The Red Pony
How we cite our quotes:
Jody grabbed him fiercely by the forearm. "You're not going to shoot him?"
Billy patted his hand. "No. I'm going to open a little hole in his windpipe so he can breathe. His nose is filled up. When he gets well, we'll put a little brass button in the hole for him to breathe through."
Jody couldn't have gone away if he wanted to. It was awful to see the red hide cut, but infinitely more terrible to know it being cut and not see it. "I'll stay right here," he said bitterly. (1.164-1.166)
In this heart-wrenching scene, Billy is doing what he has to do to save the red pony. Sometimes, duty can be a terrible thing that you just have to do. It's really not a matter of choice, and Jody knows it, too. Why else would he stay with his horse through such a horrible ordeal?
"I tell you you won't stay," Carl said angrily. "I don't need an old man. This isn't a big ranch. I can't afford food and doctor bills for an old man. You must have relatives and friends. Go to them. It's like begging to come to strangers."
"I was born here," Gitano said patiently and inflexibly.
Carl Tiflin didn't like to be cruel, but he felt he must. "You can eat here tonight," he said. "You can sleep in the little room in the bunkhouse. We'll give you your breakfast in the morning, and then you'll have to go along. Go to your friends. Don't come to die with strangers." (2.67-2.69)
Is Carl fulfilling his duty as a good person in giving Gitano a couple meals, a place to sleep for one night, and then shoo him off in the morning? Or should he be doing more for the old Mexican? Is Carl (as he thinks) being cruel? Or is he just doing what is necessary to support his family? Sometimes doing your duty can make for some awkward, difficult choices.
Billy's face and arms and chest were dripping red. His body shivered and his teeth chattered. His voice was gone; he spoke in a throaty whisper. "There's your colt. I promised. And there it is. I had to do it—had to." (3.172)
What is the price of doing one's duty? Billy Buck thought it was his charge to deliver a colt to Jody, no matter what the cost. In this terrible scene, we see the lengths he will go to fulfill a promise he made to the boy. But was it the right call?