'Compton's convincingly detailed account of folks earning a living the hard way offers readers a chance to hit the trail and not even end up saddle sore' - PUBLISHER'S WEEKLY With a dream of building a ranching empire in Montana, Nelson Story set off on a most extraordinary journey. By his side was a bunch of misfits and renegades with nothing left to lose. On his tail were brutal outlaws, fixing to bleed his trail drive dry. Pushing his way through four harsh territories and three brutal seasons, Story would defy the Union Army and take on a thousand riled-up Sioux warriors, before he reached Virginia City - and came face-to-face with the man who wanted him dead.
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Ralph Compton stood six-foot-eight without his boots. His first novel in the Trail Drive series, The Goodnight Trail, was a finalist for the Western Writers of America Medicine Pipe Bearer Award for best debut novel. He was also the author of the Sundown Rider series and the Border Empire series. A native of St. Clair County, Alabama, Compton worked as a musician, a radio announcer, a songwriter, and a newspaper columnist before turning to writing westerns. He died in Nashville, Tennessee in 1998.Excerpt. © Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.:
1Fort Worth, Texas. February 1, 1866.
Nelson Story and his three companions arrived in Fort Worth in the early afternoon.
“Wal,” Coon Tails said, “I dunno what else this place has got goin’ fer it, but they’s a blessed plenty of blue bellies.”
“Texas and all the South is under reconstruction,” said Story. “We’ll have to report to the officer in charge and identify ourselves. Since the war’s end, there are renegades from both sides looting and killing. Us being strangers in town, we’d best find the soldiers before they come looking for us.”
Before they reached the end of the block, a pair of Union soldiers confronted them. One of them was Negro, and neither seemed more than a year or two out of their teens. They stood in the muddy street, their muzzle loaders at port arms. Story and his companions reined up.
“We’re from Montana,” Story said, “here to buy cattle. Take us to your officer in charge for whatever clearance we may need.”
“Ride on the way you’re headed,” said the white soldier, “and take a left at the next corner. From there you can see the unfinished courthouse, and the post commander’s tent in front of it. Ask for Captain Clark.”*
Story and his men rode on, and when they turned the corner as directed, Story could see the pair of soldiers following on foot. Having stated his intentions, he found it irritating that he and his men were not trusted to ride to the officer’s tent without an armed escort. Reaching the tent, they were eyed suspiciously by a corporal who stood near the closed flap of the tent. He faced them, his rifle at port arms, a question in his eyes.
“We’re from Montana,” Story repeated, “here to buy Texas cattle. I want to speak to Captain Clark, the post commander.”
Before the soldier could respond, the tent flap was swept aside, and the officer who emerged could only have been the officer. He was smartly dressed, and from the epaulets of his blue tunic, captain’s bars flashed in the afternoon sun.
“I’m Captain Clark,” said the officer.
“I reckon you heard what I said,” Story replied. “I’m Nelson Story, and these men are part of my outfit. I only want you to be aware of our purpose here. Is there any reason why we can’t ride from ranch to ranch, buying the cattle we want?”
“None that I know of,” said Clark. “However, I must remind you that Texas is under federal jurisdiction. If you hire Texas cowboys, they’ll need permission to leave the state.”
Story and his men were still mounted, and Story sidestepped his horse nearer, so that he looked the captain squarely in the eyes when he spoke.
“Obviously I don’t have enough men for a cattle drive, Captain, so I will be hiring riders. Is that going to be a problem, getting permission for them to leave Texas?”
“Only if they have taken up arms against the United States,” said Captain Clark. “In that case, it will be left to my discretion. Those who fought for the Confederacy will be required to sign papers, swearing never again to take up arms against the Union.”
“Thank you, Captain,” Story said. He rode back the way he had come, with Coon Tails, Allen, and Petty following.
“Them federals is a hard-nosed bunch,” said Petty when they were well away from the officer’s tent. “The war’s done, and they whupped the Rebs. What’s to be gained by keepin’ ’em penned up like a bunch of mavericks?”
“Reconstruction is a cruel punishment conceived by a few vindictive men in Washington,” Story said, “but as long as we’re in Texas, the law’s what they say it is.”
Story and his men rode past saloons, cafes, pool parlors, and several hotels. Story seemed to know what he was seeking. They rode south, the town thinning out, until they reached what was obviously a large livery barn. On one side of it was a six-pole-high corral where four horses picked at some hay. On the other side of the barn was a long, low building built of logs and chinked with mud. Above the door, across the front of it, was a sign that read: YORK AND DRAPER. Drover’s Supplies, Livestock, Wagons.
“We need information,” said Story. “We’ll start here.”
