THE RIDER OF LOST CREEK
THE MOUNTAIN VALLEY WAR
WEST OF DODGE (SHORT STORY)
MONUMENT ROCK (NOVELLA)
A GUN FOR KILKENNY (SHORT STORY)
Kilkenny wasn’t looking for trouble when he entered the Clifton House stage station, but trouble found him when a reckless youngster named Tetlow challenged him, drew his gun, and paid for it with his life.
Looking to escape a reputation that he never wanted, Lance Kilkenny settles in the lonely mountain country of Utah, planning to ranch a high, lush valley. But the past is on his trail. Jared Tetlow is a powerful rancher determined to run his vast herd on the limited grasslands there—whether he has to buy out the local ranchers, run them out, or kill them. He’ll cut down anyone who stands in his way, especially a man he already despises: the gunman named Kilkenny—the man who killed his son.
About the Author
Date of Birth:March 22, 1908
Date of Death:June 10, 1988
Place of Birth:Jamestown, North Dakota
Read an Excerpt
TO CLIFTON HOUSE on the Canadian came a lone rider on a long-legged buckskin. He was a green-eyed man wearing a flat-crowned, flat-brimmed black hat, black shirt and chaps. The Barlow & Sanderson Stage had just pulled in when the rider came out of the lava country, skirting the foothills of the Sangre de Cristos.
He was riding easy when they first saw him but his horse was dust-coated and the sweat had dried on him. The man had a tear in his shirt sleeve and a bloody bandage on his side. He rode directly to the stable and dismounted, caring first for his horse.
Only then did he turn and glance toward the House. He wore two tied-down guns. Pulling his hat lower he crossed the hard-packed earth and entered the house. “I could use some grub,” he said, “a meal now and supplies to go.”
“We got anything you need. We’re feedin’ the stage crowd now. Go on in.”
He paused at the door and studied the room before going in. There were six passengers from the stage. Two women and four men, and there were a few riders from the valley roundup and three men from a trail herd crew. Face by face he studied them. Only then did he seat himself.
The tall girl from the stage lifted her eyes and looked across the table at him, her eyes alive with curiosity as she saw the bloody bandage. None of the men appeared to notice anything, and she filled her cup again and tried her coffee. It was hot, black, and strong.
Her eyes went again to the man in black. He had removed his hat when he seated himself and she noticed that his hair was black and curly. He was a lean, powerfully built man, probably larger than he looked while seated. Her eyes trailed again to the bandage.
“You…you’ve hurt yourself!” she exclaimed. “Your shoulder!”
Embarrassed and irritated, he glanced up. “It’s a scratch,” he said hastily. “It’s all right.”
“It looks like more than a scratch to me,” she persisted. “You had better have it cared for.”
“Thanks,” he said, his voice a shade grim now, “I shall.”
There was silence for a few minutes, and then from down the table somebody said, “Don’t yuh wished yuh was scratched, Ike? Mebbe the lady would fix it for yuh.”
The tall man flushed slightly but said nothing, but from down the table came a new voice. “Whatever it was scratched him,” the voice said, “it looks like it hit him runnin’ away!”
The dead silence that followed saw the tall man turn pale and cold. He lifted his head, his green eyes going down the table to the man who had spoken. He was a tough, handsome youngster with a look of eager recklessness about him. “If you were jokin’,” the tall man said, “say so.”
The man beside the tall man ducked suddenly and rolled off the bench, while others drew back from the blond young man. The youngster got slowly to his feet. “I wasn’t jokin’,” he said, with a faint sneer. “It looks to me like you was runnin’ away.”
As he spoke he went for his gun, and what happened then was seen with utter, piercing clarity by all who watched. The tall man seemed deliberately to wait, to hesitate the split second it took for the blond young man’s hand to strike the butt of his gun.
Then he palmed his own gun and shot.
The blond man staggered, his gun, half-drawn when the shot struck him, slid back into the holster. The man backed up, sat down, and rolled over on his face, coughing blood and death.
For an instant the room was still, broken by the young woman. She stared with horror at the tall man. “You…you murderer!” she cried, her lips twisting.
The tall man drew back slightly, his gun still in his hand. From one man to the other, he looked. “You saw it. He asked for it. I didn’t want to kill him. I wasn’t hunting for trouble when I came here. I was just tryin’ to eat a quiet meal. What did he want to jump me for?”
Nobody spoke for a few seconds and then an older man said quietly, “Don’t blame yourself, stranger. The boy has been huntin’ for trouble ever since he killed a man in Texas.”
“That won’t make no difference for yuh,” another man said. “When Tetlow hears yuh’ve shot his boy, he’ll never rest until he nails yore hide on the fence.”
The tall man drew back and holstered his gun. “I’m not looking for trouble,” he said. “I’ll take my supplies and leave. Just you remember that,” he added. “I’m not lookin’ for trouble.”
He sat down at the table and using his left hand he made two sandwiches from meat and bread. Wrapping them in a kerchief, he shoved them into his chaps pocket, backed away from the table, turned and walked into the other room. Tom Stockton was waiting for him. On the counter was a sack filled with supplies. “There it is, son. I seen it, an’ it was a fa’r shootin’ if there ever was one. Take this stuff, an’ welcome.”
“Thanks,” the tall man hesitated, “but I want to pay.”
“I’ll take it hard,” Stockton said grimly.
“Yuh take this an’ go along. It’s little enough I can do for Kilkenny!”
Although he hissed the last name gently, the tall man looked quickly around. “Don’t say that name!” he said. “Don’t mention it!”
“I won’t,” Stockton replied, “but there’s others in there may. Johnson,” he nodded toward the dining room, “is from the Live Oak country. He may know yuh.”
“Thanks again.” Kilkenny turned, then he paused. “This Tetlow—who is he?”
Tom Stockton leaned his big hands on the counter and his face was grave. He had established Clifton House in 1867 to serve the round-up crowds and it had become a stage station. Since then and before he had seen much of the West and he had known most of it before. He knew this young man both by reputation and by intuition, and he liked him, and knowing this man and knowing Tetlow—
“It couldn’t be worse. He’s from Tennessee, Kilkenny, with all that means. He’s the old bull o’ the woods, a big, hard old man, but aristocratic, intelligent, smart, and a politician. Worse, he comes of a feuding family. He’ll not rest until he gets you, or you him.”
Kilkenny nodded. “I see. What’s he doing here?”
“He’s not here, not yet. But he’s comin’. South of here on the flat he’s got six thousand head of cattle. That’s the second herd. The first one was four thousand head. He’s got two more herds comin’.”
“He’ll need a lot of land for that many cattle,” Kilkenny said. “I hope he’s got it spotted.”
“If he hasn’t,” Stockton replied, “he’ll get it.” He jerked his head. “That one, the one you shot. He was tall-talkin’ around here. Said if they didn’t get the land any other way they knew how they could get it. And he slapped his gun when he spoke.”
“It’s been done,” Kilkenny said.
Stockton nodded gloomily. “Which makes it mighty tough on the little man who can’t hire gunmen. Knowin’ somethin’ about Tetlow, however, I’d say that he wouldn’t fall back on guns until politics failed. He’s a smooth one, an’ like I said—he’s a politician.”