Old Hand by Heather Maclean | Script Revolution

Old Hand

Clayton Buell (67) works at Baxter Ranch in the southern valley. On his birthday, the owner brings him Jye Iliad, a young man just out of agriculture college, to train and eventually replace him.



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Clayton Buell “the bull” who lived his life in the central valley working for the same farm for 40 years. He has been with the same family (Jim and Edna Baxter) since the dormitory system through modernization and genetically modified crops and feed for animals all the way to the modern ranching techniques. Through all of that, he himself never changed; he is a throwback to the old pioneers who first tamed the land and then claimed it as their own. He is a dying breed and it appears as if at the end of his latest contract he will be put out to pasture.
The Baxter family allowed him to be the only “hand” to have a private residence on Ranch property. Now though it seems like the family wants him to move on even when it becomes clear he has nowhere to go. He spends his last season with the training a new kid fresh out of college with a masters degree in agricultural science, Jye Iliad. Clayton considers going back to school and getting his doctorate in digging ditches. Jye doesn’t get the joke. The young man is everything that Clayton is not – young, naive, blameless and loudly self-confident. Jye makes a bad first impression on Clayton. The three daughters who live in the main house have a very different reaction to the young man. Candice, Tina and Emma see Jye as a fresh face, a way to get back at their father and a diversion respectively.
Clayton is usually the first up on the farm. He shows Jye the ropes. He molds the young man and even though he has some crazy ideas about dry farming (why would anyone care about dry farming in one of the most stable water tables in the country?)he pulls him into the world of ranching and even becomes a father figure reluctantly during the journey. When the wrong Baxter daughter almost draws Jye away from his life ambitions, Clayton teaches him an important lesson about farmer’s daughters.
The year ends and the old man gets tricked into attending his retirement party. He hates every minute of it. Near the end, Mr. Baxter gives him an envelope. In it is the deed to a 700 acre farm in a drought area only a hundred miles away. “There’s a hell of a drought up there, so it’s not much of a gift.” He tries to refuse, but Baxter reminds him of the year with Jye. “The kid really put you through Hell, Clayton.” He really owes a debt to the old man, and it seems like a fitting way to put him out to pasture as the head of his own ranch.
“It’s almost like you planned it that way.”
“Not likely.”
Clayton asks if he can borrow the kid for a season to get the dry farming started. Now it is Baxter who is surprised, but he concedes and they load up an old red Jeep pickup to head east. Jye can’t believe that he has gone from an apprentice to running a farm in a single year. Clayton tells him “you can’t be captain of a rowboat” and for the first time, Jye understands one of his sayings. He wants to be just like Clayton some day. It’s going to be a long year.

All Accolades & Coverage: 

Page Screenwriting Quarterfinalist 2020
Coverfly top 21 percent

Submitted: April 8, 2022
Last Updated: December 28, 2022

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Heather Maclean's picture

The Writer: Heather Maclean

Raised in Lockerbie, Scotland, then the Lake District, I grew up surrounded by literature and beauty. My inclination to travel took me across Europe to Japan and then to the States. There I married, have three kids (not so kiddish now), developed a love of ice hockey, and advanced my education and writing. I hold a doctoral degree in educational technology from Pepperdine University and I have taken many screenwriting classes officially and unofficially through UCLA Extension and CalArts (through my book-writing partner). I consistently receive positive feedback on my work and look forward to advancing my skills and writing career. Go to bio

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