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Hollicott Crossing


"Bert Rawlings," he called.

Rawlings turned in his seat and slowly rose to his feet. He knew he, himself, was fast with a gun and it had come down to who was faster, him or Johnson. When he was fully erect, he kicked the chair from him. With a smirk of a smile on one corner of his mouth, he spoke.

"Well, what can I do for you Mr. Johnson?" There was a mocking tone to his voice.

"I've come to settle a debt with you for killing five of my men and for your violation of a good woman...

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Hollicott Crossing: West Texas

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"Bert Rawlings," he called.

Rawlings turned in his seat and slowly rose to his feet. He knew he, himself, was fast with a gun and it had come down to who was faster, him or Johnson. When he was fully erect, he kicked the chair from him. With a smirk of a smile on one corner of his mouth, he spoke.

"Well, what can I do for you Mr. Johnson?" There was a mocking tone to his voice.

"I've come to settle a debt with you for killing five of my men and for your violation of a good woman in Amarillo."

The room became so quiet you could have heard a bug burp. All eyes were moving from one to the other of the two men facing each other. Sweat beads popped out on the forehead of both. Finally Rawlings shrugged his shoulders as if giving up the fight when his hand swept for the butt of his gun. He was fast. Like lightening he had his weapon clear of the holster and coming up to face a .44 that was more like greased lightning. JB's first bullet tagged Rawlings just above the belt buckle and his physical reaction was just enough to pull his shot off and his slug hit JB in the upper left shoulder.

JB's second shot punched a hole in the center of Rawlings' breastbone exploding bone fragments all through his lungs and upper body, ventilating his heart. The chunk of hot lead continued on, taking out Rawlings' spine as it zinged into the wall behind. Rawlings was dead when he hit the floor. JB stood there for a second to make sure, Rawlings was through. He replaced his empties, holstered his gun and held his shoulder. Joe rushed over and helped JB to a chair. He looked up at the barkeep and asked him to send for a doctor. By the time the doctor arrived on the scene, JB had passed out from both shock and loss of blood.

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781467041812
  • Publisher: AuthorHouse
  • Publication date: 11/29/2011
  • Pages: 300
  • Product dimensions: 6.00 (w) x 9.00 (h) x 0.67 (d)

Read an Excerpt


By James Richard Langston


Copyright © 2011 James Richard Langston
All right reserved.

ISBN: 978-1-4670-4181-2

Chapter One

JB hated buzzards. To him, they were nothing but filthy scavengers that flew around the countryside and ate maggot infested, putrid flesh. He couldn't think of much that was more disgusting, except maybe a snaggled tooth, overweight woman, spitting a rope of slimy tobacco juice through the snaggle. He and his outfit was still an hour away from water. The large winged birds were floating on the upper currents of hot air above the dry semi-desert landscape; a landscape that had claimed untold numbers of men and beasts, keeping the damn buzzards fed. 'They're just waiting for one of my cows to die, the bastards,' he thought. The heat of the day was bearing down on man and beast, alike. It was hot enough to blister a lizard's belly, if he turned loose and laid down on a flat rock. The air was close and humid along the river, bottom land. Off in the distance, there was a black formation of ominous looking storm clouds hanging over the western horizon, shooting out threats of bony skeleton fingers of lightning. The storm was background against a late afternoon sky and was creeping toward them. JB rode the point position to pick the best route for his herd of white-face cattle as they trudged on to water. A layer of dry, thick dust floated along with the herd as if it was riding on the cattle's backs.

He had sweated at least a gallon in the last two hours and was looking forward to dipping his body in the river when they got there and bedded the cattle down. His shirt stuck to his back like a layer of painted on cotton, covering an unseen river of sweat that flowed down his spine like an underground river, spotting the top of his jeans. The sweat that trickled down was, really, helping to keep him cool. He was carrying a layer of Texas dust on the exposed parts of his body that made his skin look like he had been rolling on the ground for a week. He reined his horse to a halt atop a small ridge overlooking the river basin. Removing his Stetson, he took a bandana from his back pocket, wiped the sweat band and his forehead and then returned the hat to his shaggy head. It was an old but good hat and it kept the sun off his face and neck and out of his eyes. The river basin was covered with rich, lush grass that grew tall, drinking the rain that seemed to fall mostly in river basins and it was a deep green as opposed to the sun baked brown grass of the open plains.