They dismounted, Story leading the way into the dim interior of the building. A long counter ran from wall to wall, with a swinging door at each end. On a stool behind the counter sat a bald man wearing an eyeshade, working over a ledger by the light of a lamp. He looked up as they entered, and Story spoke.
“I’m Nelson Story. We’re from Montana, here to buy cattle. I’ll be needin’ riders as well as cows.”
It was an unasked question, put in a manner that invited a response, rather than demanding one.
“I’m York,” said the man at the counter, “and I can’t be of much help to you in findin’ cows. Just about everybody that can raise a herd and afford an outfit ain’t sellin’ locally. Had a dozen drives go up the trail last fall, and there must be fifty more plannin’ to move out in a month or so. I ain’t sayin’ you can’t buy cows. You can, but they’ll cost you ten dollars a head, and there won’t be many two-year-old steers. As for riders, I can’t say. Might pick up a few that’s sold their cows or can’t afford a trail drive. Try the saloons and pool halls.”
“Thanks,” Story said, and not until they reached their horses did he speak to his companions. “We’ll find us a hotel, get some grub under our belts, and look around some.”
“This hombre York didn’t seem too anxious to help us,” said Tom Allen.
“He’s partial to Texans,” Story said. “We’ll have to expect that. It’s hard times here, and a man selling his cows for ten dollars a head makes no sense, if there’s a chance he can do better.”
“Wal, hell,” said Coon Tails, “ever’body in Texas ain’t got enough cows fer a drive, an’ if’n they did, they wouldn’t have the cash fer their outfits. After supper, when the saloons an’ billiard parlors commence t’fill up, why don’t we split up, circulate, an’ listen?”
“I think we’ll do exactly that,” Story said. “When a man’s needin’ cash, ten dollars a head now is worth fifty at the end of a trail he can’t afford to ride.”
They reined up before the Fort Worth House, a two-story hotel constructed of lumber, and it bore evidence of once having been painted. A porch ran all the way across the front of the building, and above that a balcony, with a single roof covering both. On the lower porch a bench ran the length of the wall from either side of the double front doors. Half a dozen men sat there watching the newcomers approach. Several of the locals were chewing plug, spitting over the porch railing. Numerous stains attested to their inaccuracy. Story and his men nodded to the observers, entered the hotel, and Story took a pair of rooms.
“I ain’t one fer beds,” said Coon Tails. “Jist gimme room t’spread my blankets on the floor.”
“You can have my floor, then,” Story said. “I reckon Bill and Tom are used to one another’s snoring.”
They climbed the stairs. The rooms were nothing fancy, but they seemed clean. There was a chair, a four-drawer dresser, and attached to the wall above it, a small mirror. On the dresser there was a washbasin and a porcelain pitcher. An iron bed stood next to the only window, and the fire escape consisted of a length of rope, one end of which was tied to a leg of the bed. Story and Coon Tails took the first room, which was on their left, while Bill Petty and Tom Allen took the second room, across the hall. Story removed his boots and hat, stretching out on the bed. Coon Tails spread his blankets.
“Should of brung my saddle, ’stead o’ leavin’ it at the livery,” the old mountain man said. “Makes a dang good piller.”
“There’s two pillows on the bed,” said Story. “You’re welcome to one of them.”
“Thankee,” said Coon Tails, “but they’s too soft. I’ll make do.”
Nelson Story wasn’t a man to lie abed in the afternoon. In less than an hour he was up, sitting on the edge of the bed, looking out the window. Coon Tails got up, rolling his blankets, reaching for his battered old hat.
“It’s a mite early t’hit the saloons,” Coon Tails said, “but I purely got t’do somethin’. These fancy hotels is passable fer sleepin’, I reckon, but I can’t see much need fer ’em in the daytime, less’n a man be crippled.”
Story laughed. “I was thinking the same thing,” he said, reaching for his boots. “Let’s roust Bill and Tom and go find us some steaks with plenty of potatoes, onions, and hot coffee.”
“A mite early fer supper,” said Coon Tails, “but I kin always eat ag’in.”
Petty and Allen were eager and ready to leave the hotel, and the four of them headed for a cafe they had passed earlier. The place had no name. The entire front of the slab-sided building had been decorated with a black-painted likeness of a longhorn bull. Beneath that, in ragged red letters, was a single word: GRUB.
“With a front like this,” Bill Petty said, “if they ain’t got steak, we oughta pull our irons and shoot up the place.”
Since it was well past the dinner hour and much too early f...
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Book Description Niagara, 1999. Hardcover. Book Condition: New. Never used!. Bookseller Inventory # P110708958869
Book Description Niagara. Hardcover. Book Condition: New. 0708958869 New Condition. Bookseller Inventory # NEW7.1984422
Book Description Niagara, 1999. Hardcover. Book Condition: New. book. Bookseller Inventory # M0708958869