Arizona Territory, late Nineteenth Century….
Captain John McKay bridled his horse on the fence rail to the side of the broad porch. Walking up the step, he was greeted by Patricia Terrill, his fiancée. Her father Henry stepped out onto the porch and shook McKay’s hand.
“Welcome, John. I’m glad you’re here. We’ve been having nothing but trouble with Hannassay over the ridge. Between his water-poaching and his harassment, it’s getting mighty annoying,” Terrill said as he spat off the porch. McKay shook his head.
“I’m just here to get married, Major.”
“You’re a coward, McKay,” he heard from behind. Steve Leech, Terrill’s foreman snorted.
“Sez you,” McKay said. Patricia’s eyes widened in anticipation. Yet another conflict between men over her hand; she sighed as the men faced off.
“Wanna prove it, McKay?”
“Yes,” he said and he put his hand to his chin in thought. A moment later he smiled and spoke.
“What number am I thinkin’ of? Between one and ten?” Leech pursed his lips and then blew out a frustrated breath.
“Wrong, Leech. Four. You lose.” McKay grinned as Leech slunk away in silence. Patricia sighed once again as McKay turned his attention to her.
“I hate violence.”
“You’re a sea captain and….holy crap,” Patricia thought as McKay pulled her in for a kiss. She grimaced at the thought of being married. Turning around, she stared at her father; her eyes pleading for relief. He shook his head.
“This will be a union which will benefit both parties. Now if I could only get rid of that school teacher Julie Marragon who owns ‘Big Muddy! All the water rights across the plain would be mine,” he said, leaving Patricia feeling hopeless. McKay was a nice man after a fashion, but she didn’t want to marry him or any other man for that matter. She was trapped….
“Maybe I can go and persuade her?” McKay said with a wry grin. Patricia took that for more than he said and quite rightly.
“Actually, I think I can be of some help here,” Patricia piped up. Before anyone could say a word to her, she had unhitched McKay’s horse and was off on a very urgent gallop toward ‘Big Muddy,”
“Hey, McKay?” Another voice called from behind. He turned to find Leech standing on the bottom step of the broad porch. He held a worn-looking book in his hands; McPherson’s Big Book of Word Problems.
“Back for more?”
“Yep…. If a locomotive starts from Kansas City and is going….” Leech was cut off by the sound of gunfire followed by a large hole that erupted in his shirt pocket. He keeled over dead as the Major holstered his Colt.
“I hate word problems…” Terrill said as McKay just shrugged. As he turned to go back into the house, Terrill noticed two figures approaching on horseback. A few moments later the cretinous Rufus Hannassay and his equally obtuse son Buck had dismounted and stood, hands on hips all too close to their six-guns.
“I heard you’re tryin’ to undercut me with that Marragon woman for ‘Big Muddy,’ Rufus snapped. Buck nodded in agreement.
“Yup,’ he said. Terrill shook his head.
“I hope you don’t have any ….word problems…. The Major hates them….." McKay said with a grin. He looked over at Buck and smiled….
Meanwhile, over at ‘Big Muddy’…..
“Well there, Patricia Terrill, what brings you to my place? I haven’t seen you since your father announced your engagement last month to that McKay man.” Julie Marragon stepped off her front porch and grabbed the reins of Patricia’s horse as the woman alit.
“Not my idea, Julie,” Patricia said with a shrug. She quickly changed the subject.
“My father wants to buy “Big Muddy.’ He says he gave you a fair price, but you haven’t answered his offer."
“Between him and old Rufus coming here every other day with his idjit son, I’m just about over this whole mess."
“Me too. I hate dust and dirt and cows and every inch of land here. I wish I could just get the hell out and live my life.”
“I know what you mean.” Julie stepped back onto the porch and turned.
“Would you like a glass of water?”
“Water,,,,Water... That's all anybody wants to talk about! I’d hate water if I didn’t need it so much. I just wish I could leave here and never come back. My father wants to own everything within sight, and he’ll do anything he can to make that happen. Since my Ma died, he’s been a bit….crazy….”
“Well, that’s pretty obvious. He and Rufus are like twins separated at birth. Loco? Actually, mentally ill.”
“I really like it when you’re clinically accurate,” Patricia said. "But I’m mentally ill as well, I suppose.”
“How so?” Julie asked in sympathy.
“Well, what you see?” Patricia said, using her hand in a broad gesture to indicate herself.
“Isn’t what you get… I’m not who you think I am?”
“You don’t know what I think, Patricia Terrill.” Julie stepped closer and pulled Patricia into a hug; sisterly at first, but awkward as the woman kissed her cheek.
“No, I mean it. I’m not who you think I am!’
“You mean ‘what,’ don’t you…..Patrick….” Julie smiled and a look of horror crossed Patricia’s face.
“It’s not what you are, dear girl, but who….” Julie patted her chest and then put her hand on Patricia’s left breast.
“And I like who you are, Patricia Terrill. I really do.” Julie smiled and pressed her hand against Patricia’s crotch, evoking a gasp followed by sobs.
“Nobody knows, right? Just your crazy father? I bet that sea captain must know, since he was gonna find out about you anyway? EWWWW…..”
“I never wanted this…. I mean…. I didn’t mean to trick… I’m so sorry,” Patricia pled. Julie kissed her on the cheek.
“Not a trick if we both know, Patricia Terrill, right? I think I know what we can do, but for now, let’s just go inside and get that drink of water, shall we?”
A few days later, on the front porch of the Terrill place…
“Well, Rufus, I guess this is what they call the beginning of a beautiful friendship,” the Major said as he clinked his glass of bourbon against Hannassay’s.
“Gee, Major, who woulda thunk the school teacher would split up ‘Big Muddy’ and sell it to both of us. No more feudin’ and gun play.’’
“Well, so long as there’s no word problems,” the Major said with a laugh. He looked over on the other side of the porch to see McKay holding Buck’s hand as they pushed back and forth in the glider…..
San Francisco, the Palace Hotel….a few weeks later...
“Will that be all, Miss Marragon?” The manager asked. A guest like her warranted special attention, and the three bellboys stood off to the side awaiting instructions.
“Yes, Mr. Pennington.”
“I’m sorry that all we could offer is our new suite…. For honeymoons,” Pennington shrugged uncomfortably. Julie smiled politely.
“S’quite alright. I’m sure my cousin Patricia and I will be quite comfortable here. Of course we will be spending a great deal of time in Napa as our winery gets going, but I expect we’ll be guests here in San Francisco quite often.” She smiled as the group of men departed, leaving the two alone.
“Well, Mrs. Marragon? Shall we repair to the bedroom?” Julie asked. Patricia blushed.
“I can’t wait to get out of this corset. And perhaps get you into one, Patrick, my dear?” Julie took Patricia’s hand and led her into the bedroom…. A secret place where she and her new lover could enjoy their brand new life together as the Marragon ‘cousins’…..
based on characters created by Robert Wilder
for the Motion Picture The Big Country
Musical score by Jerome Moross
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