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 The Sure Thing by Calico

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Posts : 432
Join date : 2013-10-13

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Pete Duel and Ben Murphy as
Hannibal Heyes and Kid Curry

The Sure Thing by Calico Pete_a10


Bradford Dillman as Reverend Spencer
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Ron Howard as Jack
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Jeffrey Jones as Bert Mulliner
The Sure Thing by Calico 3_jeff10

Wyatt McClure as Harold
The Sure Thing by Calico 4_wyat10

Glen Close as Mrs. Emily Watling
The Sure Thing by Calico 5_glen10

Hayley Mills as Alice
The Sure Thing by Calico 6_hayl10

Juliet Mills as Mabel
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John McGiver as Mayor Watling
The Sure Thing by Calico 8_john10

Ramon Bieri as Sheriff George Harnsworth
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Meg Wylie as Miss Steggles
The Sure Thing by Calico 10_meg10

The Sure Thing
by Calico


An establishing shot shows a bustling scene – large tents, sideshow booths, milling crowds, mostly men but a few respectably dressed women and family groups among them.  A fair few horses are being led by their reins.

Zooming in, we see two familiar figures emerge from one of the larger marquees obligingly signposted:  Refreshments; Whiskey, Beer, Finest Liquors.

Through the open flap comes the jingling music of a saloon pianola.  At a card strewn table, disgruntled-looking poker players watch our boys walk away.

A beaming Heyes, watched by an equally beaming Kid Curry, counts his winnings.

As they walk, the sounds of the pianola are gradually replaced by those of robust hymn singing.  The boys’ gaze lifts from the slim bundle of notes in Heyes’ hand.  They see another large tent where a revivalist meeting is taking place.  A placard outside urges:  Sinner – Repent!  Blue and brown eyes contemplate this for a moment, then hold a mute conversation.  In unison the ex-outlaws execute a ninety-degree heel turn and head away.  The Kid points at something in the distance.  Two smiles and the boys quicken their pace.

For a moment the camera lingers.  From the revivalist tent slips a youthful, freckle-faced figure.  Glancing, guiltily, over his shoulder, he trots in the same direction as Heyes and Curry.


A sign announces:  Yuma – Annual Horse Race.

The camera pans left to show Heyes and Curry, popcorn in hand, leaning on the rail bordering the runners’ enclosure.  They assess first a lively paint, then a glossy bay, then a frisky grey.

The Sure Thing by Calico Vc_1_p10

The Kid shoots his partner a questioning look.

An answering ‘not sure’ purse of the lips from Heyes.

Their attention drawn by movements behind, the ex-outlaws turn their heads.  A well-dressed young man is leading a handsome chestnut filly, her lines sleeker than those of the colts.

“If I were a gambling man – I’d put a bet on that one,” says Heyes.

A trace of concern flickers across the blue eyes.  “Heyes, whaddya call that feelin’ – when somethin’ has happened before?”

“Y’mean, déjà vu?”  

“I’m gettin’ it,” grunts the Kid.  



Heyes and Curry walk up to the well-dressed fella.  They touch their hats.  The gesture is returned, with a friendly smile.

Freckles, who we saw slip from the prayer meeting, is in the near background also looking at the filly.  His expression suggests that, like our boys, he admires the horse.

“Good-looking filly you have there,” says Heyes.  “She yours?”

“Myrtle here?”  The owner pats a gleaming flank, affectionately.  “She sure is.”

“She’s a thoroughbred, isn’t she?”

“Yup.  She’s got a better pedigree than me.  Not that I reckon that’s saying much.”  

Heyes takes another look at Myrtle.  “I think we may place a bet on her.”

The owner laughs.  “So would I if it were a beauty contest.”  

The two ex-outlaws exchange a surprised glance.

“You do know this race is over three furlongs?” checks Heyes.

“Sure.  But…” He is interrupted by a nicker.  “Easy girl.  She’s…”

He breaks off as a booming voice both enhanced and blurred by a megaphone announces; “Any remaining runners and riders to the enclosure…”

“Just friendly advice,” smiles Myrtle’s owner as he leads the filly away.  “I’d save your money.”

Both boys look contemplative.  Then…

“$100 to win?” says Heyes.

The Kid’s hands go to his hips.  “A hundred?  Heyes!  That’s all we got in the world.  And – didn’t you hear the man…?”

“It’s like you said, Kid – déjà vu.  Remember last time…”

“Yeah, I ended up in jail.”

“We won big ‘cos a thoroughbred is bound to win over three furlongs.”

“Last time Rolf Hanley didn’t warn us not to waste our money.”  The Kid nods in Myrtle’s direction.  “Why’d he do that?”

Heyes’ brow furrows.  “He must want to keep the starting price down.  So, he wins bigger himself.”

“Heyes, not everyone is as larcenous as you are.”

“No, some folks got it real bad.”

Kid Curry looks over to where the genial horse owner is laughing at something a race official is saying to him.  “Yeah, he looks a real sharpie!”

“We got took in by Crazy Lorraine’s butter wouldn’t melt act, Kid.”

Kid Curry opens his mouth to protest, evidently decides it’s not worth it.  He takes another look at the filly’s owner.  

“Bet twenty, Heyes.  Okay?”

“Okay.”  Heyes hastens off in the direction of a betting booth.



Heyes waits his turn.  The customer in front moves aside, it is – Freckles.  He gives Heyes a grin and, holding up his hand, crosses his fingers.  Heyes returns the smile in friendly fashion.



The horse race is in progress.  

The colts, led by the frisky grey, gallop along the uneven track, kicking up dust and skirting scrubby bushes.  Myrtle is trailing, but her stride is steady.


Our boys’ faces are full of hope as they watch.  


One by one the tiring colts are overtaken by Myrtle.  Only the grey to go.


Ex-outlaw fists clench in support.  Encouraging ‘come ons’ emerge between clenched teeth.


Myrtle passes the grey in a seemingly effortless fashion.


Groans and cusses from many of the watching crowd.  By contrast, grins of triumph wreath the faces of Heyes and Curry.


Once out in front Myrtle slackens her pace and looks over her shoulder.  She tosses her silky mane.  Her gallop is now more of a canter.  Indeed, as she continues to glance coyly back, her highly raised knees and daintily placed hooves give the faint impression of a dressage display.


The triumphant grins freeze.


To the resounding cheers of the crowd – with two, no make that three, obvious exceptions – first the grey, then the bay, then several other colts overtake the frisking Myrtle.  Finding herself, once again, with something to chase, she abandons her dance career and regains her pace, but… Too late.  She finishes an inglorious nowhere.


Heyes and Curry exchange a glance.  Ruefully Heyes produces a betting slip from his vest, tears it and lets the pieces fall to the ground.  In the mid-distance we see an echoing action from Freckles.

A slight nod from the Kid indicates that they are being approached.  Heyes turns.  Sure enough, a cheerful owner is striding towards them, leading Myrtle.

“You can see why I told you not to bet on her, huh?”

“We sure can,” says the Kid.  He indicates his glum-faced partner.  “Joshua was just sayin’ how grateful he was for the warnin’.”

“She’s got the pace alright, but no race sense yet.  Her mother was just the same – no use at all until she was about four years old – then, a real winner.  That’s why I brought Myrtle with me.  A small race like this is perfect.  She needs the experience.”  

“Uh huh.”  The glance Heyes throws at Myrtle as she is led away is distinctly – and unjustifiably – frosty.  The ex-outlaws stroll away from the race course back towards the tents.

“Guess we knew horse races are always a gamble,” says Curry.

Nothing from Heyes.

“Leastways, we only lost $20.”  

Still nothing from Heyes.

“You did only wager twenty?”  

Heyes’ Adam’s apple bobs.  

“You bet the full hundred, didn’t ya?”

“No!  No, no.  I bet twenty.  Like we agreed.”  He meets the Kid’s eyes.  “I mighta made what you’d call a calculated decision on what I bet that twenty on.  Since any wager has two outcomes – and by backing one outcome, you are – by default – betting the other outcome won’t come to pass…”

Kid Curry’s face is a picture of incredulity in the face of this convoluted eloquence.

“Think of it like a coin toss, Kid.  If you call heads – you’re also, by the laws of probability, calling ‘not tails’.  So, by betting twenty on Myrtle either winning or not winning the race – I’d also be betting eighty outta our $100 on her not winning – or winning.  The flipside – d’you see?”

Curry takes a moment to work it out.  “You bet $20 on the flipside – that Myrtle’d lose.”

“Uh huh.”

“So – you lost us $80.”

More reluctantly, “Uh huh.”

“And – $20 is gonna keep us in beds and hot meals for less’n a week, so, come Saturday we’ll be breakin’ our backs fixin’ fences or herdin’ cattle?”

Acknowledging, semi-apologetic shrug from Heyes.

The camera pulls back.  Their walk and talk discussing the follies of fillies has brought Heyes and Curry once again to the revivalist tent.  

“You two!”

Heyes and Curry stiffen at hearing a call of recognition.

“Thaddeus!  Joshua!”

They partially relax at hearing their aliases.  Turning they recognise…

“Reverend Spencer!”

Warm handshakes are exchanged.

“I’m so glad to see you,” says Spencer.  “Especially – here.”

The boys glance back at the now distant race course and look confused.  

Spencer nods towards the sign outside the revivalist tent.  “Forgive me for saying so, Joshua, but – it seemed the words spoke to you?”  

