Two men. Best friends. Same opportunities. Different paths.
This is the story of To Big Charlie from Little Charlie from the old TV program Death Valley Days…
Big Charlie and Little Charlie, prospecting partners, find a rich mine and decide to sell it to a wealthy mining magnate named Spencer Gates, who gives each Charlie $25,000, a pretty good fortune back then.
Big Charlie and Little Charlie discuss what they want to do with the rest of their lives. Big Charlie says he’s going to move to New York, work for Spencer, and marry Consuelo, Spencer’s daughter.
Little Charlie says he’s staying right there and do something he’s always had a hankerin’ for: to buy out the owner of the post store and run it.
BC: “The post? What is there in that?”
LC: “A comfortable living…a home…people.”
BC: “But it don’t lead anywhere.”
LC: “I don’t want to go anywheres.”
LC: “Me? I belong here.”
BC: “Haven’t you got any ambition?”
LC: “I don’t want the world, if that’s what you mean.”
BC: “Well, I do and I’m out to get my share. I’m goin’ back to the east with Spencer Gates. Learn all there is to know about big business. Make myself indispensable to him.”
Big Charlie marries Consuelo and becomes rich, while Little Charlie runs the post store, barely getting by. Mainly because he grubstakes other prospectors and closes the store to help others, even on big Saturday nights.
Big Charlie welcomes a son and a daughter, but he doesn’t have time for them. It gets worse over time. Arguments consistently happen between Big Charlie and Consuelo.
When Spencer dies, the company is left to Big Charlie. Consuelo wants to get away to Paris. They argue and she goes alone. While there, she meets a count, and when she returns, she tells Big Charlie she’s going to marry the count and wants a divorce.
Meanwhile, Little Charlie’s taxes are due, but he cannot pay them because of extending credit and helping others. The store and all his belongings are sold at auction.
Saddened, Little Charlie goes back to prospecting. One day, as he’s walking along the road, the sheriff rides up and says he needs Little Charlie’s help. He found an old man dead in his shack.
They go to the shack to bury the man. Little Charlie recognizes the man as one of the prospectors he grubstaked for years. The sheriff looks for letters to see if the man had any relatives. In an old dusty box, he finds a will, leaving everything to Little Charlie. He also finds a bankbook with hundreds of dollars listed. All as payback to Little Charlie for grubstaking him all those years.
With this money, Little Charlie decides it’s not too late to buy back the store.
Now, it’s almost Christmastime and he’s missing Big Charlie, even after 28 years. In the store, he picks out a Christmas card to send to Big Charlie, writing “To Big Charlie from Little Charlie.”
When Big Charlie receives the card, he’s a little nostalgic. His grown daughter comes in and announces she’s going to spend Christmas with friends, because she knows he doesn’t mind, since he’s not sentimental about such things. Then, his son calls and says he’s going to Paris to stay with his mother.
Looking at the card, he decides to go see Little Charlie.
Over an open fire, they share Christmas dinner, as they look out at the desert.
BC: “Ah, this country never changes, does it?”
LC: “Yup. Although with men, it’s different.”
BC: “You’re not different, Charlie. You’re just the same fella you were 28 years ago.”
BC: “Now, tell me, if you could start all over again, go back to that day we camped here in ’85…”
LC: “I reckon I’d live my life the same way. It suited me. What about you?”
BC: “Oh, I ’spose I’d do the same, in spite of everything. I couldn’t help myself. It’s in the stars what we’re to be.”
LC: “No, it’s in ourselves. You’re born to be big or you’re born to be little.”
BC: “And when all’s said and done, who’s to judge which is the better life?”
At the end, the Old Ranger host asks, “Big Charlie or Little Charlie? Which is the better life? Material success or inner satisfaction?”
You be the judge. Which one led a fuller life? Which one would you choose?
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