In this excerpt Deputy Jack Seaver is assisted by his newly acquired partner, Long Rider, to capture a band of stock thieves. Both sides of Long Rider's wry wit are revealed.
Long Rider pointed across the river to a grove of tall cottonwoods towering over a smattering of smaller trees a few hundred yards away. “Their cabin is in those trees.”
Jack narrowed his eyes against the glare of the sun and peered at the spot. “I can see the cabin, and parts of a corral.”
“How do you want to go up there?” Long Rider asked.
“It’s safe to say they’re armed at all times,” Jack said. “We’ll have to take them by surprise.” He looked at Long Rider, “You said they know you? No more games, just answer the question.”
“They know me. I’ve sold a few horses to them.”
Jack was silent for a long moment as he contrived a plan. They had to get the outlaws out of the cabin, or they could hold up in there forever. Then, an idea came to him. “Okay. You ride on up there with the packhorse, and the sorrel. Tell them you want to sell the sorrel. I’ll hide my horse along the river, and walk up while you’re still there. I’ll tell them I need to buy a horse. You try and sell me the sorrel over their heads. We’ll get them distracted and arguing, then I’ll draw down on them, and arrest them.”
Long Rider nodded his acceptance of the idea. “Good plan. You’re pretty clever – for a white man.”
Jack snorted derisively, “Thanks, I feel so much better about myself now.”
Long Rider laughed as he held out his hand for the lead rope to the packhorse. Jack gave it to him, then watched him ride into the riverside trees, and cross the narrow channels and sand bars of the river.
Jack pulled off his deputy sheriff badge and shoved it in his pocket as he waited. When Long Rider was near the grove of trees, he crossed the river in a spot that was not visible from the cabin. On the north bank he dismounted and tied his horse in the trees. Pulling the Colt, he fed a sixth cartridge into the usually empty chamber under the hammer, then holstered it. He began walking toward the cabin.
Long Rider stopped at the corral. Two of the outlaws came out of the cabin, one was Curt who had cheated him the last time.
“See you brought me another horse,” Curt said as looked over the animal.
“Me sell ‘im.”
“Yeah, that’s why you’re here, you stupid redskin,” he mumbled in a low voice. “I’ll give you ten dollars.”
Long Rider shook his head, “Last time you no give me fair price. This time you give me what I want.”
Curt gave him a smirk, “And, what is that?”
“Want one-hundred dollar.”
Curt barked out a laugh, as did the man with him. “You’re nuts,” Curt remarked. “You’ll take ten and get out of here.”
As he neared the place, Jack could plainly see the corral. At one end of it stood four saddled horses tied to the rails, two bareback horses stood in the middle of the enclosure. Long Rider was standing on the ground outside the corral gate talking with two men.
The two men, and Long Rider, all turned to look at him as he approached them. “My horse busted his leg in a badger hole. You happen to have a horse I can buy?” Jack asked.
The two men studied him. “Where’s your rig?” one asked him.
“Cached it. It was too heavy to carry,” Jack answered. “I hoped to find a horse, and ride back to it. I saw you have some horses, and thought I’d come see if I can buy one.”
“We got a couple to sell,” the man replied.
Jack pointed at the corral holding the four saddled horses, “Those horses come with the saddles?”
“No, you fool pilgrim!” Curt snapped. “Those belong to us.” He pointed at the bareback horses, “Those two are for sale.”
Jack figured the other two men were inside the cabin, as there was supposed to be four men, and he saw four saddled horses. The horses were fresh, so he figured they were heading out, not coming back from stealing stock. He looked at Clement’s sorrel, then to Long Rider, “I like this sorrel, you selling him?”
Long Rider nodded, “Me sell ‘im.”
Jack almost burst out laughing at Long Rider’s falling back into the Indian act. “How much?”
Long Rider held up a forefinger, “One-hundred dollar.”
Jack scoffed, “I don’t think so.”
“Wait a minute, redskin” Curt protested. “You were selling this horse to me. I’ll buy it, and sell it back to this fella. That’s how it works here. You don’t go sellin’ your horse to someone else right in front of me!”
Long Rider shook his head, “You try and cheat me. Say, ten dollar. I say, no. You too late. You not buy fast enough. I sell to this man.” He looked at Jack, “One-hundred dollar.”
Jack looked at the two outlaws, “Who’s in charge here, you or this Indian? Is this how you do business, I have to get cheated by this redskin?”
“You ain’t sellin’ nothin’, injun!” Curt shouted. “Get outta here.”
Long Rider looked at Jack, “Come. I sell you horse.”
“Not for a hundred dollars you’re not,” Jack snapped.
The outlaw shoved Long Rider, “I said, get out!”
Long Rider turned to walk off leading the packhorse and the sorrel. In so doing he deliberately put his horse between the outlaws and himself.
“Leave your horses, injun. We’re keepin’ ‘em all,” the outlaw said as he grabbed the reins of Long Rider’s horse. Long Rider grabbed them back.
The outlaw pulled his pistol, “That did it, redskin.”
