Show Down At Bitter Creek
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Show Down At Bitter Creek

The villain has plans to take over the town and the only man that can save everyone, the sheriff, has left town, or has he?

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Show Down At Bitter Creek

The villain has plans to take over the town and the only man that can save everyone, the sheriff, has left town, or has he?

Author:    Bill Gasper


This is a fun western melodrama with a dark villain, the gunslinger, the tough ladies, and of course the hero sheriff and his faithful sidekick deputy.

Show Down At Bitter Creek

Showdown At Bitter Creek

A western comedy in two acts


Bill Gasper

Showdown At Bitter Creek

Copyright 2007  


Bill Gasper

All Rights Reserved

CAUTION: Professionals and amateurs are hereby warned that SHOWDOWN AT BITTER CREEK is subject to a royalty.  It is fully protected under the copyright laws of the United States of America, the British Commonwealth, including Canada, and all other countries of the Copyright Union.  All rights, including professional, amateur, motion picture, recitation, lecturing, public reading, radio broadcasting, television, and the rights of translation into foreign language are strictly reserved. 

The amateur live stage performance rights to SHOWDOWN AT BITTER CREEK are controlled exclusively by Drama Source and royalty arrangements and licenses must be secured well in advance of presentation.  PLEASE NOTE that amateur royalty fees are set upon application in accordance with your producing circumstances.  When applying for a royalty quotation and license please give us the number of performances intended and dates of production.  Royalties are payable one week before the opening performance of the play to Drama Source Co., 1588 E. 361 N., St. Anthony, Idaho 83445, unless other arrangements are made. 

Royalty of the required amount must be paid whether the play is presented for charity or gain, and whether or not admission is charged.  For all other rights than those stipulated above, apply to Drama Source Company, 1588 E. 361 N. St. Anthony, Idaho 83445.

Copying from this book in whole or in part is strictly forbidden by law, and the right of performance is not transferable.

Whenever the play is produced, the following notice must appear on all programs, printing and advertising for the play, “Produced by special arrangement with Drama Source Co.”

Due authorship credit must be given on all programs, printing and advertising for the play.

No one shall commit or authorize any act or omission by which the copyright or the rights to copyright of this play may be impaired.

No one shall make changes in this play for the purpose of production without written permission.

Publication of this play does not imply availability for performance.    Both amateurs and professionals considering a production are strongly advised in their own interests to apply to Drama Source Company for written permission before starting rehearsals, advertising, or booking a theatre.

No part of this book may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system, or transmitted in any form, by any means, now known or yet to be invented, including mechanical, electronic, photocopying, recording, videotaping or otherwise, without the prior written permission of the publisher.

Cast of Characters


Mae East                           Saloon Girl (25)

Molly Flannigan               Saloon Girl (25)

Fanny Small                      Saloon Girl (26)

Carrie O’Banion                Saloon Girl (23)

Sally McGee                      Saloon Girl (7)

Cactus Joe                          Prospector (14)

Miss Hilary                         Saloon Proprietor (48)

Jed Parker                           Bartender (19)

Mayor Will E. Wynn          Bitter Creek Mayor (69)

I.C. Black                            The banker (41)

Harlan Barrister                   The lawyer (31)

Sadie Black                          The banker’s wife (11)

Becky Tapper                       Telegraph operator (27)

Doc Mendum                       Local doctor (41)

Sheriff Bill/Dapper Dan       Town sheriff/land speculator (61)

Mavis Ledsetter                    Local publisher (28)

Black Bart                             Gunslinger (116)

Judge Abe S. Korpus             Local judge (65)

Curly                                      Bart’s associate (34)

Gus                                        Another (38)

Slim Chance                          Local deputy (40)

Prudence                               President, Ladies Society (26)

Mildred Smith                      Member of  Ladies Society (38)

Ima Blue                               Member of Ladies Society (39)

Polly Pureheart                      Local school marm, most recent member of Ladies Society (22)

