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Brian D. Kelling
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"A good traditional Western with superb sense of place." Roundup Magazine book review.
In 1884 New Mexico, Buck Ford has troubles. After giving up prospecting for ranching, he ran head-on into more than he bargained for. With his home burned, his woman turned against him, and the law on his tail for murder, he's literally on a run for his life.
When he discovers a rich mine illegally operated by the government, the army joins the pursuit. Only one man holds the key to his freedom, and Buck must find him before it's too late. It's a high-stakes battle for life and liberty, and guns will decide his fate....
Former prospector Buck Ford walked into the government land office in Socorro and stepped to the wall map. Tracing a rectangle with his finger, he looked over at the man behind the counter and enquired, “Anybody own this spot?”
The bespectacled land clerk, deep in a book, was at first irritated by the interruption. But after seeing the location indicated by the obvious newcomer, his expression changed to one of surprise. “Not unless you like trouble.”
Buck raised an eyebrow. “What’s that supposed to mean?”
“Means nobody owns it legal, but somebody does in another way.”
“What other way is there?”
The book-reader frowned. “New around these parts?”
“Maybe. How about answering the question.”
Irritation creased the man’s face and he closed the book with a snap. “Alright. Man by the name of Myron Grafton uses it of a summer. Rafter H Ranch, down there at the bottom of Long Canyon. Powerful man with a bad temper. Got madder’n hell at me when I wouldn’t let him file on this very piece of property.” He reached out, tapping his finger on a smaller map he’d produced to emphasize the words.
Buck’s face was even. “That explains the old droppin‘s I saw up there. Why didn’t you let him have it?”
“He’s got too much free land already. Can’t claim no more, that’s the law.”
“So he’s using pasture he doesn’t own…”
“Well, no, he doesn’t own it legal…”
The clerk was going to say more, but Buck cut him off. “Then I’m laying claim.”
“You want to risk your life for a piece of ground?”
“Risked it for less than that before.”
With a warning look, the man said, “Grafton cuts a mighty big swath up there.”
Buck’s look was stern. “Get the papers ready.”
Clerk shrugged like the man was a fool. “Your life, friend.”
“That it is.”
The clerk was a bureaucrat. In other words, they were thirty minutes going about the forms.
An electric shock wiggled through Buck’s nerves as he put his John Hancock to the bottom of the filing papers. Neil Ford, for that was his name. The nickname come by way of compliment, years ago.
The clerk, in spite of his years of federal service—which amounted to on-the-job arrogance training—and despite the obvious foolishness of this stranger—still occasionally got a feeling of satisfaction to see people light up like that. Besides, this might take care of the problem that piece of ground had been for so long. Almost cracking his own face with what marginally could be considered a smile, he handed the papers to the new owner.
Buck said, “So. You think I’ll have trouble with him.”
In typical safe-behind-my-government-desk and not-my-problem fashion, Clerk deflected the question with a wave of his hand. “I wouldn’t know, mister, but the land’s yours now. Good luck.” Reaching over, he retrieved the book he’d been reading.
* * *
The waitress in the no-name cafe (in fact, the only cafe in Horse Springs) looked up when the bell jingled on the door—that is to say, Eleanor Lassen looked up. A tall, dusty stranger stood, looking around. When his dark eyes settled on her, his faced changed noticeably. Removing his hat, he attempted to straighten his black hair by running fingers through it.
She almost laughed. Here comes another one. Yes, he’s got ‘that look’. But my, he is a tall man…
Nodding, Buck said pleasantly, “Ma’am.” Then he stood there trying—unsuccessfully—not to gawk.
What he saw was a light-haired, green-eyed lady of great beauty, charm, class, and dignity. Slim, and very well dressed, her clothes did little to hide her incredibly attractive figure. Unbeknownst to him, she was the recipient of an offer from damned-near every cowboy within a hundred miles, yet she wore no ring.
The Long Canyon Mountains is a real page-turning western by Brian Kelling, member of the Western Writers of America. A lovely lady, a fight over cattle grazing rights and claim ownership, Indians, silver, and a struggle for right. The author's weaving of a fine love story into the plot is refreshingly candid since it's told from the man's point of view. It's also surprisingly touching, as men don't often admit to such feelings. A nice touch. Also of interest is his descriptions of the land itself, not to be missed. A complex plot with many characters keeps the reader interested, even through the gunfights. All in all, a really good read. Could almost be a romance.
Reviewed by Chris J., Network54
Another great Western by Brian Kelling. The Long Canyon Mountains is Kelling's second western, this one based in New Mexico. Very detailed and complex, for a traditional western. All the usual elements are here: battle for grazing; beautiful woman; gold and silver. But especially satisfying is his inclusion of John J. "Blackjack" Pershing as a young officer, and also Elfego Baca -- both historical figures from this era. A GREAT read!
Reviewed by Chuck Faul, Building Rainbows
Book Publisher: Whiskey Creek Press
No. of Pages: 240
Paper Weight (lb): 10.2
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