Valley Of the Sun (Ss) (1995)

BOOK: Valley Of the Sun (Ss) (1995)
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Valley Of the Sun (Ss) (1995)
L'amour, Louis
Published:
2010

Valley Of The Sun.

Louis L'amour.

*.

CONTENTS
:

We Shaped the Land with Our Guns
.

West of the Pilot Range
.

When a Texan Takes Over
.

No Man's Mesa
.

Gila Crossing
.

Medicine Ground
.

Valley of the Sun
.

That Slash Seven Kid
.

In Victorio's Country
.

*
.

We Shaped the Land with Our Guns
.

We moved into the place on South Fork just before the snow went off. We had a hundred head of cattle gathered from the canyons along the Goodnight Trail, stray stuff from cattle outfits moving north. Most of these cattle had been back in the breaks for a couple of years and rounding them up was man-killing labor, but we slapped our iron on them and headed west
.

Grass was showing green through the snow when we got there and the cattle made themselves right at home. Mountains to the east and north formed the base of a triangle of which the sides were shaped by creeks and the apex by the junction of those creeks. It was a good four miles from that apex to the spot we chose for our home place, so we had all natural boundaries with good grass and water. There were trees enough for fuel and shade
.

The first two weeks we worked fourteen hours a day building a cabin, cleaning out springs and throwing up a stable, pole corrals, and a smokehouse. We had brought supplies with us and we pieced them out with what game we could shoot. By the time we had our building done, our stock had decided they were home and were fattening up in fine shape
.

We had been riding together for more than six months, which isn't long to know a man you go partners with. Tap Henry was a shade over thirty while I had just turned twenty-two when he hit the South Fork. We had met working for the Gadsen outfit, which took me on just west of Mobeetie while Tap joined up a ways further north. Both of us were a might touchy but we hit it off right from the start
.

Tap Henry showed me the kind of man he was before we had been together three days. Some no-account riders had braced us to cut the herd, and their papers didn't look good to me nor to Tap. We were riding point when these fellers came up, and Tap didn't wait for the boss. He just told them it was tough, but they weren't cutting this herd. That led to w
ords
and one of these guys reached. Tap downed him and that was that
.

He was a pusher, Tap was. When trouble showed up he didn't sidestep or wait for it. He walked right into the middle and kept crowding until the trouble either backed down or came through. Tall and straight standing, he was a fine, upright sort of man except for maybe a might of hardness around the eyes and mouth
.

My home country was the Big Bend of Texas but most of my life had been lived south of the border. After I was sixteen the climate sort of agreed with me better. Tap drifted toward me one night when we were riding herd up in Wyoming
.

"Rye," he said, that being a nickname for Ryan Tyler, "an hombre could go down in those breaks along the Goodnight Trail and sweep together a nice herd. Every outfit that ever come over this trail has lost stock, and lots of it is still back there."
.

"Uh-huh," I said, "and I know just the right spot for a ranch. Good grass, plenty of water and game." Then I told him about this place under the Pelado and he liked the sound of it. Whether he had any reason for liking an ou
t
-of-the-way place, I don't know. Me, I had plenty of reason, but I knew going back there might lead to trouble
.

Two men can work together a long time without really knowing much about one another, and that was the way with me and Tap. We'd been in a couple of Comanche fights together and one with a Sioux war party. We worked together, both of us top hands and neither of us a shirker, and after a while we got a sort of mutual respect, although nobody could say we really liked each other
.

Our first month was just ending when Jim Lucas showed up. We had been expecting him because we had seen a lot of Bar L cattle, and had run a couple of hundred head off our triangle of range when we first settled. He was not hunting us this day because his daughter was with him, and only one hand. Red, the puncher, had a lean face and a lantern jaw with cold gray eyes and two low, tied-down guns
.

Lucas was a medium-built man who carried himself like he weighed a ton. He sat square and solid in the saddle, and you could see at a glance that he figured he was some shakes. Betty was eighteen that summer, slim but rounded, tan but lovely, with hair a golden web that tangled the sunlight. She had lips quick to laugh and the kind that looked easy to kiss. That morning she was wearing homespun jeans and a shirt like a boy, but no boy ever filled it out like she did
.

Right off I spotted Red for a cold ticket to trouble. He stopped his horse off to one side, ready for disturbances
.

"Howdy!" I straightened up from a dam I was building across a beginning wash. "Riding far?"
.

"That's my question." Lucas looked me over mighty cool. Maybe I looked like a sprout to him. While I'm nigh six feet tall I'm built slim and my curly hair makes me look younger than I am. "My outfit's the Bar L, and this is my graze."
.

Tap Henry had turned away from the corral and walked down toward us. His eyes went from Lucas to the redhead and back. Me, I was off to one side. Tap wore his gun tied down but I carried mine shoved into my waistband
.

"We're not riding," Tap replied, "we're staying. We're claiming all the range from the creeks to the Pelado."
.

"Sorry, boys"--Lucas was still friendly although his voice had taken on a chill, "that's all my range and I wasn't planning on giving any of it up. Bess"--he never took his eyes off Tap Henry--"I notice a lot of vented brands on your cattle. All I saw, in fact."
.

"See any of yours?" Tap was quiet. Knowing how touchy he could be, I was worried and surprised at the same time. This was one fight he wasn't pushing and I was sure glad of it
.

"No, I didn't," Lucas admitted, "but that's neither here nor there. We don't like outfits that stock vented brands."
.

"Meaning anything in particular?" Tap asked
.