LaTasha LaRue                     Bart’s girlfriend (49)


As noted in the script, the play takes place over several days. Unless desired, it is really not necessary for the actors to change costumes to denote the passage of time. The only costume change needed is SHERIFF BILL when he changes to DAPPER DAN and then back to SHERIFF BILL. The last change is relatively quick, so have the actor remove his coat and hat and replace with vest and different hat. Members of the ladies society should be wearing dresses made out of calico if possible since there is a reference to it. They also need to be carrying handbags. The characters of CURLY and GUS should be dressed as “dime store” cowboys with brightly colored fringed shirts (blues, pinks, greens) with coordinating cowboy boots and hats.


TIME:  The 1860s

PlACE:  Bitter Creek, Kansas


Scene One: The Short Branch Saloon. Late Afternoon.

Scene Two:  An alley. Later that evening

Scene Three: The Short Branch Saloon. The next day.


Scene One: The Short Branch Saloon. One week later. Evening.

Scene Two: The Short Branch Saloon. The next morning.

Scene Three: A city sidewalk. The next morning.

Scene Four: The Short Branch Saloon. Later that day.

Scene Five: The Short Branch Saloon. The next day.



Scene One

SETTING: The Short Branch Saloon. A pair of swinging SALOON DOORS leading to the outside are located in the UPSTAGE CENTER wall. Another door DOWNSTAGE RIGHT enters into a hallway that leads to a side door of the saloon, a storeroom and living quarters. A bar runs along the STAGE RIGHT wall. To the LEFT of the saloon doors is a window. Downstage from the stage are a series of round tables, three of which are placed in a row DOWNSTAGE. Other tables, if desired, can be placed upstage of these tables. Paintings and other decorations dot the walls

LIGHTS UP:  JED, the bartender, is behind the bar cleaning things up. He is dressed in dark slacks, white shirt, and a colored vest with a brightly colored elastic garter on each arm.  JOE is snoozing at the DOWNSTAGE LEFT table. JOE is a grizzled old prospector that lost his way somehow on the way to California. MAYOR, I.C. and HARLAN are seated at the DOWNSTAGE CENTER table and are involved in an important conversation. MAE, FANNY, CARRIE and MOLLY are DOWNSTAGE RIGHT CENTER practicing a simple dance step without music, kicking one foot up at a time. They are wearing dresses commonly worn by saloon girls or dancers of the period. MAE is having difficulty with the simple step and kicks her right foot up when the others are kicking their left.

FANNY:  (In a slow cadence.) Left…Right…Left…Right…Left….You’re other left Mae…Right…Left…(MAE tries hard get in step but can’t.The girls stop.)  What’s wrong with you, Mae? You’re even worse than usual.

MAE:  I don’t know. It must be these new shoes.

MOLLY:  Where’d you get those anyway?

MAE:  Down at the dry goods. Why?

MOLLY:  I was just wonderin’ if you had to buy two pairs?

MAE:  Now, why would I want to do that?

MOLLY:  So you can have one shoe for both of your left feet.

MAE:  Very funny Molly. How would you like one of these left feet planted in your backside?

MOLLY:  I’d like to see you try it!

MAYOR:  Ladies! Please! We’re trying to have a meeting here!

MOLLY: I’m sorry mayor. It just seems this day has gone on forever. Things have been really slow. (She SITS at the DOWNSTAGE RIGHT table as MAE walks right and leans against the bar).

MAYOR:  Don’t you think we don’t know that? That’s what we’ve been discussin’.

FANNY:  (Crosses to the men’s table) Seems to me that’s all you’ve been doing…discussin.’ When’re we gonna see some action?

MAYOR: Now hold on just a doggone minute. These things take time. Harlan here is handling the legal work and I.C. has promised the bank’s support. Ain’t that right, fellas? (Both MEN nod their heads in agreement.)

I.C.:  You got it mayor.

CARRIE:  I’m sure you men will work things out.

