Ralph Compton Deadwood Gulch

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The scanning, uploading, and distribution of this book via the Internet or via any other means without the permission of the publisher is illegal and punishable by law. Please purchase only authorized electronic editions, and do not participate in or encourage electronic piracy of copyrighted materials. True, 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.

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.

What is the appeal of the Old West of the American frontier? It 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. It 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.

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. A lone horsebacker, astride a chestnut gelding with a white mane and blazed forehead, slowly appeared like a wavering mirage out of the scant-grown hills to the west. He followed County Line Road through the former cotton-plantation country nestled between the Trinity and Sabine rivers of south-eastern Texas.

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From long habit, his eyes stayed in constant sweeping motion, like those of veteran payroll guards. Despite knowing that Quanah Parker and his Comanches were powerless wards up north on a Fort Sill reservation, Cas still expected to hear their shrill eagle-bone whistles. Now only the stubborn Apaches to the southwest still resisted captivity.

Cas switched hands on the reins to rest his arms. Overhead, sparrow hawks circled high in a cloudless sky as blue as a gas flame. He watched a quick-darting prairie falcon swoop down on an unsuspecting squirrel that had wandered from the shelter of an oak grove. The squirrel screeched in fright that quickly turned to pain. Abruptly Cas felt his good mood become apprehensive.

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Cas bucked the usual frontier tradition of not naming horses. By necessity he often went weeks without talking to a fellow human being, and months between meetings with friends. As Cas saw it, either a solitary man talked to his animals now and then or he ended up not quite right in his upper story. He noticed new homesteads dotting the areas where Comanche raids had once thinned them out. Now there was Iron Springs three hours east of their place.

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Ralph Compton Deadwood Gulch by Ralph Compton, John Ames and John Edwards | eBay

True, the same circus tent that served as a saloon and dance hall turned into a church on Sunday, and the sidewalks were only rammed earth, but Cas figured you had to trot before you could canter. A gaunt man driving a big manure wagon approached from the opposite direction, yellow-brown clouds of dust trailing him like a plumed tail. Cas nudged Comet out of the narrow road. The farmer drew back on the reins, staring as he tried to place the young man on the chestnut. Been a while since my folks laid eyes on me. Hope they still recognize me. Without another word, the old farmer clucked to his dray team and the wagon lumbered off.

Cas sat his horse for a minute, puzzled. Old man Kitchens had always been a queer fish, but he must be getting worse. However, a half hour later, he met another traveler, who was more than willing to share human company. A middle-aged man in a straw boater and a baggy sack suit occupied the bench seat.

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As Cas drew alongside on the left, the drummer removed his straw hat and fanned himself with it, revealing heavily oiled hair parted in the middle to the nape of his neck. Cas nodded, reining in to keep pace with the wagon. The drummer laughed. Hiram Neusbaum from Shreveport. He proffered a bottle from under the seat.

Cas shook his head. Cas had come to manhood during the bloody era following the Great Rebellion, a war that created plenty of easy-go killers in Texas. Resolute and defiant, he had been determined not to let himself or his family fall prey to the ruthless murderers—Comanche and white—marauding through postwar Texas. However, no man could outshoot a drought. Got so I was hoping for a Comanche attack to liven things up.

The world is changing rapidly. First it was the telephone.

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    New in the bestselling gunfighter series Bounty Hunter Cas Everett's family was slaughtered by outlaws.