Star Trail

Star Trail

Review written by Kerri Hammer

First Impressions:    A very good episode with some very interesting plot twists. This is the first of at least two episodes involving a good sheriff who gets turned around by a money-loving saloon girl.

The Story:    

The episode opens with a shot of black boots walking slowly but resolutely down the boardwalk and across the street. A voice calls out “Vick!” and the footsteps halt. A farmer in an old coat and a flat-crowned hat clutches a letter and looks around for the one who called him. He looks dejectedly across the street and says without warmth “Oh, hello Curly.”

Curly, dressed in a black shirt and hat, with his thumbs hooked into a silver-studded gun belt, stands on the boardwalk in front of the saloon. “I’m surprised, Vick.” He says, his voice mocking. He tells Vick that he truly is surprised that Vick had come into town, even after he had been told not to.

Vick says that he has a right be there and that he isn’t hurting Curly any. Curly looks wounded and asks “Vick, how can you say that? You know how deep it hurts me when you don’t take me serious.” Up on the boardwalk, a group of men, led by a mustached man with a badge on his shirt, look at each other and laugh. Vick appears defeated and says he’ll be leaving as soon as he mails his letter.

“Sooner than that, Vick.” Curly tells him. “And you’ve got to admit, I’ve been more than generous.” He looks slyly at Vick and asks “Have I ever once tried to cut that barbed wire you put up on my father’s range?”

Vick looks up suddenly and shakes his head, protesting that it’s his range now and no longer belongs to Curly’s father.

Curly gestures around and points out that the town isn’t Vick’s property and adds in a decidedly menacing voice “And as for me, I don’t like no sodbuster’s boots markin’ up this street.”

Vick nods and says that if Curly will let him get back to his horse he’ll leave town immediately. Curly agrees, then with a glance over at the badge-wearing man, orders Vick to take off his boots. Vick protests, saying that he will be leaving, but he’ll be wearing his boots.

Curly chuckles and slowly backs up, raising his hands up and away from his gun. “I wouldn’t try it in them boots, Vick.” He warns.

Vick tells Curly to have it his way and flicks his coat behind him and reaches for his gun. As Vick fumbles with his coat, Curly draws his pistol and fires, killing the farmer. The badge-wearing man says from the side “We all saw it, Curly. He went for his gun.”

Curly agrees but says it’s too bad and that he didn’t even have time to mail his letter. The man with the badge urges Curly to read the letter, but Curly refuses, saying that the deputy sheriff ought to know that reading other people’s mail is against the law. He looks at Vick’s body then back to the letter and comments “Well, the least we can do is post it for him.” He looks down at the letter and reads the address. “Jess Harper. Sherman Ranch. Laramie, Wyoming.”

Back on the Sherman ranch, Jess is about to ride through the gate when Slim calls from up on a nearby hill. Jess looks up but doesn’t respond, then waits for Slim to catch up before riding through the gate. He continues down the road, frowning to himself. Slim rides up beside him and asks what’s wrong and if he really would ride off without saying ‘goodbye’.

Jess comments that he never could say that word. Slim said that Jonesy had told him that Jess had gotten a letter, and Jess confirms that he did. He tells Slim that an old friend of his has trouble over in Rock Springs. Slim smiles and asks “Aren’t we giving you trouble enough?” Jess smiles back and says that Slim can take care of his own troubles, but his friend can’t. Slim sits back in the saddle and declares that he’ll just ride along with Jess. Jess points out that somebody’s got to take care of Andy, but Slim shrugs and said that Jonesy’s able to do that. Jess shakes his head and says that Jonesy likes to take care of Slim, and that Slim should let him. “And besides,” Jess adds. “You’re need here.” “So are you.” Slim replies. “I thought you knew that by now.”

Jess nods and says that it looks like he’s needed more in Rock Springs. Slim pulls up and tells Jess not to forget where he started from and to come back when he can. He offers Jess his hand and Jess shakes it, telling Slim with a smile that he’ll never get rich. Slim asks why and Jess replies that there’s no profit in planting tumbleweeds. With that, Jess rides off and Slim watches him go then heads back to the ranch.

