JJ Byrider was taken by surprise when his cattle were rusteled and most of his crew killed in the process but he recovered and carried on but when Bert Haskins, an old enemy, beat and raped the woman JJ intended to marry, anger built up in him and exploded like steam bursting from a locomotive releaf valve. A vengence trail took him across the state of Texas to a showdown.
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JJ Byrider was taken by surprise when his cattle were rusteled and most of his crew killed in the process but he recovered and carried on but when Bert Haskins, an old enemy, beat and raped the woman JJ intended to marry, anger built up in him and exploded like steam bursting from a locomotive releaf valve. A vengence trail took him across the state of Texas to a showdown.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781449013738
  • Publisher: AuthorHouse
  • Publication date: 10/5/2009
  • Pages: 184
  • Product dimensions: 6.00 (w) x 9.00 (h) x 0.42 (d)

Read an Excerpt


By James Richard Langston


Copyright © 2009 James Richard Langston
All right reserved.

ISBN: 978-1-4490-1373-8

Chapter One

JJ squinted into the bright afternoon sky and saw the buzzards, like a swirl of shadows against the heavens. He first took note of them when he and his outfit was still an hour away from the river. The large winged birds were floating on the upper currents of hot air above the dry, semi desert, landscape. The heat of the day, pressing tightly on the landscape, was close, though the humidity was very low. The black circling swirl of, flesh eating, birds was back grounded against a hot deep bronze and blue sky, filled with cotton like cloud puffs, with a stretch of space that reached to the heavens behind them. He rode the point position to pick the best route for his small herd of white-face cattle, walking stiffly in the heat. His shirt stuck to his back, like the flat, sticky belly of a blood sucking leach, from the sweat that trickled down his backbone valley and mixed with the thick layer of dust that clung to the exposed parts of his, sweaty skin. He reined his horse to a halt atop a small sand mound lifting above the flat green land that crept out from the river basin. A large bed of prickly pear cactus spread out above the grass line that encircled the sand, topped mound. The ribbon of vegetation growth, that was the basin, got thicker, taller and greener the closer they got to theriver. Removing his sweat stained Stetson, he took a large bandana from his hip pocket, shook out the wad, wiped the sweat band and, after wadding the bandana and pushing it beck into his pocked, he returned the hat to his head. The basin, to the river, was covered with rich grass and an assortment of trees, mostly cottonwood, that all profited from the little rain that seemed to fall mostly in river basins and the grass and trees were lush green like a patch of swamp fed lily pads in spite of the shortage of rainfall upriver.

He peeked through the thin slits of his eyes at the buzzards once more, clucked his horse forward, and led off as the cattle reached him and started to mill about in a sweaty bunch, tails swinging back and forth at the pestering flies. The sun that flooded the last glimmer of day was still hot but there was a slight breeze kicking up from the approach of nightfall and it served to cool the skin where the sweat was evaporating, like steam from its surface. Over his shoulder, he yelled at the other riders that they would have to pick up the pace if they wanted to reach the river by nightfall for the sun had already set behind the purple horizon to the west. The two riders, Buck Henry and Josh Avery, he had, started the herd moving a little faster. With a few yelps, spurring and working their cowponies back and forth, they slapped bovine hides with their coiled ropes. A lizard scurried from the danger of the cattle's hooves and sought refuge under a piece of dead, fallen mesquite. Time seemed to slow as the tired cattle approached the river. The evening haze was setting in and the nighttime insects were flitting all around on rested wings to start their search for food they always gathered in the dark. At the same time, the daylight flies were seeking a place to rest. A little later on the sun had fallen from the sky as if gravity had hold on to it and was pulling it down. The cattle, leaving a trail of rank manure, were easily moved for they had caught a whiff of the river water on the air. How they did it, was anybody's guess and though they were tired, their pace was quickened by their need for water.

First one cow, then another and all of a sudden the whole cut-bank was being kicked to pieces. The small herd of forty seven consisted of forty-four cows and three bulls threw rocks, cactus blades and dirt in all directions as they bounded over the lip. They spread out slightly when they hit the sandy bottom of the river bed and started to mill about the water's edge, wetting their dry throats. Some waded into the water until it was wetting their bellies. A tall, thin, cowboy in his late twenties, JJ topped the cut-bank behind the last of the herd. He sat his horse after reining to a stop and watched as his two riders flanked the cows, keeping them from spreading too much.

JJ Byrider was a tall six feet, three inches in his socks, and had to look down at most folks. He had a set of shoulders that were thick with muscle, like those of a young stallion. His chest tapered down to the small waist of a rider, from many years in the saddle. He was handsome in a rugged sort of way with dark sun baked skin. He turned the heads of most women. His eyes were bright blue and he had a shock of sandy colored hair that was bleached by the sun, to that of late summer corn silk. A neatly trimmed mustache offered a contrast to the hard lines of his face. Not hard frozen lines but the lines of a young, but mature man. Lines that made him seem much older than he was. He sat a fine looking four year old Appaloosa stallion. The big, roughly sixteen hands, horse was a mouse color, light from the head, down the neck, across the small of his back and deepening in color as you looked to the hind quarters and the tail that switched back and forth like the pendulum of a grandfather clock. His back end was as spotted as a freckled faced kid. He had an off blond tail and mane with three white stockings. He was a beautiful animal to see and the rider seemed to mesh with the horse as though they were one. This was JJ's first herd and though small, he was as proud of it as a child would be of a new, store-bought toy on Christmas morning.

