First-Place Winner, May – October 2008
Screenplay Contest - Full-Length Series
Written by Deana W. Costner
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Deana has written educational curriculum used by public and private schools and organizations. Recently, she started writing screenplays, and has completed or nearly completed nine. Although The Writer’s Place is the first contest she has won, she has placed in others. She’s a sixth generation Floridian with degrees from the University of Alabama and a doctorate from the University of Central Florida. She loves to travel, read, cook, but her first passion has always been writing.
Additional Writer Information
Two would-be heirs claim the same property – one by moving in and the other legally.The fight’s on between perky Margaret and persistent James as they must “share and share” alike the land, house and bed until the Judge rules.
Perky Margaret and confirmed bachelor James inherit the same acres with the stipulation that the heir who “takes possession” first wins.Unknown to each other and unrelated, they leave Philadelphia jobs to ride the rails to Kansas in 1876.Margaret hires a wagon and goes right out to the land while James lays claim with the attorney who turns chicken-liver and declares only the Circuit Judge can decide.Problem is he ain’t due for six weeks.Until then the two must “share and share” alike the land, house and bed – of course, Margaret’s nailed a board slap down the middle separating the would-be heirs in this romantic comedy.
During their spell of wait, James learns all about cow raisin’ from the gentle Jake and boastful Billy.Sarah, the silent squaw, befriends Margaret and teaches her the woman stuff and how to ride. James and Margaret never find peace together as each tries to force the other back to city life.Margaret locks him out to sleep in the bunkhouse.He returns the favor by scattering her clothes across the yard.She sleeps in a make-shift hammock on Sarah’s earthen porch. Bathing in the near-by creek is a matter of considerable irritation to Margaret.
A fragile friendship forms in Abilene when they travel to purchase cows.It falls apart when James recognizes Margaret as the speech-giving suffragette back in Philadelphia who caused him pain. The banker freezes their funds when taxes come due, and he won’t loosen them without payment of sorts from Margaret. Only when James fights for her honor in a barroom brawl do they come to realize the land ain’t worth much without the other.But pride holds them apart until the night of the Indian raid when fear drives Margaret into James’ arms.He declares his love “for good and always.”
EXT. PHILADELPHIA IN 1876 - DAY
A long shot of city, brick roads, buggies, wagons, horses, people walking.Pass buildings and homes.Finally see outside of a mercantile store then move inside.
INT. GENERAL MERCANTILE STORE - DAY
JAMES, (30) an impatient, plain-speaking man, waits on older WOMAN.He pulls a bolt of cloth, she fingers it and shakes head before points to another.
James pulls bolt and spreads it on counter.Woman holds to body like dress, shakes head.She points to bolt high above.
James pulls ladder over to reach material. As he pulls cloth down, she shakes head.James pushes bolt back into place.Frustrated.
She points to one on his right.He adjusts ladder to reach it. Pulls it out.Looks questioningly. She shakes head.
James slams bolt back; temper rising.
He leans over ladder almost falls.He pulls cloth down.Unfolds roll on counter.He looks expectantly.
Gosh, Almighty, Woman.There’s no
pleasing you.What do you want?
Woman pulls to a ridged stance.
Respect, young man.
She stomps out in huff as CHARLES enters.Charles wears long apron, older than James.He watches woman stomp off,
You did it again!
She's a cackling hen.
You know your problem -- you just don't
Oh, yea, I like women.I just don't like
woman. When you got just one, she gets too
Charles laughs as he throws letter toward James.
(rips open, reads slowly)
(pushes it toward Charles)
Charles picks up letter to read, shows interest.
EXT. CITY PARK - NIGHT
James walks park where women are drawn to bandstand decked in patriotic bunting. Men stop, shrug and soon walk on.
MARGARET, (19) a saucy, naive but beautiful woman, speaks. She dresses in patriotic colors.
Sisters, let 1876 be the year our bonds
(sweeps hands down
We demand the vote for Philadelphia women!
Women folk applaud.Men jeer and push through small crowd.
James jokes to men nearby.
A woman that pretty is only made for
one thing, and it sure ain't voting.
Men laugh crudely, openly mock Margaret.
