EXT. SOUTH CAROLINA COUNTRYSIDE - DAY
Woodlands. Beautiful. Untamed. Soaring old-growth elms
arch over riverside maples along the shores of the gently
curving, deep-water Santee River.
Upstream, the swamps. Beautiful. Hundreds of BIRDS SING.
Shafts of sunlight pierce the canopy, cutting through the
hanging moss and kudzu, falling onto soft, swaying ferns
covering the high ground.
The water is clear, with fields of floating lily pads,
each with a stark white flower rising from it.
THE FOLLOWING IS BASED ON A
EXT. POND BLUFF - DAY
A farm built between the banks of the river and the deep
green of the swamps. Good, fertile land, hacked out of
The perfectly tended fields are ripe with barley, hops,
alfalfa and tobacco. Two sturdy brothers, NATHAN, 13 and
SAMUEL, 12, work one of the fields, rhythmically swinging
scythes through the barley.
The house, built of native brick, is well-constructed and
well-maintained. There's a barn, a workshop and a forge.
It is a home of substance rather than wealth. On the
front porch, MARGARET, 11, pumps a butter churn while her
brother, WILLIAM, 6, watches.
GABRIEL, 18, strong and handsome, walks out of the woods
with a musket in his hand and a dozen game-birds over his
shoulder. At his side walks THOMAS, 14, also carrying a
INT. WORKSHOP - DAY
A perfect colonial workshop, fastidiously arranged with
every conceivable tool of the period. A foot-powered
lathe. A drop-forge. A lifting saw. Racks of tools,
planes, hammers, augers, drills, blocks, all hanging in
their places. All very well-worn.
FRANCIS MARION methodically works his lathe, turning a
piece of hardwood, shaving off tiny curls of wood with a
razor-sharp chisel. He's in his late-forties, strong and
weathered. His hands, though big and callused, handle the
chisel with a surgeon's precision. Self-educated and
self-sufficient, he has built himself, as he built his
farm, brick by brick, from the coarse clay of the earth.
A finely-made rocking chair, missing only the dowel on
which Marion is working, sits on the work table. The
chair is a work of art, thin and light, a spider-web of
perfectly turned wood, no nails, no glue.
Sitting on the woodpile, SUSAN, 4, a silent, stone-face
wisp of a child, watches her father.
Marion takes the piece of wood out of the lathe, carefully
fits it into the chair, inserts a peg and taps it into
place. Then he steps back and appraises his handiwork.
He picks up the chair and hooks the top rail to a scale,
countering with a three-pound weight. The chair floats.
Marion blows softly on the weight which sinks. Susan
nods, so far, so good. Marion puts the chair on the floor
and walks slowly around it, checking every angle.
Then, the acid test. He takes a deep breath and lowers
himself onto the seat, gingerly adding an ounce at a time.
Not a creak. He smiles and sits back with a sigh.
CRACK! THE CHAIR SPLINTERS under Marion's weight, DUMPING
HIM on his ass on a pile of broken wood.
He picks up some of the wood, about to fling it across the
room but stops as Susan shoots him a disapproving look.
He calms himself.
Susan gets down from the woodpile and puts the remains of
the chair in the fireplace. As she climbs back up to her
perch, Marion steps over to his wood rack, extracts a
fresh dowel, fits it into the lathe and starts all over
EXT. WORKSHOP - DUSK
Marion leaves the workshop with Susan at his side. Nathan
and Samuel walk past, exhausted from their day in the