He squinted at the buzzards once more, clucked his horse forward and rode to catch up with the cattle before they reached the river. He wanted them to stay in a close group and not spread out too much up or down stream. The sun was still hot but there was a cool breeze blowing, ahead of the storm, that fluttered the ends of the bandana that he wore, tied around his neck. Evaporation of the sweat that collected there helped to keep his neck skin cool as did the river of sweat running down his back. He yelled at the other riders that they needed to flank the cattle and hold them in close. They would have to quicken the pace if they were to reach the river by nightfall and get bedded down and settled before the storm that threatened, got there. The sun had already been blacked out by the clouds and the gloom of stormy weather blanketed the countryside.

The seven riders other than himself were Buck Parker, Dusty Walden, Chuck Jackson, Abe Rivers, Joe Vaughn, Tom Cranston and Jocke Atchley. They pushed the herd to move it a little faster with yelps and the slapping of cow butts with their coiled ropes. Each pop of a coiled rope brought a puff of trail dust from the hide of the cow popped. A lizard scurried from the dangerous onslaught of the cattle's hooves and sought refuge under a piece of flat slag. A little earlier on, the sun had fallen from noon high to late afternoon as if gravity had a hold on it with an iron grip and was pulling it down against its will. The cattle were easily moved, now that they had caught the scent of water and just naturally headed toward the river. Although they were tired, their pace was quickened by their need for a long drink.

The whole herd kicked and stamped their way to the river's edge and some of them plunged into the water and waded out to belly deep. The herd of five hundred and ninety four cows and six bulls spread out slightly when they hit the sandy bottom of the river bed, others started to mill about the water's edge, wetting their dry throats. Some of those in the water were relieving themselves into the water while they drank. The men eased their mounts to the water's edge to let them drink. The men would drink their own fill as everything gradually settled down.

A tall, full bodied cowboy in his early thirties, JB had gotten out of the way of the charging, thirsty cows and trotted his cayuse in behind the last of the herd as his seven riders flanked the cows, keeping them from spreading too far.

* * *

JB Johnson was six feet, even, bare footed. He had a set of shoulders that were as wide as a door and with some doors; he had to turn slightly sideways to get through. His body was thick with muscle. His chest tapered down to the small waist of a rider. He had narrow hips and walked with a slight bow in his legs. He was handsome in a rugged sort of way from a woman's point of view, though he never considered himself to be much of a lady's man. He had dark, sun baked skin, from endless days in the saddle. His eyes were milky green, the green of a turquoise stone, with a sparkle, so deep set that it was, sometimes, hard to see unless you looked real close. On a clear day his eyes had a penetrating glow. He had sandy colored hair that was bleached by the sun for he loved to ride with the wind through it from time to time, hat hanging down his back. He was hell on earth with a handgun.

A neatly trimmed mustache offered a contrast to the hard lines of his face. Lines that made him seem much older than he was. He sat a fine looking Appaloosa stallion. The horse was a mouse color, light from the head, deepening in color as you looked to the hind quarters. His back end was as spotted as a freckled faced kid. He had an off blond tail and matching mane and three white stocking feet. He was a beautiful animal to see and he and JB seemed to mesh with each other as though they were one. This was JB'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 just hoped Pepper Cladderbuck, his partner, would do as well with the longhorns down in the south of Texas. The white faces were shipped from Kentucky and offloaded from flat bottomed, river barges on the Red River, north of Dallas.