He had hired Buck and Josh in Fort Worth to ride for him. He needed them to help with the herd until he could get them settled on the grass of his homestead. Buck Henry was of medium build but his carriage was that of a man who knew how to handle himself. He was a good five inches shorter than JJ and was straight of back with the small hips of a cowboy who had spent many long hours in the saddle. He wore a holstered .44 Navy Colt, tied down. The holster was worn shiny from much use and the .44 was held in place with a rawhide thong slipped over the hammer. Buck was good with cows as well as horses. He was a serious minded individual that hated to see a horse mistreated, but he had a streak of mischief and a good sense of humor. Josh Avery, on the other hand, had very little sense of humor and wasn't given to pranks. He had been raised in a large family and had taken over the running of the family after his Pa was shot and scalped by Comanches. Therefore, he had a strong distrust of Indians. It made no difference to him what kind of Indian it was. If he wore a feather, watch him like a hawk. He was an inch or two taller than Buck but he walked with a slight stoop to his shoulders. He also carried a tied down pistol, a Peacemaker, though the holster did not show quite as much use as Buck's. A large brush mustache hid his upper lip. It was yellowed from tobacco smoke. He went with a high crown hat. They all three wore leather chaps when working the cattle.

JJ had filed on a section in the north-east corner of the Texas panhandle and a fine section of land it was. There was plenty of grass and water. The water came from a year around spring that flowed from the side of a hill, fed by the runoff of many canyons and arroyos that crisscrossed the countryside, higher up. The hill with the spring was covered with cedar and pine and was home to a world of whitetail deer. The waterways that JJ enjoyed were lined with many kinds of growth but mostly gum, pecan, pine and cottonwood. These were intermingled with scads of cedars that provided plenty of cover for the deer and other kinds of wildlife. They also made for a pretty good Christmas tree.

JJ sat his horse and looked to the south-west at the circle of Buzzards that floated on the currents of the dry wind, a few hundred feet above an out-cropping of rock, maybe a quarter mile from the river. Avery eased his horse up close to JJ's side. They both looked at the Buzzards for a moment. Avery spoke first.

"What do you make of it, Boss?"

"No telling, Josh," said JJ. "Soon as we get these critters bedded down, we'll check it out. It's probably just a coyote, dead of old age."

They rode off the bank and hazed the cattle on across the river. The water level was down from a shortage of summer rain. They circled the herd and started them to mill and crop at the fresh tender grass that grew thickly along the river basin.

"We'll have to make camp up stream a ways. These beeves have mucked up the river something awful," said Buck.

While Buck gathered drift wood along the river bank for the camp fire, JJ and Avery rode to the outcropping of rocks to see what was so attractive to a bunch of turkey buzzards. There was no sign of an entrance, at least not one into the rocks that would accommodate a horse on the side they approached so they dismounted and ground hitched their mounts and climbed into the rocks on foot. Topping his third boulder of some size, JJ spotted a body. It was that of an Indian, stretched out on the ground beyond the boulder. He was lying face down in a puddle of black dried blood and was not moving. Limbering his pistol by flipping the thong from the hammer, JJ eased down from the rock to the ground next to where the Indian lay.

Upon closer examination, they found that he had been shot through the left side and had evidently lost a lot of blood. There was no sign of a horse in any direction. The Indian was dressed in buck-skin. He had a quiver of arrows still strapped to his back but there was no sign of a bow. A knife was lying to one side. Josh took the knife and pushed it into his own belt. The Indian was still alive but JJ found his pulse to be very weak.

"Get my canteen," he said to Avery, who was immediately returning to the horses outside the rock outcropping and was back in a moment with the canteen.

They turned the Indian over, raised his head and offered him water. He almost strangled on the first sip.

"Take it easy," said JJ.

The Indian blinked his eyes and squinted through the sun parched lids to see who was befriending him. He slowly looked from one to the other and jerked with recognition of white men only to grimace with pain from his wound. Sensing that he was not in danger, he motioned for another taste of water.

"That's it," said JJ. "Take it easy. You've been hit pretty hard."