Heyes reads the large letters advising sinners to repent.  His eyes continue to the smaller – though more specific – warning below:  Gambler beware!  Dishonest money dwindles away, but he who gathers money little by little makes it grow.

Once more brown eyes meet blue in a mute conversation.  

“I guess we can’t argue the dwindlin’,” says Kid Curry.

The ex-outlaws study Spencer.  The same kindly, intelligent face, but…  New well-tailored suit.  Crisp white linen.  Fresh barber shave and haircut.  Silver watch chain.

A thoughtful glance is exchanged.

“Our problem with money – comes with the gathering in,” says Heyes.

“And – then there’s the dwindlin’,” adds Kid.  

Another mutual glance.  Heyes clears his throat.  “Looks like you’re doing well, Spencer.”

“I have been fortunate indeed since we last met.  But, I’m sorry to hear the same is not true for you.”  Spencer looks sympathetic.  “Are you not working?”

“We’re lookin’ for work,” says the Kid.  

“Do you know anyone hiring here in Yuma?” asks Heyes.

“Somethin’ not too hard on the back.”

“Oh, I don’t live here.”  Spencer nods towards the tent.  “I was just here for the meeting.  One of my old college friends was preaching.  I leave today – back to my church, Heyes.”

A pause.  Two ex-outlaw faces freeze momentarily at the name.  Heyes, eyes innocently wide, asks, “Heyes?”

“Hays,” repeats Spencer.  “That’s where I was posted.”

“Hays – Kansas?” checks the Kid.  

“That’s right.”  Then, “If you wanted to travel back with me several members of my congregation are hiring.  I’d be pleased to speak for you.  After all, I can never repay what I owe you, Thaddeus.

“Ranch work?” asks Heyes, unenthusiastically.

“Some, sure.  Or – there’s plenty of construction jobs.  Have you ever done any carpentry?”

“Ever done any...?”  Heyes’ arm goes around Spencer’s shoulder.  “Did you ever see the meeting hall in Wickenburg?”

Spencer shakes his head.

“We built that.”  Heyes receives a look from the Kid.  “We had help,” he acknowledges.

Spencer’s expression reacts to something behind the boys.  “Jack!”  

Heyes and Curry turn.  Jack is – Freckles.  An edge of panic flickers across a youthful face.

“Jack, I want you to meet Joshua Smith and Thaddeus Jones.  This is Jack Watling.  Jack, you’ve heard me talk about these two gentlemen.”

“Sure have.”  Jack shakes hands.  His expression as he meets Heyes’ eyes is still wary.

“I lost sight of you in the crowd,” Spencer says.  “What did you think of the sermon?”

“I – er – it moved me,” says Jack.  He throws a beseeching glance at Heyes.

Heyes dimples and bends his head to hide a smile.  

The foursome begin to stroll away, their backs toward us.  We continue to hear the conversation in voice over.

“Jack’s my future brother-in-law.”  Spencer’s tone is sheepish.

“You’re getting married?” says Heyes.

“Congratulations,” from Curry.  

“He’s marrying my big sister, Mabel.  About time someone did.  Most fellas get scared off what with our Pa being the mayor and all.”

“You’re engaged to the mayor’s daughter?  You haven’t got any other sisters have you, Jack?  ‘Cos Thaddeus here kinda has a weakness in that direction…”



Wide angle establishing shot of a prosperous town.

Medium zoom to a building under construction.

Closer zoom on the front of the timber skeleton building to focus in on Spencer earnestly addressing a plump, bowler-hatted older gentleman, whose thumbs are hooked into his vest pocket.  Genially, he regards the two ex-outlaws, who, hats in hand and the picture of respectful reliability stand before him.  Nodding as Spencer continues to talk, Bowler-Hat shakes hands first with Heyes, then Curry.


In a shot reminiscent of Wickenburg, Heyes and Curry sit astride timber beams hammering.  Curry mistimes a stroke.  He sucks his thumb.  

The Sure Thing by Calico Vc_2_h10


The plump gentleman checks his pocket watch.  Unhooking the baton next to a large metal triangle, he sets it to jangling.  The camera pans up to our boys, who are now delightfully sweaty.  Their faces light up.  Laying their hammers aside, they descend.  

Heyes and Curry take a moment to stretch out their backs.  Then, Kid Curry points at a saloon.  Smiles are exchanged.  Hats are reset on a dark and a blond head; they stride in the direction of refreshment.  



Heyes and Curry enter.  

“…Think of the thirst we’ve worked up.”

“I don’t hafta work to do that.”  Kid Curry signals the barkeep.  “Two beers, please.”

“Strictly speakin’, we don’t serve beer.”

Heyes checks over his shoulder that they walked in through the traditional swing doors.  He indicates the glass behind the barkeep.  “Says saloon on your mirror.”

“Sure does.  But we ain’t served beer for nigh on a year.  This is Kansas.”

The boys blink.  Then, Heyes snaps his fingers.  “You voted to ban liquor.”

“You didn’t think to recall that before we came?” says the Kid.  He nods at a group playing cards.  “Seems those fellas have beer.”

“I can serve you what they have…”  The barkeep works a tap.

Two foaming glasses are placed before two thirsty ex-outlaws.  

Kid Curry takes a cautious sip.  “Beer.”

“Nope.  Beer’s illegal.  This here is cereal malt beverage.  Delicious, nutritious, under four percent alcohol and …”  A grin under the handle-bar moustache.  “Law-abidin’.”

Both boys take a pull on their – beverage.  Heyes moves over to watch the card players.  Curry stays at the bar.

“What do we hafta ask for to get law-abidin’ whiskey?” asks the Kid, leaning in and speaking low.  

The barkeep leans in too.  “Are you two the fellas the reverend brought to town?”

“Uh huh.”

“The one’s he reckons brought him back to the ministry?”

A deprecating shrug.

“The one’s likely to be spending time with the mayor – seein’ as how the reverend is marryin’ into the family?”

“Some, I guess,” admits the Kid.  

“The mayor’s wife being real set a'gin liquor – and liable to set sheriff on anyone servin’ – let’s call it, rye extract – private like, in a back room?”

Curry mulls for a moment.  “Beer’s fine.”  He walks over to join Heyes.

“I reckon I won’t hafta listen to you grousing every time you hit your thumb much longer, Kid,” murmurs Heyes.  “These fellas stay on any pair, they draw on inside straights and looks like they sweat when they bluff.  I should be able to win us room, board – and a stake to move on.”

The boys’ attention is caught by a figure entering the swing doors.  Young Jack Watling gives them a friendly wave then goes to the bar.

The ex-outlaws watch the poker for a few more moments.  Law-abiding beverage is sipped, thoughtfully.

“Poker will hafta wait, Heyes.  Y’know we’re invited to dinner tonight.”

“I guess.”  Heyes’ eyes rest on Player One who checks his cards, then mops his brow with a spotted bandana.

“Spencer wants us to meet Mabel.  We’d better go freshen up.”

“I guess.”  Player Two fans his hand.  His left eye twitches like a rabbit sniffing carrots.

“These fellas’ll still be here tomorrow, Heyes.”

“Hmm?  Maybe.”

“Hey.”  The Kid is addressing Player Three.  “Do you fellas play most nights?”

“’Cept Sunday, sure.”

“Y’see.  Not maybe.  C’mon.”

With a final yearning glance from Heyes, the two ex-outlaws turn away from the poker table.

Jack is deep in quiet conversation with the barkeep, but, at the approach of his new friends he turns and greets them.



Heyes and Curry are heading down the boardwalk with Jack.

“I want to thank you, Joshua, for not giving me away the other day.”

“Not a problem,” says Heyes.

“Y’see, if Spencer knew I’d been betting, he wouldn’t snitch, but… If my folks asked it might be kind of awkward for him.  What with him being a minister and not liking to…”  Jack pauses.

“Tell lies?” suggests Heyes.  

“That’s it.  Though – Ma found out anyhow.  ‘Cos she asked me where that money had gone and I’m not too good at…”  Another pause.

“Telling lies?  It gets easier.”  

Curry throws his partner a reproving look.

The threesome pass the school house and its neighbour, the church.  In the middle distance some older boys are hanging bunting.  A makeshift platform is being hammered.

“Getting’ ready for the Fourth, huh?” says Curry.

“Yup.  There’ll be games, coconut shies, tea in a tent.  Lemonade for the children.  Pie making contests.  And – sports.  If you were interested, Joshua…”  Jack leans in.  “I reckon we could win some money.  If you were interested.”

From the expression on his face, Heyes is not UNinterested.  

“You know Bert Mulliner?”  


“Sure, you do.  We were just talking to him.”

Blank looks.  Then…

“The barkeep at the saloon?” hazards Curry.

“He’s running a book on it…”


“The sports.  The competitions.  Y’know.  He’s accommodating ante-post* odds or starting price, according to preference...”  

The Kid looks from Jack, still talking odds, to his thoughtfully nodding partner.  He rolls his eyes.

“And…”  Jack leans in to Heyes, speaking lower.  “I might have some inside information on the girls’ under-sixteen sack race…OW!”  Jack claps a hand to his cheek.

“Gotcha!” pipes a new voice.

“OW!”  “@!!@!”  In quick succession it is the Kid and Heyes’ turn to be stung.

“Got you two, too!”  

“Harold!” yells Jack.  “Stop it – or I’ll tan you!”