Unseen by James five angry, WOMEN, huddle -- fume.
James walks on alone away from crowd.Suddenly he trips.A mob of women pounce on him, pull his hair, claw at his face, bite his arm.
James attempts to defend himself without hitting a woman.
From behind, a woman pours hot kettle water on him.
He screams and turns in anger.
Unseen another hits him with a rolling pin.He passes out with a blurred vision of Margaret speaking.
Without the vote, there is no power.
Police whistles blow.
Women scatter but not before giving James a swift kick.
EXT. ROOMING HOUSE - NIGHT
James leans against stair rail.A POLICEMAN with him.
You’re the second attack we’ve had.No
Oh, I can identify one of them.
James hits fist against his flat hand.
If I ever see her again.
James cocks head and enters boarding house where sign reads: "Rooms to Let. Gentlemen Only."
He looks back at park. Crowd gone. Holds side.
EXT. BROWNSTONE HOUSE OFF PARK - NIGHT
Margaret skips up steps of another townhouse.In window, sign reads: "Rooms. Christian Ladies Only."
INT. MARGARET'S BEDROOM - NIGHT
Curtains billow from open window. A milk glass LANTERN WITH RED ROSES burns.Margaret reads letter to young WOMAN.
“...to notify you of the death of your
cousin, Sam Stone.He leaves you the
whole of his estate, provided you are the
INT. JAMES’S BEDROOM - CONTINUOUS
Spartan room.James lays on bed, reads letter...
“...heir to claim the land known as Sam’s
Ranch.Three hundred acres...”
James sits up, tosses letter aside.
No more ladies to order me around.
INT. MARGARET’S ROOM - CONTINUOUS
No man to tell me what to do.
I don't know. What about this part?
(points in letter)
Two heirs.Suppose the other one
gets there first?
I'll be first.
You’d go to Kansas alone?
I'll have a home no man can take from me.
MONTAGE - JAMES AND MARGARET MOVE TO KANSAS
--- James withdraws money from bank and puts it in pocket.
--- Margaret withdraws money from same bank and puts some in a purse, ties some in hanky and stuffs in bodice.
--- James bids farewell to men friends, boards train at rear.
--- Margaret bids farewell to sister suffragettes, boards at front.
--- As train pulls out, Margaret, face presses against windowpane from her seat up front, waves.
--- James waves from rail at back of train.
--- As train moves westward, James plays cards and glances out window at passing countryside.
--- Margaret, fascinated by endless stretch of country, visits with passengers boarding.
--- Arriving in Newton, James hops from rear car with luggage clutched in two hands.
--- Margaret steps from front car with Porter assisting with three trunks.
--- Noise of engine stops all activity until train pulls away, leaving smoke, dust and Margaret and James.
EXT. TOWN OF NEWTON - DAY
Town’s people stop their routine to examine newcomers.
Men boldly watch Margaret. Women shyly approve James.
Several men run to help Margaret with trunks as she makes her way to Joe’s Livery Stable.
James takes in whole town.First, the Grand Hotel where a sign reads: "Rooms.Fifty Cents a Night."
At street end, set apart from other buildings, is finest dwelling in town -- Newton’s Bank.It’s the only one with a fresh coat of paint, tall columns grace the front.
On steps, tall thin man, EARL JONES, (37) watches town and people.Dark mustache covers his tight lips.His business suit and hat formal for town.
Earl, notes James’s stare, condescendingly, tips hat.
Next, a red pole announces Barber Shop; beyond three barrels on wooden sidewalk lead into mercantile store.
Across is a clapboard building where the shingle of "Theodore Faultner, Esquire of the Law" hangs.
James strides that direction.
Half of people watch Margaret's progression and half watch James.They circle for speculation and gossip.
INT. - JOE'S LIVERY STABLE - DAY
Margaret enters stable, darkness blinds her.She runs into JOE.His strong arms brace her.
Margaret straightens.Men lower trunks and listen up.
I'd like to hire a wagon to Sam's Ranch.
I'm the new owner.
Men take-in sharp breath. Joe looks her over from toe to hat and back again.
Margaret shifts uncomfortably, pulls up smartly.
So the Missy got here first?
Joe looks at men, his eyebrows rise.
