Описание произведения. Электронная библиотека, книги всех жанров
Bluff City David L. Robbins
TWO AGAINST ONE
Like a giant spring uncoiling, Clay launched himself at the outlaw on the right. The man had his hand on his revolver and went to jerk it even as Clay was in midair. Clay was quicker. With a swift thrust he buried his knife in the man’s ribs. The outlaw stiffened and cried out and sought to use his spurs, but Clay, grabbing the man’s shirt, gave a fierce pull.
Down they went. Clay alighted on his feet but the outlaw hit on his side and cried out a second time.
Clay spun. The other outlaw had reined toward them and was in the act of drawing a revolver. Clay could not possibly reach the man before the revolver went off, so he did the only thing he could; he threw the knife….
Ralph Compton Bluff City A Ralph Compton Novel by David Robbins
THE IMMORTAL COWBOY
T his is respectfully dedicated to the “American Cowboy.” His was the saga sparked by the turmoil that followed the Civil War, and the passing of more than a century has by no means diminished the flame.
T rue, the old days and the old ways are but treasured memories, and the old trails have grown dim with the ravages of time, but the spirit of the cowboy lives on.
I n my travels—to Texas, Oklahoma, Kansas, Nebraska, Colorado, Wyoming, New Mexico, and Arizona—I always find something that reminds me of the Old West. While I am walking these plains and mountains for the first time, there is this feeling that a part of me is eternal, that I have known these old trails before. I believe it is the undying spirit of the frontier calling, allowing me, through the mind’s eye, to step back into time. What is the appeal of the Old West of the American frontier?
I t has been epitomized by some as the dark and bloody period in American history. Its heroes—Crockett, Bowie, Hickok, Earp—have been reviled and criticized. Yet the Old West lives on, larger than life.
I t has become a symbol of freedom, when there was always another mountain to climb and another river to cross; when a dispute between two men was settled not with expensive lawyers, but with fists, knives, or guns. Barbaric? Maybe. But some things never change. When the cowboy rode into the pages of American history, he left behind a legacy that lives within the hearts of us all.
The rider and his claybank were covered with dust. They came down the middle of Fremont Street, the man slouched in his saddle, the wide brim of his black hat pulled low. He appeared to be in his early twenties. His sun-bronzed face was fringed by a shoulder-length mane of raven hair. He wore buckskins, and knee-high moccasins instead of boots. He did not wear spurs.
Those who saw him noticed a pearl-handled Colt in a black leather holster on his right hip.
Only a few noticed something else. Only those near the rider when he raised his head to scan the street. They saw that he had piercing eyes the color of a mountain lake, and that he would be judged attractive by those of the female persuasion were it not for his disfigurement. At some point in the past his nose had been broken. Normally that was not a calamity. But in the rider’s case his nose had not mended as it should. Instead of being straight and smooth, it bent sharply in the middle. At first glance it appeared he had a horizontal V in the center of his face. Below it grew a thick, bushy mustache.
The rider seemed self-conscious of his deformity, for no sooner did he scan the street than he quickly lowered his head and pulled on his hat brim.
The owner of the feed and grain was sweeping the boardwalk in front of his store when the rider came to a stop at the hitch rail. “Welcome to Whistler’s Flat, mister.”
“Strange handle for a town,” the rider commented as he stiffly dismounted. He did not look directly at the store owner.
“In case you haven’t noticed,” the townsman said good-naturedly, “flat is one thing Kansas has plenty of. As for the whistling, old Eb Wilcox, who founded the town, had a gap in his upper front teeth.”
“So?” the rider said with little interest.
“So every time Eb breathed with his mouth open, he whistled.” The store owner grinned. “The name doesn’t seem so strange once you know the story.” He paused. “I didn’t catch your name.”
“Probably because I didn’t give it.” The rider removed his hat and swatted at his buckskins, raising swirls of dust.
“Appears to me you and your clothes could use a cleaning,” the store owner said. “The barber has a tub out back. For two bits he’ll have your clothes washed and wrung out while you bathe.”
“There’s something I need more.” The rider replaced his hat and walked past the feed and grain to the saloon. Hooking his right hand in his belt so it was close to his pearl-handled Colt, he shouldered inside. The murky interior gave him pause. He waited for his eyes to adjust, then strolled to the bar.
The Cocklebur was nearly deserted. It was early afternoon and, other than the bartender and the rider with the bent nose, five men were seated at a corner table playing poker.
“What’s your poison, mister?” the bartender asked. He resembled a wad of bread dough poured into an apron.
“You particular about the brand?”
“So long as it burns going down and kicks like a mule, I’ll be happy.” The rider turned so his elbows rested on the bar. Coincidentally, he no longer had his back to the batwings or the corner table, where one of the five players was dealing cards.
“You’re an easy gent to please,” the bartender complimented him. “I wish all my customers were as agreeable.”
The rider was given a glass but he chugged straight from the bottle, using his left hand although his revolver was on his right side. He took three long swigs that ended with him smacking his lips and smiling. “This red-eye of yours would grow hair on a rock.”
The five poker players were examining their cards. They were a quiet bunch. They had not said a word since the rider came in.
Lowering his voice, the man with the bent nose asked, “Are they locals?”
“Never saw them before today,” the bartender revealed. “Waltzed in here about an hour ago,