A shorter and distinctly plumper version of Jack emerges from behind a water-butt.  A pea-shooter is clutched in a grubby hand.  

“This is my cousin, Harold.  He came over from Sweetwater last week.  He’s staying with us while his parents visit New York.  Harold, this is Mr. Smith and Mr. Jones.”

“Smith an’ Jones?  Yeah, right.”

The ex-outlaws exchange a glance.  

Harold looks at Heyes; “You cussed.”  Admiringly.  “You cussed good!”  Pause.  “Gimme a dime an’ I won’t tell.”

“Nice try,” says Heyes.  “Who you gonna tell?”

Harold sticks out his tongue.

“If the wind changes – you’ll stick like that,” warns Heyes.

“Is that what happened to you?”

Heyes blinks.  The Kid hides a smile.

Heyes, Curry, Jack – and now Harold continue along the boardwalk, walking away from the camera.  

“Are you Spencer’s friends?  The ones comin’ to dinner?”

“Uh huh.”

“Aunt Emily says I gotta mind my manners with you.”

“You might want to work on that.”

“Nah.  I reckon you don’t count as visitors till we reach home.”

“It’s a theory,” admits Heyes.  

“I’m real glad you’re coming…”  The two ex-outlaws exchange a mildly gratified glance.  “’Cos Aunt Em’s serving cake AND pie AND ice-cream.”

“You’re hungry, huh?” asks Kid Curry, eyeing Harold’s girth.



An establishing shot shows a fine brick built house on a quiet street.  The windows spill lamplight into the dusk of the evening.

The suited figures of Spencer, Heyes and Kid Curry pass through the garden gates, walk up to the door and knock.



A spruced up Heyes sits across from Jack over a chequers board.  

The Kid, equally spruced, sits with Spencer and two pretty gals.  Both share Jack’s strawberry blond hair and freckles.  One has her hair up and skirts to the floor.  She sits close next to Spencer and their fingers are touching.

The other young lady still wears her hair down and her skirts skim the tops of her trim boots.  She looks eighteen or nineteen years old.  She smiles, shyly, at Kid Curry, then drops her lashes.  

Harold sits by himself buried in a dime novel:  Pipped at the Post.  Its front-piece depicts a racehorse ridden by a windswept and slightly underdressed girl who appears to be flinging aside a snake.  Occasionally he cracks and consumes a nut from a cut-glass bowl.

The very picture of a respectable paterfamilias, gold watch chain stretched across an embroidered vest, stands before the hearth.  

However, all eyes – except Harold’s – are on a tall, handsome woman in her late forties.  On her respectably covered bosom rests a gleaming gold cross.  Her expression is stern as she faces the man standing at the fireplace.  

“Well?  I’m waiting, John.”

“Mother, please,” pleads the younger of the two girls.

“I simply want an answer from your father, Alice.”

“Just a run of bad luck, my dear.  I had three kings…”  Mayor Watling trails off under the basilisk stare of his wife.

“I bitterly regret that I have been so kind and forgiving in the past.  Is there any wonder that our son has turned to gambling when this is the example you set him?”

Jack hangs his head.

“Even giving the slip to dear Spencer, to whose care I had entrusted him…”

Spencer hangs his head.

“…To mingle with the disreputable crowd at some low horse race.”

The eyes of two members of that disreputable crowd meet for a fraction of a second.  They do NOT hang their heads.

“We have guests, Mother,” pleads the older girl.

“I am sorry if I am embarrassing the guests, Mabel, but what I have to say is important.  There will be no more betting of any sort in this family – nor in this house.”

“Emily,” protests her husband.  “A man has a right…”




The mayor’s shoulders slump in submission.

Mrs. Watling walks over to the chequer board.  She picks up two quarters from it, and looks, expectantly at Heyes.  Sheepishly, he holds out his hand.  She clicks the coins back into the waiting palm.

“I have said all I intend to say on the matter.”  A pause.  The stern expression softens into a welcoming smile.  “Mr. Smith, Mr. Jones – dear Spencer has told us so much about you.  I am delighted to welcome you to our home.  We are just waiting for my brother to join us – then we can start dinner.”

“You’ll like Uncle George,” says Spencer.

“Look forward to meeting him,” says the Kid.

There is the sound of footsteps in the hallway.  The door opens.

“Hey, Uncle George.”

The two ex-outlaws rise, politely, to their feet to greet the new arrival.  Then, they freeze.

Uncle George wears a sheriff’s badge.

“This is Thaddeus Jones,” introduces Spencer.  “And Joshua Smith.”

“Smith and Jones, huh?”

“I said that,” calls Harold from his chair.

“Mabel, Alice,” says Mrs. Watling, “please take our guests through to the dining room.  George, John – I want a word with you both about a municipal matter.”

As Jack leaves the room he takes the dime novel from Harold, checks the cover, clips Harold lightly around the head with it and puts it in his own pocket.



Fine china and silver cutlery glint in candlelight.

“What is your opinion of the temperance movement, Mr. Smith?” says Mrs. Watling.  “I myself am a great admirer of Mrs. Carrie A. Nation.”

“There’s no arguing liquored up men can cause a heap of trouble,” says Heyes.

“Sure can,” agrees the sheriff.

“To themselves as much as to others,” says Spencer.  “I have cause to know that.”

“Spencer does not quite share my opinion on the subject,” says Mrs. Watling.  “We have agreed to differ.”

“I think, so far as drink goes, self-restraint is preferable to restraint by the law.  But – given my weakness – I asked my church for a posting to Kansas.  I wanted to remove myself from as much temptation as possible.  And the way it’s worked out…”  He takes Mabel’s hand and they gaze at each other fondly.  “…I have good reason to be grateful to Mrs. Nation.”

Both Heyes and Curry smile at their old friend.  Kid Curry raises his glass of – it looks like lemonade – in a mute toast.

A short pause.

“I’m so looking forward to the Fourth of July, Thaddeus,” says Alice.

“Me too,” says Mabel.  “I love all those races.  My favourite is the couples’ animal potato race.”

“The what?”  Kid Curry is clearly enjoying both the food and the company of Mabel and Alice.

“The entrants get into couples…”

“Boy, girl,” clarifies Mabel.  To Spencer, “We could enter.  You will, won’t you?”


“Each couple is given an animal noise to make and a potato…” says Alice.

“The girl stands in a fixed spot holding the potato and making the animal noise…”

“Grunting like a pig or mewing like a cat…”

“Mabel already grunts like a pig when she laughs,” comments Harold through a mouthful of mashed potato.  “Like this.  Hoooooiiiink.  Hooooiiiink.”

“Harold!” reproves his aunt.

“I love the way you snort when you laugh,” says Spencer.

“I don’t snor…  Anyhow.  The man has a bag over his head and has to try and find his partner.  You will enter with me, won’t you, darling?”


“Spencer may think it wouldn’t be dignified for a Minister of the Gospel,” says Mrs. Watling.

“Oh, mother.  He’s not so stuffy even though he is a minister,” says Alice.  “Are you?”


“I’ve forgotten what the potato is for,” says Mabel.

“Thaddeus – will you enter with me?” asks Alice.  “Jack won’t.  He wants to ask Mary Whittaker.”

“Hey!” protests a blushing older brother.

“Sounds kinda complicated,” says Kid Curry.  

“Sounds dumb,” says Harold.


Heyes, who has listened attentively to the two girls looks thoughtful.  “It beats me how you’d calculate the odds on a race like that.”

He receives a dark look from Mrs. Watling and a contemplative one from the sheriff.  Clearing his throat, Heyes reapplies himself to his dinner.



Heyes and Curry sit astride timber beams hammering.


The boss sets the triangle jangling.


Our boys smile, descend and stride towards the saloon.


They collect their cereal malt beverage from Bert Mulliner, blow the froth from it and turn to the poker table.  The same five fellas as yesterday are deep in a game.

A mute conversation.  A wide smile dimples Heyes’ cheeks.



“Room for two more, fellas?”

“Sure.”  One booted foot pushes a chair in Heyes’ direction.  A second provides the same service for Kid Curry.

The boys take their seats.

“Has anyone declared if straights are being played?” asks Heyes.


“Ain’t never heard that.”

“We always play straights, don’t we, Hank?”

“Sure.  We play straights.”

“I reckon, with you sitting right of Hank, it’s your deal, Mr. – er??”

“Smith – but it’s just Joshua.  And this is my partner, Thaddeus.”

“Good to meet you boys.  Reckon it’s your deal, Joshua.  If you’d just ante up first.”

“Surely.  What’s the buy in?”


“Only two dollars?  Perfect.  Nice and friendly – just the way me and Thaddeus like it.”

A beaming Heyes is unfolding two rather crumpled dollar bills when a large, hairy hand stops him.

“Nah.  Not two dollars.  Two matches.”

“Matches?”  Heyes blinks first at Hairy Hand then at the pot.  For the first time he realises it is different from yesterday.  No money just – matches.

“Ain’t you heard?  As of this morning gamblin’ is banned in Hays.”

“Mayor Watling called a council – he’d found a bye-law already on the books.  Sheriff posted it.”

“No poker?” Heyes’ plaintive expression would wring pity from Herod.

“Sure, we can still play poker.”

“Just not for money.”

“Don’t bother us much.”

“Not as if any of us ever win or lose much anyhow.”

“We’re lousy players all of us.”

“Mostly play for the company.”

“We’re with you, Joshua – keep it friendly.”

