Meet the frontier bad men -- like Leo Carver -- a man so hated that everyone in the town of Canyon Gap planned to turn up for his hanging. Then meet those who dared to challenge them -- like Marshal Lou Morgan, who tried to save his citizens from a goldmine swindler, only to learn that his own code of honesty made him the biggest sucker in town. There's champion rodeo rider Marty Mahan, called a coward because he was afraid of the bronc Ghost Maker -- until he showed them the true color of his courage. Here are classic tales of the West from the storyteller who brings to vivid life the brave men of women who settled the North American frontier.
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April 25, 2005
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Excerpt from The Outlaws of Mesquite by Louis L'Amour
MILT COGAR WAS at the corral catching the paint when Thacker walked down from the store. "You'd better get out of this town, boy. They are fixin' to make trouble for you."
Milt turned around and looked at the big, clumsy man, his shirt stuffed into his trousers and held there by a rope belt. Thacker never seemed to have a full beard and always seemed to need a shave. His watery blue eyes looked vague. He rolled his quid in his jaws and spat.
"It's what I'm tellin' you, son. You done me a favor or two."
"Why should they be after me " Cogar demanded. He was a lean young man with a dark, leatherlike face. His eyes were almost black, and keen.
"Spencer wants your horses. You know that. He sets a sight of store by good horseflesh, and he's had a thorn in his side ever since you rode into the valley. Anyway, you're a stranger, and this country don't cotton to strangers."
Milt Cogar hitched his gun belts and stared at Thacker. "Thanks. I'll not forget it. But betwixt the two of us, this country has reason to be afraid of strangers."
Thacker's eyes shifted uneasily. "Don't you be sayin' that aloud. Not around here. And don't you tell nobody what I said."
Thacker drifted off down toward his shack, and Milt Cogar stood there, uncertainly. He was not ready to drift, nor did he like being pushed, but he had sensed the undercurrent of feeling against him.
Mesquite was a rustler town. It was a holdup man's town, and he was a wild horse wrangler and a drifter. He threw the saddle on the paint and cinched it down. All the while he was thinking of Jennie Lewis, for she was the reason he had stayed on at Mesquite.
Milt Cogar was no trouble-hunting man. He knew that of himself and he told that to himself once more. In nearly thirty years of drifting, he had kept clear of most of the trouble that came his way. Not that he hadn't had his share, for times came when a man couldn't dodge fights. This could be that kind of time.
Dan Spencer was ramrodding the town. He was the big wheel. Milt had seen the big man's eyes trailing him down the dusty corner of road that did duty as Mesquite's main street. There were only four buildings on that street, and a dozen houses. Jennie lived in the house back under the cottonwoods with Joe and Mom Peters.
Spencer wasn't only big and rough. He was slick. He was slicker than blue mud on a side hill, only he didn't look it. Milt was a top hand at reading sign, and he could read the tracks years left across a man's face. He knew what manner of a man Dan Spencer was, and what to expect from the others, from Record and Martinez.
It was a mean little place, this valley. The scattering of ugly, unpainted frame buildings, the hillsides covered with scrub pine and juniper, the trail a dusty pathway through the pine and huge, flat-faced boulders. There was a waterhole, and it was that which had started the town. And somewhere back in the cliff and brush country there was a canyon where Spencer and his boys backed up their stolen cattle.
Thacker was right. He should throw a leg over his horse right now and light a shuck out of here. If he stayed, there would be trouble, and he was no gunfighter like Spencer or Record, nor a knife-in-the-belly killer like Martinez. He should light out of here right now, but there was Jennie Lewis.
Jennie was eighteen now, a slim, lovely girl with soft gray eyes and ash-blond hair. She looked like the wind could blow her away but there was quick, bubbling laughter in her, and sometimes a look in her eyes that touched something away down inside of a man.
She was a casualty of the trail. Cholera had wiped out her family, and Joe Peters had found her, ten years old and frightened, and carried her home. Only now she was big enough and old enough for Spencer to see, and what Dan Spencer wanted, he took.