“Drop the pistol,” Jack commanded.
The two outlaws looked at him, and the cocked Colt pointed at them. “What? You takin’ up for this dirty redskin after he tried cheatin’ you?” Curt growled.
The second outlaw called out, “Matt, Bud, get out here.”
Two men came out of the cabin. They took in the stand-off. “Curt! What’s all this about?” Bud demanded.
“Injun’s tryin’ to sell his horse to this fool right under our noses. I went to take his horses, and injun-lover here honed down on us.”
Bud looked at Jack, “You’ve made a mistake doin’ that, mister.”
“I’ve made mistakes before, but as you can see, I’m still alive,” Jack replied. “Your pal here won’t be if he doesn’t put up the pistol.”
Bud glowered at Jack, “Why are you taking cards in this game? What’s in it for you?”
“Actually, I’m the dealer in this game,” Jack said. “Drop your guns on the ground.”
Bud snorted, “Bold peckerwood ain’t yuh!”
“That would be Sheriff peckerwood to you. Now, drop ‘em, or I start dropping you, Curt here can be first.”
Curt turned his head and gave Jack a look of surprise, but didn’t lower the pistol.
Bud and Matt each took a step back as they reached for their holstered guns. Bud’s gun came up but never made it further before Long Rider threw the Spencer over the saddle of his horse and pulled the trigger. The bullet drove Bud backwards into the corral rails. He dropped down to the ground dead. Pulling down the rifle’s lever, Long Rider jacked a live cartridge into the chamber and held the bore on Matt.
The three remaining outlaws froze in place. They had focused their attention on Jack, forgetting about the Indian. In the lapse of attention, Long Rider had pulled the Spencer clear.
“Who’s next?” Jack asked. “How about you, Curt? I’m getting tired of waiting.”
The three outlaws quickly dropped their guns.
“Now, we’re all going to take a little walk to your horses,” Jack explained. “You’re going to mount up, and come back to Ogallala with me.”
The outlaws looked at Jack and Long Rider, and the guns pointed at them. With their leader shot dead, there was no reason to believe they wouldn’t be next if they tried anything. They began walking slowly toward the corral that held their horses.
“Keep your hands out where I can see them,” Jack ordered.
The three men held their hands out to their sides as they walked. Long Rider slid the Spencer back in the scabbard and followed them, leading the horses. Reaching the corral, they opened the gate, and walked up to the tied horses. Jack held the Colt on them while the outlaws stepped into their saddles.
“Long Rider, get some rope out of that shed and tie ‘em good and tight to their saddles.”
The expressions on the three outlaws revealed their sudden realization that the sheriff and Indian were working together. They had been baited into a trap.
Long Rider ducked into the shed and came out with a coil of hemp rope. He looked up at Curt, “Put your hands around the saddlehorn.”
Surprised by the Indian’s change of speech, Curt gaped at him, but complied.
Long Rider tied Curt’s hands tight to the saddlehorn. “Hey, that’s really tight, and it hurts,” Curt complained.
Pulling his knife, Long Rider cut the rope in a way that he deliberately slashed the knife within inches of the outlaw’s face. Curt jerked his head back, his eyes wide and startled.
Long Rider looked at him, “Oh, I’m sorry, did I almost cut your nose off? It must be because I’m such a stupid redskin, I don’t know any better.” He then tied Curt’s legs to the stirrup leathers.
He repeated the procedure with the other two outlaws. He then pointed at the dead outlaw, “Going to leave him?” he asked Jack.
Jack was stripping the saddle off the fourth horse. He glanced toward the dead outlaw, “No sense in packin’ his weight back. Let the buzzards have him.”
Long Rider nodded, “Buzzards have to eat, too.”
Jack saw the outlaws looking at Long Rider with puzzled expressions. He laughed, “They just realized you’ve been messin’ with them.”
Long Rider looked at the three, and grinned. “White men are stupid.”
“You want to rephrase that,” Jack said.
Long Rider grinned, “Most white men are stupid, but not you.”
“That’s better,” Jack replied. He then tail-tied the outlaws’ horses together, and handed Long Rider the reins to the lead horse. “I have to get my horse. Shoot ‘em if they try anything.” He took the badge out of his pocket and pinned it on his shirt.
“Can I scalp them?”
“If you want.”
“Before or after I kill them?”
Jack could see Long Rider was messin’ with them, he played along. He looked at the outlaws, taking in their perplexed faces. “Preferably after.”
“It’s more fun if I do it first,” Long Rider said with a straight face.
“Suit yourself.” Jack swung open the corral gate. Long Rider followed him leading the horses up to his horse tied at the rails.
Long Rider looked up at the three men and smiled, “Me like scalp’m white man.” He pulled out his watch and checked it. Looking back at the outlaws, he feigned a disappointed expression, “Oh darn, too late in the day. I never scalp anyone after noon. So, if you try and run, I’ll still shoot you, but you won’t get scalped. That should make you feel better.”
The outlaws offered no reply as Long Rider followed Jack toward the river leading his horses, and those the outlaws were mounted on.