Helping him to his feet, one on each side, they were able to negotiate the rocks and make it to the horses. The large trees along the river bank were beginning to throw long shadows across the cattle as they chewed on the lush grass there in the river bottom. Once in the saddle, the Indian slumped over the neck of the big Paloose. JJ could tell that he was in a bad way. There seemed to be no sign of vital organ damage but it was hard to tell. JJ walked and led the horse back to the camp Buck had already set up, Avery walking alongside leading his Buckskin mount. He spread a blanket close to the fire. He and Avery eased the Indian off the horse and stretched him out on it. JJ heated some water in a pan he usually used to cook beans and bathed the Indians wound. He had lapsed back into unconsciousness but he grunted when JJ poured whiskey on the wound. There were actually two wounds, one small place where the bullet had gone in and a much worse wound where it had come out. At least the bullet was not still in him.

"He's showing signs of fever and should pass a point sometime tonight," said JJ. "When he reaches it, he will either come out of it or we'll wind up having to put him in the ground. It might help if we can get some whiskey down him. They held his head up and poured a little of the whiskey down him. The first sip went down wrong and the Indian coughed it back up. Then he accepted a few swallows and seemed to relax. He went off again and JJ covered him with a couple of blankets in hopes that they would help to sweat the fever out of him.

"What do you suppose he was doing out here by himself without a horse and who do you reckon put that hunk of lead through his side," asked Buck.

"Your guess is as good as mine," said JJ.

"I for one don't cotton too much to no Injuns," said Avery. "They give me the willies."

"Well, it's for sure this Indian won't be giving anybody any trouble for a few days," said JJ. "That is if he makes it at all."

They all three stood around the fire as the flames licked up around the wood and drank coffee. The sky of purple over the western horizon gradually turned to black velvet and the stars started to wink on. Buck spiked his coffee with a touch of the whiskey. Then he turned and sat down on a deadfall close by and thought on it all while the fire spewed and popped and threw sparks into the night air. He was scheduled to take the second watch. Avery meantime sat close to the fire on a blanket and took his Navy Colt .44 apart, cleaned and reassembled it. He loaded it, spun the cylinder on the sleeve of his shirt and put it back in its holster. After putting his cleaning materials back into his saddlebags he poured himself a cup of coffee and headed for the herd to stand his watch. He led his horse, saddled, and carried his Winchester in the crook of his arm. The call of a whippoorwill sounded in the night as the moon peeked over the eastern horizon and all up and down the river bank could be heard, what sounded like a million frogs. Off in the distance, a coyote yelped and another answered him in kind and the night settled in.

JJ felt the need to clean his gun, also, but decided to wait until another time. A good thing, too, for not half an hour later, while the trees along the river bank still cast a shadow across the camp, they had company. The two that rode in, stopped a couple hundred yards from the fire but close enough for the camp horses prick their ears. Then one whinnied and received an answer from the dark. Then with a voice that rang out on the night air, shouted their presents.

"Hell ... ooou the camp!" He said. "Mind if we come in?"

J.J picked up his Winchester after placing his coffee cup on a rock close to the fire. He and Buck eased back from the bright light of the fire, into the shadows of the night.

"Come closer, slowly," said JJ. "Let me see your hands."

When the two neared the fire, JJ could see that they were both hard cases. Buck had his Colt in his hand.

"You fellows don't hold a very friendly camp," one said, looking at Buck's colt. "We come for our Injun," he said, blinking from a curl of smoke that drifted up from his cigarette into his eyes. Buck eased his Colt into his holster, but kept his hand close to it. The hard case leaned forward and rested his left forearm on the horn of his saddle. The campfire cast deep shadows across his face. He was sitting a Texas rig with a rope coiled and tied with a rawhide thong on the left side of the horn and a saddle gun wrapped in a fringed scabbard under his leg on the right. He took the cigarette from his mouth and grinned through greenish, yellow teeth. "I see you caught him for us," he said.

"Are you the ones who shot him?" asked JJ as he slipped the rawhide thong from the hammer of his pistol.

"Sure as hell are," said the other rider. "We put lead in him first, so that makes him ours! Ain't that right, Choochoo?"

Choochoo pulled his lips tight against his yellow teeth in a sinister sneer.

"Yep, that's about the size of it," he said.

"Wait just a minute," said JJ. He was beginning to get the picture. "Just who might you fellows be?"

"Why, I'm Choochoo Church. This here's my Pard, Rufus Bledsoe and we ain't got time to wait. We got a long way to go to collect and we ain't wasting all night jawin'. Just you ease off and back out of this set-up and there won't be no trouble."

"What do you mean, collect?" asked JJ. He gave a quick sidelong glance to Buck.

"The bounty!" exclaimed Rufus. "Tell him about the bounty, Choochoo. Hell, we got us some money coming."

"Shut up Rufus!" said Choochoo. He turned to Rufus with a hard stare. "Just when are you goin to learn to keep your mouth shut?"

"Tell me about this bounty," JJ spoke with a cool tone, keeping his eyes fixed on Choochoo. Buck knew that since JJ was directing his conversation at Choochoo, the other one, Rufus, was his if the ball was opened. Josh strolled back to the fire from his watch about then. Choochoo was talking.


Excerpted from Byrider by James Richard Langston Copyright © 2009 by James Richard Langston. Excerpted by permission.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

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