Jess rides into town late in the evening and dismounts outside Ma Pooles’ Boarding House. He ties his horse to the post and walks up the porch steps. An elderly woman sits on the porch and Jess greets her with a hat tip and a good evening. She asks if he’s wanting a room. Jess says that he is, just as soon as he sees to his horse. The lady says that there’s a boy around who will take Jess’s horse to the stable. Jess is pleased to hear it and asks if he can see the room now. She tells him that all the empty rooms are standing open and that he can help himself. He thanks her and walks inside.

She calls after him and asks if he would like a free lemonade. “My favorite kind!” He replies. She’s fixing him a glass when he returns to the porch. He sits on the porch railing and tells her that he chose room 204. She smiles and hands him his lemonade. “It’s a nice room.” She tells Jess. “I had my first born there.” She asks if Jess will be keeping the room long and he tells her that it’s too soon to say. He says that he came on account of Vick Stoddard and asks if she knows him.

Ma Pooles nods and says that he’ll just have the room for one night then. Jess frowns and asks why she said that. She tells him that the funeral is in the morning. “Funeral?” Jess repeats without understanding. She realizes that he didn’t know about his friend’s death asks if he was a good friend. Jess seems to fight back tears then asks how it happened. Ma shakes her head and says that it might not be wise to tell him. Jess points out that somebody will tell him, and she admits that she knows this, and says that Jess might be about to make the same mistake as his friend. Jess asks what that mistake was and Ma tells him that it was pulling a gun on Curly Troy.

In the saloon, Curly, obviously in a good mood, is buying drinks for the whole house. He declares loudly that they’re drinking to Vick Stoddard and that every man there better turn up for Vick’s funeral because Curly Troy “don’t hold a grudge”. The men in the saloon cheer for him and Curly steps down from the stage and approaches a table where a saloon girl is talking to three men. Curly encourages the men to step up to the bar and get their glasses filled and tells him that he wants to be alone with the lady. The men leave and Curly and the girl begin to talk and laugh together.

Jess stomps into the bar and tells the bartender that he was told he could find Curly Troy there. The bartender points Curly out and warns Jess not to go butting in. He says that in the meantime, Curly is buying drinks and he asks Jess what he’ll be having. Jess glowers and says that he just had a lemonade. With that, he focuses his attention on Curly Troy and walks further into the bar.

Curly and the saloon girl are still sitting at the table with their faces close together. Jess walks up behind Curly and watches him for a moment. “Which one of you is Curly Troy?” He demands. Curly looks at Jess and asks “Now, which one do you think? There’s exactly two of us sitting here, and Evie doesn’t look much like a man.” He turns his attention back to the girl and Jess says coldly “Neither do you.” Curly freezes then stands abruptly to his feet. Everyone swiftly backs away from the two men, and Jess gets himself set for a fight.

Curly asks if Jess came a long way to tell him that and Jess replies that he came from Laramie and that he’s a friend of Vick Stoddard. “Oh yeah.” Curly says. “Jess Harper, wasn’t it?” He says that he mailed a letter to Jess a couple of days back and that Jess owes him eleven cents.

Jess reaches in his shirt pocket, takes out the money and throws it into a nearby spittoon. He spreads his hands away from his sides and says that maybe now Curly can think of something else Jess owes him. Curly says that Jess didn’t have to do that. Curly would have killed him for nothing. “Get started, then.” Jess says, clearly unimpressed with Curly’s bravado. Curly raises his hands into the air and says that he’d like these folks to remember that Jess drew first. “Like Vick did?” Jess demands. “Like Vick did.” Curly agrees. Jess says he likes witnesses too, but the next time they talk about Curly he wants them to talk about how Jess called him coward to his face and how he stood there and took it.

A voice from the side demands “Is that all you’ve got to say?” A man with a star on his chest and a rifle in his hand pushes his way through the crowd. Jess asks if he’s breaking some law, and the sheriff comments that it looks like Jess is trying. Jess demands to know where he was when Vick Stoddard was killed and the sheriff says that Jess really doesn’t care who he picks his fights with.

Jess asks if the sheriff is taking this fight over and Curly orders Sheriff Hatch to stay out of the fight. Hatch has his deputy relieve them of their guns and tells Jess that he can pick up his gun on the way out of town. Jess says that he isn’t leaving.

