Let 'er Rip! by John Staats | Script Revolution

Let 'er Rip!



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An outlaw's last words are more befitting than intended.

A fictional account of a wild west outlaw's last moments. Based on the real life hanging of the notorious Tom "Black Jack" Ketchum in 1901.

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Week one winner of the Simply Scripts 2020 Writers Tournament.

This Script Has Been Reviewed By Shootin' The Shorts

Let 'Er Rip!
An outlaw’s last words are more befitting than he intended.

The subject of this sharply-written historical - and delightfully morbid tale - is infamous cowboy turned outlaw/train robber, Tom “Black Jack” Ketchum of the notorious Hole in the Wall Gang that operated in America’s west in the 1880s.

The story opens with the judge banging a GAVEL (that’s one criteria item) before sentencing Ketchum to death by hanging. For what exactly? Felonious assault of a train – yes, you read that correctly. I know this may sound like a spoiler, but I’m sure you knew what happened to the Titanic before watching Titanic. This is merely historical fact – Ketchum was the first person to suffer capital punishment for the offense of “felonious assault upon a railway train” in New Mexico Territory (which did not become a state until 1912).

Ketchum was accused of attempting to rob a train – the conductor recognized “Black Jack” and shot him in the arm, which was later amputated. But as a REPORTER (criteria item No. 2) interviews him in jail, Ketchum denies the accusation.

Not much to tell. I tried to wave
down a train and the engineer put
two loads of buckshot in me. They
arrested me, cut off my arm, and
now I’ve been Judged.

Do you claim innocence?

Of felonious assault of a train?
Tell me…how does one assault a
moving train? And how does that
translate to a hangin’?

That’s exactly how the U.S. government felt about the law – they later found it to be unconstitutional. Unfortunately for old “Black Jack”, the law wasn’t changed until after his hanging. Just his luck, huh? Well, karma might’ve been in effect in this instance – after all, there were numerous other robberies and murders. So, one couldn’t feel TOO sorry for the outlaw.

During his interview with the reporter, despite being sentenced to hang, Ketchum expresses a more positive view on his time in prison while rubbing on his plump belly.

Hell, been eatin’ three squares a
day for almost two years now. This
here cot ain’t half bad neither.

Perhaps he’s been living a little TOO well – it’s been said the man packed on about thirty extra pounds while behind bars. Now, what relevance does his immense weight gain have in this story? That’s one aspect I won’t spoil for you. However, the ending stays true to historical fact while somehow being funny yet incredibly morbid without being gratuitous. You’ll have to see for yourself. But, interesting fact – the story is so historically accurate that a good portion of the reporter’s voice-over dialogue at the end was the actual reporter’s verbatim written account of the hanging – taken from an article written in the Denver Times back in 1901.

Its title taken from Ketchum’s last words, Let ‘Er Rip is an incredibly entertaining historical short that would be awesome to see on screen.

Review by Michael Kospiah
Submitted: July 18, 2020
Last Updated: July 29, 2020

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The Writer: John Staats

I'm proud of the work posted here and the stories you're about to read. You have your choice of feature screenplays, numerous shorts (including a VR short) and some comic formats in case you're up for something a bit different. The links to my comics would make awesome storyboards if you want to bring the story to life. If you like what you read, feel free to give it some love and tic the the heart icon. Been around... Seen some things... Yep, a helluva story teller. No sh*t, there I was.... Go to bio

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