SALLY: (Comes rushing in saloon doors.) I’m here everybody.

FANNY:  You’re late, Sally.

SALLY:  I know, I know, but they had a big shoe sale down at Binkelbaum’s. They’re going out of business, you know.

MOLLY:  Did you happen to notice any odd pairs.

SALLY:  What do you mean?

MOLLY:  Well, we were just talking about how Mae needed special shoes.

MAE:  Molly, I’m warning you.

SALLY:  I don’t get it. What’s going on?

FANNY:  Nothing.  So you say Binkelbaum’s is going out of business? That’s too bad.

SALLY:  It’s worse than bad. It’s downright tragic! Where am I going to buy my shoes?

MAE:  You already have a room full of shoes, Sally. 

SALLY:  You can never have too many shoes. Someday, I’m going to open my own shoe store where everybody can afford to buy as many as they want. I already got a name for it…Payless shoe store.

MOLLY: Yeah…and if you do that, I’ll have a name for you…penniless Sally McGee.

CARRIE:  I think it’s a great idea.

FANNY:  Don’t pay no mind to Carrie, Sally. She thinks tumbleweeds are beautiful.

CARRIE:  Oh yeah? Let’s get somebody else’s opinion. What do you think, Joe?

JOE:  (Wakes up.) Gold! Where?

CARRIE:  Not gold, Joe. Shoes. What do you think about selling shoes?

JOE:  Now what would I want to do that fer? I only have one pair…but I mite consider it if the money’s rite. How much ya offerin’?

MOLLY:  Never mind Joe. Go back to sleep.

JOE:  Don’t mind if I do.

SALLY: It doesn’t matter what anybody else thinks anyway.

CARRIE: That’s the spirit, Sally.


HILARY:  What’s going on in here girls? You’re supposed to be practicing your dance number. 

MAE:  What’s the use, Miss Hilary. We haven’t had a crowd in here since I don’t know when.

HILARY:  Now Mae, that’s no excuse. You have to give a good performance no matter how many people show up.

FANNY:  Mae’s right, Miss Hilary. We’ve had the same five customers in here every Saturday night for better than a month. They’ve seen us so often, they’re dancing along with us.

CARRIE:  That’s why we should learn some new numbers.

MOLLY:  How we gonna do that? Jed only knows three songs on the piano. Ain’t that right, Jed.

JED:  Hey…I’m just the bartender. It’s not my fault Miss Hilary had to downsize.

MAE:  Downsize? What kind of word is that?

JED:  It’s just a fancy way to say the piano player got fired. I read it in a book.

HILARY:  Jed, you’ve got entirely too much time on your hands. If you’re not careful, you may be the next one to get….what’d you call it….downsized?

JED:  Heck, I know that. That’s why I’m takin’ the time to get some learnin’.

MOLLY:  Well, since you’re so learnt, why don’t you tell us where all our customers are?

JED:   They’re in Sweetwater.

FANNY:  Sweetwater? What’s Sweetwater got that Bitter Creek ain’t got.

JED:  A saloon.

MOLLY: What’d ya call this?

JED:  Well, it may say saloon on the sign, but it’s also the town hall and community center. Sweetwater used to be the same way, but I hear tell they got their town hall built so they don’t have to use the saloon anymore for meetings and such. The saloon is now open every day of the week for those who want to enjoy the finer things in life.

I.C.  Jed’s right. Since Sweetwater got themselves a real saloon, all the ranch hands are riding over there.

MAE:  So why don’t we turn this place into a full time saloon? That’ll get the business back.

HARLAN:  We can’t.

MAE:  What do you mean, we can’t? You own the place, Miss Hilary. You can do what you want, right?

HILARY:  Afraid not. I’m just the proprietor here. The owner of the Short Branch moved back east six months ago. But before he left, he made a deal with the Bitter Creek Ladies Society that everybody could use the saloon until a new town hall is built.