You knew I was coming?
Men shift, withdraw, eager to share the news.
Rather ‘spicion you might.
I'd like to go to the ranch.
Right now, in fact.
Joe nods, harnesses horses.He laughs as he works.
Margaret waits impatiently, goes to door to look outside.She sees James walk to a clapboard building.
EXT. CLAPBOARD BUILDING - DAY
Building stands alone with three steps up to a solid wooden door.James reads sign: “Closed for Lunch.”
He knocks and waits impatiently, knocks again.Finally he turns toward Grand Hotel.
INT. JAMES HOTEL ROOM - DAY
From window, James examines town and dusty road as it narrows into countryside. In distance he watches wagon loaded with trunks disappear from view. Margaret perches next to Joe.
KNOCK interrupts his thoughts.
A comely, country-looking, SUSIE (24) and a young boy enter with bath water to pour into zinc tub.
All the way from Philadelphia.
Susie gives a flirty wink when James tips her.In a friendly manner, he flips a coin toward the boy who catches it.
EXT. WAGON ON DIRT ROAD - DAY
Margaret jiggles next to Joe on bumpy road.
This road’s surely used.
Yep, all the way to Santa Fe. Wagons
been cuttin’ these ruts before you were
Road bends. Joe reigns horses to left.Wagon slows.He gestures toward fields.
This here’s where your land starts,
Missy. Sam picked the best land. Soil’s
(hand sweeps out)
...flows by your boundary and you're
close to the great cattle drives.
Ever’thing around here depends on two
...cattle and rails.
Margaret scans land.A low wooden fence runs along road. On one side, grass inches into ruts; on other side, tall immature shafts of corn stand motionless.
What's out there?
Ain't you ever seen corn growing?
Sam liked corn for his cows.
He always did things peculiar like.
Them fences speak for themselves.
What's wrong with fences?
A mite greedy to box in the range.
Why, animals would ruin that field.
They pass a sign, "Sam's RanchCattle Bought and Sold",
the letters burnt in wood, strong and serviceable.
That's a mighty plain sign for land
Change it.You're the new owner.
Margaret grins, nods.
(pulls horses to turn)
Here's the place.
Smoke rises from tree tops. Margaret leans forward in anticipation, her attention focuses ahead.
INT. FAULTNER'S OFFICE - DAY
James leans forward, focuses on FAULTNER (50), bald and heavy set, who sits comfortably behind big desk, stuffs tobacco in pipe.
Everything's in order.
I'll go out first thing tomorrow.
Here's the will.
When the Circuit Judge rides through,
he’ll file the deed.
Faultner lights pipe, brushes lint from coat.
My saying the spread is yours doesn't
make it official until he decrees you're
the first one.
Faultner sorts papers on desk, picks up one.
He's due here in six weeks.
The other heir, Margaret Tomkins, hasn't
responded.You know her?
Both related to Sam. Both lived in
How’d you know where to find me?
Sam hired some Philadelphia lawyer.I’d
never heard Sam speak of family until he
wrote his will.
James tries to rise, but Faultner props feet on desk.
Yes, siree, Sam came in laying claim to
land and buying what he didn't claim.
Used real gold, too.Some say he struck
a vein in California.He never said.
He pulls feet back from desk and leans forward.
Don't guess you know?
No, sir, never heard tell.
James stirs in chair.
You're the only grandchild of his
This Miss Tomkins is the only child of
his mother's favorite cousin who married
late in life and died when she was a
You ain’t really related.
James nods that he understands.He rises, but Faultner's look makes him sit back and cross his legs.
Faultner gets up to walk around desk.
You've got good land, good ranch hands,
money in the bank, all bills paid, and
taxes due in a month.
Don't worry about them, Son.Your
uncle didn't leave nothing to chance.
You got enough money in the bank to run
that place a year.
James squints at lawyer. He rises, holds hand out to Faultner. They shake hands.
Oh, yes, one more thing.The squaw,
Sarah, stays as long as she wants.
It's all in the will.
Faultner looks at James seriously.
Good man Sam.He didn’t back down
from a fight. No siree.
Sorry I didn’t know my uncle.
Pats James on back.
They nod in agreement.