Hell, I should’ve written this more than sixty years ago when it was okay to say I like good whiskey and Latin women and they’re part Indian so don’t call me a racist killer, as some film historians have, because in The Searchers I do what any rugged pioneer should.
I know what you’re going to say: I’m bigoted as hell from the start since I fought for the Confederacy before heading out West. Plenty of people died for the South and their way of life. Yeah, a lot of that was based on slavery but that was how they did things, and you weren’t there so don’t be too sure what you would’ve done. You don’t know, Pilgrim.
Out in Texas the Comanches attack and kill my brother and sister in law and nephew and kidnap my two nieces. Damn right I go after them and get even madder when I find the oldest niece dead and no doubt raped in a canyon. Debbie, the younger niece, isn’t even a woman yet but when she is, if not before, I know what they’ll do to her. While searching we find another family that was kidnapped and they’re still alive but their minds are gone and I tell my men, “They ain’t white anymore.”
We know who’s murdered my family. It’s the Comanche chief Scar and his warriors. A few years later we find Scar and I tell him, “You speak pretty good American, for a Comanch. Someone teach-yuh?’” and he says, “You speak pretty good Comanch. Someone teach you?”
We enter his teepee, where his four wives huddle, and he tells us white men killed his two sons and he took many scalps for each one and orders one wife, who rises and turns to become my niece Debbie displaying a lance with some of the scalps. She’s now a beautiful woman dressed as an Indian. I can’t do anything now so make a camp nearby.
In a little while Debbie comes running down a sandy hill, pretending to understand only Comanche before switching to English and telling her stepbrother, “These are my people.” She can’t go home with us. I draw my pistol and say, “Stand aside.” I’d rather see her dead. Her stepbrother jumps between us but before I figure out how to handle this an Indian shoots me with an arrow from behind and the stepbrother and I escape on horseback, killing many Comanches with six-guns that never run out of bullets.
Debbie was my only living kin but she’s gone and I try to bequeath my property to her stepbrother but he says keep it because I’m a rotten man who tried to kill her. He doesn’t understand I was right because she’d “been living with a buck.” Later on, when we get word that Scar and his killers are nearby, we make plans with the regional captain. Debbie’s stepbrother warns not to charge in or they’ll kill her.
“That’s what I’m countin’ on,” I tell him. “Living with Comanches ain’t being alive…. One of those scalps on that lance was your mother’s.”
He insists on going in alone and quiet and finds Debbie sleeping in a teepee. She screams before understanding he’s her stepbrother. Scar must’ve heard and approaches the teepee from the rear where the stepbrother kills him with a straight shot. The cavalry and I charge in and I find Scar’s corpse, grab his hair, and take out my knife. Back on my horse, carrying the bloody scalp, I see Debbie who thinks I’m still trying to kill her and she runs till she falls and I ride in, dismount, and lift her over my head and then carry her like a baby as I warmly say, “Let’s go home, Debbie.”
Some think The Searchers is based on the kidnapping of Cynthia Ann Parker whose life mirrored Debbie’s except Cynthia didn’t want to return. I guess people who believe that would’ve liked to see Debbie resist, grab my knife, and kill me. I guarantee that wouldn’t have been a happy ending for most of the nation but I reckon for some it would’ve brought war cries.