CARRIE:  Don’t fret everybody. Things will work out.

FANNY:  How come you always look on the bright side, Carrie? For crying out loud, if a flood went through town, you’d probably be grateful for the water.

CARRIE:  It’s always good to have water.

FANNY:  See what I mean?

HILARY:  Girls, we don’t have time for this. Maybe you better go upstairs and gussy up a bit.

MOLLY:  Sure thing Miss Hilary. (GIRLS EXIT RIGHT as HILARY takes her place behind the bar. A beat later, BECKY ENTERS in a hurry through the SALOON DOORS. She is carrying a telegram. Becky is a young woman and the local telegraph operator. She is a bit of a tomboy and wears pants and a shirt rather than a dress. She is excited as she moves quickly to the DOWNSTAGE CENTER table.)

BECKY:  Mayor, have you seen the sheriff? I have to talk to him now!

MAYOR:  Now just calm down, Becky.

BECKY:  Calm down!? This is big! 

HARLAN:  (Perks up.) Big you say?

BECKY: Very big!

I.C.:  Very big?

BECKY:  Heck, its bigger than big…it’s HUGE!!

HARLAN:  Well….what is it, Becky? The suspense is killing us!

BECKY:  (Flatly.) I can’t tell you. This telegram is addressed to the sheriff, and I’ve looked all over town for him. How come you can never find a cop when you need one?

I.C.:  Have you tried the donut shop?

BECKY:  Donut shop!? That closed up and moved to Sweetwater last week.

MAYOR:  Now Becky, as duly elected mayor of Bitter Creek, I believe you can tell me the contents of that telegram.

BECKY:  Sorry Mayor. I’m sworn to secrecy.

MAYOR:  That’s never stopped you before.

BECKY:  True…but I still don’t know if I should.

I.C.:  Would you spit it out already!

BECKY:  All right, all right. Keep your britches on. (Looks around to make sure nobody is listening. HILARY and JEF pretend they are doing something else when BECKY looks their way, but as soon as she turns her head, they are listening intently.) This telegram is from the sheriff up at Hays City. He’s warning Sheriff Bill that Black Bart…

MEN:  BLACK BART! (The MEN, CACTUS JOE dive under tables facing the audience while JED and HILARY duck behind the bar.)

BECKY:  Fellas, you can relax. He’s ain’t here…yet. (DOC ENTERS through SALOON DOORS).

DOC: (Looks curiously at the men as well as other people under the tables and then moves to men’s table. Others get back in their chairs.) Howdy Becky. (Looks at MEN under the table.) What’s wrong boys, lose a contact?

BECKY:  Not exactly, Doc. I was just…

MAYOR: (Cutting her off as He, Harlan, and I.C. quickly get off the floor and sit back in their seats.) Uh…Becky dropped a nickel and we were just getting it back for her.

DOC:  (Sarcastic.) Hmmm….I see. I guess that’s as good a reason as any why three of our leading citizens are crawling around on the floor of a saloon.

HARLAN:  Never mind what it looks like. So…how ya doing Doc? Care to join us?

DOC:  Why? Are you coming apart? (DOC laughs at his own joke.)

I.C.:  (Sarcastic.) Ha! That’s a good one Doc…at least it was the first hundred times or so that you said it.

DOC:  Well…you crawl on the floor…I tell bad jokes. To each their own I always say.

BECKY:  Like I was saying…

MAYOR:  (Cutting her off.) Don’t you have to go find the sheriff, Becky?

BECKY:  Uh…yeah. I do. (Waits.)

MAYOR:  Well, what are you waiting for?

BECKY:  My nickel.

MAYOR:  Just go!

BECKY:  All right, I’m goin’…but remember, you owe me a nickel. (BECKY exits through SALOON DOORS.)

DOC:  (Looks towards bar. Calls out his order.) Hey Jed! I’ll have a double decaf mocha latté with extra soy foam please.

JED:  A what?

