for MCNELLY, who is leaving.

EXT. STREET - DAY

McNelly is in his early thirties. He is slight, about 135 pounds, with silky, wavy hair worn a bit long and a neat, silky beard to his chest. He looks like what he almost became - a preacher. McNelly mounts his horse.

INT. POST OFFICE - DAY

Continuous.

JOSHUA
Morning, sir.

POSTMASTER
Morning, young Durham.

JOSHUA
I heard Captain McNelly is back and wanted to ask you where I could find him.

POSTMASTER
Look right out that window, son. There he is.

McNelly turns his horse and rides up the street. Joshua watches him critically.

JOSHUA
That can't be him. Captain was guerrilla

Screenplay truncated at 500 lines.