Heyes faces five genial smiles.  He tries to smile back.  One dimpled cheek twitches.  His partner throws him a sympathising look.

A shadow falls over the table.  Two ex-outlaws turn to see the sheriff.  Or, as we now know him – Uncle George.

“No gambling for money going on here, I hope?”

“Sure isn’t, Sheriff.”

“Just matches.”

“All legal.”

“Good.  Mr. Smith, Mr. Jones – can I have a word?  Outside?”

Heyes still looks stunned.  It is Kid Curry who answers, “Sure.”  He collects four matches from the pot.  “I guess we’re cashing in early, fellas.”

He stands and, after a moment, so does Heyes.  The sheriff pauses at the bar to speak to Mulliner.  “I see you got the message on sticking to the letter of the bye-law, Bert.”

“Sure did.  No gambling for money on the premises.  Y’know me, Sheriff, I like to keep things real law-abiding.  Course – it don’t help when the laws keep shifting like sand.”

“That’d be no gambling on or OFF the premises,” the sheriff corrects.  “Nowhere inside the town limits.  Got it?”

A beat.  “Got it.”

“I’ll be watching.”

“Wouldn’t expect anything less, Sheriff.  And…”  The saloon keeper’s moustache twitches.  “You’ll be sure to give your sister…”  He spits expressively on the glass he is polishing.  “My very best compliments.”

The sheriff stares, coolly, at the barkeep for a moment.  Mulliner’s eyes drop.

Followed by the two ex-outlaws the lawman heads out of the batwing doors.



The sheriff, hands on hips, looks both the Kid and a visibly distracted Heyes up and down.

Kid Curry shifts his feet.  “You asked for a word, Sheriff.  How can we help?”

“Seems Spencer thinks real highly of you two.  Not that he ever expected to see you here in Hays.  Smith and Jones, huh?”

“There’s lots of fellas called Smith and Jones,” says Curry.  “We just happen to be two of them.”

“Spencer told Mabel a lot about you.  Both of ‘em told me a lot, too.  Like – you’re real good with that tied down gun of yours.  Mabel tells me Spencer’s never seen anyone as fast.”  A pause.  “Having a fella who is that fast in his town might make a sheriff nervous.”

“I got lucky – that’s all.”

“Spencer also told Mabel how hard you tried NOT to use your gun.  He seems to think it brought him back to his senses watching you turn the other cheek.  Naturally, that makes me less nervous.”  A pause.  “You’ll be trying real hard NOT to use your gun in my town?”

A nod.

“You and him won’t be causing any trouble at all?”

“That’s the plan,” agrees Curry.

“Good.  Oh!  One other thing.  My niece, Alice – you met her last night.”

Kid Curry blinks.

“She seemed to like you.  You know she’s too young for you?  If you…”

The Kid cuts him short.  “Couldn’t agree more.”  

“And – you’re too…”

“I’m too everything for her.  Got it.”

“No offense meant.”

“None taken.  If I had a niece pretty as her…  Couldn’t agree more.”

The sheriff turns to leave, but jerks a thumb at Heyes.  “I don’t reckon I can rely on everything Spencer told me anyhow.  He told me HE was the one did most of the talking.”

Off he strides.  Kid Curry watches him go.

“He’s gonna be watching us, Heyes.  Not that I blame him.”


“Heyes.  It’s only a card game.  Get over it.”

“Only a…  It’s poker.”

“You got a gamblin’ problem, d’you know that?”

“I got one now!”

Brown eyes turn to the preparations for the Fourth of July.  They narrow, thoughtfully.



The camera pans across the front of the Watling House.  Through the drawing room window, we see Mrs. Watling talking hard at Mayor Watling

A further pan takes us around the side of the house and to the stables.

A shadowy, youthful figure slips inside.



The stable is lit by an oil lamp.  Heyes and Curry are seated on hay bales as Jack enters.  He bars the door behind himself.

“Have you got the race card?” Jack asks.

Heyes produces a list from his vest pocket.

“First off, the girls under 12 egg and spoon race,” Heyes reads.  “Any thoughts?”

“Last year’s winner Sarah Mills is the favourite – she carries a beautiful egg.”

A sound outside attracts their attention.  Footsteps.  Heyes covers the lamp with a bucket.  He touches a slim finger to his lips.  Silence.

“Jack,” hisses a feminine voice.  The door rattles.  “Jack!”

Heyes uncovers the lamp and admits a furtive Alice and Mabel.

“I thought you were Mother,” says Jack.

“No, she’s got Pa shut up with her in the study.”  Alice looks eagerly at Curry, “Are you forming a syndicate?”

“No!” from Heyes.
“No!” from Jack, in unison.

“Can we join?” asks Alice.  

“Please,” adds Mabel.

The Kid and Heyes are faced with two dazzling smiles, and four pleading blue eyes.

“No problem,” says Curry.

“We both have money left from our dress allowances,” says Mabel.

She and Alice produce two ten-dollar bills and a crumpled five from their pockets.

“Take a seat,” says Heyes.

“You won’t tell Spencer?”  Mabel looks sheepish.  “Not unless he asks precisely the right question?  It’s not that he’d mind so much himself – not just a bit of fun on the Fourth of July races – but he’d not like having to keep it secret from Mother.”

“No problem,” repeats the Kid.

“We were just going through the card,” says Heyes.  “Girls’ under sixteen sack race…”

“Now, Mabel knows something about this.”  Jack turns to his older sister.

“It’s a shoe-in for Elsie Penworthy to win.  Her mother owns the dress store.  I was buying some lace to trim my…  Well, I was buying lace – and, Elsie told me she’d won the sack race two years running back in Osbourne County.”

“Mrs. Penworthy only moved here a couple of months ago,” puts in Alice.  “So, no one has seen Elsie race.”

“Risk five dollars each way?” asks Jack.

“I think so,” agrees Heyes.  He reads on.  “The bonnet trimming contest.  “Nah.  Too risky. Jam making?”

A pause.  Two ex-outlaws wait for the local knowledge.

“Mrs. Hartley is bound to win,” says Alice.  “But, everyone knows that.”

“Greased pig contest for boys over fifteen?”



Curry sets cans on a rail.  Heyes watches.  The Kid walks back to his partner, faces the rail.  His Colt leaps into his hand.  He fires, fanning the hammer.  Six cans hit the dirt.

The Sure Thing by Calico Vc_3_k10

“D’you really need to do that?” asks Heyes.

“Y’want me to miss?”

“Didn’t you hear the sheriff tell you he didn’t want to see you using that gun?”

The cans are reset.

“I’ve come out here so he won’t see.”

A repeat of the six for six display.

“You want someone else telling him how good you are with that thing?”

“Who someone else?  We’re two miles outta town.”

The six much abused cans are punished once more.

“WOW!!”  There is applause.  Both ex-outlaws turn.

“Maybe that someone else,” says Heyes.

He receives the look.

Jack runs up to them.  “I’ve never seen anyone that fast!  And accurate too.”

“Just lucky,” says Heyes.  “Most days he can’t hit a barn door.”

“I’ve been looking for you everywhere.  I’ve something to tell you about the Sunday school boys’ two hundred yards dash.  I know who’ll win.  He’s right under our noses.”

A pause for effect.

A ‘go on’ expression from Heyes.


“Harold?”  Kid Curry is unconvinced.  “Is he even in Sunday school?”

“Mother didn’t give him much choice.  Besides, once he heard about the Sunday school picnic…”

“I don’t see it,” says Heyes.  “He’s practically circular.”

Jack grins.  “He’s a flyer.  I was chasing him this morning – wanting to give him a clip ‘round the head…”

Questioning look.

“He’d made a remark about me and Miss Whittaker…”

“What’d he say?”

“He said…  That don’t matter.  The point is – he outran me by yards.”

Heyes and Curry both check out Jack – specifically the length of his legs.  A mute conversation.

“He’s a visitor,” say Jack.  “No one except us will know.”

“We are sure, are we?” asks Heyes.  “It wasn’t some kinda fluke?”



Curry and Heyes lean on a hitching rail watching Jack stroll with a pretty young girl in the middle distance.

Jack claps a hand to his neck.  He looks around angrily.  The girl claps a hand to her – well, her bustle area.

A plump figure emerges from behind a water butt and thumbs his nose.

“Harold!” yells Jack.

“That sounds like the off,” grins Heyes.

They watch Harold scamper away, short plump legs working like pistons, out-pacing Jack easily despite the variance in length of limb.

The boys exchange a smile.

In the distance, Jack gives up the chase.  He turns, scans for his friends, and gives a cheery thumbs up.



The place is close to empty.  Heyes approaches the bar.  He checks no one is listening and leans in to Bert Mulliner.

“The Sunday school boys’ two hundred yards dash…”

“Uh huh?”  Mulliner produces a book from under the counter.

“I’d like to place a bet on Harold Harnsworth.”

“Harold…?  Oh, the one staying with the Watlings?  He's kinda a plump one, ain't he?”

“I guess you could say he likes his food, yeah.”

Mulliner flicks a page of his book and runs a finger down a column.

“The current odds are 18 to 1.”

“Twenty dollars to win.”  The money is handed over.  A note is made.  Casually Heyes adds, “Ante post.”

Bert Mulliner looks up sharply.  “Ante post?  Do you know something?”

