I never saw “Old Yeller” until this past summer. But I watched “Savage Sam” several times in my childhood, never knowing it was the sequel, produced seven years after the classic film. I remember “Savage Sam” because they played it once or twice a year on “The Wonderful World of Disney” TV show. We also owned a record album that told the entire story using audio clips from the movie. (For those who don’t know, a record album is similar to a really big CD!)
I also remember a particular scene from “Savage Sam” that’s always stayed with me.
With their parents away, Travis Coates (Tommy Kirk) is left in charge of the farm and his little brother, Arliss (Kevin Corcoran). Arliss, who’s still obstinate and obnoxious after all these years. Since Arliss has no interest in submitting to authority – especially that of an older sibling – he winds up bickering with Travis daily. Their yelling finally builds up to a critical level, when Arliss decides to start hurling rocks at his bossy older brother. Travis warns him to stop (somehow thinking that might have an effect on Arliss?) but finally flees to the outhouse for safety.
Fortunately, the boys’ Uncle Beck (Brian Keith) comes by, having heard their shouts from up on the next hill. He asks Arliss what kind of wild animal he’s throwing rocks at, and acts surprised to learn that it’s Travis.
Arliss explains how Travis keeps bossing him around and working him like a slave.
“Well, I don’t blame ya for rockin’ him, then,” Beck says.
Arliss is shocked, and a little excited. “You don’t?”
“No, sir. If it were me, I wouldn’t stand for it one minute, either. Because I know what you’re goin’ through, Arliss. Because your papa used to treat me exactly the same way when I was little. Every minute of the day, somethin’ like this: ‘Beck! You go chop the wood!’ ‘Beck, go fetch the horse!’ ‘Beck, go slop the hog!’ ‘Beck, go milk the cow!’” He leans over close to Arliss, and growls near his ear, “That’s why I wanted to kill him a thousand times!”
Arliss’ eyes pop wide open. “Who, Papa?”
“You betcha!” Beck bellows, loud enough for Travis to hear him. “Anythin’ makes me killin’ mad, it’s some great big lazy overgrown boy workin’ his poor little brother half to death!” Beck looks around, getting a sudden inspiration. “Let’s get us some brush! We’ll set fire to it and burn him right outa there!”
Arliss blinks hard. “Burn him?”
“Sure! Be like smokin’ a possum out of a hollow log!”
“You mean, do that to Travis?”
Beck reconsiders, not wanting the fire to spread and burn the entire farm. Instead, he draws his pistol, spins the chamber, and slaps it into Arliss’ hand. “Well, here you go. Use this! Blast him outa there with that! Now it’ll make some holes in that door you can pitch a dog through!”
“But that’s Travis in there!”
Ignoring his hesitation, Beck stands behind Arliss to help him aim the gun straight at the outhouse door. “Now keep that arm steady, boy. Steady. See now, get that front sight down. Make her set right in the middle of that groove. Remember you gotta squeeze that trigger. You aim about a foot below the top of that door and you’re gonna catch him right smack between the eyes on the first shot!”
Arliss pulls away, shocked and outraged. “You crazy or somethin’? You think I wanna kill my own brother?”
Beck pauses, thoughtful. “Well, Arliss, that’s the general idea I got from the way you was whammin’ them rocks in there.”
Taken aback, Arliss argues quietly, “Well, I didn’t aim to kill him.”
Beck nods, trying to understand. “But you kill squirrels with rocks, don’tcha?” he asks.
Arliss hangs his head.
“And you killed that big turkey-gobbler with a rock. Didn’tcha?”
Arliss nods slowly, ashamed.
Beck nods and straightens up, satisfied. “Now if it was me, I believe I’d just go wash the dirt out of that bucket and finish milkin’ the cow.”
We all have people in our lives that irritate us. Those people who rub us the wrong way, because they don’t do things the way we do.
We wouldn’t say that we actually “hate” most of those people. We just avoid contact with them, or refuse to smile when we see them. Or we secretly hope that things won’t go well for them. Or we might, occasionally, tell our friends how little we think of that person. And for those particular people who we just can’t stand, we harbor a secret wish that they would somehow disappear – leave town, leave the workplace, or leave the family – and make our lives a little bit easier.
I’ve recently found how guilty I am of this. It’s so easy to write off certain people, because we just don’t like the way they talk, or act, or think. We want nothing to do with them, so we certainly won’t attempt to act friendly toward them.
But who gets hurt by our hatred? It’s rarely the other person. And most people we hate aren’t actually doing us any harm. Most of us aren’t actually under attack from those people. We just don’t like who they are.
But hatred is really a spirit of murder. A secret animosity toward someone, that either wants them to vanish or to suffer somehow. The difference between the haters and the murderers is that the murderers choose to act on their unchecked emotions, making their dark wishes come true.
When I was about five years old, I got really angry at my little brother, Robert. I found a nice rock and chucked it at the side of his head. I was pretty proud of myself for having such good aim.
I wasn’t so proud a few minutes later. I went inside and found Robert sitting on a stool between my parents, as they cleaned up the blood. It wasn’t a big gash, but it was still a gash. My parents explained to me that rocks could actually kill a person. I had no idea. I never threw rocks again.
I just harbored hatred toward people.
Everybody has weak points. Everybody has personality quirks. Everybody has something they can improve about themselves, to be a little more sensitive to the needs of others. What good does it do me to hate them for their current flaws? Especially when the only person most deeply affected by my hatred is not them, but me.
I’m the one who gets uptight when that person comes around. I’m the one wishing evil on someone and consuming my mind with negative thoughts. Since I have no plans to murder anyone, harboring this spirit of murder just builds up tension in me that can never – and should never – be released.
Until I choose to release the hate itself. I can choose to be glad when those “hateful” people succeed in their goals. I can choose to have friendly conversation with them instead of sarcasm and spite. I can choose to ignore some of their bad manners and nasty remarks, and accept them for who they are, and where they are in life. And perhaps someday, they’ll change. But the changes have to start with me.
We’ve heard that people who live in glass houses shouldn’t throw stones. I say that people shouldn’t throw stones if they don’t want to become a stone-thrower.
Don’t follow a path of hatred or a spirit of murder. Release people from the prison of hatred you’ve locked them in, and you’ll find that you’ve actually freed yourself.
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