DOC:  (Explaining.) I’m lactose intolerant.

JED:  You’re who?

DOC:  Just get me a cup of coffee.

JED:  That I can do.

DOC:  (Sits.) Okay…what’s going on?

HARLAN: What’d ya talking about Doc?

DOC:  What’d you mean, what am I talking about? I come in here to get a cup of coffee and see Becky with a telegram and find you guys hiding under the table. Speaking of which, where is my coffee?  (Looks toward the bar.) Jed! Where’s my coffee?!

MAYOR:  Patience doc.

DOC:  If I had any patients, I wouldn’t be here.

MAYOR: We just don’t want you getting yourself all riled up. We don’t want you to have another heart attack. We need a doctor in this town.

DOC:  Yeah, yeah…whatever.

JED:  (JED serves coffee to I.C., HARLAN, MAYOR and then DOC.) There ya go Doc.

DOC:  About time. What did you have to do? Wait for Juan Valdez to ride in this morning?

JED:  You’re awful grumpy today, Doc. Maybe you oughta lay off the caffeine. It’ll help you sleep.

DOC:  (Sarcastic.) Thank you Doctor Jed. Does that advice come with the coffee or do I have to pay extra? (JED shrugs his shoulders and returns to the bar.)

I.C.:  Jed’s right. You’ve been real grumpy lately.

DOC:  Sorry about that, but things are pretty slow right now…and it didn’t help my disposition any when I came in here and saw your heinies sticking out from under the table.

MAYOR:  Things are bound to get better.

DOC:  Well…maybe if you all shed a few pounds.

MAYOR:  No! I meant the town. Things’ll get better in Bitter Creek.

DOC:  I don’t know about that. Ever since Sweetwater built their town hall, things have gone south…five miles south.

HARLAN:  I know. We were just talkin’ about that. Things are bad all over town.

HILARY: (Approaches table.) Howdy boys. Can I get you something?

MAYOR: Sure Hilary. I need something a little stronger than this coffee.

HILARY: Sorry Mayor, it’s Tuesday. You know the rules.

MAYOR: That’s right, it is. I forgot. Give me another coffee then.

HILARY: I’ll get that right over. (She leaves and goes back to the bar.)

MAYOR:  Tuesday, huh? I can’t keep this confounded schedule straight. Let’s see….Tuesday’s the weekly meeting of the Bitter Creek Gossip Society, right?

I.C.: Uh mayor…that’s the Bitter Creek Ladies Society.

MAYOR: Same difference. All I know is tomorrow will be a busy day.

HARLAN:  Why’s that Mayor?

MAYOR:  Because after their meeting every Tuesday, Prudence corners me bright and early Wednesday morning to let me know about all the problems in town. So and so’s dog is loose….somebody’s horse left a deposit on their sidewalk…Fred and Ethel Finklefunk are fighting again. The list is endless.

HARLAN:  Well, you know how that group is…they tend to make a mountain out of an anthill.

MAYOR:  The problem is, Harlan, they’re building those mountains right here in the saloon. With all these women coming and going all the time, the men are staying away. That’s bad for business and bad for Bitter Creek. If we don’t get that town hall built real soon, we might as well bend over and kiss our kiesters goodbye.

HARLAN:  I never thought I’d see the day when women would come and go as they please at a saloon. 

I.C.:  I know. Back home, I used to go into the saloon to get away from the misses. Now, she can pop in at any minute. Sure takes the fun out making a fool out of yourself.

DOC:  Don’t look now, I.C., but I do believe your better half is headed this way. 

I.C.:  See what I mean. (SADIE ENTERS through SALOON DOORS)

SADIE:  You hoo…I.C. (Approaches table.) There you are. I’ve been looking everywhere for you. 

I.C.:  Well, I…

SADIE:  (Cutting in.) I was just over at the bank and you weren’t there, so I figured you must be in here. You always are. (Notices others.) Oh…hello everyone.

