Peasant Autonomy
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Story 24

A remote hamlet in Wyoming, United States – around 1870

Little Joey

for bigger picture click on this photo

(Photo: Erin)


“Bang, bang, lay down stupid dog, you're dead, bang, bang.” The 'stupid dog' jumps up happily. Little Joey wants to play with him, that's always fun. Wildly Joey runs around, with his wooden gun in his hand. “Joey, Joey, come inside, it's time for bed,” he hears his mother calling. When he enters the living room, he sees tears on his mother's face. “What's wrong, Mommy?” She doesn't answer him, but says quietly to his father, “Don't do it, Joe, it makes no sense. If you love me, if you love little Joey, then don't do it!”

Joey is an eight-year-old boy with straight-cut blond hair, in shabby and patched clothes. He is excited for a very good reason. Today, he went with his parents to the funeral of one of the settlers here, who was shot dead in a saloon.
For the last few years there has been a conflict between a rich, old rancher with a large herd of cattle that grazes on the prairie, and some younger settlers, who bought a piece of the prairie land from the government and started mixed farming. The rancher is in trouble, because the price for cattle is decreasing, and less and less land is available for his big herd. He wants to have the land of the new settlers, but they are not at all interested in selling their recently purchased land. They want to build up their own, independent lives.
Gradually the tensions heat up, and finally the rancher has hired a hitman, to scare away the settlers. After the murder of one of them, Joe Starrett, the father of little Joey, is so angry that he is determined to shoot both the rich farmer and the hitman.

for bigger picture click on this photo

(Photo: Gord McKenna)


“Mommy, where is the murderer now? You know, when I grow up, I will kill him. Really, I can do that.” His mother, still with tears on her face, smiles. “You just get some sleep, son, and tomorrow you can play some more.”


Shane (1953) from the American director George Stevens is an outstanding Western film.

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= the next page: Birth party - New South Wales, Australia – 1879 (2), story 25.
= the Table of contents, story 24.