Authors: Max Brand
“If you can get away from here, you will have a chance to live a happy life again.”
“Why, meaning that you could go back to drifting . . . no fighting . . . taking things easy . . . never worrying. That was what made you very happy, Melendez.”
“Aye,” said the younger man, “you seem to know me pretty well! And if I stay here?”
“You'd have to be on your guard every moment of the day and the night. You'd have to have your head turned to look over your shoulder, never knowing when a bullet would come at you from behind.”
âfrom “Bad Man's Gulch”
books by Max Brand Â®:
HAWKS AND EAGLES
THE RANGE FINDER
THE GOLDEN CAT
MORE TALES OF THE WILD WEST
JOKERS EXTRA WILD
THE LONE RIDER
THE UNTAMED WEST (Anthology)
THE WELDING QUIRT
THE BRIGHT FACE OF DANGER
THE OUTLAW REDEEMER
THE GOLD TRAIL
THE PERIL TREK
THE OVERLAND KID
THE HOUSE OF GOLD
THE GERALDI TRAIL
IN THE HILLS OF MONTEREY
THE LOST VALLEY
THE FUGITIVE'S MISSION
THE SURVIVAL OF JUAN ORO
THE WOLF STRAIN
MEN BEYOND THE LAW
BEYOND THE OUTPOSTS
THE STONE THAT SHINES
THE OATH OF OFFICE
DUST ACROSS THE RANGE/THE CROSS BRAND
THE ROCK OF KIEVER
THUNDER MOON AND THE SKY PEOPLE
RED WIND AND THUNDER MOON
THE LEGEND OF THUNDER MOON
THE QUEST OF LEE GARRISON
SIXTEEN IN NOME
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Copyright Â© 2005 by Golden West Literary Agency
Additional copyright information on p. 277
The name Max Brand Â® is a registered trademark with the United States Patent and Trademark office and cannot be used for any purpose without express written permission.
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This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents are either the product of the author's imagination or are used fictitiously. Any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, events, or locales is entirely coincidental.
Trade ISBN: 978-1-4285-1817-9
E-book ISBN: 978-1-4285-1816-2
First Dorchester Publishing, Co., Inc. edition: March 2007
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BAD MAN'S GULCH
“The Adopted Son” was Frederick Faust's seventh published work of fiction. It appeared in 1917 in the October 27th issue of
under the pen name Max Brand. The story was featured prominently on the cover by way of a photo of Francis X. Bushman and Beverly Bayne, who starred in the film version of “The Adopted Son” that same year. “Read it all here. See it on the screen,” announced the caption. From the beginning Faust was seen as a gifted writer who was marketable to a large audience.
If he had confined his attentions to Mexicans, it would have been all right, for those were days when guns were very popularly worn in Texas and almost as popularly used. In fact, his little affairs with Mexicans helped to make Lazy Purdue pleasing to the populace of several towns in southwestern Texas, and they led to no further result than a brief interview with a sheriff who would half playfully insist that such things must stop.
For the rest, people refused to take Lazy seriously, except when he was angry, which happened very, very seldom. Under the influence of the peculiar caress of his eyes, his voice, and his smile, his man-eating past was forgotten.
Besides, he was very young, and many things are forgiven one under thirty. He had floated irresponsibly for several years between boyhood and manhood, absolutely refusing to work more than a fortnight at a time. Because of this, and also because he generally replied to all questions that he was “just lazyin' around,” he had acquired his uncomplimentary nickname.
But when Lazy Purdue shot young Colton in Calamity Ben's saloon, public sentiment changed. Even the sheriff forgot to smile.
Lazy got away from Averyville to a good start because nobody in town felt equal to following him single-handedly, and it took nearly half an hour to organize a posse. He maintained his lead because he had won one of the best horses in those parts gambling with Jimmy Bixbee the week before. He rode that horse to death thirty miles east of Averyville, and then “borrowed” a mount from the corral of the Double X Ranch.
After he made the loan, Lazy knew that he was done with Texas for good. In those days the brand of Cain could fade from a man's forehead and be forgotten, but the horse thief was damned through eternity.
So Lazy took a deep cinch on his new mount and rode for life. He made the railroad station an hour and a half ahead of the posse and took an eastbound freight. After that he kept on east. He had no plan. He merely felt that he wanted to get as far east and north as possible. He had dreams of Canada.
At New Orleans he shifted north after working his way across the river. With the Mississippi behind him, he began to feel more careless. He had shifted from freight boxcars by this time, and was riding the rattlers, when on a clear, moonlit night the train came to a stop and Lazy felt someone beating on his feet and shouting: “Get out of there!”
He was quite aggrieved. He had not noted the lights of a station and thought that the train had merely stopped to take on water. Therefore he worked his way off the rods with some irritation and stood before the conductor.
“You worthless swine,”shouted that official,
“you can't get by with this sort of stuff on my train! Beat it!”
“My,” sighed Lazy, “ain't you rough.”
Something in his soft voice made the conductor raise his lantern to look over his tramp more carefully. At the same time he took several backward steps. “It's all right,” said the conductor, “but you can't travel on my train. Wait for the next one. There's a freight due in a few hours.” He continued his backward progress, still with his lantern held high and shining into Lazy's eyes.
“Wait a minute, old pal,” said Lazy, “I reckon I've traveled quite a ways from my old stamping grounds. Just what part of the country may this be?”
The conductor laughed somewhat uneasily. “This is eastern Tennessee,” he said. “Don't you see the mountains?”
With that he swung himself onto his steps, waved his lantern, and the train went swirling out into the night, leaving Lazy, rapt and motionless, staring the other way. He might have caught one of the rearward coaches, but he had quite forgotten the existence of the train. He had almost forgotten what mountains were like, so long had he been conscious only of the white, shining levels and flat monotony of the Texas plains.
Now he remembered. Now a thousand things came back to him. He felt the full force of the velvet-black masses rolling and leaping up to the cool blue sky. And a light May wind touched his forehead with a remembered gentleness and laden with forgotten scents of unseen, growing things.
He was fresh from the vast arching horizons of the desert. He was fresh from space filled only with terrible heat or formless night, a space wherein man's thought grows into a meaningless monody of
commonplace. But here was space more impressive because it was partly filled. There was the sense of life in every movement of the air. The sky was framed between the muscular upthrusting arms of the hills. He let his eyes move softly from one familiar outline to the next.
Lazy Purdue removed his shapeless hat and stretched his arms and legs where they still ached from the continuous jar of the rods. “Lazy, my friend,” he murmured, “I reckon you've been a tolerable long time coming back home, but you've arrived here at last.”
He started up the road that wound dimly up- and downhill, beside woods where all the leaves were murmurously astir, beside rolling pasture land where the bells sounded faintly as the cattle moved, browsing. He could see them sometimes in the moonlight. And once on a hilltop, black against the skyline, a great bull paused and turned his head and gazed at him in sullen, bovine inquiry.
He did not know how far he had walked when he heard a beat of galloping hoofs behind him. He turned to stop the rider and parley. The horseman came to an abrupt halt before his upraised arm, and Lazy found himself looking up into a handsome, boyish face, above which a broad-brimmed hat flared cavalier fashion. A cravat was folded loosely about his throat.
“Who might you be?” queried the boy, frowning curiously at him.
“I'm a stranger,” began Lazy Purdue's soft voice, “and I'm looking for work. Can you tell me where I'm apt to find it in these parts?”
The boy considered him a moment, rubbing his chin as if in thought. “Sure,” he said after the moment's pause. “I reckon there's two places where
you'd find work. One's over to McLane's. I don't know as I'd advise anyone goin' there.”