Sheriff Hatch says that Jess is leaving, but Jess doesn’t understand why he should have to leave instead of Curly. Hatch says that it’s because Curly lives there, and Jess asks if Curly’s father owns the sheriff as well as half the town. The sheriff offers Jess a week in a cell for a chance to figure it out. Jess says that he can’t go to jail. He has to go to a funeral in the morning. Hatch agrees, telling Jess that his gun will be in his office after the funeral is over. He then tells Curly to go home. Curly is unhappy, but complies.

When Curly is gone Evie comes up to Hatch and wants to know if he’s through showing off. Hatch protests, saying he thought she’d be grateful that he’d pulled her ‘pet puppy’ out of a hole. She storms off angrily. Hatch then tells Jess to sit down and cool off while he answer’s the cowboy’s questions. Jess agrees and they sit down together. The deputy asks if he should lock up the men’s guns, but Hatch says that he’ll take the guns and the deputy’s badge because of the man’s failure to stop Vick’s murder. The deputy is furious and storms out of the saloon.

Hatch tells Jess that he had just gotten back to town and Jess apologizes for making trouble. Hatch refuses the apology and says he only did what he did to prove the fact that no one owns him. The sheriff then gives the guns to the bartender to hold until he comes back.

The bartender warns Hatch that Evie doesn’t want to see anybody, but the Sheriff is confident that she’ll see him. Hatch goes up the stairs and knocks on Evie’s door. She tries to keep him out, but he comes in anyway and asks her what he’s doing wrong. She says the only thing he’s doing wrong is hanging around where he isn’t wanted. He asks her why it has to be this way, and she says she’s over him.

He says that he isn’t over her, and that all he wants is to be allowed to do things for her. She refuses, saying there’s nothing he has that she needs or wants. He tells her that money isn’t always the answer, but she tells Hatch that it’s the only one she hasn’t tried, and she means to try it, with the help of Curly Troy. Hat tries to tell her that Curly has no intention of marrying her, but they’re interrupted by a knock on the door. It’s the bartender, and he warns Sheriff Hatch that Curly’s gotten his hands on another gun and is aiming to start trouble.

Outside, Jess has returned to the boarding house and is sitting on the porch talking to Ma Pooles. She says that Curly Troy had been by, and that he had left a gun for Jess. Jess takes the gun and prepares for the fight that he knows is coming. Curly comes walking up the street and Jess steps off the porch, only to meet with the business end of Sheriff Hatch’s rifle. Hatch tells Jess that the former deputy Grat is in the alley, waiting to ambush Jess, then he takes Jess’s gun and tells him to stay out of the way.

Hatch confronts Culy and Grat and tries to force them into laying down their guns. Curly draws, forcing Hatch to kill him. Hatch looks down at the body and shakes his head, asking why Curly made him do it.

After Vick’s funeral, Jess apologizes to the sheriff for making trouble. While Hatch is telling Jess that the confrontation had been inevitable, a group of horsemen, led by Curly’s father, rides up. Old Man Troy warns that Hatch will hang for what he did to Curly. Hatch says he knows how the old man must feel, and Old Man Troy asks why Hatch had killed his only son. Hatch explains that Curly had had a choice, but had left him without one. Old Man Troy admits that it was his fault that his son was the way he was, and Hatch tells him that he has done more for the town and for the country as a whole than he could imagine. He explains that what Old Man Troy built, a town and a livelihood for all the residents, was more important than just him or his son. Hatch then sends Old Man Troy on his way and trouble seems to have been avoided.

Later that day, Jess is at the Sheriff’s office to collect his gun, and he offers to stand in as Hatch’s deputy for a while. Hatch agrees and swears Jess in as an official deputy. He then tasks Jess to sit at the front desk while he takes a nap.

As Jess is writing a letter to Slim explaining that he’ll be tied up for a little while longer, Evie comes storming into the jail. She calls Hatch out and Jess goes outside to give them some privacy. Evie tells Hatch that she’s leaving town as soon as she gets enough money, and Hatch tries to explain to her what happened. She says she knows how it happened, and that he purposely destroyed the last chance she had in that town. She tells him that it doesn’t matter where she goes or who she gets it from, but she’s going to have money. He asks if she’d even come to him if he had money, and she yes, she’d even go to him.

