His name was Taggart and he rode with a price on his head through the bloodred canyons of Apache country. Behind him was a ruthless bounty hunter--the deadliest lawman in the West. In front of him was a fortune in gold--and a pretty young woman hell-bent on carrying that fortune to safety. Suddenly Taggart was faced with a choice. He could either keep riding and leave the stubborn lady to fate and the Apaches. Or he could stay and help her make it out alive. But for a man like Taggart the answer was simple. He would stay. Even if it meant cutting off his own escape--even if it meant doubling his chance of death.
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December 31, 1958
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Excerpt from Taggart by Louis L'Amour
Adam Stark was three months out of Tucson when he found his first color. It appeared as a few scattered flakes of gold dry-panned from the base of an alluvial fan, but the gold was rough under the magnifying glass.
Gold that has washed any distance from its source becomes worn and polished by the abrasive action of the accompanying rocks and gravel, so this gold could not be far from its point of origin.
With caution born of hard experience, he seated himself and lighted his pipe. A contemplative man by nature, experience had taught him how Man may be deluded by hope, and so he smoked his pipe through, considering all aspects of the problem.
He was in the red heart of Apache country, some miles from the nearest white man and beyond any possibility of help if attacked. He was forty-four years old, with a Mexican wife and an unmarried sister, and both were in camp close by.
In Tucson they thought him insane for taking women away from town with Apache trouble always imminent, but he had neither a place to leave them nor means of supporting them during his absence. Nor did he wish to leave his wife behind. Miriam was another story, for she had a mind of her own. That was one of the reasons she was still unmarried, although she'd had more chances than most.
Adam was not sure why Miriam had joined them, but no doubt she had her reasons. During the years since their childhood he had come to possess a considerable respect for the quality of her judgment . . . yet she often startled him with her sudden decisions. There was between them more than the natural affection resulting from relationship. They were good friends also, each appreciating the qualities of the other.
The gold he panned had been taken from a spot on that alluvial fan which left small doubt that the source lay higher up the mountain, for there was no other way the gold could have reached the place where he had discovered it.
Two further pans taken from higher up the fan confirmed his belief, convincing him that if he could not find the lode from which this gold had flaked off, he could make a stake placering the debris from the fan itself.
Yet every moment they were in danger, and if discovered by Apaches they would surely be killed. Nonetheless, the quest for gold had brought him here, and he meant to have what he had found. The women were in even worse danger than he, but they had elected to come along. . . . Moreover, Adam Stark was a man who knew his own strength, his own capabilities, and he felt that with reasonable care he could keep his presence here unknown.
His reasons for wanting the gold were two. He wanted the gold to buy and stock a ranch for himself and his wife, and he wanted the gold so that he might take Consuelo to San Francisco and give her the taste of luxury and easy living she seemed so much to want.
For himself the desert was enough, the desert and that ranch and the freedom it offered. But he enjoyed the giving of pleasure to others, and to Consuelo whom he loved, he could not give too much. Adam Stark knew himself thoroughly, and he knew that his wife did not know him. Despite the fact that she now insisted she no longer loved him, he was sure she was mistaken, and he did love her. She had wanted a more obviously strong man, one with flash and demonstration. He suspected that Consuelo accepted the appearance of strength for its reality . . . and there was considerable difference. Adam had been in love with her from their first meeting, but he had been amazed when she accepted him.
Miriam . . . he was never sure what it was Miriam wanted of life, but he was sure Miriam knew and that was all that mattered. A man was part of it, but a man for Miriam must be stronger than she, and she was a strong woman. He would have to be a lot of things, and Miriam was not one to accept less than her desires.