Gaylord Riley once rode with the notorious Colburn gang. He did what he had to do, and was handy with a gun, but the outlaw life led nowhere, and the young man from Texas knew his luck was bound to run out.
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April 25, 2005
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Excerpt from Dark Canyon by Louis L'Amour
When Jim Colburn rode into the hide-out at sundown he was not alone. There was a gangling youngster riding with him, a kid with narrow hips and wide, meatless shoulders and chest. The old Navy .44 looked too big for him, despite his height.
Jim Colburn stepped down from the saddle and looked around at Kehoe, Weaver, and Parrish. He was a tough man with no nonsense about him, and he was their acknowledged leader.
This here is Gaylord Riley, he said. He s riding with us.
Parrish was stirring beans, and he merely glanced up and offered no comment. Weaver started to object, but at the expression in Colburn s eyes he decided against it; but he was angry. From the beginning there had just been the four of them, no outsiders invited. What they had to do they did with four men, or they left it alone. Kehoe dropped his cigarette and toed it into the sand. Hoddy, boy, he said.
They ate in silence, but when they had finished eating the kid moved over and helped Parrish clean up. Nobody said anything until Colburn had one boot off and was rubbing his foot, then it was he who spoke.
I got myself in a corner. He pulled me out of it.
At daybreak they moved out, taking the trail warily at first. Four hard-bitten, veteran outlaws and a lean, rawboned kid on a crow-bait buckskin. Kehoe was lank and lazy-seeming, Parrish stocky and silent, while Weaver was a brusque man, and this morning an angry one. Jim Colburn, their leader in all things, was a good man with a gun. So were they all.
Weaver s irritation at the stranger s presence was obvious, but nothing was said until they paused at the stream on the outskirts of town.
We ll handle it the same as always, Colburn said. Parrish with the horses, Weaver and Kehoe with me.
Weaver did not even turn his head. What does he do
He ll ride to that big cottonwood and dismount. He will stand right there until we come by, and if there s shooting, he ll cover us.
That ll take nerve.
Gaylord Riley looked at Weaver. That s what I got, he said.
Weaver ignored him. You ain t never been wrong yet, Jim, he said, and they rode on into town.
Riley dismounted and was busy with his cinch, standing behind his horse with a clear view of the street. The bank was two hundred yards off, and the street was empty and the hour early.
When Colburn, Weaver, and Kehoe came out of the bank and stepped into their saddles the street was still empty.
They had covered almost half the distance to the spot where Gaylord Riley waited, when the banker ran from the bank shouting. He carried a rifle, and he swung it up to fire.
Gaylord Riley had his choice and took it. He aimed at the hitch-rail in front of the banker. Splinters flew at his shot, and the banker leaped wildly for the shelter of the doorway.
The gang rode by the kid and he sprang to the saddle and rode off after them just as people rushed into the street.
In the arguments in the town afterward, some said there were three outlaws, some four. Nobody appeared to have noticed the man farther up the street. Had they observed him, they might have suspected him of trying to run down the outlaws.
They rode hard for the first mile, trying for as much distance as possible. Then the kid saw a dozen steers feeding in the grass close by the trail and, cutting out, he drove them in behind the four outlaws, blotting out their tracks.
Something over a mile farther on they came upon a stream and abandoned the cattle, riding upstream in the ankle-deep water. They were able to follow the stream for half a mile and then they left it and turned into the hills. The pursuit never found their trail, never even came close.
Their take was small, and Weaver showed his irritation when an equal share was counted out for Riley.