Oliver Strange - Sudden Westerns 01 - The Range Robbers(1930)

BOOK: Oliver Strange - Sudden Westerns 01 - The Range Robbers(1930)
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The Range Robbers ~
Oliver Strange

(Book 01 in the
Sudden Westerns series)

 

       
About
Sudden

 
          
James
Green aka Sudden is a fictional character created by the author Oliver Strange
and after his death carried on by Frederick H. Christian. The books are
centered
around
a gunfighter in the American Wild West
era, who is in search of two men who cheated his foster father. Jim the young
man promises his dying father that he will find the two and take revenge. He
gives the name James Green to himself and in time gets accused of a robbery
himself and becomes an outlaw.

 
          
The
books were first published around the late 1920s and the early 1930s. They
featured vivid descriptions of the western American landscape, rare in an
author at that time. These books have been out of print for a very long time,
and are currently available for purchase only in paper format, after being
owned by one of more people.

 
Chapter
I

 
          
The
desert!
As far as the eye could reach it stretched,
alternating swells and levels of greyish-white sand, broken only by occasional
ridges and hummocks of sun-scorched rock, protruding from the surface like the
bared bones of a giant skeleton.
Stunted mesquite, sagebrush, and the
tortured forms of cactus, weird of leaf and beautiful of flower, were the only
evidence of vegetation. Over all danced a shimmering heat which, flung down
from a brazen sky and reflected back by the sand, made the eyes ache and the
brain dizzy.

 
          
Following
a faintly-defined trail
came
a wiry little cowpony,
pacing wearily but steadily through the burning sand, and picking its way
without the apparent assistance of its rider, who, humped forward in the
saddle, seemed oblivious of everything.

 
          
An
hour passed, and the pony’s ears pricked up and its pace quickened slightly.
Aware of this, the rider looked up and saw that the weary desert tramp was at
last coming to an end. On the horizon now the vivid blue of the sky deepened to
an almost black serrated line, which he knew to be a range of hills. Far as
they still were, they carried a message of hope, and the traveler pressed on.

 
          
Gradually
the character of the desert changed. The sand became dotted with an occasional
scrub-oak and clumps of bunch-grass, while the mesquite bushes were bigger and
more numerous. Another hour of steady plodding, and the edge of the desert was
reached. The trail entered the foothills, twisting and turning as though to
escape the grasping tentacles of the sand, which, like an encroaching sea,
sought to engulf it.

 
          
A
whirring
rattle,
and a venomous flat head shot into
view from the roots of a mesquite bush at the side of the trail. Instantly the
pony jumped sideways into the air, coming down with all four legs stiff as
rods. The rider, taken unawares, was almost hurled from the saddle, but
gripping the animal with instinctive knees, kept his seat. His left hand
streaked to his side, there was a sharp report, and the snake’s head flew from
its body. Replacing the smoking weapon, the man applied himself to quieting his
mount, which was again attempting to buck. Snatching off his hat, he slammed
the pony over the ears with it, and a cloud of alkali dust enveloped the pair.

 
          
“Playin’
yu never saw a rattler before, eh?’ he said, in a slow, soft drawl. “Thought
I’d done broke yer of that sort o’ foolishness, yu animated bone-bag.’

 
          
Another
larrup from the hat accompanied the words, and the pony, changing its tactics,
reached round and took a snap at the chap-covered leg of the rider, only to
encounter the thrust-forward heavy wooden stirrup with a jar, which effectually
discouraged any further attempt of the kind.

 
          
“I
shore thought yu knew better than to try that,’ admonished the soft voice,
sarcastically. “Now yu have had yore play, s’pose we get on: I’m ‘bout as dry
as a second-hand sermon.’

 
          
They
paced along over a plain trail through the increasing vegetation, and presently
the animal, scenting water, began to trot. Passing along a narrow gully with
precipitous sides, they emerged on the banks of a stream, shallow enough now,
but with a wide sandy bed which showed there were times when it might justly be
called a river; and indeed, when the snow on the mountains melted, Two Feather
Creek became a raging torrent.

 
          
The
horse walked into the water and drank eagerly. The man only gazed at it
reflectively, a sardonic smile on his lips.

 
          
“An
hour back, yes, an’ thank yu,’ he soliloquized, “but to spoil a thirst like
mine with that slush now. Why, it can’t be more than a mile to a drink.’

 
          
Starting
his unwilling mount, he rode to the other bank and followed the trail across an
open stretch of prairie at an easy lope. In a little while he came in sight of
a collection of wood and adobe structures strung along the two sides of a dusty
wallow called by courtesy a street.

 
          
“That’ll
be Hatchett’s Folly,’ he muttered. “It shore looks it.’

