When beautiful Angelina Foley presents Tom Radigan with a Spanish grant and claims ownership of his land, he realizes he’s up against a cunning and deadly opportunist. Foley wants him off Vache Creek immediately, and with three thousand head of cattle, an outfit of hardcase gunfighters, and winter coming on, she is unwilling to take no for an answer.
But Radigan has worked four hard years building up his ranch. Fighting for it–and, if he has to, killing for it–is something he is more than willing to do. If Angelina Foley and her men think he is the kind of man to give up without a fight, they are dead wrong.
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December 31, 1957
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Excerpt from Radigan by Louis L'Amour
The driving rain drew a sullen, metallic curtain across the fading afternoon, and beneath his horse's hoofs the earth was soggy with this rain and that of the rains that had gone before. Hunching his big shoulders under the slicker, Tom Radigan was thinking of the warm cabin and the hot coffee that awaited him when he glimpsed the trail across the meadow.
A walking man will kick the grass down in the direction of travel, but a horse with the swinging movements of its hoofs will knock the grass down so it points in the direction from which it has come. What Tom Radigan saw was the trail of a ridden horse that had come down from the lonely hills to the southwest and headed into even lonelier hills beyond his ranch house.
Squinting from under his dripping hat brim in the direction the trail pointed he saw nothing--only a trail that crossed the knee-high grass of the meadow and disappeared into the hills beyond.
"Now what in thunderation," he said aloud, "would anybody want back in there on a day like this "
Or on any other day, for that matter.
In a world in which most things have a reason, Radigan was disturbed. Northern New Mexico in the 1870s was not a place where men rode for pleasure, and especially not in a driving rain on the heels of several days of driving rain; nor was there anywhere to go in that direction other than the bluff back of the ranch.
Nor was it a riderless horse, for a wandering horse does not move in a straight line nor at the pace this horse had traveled.
Ordinarily, Radigan would not have seen the trail for this was not a route he usually chose, but for the past months he had been moving stock into a remote area known locally as the Valle de San Antonio, a well-watered valley nearly twenty miles from his home ranch.
Three days ago he had driven a dozen head of cattle to augment the herd already there, and had remained long enough to trap and kill two mountain lions who had begun poaching on his herd--and he had also killed a cinnamon bear. There were now three hundred and some head of cattle in the upper valley.
Returning, he found this trail, which could scarcely be more than an hour old.
Whoever had made the trail had chosen a route that could not have been accidental; no casual rider would have come that way, but only someone who did not wish to be seen. There were easier ways and more direct routes.
Tom Radigan's R-Bar outfit was remote, hidden back in the hills far from any accepted route of travel. He worked his range alone but for one hand, a half-breed Delaware who had once scouted for the Army and was known as John Child.
Nothing about that trail or the direction of travel made sense, and Tom Radigan was a man who was disturbed by the illogical.
Coming out of the draw where the meadow lay he looked across the fairly wide sweep of Canyon Guadalupe and over the gradually rising bench beyond it toward the ranch. During a momentary lull in the rain the ranch buildings and the trees around them were plainly visible, for the ranch was almost three miles away but a thousand feet higher than his present position.