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News of the World

Captain Jefferson Kyle Kidd is a former member of the Confederate Infantry who now makes a living traveling town to town reading newspapers for the populace for ten cents per person. Following one such evening of news reading, Kidd sets out for his next location when he encounters an overturned wagon on the road. Dismounting to investigate further, he encounters a lynched black man and a young white girl named Johanna who is dressed in Native American clothing. After an encounter with a union civil war patrol, Kidd is instructed to take the girl to Union officials at a checkpoint in a town up the road where they will sort out her Indian affairs paperwork and see to it she is returned to her surviving family. Reluctantly, Kidd acquiesces to the request.

At the Union checkpoint Kidd is informed that the Indian affairs representative is on the reservation and will be unavailable for three months. Seeking shelter with a former confederate infantryman, Kidd reads the news and upon returning begrudgingly accepts responsibility for returning the girl to her surviving family. As the two set out they attempt to find common ground, but neither one has much success in communicating with the other. This is further compounded at the next stop, when Kidd is confronted by three ex confederate soldiers turned criminals who express an interested in purchasing the girl from Kidd. Kidd refuses, but the three men pursue Kidd leading to a shoot out in the wilderness during which Johanna and Kidd overcome obstacles to work together for self preservation.

At the next stop Kidd encounters a radical band of militia working to “cleanse” the county from “outsiders”. Kidd is contracted to read the approved news from the town’s leader, but instead opts to read from a different paper about a group of coal miners who rally against a cruel man whose refusal to abide by safety standards put his miners in jeopardy. Kidd’s story incites civil unrest, and ultimately results in the town’s leader being gunned down by riled up forces. In the aftermath, Kidd and Johanna join a wagon train bound for a town with the railroad line before veering off to locate Johanna’s surviving family. During the journey Kidd’s wagon is destroyed, leaving Johanna and Kidd to continue on foot until the pair encounter Kiowa tribesmen from whom Johanna is able to obtain a horse.

Kidd and Johanna eventually reach her aunt and uncle’s farmstead, the former revealing that Johanna’s parents had struck out on their own and moved to hill country where the land would be cheaper; this led to them being killed in a Kiowa raid. Kidd reluctantly leaves Johanna (who is resistant) with them, and returns to San Antonio. His wife, Maria Luisa Betancourt Kidd, had been dead for some time, having passed away in the war. Now without any kin, he visits the mission where she is buried, and mournfully leaves his wedding ring and locket containing her picture on her grave.

Kidd then rides off back to the village where he left Johanna, where he finds her tied to a pole, her belligerent aunt and uncle explaining that she refused to work and would instead run off. Asking forgiveness, Kidd tells Johanna she belongs with him in Kiowa, and Johanna accepts; her aunt and uncle reluctantly let them go. In an epilogue, Kidd reads the papers at another pulpit, with Johanna helping out on sound effects and bearing a new name: Johanna Kidd.


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