“Know something?”  Heyes adopts an expression of wide-eyed innocence.  “No.  I just like the name.  It has kinda an alliterative ring to it.  Harold Harnsworth. Harrrrrroooold Har…”

“Alright, keep it down.” Mulliner completes a double entry note and, after a cautious glance over to the saloon doors, hands Heyes a betting slip.



A white-aproned Bert Mulliner is sweeping the boardwalk in front of his establishment.  He claps a hand to his neck as if stung.  He looks around.  There is a sharp crack at his feet.  For a moment he dances as firecrackers explode about his boots and peas sting his neck.  Angry eyes search for…


Laughing, Harold appears from hiding and takes to his heels with Mulliner in hot pursuit.  Harold outdistances him and races around the street corner out of sight.

Panting, Mulliner gives up the chase and turns back to the saloon.  Coming in the opposite direction he sees…

Heyes and Curry have witnessed the whole thing.  Mulliner glowers back over his shoulder at Harold’s direction of travel.  He meets Heyes’ bland, innocent smile.  His moustache twitches.  His hands go to his hips.



Kid Curry is cleaning his gun.  Heyes and Jack are in conversation.

“I don’t see why you’re so worried, Jack.  I got us on at ante post odds for this very reason.  So, we wouldn’t lose if news of Harold’s speed got round.  It don’t matter what the starting price is – we still get odds of 18 to 1.”

“It affects us if he doesn’t start at all.  Suppose Mulliner tries to nobble him before the race begins.”

“Nobble?” checks Kid Curry.  

“Fix him someway so he don’t race.”  Darkly, “There’s lots of ways of nobbling favourites.  In ‘Pipped at the Post’ the evil Jake Maleverer outs Bonny Bess by bribing the livery-hand to put a rattlesnake in her stall.”

Heyes purses his lips in a ‘not sure’ expression.

“I know it seems unlikely,” admits Jack.  “But – there are snakes up by Big Creek.”  Reluctantly, “I guess I could stand guard outside Harold’s room.  Thaddeus d’you fancy guarding outside?”

The expression on Curry’s face says it all.  Specifically, it says ‘nope’.

“You don’t think Harold is likely to be bitten?” asks Heyes.

“From the look of Harold, it’d be the snake I’d worry about.”



Bert Mulliner is carrying a long pole with a loop on the end and a small empty canvas bag.  His eyes search the ground, the end of his pole poking at the undergrowth.

A grin raises the bushy moustache.  He has found something.  He turns the pole around, loop end downwards.  



Mulliner mounts his horse.  The small canvas bag is no longer empty.  It is - wriggling.

Hannibal Heyes and Kid Curry, the two most successful outlaws in the history of the west. And in all the trains and banks they robbed, they never shot anyone.

Last edited by royannahuggins on Mon 22 Oct 2018, 11:50 pm; edited 5 times in total
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Re: The Sure Thing by Calico
Post on Sat 20 Oct 2018, 1:19 pm by royannahuggins

Heyes and Curry, in their Sunday best, walk towards the church. As they pass the saloon Mulliner, leaning on the rail outside, nods. They return the civility. His moustache twitches.

Curry fingers his collar. “We coulda gone fishin’, Heyes.”

“We agreed, it makes sense to keep an eye on Harold.”

“You think maybe Mulliner teaches Sunday school?”

“I think maybe he’s a smart fella who knows where Harold’s going to be… Ah!”

The exclamation is due to Heyes spotting the Watling family – plus a trailing Harold – coming to church from the opposite end of the street. Harold has had his hair combed with water, he is carrying a satchel.

The Watlings and our boys reach the church together. Spencer, in smart clerical black, is greeting parishioners. His face lights up when he sees Heyes and Curry.

“Joshua, Thaddeus. I wasn’t sure you’d come.”

“You didn’t think Thaddeus would let me miss church, did you? Not with you preaching.”

“Let me introduce you to Miss Steggles.” Spencer indicates a severe-looking, bespectacled middle-aged woman next to him. “Miss Steggles’ support helped build this church. No one has given me more help since I arrived.”

The boys tip their hats. She looks at them disapprovingly.

“Miss Steggles teaches our Sunday school class,” says Mrs. Watling.

“With help from dear Mabel,” adds Spencer, looking fondly at his fiancée.

The look Miss Steggles gives Mabel is anything but fond. Her gaze travels over the prettily sprigged dress to a pair of pale boots tied with frivolous ribbon bows. She sniffs.

“Come along, Harold,” she says. “And, I hope to find you more attentive than last week.”

Mrs. Watling raises a warning finger at her nephew. He responds with a smile of angelic innocence. Our boys exchange a glance. Heyes raises a disbelieving eyebrow.

Harold moves off to join other youngsters trooping into a side annex to the church. Miss Steggles and Mabel follow.

Heyes and Curry return their attention to Spencer, who introduces them to another – smiling rather than sniffing – parishioner.

The camera however lingers on Harold. He glances back towards where Bert Mulliner still leans on his rail. He taps his satchel and nods. His smile is no longer angelic. In the distance, Mulliner’s finger brushes the side of his nose.



“What this parable teaches us is, whatever our past mistakes may have been, there is always room for forgiveness, and for a fresh beginning. We should always offer a second chance. A chance to make good...”

Spencer’s parishioners listen, attentively. Two ex-outlaws exchange a glance at the topic of second chances.

“Let us all now join together in singing…”


A screech shrills through the church. The congregation jumps in its respective seats.


Even louder than before. Sounds of running boots on floorboards.


It’s no longer coming from the side building. It is out in the street. Spencer is already heading down the aisle towards the exit. Some townsfolk precede him. Others – plus Heyes and Curry – follow.



“You horrid, wicked boy!”

“Ow! Leggo!”

Miss Steggles has Harold by the ear and is whacking at his backside with a hymn book.

“Stoppid! Ow!”

“Miss Steggles, stop!” Spencer gently catches the whacking arm and removes the book. “What on earth has happened?”

“This horrid child – this monster – do you know what he did? He brought a ssssss… He brought a ssssss…” She is trembling with anger.

“He brought a snake into class,” supplies Mabel. “He dropped it onto Miss Steggles’ neck.”

“Harold, how could you?” reproves Mrs. Watling.

“It was only a harmless garter snake,” says Mabel.

“Only a… ONLY a…” Miss Steggles is puce. “You…” she points at Harold. “You are expelled. You will never again be accepted into a class taught by me.”

“Oh, no!” Mabel exchanges a panicked look with her brother. “Surely, we can give him a second chance, Miss Steggles?”

“Spencer’s just been telling us how the Bible says everyone deserves that. If they repent. Isn’t that so, ma’am?” urges Jack.

“Never!” hisses Miss Steggles. “Besides, I gave him a second chance after the pea-shooter incident last week.”

“Come now,” says Spencer. “Should we not forgive our brother seventy times seven? You are sorry, aren’t you, Harold?”

“No, I ain’t! I don’t wanna be in your dumb class an’ I don’t wanna come on your dumb picnic neither, you scrawny old…”

“Harold!” The authoritative voice of Mrs. Watling cuts off anything further.

Mayor and Mrs. Watling begin to apologise to Miss Steggles. Mabel starts to explain – with gestures and mime – the snake dropping incident to Spencer.

The camera pulls back from the family group – and so does Harold. We follow Heyes gaze. Bert Mulliner is now among the church goers and towns-folk who have watched the Steggles outburst and Harold’s response with either amusement or disapproval. Harold sidles sideways to Mulliner. Something is discretely transferred from Mulliner’s vest pocket to Harold’s waiting palm. Without making eye contact with Mulliner, Harold edges back to his family.

Heyes eyebrows snap together.

Mulliner spots our boys and walks over. “It seems the bet’s off, I’m afraid you lose your money.”

“What?” asks Heyes.

“The race rules read…” Mulliner squints slightly as he recites from memory. “Open to current students of the Sunday school class who have not yet attained their fourteenth birthday by the Fourth of July. Current students you notice. Pity you didn’t opt for starting price. That way, with a non-starter you’d get your stake back.” With fake sympathy, “I always think SP is the only safe way.”

Off he strolls.



Jack and Alice lean on a rail, watching the street. They wave as Heyes and Curry approach.

“Mulliner is a swindler!” says Jack. “He had a hand in that snake stunt.”

Heyes rolls his eyes. “You reckon?”

“Just to break even, we’re relying on Mabel being right about Elsie Penworthy,” says Alice.

“Not necessarily.” Jack looks thoughtful. “Suppose we enter Thaddeus in the over fifteens shooting contest?”

“Thaddeus?” echoes Heyes.


Alice looks doubtful. “But, Jack, when they say ‘over fifteen’ the organisers really mean fifteen, sixteen, seventeen. Nineteen at a push. When you last entered two years back you were one of the oldest then.”

“Yup. So, Thaddeus will enter as favourite. We’ll have twenty dollars on him.”

“Jack…” Curry tries to get a word in. Heyes, who is looking thoughtful, gestures him to be quiet.

“He’s bound to start at such short odds…” Alice begins.

“Yup. The odds.” Heyes’ brow furrows. “Forty dollars then,” he decides.

“Forty dollars? Even so…”

“Joshua,” protests Curry. “I’m not enterin’ no…”

Heyes cuts him off. “Thaddeus. Faint heart never won… Well, Faint heart never wins. Jack, first chance you get, put his name down.”

Alice looks worried. “We’d better get back. Mother likes Sunday lunch promptly at one. Come on, Jack.”

