Hopalong rides into a firestorm of violence and betrayal. On the rain-drenched trail to the lawless town of Seven Pines, Hopalong discovers two men-one dead, the other badly wounded. Returning with medical help, Hopalong finds the wounded man has been shot through the temple. Who would commit such a murder? To find out, Hopalong hires on at Bob Ronson's Rocking R Ranch. There he learns that more than a thousand cattle have been run off by men keeping one scheming eye on the ranch and the other on the monthly stagecoach shipments of gold. Hopalong is determined to stop those responsible. But even the best gunfighter needs men he can trust to watch his back, men willing to risk their lives to do what's right. With their help, Hopalong fights to save the Rocking R, only to find himself the target of a ruthless gunman in a life-and-death struggle for frontier justice.
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May 01, 1993
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Excerpt from The Trail to Seven Pines by Louis L'Amour
TWO DEAD MEN
HOPALONG CASSIDY STOPPED his white gelding on the bald backbone of the ridge. No soil covered the windswept sandstone, only a few gnarled cedars that seemed, as is their way, to draw nourishment from the very rock itself. In this last hour before sunset the air was of startling clarity, so much so that objects upon the mountainside across the valley stood out, clearly defined as though but a few yards away instead of as many miles.
Where he sat the sun was bright, but in the west, which was his direction, towering masses of cumulus piled to majestic heights, dwarfing the mountains to insignificance. The crests of the mighty clouds were glorious with sunlight, but the flat undersides were sullen with impending rain. Hopalong squinted appraisingly at the sky and became no happier at what he saw.
Seven Pines, proudly claiming title as the toughest town west of anywhere, was a good twelve miles off, hidden in the mountains across the valley. Long before he could ride a third of that distance those clouds would be giving the valley a thorough drenching. What he needed now was shelter, and he needed it badly.
So it was that he sat in his saddle studying the country with careful eyes. The stage route was but a mile or so to the north, but he had heard of no shelter there and so far his information had been most accurate. Even as he watched, the gigantic cloud moved nearer, lightning stabbed through it, and the thunder rolled and grumbled.
To the south and west the valley narrowed before spewing out into the vast waste of Adobe Flat. Waterless most of the time, after a rain it would become a slippery, greasy surface that concealed unexpected sinks and mud traps. Close by, the mountainside was broken and serrated, carved by upheaval and erosion. There were notches among the rocks in some of the canyons, but they might well prove deathtraps in such a storm as this would be. Hopalong Cassidy had lived too long in the West not to realize the danger that lay in the bottoms of canyons and dry washes. It was such a sudden rush of water that had finally ended his feud with Tex Ewalt and brought them together as friends, but more often than not, it meant only death to the unwary traveler.