After she leaves, Hatch and Jess patrol the streets while two desperate looking characters watch from the shadows.

The next day, as Jess is helping Ma Pooles with her shopping, three men shoot their way out of the street, jump on their horses and gallop out of town. Jess and the Sheriff grab their horses and light out after them. Jess goes after one bad guy and Hatch goes after the other two. The man Jess is chasing is easily dispatched. Hatch chases his man over a hill and through a bunch of fir trees before finally putting a bullet in him. He then proceeds to check if the man is dead and then takes the bag of money from the man’s saddle. Hatch buries the money and returns to town.

Hatch tells the distraught banker that he and Jess did all they could, but they didn’t manage to get the man with the money. The banker says that without the money the bank will go under.

Later that evening, Evie is boarding the stage when Hatch catches up with her. He begs her to stay and tells her that now he has everything she wanted. She realizes that he took the bank money and agrees to go with him.

The next morning Hatch is in a fine mood, whistling cheerfully and telling Jess how he’s patched things up with Evie, and he’s going East with her. Jess congratulates him, and Hatch says that he’s had a few job offers, and that soon he’ll bring Evie back to town dripping diamonds. Jess is incredulous and asks Hatch what kinds of jobs he’s looking at. Hatch brushes off the statement, saying he just got carried away. He then says he’s taking Evie for a drive and tells Jess to mind the office.

Late that night, Jess is cleaning the guns in the sheriff’s office when Ma Pooles comes in. She tells Jess that his room has been ransacked, and Jess goes out to Hatch’s house to ask the sheriff what he should do. Jess rides out to Hatch’s homestead and finds a man instead the house, searching frantically through Hatch’s belongings. The man fires at Jess and is trying to get out the window when Jess shoots him. Jess lights a lamp and takes a look around the wrecked room. Frowning to himself, Jess blows out the light and sits down to wait.

Sometime later, Hatch and Evie drive up and Hatch goes inside to hide the money. As he walks in Jess confronts him, saying that he knows that Hatch has the money, but that there’s still time to make things right. Hatch refuses, say it’s too late and that for him, there’s no going back. Jess pleads with him, begging him to go back to town and straighten things out, but Hatch won’t listen. He offers to leave immediately and not make any more trouble, if Jess will just give him a night’s head start. Jess says that he won’t even give Hatch a head start to the door. Hatch raises his rifle to shoot Jess and Jess is forced to kill him. As he lays dying in Jess’s arms, Hatch comments that the bullet was right where the badge should have been, and that he never should have taken it off.

Evie comes running in and tells Jess that she’ll say anything he wants her to. He tells her that the man he had shot had had the money, and that Hatch had followed him on a hunch. He says that the man started shooting and that Hatch killed him, but the man’s bullet had also killed Hatch. Evie agrees with the story, Jess looks down at Hatch’s badge with tears in his eyes.

Jess returns to the Sherman ranch and Slim rides out to meet him. He asks if Jess decided that he was need more on the ranch than in Rock Springs, and Jess says that it’s not all about who needs him. It’s about what he needs too. He grins and then he and Slim ride off toward the house together.

Kerri's Favorite Moments:    

Overall, this episode isn’t one of my favorites, but it’s got some really great Jess moments. I love the scene where Jess and Slim say goodbye. It’s always nice to see how much Slim trusts Jess, and how much our two fellers really care for each other.

Another one of my favorite moments is when Jess is sworn in as deputy. Sheriff Hatch tells him “Having been duly sworn in, you are entitled to sit at that desk while I take a snooze.” Jess sits down at the desk and looks around, a sort of half smile on his face. He then pins on his badge, sits back in the chair and then he gives the badge a little shine with the corner of his bandana. This particular scene always makes me smile.

Notes of Interest:     The sheriff was played by Lloyd Nolan who was also in War Hero as General Barton, and Deadly is the night. Curly was played by favorite character actor, William Bryant.

The Owie Factor:     Jess gets his feelings tromped on a bit, but nothing more than that.

Kerri's Rating: Three stars. Good story and well acted, but the story gets a little tiresome after you've seen it twice in the same series

Annie's rating: 2 stars, a bit of old hat. Oh, wait, this IS old. Okay, two and half.

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