 
          
Years
before, a wandering prospector, finding gold on the banks of the Two Feather,
made for the nearest settlement, got gloriously drunk, and proclaimed a new
Eldorado. Scores of eager fortune-hunters followed him, and a town sprang up
with the mushroom speed of Western enterprise. But the gold proved hard to find
and scanty in quantity; many of the seekers got killed in quarrels among
themselves, or by raiding redskins, and others migrated in disgust. The town of
Hatchett’s, named after the discoverer, became Hatchett’s Folly, and only the
coming of the cattle saved it from extinction.

 
          
To
the newcomer the place presented the familiar characteristics of the frontier
settlements. The same squalid shacks, litter of tin cans, board sidewalks, and
ever-prevailing alkali dust. On the largest of the buildings was a
rudely-painted sign which read: “The Folly Saloon.’

 
          
“That
shore is the best name for
a
s’loon I’ve struck yet,’
commented the stranger, as he dismounted and secured his pony to the
hitching-rail outside. “Town appears to be ‘bout dead,’ he added, and in fact,
with the exception of two men loafing in front of a board edifice further along
the street, which called itself an “hotel,’ there was no one in sight.

 
          
The
bar of the “Folly’ occupied the back of the room, facing the entrance, a
strategic position which gave the barkeeper an opportunity of preparing for
trouble before it arrived. At either end of the space in front of it were the
tables used for the various games of chance promoted by the establishment, or
desired by the customers. At one of these tables two men were playing poker.
The only other occupant—the dispenser of liquids—instantly transferred his
interest from the game to the new arrival.

 
          
He
saw a tall, lithe man of well under thirty, with a clean-shaven face tanned to
the color of new copper, keen steel-blue eyes, and an out-thrust chin which
spoke eloquently of determination. There was a suggestion of humor in the
little lines round the eyes and at the corners of the firm lips. The leather
chaps, blue shirt with loosely-knotted neckerchief, wide-brimmed Stetson and
high-heeled boots, denoted the cowpuncher, but the heavy belt with two guns—the
holsters tied down to facilitate easy extraction—might mean the gunman.

 
          
The
barkeeper absorbed all these details while the object of his scrutiny was
reaching the bar. He was a quick observer—the nature of his occupation required
it. Without a word the stranger spun a dollar upon the counter, and the barman
pushed forward a bottle and a glass.

 
          
“No,
seh,’ said the customer softly. “I just naturally hate drinkin’ alone, an’ yu
are havin’ one with me, Babe?’

 
          
The
barkeeper grinned understandingly, added another glass, and replaced the bottle
with one from the back shelf. The visitor poured himself a generous
three-finger dose, sent it down his throat at a gulp, and refilled the glass.

 
          
“Good
stuff,’ he said approvingly. “That desert o’ yores is some fierce.’

 
          
“I
don’t claim to own her, but she shore is,’ replied the other. “Come a long
ways?’

 
          
“Right
from where I started,’ was the reply, with a smile which robbed the snub of its
venom.

 
          
“An’
I reckon yu will keep a-goin’ till yu git there,’ said the barkeeper
pleasantly, falling into the other’s humor.

 
          
“Yu
hit her, first pop,’ rejoined the stranger, adding, “I’m just havin’ a look at
the country.’

 
          
“Well,
she’s shore worth it, in parts, Mister—. What did yu say yore name was?’ said
the man of liquids, taking another chance.

 
          
“I
didn’t say,’ smiled the newcomer. “Yu can call me Green.’

      
 
“I’ve heard of more appropriate labels, but
it’s
yore bet, an’ she goes as she lays,’ agreed the
barkeeper. “I
answers
to Silas my own self. Here’s
how!’

 
          
They
drank again, and the conversation turned to less personal topics. The stranger
learned that the country round was interested only in cattle, the two principal
ranches being the Frying Pan and the Y Z.

 
          
“Then
there’s the Double X up in the hills, but that’s only a little one,’ Silas
explained. “If it’s a job yo’re huntin’, I’ve heard that the Y Z can use
another puncher. The old man is all right, but the foreman, Blaynes, is a
blister. That’s one o’ the Y Z boys playin’ there.’

 
          
He
indicated the younger of the card-players, little more than a boy, whose face
was getting more and more solemn as his hard-earned money passed to his
opponent. The stranger looked at the pair for a moment and then said:

 
          
“Reckon
he’ll be a “wiser head” before he’s much older. Who’s the hard citizen?’

 
          
The
barkeeper laughed at the pleasantry, though it was a joke he heard every time a
“wise-head’ puncher came to town, and then replied to the question in a
whisper:

BOOK: Oliver Strange - Sudden Westerns 01 - The Range Robbers(1930)
2.62Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
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