* * *

He hired Buck Parker, Dusty Walden and Jocke Atchley at the stock yards in Fort Worth and picked up the others in Dallas, through the Cattlemen's Association, to ride for him and help with the herd until he could get it settled on the grass of his homestead in the Texas panhandle. Clancy Jones, his home cook was tending chuck for the drive. Before now, Clancy and JB were the only two on the ranch, but until now, he had no cattle to take care of. He had gotten acquainted with Buck Parker, Jocke Atchley and Dusty Walden on the trail between Fort Worth and Dallas and found out a few things about each man.

Buck was of medium build and carried his weight like one who knew how to handle himself. He was an inch or two shorter than JB and was straight of back with the small hips of a cowboy who had spent his share of hours in the saddle. He wore a holstered .44 Navy Colt, tied down and was extra good with an eight foot long, bull whip. The holster he wore was worn slick and shiny from much practice and some use. The .44 was held in place by a rawhide thong, looped over the hammer. Buck was good with cows as well as horses. He was a serious minded individual that hated to see a horse, woman or child mistreated. He had a streak of mischief, but a good sense of humor could be found just under the surface and he was deadly with the .44 Navy.

Jocke Atchley 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 been overshadowed by an older brother after their Pa was tortured, scalped and finally killed by Comanches. The older brother had taken over the running of the family at the death of their Pa and Jocke decided to leave and be on his own so he pulled up stakes and lit a shuck. He never looked back. After what happened to his Pa, he harbored a strong distrust of Indians, bordering on hate and was glad that most of them now lived on reservations. It made no difference to him what kind they were. To Jocke Atchley, an Indian was an Indian.

Jocke was an inch or two taller than Buck, right at the same height of JB but appeared shorter because he walked loosely on legs, bowed much more than J.B.'s. He also carried a tied down pistol, though the holster did not show near as much use as Buck's did. A large, tobacco stained, brush mustache tickled his grub, bite at a time. It was yellowed from many years of tobacco smoke and somewhat bleached by the sun to boot. He'd been smoking quirlys since he was eight years old.

Dusty Walden ... well ... Dusty was a trip. He was quiet, acted like he didn't understand most anything that came up but actually was a very deep thinker. He was slow to get involved in other folks' differences but if need be, would put a .44 slug in a person as quick as a wink, there again, if need be. He, too, was very good with cattle and he had a tremendous like and respect for horses and women. He loved dogs but hated cats. JB had not had the time to get closely acquainted with the rest of his outfit, beyond knowing them by name and sight. He knew that time would fill in the gaps.

* * *

JB filed on a section in the northwest corner of Texas the year before and was in the process of proving it up. His section was situated almost in New Mexico Territory. It was a good watered piece of land and a fine place to raise any kind of livestock, especially cattle and horses. When he found the land, filed on it and started to make his improvements, he had written his old school friend, Pepper Cladderbuck, in St. Louis, explained what he had in mind and offered to go partners with Pepper in the cattle business. He remembered that Pepper owned a piece of land further west, around Santa Rosa, New Mexico

If interested, Pepper was to swing down to San Antonio, buy and bring fifteen hundred head of prime longhorn breeding stock to include a couple of bulls to the ranch, with Pepper's land in New Mexico, they could have two bases of operation, multiplying their chances for success. He had not heard from Pepper for a long time but finally his answer came. Cladderbuck was on his way, by way of San Antonio. He was going to get the longhorns and bring them on to the ranch, so JB left the ranch, went to Fort Worth and found three men and then on to Dallas where he hired Chuck Jackson, Abe Rivers, Joe Vaughn and Tom Cranston to help him and continued on up to the Red River and picked up his whiteface breeding stock. Abe Rivers was a Negro and had at one time been a slave on a plantation back in Virginia, but he fit right in with the rest of the crew.

The land on which JB had filed was really a whole lot more than a section when you considered all the open range that surrounded his section, on which they, he and Cladderbuck, would be able to graze their cattle. The ranch, proper, would be six hundred and forty acres but; they would have access to thousands of acres, stretching over into New Mexico Territory. There was plenty of grass and water. The water, used by the ranch headquarters came from a year around spring that flowed from the base of a hill as an artesian well and was added to by the runoff of many canyons and arroyos that fingered out of the surrounding hills and crisscrossed the countryside like giant snake trails. The hill with the spring was covered with cedar and pine. The waterways that JB enjoyed were lined with many kinds of growth but mostly gum, pecan, oak and cottonwood, but all of these were outnumbered by many different kinds of willow trees.

