I was watching an old Western recently, I think it was called, Battle at Feather Creek. Maybe it was Feather at Battle Creek . . . No, that one’s about a pillow maker in Michigan . . . No, it was Charge at Feather River. That’s it; the water feature was bigger than I thought. Anyway, this group of soldiers sneaks up on the Indian camp where two guards are posted. Do you suppose that the guards were peering out into the darkness, perhaps wondering why 15 men were crouched behind one rock? That would be a good thing for a guard to do, but these two were squatting down facing each other! I guess they were talking about a Cleveland-Atlanta World Series or something, but one of them thinks he might hear something and runs towards the danger, at which point and not surprisingly, he is knocked unconscious or traded to Boston or something. Now, if you had graduated from any accredited guard school, you would, having realized your fellow guard had met an unpleasant fate, run away from the danger toward the camp yelling for all you’re worth, “Hey! There are 15 guys crouched behind a rock out there and one of them got Larry! Everybody wake up!!” I guess he was named Larry. He looked like a Larry.
But no, this guard—I think his name was Bruce—runs toward the rock crouchers and is promptly dispatched without so much as a single word of warning to the sleeping Indians in the camp. Not a scream, not a holler, not a sigh, not a cough suggesting that someone might want to look in his direction. Nope, Larry and Bruce got themselves killed or traded or whatever without ever coming close to doing what they were put there to do.
By no means is this an Indian problem. It is a guard problem. I’ve seen American, German, Japanese, Mexican, French, British and Star Trek guards all act in the same way. I bet there’s a movie out there where two Eskimos are guarding an igloo, but are dispatched by 15 angry penguins crouched behind a snowman without so much as a “By your leave, here come the penguins!” mentioned in passing to the igloo’s inhabitants.
It’s really a writer problem. Too quickly do they run out of any intelligent plot, and so, they fill in with a stock, idiot-guard scene. There must be an entire course on this at Screenwriters College.
What we have learned here today is this: If you want your camp properly guarded, find the most cowardly person in your outfit. You want the guy most likely to run away from danger; the guy who will run screaming hysterically into camp at the drop of a hat or at least at the sight of 15 hats sticking up from behind a rock because he is most interested in being the last one killed, not the first.