HARLAN:  Hello Sa….

SADIE:  I don’t mean to bother you…

I.C.:  Too late. Already have.

SADIE:  Did you say something, I.C.?

I.C.:  Well, I….

SADIE:  Doesn’t matter, I guess. I just came over to have a cup of tea with Thelma and her new beau. Have you seen them?

I.C. Well, I…

SADIE:  I wonder where they could be. Shouldn’t surprise me, I guess. Thelma’s always late, isn’t that right, I.C.

I.C.  Well, I…

SADIE:  You know…Thelma’s boyfriend just came in on the stage from Boston. I just think it’s wonderful that we have a visitor from the east. Don’t you think it’s wonderful, I.C.?

I.C.:  Well, I…

SADIE: Of course you do. We don’t get many visitors here anymore. I wonder why. Can you explain that mayor?

MAYOR:  Well, we were just talking…

SADIE:   Sweetwater’s the place to be. I heard they have a new town hall and are building a new school. Have you heard that, Mayor?

MAYOR:  As a matter of fact, we…

SADIE:  It’s probably not my place to say, but maybe you fellas should spend more time working on the town’s problems and less time drinking coffee in the saloon.

I.C.:  Now Sadie…

SADIE:  Well…enough of this idle chitchat. I’m starting to worry about Thelma. I wonder where in the world she could be. If you don’t mind, I think I’ll just go outside and see if I can find her. Bye everyone.

MAYOR:  Bye. Nice talking with you. (Watches her leave.) Wow…that wife of yours can rattle on a mile a minute. How do you ever get a word in?

I.C.:  That’s usually all I get…one.

HARLAN:  I feel for you, I.C.

I.C.:  Don’t. It’s actually kind of nice. All I have to do is smile and nod my head once in a while.

MAYOR:  So…where were we?

I.C.:  We were talking about women in saloons.

MAYOR:  Oh yeah…how could I forget? A saloon is no place for a woman that’s all I got to say. Pretty soon, they’ll want to vote and hold office.

HARLAN:  Don’t worry Mayor. That’ll never happened.

 (Sheriff ENTERS through SALOON DOORS. He has a confident manner about him and is dressed in denim pants, brightly colored shirt, a vest with a badge, cowboy boots and white hat. He wears a gunbelt.)

SHERIFF:  (Sees the men.) Howdy boys. (The men all wave or say howdy as the Sheriff heads to the bar.) Miss Hilary, you’re looking wonderful today.

HILARY:  Why thank you, Bill. How nice of you to notice.

SHERIFF:  Maybe I can stop by later and we can take a buggy ride.

HARLAN:  Hey sheriff, when’re you going to make an honest woman out of Miss Hilary. 

SHERIFF:  (Uncomfortable.) You mean like…uh…get married?

I.C.:  Sure. You’ve been going together for better ‘n two years, and we just want you to be as happy as the rest of us. Right fellas?

HARLAN:  (Not too excited. Flatly.) Yeah…happy. 

DOC:  (Flatly.)That’s us. 

HARLAN/DOC/MAYOR: (Flatly) Happy.

HILARY: Now boys, quit pickin’ on the sheriff. I’m sure he’ll get around to poppin’ the question when he’s ready. (Suggestively.) Won’t you Bill? (MEN at table laugh and resume their private conversation.) 

SHERIFF: Jed, bail me out here. Give me a cup of coffee.

HILARY:  (Smiles.) You big chicken. (SHERIFF returns the smile as BECKY ENTERS through SALOON DOORS and approaches the bar.)

BECKY:  Sheriff! There you are! I’ve been looking for you everywhere!

SHERIFF:  What is it, Becky? You’re jumping around like a mouse crawled up your pants.

BECKY:  I just got this telegram from Hays City and…(whispers the news in his ear.)

SHERIFF:  BLACK BART! (The MAYOR, I.C. and HARLAN all jump out of their seats at the news.

Show Down At Bitter Creek

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