The water that came from the spring was cold enough that a pool of it, shaded all day from the sun, above the ranch house, was used to keep foods cooled in the summertime. JB had placed large rocks in the pool, created by a small dam, so that the surface of the water came up to the tops of them. Clancy kept things like butter and eggs in covered dishes, sitting on the rocks. The overflow from the pool ran down to and over a ledge into a watering trough for the livestock with a 'y' off to feed the house needs.

* * *

JB sat his horse and looked to the southwest at the circle of buzzards that floated on the currents of the damp wind, blowing ahead of the storm, a few hundred feet above an out-cropping of rocks, maybe a quarter mile from the river and looked to be maybe a mile upstream. Atchley eased his horse up close to JB's side. They both looked at the buzzards for a moment.

"What do you make of it, Boss?" Jocke asked. "It looks like them Buzzes are zeroed in on something to eat."

"No telling what it is, probably a coyote or the remains of a cougar kill, Jocke," said JB, "As soon as we get these critters bedded down, we'll check it out. There ought to be enough light left by then for a look- see."

They rode off the bank, together and hazed the cattle on across the river. The water level was down from a shortage of summer rain. The crew circled and stopped the herd on good grass, a stand of young, tender blades that grew well along the river basin with ample water to keep it thick. Some of the cows remained in the river, water up to their bellies, to cool their blood.

While Buck gathered dry wood along the river bank for the camp fire, JB and Jocke Atchley rode to the outcropping of rocks to see what was so attractive to a flock of buzzards. Dusty was putting a camp together including spreading a tarp between three trees with the forth corner tied to a bow of the chuck wagon, for cover from the impending storm. He also tied a picket rope between two other trees to tie the horses to and have them close to their camp. Abe Rivers had found a tall pole which he used to prop the center of the tarp up so the rain would drain off. The rest of the outfit was settling the cattle down.

JB and Jocke rode through the rocks to a lonely, dead tree where a man hung from one of the high up branches. He evidently had been hanged some time before because the buzzards had torn away most of the clothing and was well on their way to devouring the carcass. JB dismounted and picked up a battered old wallet lying on the ground next to the tree trunk. There was no sign of a horse, dead or alive. Jocke rode over close to the tree where the other end of the rope was tied and cut it, dropping the man to the ground. The buzzards squawked and flapped around with their huge, back heavy wings, irritated that their meal had been disturbed. There was no money in the wallet but it did contain a bill of sale for twenty head of cattle from a man in Albuquerque. JB and Jocke saw no cattle anywhere around, other than their own and no sign anywhere close to the rock formation.

"What are we to do with this mess?" Jocke ventured.

JB thought for a minute. "Nothing," he said.

"Nothing? You mean we're just gonna leave him here on the ground like this?"

"There's nothing we can do for him, now, might as well let the buzzards and coyotes finish their job. By the time the coyotes get through, there won't even be a bone left. This poor devil will be recycled into coyote and buzzard crap and left in splatters and piles, full of tumblebugs, all over this countryside."

"Any mention of who he was in that wallet?" asked Jocke.

"No, there's nothing in here to tell who he was and no money in it either, only the bill of sale and a tin type picture of a rather attractive woman. The 'to line' on this bill of sale is blank. The man that signed it has an address in Albuquerque, I get a chance, I'll write him and see if I can find out who bought these cows mentioned in this bill. I don't know what good it'll do, though, we don't have the cows to pass on to anyone. Whoever hung him, probably took his cows, horse and anything else he owned in addition to his life. The only thing we can do, maybe, is let his next of kin know what happened to him."


Excerpted from HOLLICOTT CROSSING by James Richard Langston Copyright © 2011 by James Richard Langston. Excerpted by permission of AuthorHouse. 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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