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Man with a mission ...
Danny Fog has a lot to live up to, being the younger brother of Dusty Fog, the legendary gun wizard from Rio Hondo. But Danny's still a lawman to be reckoned with -- and by breaking up the loathsome cow-thieving outfit that's terrorizing Caspar County, he'll be well on his way to writing his own legend. The gun-crazy outlaws and Mexican cutthroats standing in his way shouldn't be too much of a problem for the big and brash young Texas Ranger. But dealing ...
Man with a mission ...
Danny Fog has a lot to live up to, being the younger brother of Dusty Fog, the legendary gun wizard from Rio Hondo. But Danny's still a lawman to be reckoned with -- and by breaking up the loathsome cow-thieving outfit that's terrorizing Caspar County, he'll be well on his way to writing his own legend. The gun-crazy outlaws and Mexican cutthroats standing in his way shouldn't be too much of a problem for the big and brash young Texas Ranger. But dealing with the lady boss of the rustlers may be more than he can handle without help. So Danny's going to fight female fire with female fire, joining forces with one Martha Jane Canary. But kicking in with this tough gun-toting señorita could be more trouble than Danny Fog bargained for ... once he learns first-hand why folks hereabouts call her "Calamity."
There were many types of marks by which the ranchers of the old west established ownership of their cattle, ranging from straightforward initial or number brands to John Chisum's Long Rail, a line burned along the animal's side from rump to shoulder.
A box brand had a square outline around letters or numbers; a connected brand meant that one of the letters in it touched the other; barbed brands carried a short projection from some part of them; a bench brand stood on a horizontal bracket with legs extending downward like a bench; a drag brand carried lines sticking downward from its bottom; should a brand have a small extension from each side it was said to be "flying"; a letter suspended from or connected to a quarter circle bore the title "swinging"; a tumbling brand meant that its letters leaned over at an oblique angle; a walking brand bore twin small extensions like feet at its lower extremities; a rafter brand sheltered under an inverted V-shape; a forked brand carried a small V-shaped prong on one of its sides; a running brand meant that flowing lines trailed from it; a bradded brand had a large termini; a collection of wings without a central figure bore the title "whangdoodle." Hacienderos below the Rio Grande used such large and complicated brands that a man might read them by moonlight, but could make no sense of them. The Texas cowhands called such brands "maps of Mexico," "skillets of snakes," "greaser madhouses" and other less complimentary names.
A red-hot branding iron alone served the purpose of applying such a mark of ownership to a man's stock. This consisted of a three-foot-long iron rod with a handle at one end and a reversed facsimile of the outfit's chosen brand at the other. Such a branding iron, when heated correctly and applied to the animal's hide, left a plain, easily read sign by which all men knew who owned the critter bearing it.
While riding the range on their lawful occasions cowhands often toted along one of their outfit's branding irons so as to be able to catch, tie down and mark any unclaimed stock they came across. It might be a grown animal overlooked in earlier roundups, or a new-born, late-dropped calf running at its mother's side. Either way the application of the outfit's brand set the seal of ownership upon the animal and added more potential wealth to the cowhand's ranch. So a cowhand who carried his outfit's iron was regarded as being a good worker, industrious and a man to be most highly commended.
But when a rider carried a rod without a stamphead upon it, man, that was some different. Known as a running iron, such a rod could be used to change the shape of a brand, or for "venting," running a line through the original mark so as to nullify it, then trace another brand upon the animal-- done legally this was known as counterbranding and was used when a critter be wrongly branded or sold after receiving its owner's mark. So a man carrying a running iron was not thought of as being praiseworthy or commendable. Folks called him a cow thief.
For almost six months past the range country around Caspar County, Texas, had been plagued by cow thieves. Stock disappeared in numbers that were too great to be put down to inclement weather or the depredations of cougar, wolf or bear; besides, not even the great Texas grizzly ate the bones of its kills and no sign of animal kills led the ranchers to blame Ursus Texensis Texensis for their losses. No sir, a human agency lay behind the disappearances and the ranchers decided it to be long gone time that something was done. A man who worked damned hard, faced hunger, danger, gave his blood and sweat to raise himself above his fellows, and took the responsibility of ownership and development instead of being content to draw another's wages did not take kindly to having his property stolen from him. So the ranchers decided to strike back.
Of course there were ways and ways of striking back. Vic Crither's hiring of Bat Gooch struck most folks as going maybe a mite too far, even against cow thieves. Few bounty hunters ever achieved a higher social standing than Digger Indians and the Digger was reckoned as being the lowest of the low. Bat Gooch had a name for being worse than most of the men who hunted down fellow humans for the price their hide carried. For all that, Bat Gooch came to Caspar, called in by the mysterious, but highly effective prairie telegraph. Crither let it be known that Gooch would receive a flat wage for prowling the Forked C's range and a bonus of two hundred dollars each time he brought in a proven rustler -- alive or dead.
The threat appeared to be working, for Gooch had ridden the ranges of the Forked C each night during the past fortnight without finding any sign of the cow thieves who preyed on the other ranches. While Vic Crither felt highly pleased with his strategy, the same could not be said for Gooch. So far his trip did not meet with his idea of the fitness of things. The potent quality of Gooch's name appeared to have scared the cow thieves from Forked C and not a single two hundred dollar bounty had so far come his way.
Being a man who liked money and all the good things it brought, Gooch decided, although he had never heard of the term, that if the mountain would not come to the prophet, then he would danged well go right out and find it for himself ...Running Irons. Copyright © by J. Edson. Reprinted by permission of HarperCollins Publishers, Inc. All rights reserved. Available now wherever books are sold.
Posted October 8, 2012
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Posted January 27, 2010
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