Off they go.

“D’you know what?” says Curry. “Maybe she takes it too far – but I reckon I understand Mrs. Watling worryin’ about Jack’s gambling. He’s bad as you.”

Heyes’ mouth gives a ‘maybe’ shrug.

“And, Heyes – a shooting contest?”

“Yup. You know, like in a tin pan alley.”

“What happened to – the sheriff sayin’ he don’t want to see me usin’ this gun?”

“You won’t be using that gun. They give you a rifle. Besides, d’you really think the sheriff will have nothing better to do than watch a kid’s shooting contest?”

“I think me winnin’ by a country mile might attract his attention – yeah.”

“Maybe you won’t win by a country mile.” Heyes grins. “Maybe you can manage to just inch it.” The grin widens – as do the brown eyes. “Y’know, despite the odds.”



Establishing shots of the celebrations. A refreshment tent. A baking and handicrafts exhibition tent. Bunting. Side shows. A merry-go-round. A steam organ plays cheerful fairground music.

The camera pans to the exterior of the refreshments tent in the middle distance. After checking left and right, Bert Mulliner hands money to Harold.

Still in mid-shot, the camera pans to a raised platform. Mayor Watling, flanked by his wife and Spencer, is making a speech. Spencer checks his pocket watch. He shifts in his seat. Townsfolk applaud. Spencer joins the applause then, in haste, runs down the steps.

We pan to the area set up for races. The foreground is taken up with young couples collecting potatoes. As well as the fairground music we hear a variety of barks, moos, oinks and elephantine trumpeting. Mabel is bouncing on tiptoes, scanning the crowd. Spencer sprints up, stripping off his jacket. He is soundly kissed and handed a bag.

Meanwhile, in the background, Harold approaches a young girl in a pink sprigged pinafore. He speaks, earnestly, to her. She holds out her hand. A bill is passed.

We pan left and zoom in to the area before the merry-go-round. Alice, Jack, Curry and Heyes stroll with two unknown redheads, one a few years younger than Alice the other around forty. Alice is speaking, eagerly. “There’s a slight rise in the ground just to the right of the track so stay in lanes one and two if you can, Elsie.”

“What’s the going like, Jack?” asks Heyes.

“Good to firm.”

Alice sucks in her breath. “I’m afraid it’ll suit Mary Hodges.”

“She likes to feel the ground beneath her feet,” Jack tells the boys.

Elsie throws him a scornful look from beneath the brim of her daisy trimmed hat. “I’m not afraid of no Mary Hodges! Am I, Ma?”

“My Elsie don’t need to be afraid of no Mary Hodges,” agrees the older woman.



In the background Mabel and Spencer receive congratulations. Both his hair and necktie are much dishevelled. There is damp grass on his knees and a streak of mud on his cheek. Mabel punches the air with a triumphant potato. She is jubilant. Once more, Spencer is soundly kissed.

Meanwhile, in the foreground, a fella with a megaphone requests, “All competitors for the egg and spoon race, please collect your eggs and make your way to the start line … Girls under thirteen egg and spoon, five minutes.”

Young girls line up. Eggs are balanced.

“We’ve backed a winner on this one.” Jack nods at the girl in the sprigged pinafore. “That's Sarah Mills in the pink.”

Heyes appraises her, thoughtfully. “A touch pigeon-toed, d’you think?”

“Maybe. But this race – it’s not so much the speed. It’s the balance.”

Kid Curry looks from his earnest partner to the equally serious Jack. He rolls his eyes.

“On your marks, get set. GO.”

“Sarah Mills is well in front, alright,” says Heyes.

“Told you she carried a beautiful egg,” grins Jack.

Heyes looks across the track to see Bert Mulliner also watching the race from the other side.

All at once, Sarah apparently trips… Down she goes. Her egg flies through the air in a graceful arc. A groan from several spectators including Jack. Sarah, apologetically, indicates a trailing boot lace. Meanwhile, an outsider in blue polka dots romps home.

Jack tears up a betting slip and lets the pieces fall to the ground.

Observed by Heyes, Harold and Mulliner exchange a nose tap. Heyes frowns.



Heyes, Curry and Alice, together with Spencer and Mabel, watch a couple of cow-pokes try their luck at a ‘test your strength’ high striker.

Mabel gestures towards the mallet, speaking eagerly to Spencer. He is shaking his head, but without conviction. Mabel clasps her hands together and smiles bewitchingly. Spencer shrugs, grins and hands his jacket to his fiancée. He and Mabel head for the mallet.

At once, Alice turns to the Kid. Mallet directed gestures are made. Eyes are widened. Persuasive smiles are given. Like Spencer, Kid Curry shakes his head, but a certain boyish grin suggests he is about to fold. He does fold. Off he goes with Alice to wait his turn behind Spencer, who is getting the puck impressively close to the bell to the evident admiration of both Mabel and the watching cow-pokes. He passes the mallet to Curry. The stall holder holds out his hand and Kid Curry fishes a couple of coins from his vest pocket.

The camera zooms in for a close-up on the watching Heyes.

“Joshua…” The voice from behind mildly startles Heyes. He turns. It is a furtive Mayor Watling. “Could you do me a favour?”

Heyes looks an enquiry.

“I hear Mulliner’s running a book on the sports.” He holds out a folded bill to Heyes. “Could you get a bet on for me?”

The camera pulls back slightly to show that Mrs. Watling has walked up behind them both. She frowns, suspiciously. “John, what are you doing with that money?”

“Er… Hello, my dear. I was just asking Joshua here to fetch me… Some…”

“Some lemonade,” supplies Heyes.

“Any lemonade you require, John, I will gladly fetch myself.” Mrs. Watling smoothly plucks the money from between Heyes’ slim fingers and heads for a lemonade stand. The mayor trails after her.

After a shrug, Heyes returns his attention to the high striker.

Kid Curry, after a preparatory setting of his shoulders, takes a mighty swing and… DING!

A delighted Alice and Mabel bounce on their toes applauding. The Kid, after an involuntary grin of triumph, tries to look modest as he hands the mallet back to the stall holder with an ‘it was nothing’ shrug. He is handed a much beribboned balloon on a stick.

Curry is about to hand the balloon to Alice when his partner catches his eye. Heyes almost imperceptibly nods to the left and rubs his nose. Kid Curry looks. Sheriff Harnsworth is watching the delight of his young niece as she applauds Kid Curry. His thoughtful gaze moves from her to the blond ex-outlaw. Curry’s Adam’s apple bobs. He steps away from Alice and hands his prize to a random passing child. Then he speaks to Spencer, sticking close to the reverend as the foursome move away, leaving the two sisters to follow behind.

Heyes looks over at Uncle George. Sheriff Harnsworth does not seem angry, but – he doesn’t look pleased either.

As Spencer and Curry pass, still talking, Heyes beckons to the two girls. Looking slightly surprised, they join him. He offers an arm to each, wheels them around and strolls them in the opposite direction to Spencer and Curry. This takes them past the watching sheriff. Heyes gives their uncle a friendly, dimpled beam. Both girls wave cheerily. Sheriff Harnsworth, now looking faintly surprised, touches his hat.



A fairground steam organ plays. In front of it, Bert Mulliner, his hat held courteously in his hands, is in conversation with Elsie Penworthy and her mother. He smiles and makes an inviting gesture towards the refreshment tent.



Heyes, Mabel and Alice are in a quieter area. A couple of organisers are pacing out thirty yards and setting up tin cans on a raised platform ready for the shooting contest. Another man checks and loads rifles.

Alice glances over her shoulder to where, in the distance, Kid Curry is still walking with Spencer. She bites her lip and shakes her head, looking very worried.

Heyes gestures at the cans and mimes raising a rifle. He speaks to both girls. Both Alice and Mabel lean in close to listen. Two pretty foreheads pucker in concentration. Heyes grins widely. Alice and Mabel straighten up, looking thoughtful. All three turn around to look over at Curry and Spencer. First Mabel smiles broadly. Then Alice laughs. Then both laugh. Heyes raises a warning finger to his lips.

Across the field both, Spencer and Curry scan the crowd. Still laughing, though trying to stifle it, Mabel waves effusively at her fiancé. The threesome and the twosome stroll towards each other.



Our boys, popcorn in hand, are inside an exhibition tent eyeing a display of patchwork quilts. Heyes checks the name on a slip of paper in his hand against the card on one of the quilts – and points. Both ex-outlaws study the quilt critically.

The Reverend Spencer approaches them and is greeted with two smiles.

“Joshua, Thaddeus. May I just say how much I appreciate the enthusiasm you show for our small town’s celebrations? I’m very sure quilting is not your amusement of choice – but, no one could fault the way you take a genuine interest.”

Heyes surreptitiously slides a betting slip into his vest pocket. “Nothing we like better, Spencer.”

“Seems to be goin’ real well,” says Curry. “You must be pleased – all the work you put in.”

“Yes. I believe we’ve already raised nearly twice as much as last year. And, it’s for such a good cause.”

The boys smile, politely.

“Everyone has been so generous. Even our local saloon keeper is throwing himself into the spirit of things,” says Spencer.

Two gambling syndicate members exchange a mute conversation.

“I don’t like to speak ill of anyone but I’ve never thought Bert Mulliner one to put effort into community events for the wider good. But, just now, I saw him escort Mrs. Penworthy – sadly widowed – and her daughter to the refreshment tent in the most gentlemanly way.”

