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by Allen Russell
Category: Historical Fiction
Description: Wyoming Territory, 1890. Hardin Locke is a young mixed-blood Cheyenne and has inherited the vast Thunderhead Ranch that lies at the foot of the Bighorn Mountains. In the final years of the nineteenth century, rapid changes are coming to Wyoming Territory, and Indian rights are non-existent? which suits the land-grabbing magnate J.J. Johnson, who is quite content to resort to embezzlement, corruption and even murder to get what he wants! False arrest, imprisonment and dispossession of his lands -- just some of the obstacles that Hardin must face. Hardin and the diverse group of characters -- including a US Marshal and a Texas Ranger -- are in for the fight of their lives as Hardin embarks upon a quest to take back the legacy that is rightfully his.
eBook Publisher: Solstice Publishing/Solstice Publishing,
eBookwise Release Date: October 2012
Available eBook Formats: OEBFF Format (IMP) [372 KB]
Reading time: 246-345 min.
Chapter One: Hardin and Spook
The dim light of predawn crept into the high country as a battle-scared old mule deer cautiously picked his way along an ancient game trail. The old buck was uneasy. His heightened instincts were telling him danger was afoot in Wyoming's Bighorn Mountains. He paused when he caught sight of several dark figures moving through the trees. His nose told him they were red men. Detecting the sound of their horses, the old buck turned from the trail and evaporated into the dark timber.
The approaching war party was made up of mostly young agency-jumping Indians desperate to win some glory in battle. Unfortunately for them, the time for glory was gone and it wasn't coming back.
So far, this raid had been little more than a weary horseback ride. They were cold, hungry, and ready to go home. The only thing keeping them from it was the fear of swift retribution from their leader.
The Indian at the head of this little column of renegades was a brutal Blackfoot warrior named Bloody Hand. In his early thirties and small of stature, Bloody Hand was in the mountains on a quest for vengeance.
Unlike most of the few remaining free Indians, Bloody Hand spent half his life spreading death and destruction wherever he went. In addition to despising all white men, he was obsessed with taking revenge on a mixed-blood Cheyenne he knew as Crow Feather.
Bloody Hand knew the man he sought frequented this part of the Bighorn Mountains in the fall of the year. He hoped to catch the mixed-blood with his guard down, and without the protection of the white men that usually surrounded him.
Just after sunrise, Bloody Hand caught the scent of rising smoke. Holding up his hand for silence, he halted his pony and pointed to the camp down below.
It was peaceful, but unusually cold as dawn broke in the Bighorns. Two cowboys had spent the night high up in an area known as Lost Chinaman Park. The heavy frost that formed during the night began to soften as the rising sun flooded the park with light.
The pristine mountain air was adrift with the scent of wood smoke and the aroma of fresh-brewed coffee as the cowboys huddled near the warmth of the campfire. The high-country solitude was broken only by the crackling of aspen limbs being consumed in the fire and an occasional bawl of a lonesome calf looking for his mother.
The men at the fire were Hardin Locke and Spook Stillwell. They were in the mountains to begin the annual process of moving cattle out of the high country.
The cows had been grazing the lush grasses and wild flowers of the mountain meadows all summer, but soon the high country would be covered with six feet of snow and the temperature would plummet far below zero. It was time for the cows to go down to the valley for the winter.
In his thirties, Hardin stood just over six feet tall with a lean build and was clean shaven. His skin was tanned from the high-country sunshine. From a distance, he appeared to be an Indian. His narrow face and pale blue eyes came from the English and Irish blood in his family tree.
Spook was Hardin's saddle partner and his best friend. Spook was a couple inches taller and built like a fence post. He had long sandy hair that he wore down below his collar and a big mustache that curled up at the corners when he smiled. Despite the heavy Remington revolver hanging at his side, Spook was easy going and usually had a grin on his face. A grin that was about to fade -- fast.
The cowpuncher's peaceful morning was interrupted by a grumbling snort from a big buckskin horse announcing the appearance of some very unwelcome and dangerous visitors.
"Saddle your horse," Hardin said, getting to his feet.