Quiet as he was, there was a veiled threat in his tone now and Jim Lucas seemed suddenly to realize that his daughter sat beside him. Also, for the first time he seemed to understand that he was dealing with a different kind of man than he had believed
.

"Meaning only," he said carefully, "that we don't like careless brands on this range or small outfits that start that way."
.

Tap was reasonable. More so than I had expected. "We rounded those cattle up," he explained, "from the canyons along the Good-night. They are abandoned trail herd stock, and we got letters from three of the biggest outfits giving us title to all of their stuff we can find. Most of the other brands are closed out or in Montana. We aim to run this stock and its increase."
.

"Maybe. But run it somewheres else. This is my range. Get off it."
.

"Maybe you take in too much territory?" Tap suggested. "My partner and I aren't hunting trouble, but I don't reckon you hold any deed to this land from the government, the people, or God. You just laid claim to it. We figure you got your hands full, and we lay claim to the triangle of range described."
.

"Boss," Red interrupted, "I've seen this hombre somewhere before."
.

Tap did not change expression but it seemed to me that his face went a shade whiter under the tan. Betty was looking worried and several times she had started as if to interrupt
.

"We can be neighbors," Tap persisted. "We wanted our own outfit. Now we've got it and we intend to keep it."
.

Lucas was about to make a hot reply when Betty interrupted. She had been looking at me. Everybody else seemed to have forgotten me and that pleased me just as well. My old gray hat was ragged on the crown and my hair hung down to my shirt collar. My buckskin pullover shirt was unlaced at the neck, my jeans were patched, and my boots were weather-worn and scarred by horns
.

Betty said quietly, "Why don't you and your friend come to the dance at Ventana Saturday night? We would all enjoy having you."
.

Jim Lucas scowled and started impatiently as if to speak, but then he seemed to see me for the first time. His mouth opened, but he swallowed whatever it was he was going to say. What held him I do not know but he stared hard at me
.

"Sure," I replied to Betty, "we would be glad to come. We want to be neighborly like my partner said. You can expect us."
.

Lucas wheeled his horse. "We'll talk about this again. You've been warned." He looked at Tap when he said it, and then started off with Betty beside him
.

Red lingered, staring at Tap. "Where was it," he said, "that we met before?"
.

"We never met." Tap's voice was flat and hard. "And let's hope you don't remember."
.

That was more of a warning than I ever heard Tap give anybody. Usually, if you asked for it he just hauled iron and then planted you
.

We started for the cabin together and Tap glanced around at me
.

"Ever sling a six-gun, Rye? If war comes we'll have to scrap to hold our land."
.

"If it comes"--I pulled off my shirt to wash "don't you worry. I'll hold up my end."
.

"That gal
.
." he commented suddenly, "really something, wasn't she?"
.

Now, why should that have made me sore?
.

Saturday morning we shaved early and dressed for the dance. It was a long ride ahead of us and we wanted to get started. When I got my stuff out of my warbag I looked down at those worn and scuffed gun belts and the two six-shooters. Just for a minute there, I hesitated, then I stuffed a pair of old jeans in atop them
.

Then I slicked up. My hair was long, all right, but my black broadcloth suit was almost new and tailored to fit. My clothes have to be tailored because my shoulders are so broad and my waist so slim I can never buy me a hand-me-down. With it I wore a gray wool shirt and a black neckerchief, and topped it off with my best hat, which was black and flat-crowned
.

Tap was duded up some, too. When he looked at me I could see the surprise in his eyes, and he grinned. "You're a handsome lad, Rye! A right handsome lad!" But when he'd said it his face chilled as if he had thought of something unpleasant. He added only one thing. "You wearing a gun? You better."
.

My hand slapped my waistband and flipped back my coat. The butt of my Russian .44 was there, ready to hand. That draw from the waistband is one of the fastest. There was no reason why I should tell him about the other gun in the shoulder holster. That was a newfangled outfit that some said had been designed by Ben Thompson, and if it was good enough for Ben, it was good enough for me
.

It was a twenty-five-mile ride but we made good time. At the livery stable I ordered a bait of corn for the horses. Tap glanced at me
.

"Costs money," he said tersely
.

"Uh-huh, but a horse can run and stay with it on corn. We ain't in no position to ride slow horses."
.

Betty was wearing a blue gown the color of her eyes, and while there were a half dozen right pretty girls there, none of them could stand with her. The nearest was a dark-eyed senorita who was all flash and fire. She glanced at me once from those big dark eyes, then paused for another look
.

Tap wasted no time. He had crossed the room to Betty and was talking to her. Her eyes met mine across the room, but Tap was there first and I wasn't going to crowd him. The Mex girl was lingering, so I asked for the dance and got it. Light as a feather she was, and slick and easy on her feet. We danced that one and another, and then an Irish girl with freckles on her nose showed up, and after her I danced again with Margita Lopez. Several times I brushed past Betty and we exchanged glances. Hers were very cool
.

The evening was almost over when suddenly we found ourselves side by side. "Forgotten me?" There was a thin edge on her voice. "If you remember, I invited you."
.

"You also invited my partner, and you seemed mighty busy, so I--"
.

"I saw you," she retorted. "Dancing with Margita."
.

"She's a good dancer, and mighty pretty."
.

"Oh? You think so?" Her chin came up and battle flashed in her eyes. "Maybe you think--!" The music started right then so I grabbed her and moved into the dance and she had no chance to finish whatever she planned to say
.

BOOK: Valley Of the Sun (Ss) (1995)
10.61Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

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