The smiles on the boys’ faces freeze.

“Reverend Spencer?” A sweet, silver-haired old lady touches him on the sleeve. “Could you join the rest of the judges for the quilting?”

“Of course.” To our boys. “Please excuse me.”

In unison, Heyes and Curry wheel around to hurry from the tent.

Reaching the exit, Heyes turns to call. “You’ll notice the feather stitch on entry number four is straight as a die. Just saying.”

The Kid gives him the look and pulls him outside.



The ex-outlaws rush in, scanning the tables. Heyes picks up a familiar daisy-trimmed hat from a table laden with many crumb strewn plates and cream smeared bowls. Carrying the hat, he approaches the motherly ladies behind a counter groaning with baked goods.

“Ma’am, sorry to interrupt – I found this hat.”

“Oh, that? That’s Elsie Penworthy’s hat.”

“Elsie’s hat, yes,” chimes server number two.

“She and her Ma were here with Mr. Mulliner.”

“Mr. Mulliner, yes.”

“Mr. Mulliner was treating them… Well, we thought he must be buying for a party – but it was just for the two of them.”

“Just the two of them, yes.”

“Two slices each of the pork and ham pie. And fruit cake. And cobbler. With whipped cream. And Elsie had some of the ice cream.”

“Ice cream, yes.”

Heyes and Curry exchange a mute conversation. Touching their hats to the ladies they hurry away.



The megaphone is once again in action; “All competitors for the girls under sixteen sack race, make your way to the start line… Girls under sixteen sack race, two minutes.”

Girls climb into sturdy canvas sacks. Elsie Penworthy clutches the rim of her sack tightly, determined eyes fixed on the finish line.

“Ready. Steady. GO!”

Our boys edge through cheering spectators, to join Jack who, is shouting encouragement to Elsie.

She is well in front, red plaits flying behind her as she hops, when…

Jack’s cheers fade as Elsie’s face contorts in pain. She clutches her side and crumples to the ground. Heyes purses his lips and watches as, across on the other side of the track, Bert Mulliner twirls the ends of his moustaches and walks off, head high.

Jack lets his head drop in defeat. He tears yet another betting slip into pieces.

“Jack.” Jack starts at the sound of his mother’s voice. She is right behind them with her brother. “What is that in your hand?”

“Nothing, mother.” Hands behind his back, he passes the scraps to Kid Curry, bringing forward empty palms to show. “Hello, Uncle George.”

The sheriff still has his eye on the Kid. “You seem real interested in the girls’ sack race, Jones.”

Curry, in turn, surreptitiously passes the shredded slip to Heyes.

“Me? Sure.” A qualm wavers over the Kid’s face. “I’m interested in the race. Not the girls. I don’t like gir… That is, I don’t not like...”

“Thaddeus and me were saying, it’s one of the best organised Fourth of July celebrations we’ve been to,” cuts in Heyes. “And all for such a good cause.”

“Hmmm?” Mrs. Watling looks from her son to the two ex-outlaws. She is clearly not convinced by the three efforts to radiate utter innocence. She scans the crowd. Turning, Heyes sees she is watching Bert Mulliner enter the refreshment tent followed by two cow-pokes holding aloft slips of paper. She purses her lips. “Come along, George, I have to award the quilting prize.”

“How’d number four do?” asks Jack. “Ow.” He rubs the ankle bone closest to Heyes.

After a last searching look, Mrs. Watling walks away, taking her brother with her.

Jack turns to Kid Curry. “After what happened to Elsie, you’re our last chance, Thaddeus.

Did you get the bet on, Joshua? Forty dollars?”

“That’s what we agreed.”

Jack still looks glum. “Our luck’s been so bad. Suppose he loses?”

“How can he lose?” Heyes claps his partner on the back. “His nearest competitor is only seventeen and was still wondering which way ‘round the bullets went this morning.”



Bert Mulliner sits in a quiet spot in the refreshment tent. An open tin containing money is before him. Folk walk away with slips of paper. Mabel approaches the table. Mulliner is clearly mildly surprised to see her, but a note is made in the book. She hands over money, collects her own slip and leaves.



Cans have been set up at the end of four rope marked rows; three piles of six in each, tin-pan-alley style.

Curry stands a little apart from seven assorted youngsters who are evidently his competition. He is handed a rifle. He breaks it competently – checks the barrels. The youngsters watch, admiringly.

Alice approaches the Kid. She lays a hand on his arm. “I’m so looking forward to the shooting contest, Thaddeus.”

He looks at the hand, then at her.

“I’m sure you’ll win.” She is speaking just a little louder than strictly necessary. “Jack tells me you have a wonderful aim.”

Kid Curry sees her uncle watching. He gently removes the hand and takes a step away.

Four of the youngsters take up their positions to shoot. Curry joins the other three waiting their turn.

The fella with the megaphone announces, “Competitors have two minutes and six bullets. The competitor with fewest cans left standing wins. In the event of a draw, there will be a second round. First four – fire in your own time.”

Heyes, Jack and Alice watch as intermittent shooting takes place. The standard is not high.

Jack beams. “This is going to be a walkover for Thaddeus.”

Where cans have been displaced they are replaced. This number varies from zero to eight, the current leading score. Three more youngsters and the Kid take position.

The ex-outlaw levels his rifle, keen blue eyes focussing on his target. He fires. Five cans on the left fall. He fires again. This bullet takes care of the remaining stray from the first pile of six.

“C’mon, Thaddeus!” calls out Jack.

“That was wonderful, Thaddeus!” says Alice.

As he reloads both barrels, we see the scene from Kid Curry’s point of view.

First, he sees Alice’s apparently admiring gaze. She gives him an enchanting smile.

Secondly, he looks at the sheriff, standing further back. The sheriff looks first at the fallen cans, then at Alice, then at the blond ex-outlaw.

Thirdly, the Kid looks towards Heyes. His partner glances over his shoulder at the grim-faced lawman. Turning back, Heyes gives Curry an encouraging, dimpled smile.

Lastly, the Kid takes another look at the sheriff. Stony-faced, he folds his arms across his star-adorned chest.

Kid Curry levels his rifle once more. He takes aim. His gun jerks. No cans fall.

Jack’s mouth falls open in disappointment.

Curry reloads swiftly. He aims, and… An innocent family of sparrows, living in a tree many yards right of the target, squawks and flaps disapproval as two bullets send leaves flying.

Jack slumps in seeming despair. Heyes lays a consoling hand on one drooping shoulder.

In the background, a jubilant ginger-headed youth is heartily slapped on the back by his contemporaries. Kid Curry hands his rifle back to one of the organisers and goes to shake the hand of his victorious opponent.

Jack watches this glumly. “It’s the end Joshua. Practically every bet we’ve made has been scratched, bribed, or – or got at. We lost forty dollars on Thaddeus alone.”

“You know what they say,” consoles Heyes. “The darkest hour is just before dawn.”

Jack ignores this. “How could he lose? That fella Charlie Baker who won… Sheesh. His heart is in the right place and all that. But, even his best friend would have to admit his left eye hasn’t faced full front since he fell out of that Cottonwood three years back.”

“Shush,” warns his sister. “He’s coming over.” Louder, “Never mind, Thaddeus, you did your best. I think the sun was in your eyes.”

Jack sets his shoulders and summons a smile. “Never mind. These things happen.”

At this Heyes looks surprised, then, he smiles. “You’re okay, Jack.” Less seriously, “Told ya mostly he couldn’t hit a barn door.”



Mabel emerges from the tent. She is wreathed in smiles and holding a fat bundle of ten-dollar bills. She spots her mother approaching at a distance. She tucks the money into her reticule and swiftly moves to mingle with those watching the merry-go-round. She glances warily over her shoulder to see her mother stride purposefully into the refreshments tent.



A small knot of folk mill around Bert Mulliner’s table in the refreshment tent. He grins and adds money to his already over-flowing tin box.

“Mr. Mulliner!” booms a stentorian voice. It is Mrs. Watling, looking very stern. She makes her way through sheepish looking townsfolk. The grin on Mulliner’s smug face freezes. She plucks a sheaf of papers from the table. “Betting slips, Mr. Mulliner?”

“No. I er…

“The sheriff will have something to say to you, Mr. Mulliner. As for your ill-gotten gains, they will go towards the orphanage fund.” Bert Mulliner only just manages to save his fingers as Mrs. Watling snaps shut the lid on a pile of notes. She sweeps it from the table. She leaves, head held high.

At once disgruntled townsfolk cluster around Mulliner. Unpaid betting slips are waved. He gulps.



Spencer, the centre of a small group of older ladies, Miss Steggles among them, stands before a table laden with jars of preserves. Miss Steggles hands him a plate bearing a dollop of jam and a teaspoon. He tastes. His mouth puckers. He summons a polite smile. “Unusual flavour, Miss Steggles. What is it?”


“Rasp… How could I have missed that?”

“Spencer.” He turns to sees Mrs. Watling. The tin box is handed over. “A little something for the fund. Now, I must find my brother, George.” Off she goes.

Spencer opens the box, sees the contents. His face lights up.



“It’s the end…” Jack is still filled with gloom. “I guess what Mother says is true, gamblers never know when to stop – so, they never prosper in the end.”

Kid Curry throws a meaning look at Heyes. Heyes shifts his feet.

“We lost it all,” sighs Jack.

Heyes spots Mabel coming toward them. “Nope. We didn’t. The syndicate is well in profit.”

