The lone man rode into town when things were at their bleakest. Lawlessness had become the norm. The townspeople had lost all hope and become resigned to their fate. The man rode slowly through the town surveying the damage. Vice upon vice assaulted his eyes. He asked the man upstairs, “Am I the right guy for this job?” But he knew it didn’t matter anymore, he had taken the job and that was that. He pulled his horse up in front of the Sheriff’s office and got off. Some drunken revelers stumbling by ridiculed him because he seemed different than the rest of the men in this town. “Who are you mister?”, they asked. He stared them down for just a moment and said, “I am the new Sheriff. Sheriff Ben.”
In classic western style, with a steady hand and a calm voice, he let the townsfolk know that the time of lawlessness was over. Overcome with relief that someone cared about their plight, some of the townsfolk urged the Sheriff to come out with all guns blazing. However Ben had a longer vision than the others. He knew that gunning down a few of the bad guys might give short term satisfaction but it wouldn’t help the town in the long run. He knew that discipline has its place, but that more was required to bring lasting peace to the town.
The Sheriff knew he had to reconnect the people to their roots. They had all come here from distant lands with the hope of enjoying freedom, peace, and prosperity. They came here to be liberated from their oppressors but soon found themselves enslaved again by their own greed and licentiousness. Ben knew that he needed to remind people why they were here in the first place. He reminded them of their history, not by sanitizing all that had happened in the past, but by reminding them of all that was good but had been forgotten. He urged them not to long for the past but to bring that which was good forward, to embrace it, and live it. This was the only way that the peace would last, by providing the liberty needed for the people to clean up their own act. For them to grow in goodness.
The Sheriff knew that his main job was to insure the liberty necessary for that growth in good. So even though he was slow to act, act he did. Step by step he put in place the laws necessary for his people to heal themselves and in turn heal their town.
But in every western, there is an outlaw. The outlaw in this tale was the owner of a large ranch just outside of town. Nogaro, head of the Caserta ranch, saw what the Sheriff was doing and did not like it one bit. Nogaro, and ranchers like him, had owned the countryside and its people for a generation. They had rejected the past and felt themselves liberated from any and all law. As far as they were concerned, at least on their ranches and the surrounding farms, they were the law. No sheriff was gonna tell them how to run their ranches. They would even like to see him try.
Some of the farmers near the Caserta ranch had heard of the good that the sheriff was doing. They had heard tales how life in the town was beginning to change, how the townsfolk were beginning to look at themselves differently. So one farmer thought he might align himself with the Sheriff and do things on his farm that the Sheriff said he could do without fear of reprisal.
Nogaro found out and flew into a rage. He could not allow this to spread. Who did this Sheriff think he was? Even worse, how could one of the local farmers defy him in such a blatant way. No, he must put a stop to this at once. He ordered his men out to the farm to put a stop to it immediately, and they did.
The farmer was shocked and scared. Seemingly with no choice, the farmer told Nogaro he would not do it again. He thought, “I thought the Sheriff would protect my rights? I thought he would stand up for me? What else could I do?”
Word of the incident got back to the Sheriff and he was now faced with a hard choice. Should he back up the promises he made with force or should he show more patience with Nogaro? But what about the farms near the Caserta ranch, should he just abandon them when they were only doing what he himself had asked? What message would that send to the other ranchers who were equally opposed to the work of the Sheriff but had not directly confronted him, yet? They were surely watching this to see what they could get away with on their own ranches.
Sheriff Ben knew when he took this difficult job that this day would come, that he would eventually be faced with this decision. Today was the day and the clock was ticking toward high noon.
Sheriff Ben stared for a long time at the guns slung over the back of his chair. He knew what he had to do.
Awaiting the Next Chapter.
(For those of you who have no idea what I am talking about read here)