Jack stares at him.

“Y’see, I couldn’t bring myself to place that forty-dollar bet on Thaddeus – what with him being one of the clumsiest men you ever saw. He can’t even get on his horse right, let alone shoot straight.”

“But, we agreed…”

“I got this feeling he might lose. So …” Mabel joins them. “I had your sister here, bet the whole lot on Charlie Baker.”

“Charlie Baker. At fifteen to…” Jack’s calculates rapidly. “That’s…”

“It’s a bundle!” grins Mabel. “And, I made sure to collect before mother caught up with Bert Mulliner.” She hands over the money to Heyes. “You make the split, Joshua. Something tells me your math is quicker than mine.”

Moistening his thumb, Heyes rapidly leafs off a slim sheaf of bills. They are handed to Alice who squeaks in excitement. A second share is swiftly counted off for Mabel.

Meanwhile, Jack stares at Thaddeus. “You knew. You lost on purpose – so we’d win?”

“I did the best I could,” says Curry. Pause. A grin. “With the audience watchin’ that is.”

Jack’s cut is handed to him. He doesn’t even glance at it, simply stuffs it into his jacket pocket.

Kid Curry holds out his hand expectantly. It remains empty as Heyes trousers the rest of the winnings. He receives the look.

“Mabel! Mabel!” It is Spencer, running towards them, still holding the tin box.

Alice, who, unlike her brother, was counting her winnings, hastily hides her hands behind her back. Mabel quickly pops her own stash into her reticule and pulls tight the ribbons. She blushes rosily as Spencer reaches them.

“Look what your mother gave me.” Spencer opens the tin, showing the contents.

“Where on earth did she get that?” asks Heyes. His brown eyes radiate innocent confusion.

Jack and his two sisters blink at him.

“I don’t know. She just handed it to me. It must be close to three hundred dollars. It’ll more than double what we’ve raised today.” His eyes shine. “As well as enough coal to last the orphanage all winter, we can get decent new stoves for nearly all the dormitories.”

Heyes and Curry exchange a mute – slightly confused – conversation.

“Nearly all?” says Mabel, in a small voice. She opens her bag. “Take this. And, there’s something I need to ‘fess up to. I’ve been betting on the races today.”

“You can have mine, too.” Alice puts her share into the tin.

“And mine,” chimes in Jack, handing it over. “I was going to put anything I won in the fund anyhow. You may as well take it now.”

“I don’t know what I’ve done to deserve you,” Spencer tells Mabel. “Or your family. My family now.” He smiles benevolently at our boys. “I am indeed blessed in all my friends.”

There is a short pause. Kid Curry looks slightly uncomfortable. Heyes – doesn’t.

“So, the takings from today, they’re goin’ to an orphanage?” asks Curry.

“Didn’t we say?” says Mabel.

“Your mother said, good cause. We thought – I dunno – temperance or somethin’.”

“Mrs. Watling is indeed a supporter of the temperance movement. But, she believes even more in the importance of keeping children warm through the cold Kansas winters,” says Spencer. With a smile, “You and Joshua may not agree with all her opinions – I don’t myself. But, I know from whom her children inherited their kind, generous hearts.”

Kid Curry looks slightly uncomfortable at the mention of both cold Kansas winters, and of kind, generous hearts. Heyes – doesn’t.

“I reckon me and Joshua, we’d like to put in our share too,” says the Kid.

Heyes stares at him.

“You don’t have to,” says Mabel. “We’re… Well, we’re lucky. We don’t need the money.”

Heyes relaxes.

“We’d like to,” says Curry. A pause. Pointedly, “Isn’t that right, Joshua?”

Heyes gives him the look. He turns his back on the group and roots, deeply, in a trouser pocket. Then again. Then a third time. He turns back around. Money is handed over. “Take our winnings too, Spencer. All of them.”

At the words, ‘all of them’, Kid Curry shoots a glance at the money and raises an eyebrow.

“Joshua, that is so generous,” says Spencer. “Are you sure?”

“I wouldn’t have it any other way.” At that, Curry rolls his eyes.

“Thank you,” says Spencer. “Thank you all. But…” To Jack, Mabel and Alice, “should you really be deceiving your mother this way?”

“It was only a bit of fun,” protests Jack. “And, she’s so – so unreasonable about betting.”

“No. No, she isn’t, not really,” says Mabel. “At any rate, only because she worries about you, Jack. The same way she worries about Pa. It worked out fine for him – gambling on those railroad shares back when they were young. But it might not have. And, she does have a point – neither of you is any good at knowing when to stop.”

Spencer squeezes his fiancée’s hand, fondly. “I don’t want to preach, Jack, but – I know to my own cost how a habit can get hold of a man. You tell yourself you can stop any time you want. It might be true now at twenty. A few years from now – not so much.”

“You oughta listen to your sister and Spencer,” says Kid Curry. “If today’s taught us anything, isn’t it there’s no such thing as a sure thing?”

Jack frowns. “But, Joshua…”

Curry interrupts him. “Your mother’s right ‘bout that. Gamblers never prosper.”

“But, Joshua DID prosper. He won. We won.”

“Okay. But, that’s one day. In the long run, gamblers never prosper.”

“Joshua told me he does nearly always prosper – if it’s a fair deck.”

“For Pete’s sake, Jack, look at me!” says Heyes. “I’m turned thirty. I’ve no home. No family. No prospects.” He gestures at Spencer. “I need to take charity from my friends even to get a job hammering nails. In what world is that prospering?” A pause. “You got it all, Jack. You can be any dang thing you want. One thing you don’t want to be – is me.”



Two ex-outlaws tighten girths and adjust saddlebags on two horses. Spencer is with them.

“Are you sure I can’t persuade you to stay longer?”

“We oughta be movin’ on,” says Curry.

Spencer lays a hand on Heyes’ shoulder. “I want to thank you again, for what you said to Jack. You’re a good man, Joshua.”

Heyes gives a would-be modest shrug.

“And, the way you gave your winnings to the orphanage – a truly Christian act.”

“It was nothing.”

“It was far from nothing. To give so freely, when you have so little yourselves.”

Both ex-outlaws make with the modest shrugs.

“All your winnings. Not keeping so much as a single dollar for yourselves.”

Kid Curry shoots a suspicious look at the dimpled one.

“I’m sure it’ll be put to good use,” says Heyes.



Heyes and Curry ride through open country.

“Heyes, you didn’t hand over all our winnings – did ya?”

“Would I lie to Spencer?”

“I was watchin’, Heyes. You kept half back.” Pause. “You let ‘em all think every dollar went to the orphans.”

“It did. Every single dollar.” Pause. “’Course, I mighta not specified which orphans.”

The Kid throws his partner a look.

“Relax, Kid. Like I told Spencer, I’m sure it’ll be put to good use.”



1) Acknowledgement:
This story is shamelessly and gratefully stolen from the great P.G.Wodehouse’s – The Purity of the Turf.

2) Explanatory note: As inveterate gamblers our boys, Jack and Mulliner bandy the following two terms around freely. As many of us will not be race track frequenters:

Ante post: an ante-post bet is placed before the horse-racing course's betting market has opened, and is made on the expectation that the price of the horse is presently more favourable than it will be when the course's market opens. Ante-post betting, unlike starting price betting, carries the additional risk that the original bet will be forfeited, rather than returned, if the wagered horse (or Sunday school pupil) fails to run

Starting price (SP): is the odds prevailing on a particular horse in the on-course fixed-odds betting market at the time a race begins. The stake on an SP bet is returned if the horse is withdrawn before the race starts.

(Writers love feedback! You can comment on Calico's story by clicking the "post reply" button, found at the bottom left side of your screen. You don't have to be a member of this site and you can be anonymous. You can type any name in the box.)

Re: The Sure Thing by Calico
Post on Sat 27 Oct 2018, 11:30 am by Penski
Calico, I loved how the dry town with no gambling gets around those two laws right under the noses of the sheriff and Mrs. Watling. So does Heyes love just the card game of poker or the gambling / winning aspect of poker? Seems like the boys just plain like to gamble. Gotta love seeing Spencer again. What a fun story!
Re: The Sure Thing by Calico
Post on Sat 27 Oct 2018, 6:41 pm by InsideOutlaw
Leave it to our heroes to make the most of being in a dry town with no gambling. Fun to see them betting on all the events...especially, the die-straight quilting contest...and seeing them bested until Heyes hedges his bets. Love him holding out on the rev, too, and justifying it to the Kid. Fun romp from start to finish!
Re: The Sure Thing by Calico
Post on Sun 11 Nov 2018, 1:16 am by moonshadow
What a fun, interesting, educational and thoroughly enjoyable ASJ adventure! Those betting terms really came into play; I learned a lot about how to do things right.
This story would have made an excellent episode; it would have been fun to watch things play out on the screen.
Your casting of the characters brought them to life with their perspective personalities, as I envisioned them mentally as they spoke the lines you wrote for them.
I lol'd so many times I lost count; great references to past events brought a hint of nostalgia as well.
Kudos and paw-claps to Miss Calico!
Re: The Sure Thing by Calico
Post on Sun 25 Nov 2018, 2:14 pm by Nightwalker
Going straight brought the boys in bizzare situations again. Seems dealing with kids and the local part-time bookmaker wasn't as easy as they thought.
Great start for the season. goodjob
Re: The Sure Thing by Calico
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